‘Mum, it’s not so bad. Nobody here is worried. Nobody is worried except the mothers of the foreigners.’
‘And the UN.’
‘The UN is only slightly concerned. Don’t worry about it; I’m fine.’
‘I think you should come home.’
‘I’m not coming home. Turn off the TV and go stand in the sunshine for a while.’
And so several conversations went, during the 8 months in 1998 that I lived in Israel. Historically-speaking, it was a peaceful year. The UN was overseeing a pullout of Israeli troops from Lebanon, a mere 7 kilometres from my kibbutz, and all other land disputes were bathed in a tenuous peace. I worked and lived and laughed and loved alongside Jewish, Muslim, Bedouin, Druze and Christian people. It was modern Israel’s 50th anniversary, and it was a good year to be there.
Unless you watched CNN.
If you watched CNN, then you heard of Katusha rockets being fired at Israel; of the threat of gas bombs being dropped on the settlers; of war, imminent and looming.
If you watched CNN, you panicked every time the phone rang, sure that it was an overseas call informing you that your wayward, wandering daughter had just been killed by a suicide bomber.
If you watched CNN, your daughter’s peaceful, safe, rewarding life experience turned into a dangerous game of chance, with sudden doom looming like an executioner’s axe.
I tried not to verbally roll my eyes at my mother during these long-distance exchanges, although I did admonish her for believing a third-person, sensationalized account of events over my first-hand, immediate reality. I could understand her concern – what she saw on the news led her to believe that tragedy truly was imminent, and that something she had been safely removed from may now land on her doorstep, in the form of harm coming to her child. She believed the worst, because she was deluged with images and stories that made the worst seem plausible – almost unavoidable. She was my mother, and as such, she was entitled to her fear. I tried my best to alleviate it, but ultimately, I could only counsel her to turn the damn TV off.
It’s over a decade later, but recently I have been thinking quite a bit about these exchanges. I am now a mother, but that is not the specific aspect of parallel that I have been considering.
It’s that Twitter has become my CNN, marinating my thoughts in catastrophic possibilities and skewing my perspective on the sanctity and safety of my family’s daily life.
Thanks to Twitter, I am now privy to a worldwide, instantaneous helping of doom.
Before I even read one tweet, I can glance to the right of the screen and know what celebrity is dead or in trouble, what country is mired in the threat or the onslaught of war, what atrocity has been heaped on a group of well-meaning citizens and what destruction we have impaled on our earth.
Yes, I can also find out what three words some of the world’s most classless people like to utter after sex, or what sports superstar has embarrassed himself this week, but the trending topics on Twitter serve foremost as a library of knee-jerk, sensationalized, sometimes accurate news headlines that can depress, shock or frighten before I’ve even glanced at my personal feeds.
I used to think that bad news traveled via my mother, but now I see that catastrophe is a mere click away – tweets and retweets and forwards and replies that reduce my world to fear and loathing in 140 characters or less. The grapevine has become a ridiculously prolific weed, stretching from one woman’s tragedy an entire country away to 300 of her closest friends – and 300 of their closest friends, and so on – in mere moments. A stranger’s intimate, horrible business becomes common knowledge in less time than it takes for my kettle to boil.
Last February, my friend lost her 7-day old baby to a rare genetic disorder. Devastating does not even begin to cover the fabric of the shroud that fell over us during that time. Being at an infant’s funeral was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. The death of this beautiful, innocent baby and his mother’s ongoing struggle to live through it is something I hope I never experience again. And the probability is, I won’t. The probability is that dealing with the death of a friend’s baby will be a rare, hopefully never duplicated, experience in my life.
Except now I hear about dead babies all the time. I hear about sick and dying and dead babies of women whose names I now know, and when you are a mother, that is as close as you need to be to mourn with them.
And it’s not just parents losing children. It’s children losing parents, to cancer, to accidents, to illness, to divorce. There is grief, there is so much grief, and even though I invited this into my life, even though I choose on a daily basis to be part of this community, it weighs. Heavily.
I don’t need to be shielded from bad news; I simply need to understand when I have hit my mental limit for tragedy. I don’t want to be callous, I just – like anybody, I’m guessing – have my own good friends, my own close family and my own personal griefs to deal with.
Yes, of course I can offer a thought of support to a stranger, a moment of kindness to anybody that needs it, but I have a propensity for becoming overwhelmed by the fear that, if it happened to her, it can happen to me. Nobody should have that many supporting reminders of an improbable and unhealthy game of chance being played with their life and loved ones.
