Making Our Beds

Making Our Beds

sledgehammerThis past weekend, we ran away from the city to begin work on our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. Our goal was to build four raised beds – three for veggies and one for cut flowers – using this tutorial from the awesome Pioneer Woman blog. We packed up the car and a small mountain of laundry (our city dryer has been broken for over a month and it’s hard to keep up with the laundry demands of six people) and we set out at seven p.m. which is the time to travel on the Friday of a long weekend.

Saturday was a late start. I needed the extra sleep, because the Noodle has taken to waking as of 2:30 each morning, and then every hour or so after that. At first, he was just interested in eating during these waking moments, but now he’s into trying out all of his new moves; scooting, crawling, sitting up, standing, all with his eyes closed and mostly still asleep. Thankfully, on Saturday he was into sleeping in, and when he was done, extra hands made it possible for me to get a little bit of extra rest. After a leisurely breakfast, Nekky and I set out for the Home Depot at around noon, while Mamma S stayed behind to tackle the epic chore of lawn mowing. Both adventures turned out to be day-long investments.

The finished product

The finished product

Nekky and I took Noodle with us because he’s a fussy monkey these days. His little teeth are ready to burst forth, and he can fight a nap with UFC flair. Once he was secured in his car seat, he was k.o’d and remained that way for the two hour duration of our Home Depot visit, where he slept in a cart, still in his car seat. He really must be a man’s man (whatever the hell that means) because the smell of sawdust and paint and dudes really lulled him into deep sleep. Not even my stacks of garlic and onion bulbs disturbed him from his reverie. Also, if you want to see cute, take a wee baby to a hardware store. Even the burliest men were cooing at him, and straining to get a look inside the cart to watch him sleep. 260355_10151635320720535_312581582_n

We cut down on some material costs by choosing untreated fir over cedar or pine, and we’ll be sealing it with an Eco wood treatment. Our real surprise came in seeing just how much wood we ended up with. There was no way it was fitting in the car, so we had to rent a Home Depot van to drive it back to the house, ten minutes away.

Of course the baby’s car seat wouldn’t work in the cargo van, so I hung behind with the Noodle, who was still out. I grabbed myself lunch at Subway, and got three quarters of the way through it before the baby woke up, all smiles and game show host charm for the seniors lunching around me. Man this baby can work a room!

He can also work his shorts, and so after I finished lunch, we wheeled back into the Depot for a bum change and some boobie. By now we were on a first name basis with the staff, who were all happy to see the awake Noodle, riding in the cart like a pageant queen on a pride float, clapping his hands and squawking with glee. (Our baby is so happy to have everyone’s eyes on him. I don’t know where he gets that from.) The restroom was kitted out with a big comfy leather chair so we had more privacy than the patio furniture section afforded – this is where I’d scoped out some breast feeding real estate earlier.

After Noodle’s snack we waited for daddy (and Ayla, who decided to come for phase two of the shopping excursion, which was Costco) in the garden centre. Noodle loves flowers, birds and old ladies and all were plentiful in the garden centre.

So, yes we tackled both Home Depot and Costco on a long weekend Saturday and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say, not much building got done on day one, though us three parents ran outside after dinner to take advantage of the waning sunlight and cooler temperatures. We got quite a lot of the more tedious stuff knocked out too – measuring and drilling pilot holes and such. There was also some beer drinking, which we all know is essential to any home improvement project.

building2Sunday was building day, for real. We got a much earlier start and got a lot of work done before noon, when the sun became unforgiving. There isn’t a lot of shade at the Niagara house, so our veggies will be happy, but us laborers were not. Coconut water has become a staple for us and the kids. It’s a greater source of electrolytes than those sports drinks, and it’s delicious, especially with vodka and a twist of lime. No, the kids don’t get vodka.

We took a break for lunch, and then hit Home Depot again, because one trip is NEVER enough, no matter how thorough you think you’ve been. After lunch I got to learn how to use a jigsaw (terrifying) and a drill. Yes, it’s true, I’ve barely used power tools. I’m more of a sanding, staining, finishing, painting kind of worker bee. I’m also really good about planning, and I quite like being the foreman.ayladrill

I’m very pleased with the results of our efforts. Lulu got in there and worked with daddy, and was very proud of herself. She was also thrilled when I pointed out that she’d been in homeschool wood working class all day.

