Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kaylin’s birth story...and my final Baby Toes post

My little baby girl turned 4 years old today. My life has changed dramatically in these past 4 years, so much that I hardly remember life before my children. I know it existed. I’m just not sure what I did with myself all day.

Now that there are two little monkeys keeping me very busy each day, I’m finding I have less time to spend on this blog. Also, I’ve found other outlets for sharing my news, photos and stories with many of my friends and family. So it is with much sadness that I say goodbye to “I Heart Baby Toes”. I’ll leave it up for a while, but I won’t be updating it anymore. I’d rather be spending my spare time sleeping or playing with my kiddies.

And so I leave you back at the beginning, Kaylin’s birth story. I’ve been meaning to write this down for myself and for Kaylin since she was born. While I’m at it, I thought I’d share it with you. Thanks for reading everyone!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005, is one of my favourite days, possibly my most favourite day of my life. Even though I worked harder on that day than I probably ever will in my life, even though I experienced more pain than I ever have in my life, it remains my favourite day. That is the day Kaylin was born.

I began having contractions early that Tuesday morning, around 4 a.m. but they were mild and irregular enough that I was able to get back to sleep. Later that morning the mild contractions continued but we still weren’t sure if this was the real deal or not. We were first-timers! To be safe, Brian stayed home from work and helped me time the contractions as we went about our morning. I had a shower, had some toast, and we watched TV. It was a beautiful, blue-sky sunny August day. Hot, but clear and gorgeous.

My midwives’ office called at one point that morning to cancel my scheduled 39-week appointment for later that afternoon because the on-call midwife had been at a birth all night and had gone home to sleep. Little did my midwife, Maysoon, know she was not getting any sleep today. She had another baby to deliver later that night...mine!

Midway through the morning we noticed the contractions becoming more regular and by 11 a.m. we paged my midwives to let them know. Poor, tired Maysoon called us back and listened as I went through a few contractions. She decided she would come over and check to see how far along I was. Within half an hour, Maysoon arrived and did a quick examination. It was almost noon and I was about 3–4 cm dilated. It was time to head to the hospital. At the time we were living in Ajax and I was to deliver at Markham-Stouffville Hospital, which was about 20 minutes away. Maysoon drove ahead in her car to get my room ready while Brian and I grabbed my bag and left shortly after.

Here’s where it gets interesting. At this point the contractions were pretty strong and I was in too much pain to keep my eyes open. So I tried to manage my pain through breathing exercises while Brian navigated his way to the hospital. This is a hospital that I passed every day on my way to work. Brian was not as familiar with the location, but was confident (as men often are) that he knew the best route. Well, 15 minutes into the (painful) drive Brian began to wonder where we were. I opened my eyes to find us driving somewhere in farmland. He didn’t know where we were and I wasn’t watching! In between contractions I yelled at him and together we found our way back to a recognizable road and eventually to the hospital.

By 1 p.m. we were in the delivery room. Much of the afternoon is a blur for me—literally. I wasn’t wearing my contacts that day and didn’t bother keeping my glasses on, since my eyes were glued shut in pain for much of the day. I didn’t need to see anything anyway, I suppose. I was so inwardly focused, trying to manage the pain without an epidural. I was given some nitrous oxide (laughing gas) shortly after arriving at the hospital. That was nice that my midwife had to pry the breathing mask out of my hands. Apparently I was relying on it a bit too much!

For the first 8 hours or so it was just the three of us in the labour and delivery room—me, Brian and Maysoon—trying various methods to help my labour along. There was a lot of swaying and hanging onto Brian’s shoulders. There was about an hour in the Jacuzzi tub during which Brian sat on the edge of the tub and rubbed my back almost the entire time. (He discovered the next day that spending an hour bent over me like that caused him to throw his back out. Poor Brian, what a wonderful birthing partner.) There was a lot of apple and orange juice sipping and ice chip sucking on my part. Besides the toast I had early that morning, this was the only fuel I had in me. My midwife wanted me to eat, but I couldn’t fathom it. Brian, however, was able to get out and grab something to eat, though the time he was gone and not right at my side felt like an eternity.