All of a sudden, I know so much about so many people, and I shouldn’t. But, like the reporters on CNN, people seem to strangely enjoy being the bearers of any glimmer of bad news. Recently, I came across the term, ‘stormy-weather friends,’ and unfortunately, it’s apt. For some reason, some people want to be close to tragedy. They want to be a hand-holder, yes, offering comfort and support and soliciting it – voraciously – from others, but I kinda think they also want to be personally involved.
Twitter, the blogosphere, and all of our online access points allow us to connect with people and communities in a way that is precious and priceless. It can make the world seem friendlier, smaller, easier to navigate. But it can also shrink to a scary, sensationalized microcosm where the laws of probability are inflated and where human instinct to reach out can be perverted into an implied permission to simply spread gossip.
I do believe that, like my mother and her parental concern over her daughter’s safety a decade ago, most people are acting on good intentions based on the information they have been fed. But I’m at the point where I think that I need to follow the advice I myself offered on those trans-continental phone calls so many years ago – it’s time to get a grip, to stop playing six-degrees of separation with catastrophe and when it all gets to be too much, to do what I told my mother to do – to trust when I say that the world is generally a good place, a safe place, and if I’m still not convinced, to turn around and look at the joyful faces of my happy, healthy children – to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me and the sun shining in my window. And as far as the computer goes, well, sometimes the only thing to do is to just turn it off.
I have always been a teensy weensy bit bitter that, although my older sister and I have never been, my parents took my younger brother and sister to Disney World at least 3 or 4 times when they were little. I know that in the scheme of things, this is not a great hardship, but still, what kid doesn’t want to go to Disney World? It is something that we never let our parents forget, and tease my mom about to this day.
Fast forward a few years, and I am now the mother of two small girls. We have had the opportunity to go to Florida at least once every year since they were born, and will be heading South once again in February. And this year, we’re doing it.
We’re taking the girls to the Big D.
My husband is psychically preparing, taking deep breaths and shedding his hate-on of commercialism for the good of the family, and I am doing the practical prep, making lists and researching and doing laundry and getting passports.
But there’s something else we’re going to do to prepare – we’re taking the girls, compliments of Mom Central, to Disney On Ice: Princess Classics on December 18. My girls will no doubt be thrilled by the spectacle, and although their Disney ‘education’ extends little beyond the faces on Dove’s pull-ups and a few storybooks, they dig the Princesses. I can’t wait to enjoy their enjoyment at the show.
And I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to offer one lucky GTA area family an early Christmas present – 4 tickets to the December 18 performance of Disney On Ice: Princess Classics.
To enter the draw, simply leave a comment, along with the identity of your favourite Disney Princess. I’ll start – my favourite is Jasmine – or, as my daughter calls her (and don’t you dare correct her) – Jazzbert.
The winner will be randomly chosen on Thursday, December 10.
‘This baby will have her own bed, in her own room.’
‘Of course I’ll leave the baby with other people.’
‘I’m having a midwife, but I'm giving birth in the hospital.’
‘I’m fine with my baby taking a bottle or a soother.’
‘Babies cry. It’s not going to stress me out too much.’
‘My life and my relationship with my husband will always come first.’
‘I’m not going to be one of those mothers.’
It’s true – I said all of those things. Some of them I said while I was pregnant with my first, and some I said long before pregnancy was a hope or dream for Chris and me. And at the time, flush with the bravado of the child-free and sleep-fat, I actually believed those things.
I would state these things with surety, with conviction and with judgment. Of course, I was not (yet) judging myself, but those other mothers; my sister and her friends – and some of my own friends – who spent an hour putting their kids to sleep while I waited for their return downstairs, bored and irritated; who wore their babies like barnacles and never. ever. left them at home; who were always and forever whipping out their boobs for kids who seemed already old enough to undo their mother’s goddam bra themselves.
I didn’t get it.
And for every piece of ‘knowledge’ I offered others about my own impending role as a mother, I was handed some back - for every, ‘I am not sharing my bed with my kid.’ There was a, ‘Never say never.’ handed back.
For every, ‘I am not giving up my life just because I have a baby.’ Lobbed into the air, there was a, ‘Wait until you experience sleep deprivation.’ Sent back.
For every, ‘That will never be me,’ there was a, ‘You’ll see.’