Next we’ll need to seal the beds and line them with landscaping fabric, then order dirt and compost and get planting. I can’t wait to get my hands in there and plant our little seeds. I’ve never attempted a vegetable garden before, so I have no idea how successful this project will be, but it’s really been wonderful working together towards a common goal.

Zombies, Boobies and Bamboo

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 8.39.04 PMSome pretty bizarre things can occupy my brain space, and this week has been no exception. Have a listen and let me know if you think I’m nuts.

 The Walking Dead

We’ve started watching the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead” and of course we’re hooked. We polished off season one last night, and though I love the show, I feel consumed with guilt because Noah is usually up while we’re watching. We don’t let him actively see the TV, because none of our children watch much TV, and because I don’t think his infant brain should be exposed to rotting animated corpses, but I’ve convinced myself that the mere sounds of the living dead eating human flesh will corrupt him.

Today he began making this low, grunting noise all day long. At first we were jokingly calling him Randy Macho Man Savage. However, watching him sitting at the head of the table, half asleep with a glazed expression, gaping mouth waiting for the next spoonful, growling loudly, I could only think one thing. Zombies. I worry that despite all of our careful efforts, the wrong ideas are still seeping into our kids’ melons.

Further evidence to this fact was Hannah watching daddy prepare the massive beef tenderloin he grilled for dinner tonight. She squealed with delight and said, “Daddy! Pick up the knife in your bloody hands again! You look like a murderer and the tenderloin looks like the leg of a sexy lady!”

Jesus. Christ. How much of Dexter was wafting up the stairs and permeating their sleeping minds??

 

Angelina’s Boobs

You’ve all heard the news by now, of course. If not, check out the scoop here. I woke up this morning feeling pretty impressed by Angelina sharing her story so publicly. In fact, I will freely and openly admit that her actions inspired me to also get tested for this gene at my next physical. I will also admit that because an enormously famous sexy babe elected to have her breasts removed (and no doubt replaced with a pair of awesome fake boobs) I absolutely feel like that decision is one that I would be just a bit more comfortable making for myself.

What does that make me? A lemming? A sheep that is too easily influenced by the media? I don’t know why Angelina suddenly made lopping my boobs off okay. Actually, I do. It had little to do with Angelina and more to do with how cancer has ravaged too many people who I am genetically linked to, and taken them away from us too soon. Something about a superstar admitting so publicly to their own bold decisions to protect their family from the tragedy of cancer was inspiring. The end.

 

Bamboo

Our eldest daughter has been working hard at her first independent study project this week. Her class each had to choose a traditional home structure to research and build on their own. The structure needs to be one that is man-made and the materials used in this project had to represent these kinds of materials. Hannah chose an Iraqi reed house.

She determined that woven materials would work best for building the house, which is made entirely of reeds. We determined that Chinatown was the most obvious place in the city to shop for woven things. Nekky and I grabbed the girls from school and set off, planning to have Mamma S meet us there for dinner when she was done work.

The first shop we hit was Plaiter Place. We had our big stroller to contend with and a sleeping Noah inside, so Nek parked it as strategically as he could near the cash. The store was tiny, but we managed to find a spot that didn’t block the cash from the customers or block in the lady who was working at the counter. The store was a goldmine. We found all of the supplies we needed in short order, and then a whole bunch of other beautiful things for our homeschool classroom, and a couple of fun trinkets for Ayla.

As we respectfully made our way through the shop, admiring everything, I noticed a man who was working there in some kind of serious frenzy, racing around. He seemed very irate. While Nekky and Hannah were making their final decisions at the back of the store, Ayla and I headed to the front of the store to check on Noah and to decide on which little delight she would go home with.

Irate shop-keeper man came charging to the front of the store, and rather than going around the stroller, or letting me move it out of the way, as I clearly offered, and he ignored, he shoved the stroller and rushed past it, knocking over a basket full of little wallets. As I stooped to pick them up and collect my baby and my Ayla, the shopkeeper revealed that he did, in fact, speak some English when he uttered “FUCK!” In front of my seven year old.

