Posts tagged ‘family’

On the Virtues of Printed Photo Albums

Oh HAI. I forgot about this blog for awhile. Actually, I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t allowed to write here until I finished sending all the thank you cards for new baby gifts, and that just happened last week. Yes, the baby is 4 months old. Shaddup.

The thought of trying to summarize the last 2.5 months of rapidly evolving baby gives me a headache, so instead, here’s what I’m mentally chewing on right now: photo albums. (Well, that and WordPress’ new dashboard layout which is frankly making me stabby.)


A photo of me as a baby from an aunt’s family album. Nice haircut there, older cousin! My parents never kept albums when I was little, but I’m so grateful to have a few old family photos like this from other relatives.

I want us to have real physical photo albums of J’s childhood. A million cell phone pictures are nice and all, but I have zero faith those are going to be accessible for the kid when he is grown up. A print book you have to save in a fire, but otherwise should be around regardless of electrical or computing systems, file formats, or whatever. Since getting access to my first digital camera in about 2004, there is zero printed photographic evidence of our lives, and that needs to change.

So I’m trying to be catch up on family photo albums. I still need to make a wedding one, which will be verrry short. We have a honeymoon one already. Now I’m getting started on a book for J’s first year. This is all incredibly time-consuming, but hopefully once a process is in place (i.e. photo editing and book layout programs are set up on my computer so I can work on layout incrementally as photos get taken) it should be manageable. Even short little books would be way better then nothing.

And now: diaper laundry and pumping! Life around here continues to be glamourous.

Introducing Baby J, and a (really long) Birth Story

Baby J joined us this Monday, February 20 at 4:38 in the morning, weighing 8lbs4oz. We are so glad he’s here. Below is his birth story. I tried to write a short summary, but it turned into the monster below. I need to hit “publish” before it grows any longer.


Here he is: Baby J, a week old in this picture! (He's 2 weeks old today and has gained a whole pound since his 7-day appointment!)

A few days before my due date, I came down with the worst bout of hacking crud. There was goo in my lungs and I was exhausted. In the end, because our bodies are awesome, mine waited until I had mostly recovered to go into labour. I think that acupuncture also helped clear my lungs as well. Thank goodness: I don’t know how I could have managed birth without being able to breathe. The downside was that a few days on the couch recovering may have been what caused my baby who had been positioned OK to turn posterior, despite all my hands-and-knees floor-washing to try and turn him before labour began.

First stage labour started Sunday morning, Feb 19, at 40W3d. I woke up with fairly mild contractions around 8am. Hooray for a night’s sleep beforehand. Things got going pretty definitively, although I was initially reluctant to cancel breakfast plans with friends in case early labour was just teasing me. I spent the morning and afternoon either standing and leaning on a dresser, or on my hands and knees leaning on a giant stack of pillows. My fabulous doula was on her way by 1pm, and we called the midwives with me in active labour (3-1-1) at 3pm or so. The whole afternoon, we listened to Hypnobabies tracks over and over again, and I demanded endless back massages and hot water bottles from Z and our doula.

A word on Hypnobabies: I’m glad to have had those tools to help me relax and focus even though I didn’t end up using the program in quite the typical way. For one thing, Hypnobabies mamas always look like they’re asleep through their whole labours, and I did a fair amount of moaning and yelling. Maybe because of his positioning, I found that vocalizing really helped, especially in the later stages which involved lots of excitement and decision-making and I couldn’t focus much on relaxing.

In addition to using Hypnobabies tools, I spent a lot of time using Ina May’s suggestion to meditate that you are a monkey or other kind of animal, because your human thinking brain isn’t really helpful in birth. So I was trying not to get involved in cerebral details like what time it was, or logistics that could be left to my very capable support team, because I was a monkey.

