Archive for May, 2008

She

May 28, 2008

I do it every night now. When it’s dark, when the rest of the house is asleep, or almost, I untangle my tiny newborn bundle from my arms and lay him down in his nest and ease my birth-battered body from our bed. I make my way – gingerly, gingerly – around the bed, supporting myself on furniture, against the walls, down the hallway, to her door.

I open it slowly, holding my breath against the creaks, and slip inside. There, in the dark, is she, my first baby. Rumpled and tangled in her blankets, her breathing slow and deep, strands of fluffy blonde hair stuck to her damp, pink cheeks, she is every inch the baby. A big baby, but still. A baby, my baby. In the quiet, in repose, she is no longer toddler, no longer little girl, no longer big sister – she is just she, my first born, my first baby, always a baby, always soft and vulnerable and in need of me, always in need of me.

I bend over the rail of her bed, and kiss her cheek, and stroke her hair and whisper nothing, everything, about how I love her so, how I adore her, how I miss her. How every nuzzle of her brother’s cheek brings a memory of her; how every clutch and suck and moment of skin pressed against newborn skin makes my heart burst for him and yearn for her; how my love for him has made my love for her grow and stretch and strain and ache.

How I love her, how I love her.

In the morning she will wake, and run past me, blowing a kiss as she clambers into Daddy’s arms, waving gaily as she embarks upon the great adventure of a new day, while I sit, constrained, restrained, by the injuries of childbirth and new motherhood (shredded nethers, ravaged nips), my new love in my arms, my new love demanding everything of me and yielding himself to me, pressing himself to me, in return. I will drink up his love, bathe in his love, as she speeds away, leaving me in her wake, grasping at droplets, holding back tears.

But it doesn’t matter, because, always, she will stop again, however briefly, and rest, and she will allow me to bend over her bed, in the dark, and stroke her cheek and tell her how I love her, my first, my girl.

How I love her.

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Guest Posts Are Better Than Ice Packs And Percocet: Meet Petite Anglaise

May 25, 2008

Recovery isn’t going as well as I’d like, nor is breastfeeding – it’s actually all going sorta badly (let’s just say, there are icepacks on every sensitive area of my body, and they’re not helping) – and I’m struggling physically and emotionally…

So a guest post is more than timely. Meet the blogger known as Petite Anglaise, who just released her first book, a memoir about blogging through some profound changes in her life, and who has much to say on the subject that was plaguing me last month – being accused of exploiting her family, and especially her child, for her ‘craft’…

It’s still very much on my mind, that issue, because – after much deliberation – I revealed my children’s names when my son was born last week. Am I pushing the exploitation envelope by sharing so much of my babies, and my self? Is it enough to say, as Petite does below, that these are my stories? Stories that are my property?

I think so, but as I replace the ice-packs on my boobs and think about how to write about the heartache of pulling my baby off of my ravaged breast, I do – for the most fleeting moment – think twice.

********

One of the most surreal things I had to do as part of my whirlwind publicity tour for the UK release of petite anglaise was a local radio interview marathon. Sitting in a tiny studio at BBC Broadcasting House, headphones clamped to my ears and a cup of coffee within easy reach, I gave twenty five-minute interviews in quick succession. My memory of those two hours is, for the most part, a blur.

One exchange did stick in my mind, however, as from the outset the line of questioning was unusually aggressive and confrontational. ‘Don’t you worry about how your daughter will feel when she is old enough to read your blog and your book?’ said the disembodied voice in my headset. ‘Do you really think it’s fair to use your interactions with her, and the breakdown of your relationship with her father as material?’

Catherine’s recent post about the Globe and Mail article brought that interviewers’ words back to me with a vengeance. It seems there are many people outside the blogging community who feel that there is something unsavoury – even unethical – about writing an unashamedly honest personal blog detailing the author’s experience of parenthood and relationships. Where should a writer – whether it be a journalist writing a first person column, a blogger, or a memoirist – draw the line? To what extent are stories plucked from our own daily lives our property, to do with as we will?