As my belly got bigger, my resolve that I knew everything there was to know about being a parent became shaky. My stubbornness sprang a slow leak, but as it deflated, my courage, my confidence and my excitement grew. I began to think that maybe both the parent and the child would be happier if I tried to stop thinking in terms of I won't, and replaced it with, I can.
And then my sister gave me a copy of Spiritual Midwifery, and I thought, I can do this.
And then Chris and I attended an info night on home births, and I thought I can do this.
And then I was in labour, and I thought, I can do this.
And then my baby was born, and I looked at her, and I said, I can do this.
There was no more thought of organization and compartmentalization and we-wills and we- won’ts. There was no more talk of plans. In fact, I wanted it quiet. I wanted it silent so I could listen to my tiny new baby as she told me everything I needed to know about being her mother.
She slept with us, her first night in our world, and every night after that for almost three years. She drank from my breast for more than two years. I was with her constantly, not leaving her in the care of anyone besides her father until she was over six months old. The first time I ever heard her cry for more than a spec of a moment was at the doctor's at two months old, and I cried with her. I made her baby food from scratch, and got upset when I couldn’t find organic sweet potatoes. Everything made sense.
And when I had my second daughter, the joy of her arrival compounded by the loss of my father mere weeks before, I never even thought twice about having two babies in my bed; I simply moved over to make room. I now had two barnacles.
My need for my children is often as great as their need for me.
I had to give up many things when I became a mother, most significantly, control, followed soon after by guilt, selfishness and a flat stomach. Some days it is easier to accept the (at least temporary) loss of these things than others. But in giving up each of these things, I seem to have made room for something that has served me much better as a parent:
Quite by accident, I learned to trust myself, my children, their needs, my desires.
Quite by accident, and with gratitude, I have become one of those mothers.
Dove turned two on Sunday, and I have lots to say about it. But, as I am still nursing a 15-toddler hangover, I'll let the pictures do the talking for today. Happy birthday, my sweet. You are loved more than you will ever realize.
Loving the cookie decoration station
Snowman cake by kgirl
Can't stop the rock
‘Does she model?’
‘She really should do commercials, because whatever it is she’s selling, I’d buy it.’
Since I have had children, the kindness of strangers and their swiftness to remark on the beauty of my babies has been steady. It’s nice to hear, and obviously I think they are quite correct in their assessment of my children’s loveliness – there’s nothing modest in my estimation of my children’s beauty; it has been obvious – no, visceral – to my eyes and my heart since the day each of them was born.
Certainly I do not need, nor do I try to extract complements from people, though I am, like most parents, guilty of displaying my pride in my children. I play up their cuteness in pigtails and adorable clothes and sometimes I put it on overload and dress them alike. It’s my right and my pleasure as a mother. At least until they tell me to cut it out.
But I never did heed the well-intentioned lip-service of stroller-gawkers and actually put either of my children into the hands of a casting agency. I’ve never taken them to audition, model or be cast for any commercial purposes.
Until this morning.
At my art director’s request, I brought Dove into my office (a record company) to cast for the cover of a new album we are doing for a major retail licensor. (We do an entire line of music for this particular company.) Of course, mine was not the only child coming in. Dove would be casting alongside three other coworkers’ two year olds. There was no pressure, no expectation, and the choice would ultimately be up to our retail partner, so no real competition among the kids and moms.
Except that there totally was.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Well, that’s not true; I know what I was expecting, I was just completely wrong. I knew the casting would be at the office, in our cafeteria, and I guess the familiar territory put me at so much ease that the way I pictured the whole thing was ridiculously off-the-mark. I pictured my (blonde) child and my friend’s (redhead) child playing together on the set in such a natural way that the perfect picture would be snapped without even trying. I pictured the other parents shrugging in a playful, accepting way, understanding that these girls were clearly ideal for the project, so no hard feelings.
What I didn’t picture was the individual ‘screen tests.’ Or the little boys that clearly were meant to make up 50% of the composition. Or the other kids, sent from the agency. Or their moms.
Make no mistake: while we did this on a lark because it was easy and Chris was working from home that day, this was clearly a full-time gig for some of those other parents.
I have never seen such perfectly coordinated outfits. Or such perfectly behaved hair. Or such precocious children, smiling such precocious smiles. Or such low-cut tops – on the moms, that is.