Second stage was hard work because, despite all the damn floor-washing in late pregnancy, because baby was still posterior. Therefore, I was in transition, by which I mean feeling pushy but not pushing yet, for damn EVER. Fortunately, my water didn’t break for a long time, and I was in my element at home, so it was manageable, but I was starting to fret about being seemingly stuck in that intense stage. Being in the birth pool was helpful for awhile, but we were trying increasingly crazy things to make the baby TURN already. Z got to spend lots of time holding me up in the water in weird positions, then hula dancing with me in the shower, then finally watching the midwives do the Rebozo technique on me (suspending my hips in the air from a giant scarf, shaking me from side to side)… but baby did not turn.

Finally at 10cm dialation, my water broke, and it was full of meconium. Damnit. At least no-one had to to feel conflicted about the reason for a hospital transfer – meconium is one of the non-optional scenarios to get to a hospital, in case baby breathes it in on his way out. So we got an ambulance ride at 1am, which must have made a fantastic spectacle for the neighbours, and continued the party at the (blessedly close) hospital.

I was getting pretty cranky but very determined to push the darn baby out, even posterior, which the midwife assured me is often possible. His head was visible with each contraction, but he was stuck under my tailbone. I was doing a lot of swearing and yelling trying to get him past that bottleneck, which may have disturbed the nurse. Sorry, nurse. The midwife remained calm, encouraging and awesome. Unfortunately, baby’s heart rate was starting to decelerate problematically, so the interventions began.

A lovely little perinatologist was summoned to get her hands in under my tailbone to try and manually turn the baby. This is a very groovy trick, but was officially the most uncomfortable thing that has ever happened to me, and the only part of labour which I wish I’d been a little tougher about enduring gracefully. The lovely doctor thought she would be able to turn the baby, but wasn’t quite able to do it in two attempts. The medical team convinced me to try some laughing gas to help relax my muscles, but it didn’t do a damn thing. Z since told me I wasn’t breathing it in properly, which may have been due to my horror of the stuff.

The ouchy baby-rotating procedure was making me tense up in a counterproductive way, so the doctor needed me to be seriously anesthetized before she would try one more time. So, damn it all, I agreed to a spinal anaesthetic and a forceps birth. Baby was in distress and needed to be out. They summoned an anesthesiologist to take me to the OR, where the really frightening medical instruments are kept. The anesthesiologist had just arrived when I was pushing through another contraction, My awesome midwife looked at the baby’s head and noticed that he had finally turned after all! Angel choirs.

Baby still had to be born in a big hurry, but because he was (finally) optimally positioned, the perinatologist could use a vacuum extractor to enhance my pushing instead of the forceps of doom, and I didn’t have to have any anesthetic. Thank Christ on a bicycle.  I understand why some women choose to have spinal/epidural anesthetic for birth, but I think everyone would agree that 5 minutes before the baby is born is not the best time for a needle in the spine. So, vacuum extractor: very strange but not the worst thing ever (see above re: worst thing ever), and soon enough he was out!

Baby J was super alert at birth (Apgars of 7 and 9) and was pretty hungry. He has continued to be a big fan of eating ever since. He was 8lbs4oz at birth, and today at his 2 week appointment was 9lbs4oz. He’s going to be a bruiser, although nowhere near the giant baby predicted by ultrasound. He’s healthy, sturdy, and super cute. I had a really sore tailbone for a few days, and a few minor stitches but nothing serious. I would not have come out of a forceps birth so unscathed. Thank you, amazing midwife, for being awesome, indefatigable, observant, and calmly coaching me through everything!

All in all, Baby J is a lot of fun.  Z is a wonderful dad, and I think he will enjoy parenthood even more once J is interactive and his set of interests expand beyond boobs. Even though we decided to have a baby on purpose, I both underestimated the pain in the ass that a newborn represents (as I think everyone does) and how much joy he would bring, even right off the bat. And all he does is eat, poop, sleep and yell. Wait till he does other stuff too!

Official Fetus is (Almost) Official

Since I promised Z we could make this pregnancy public after the 12-week mark, the last few days have been a blur of announcements. My best friends and closest cousin now know the news, as do a few good friends.