Labour continued on throughout the day and each time Maysoon checked me I had progressed a little further. And each time she checked the baby and found the heartbeat to be strong and steady, she happily exclaimed that the baby “is so happy!” That gave me a boost of confidence each time. I must have been doing something right. By about 9 p.m. the secondary midwife arrived, which meant the baby would be coming soon too. I can’t quite remember, but I pushed for about an hour—not fun. I was so tired and just didn’t want to do it anymore. But once the baby’s head begins to appear and the midwives are telling you that your baby girl is blonde, well, you find a reserve of energy you didn’t know existed. You are close enough to touch your baby, you are minutes away from meeting her! But it wasn’t until the secondary midwife told me to “get mad” that I really pushed...and I mean PUSHED! And at 10:32 p.m., my beautiful Kaylin Elizabeth was born. She was 8 lbs and 21 inches long. The midwives immediately put Kaylin on my chest. I will never forget that smell—graham crackers. She smelled like graham crackers to me. And she was so pink and warm. So tiny and so perfect.

When Kaylin was born, Brian cried. I don’t remember if I did or not. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience to watch your child being born. I was mostly ecstatic and relieved that the pain was over and my baby was here. And I was on the post-birth high. I could have run a marathon at that point, if I only I could have stopped shaking from exhaustion. Brian, who before this day was unsure how he would do during the birth, bravely cut the cord. I was really proud of him.

It had been a long, long day and I would have stayed the night at the hospital. But Maysoon was concerned about an infection that was going around the hospital and encouraged us to head home with Kaylin that night. We were happy to oblige. The thought of our own bed was glorious! At 1 a.m. that morning, we put our tiny little baby into our car and drove back to our house, no longer just two—we were now a family of three.

Happy birthday Kaylin! I love you so much, sweetie pie!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Maks’ birth story

Maks O’Brian was born on the most beautiful, sunny, warm October afternoon, ten months ago today. Once he made his decision to come into the world, he set his determined little mind to it and got it done quickly. And as we know now, that is just so Maks.

My labour pains started at about 4 a.m. on Thursday morning. I wasn’t exactly sure at the time that I was in labour, due to the increasingly painful Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been having that week. I got out of bed (which was no easy feat at 37 ½ weeks!) and watched a little TV, hoping things would subside. It quickly became apparent that this was it. It it.

Just the day before, my midwife told me I could take Tylenol and Gravol during labour to help take the edge off. But I figured I had a few more days or even weeks to stock our medicine cabinet with these. Ooops. So I woke Brian up around 4:30 a.m. and asked him—as nicely as a woman in labour can—to run out to the drugstore for some pain relief. In the meantime I paced the living room. And paced. And paced. Where was Brian? More importantly, where were my drugs? I tried his cell phone—no answer. Maybe he really didn’t want to change diapers again and high-tailed it out of town. Who was going to hold my hand during the birth...Kaylin? Finally, about an hour later, Brian reappeared. With regular strength Tylenol and English Muffins?! ENGLISH MUFFINS? Oy, this was going to be a long day.

By 7 a.m. my contractions were mild enough that I could still grin and bear it, but regular enough that it was time to call Grandma and set the take-care-of-Kaylin plan in action. I called her on her cell, only to learn that she was driving OUT of London, in the opposite direction of me and my contracting belly! This was not good. First Brian ditches me to shop for English Muffins, now his mother is leaving me too. But she assured me she would over to help with Kaylin well before Kaylin's little brother arrived. And she was.