Petite Anglaise started life in 2004 as an anonymous expat blog, morphing gradually, over time, into something more personal. It seemed only natural to me that I should mine my daily life as a working mother for material. Natural too that the main ‘characters’ populating my posts should be my daughter Tadpole (then one, now approaching her fifth birthday) and her father, Mr Frog. I may not have been able to preserve my own anonymity, but I’ve succeeded, until now, in keeping Mr Frog and Tadpole out of the limelight. There are no full-face pictures of my daughter on the blog, either, as Mr Frog is dead set against it.

When I’d finished re-writing my blog as a memoir, every (adult) main ‘character’ received a copy of the book and a document issued by my publisher, effectively asking them to sign off on my portrayal of their private lives. I’d discussed the book with each and every one of them beforehand, allowing them to choose a pseudonym, for example, if they felt the need. But seeing these documents brought home to me for the first time that my first person account was not considered my sole property. My ‘characters’ had rights too.

In discussions about a possible film, I was told, yet again, that such a project would only get a green light if every ‘character’ were wholeheartedly on board.

I stand by everything I’ve written as petite anglaise and still feel, very strongly, that the stories I chose to share with readers of my blog and book were mine to tell. And while the blog will remain my personal forum, in any future books I plan to channel my personal experiences into works of fiction. That way I’ll be able to carry on doing what I love – telling stories – without submitting them to my main characters for approval. They will be my property, and my property alone.

Speed Racer: The Birth Story

May 22, 2008

The first contraction hit at 7:46 pm. I know this, because I checked the time. I was pretty sure that it was just more false labor, but still. One always hopes. So I checked the time, and then went back to eating my fajita.

Ten minutes later another contraction hit. Ow, I said to no one in particular. That hurt.

Was that one different? HBF asked. Is it time?

Probably not. I’ll just wait and see.

Eight minutes later I was doubled over. Emilia pulled out her doctor’s kit and held the stethoscope to my belly. Baby brother wants to come out now?

I don’t know sweetie.

HBF: Should we go in?

I don’t know. It might be another false alarm.

HBF: I think we should go in.

I don’t know. (*doubles over*)

HBF: Seriously.

Fifteen minutes later we were in the car, no thanks to me. I dawdled, even as the contractions sped up, reluctant to go in to the hospital and face another round of eye-rolling if these were, as I thought, just another bout of bad false contractions. HBF prodded and pushed until I relented and buckled into the passenger seat. We drove away at 8:26pm, just as another bad contraction hit.

And then another.

And another.

We were barely fifteen minutes from home – and still probably some thirty minutes from our downtown hospital – when it became apparent that whatever was happening was happening quickly. Very quickly. Since we’d left home, the contractions had gone from eight minutes or so apart to barely a minute apart to not apart at all. HBF called 911; 911 patched him through to an ambulance; the ambulance advised that we pull off the highway and wait for them.

HBF: Pull off and wait?

(Me: GAAAAAR-OHMYGOD-GAAAAAR-NOTGOINGTOMAKEIT-GAAAAAR!!!)

(Emilia: WHAT’S MOMMY YELLING ‘BOUT DADDY?!)

HBF: I really don’t think we have time to stop and wait.

Ambulance Dispatch: We can’t chase you down, sir.

HBF: Then I’ll just keep driving.

Mad vehicular dashes to hospitals with women in labor are usually played for laughs on film and television. Let me tell you: there is nothing funny about racing toward a hospital that seems to recede ever further into the horizon as you speed forward in excruciating pain, your body completely out of your control, medical disaster ever more imminent with every passing second. Even when the toddler in the back seat starts shouting MOMMY YOU NEED MEDICINE YOU NEED MY TOADSTOOL? it’s not funny. It’s stone-cold terrifying.

And when your body just starts bearing down and pushing and you cannot stop it and then you’re still like ten minutes away from the hospital and the baby starts shoving its way out of your parts and OMG YOU CAN FEEL IT COMING OUT? Then? Your mind kind of snaps.

(So does the mind of your husband, who at this point is simultaneously driving a speeding vehicle with one hand on the horn and the other trying to feel for baby’s head between your legs while shouting into his phone-headpiece to someone at the ER that the baby’s coming the baby’s coming you need to be ready when we get there!)*

We arrived at the hospital at about 9:05pm. At the wrong entrance. Which was locked. Sufficient banging and the luck of some random guy wandering through the lobby got us in, and much shouting from HBF brought the medical team that had been waiting for us running. I was already mid-delivery: the bag of waters was being involuntarily pushed out – intact – and the baby was crowning. Eleven minutes later, at 9:16pm – after much horror-movie-worthy screaming – Jasper was out.