We’ll tell the rest of our friends as we see them, and I am reluctantly resigned to making the announcement to my parents next time we see them. They will be excited, but my mom is a professional worrier, and my hitherto peaceful existence will be shattered. I wish we could wait until my next midwife appointment at 14 weeks, until we’ve heard a heartbeat again, but the parents are definitely starting to suspect, and I’m looking kind of fat, so here we are.

We spent the weekend in Z’s home town visiting his whole clan and telling them the news. His parents were so excited, and every time we turn around there was another set of aunties or uncles congratulating us. The first morning we woke up there, after a leisurely sleep-in, we discovered that Z’s auntie had been sitting in the living room since 7am waiting for us to get up so she could squee with us.

I also received the first of many non-consentual belly rubs. I’m not a particularly cuddly person at the best of times, but the belly rubs feel especially awkward since:

1) I don’t really have a belly yet
2) My uterus is still way down by my pelvic bone, so people are just jiggling my stomach and kidneys while cooing.

Many of Z’s cousins have young kids or are expecting, so next summer there are going to be a lot of babies up here to visit. That’s pretty cool. We have small immediate families, especially in the city, so I really hope that we can build the kind of community where this kid has a bunch of relations and honourary uncles, aunties, cousins and second cousins to grow up with.

After 2.5 months of having this pregnancy just be our little secret (and me trying not to get excited because anything could still happen) now that other people are all talking about it, the reality is starting to sink in that there is almost certainly going to be a little baby coming to live with us next February. It’s official!

Z & I haven’t told our coworkers either. I am hoping that everyone in the office politely refrains from asking me about my little belly until I am ready to formally announce! After the 14-week midwife appointment, I’ll tell my boss, and then the fetus will be officially offical. And then I’ll be able to stop wearing these baggy shirts all the time, and start accumulating baby stuff!

The other side

Here we are, in the new year! Things got too crazy to post for a few months, but we had quite a civilized little wedding (thank you, family). Then, last week, I started my new job!  The job, unlike the husband, is still too new and unfamiliar for me to have a clear sense of, but I do intend to make the very best of it, and keep it for a good long time if I can.

Some resolutions for 2011, from my Evernote file:

  • Be on time for stuff
  • No complaining about being busy
  • Make time for friends
  • Stop feeling guilty

So far, I’ve been doing pretty well on all except maybe #4. I need to work harder at #3.

In 2011, in addition to the above we look forward to:

  • going on a honeymoon!
  • settling down in my job and developing expertise (i.e. getting good at it)
  • having a wedding reception, about 9 months after the wedding
  • eating better
  • visiting my family on the prairies
  • trying to conceive our first child
  • dwelling-hunting

Here’s to new beginnings, and to long slow patient happinesses.


We made the announcement to my parents over dinner, and everyone was very civilized.  Thank goddess. Sometimes I underestimate my parents.

After dinner, I called my closest cousin A to give her the news and invite her and her partner. The last person to tell will be my godmother/aunt, to whom I also have to break the news that she’s not invited. Hopefully she understands the cost and time reasons we are planning such a tiny wedding.

Having told the families is a huge load off my mind! Now we can move on to the intricate details of weddin’ planning!


On being the grown-up

Doing a lot of thinking about telling my parents we’re getting married. That sounds like the sort of conversation that should be joyful, but as with so many things in families, it’s more complicated than it should be. My mom (who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs in their household) really doesn’t like Z, although over the last three or so years of our six-year relationship, she has been civil to him most of the time.

So Goddess knows how that’s going to go. I really hate drama. I will ride to the end of the Earth on an ill-fitting bicycle to avoid conflict. But my mom is a fucking drama queen. I don’t use that choice of words to be cruel. She was dealt a tough hand in her life, didn’t have healthy role models growing up, and has exhibited a lot of strength and wit in getting by as an adult. BUT. She doesn’t have a mature approach to dealing with people who are different than her set of ideals. (Z has flaws. I get it. But she can’t get past her perception of those flaws.)