By 10 a.m. my contractions were still 12 to 15 minutes apart, but completely manageable. Grandma was here now and kept Kaylin occupied while I paced around the room, trying to carry on small talk while clutching the furniture with each painful contraction. Brian thought now would be a good time to install the car seat. Thankfully Brian is a car seat pro, so I wasn’t too worried. Just VERY ANNOYED that he was out in the driveway while I was in labour. But I digress.

At 11 a.m. I decided a warm bath would ease some pain and help keep my mind off things. That worked for about 3 minutes when I suddenly seemed to transition. A particularly terrible contraction caused me to shoot up out of the tub, my head knocking the suction-cupped toy holder behind me off the wall. As quickly as I could I hauled my bulging belly out, got dressed and went back downstairs. Following a few more difficult contractions, I told Brian to page the midwife. People ask how you know it’s time to go to the hospital. Well, you just know.

My wonderful midwife Binh called back immediately and surveyed my condition by listening to me go through a couple contractions over the phone. Somewhere in between those contractions I broke down sobbing, telling Binh, “I don’t want to do it again!” The “it” being give birth. But Binh, always a calm, soft-spoken woman convinced me that everything would be fine and reminded me to take deep, long breaths. Those deep breaths are what got me through the birth. I’ll get to that part in a minute.

Binh told me to go to the hospital, that it was time. As luck (or fate) would have it, she was already there and made sure there was a room ready for me. Brian and I hugged our first baby, Kaylin, good bye and headed out. When we got to the hospital, I incorrectly instructed Brian to go the wrong entrance. (He correctly decided to not question the woman having the baby.) But that entrance had no place to park the car, so he dropped me off and left for what seemed an eternity to park. While I waited I double checked the location of the maternity floor with the info kiosk. I was dismayed to find out we were at the wrong end of the hospital. Brian met me a few minutes later and we proceeded to walk the LONG walk to the other side of the building. It didn’t occur to us to grab a wheelchair! Looking back, maybe that walk helped things along.

At about noon, my midwife met us at obstetrics and took me into a room to see how far along I was. By this time the contractions were coming pretty strong and hard, but I was breathing through each one and still able to talk a little in between. I think we were both shocked to discover I was already 8–9 cm dilated! The baby was coming sooner than we thought. Crap. Binh told Brian there wasn’t even time to go back to the car for the camera.

Binh wheeled me to my room and began prepping for the birth while Brian helped me through each contraction. As with Kaylin’s birth, I had made the decision to not get an epidural. The way I see it, billions of woman before me have given birth without epidurals, so I could too. I wasn’t comfortable with some of the risks associated with epidurals and I certainly didn’t want to slow down this labour or decrease my ability to get this baby out in any way. I wanted him out ASAP!

Now, the next hour is a bit of a blur of moaning, deep breathing and sweat. Sounds like a dirty movie, but trust me, it was not even close. Between each contraction, I barely had enough energy to keep my eyes open. I sat quietly on the bed and tried to conserve all my energy. The room was pretty quiet. By this time a second midwife, Jennifer, had come to assist with the birth. Binh and Jennifer were alternately checking on me and preparing for the baby’s arrival. It was nice, if I can say that about labour and delivery. The sun was streaming through the window. The four of us were all relatively calm (maybe not me, so much). There were no doctors or nurses coming in and out of the room. And that is exactly how I wanted things.

By 1 p.m., it was time—time to push. It was a bit like a Hollywood birth; there was a lot of screaming, I won’t lie. But my midwives were amazing, instructing me to scream as loud as I needed, whatever I had to do, just do it. At this point, I just wanted to stop the pain and meet my son. Finally meeting my baby boy was all the motivation and pain relief I needed. So for 20 minutes I pushed. And I knew I was almost finished when I looked up at Brian and saw his tears of joy. That meant he could see the baby’s head. The hard part was done. A few seconds later, my beautiful son Maks was born—1:20 p.m. on a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon. Seven pounds, four ounces, and twenty-and-a-half inches long.