I ushered Ayla and Noah outside, texting Nekky to let him know what happened. He sent the girls and I ahead while first he checked the next store to make sure they had supplies we could use, and then he exchanged some choice words with the shop-keeper at Plaiter Place. In front of some more would-be customers.

We used this as an opportunity to teach the girls about customer service, and how we only spend our money in places where they treat their customers respectfully. Ayla was a bit stunned at how rude the guy was. Hannah was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find materials elsewhere.

Fast-forward to after an exhaustive hunt of Chinatown with two sleepy girls followed by a fairly epic Korean feast when we realize that one key piece we’ll need for windows can only be found in Plaiter Place. What were we to do? Send Mamma S on a covert operation of course! Yet another instance where three parents give us an advantage.

Of course the kids IMMEDIATELY figured out what was happening, and totally called us out with a classic “But YOU said…” We’re not perfect. Not by any stretch, and so I used our hypocrisy as another life lesson and said that we would go to great lengths to make sure our children succeed with all of the projects they tackle in life. Sigh.

Project reed house has blown our minds. No surprises, Hannah is brilliant. I’ll share some of her mad skills later this week. Meanwhile, let’s pray my children don’t start eating brains, stalking hookers, or getting into fist fights with shopkeepers.

 

 

 

 

Allowing Allowance

BFA-Child-Financial-Planning

Our girls are now nine and seven, and lately our eldest has been asking for an allowance. All three parents grew up with allowance once we reached a certain age, so we weren’t opposed to this concept, but we definitely wanted to have some shared goals in rolling this out to the kids.

 

 

  1. We didn’t want to tie doing basic helping tasks to a monetary reward. We all help take care of our home because we love our home and each other. We don’t want anyone to feel like they are getting paid to do the tasks that we’d like to nurture some pride in.
  2. We didn’t want the girls to get competitive over allowance. Rather than tie monetary value to chores, we agreed on a set amount per week that was the same for both girls. These two monkeys will compete over who can get the most air. Homeschooling them is going to be a real trip.
  3. We wanted to teach the children smart money management, social responsibility, and some value around money.

Here’s what we did:

Using the Melissa and Doug Responsibility Charts that we bought for the girls a while back, we create a list of suitable household responsibilities that were the same for both girls.

On a Sunday night after dinner we let them know that now that they are seven and nine years old, we felt like they were at the right age to take on some added responsibility in our home. We directed them to have a look at their charts and had a chat about what their responsibilities were, and how we expected them to take pride in caring for our home together.

We let them know that another part about growing older and more responsible was being given the responsibility of a weekly allowance (here there was much cheering and celebration) and that every Sunday they would each receive five dollars.

Then we explained that an allowance was a great responsibility because it helped them learn how to be respectful of money. We let them know that they could spend or keep two dollars of their allowance, and that they would save two dollars of their allowance, and give one dollar of their allowance to our family charity of choice – the Aga Khan Foundation .

To keep their allowances straight, I got them colour-coded glass jars from Dollarama, with one for each portion of their earnings. We’re also keeping track of our wages in a spread sheet, and (probably after the move) we’ll open a bank account for each girl.

Generally, it’s going very well, with the exception of the time we were over a week late with paying out, and my mother suggested we add a dollar of interest. The kids definitely thought that was a good plan!

How have you handled allowance with your kids? How are you teaching them to be responsible with money?