90 minutes from start to finish of active labor. Eleven minutes after stepping out of the vehicle. Fourth degree tearing (borderline) requiring on-the-spot surgery which, you know, without epidural or spinal anaesthesia or anything more significant than local anaesthetic and an extra-strength Tylenol? Almost as hair-raising as the near in-vehicle delivery. Almost.

It was terrifying. The most terrifying experience of my life, bar nothing.

But still, still… after all that – there’s him. Big and hale and hearty and a joy – an infinite joy – to behold. Worth any measure of terror, worth any measure of pain.

And the best birthday present ever.

*****

HBF broke, like, a zillion traffic laws, but he was a hero, he really was, getting us to the hospital in the nick of time. We found out immediately after the birth that we couldn’t have delivered Jasper safely without help – the cord was wrapped around his neck. There was, quite literally, not a second to spare. My mind snaps a little bit more every time I think about this. Which is why I’m going to try to not think about it anymore.

I bitch about the gods a lot, but someone or something was looking out for us. And for that – for everything – I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Now, am going to rest. Really.

*******


Because you asked: he weighed 9 lbs 2 oz – just a hair under what the ultrasound indicated. Around 20 inches long with a VERY big head (and chubby cheeks with one dimple).

And Emilia was right there until the gory parts, at which point she was enlisted by nurses to help supervise the nursing desk until it was slightly less terrifying for her to enter the room. When she did rejoin us, she was all smiles – huge smiles – and bursting with pride for having helped bring her baby brother into the world.

Birth Day

May 20, 2008

Miss Emilia would like to introduce you all to her baby brother, Mister Jasper, who arrived last night at 9:16pm.

After very narrowly escaping being born at the side of the road.

Their bad mother, who is happy but nonetheless shell-shocked from what was – no exaggeration – a somewhat traumatic birth experience, needs to recover for a day or two before sharing that story. In the meantime, accept this photo and a weakly blown virtual kiss as both birth announcement and thank-you (for your amazing support during this crazy pregnancy) card.

xo

Getting Down To Business: Update

May 17, 2008

No baby. Lost rocked, though, so, hey, there was that.

Spent the better part of today at hospital while doctors fussed over size of baby and fact of ongoing contractions that seem to go nowhere. The baby? IS HUGE. Well over nine pounds now and measuring off the chart for length and head size and everything size and very near to the point where they automatically recommend c-section. My doctor, however, is very anti-c-section unless absolutely medically necessary so there was consultation after consultation with other doctors and OBs about whether the fact that my body has been preparing itself slooowly for ‘natural’ labor is reason enough to wait some more days.

They decided that it is. Wait.

I cried.

Which, embarassing, but still. CANNOT do this. Need this baby out. And would strongly prefer that the ‘getting out’ not involve my nether regions being torn to shreds by a gargantuan head and general fetal massivosity.

I’m now exhausted and in pain and terrified of staying pregnant while this baby grows and grows and becomes too big to fit out my hoo-ha. And the castor oil? Has done nothing as yet. (Although, for the record? Mixed with a cocktail of cream soda and root beer – don’t ask – it doesn’t taste all that bad.) NOTHING.

So. Having tried pretty much everything – seriously – that there is to try, all that’s left is praying.

Am praying.

Getting Down To Business

May 15, 2008

Why I have to have this baby this weekend, or else:

1) Because if I have to go through another full day or night of ‘false’ but nonetheless really f*cking painful labor contractions, I may be compelled to shoot myself in the head, or dope myself to sleep with vodka, and neither of those things would be good for the baby, would they?

2) Because my current daily ratio of sleeping to not-sleeping, given the above, in hours as measured on a 24-hour clock – 2:24.

3) Because once tonight’s episode of Lost is over, I’ll only have 6 days and 23 hours in which to get this baby out and sorted so that I’m back on schedule to watch the next episode, next week.

4) Because it’s my birthday next week, and a) I’d prefer that this child be born at least a few days before or after my own birthday, and I’m not waiting until next weekend (see #’s 1 – 3 above), and b) I’d very much like to have a vodka martini on that day, and not one that is cut with castor oil.