The post-birth high is something I’ll never forget. At the time I thought I was elated because the labour was over and the pain was finished. But looking back, it was the pure rush of giving birth, plain and simple. The high lasts a good day or two. There is really nothing like it on earth.

As with Kaylin’s birth, we chose not to stay at the hospital overnight and instead take the baby home after a three-hour recovery period. The baby was fine, and except for a few stitches, I was great (see the "post-birth high" above), so we gladly bundled Maks up and proudly brought him home, a little less than 5 hours after we had arrived at the hospital that afternoon. We went in at lunch and were home by dinner. Not bad for half a day’s work! Not bad at all.

Happy 10 months, my little man.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kindergarten and crawling

Oh, what I wouldn't do to have 10 more hours in a day. Nobody told me (or at least I wasn't listenening when they did) that having two children would be so much more work than having one. I just can't seem to get a thing done around the house these days! But on the bright side, having two children means twice as many hugs and wayyyy more giggles around here. So I'm ok with that.

Can you believe that Maks is already eight months old? And our sweet girl Kaylin is almost four years old and is preparing to start Junion Kindergarten in just a few months. Kaylin has been to her new school several times for some fun orientation visits and she is more than ready to be a "big kid." She is writing her own name now, dressing herself and is practicing her address. I know she's going to love school and I can't wait to watch her development and imagination take leaps and bounds. She also loves being a big sister, although since Maks started crawling and grabbing her toys away from her, she may feel differently.

Maks is, well, he's definitely a little boy. We like to call him determined, for lack of a better term. About a week after he learned to roll over he was up on his knees trying to move forward--mainly in an effort to reach his big sister's toys. Within a few weeks he mastered crawling and about a week after that skill was ticked off his to-do list he decided he needed to stand up and see the world from a new vantage point. So he's now standing at the furniture and cautiously cruising around. And no one is happier about this than Maks. Once he gets himself up on the couch or TV stand, his face just lights up. And as you can see from his smiley mug in the photo above, that's quite a marvelous sight to behold! Really, it's not hard to get Maks to smile. All he needs is a woman (any woman will do) in the grocery store chatting to him and his smile spreads from ear to ear. He's also loving his solid foods, his favourite of which seems to be Cheerios. We often find him under the kitchen table nibbling on the ones that got away during his last meal. Gross, I know, but it gives me a few more minutes to tidy up and get ready for his next adventure in foodland.

So there you have it. Life here is busy but fun, crazy but always entertaining.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The yellow flowers

Being a mom is really hard, I'm finding out. It's physically demanding, mentally exhausting, and emotionally challenging. I suppose it will always be that way. From the minute those labour pains started to the day I die, it has been and will always be that way, to some degree or another.

That's not to say motherhood isn't wonderful. It's sort of like growing a garden. You put your heart and soul into it, you work hard at it, you love it and tend to it. And some days you are rewarded with beautiful blossoms that you can stand back and marvel at, proud that you actually grew something so lovely. And other days you do nothing but hunch and strain over that garden, pulling weed after weed, battling with the garden that seemed like such a great idea back in the spring. At the end of the day you are exhausted. But overall, you love gardening and would never give it up.

It's the same with children. You want to give your children so much, as much as you possibly can. You love them, care for them, nurture them in so many ways. And most days their shining faces just light up your day. And you think that this is really all you need in life. But there are moments, difficult moments, that make you question yourself and your decision to be a parent. At the end of the day you are exhausted, but you love being a mother with your whole being and could never dream of another life.

It's Mother's Day and I got the most lovely gift from Kaylin this afternoon--a beautiful bouquet of dandylions she picked from our neighbour's boulevard. While the rest of us see weeds, my little girl sees pretty yellow flowers. And for the first time, I saw pretty yellow flowers too.