School of Mom

Things my children have taught me:

  • The importance of play, even for grown-ups
  • How to inject new life and meaning into household tasks/chores
  • A whole new pleasure in cooking for (and with!) my family
  • How to view everything like it’s fresh and new
  • How to slow down
  • How to lower my expectations of perfection (from myself)
  • How to be okay with not being on time sometimes
  • How to be creative and make art every single day
  • To enjoy sewing!
  • To be thrifty and frugal
  • Patience that I never thought I’d have
  • How to laugh at myself
  • To turn inward and really work on my own struggles
  • To respect money and resources
  • That I want to be a writer, who writes books for them to enjoy
  • To be reverent and terrified of the passage of time
  • That there are one million outlets for my imagination
  • That their opinion of me is the only one that matters (after my own)
  • How to melt away my hard exterior
  • To (always try to) speak with love and respect even when I’m feeling frustrated or tired
  • That their ideas, insights, theories and notions are often more touching, profound, brilliant and pithy than those of most adults I know
  • That I am a good mother and dedicated parent
  • How to (strive to) make them feel how loved and cherished they are all of the time
  • That I belong somewhere, to someone
  • That my family, in all of it’s quirky, evolving, unusual glory is the most important thing in the world to me
  • That their amazing, delightful, beautiful selves are proof positive that I am good and doing something good for the world

Spring Break

I have nothing to do until September.

Of course, that’s not entirely true. I have no Coquettes shows to work on until September, but I have plenty to keep busy with. Namely, parenting, which is my favorite full time job in my work history. I love my kids, and with our two weeks of March Break now concluded my days are so much less full; I wasn’t really sure how to start this week.

The Noodle is eating solids now, and sitting up mostly unassisted. He’s so long that his five-month-old body is wearing nine-month-old clothes, and his only intelligible word is “Mama”. Every day I love him a little bit more.

Hannu spent most of the break with her dad and I while Mama S whisked Aylu away to Texas to visit Auntie Crystal who just had her third little boy. Hannu and I got to bond over crafts, books, and baby. It was such a delight to have some real one-on-one time with her. She’s an angel, and that’s no exaggeration. We spent a leisurely weekend at the Niagara house working on building a Gnome Home for Ayla’s seventh birthday, and even Daddy got in on the fun. I also took Hannah to Smock – this fabulous craft café on Roncesvalles. She had a blast, and we need to go back there soon. It’s such a peaceful space, and I felt inspired just being there. 2013-03-19 13.40.24

Ayla came back from her trip mid-week during the last week of the break. She was a fire ball, and I had to get used to her amazing energy all over again. What an incredible girl. I harnessed her power in a very fun game of “Let’s Do Spring Cleaning”. She took such pleasure in cleaning our home together, and I was seriously impressed at her attention to detail. We cleaned and cooked and had a big celebration for the Equinox and Navroz, which is the Muslim New Year.  Our menu included sautéed asparagus with butter and lemon pepper, this amazing soufflé recipe from Alton Brown and this yummy strawberry rhubarb crumble for dessert which I found on Epicurious. I would make the crumble the day before next time, because it was so much better for dessert. Ha!

2013-03-21 17.46.45I’ve always wanted a ‘Spring Tree’ to decorate, so Nekky hacked some low-sprouting branches from the maple tree in the back yard and we potted them. I then spent all day on Thursday creating ornaments with the girls, and then we decorated our tree. When Hannah and I were out on our Roncesvalles adventure we picked up some pale pink tulips and pussy willows to adorn our home. It’s really quite festive in here. I think it’s really important to honour the changing seasons in our home because I think it helps to keep these city kids connected to nature. It’s also really meditative for me; I find myself really noticing the subtle changes that are starting to occur in our neighbourhood gardens while I’m out strolling with Noodle, and I’m really appreciating each increased degree in temperature.

Spring is all about new beginnings, and this is a huge theme in our household. Our home business is getting tired, and we are craving change, and greater prosperity and adventure. What happens when it looks like the end of the road is in sight for one era, and a new road is opening up before you? The three of us grown ups are united in our dreams of travel with our children, and a lifestyle that affords us such opportunity, and we all want to be pro-active in creating our own dream life. I want the very best life for my children, and that life consists of huge horizons, adventure, family and friends, opportunities to do good for the world, and a thirst for knowledge and experience. 2013-03-21 12.15.30

We are talking about exciting possibilities, we are making plans together and dreaming together, and working together to make great things happen for our family, and the very best part is that we are doing this together.