5) Because, have you seen me lately? I am the size of a small dirigible. And if this baby was pushing 8lbs over two weeks ago – even allowing for margins for error – I do not even want to contemplate how big he will be next week.

6) Because I’m ready. We’re ready. It’s time.

So, having exhausted all other options except Eggplant Parmesan (cooked eggplant being a couple of notches below castor oil on my personal list of stomachable foodstuffs and beverages), I’m pretty certain that I will be quaffing some castor oil within 24 hours of the closing credits scrolling onscreen for tonight’s episode of Lost. I am well aware that many of you will regard this as reckless, reckless behaviour, but still: am at wit’s end. Must act. Gastrointestinal discomfort, even in the extreme, is, at this point, among the very least of the physical evils that I face, including but not restricted to intermittent but ongoing painful labor and the many-days long stretch of no sleep caused by that labor. Diarrhea? MEH.

Am forging ahead. Hopefully, the next time you hear from me will be from the other side. Otherwise, expect more bitching.

PS -I refuse to confirm or deny any of the name guesses made on my last post, but I will say this: you will know. It may be a one-time only deal, but I will share the name with you. After I share it with him.

My Baby, By Any Other Name…

May 13, 2008

We’ve known Sprout’s name for a long time. Naming him, in fact, was one of the easier parts of child-preparation for us. It came to us, and it felt right, and that was that. So he has a name, and we – and Wonderbaby – have been referring to him by name for a long time. Which I love, because he’s already part of the family, someone we know, someone whose name is included with all of our own when we talk about the future, or when we whisper good wishes to everyone we love at bedtime. I love that Wonderbaby discusses him freely with anyone who asks – I have a baby brudder his name is xxxxxx I love him I gonna share my toys we gonna have CAKE and and and I love him and I kiss him LIKE THIS (blows kiss at mommy’s belly) – as though he were already here, which he is, of course, in the most important way, in our hearts.

And I’ve gotten accustomed to the occasional eyebrow being raised when Wonderbaby utters his name. It’s not a strange name – artists and writers and characters of fiction have had this name – but it is a little on the eccentric side, maybe. It’s not a name that you hear every day. So, yes, there have been moments when an utterance of his name provokes those arched brows and a politely restrained oh isn’t that an unusual name. Which doesn’t bother me. It’s his name, and I just know that it’s perfect for him, even having not yet met him. I just know. It just is.

Still, I avoided telling my mother, because I knew she’d hate it. I knew, because she hated all the boys names that I mentioned to her when Wonderbaby was just a Wonderfetus, gender unknown. “Theodore? Theo? Oh, NO, honey, I don’t like that name AT ALL. Not AT ALL.” I knew that I would have to preface any announcement of his name with the caveat that she would not like it and that I wouldn’t care and that she’d just have to deal, etc, etc, but still. I knew that it would be an uncomfortable conversation. I knew that there would be an awkward silence over the telephone. I knew that she would sigh deeply and maybe issue a protracted hmmmm before saying something to the effect of I don’t know, Cath and I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it. Which is exactly what she did, yesterday, when I told her.

I’m not crazy about it.

I knew that you wouldn’t be.

I just worry… will kids make fun of him? What will you call him for short?

MOM. It’s not unusual enough for him to be made fun of just because of that. There are far more unusual boys’ names out there. And I don’t know what we’ll call him for short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is his name.

Well… (DEEP SIGH) I suppose that I’ll have to get used to it.

Yes. Yes, you will.

What about Theodore? Didn’t you want that name before? I’ve always liked that name…

I love my mother, I really do, and have always valued and admired her naked honesty – she is very nearly constitutionally incapable of withholding her opinion – and I had told myself that I just wouldn’t care if she didn’t like his name, I had told myself that I knew she wouldn’t like it, that I was prepared for her to not like it. But still… there was a moment there, the briefest moment between his name falling from my lips and her reaction to that name, during which I held my breath and willed her to like it. Wished for her to like it, to recognize it as the perfect name, as his name. And so I was deflated when she reacted as I had expected. Disappointed.