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

26 Reasons Why It's Wonderful to Have Kids

Word on the street (literally, I heard this out on my street) is that Brian's recent post on what it's like to have kids has frightened a few people who have yet to have children of their own. So, in an effort to calm any prospective parents out there, I'd like to offer a slightly sunnier view of parenthood. Trust me, it ain't all bad. It's actually quite lovely most days.

26 Reasons Why It's Wonderful to Have Kids
  1. To you, your own children's giggles are the most musical, heavenly sound on earth.
  2. Seeing the world through fresh and innocent eyes. Why DO geese honk? I don't know Kaylin, but I'll look into it for you.
  3. Kids' clothes are just so darned adorable, especially fresh out of the dryer when they're all warm and clean.
  4. Tiny toes and fingers...even if those tiny Maks toes are often sweaty and smelly and always have navy blue lint between them.
  5. Babies are never mean or spiteful, like many adults can be. They'll never cut you off in traffic or be rude to you on the phone. Babies are nice people to be around.
  6. Kids are always ready to dance with you, whenever the mood strikes.
  7. Kids' TV shows--though seemingly annoying at first--can be quite fun to watch.
  8. One word: hugs.
  9. There is so much cool baby and kids' gear out there, and although it can get pricey you can always justify buying it by (inappropriately) equating expensive baby gear with better parenting.
  10. Toothless baby grins are hilarious. Much funnier, and less creepy, than toothless great-grandfather grins.
  11. When you have kids you finally get to find out exactly how little sleep you can function on. And you're always surprised at how little that actually is.
  12. You get to enjoy lots of coffee! (See #11 above.)
  13. Holding your sleeping baby for just ten minutes can bring you as much calm and internal peace as a whole hour of overpriced yoga. And you don't need to squeeze into tight pants to do it.
  14. The pride you feel when your preschooler writes her name for the first time is ten times the pride you felt earning your own university degree.
  15. Having kids gives you an excuse to colour with crayons and finger paint.
  16. Cooking for your children exposes all the holes in your own diet. Not until I had kids did I discover that I rarely eat vegetables before 5pm.
  17. Though waking up with the kids at the crack of dawn is hard some days, you get to see the most glorious sunrises--and with your favourite little people by your side.
  18. You become desensitized to handling all sorts of bodily fluids. (I think this is a good thing.)
  19. Babies laugh at almost anything. They make you believe you are actually funny.
  20. Childbirth really is a mind-blowing miracle.
  21. You have an excuse to eat macaroni and cheese at least once a week.
  22. If your kids are cute they usually distract people's attention towards them and away from your worn clothes and messy "I-didn't-have-time-for-a-shower-because-the-kids-were-up-at-dawn" hair.
  23. Babies don't seem to mind if you kiss them all day long, or at least they can't yet form the words of complaint.
  24. You get to experience new "firsts" every single day, from big ones like first steps to little ones like a first taste of cotton candy--all magical in their own right.
  25. As long as your kids are safe and healthy, the rest of your problems seem managable and somewhat small.
  26. Hearing your baby say "I love you" makes your heart burst out of your chest. And there is no better feeling in the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is all I have time for

Brian is (again) hassling me to update my blog, but who has time anymore? Some days I forget to pee, I'm so busy. But of course I'm more than happy to share some recent pictures of the kiddies with you so you can at least witness the amazing rate at which my children grow. Do they all grow so fast? Sad, isn't it?

Here are some of my favourite moments and pictures from the past few months.

Some of Maks' first smiles, from early December. Look at all the hair he had back then!

Maks and Kaylin sharing some special sibling time.

Daddy making Maks smile.

Kaylin wearing her Pepe's glasses.

Pepe rocking his grandson to sleep at Christmas.
Kaylin, anxiously awaiting the start of her first ballet class.

Kaylin doing her "princess walk" in ballet class.
I love this picture of Kaylin, running with her scarf -- being her free and happy self.

Daddy holding his little man.
Maks, in mid-February, hanging out in his sister's bed. Notice how much hair he's lost!

The one and only Maksimo!