Weathering the Shitstorm

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Calorie counting, which I am mostly diligent about, but have taken a break from because my father-in-love is in town and he equals FOOD, has helped me shed about fifteen pounds since I last wrote here. I’ve limited myself to 1600 calories each day because I’m breastfeeding, and I’m generally staying away from complex carbs and refined sugar. Right now I’m about ten pounds away from my target, and I’m now seriously contemplating exercise each day. Note that I haven’t said I’m going to start exercising each day. That’s more commitment than I can handle, and the careful food choices seem to be working well. Score one for me.

I’m back to work (part time, I guess), and back on stage with the Coquettes, and about to head to Alberta with them for our first out-of-province shows. My experience with becoming a mother, birthing a baby, and watching my body turn inside out and upside down has created this insane confidence on stage. More than ever, I feel like I’m there to have fun, help the audience have fun and I really don’t give a shit about what might come out of my mouth in the process. This has made for some great shows as far as I’m concerned. That edit button is gone it seems, and hilarity ensues. Score two for me, I guess.

Noah is thriving, and smiling like a maniac nearly all of the time. The little monster is only four months old but fitting comfortably into nine month clothing, all while exclusively breastfeeding! He’s so long, I think he may end up a giant like my 6’7 brother. His sisters are wonderful too. I just had the absolute pleasure of two glowing parent/ teacher interviews where both teachers sang the praises of our wonderful children and our wonderful family. Score three?

I’m giving myself this cyber pep-talk because in therapy I’m experiencing what you might call the eye of the storm. The work I’m doing there feels like complete and utter shit. It feels like teenage days all over again. I sort of hated high school, so on Sunday nights I would feel absolutely sick with dread knowing that I had to return there on Monday. This is the same feeling I get now on my pre-therapy days. What’s going on there? Well, the simple answer is when I’m faced with difficulty, criticism and my own short comings, guess what I do? I go stony, I detach, I shut down. I do this because I  feel like I’m a terrible person and everyone around me is better off without me. I want to crawl in a hole and run away. That’s what happens inside. Outside I look like a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t care about anything.

When there is a problem in your relationship, you want your partner there with you. You want them emotionally present to help work through difficulty. I can’t do this, or at least I haven’t been able to do this. I hate this about myself  and now I’m taking a very critical and thorough look at where this comes from and how I can stop it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it hurts like hell.

So, how does a Schnoo deal with such a difficult emotional place?

1. Binge eating. Yes, I allow myself to completely and totally pig out, but only for one day. I know I can get back on track quickly, so I just go for it. Emotional eating is never a great idea, but sometimes only chocolate and popcorn can make the pain go away.

2. Maid mode. Today, after gorging myself last night, I have been a cleaning maniac. Cleaning through stress is the best thing. It’s a physical opportunity to scrub away all of the ugly, and it feels so good to take care of it while my partners are hard at work earning our bread. This morning marked the best on-my-hands-and-knees-in-front-of-the-toilet catharsis yet.

3. Makeup. If I feel like shit on the inside, I can’t stand to look like shit on the outside. I try to take extra time to focus on the things I can control, like glowing skin and bright eyes. I love makeup, I love the art of makeup application, and I love how this simple act picks me up.

4. Writing. It’s like puking the contents of my head onto paper, and I swear it’s the greatest gift I was born with. No other physical act makes me feel better.

5. Fresh air. I need to leave my physical space when I feel like crap. I used to take my iPad to the cafe near by, but with the little Noodle as my constant companion, I can’t indulge in out-of-the-house writing excursions these days. Instead he and I are going to drag daddy out to the new diner around the corner for lunch where I will sport my fresh and dewy face, indulge in a milkshake, and try to not feel like such an asshole.

If I have these wonderful people in my life who say they love me, and who are trying to build a world with me in it I can’t be so horrible, right? Is it shame that I feel in the face of making them hurt or feel frustrated and disappointed in me? Why can’t I let myself make mistakes and be a ‘work in progress’? Why can’t I just say “Yeah, that IS shitty, let’s fix it” instead of wanting to run away and hide?