Because, as I keep saying, it is his name, his perfect name, and I feel lucky to have found it, just as I felt lucky to have found Wonderbaby’s perfect name. So, the larger part of me says that it does not matter what anyone else thinks: I am his mother, and, along with his father, I hold responsibility for his naming, for finding the name that is uniquely his. Only we can recognize that name. It is ours to give to him, his to take from us, his to wear, his to own. Even if he grows up to hate it – which is always a possibility – it will remain his name, his original name, the one that I will whisper in his ear the very moment that he is first placed in my arms and that I will shout from the rooftops at every opportunity thereafter.

But, but… my instructions to my mother – get used to it, you will just have to get used to it – remind me that to some extent a name really is just a name, just a word, something that we get used to, something that grows on us, something that becomes our own because of what we make of it, not because it fell from the sky of ideas like a shooting star into our mother’s lap and presented itself as sacred, sacrosanct, perfect. Our boy will be our boy, regardless of his name, regardless of whether we call him Jack or John or Junior or Pilot Inspektor. He will, if our experience with Wonderbaby is anything to go by, have many names, be called many things, be referred to by many terms of endearment. He will be, no doubt, our Prince, our Pirate, our Monster, our Parakeet, our Crunch. And no matter what he is called, he will always be him.

The him that he is, though – the him that he will be – that ‘him’ has a name, a name that I, we, have given him, a name that we love him by, and will always love him by. His name, his very own name. It is indeed special, and it will be the first word that he hears.

What anybody else thinks of it? Doesn’t matter. It’s between we and him.

(A question that vexes me, though: DO I TELL THE INTERNETS? I’ve long wanted to stop calling Wonderbaby ‘Wonderbaby’ and call her by her real name. And I’d so love to share Sprout’s real name. But I’ve become so accustomed to using pseudonyms, even as I’ve become less convinced of their protective effect. This, however, is another topic for another day, and something to distract me while I continue suffering through this interminable, unpredictable labor.)

Mama, Me

May 11, 2008

I had hoped that this Mother’s Day would bring me a baby. It didn’t, and I was discouraged.

Then I remembered: I already have a baby. I already am a mother. Not that I’d forgotten, but I’ve been so distracted for the past however many days by this interminable early labor that I’ve come to define myself almost entirely as a very cranky pregnant woman who will be in said labor forever.

But, always, behind and before and beyond all of that, there is this:


She.


She made me a mother. She has made me the mother that I am.


This Mother’s Day is hers.

All my love forever and ever, sweetie.

*(the day’s not over yet and it’s been the worst contraction day so far, by far, so who knows. Still, I’m reserving my hopes for tomorrow.)

Yo, Mamas

May 9, 2008

No, I have still not had this baby. I’m still having contractions, sometimes painful ones, but they’re still irregular. I’m not going to prattle on about how frustrating this is, because you’ve heard it from me already.

What I am going to say is this: THANK YOU. For helping to keep me sane. Because, for seriously? I might have already gone well ’round the crazy bend by now if I didn’t have this amazing community surrounding me and supporting me and helping me navigate the craziness that is this pregnancy and life, generally.

I wrote you all an OMG Thank You So Much And By The Way Happy Mothers Day card (early, because, well, if the gods are smiling upon I will be busy giving birth by Mothers Day). It’s here. I meant every word of it.

********

I’m still working on visiting and thanking you all individually for those beautiful, beautiful shower posts, but it’s slow going because everything I’m doing these keeps getting interrupted by painful and mind-messing early labor bizniss. I’ll get to your post, I promise. I’m so thankful for all of them. They’ve been making me laugh and cry and the emotional release has been so welcome.

********

My blog updates might get more sporadic from here on out. It’s tiring and tiresome – to me – to keep writing about NOT having this baby yet, so hard, so frustrating, early labor wtf, bitch bitch bitch. And if I am fortunate to get this baby out soon, I’ll be going quiet for a few days (although the news WILL get posted.) Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just keep on bitching, daring the gods to NOT let this child pass. Because The Amazing Thirteen Month Pregnant Bitch-Woman (writing about her 5+ months of labor) might just make for a good alternate blog identity.

Camels take thirteen-plus months to gestate. Am not camel. YOU HEAR THAT, GODS???