Although she does try, she also doesn’t really have a handle on when it’s appropriate to just let me live my life. (Case in point – she called me yesterday all worried about whether or not I pluck my eyebrows. She is seriously worried that, should I pluck my eyebrows, they’ll never grow back and I will regret it terribly when I’m older. Of course, I reassured her that I would never do such a thing. Because really, do I want to have a fight about my eyebrows? I do not.)

So all this is to say that, while I want to do the right thing, and have my parents over for a nice dinner and tell them, like a group of mature adults that Z and I have decided to solemnize our relationship, there is a very real potential that it could all go sideways. Best case scenario: a sort of horrified silence, and an undertone of sadness to the rest of the evening, because they have GOT to have seen this coming. Worst case scenario: sobbing, insane accusations, damaged relationships.

We’re going to do it anyways, because the time is here for me to be the grownup in my relationship with my parents. I need to set the tone of mature, compassionate interactions. If I think telling them we’re getting married is going to be a gong show, wait until we tell them we’re having a baby. Wait until we tell them that baby is going to the supreme evil DAYCARE. (Remember the eyebrow conversation? Well my mom doesn’t believe in daycare. Jesus.)

Grown-up me. Strong me. While I certainly have the capacity to over-think anything at all, I am reasonably sure that this is what I want. Z and I have a low-drama, supportive relationship, and we make each other happy. I know there is nothing worse than parental disapproval – I remember my friend M all in knots when he first moved in with his then-girlfriend, because his Catholic parents disapproved. It’s a terrible feeling. But the solution is just to be sensitive and considerate of them, and try to have a mature relationship with them WHILE LIVING YOUR LIFE. And that’s what we are planning to do. Next weekend.

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Meditations on the close of 2009. Lengthy, wordy meditations.

Let go of what was bad about the past year.
– The frustrations of summer renovations with my mom, with attendant insecurities about her control over my finances/apartment/life and her scowling disapproval of my relationship.

– Angst and lack of sleep thanks to my procrastination and crappy time management.

– Anxiety about my job prospects after school.

– Actually, plain old anxiety. I had some terrible panic attacks this year, which left me almost unable to continue my job playing music, and affected my ability to attend class.

– Wistfulness, obsession, sadness over (voluntary) childlessness

– Missing friends who moved out of town in 2008.

– Z and I have not done as well as we could have about getting in shape. He is in worse shape than me and I have worried about his health every day.

Celebrate what was good about the past year.
– School has been overall pretty awesome, and I’m pulling in good grades.

– By the end of the year, I arrived at a general topic to narrow down for my final project, which means that the end of my masters is in sight!

– I have become friends with some really fantastic classmates

– The planning community has been completely awesome to me, and I made a few professional connections.

– Some really fantastic babies were born to my friends and family, and I got some great time with my little “nephew” I. The last few days of 2009 will be spent in my home prairie town getting to know my new second cousin. That will be the best way to end the year.

– My relationship with Z has continued to be my rock, my foundation. Whenever I am fraught about something, he helps me to sort it out. We care for each other in small ways on a daily basis which make life at home warm and wonderful.

Set a direction for the new year ahead.

– Doing a good, inspired but sensibly scoped job on my final project.

– Graduating! Ideally before September!

– Getting ready to tackle a beginners’ triathlon this summer, and coaxing, cajoling, pleading, inspiring and motivating Z to fulfill his own desire to do the same. This needs to involve a day-by-day commitment to make time, schedule workouts, communicate with Z.

– Getting a fricking job. Holy shit, becoming a two-income household in which I actually contribute to our living expenses in a meaningful way. Pulling this one off –in such a shitty economy right now for local government – is going to involve patience, dedication and flexibility. If I can find nothing but temporary work, which is totally possible, it might involve selling the apartment (Nonononono!) and moving around a bunch. Here’s hoping that’s not how it goes, but I hope I can pull off the serenity to handle that transition period and make sensible decisions. Also, if I get a total miracle job (local, permanent) then I need to be patient with whatever happens with Z’s work. I can be the gracious breadwinner if that’s what needs to happen in terms of him getting more training or whatever.