I used to question the logic of  my friends who would start therapy and then quit, but now that we’ve scraped well beyond the surface and am digging into the meat of my psyche I can totally understand the impulse to stop the process. I won’t though. Somewhere beyond all of this crap-ass feeling is the realization that I (and all of those I love) will be better for it. Somewhere my mind knows that crying like a maniac is actually better for me than going all stony and hard so I don’t have to feel things. Therapy is best approached like a very sticky bandaid – get in there, rip it off, and deal with the pain rather than gingerly peel it back, or see if it will eventually fall off in the shower. That last one always ends up a dirty, stinky mess, doesn’t it?

Spring time goal: getting rid of the hard candy shell to enjoy the gooey centre.

Birth Story, Part Two

My last post left off just before I demanded that we make our way to the hospital instead of continuing to labour at home…

For nine months my heart had imagined a spiritual birth where I was at one with my body. Now that labour was here, I knew I needed the sweet, sweet relief of modern science in order to bring this baby into the world. I thought about my girlfriends who had managed to deliver without drugs and I wondered what kind of hocus pocus allowed them to do this and not suffer from PTSD. Downstairs our children had returned from their play dates, and the grandmothers were still holding court. We couldn’t pack up and get out of the house fast enough. My contractions felt like they were starting to come every three minutes and panic was really starting to take hold.

I was in my pajamas because we thought it would be smart to just wear what I was going to wear to push to the hospital and with the only maternity jacket I own wrapped around me, it wasn’t enough for the cold night air, but I was barely aware of this by this point. I got into the car, and the grandmothers followed in their own grandma-mobile.

Once in the grandma and children-free shelter of our vehicle, I came totally unhinged. I made animal sounds. I swore like a sailor. I turned into one of those labouring women from television or the movies – noisy, crazed banshee women. I didn’t understand why the drive was taking so long, or why the route had so many potholes. I ranted and raved and after what felt like about two hours (but was really only about fifteen minutes) we arrived at the birthing centre.

Nekky dropped us off and went to sort parking. Sarah helped me to the door. We were right near the lake at St. Joseph’s and the wind was howling. I could really feel the cold now. Managing contractions while your body is rigid from the cold is a very special kind of hell. As luck would have it, we arrived ten minutes after hours and the birth centre doors were locked. Our midwives had warned us of this possibility, and had gone ahead to prep a room and meet us there to let us in, but they were nowhere in sight. Instead, we were trapped outside with two women who were soon terrified of me as I began to scream and pound on the doors with both fists. Finally, some poor lady with her young children came along and as they exited, the doors slid open to let us in. The children stared at me in horror.

We stood at the admitting desk for about eleven years while everyone behind it ignored us. Finally our midwives appeared. I clutched at one of them and said, “I NEED AN EPIDURAL.” She gently removed my claws from her arm and said, “I suspected that might be the case and we’ve already given the hospital staff the head’s up.”

As the midwives led us to our birthing room, I clung to the railing along the wall with each new contraction. I was making angry jungle cat noises at this point I think, and still swearing my head off. It was like Tourettes, I couldn’t stop. As we rounded the corner these little mocha-coloured children shuffled slowly out of a room to see what the commotion was. They peered at me curiously with their big, liquidy brown eyes as I was seized with another contraction. I gritted my teeth, trying with all my might not to frighten them. “The children…” I whispered, now sweating profusely. “The children….”

Finally we were in our room. As I realized I couldn’t wear my “birthing pajamas” and get an epidural, I began to strip off all of my clothes and put on a hospital gown. Or perhaps Nekky or Sarah did this for me? I can’t recall. What I do remember is how long it seemed to take before the anesthesiologist came (which in reality was only about half an hour). I needed to let them take blood and get an IV started before I could get the epidural. The blood taking was no problem, but our student midwife did something funny with my IV and blood began spraying all over me, and all over the bed. My left hand was dripping with blood. It didn’t hurt though. Or else maybe I was in so much pain, it didn’t feel like it hurt. For reasons that escape me, she neglected to clean me up, but the feeling of blood caking under my fingernails was lost amidst the contractions, which were now about a minute apart.