Hysterical

May 7, 2008

Hysteric – from the Greek, hysterikos – of or from the womb (uterus: hystera); suffering caused by the womb.

Yesterday, I went to the hospital. I wasn’t convinced that I was in full-on regular labor, but something was up, and I was concerned enough about what was going on – over two days of very painful, if irregular, contractions, and reduced fetal movement, and this after a full week of less intense ‘false’ labor – that I called my doctor and asked what I should do. The nurse on duty said, predictably, go into triage, better safe than sorry, this could be labor, it could something else, in any case we want to make sure that you and the baby are okay.

She also said, bring your hospital bag, just in case. Not having packed a hospital bag – because, you know, packing hospital bags just jinxes any possibility of a baby coming in a timely manner, yanno? – I gathered up my phone and camera and laptop, shoved a clean pair of underpants in my coat pocket and commanded my husband to drive.

The nurses at triage were wonderful, sympathetic, gentle women who said all the right things about me coming in and getting checked out and felt my belly gently as it contracted and contracted again and then hooked me up to all of those monitors and things and cooed soothingly as the heart monitor registered a healthy heartbeat etc, etc. Your contractions are registering as mild, they said, but of course that doesn’t mean that they’re not painful. Coo, coo, cluck, cluck, everything looks good, dear.

My doctor wasn’t in or on-call, so they called in a resident to examine me further. The resident did not coo or cluck. The resident sat down in a chair next to the hospital bed and looked me up and down. I’ve looked at the fetal cardiogram blah blah blah, she said. Everything looks fine, and you seem to be in very early labor. She paused again. But it *is* early. Why did you come in?

(Momentary stunned silence)

‘Um, because of the pain? The pain has been bad. Off and on, for days now. DAYS. Since early last week or so. And the baby wasn’t moving so much. So I called, AND THE NURSE TOLD TO ME TO.’

That can happen; it can go on for weeks; it can be painful, yes, but it’s perfectly normal. Your uterus is just getting ready for the birth blah blah blah.

‘I know, I know, but my doctor told me to come in straight away if the pains got worse. They got worse. And the baby, not moving, and I called the nurse and she said…’

Of course, of course, you did the right thing (fake cooing)

She pauses again, and flips through my file.

I see here that you’re a patient in the Reproductive Life Stages* program here at the hospital… *(RLS = Crazy Pregnant and Post-Partum Ladies Psychiatric Care Club, membership by referral only.)

‘YES WHY?’ (hysteria rising in voice)

Just asking. You’ve been feeling okay? Managing your anxiety? Have you spoken to them recently?

(Is she calling me crazy oh my effing god? IS SHE CALLING ME CRAZY FOR COMING IN HERE?)

‘A few weeks ago WHY?’

Just want to make sure that you’re not too anxious about this pregnancy.

‘I am anxious right now because I am in PAIN.’

I know, I know (fake clucking, jotting of notes that I KNOW say something to the effect of batshit loco.)

She pauses again. So, she says after a moment. What are we going to do with you?

*HEAD EXPLODES*

I left, after numerous sympathetic back pats from triage nurses who cooed kind things about not hesitating to come in again if the pains worried me, and promptly burst into tears. When I got home, there was a message on the phone from Reproductive Life Stages, ‘checking in’ on me: was I okay? did I need an appointment? At which point I might have burst into tears again, if I hadn’t needed to double over just right that minute to cope with yet another pain.

I’ll talk to my doctor about it, and she will, I know, shake her head vigorously and insist that I was absolutely right to come in, and that I must not hesitate to do so again, and that I should pay no mind to any real or perceived suggestion that my experience with this interminable false/early/whatever labor is anything but legitimately frustrating and worrying and that, again, again I must not hesitate to call or come in at any time if I’m in any way concerned.

But the damage has been done. If I wasn’t a basket-case before, I’m well on my way to being one now. If this baby doesn’t begin his emergence in some sort of very obvious, textbook way, I’m going to be reluctant to call again, ever.

Which means that this baby just might get born in our bathroom. In which case, those clean underpants in my coat pocket really will be a useless precaution.

(For the Countdown To Baby record, the contractions subsided in the night – so I got to sleep for a few hours for the first time in DAYS – but are back again and are hurting and would be it be wrong for me to hit the liquor, like, now?)