– Coming to terms with how I feel about marriage. If we want to get married before having kids, 2010 would be a great time. I still have all kinds of doubts and anxieties about the formal institution of marriage (perfectly expressed here) which are compounded with my dread of dealing with my mom’s disapproval and all the awful things she is going to say, and her dragging me to lawyers and making me feel like an idiot, and how old am I again? Yeah, marriage. I’m going to do some reading.

– Trying for a baby in 2011 is our goal, but in an amazing, perfect world, we could start next year this time. My employment situation is the critical deciding factor.

Thoughts on the eve of Solstice

Z and I are holed up at his parents’ extremely peaceful house in a small town by the Pacific ocean. As we left home this morning, our dear friends and neighbours S&D are getting ready to have their first baby. This has not been an easy road for them, and I am so excited for them. D is a fucking goddess and, coming on a week “overdue” I haven’t heard a word of complaint pass her lips. She’s going to be a spectacular mama. They were taking bets on when the baby would come, and my bet has been that it’s a girl who is coming today (by the clock… it’s after midnight), on the Winter Solstice. In any case, I’m excited to meet this new little addition to the extended family that is our circle of friends. I hope this little one arrives in thriving good health, and inherits her/his dad’s amazing intelligence with his/her mom’s serene optimism. I hope D has a short and “easy” labour. I hope we get to be involved in this little one’s life, and feel blessed to have the parenting examples of such wise people and good friends.

Meditation topics for the solstice:
– Let go of what was bad about the past year.
– Celebrate what was good about the past year.
– Set a direction for the new year ahead.

Welcome little second cousin!

My “little” cousin Scooter and his girlfriend brought their little boy baby J into the world last night. I wish I could drop every piece of this schoolwork crap and get on the first plane out there to live on their couch and hold the baby. Probably best for everyone involved that isn’t possible.

Holy crap I sometimes wish we all lived in the same city though. Enough to drag Z to live in my old car-dependent prairie town? Maybe not, although wouldn’t it be hilarious if that’s where a job came up for me. Ha ha!

I wish those kids every blessing. The parents are 23 and 24, and while they’re not teenagers, they’re not exactly an old married couple either – they had only been dating a few months when that baby happened along. It won’t be easy, but they have lots of good friends and two great families. my cousin is plenty smart although not a great communicator. (What, we’re related?)

I suspect that as far as parenting goes, some aspects (like the no-sleep thing) are easier for younger parents, and other parts (like financial stability, and maybe a steadfast co-parenting relationship) are a little easier to handle when the babie(s) came along later.

They will be in my thoughts. I love that baby already!

On photographing people

As a favour to my aunt, I took a billion – well, 60-odd – photos of her 50th wedding anniversary party in E-town. The hope was that enough photos of her friends and loved ones would turn out that I could make her a little album.

A rare photo from my aunt & uncle's 50th anniversary party with no pesky people in it.

A rare photo from my aunt & uncle's 50th anniversary party with no pesky people in it.

I love taking pictures… of architecture. A building doesn’t get anxious when it is the subject of a series of portraits, each with a slightly different angle. Architecture tends to be found outdoors, where it is lit by the sun instead of crappy fluorescents or spot lights. It doesn’t close its eyes or make surprising faces, and it certainly doesn’t feel obliged to engage you in polite conversation.

Editing these pictures after the fact is a lesson in humility. Some are sweet, but many folks looks pretty uncomfortable while they wait for me to take their damn picture.

I would love to be competent at taking portraits one day. The role of family archivist naturally falls to me, both in my extended family and with Z, and it would be nice if our archives didn’t suck. Clearly, I need someone to practice on. Maybe visiting friends this summer will sit still for me.

At least, the next time I take pictures of people at an indoor event, I will beware the ceiling. It is not flattering when the photo angle frames an old lady’s head between the air vents and sprinklers.