I don’t know why nobody bothered to check how dilated I was when we arrived at the hospital, but I’m glad this oversight occurred, because I’m pretty certain they would have forgone the epidural if they had. I think it was pretty close to pushing time, based on how I was feeling. Finally a tidy looking Asian man named Steve arrived with my salvation. He prepped me and froze me and assured me he would try to avoid putting the needle into where my tattoo ink was. I kept having contractions, and so he kept needing to pause. At one point the contraction was so violent I moaned “FUUUUCCK” and Steve apparently had to suppress a chuckle. I’m glad my back was towards him. I noted with this last contraction a very strong urge to push – like I had to take a big poop. I said nothing about this though because nothing was going to keep me from the sweet relief that Steve had to give.

Once the epi was in, Steve stepped back and waited to make sure the magic would happen, and happen it did. I cannot convey to you the vast, vast difference between drug free and drugged up labour. The pain literally vanished. My contractions went from feeling like someone was prying me apart by pulling my pelvis in either direction with a tractor to feeling like a gentle tightening of my pelvic region, not unlike a kitten curling up in my lap. I looked at Steve and uttered the first non-offensive sentence to leave my lips in about two hours; “Thank you so much.”

Then it was party time. I was back to my old self. I was better than my old self, having been rescued from the brink of insanity. My jokes were the best jokes I’ve ever made. I was witty, and charming, and ready for anything. Nicole, our labour nurse, was my BFF and my son might possibly be named after Steve, my savior. We waited for Dr. Pham, the lovely OBGYN on call (the midwives had to ‘hand over’ my care until the baby arrived with the introduction of the epidural) to come and check my dilation. She appeared, and she looked about my age. She was very friendly and confidant, and informed us that I was 10cm! The midwives wanted me to wait until the baby descended a bit more to start pushing, but Nicole didn’t want to wait because of how long it had been since my water broke. She kept asking if I felt pressure in my bum, but Steve was so thorough that my bum could have been anyone’s bum at that point. Nicole and I both agreed that I wouldn’t be feeling anything in my bum for many, many hours.

And so the pushing began. Dr. Pham was busy with another delivery, so the midwives took over with the help of super awesome Nicole who I really felt was my touchstone. So weird that I would feel more connected with her than with the midwives I’d built a relationship with for nine months. I think I felt on some intuitive level that she really “got it” and knew what was happening for me and for the baby, and she seemed so much more confidant than the midwives. Now, in my mind I wanted to push without straining too hard, so my first pushes involved trying to imagine pushing with my abdominal muscles while exhaling slowly. I laugh at this now.

The midwives looked at me, puzzled. They said, “We need that thoracic pressure caused by bearing down and holding your breath.” I began to push while holding my breath and the resulting feeling was like an eyeball might pop out or a blood vessel in my brain might explode. I was very glad we were in the hospital in case either of these things happened. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. The onlookers kept seeing the baby’s head crowing, but then it would disappear again. The midwives kept telling me to push down towards my bum, but all instruction was useless because I couldn’t feel a damn thing below my waist. I tried in vain to visualize the process. I tried different pelvic tilts. I tried, and tried, and pushed and grunted for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.

Dr. Pham returned to see what the issue was, and why the little guy wasn’t budging. The head that everyone thought they were seeing was actually only a part of the head. Baby was on his way to a pretty awesome cone head because he was stuck on my pubic bone. The doctor gave me two more tries but warned me if this didn’t work she would have to go in with the forceps. Since I couldn’t feel anything, my main concern was how this would mark up the baby, and so I asked Sarah if she could photo shop out the forceps marks in the baby pictures. Then I started to remember that eventually the epidural would wear off. Nicole assured me she was a pro with forceps and everything would be okay. They both told me that the “baby was getting tired” which I already knew because I could hear it on the monitor. This is happy language that means that the baby’s heart rate is slowing down very dangerously.

Now the people in the room were starting to rush about. Some new nurses had appeared and were prepping the baby warmer and some other equipment that I tried not to think about because I knew it was for emergency resuscitation. The giant, silver forceps were placed on a stand in my periphery, a gleaming reminder of why I had to make the next pushes count. Sarah leaned over me and said, “Do NOT let them use those salad tongs in your vagina.”

As the next contraction came on, I gathered all of my strength and concentration. I glanced at the prayer beads that my brother-in-love let me borrow and asked the powers that be to aid me in my efforts. With no less than six people cheering me on (plus two grandmothers who were peeking into the room behind the curtain) I grunted and strained and pushed with every fiber of my being. The crowd said, “There he is! He’s coming!” and then suddenly I heard wailing. Noah’s head was finally out and he was ready to announce his arrival before any of the rest of him could be born. Imagine a tiny head sticking out of my vagina, screaming. Dr. Pham looked at me and said, “Would you like to pull him out?” Stunned by the prospect, I stammered in the affirmative, then reached down and put my hands under his hot, slippery little arms and lifted him from my body onto my chest. Nothing else in my entire life will rival the elation and triumph I felt in that moment.

After Noah came out, there were hands everywhere cleaning him up, cleaning me up. I was oblivious as they set about their business, so long as my baby stayed on my chest. Sarah cut his umbilical cord, and I delivered the placenta without any difficulty. Then Dr. Pham set to work sewing me up, as I ended up with a second degree tear. She assured me that this was quite common, but there is nothing common about the amount of time it seemed to take her to restore my hoo ha to its former glory. I felt a bit panicked about the amount of time she was taking, and she explained that the repair had to be done in layers, and that she wanted everything just as it was. United in this common goal, I decided to focus on something else while she finished her job. She warned me not to let myself get constipated or I would tear my stitches. I banished all thoughts of trying to go to the bathroom in any way from my mind because this simple task seemed really terrifying.

The rest of the next twenty-four hours remains very fuzzy. I know someone took Noah to the warming table to weigh him and check his Apgar scores (which were 9 at both intervals!). I know Noah and I tried our first breastfeeding latch (the fact that he left me with nipple hickies should have been my first warning that something was wrong there). I know it took a long time for my bleeding to slow and my uterus to harden, and I needed some oxytocin to help this along. I know we waited forever for the epidural to wear off.

The midwives informed us that we’d have to transfer over to hospital care and stay another 24 hours because I wasn’t ready to be discharged, and if we got caught mid shift-change, we were stuck with hospital policy. Strangely, when they went to inform the staff there was no nurse on the ward, so our poor, exhausted midwives got stuck staying with me. They went to rest in the on-call room, and I tried to sleep, but I was completely wired. Nekky rested in a reclining chair with Noah on his chest and Sarah was passed out on the sofa. I just watched everyone and tried to wrap my brain around everything that had happened.

I took stock of myself and realized I was covered in DNA; meconium from where the baby had his first poop on my thigh, blood caked all over my hand where the IV went awry, dried amniotic fluid, and god knows what else decorated my hospital gown and myself. I continued to move my legs and feet as much as I could to help the feeling return. There was no way I was leaving the hospital without a shower.

Eventually the midwives came back and told me they were just going to try to get us out of the hospital, rather than make us stay another 24 hours. I begged for a shower, so they helped me to my feet and got me set up in the washroom. I moved slowly and carefully, and eventually I was clean again. When I emerged, Nekky and Sarah were awake and they were being hustled to get the baby dressed and to pack up our things. I started to get the feeling that we were being smuggled out. In the parking lot I noticed the dusk sky was pink and a few stars hung out by the thin sliver of moon while the sun began to take over the next shift. The midwives helped me into the car with a big hug, and then the rest of the ride home was spent staring at my beautiful baby resting peacefully in his car seat.

At about 7:30 am we walked into our house. Everyone was awake, including the girls who got to meet their brand new baby brother. I really don’t remember any of this, but I do remember going upstairs and napping for a couple of hours. I imagine everyone else used this time to pass around Noah. The entire day floated by like a bit of a dream. I was surrounded by our close family, and really just trying to take it all in and rest after the incredible intensity of labour. I kept pulling myself into the moment by smelling the soft little head of my sweet baby, and I knew that I would never, ever think of myself the same way that I had before my water broke.

Schnooville is presently overrun with subjects like poopy diapers and breastfeeding challenges, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I work through these subjects here. I promise whatever I write about will be entertaining, because every day I am humbled and amazed by what my life has become.