Of course, not all the moms were wearing low-cut tops, but man! They were curt and brisk and humourless and stood behind the photographer, snapping and clapping and coaxing as if their children were puppies being taught how to sit up and beg. Thankfully, nobody threw biscuits at the clueless, truly adorable toddlers, who just wanted to undress the teddy bear they had been handed as a prop.
It felt icky. It felt contrived. It felt like we were pitting these babies – each just as beautiful as the last – against each other, and I felt my face flush hotly as Dove – who moments earlier was dancing and flirting and making new friends – refused to take the direction of the photographer, crossing her arms and pouting when handed the coveted bear. I felt like I had to apologize on behalf of my toddler for simply acting like a toddler. I felt like smug eyes were cast our way, as though the sympathetic tilt of the head on the other moms was just their way of saying, ‘Ok, only 8 other kids we have to smoke now, and that one over there has a lazy eye.’
Me and Chris laughed it off, my art director laughed, and we all had apple juice. And I felt like I had totally just exploited my child, though she knew nothing of the intended outcome, or even why she was there at all. I felt gross.
I felt like this was no place I wanted my child to be, and I felt like JonBenet Ramsey’s parents deserved to go to jail whether or not they had killed their kid, because they sure as hell had been her pimps.
Dove stopped pouting as soon as she got some apple juice; indeed, she went back to being the charming, adorable child that I, and so many people recognized her to be. Just not the people that might put my child’s face on the cover of a CD. And I am totally fine with that, the residue of last night’s cute and cozy daydream having been sliced to shreds by the reality of ‘show business.’
Ultimately, I’m glad that we had the experience, because I now know what I was missing by not ever bringing my children to an agency or modeling them professionally –
Last night, my 23-month old daughter had a 3-hour meltdown.
It was surreal. I don’t remember this happening with Bee, but maybe I’ve just blocked it out because it is too discouraging to recall – y’know, one of those things that would have brought the idea of future reproduction to a shrieking halt. Whatever the case, the mother of all meltdowns began at 5pm, and ended at 8, when my little tornado finally ran out of steam.
And in between, it was screaming, wailing, thrashing and crying, punctuated only by the briefest of reprises as Dove was temporarily coaxed out of her meltdown by odd distractions. It pretty much went like this:
Scream. Wail. Thrash out of my arms. Scream to be picked up again. Nuzzle into my neck. Rebuff my soothing caresses. Scream. Wail. Thrash – ooh look! A tiny pumpkin!
And then I finally exhale and think we are over the worst, then Bee comes over and has the gall to touch the tiny pumpkin. Scream. Wail. Thrash. Repeat for 3 hours.
I was not frustrated by this episode. I didn’t care that my dinner was sitting cold, abandoned on my plate, virtually untouched, or that I had hoped to finish refurbishing the little chair I’ve been working on for the girls. I just felt bad that something was bothering Dove, and I did not seem to have the cure. My magic words of comfort were rendered mostly impotent, and I was out of wine. I had no choice but to wait it out, and to be available.
I asked her if something was bothering her. She said yes. I asked if it was her tummy. She said yes. I touched her soft belly. Does it hurt here? I asked. She said yes. I touched her side. Does it hurt here? I asked. She said yes. Do your toes hurt? I asked. She said yes. Does your nose hurt? I asked. She said yes. Does it feel better now? I asked. She said yes. My spidey senses told me that I should probably look for a new trigger.
Eventually, after 3 hours of nursing and cuddling and walking and jiggling and engaging, Dove calmed down. I believe the storm ended when her older sister suggested that they read a new library book for their bedtime story (I was not anticipating our usual calm bedtime routine). Dove literally stopped crying, jumped out of my arms and happily followed her sister upstairs. I’ll take it, I thought, even if I don’t really get what just happened.
And as the girls were settling into bed and I took a bite of my cold spare ribs (still yummy) and mashed squash with apples (not as yummy), it occurred to me:
Dove is 23 months old, less than a month from her second birthday. That means that she’ll be two. And not like mellow little Bee was two, I’m sure of it. Gulp.
And then I heard laughter from the girls bedroom. Bee was making Dove laugh a hearty, baby belly laugh. Bee said something else, and Dove shrieked with delight.
Maybe two will be ok, I thought. At least I have an ally.
I think I should be queen of something, don't you? Help me figure out what at Canada Moms Blog.
Eight years, he said. Eight years it took him, putting pen to paper daily, to create his book. He lived with the characters, he told us; he lived and breathed and literally conversed with the characters for eight years while they told him their story. He was an observer as the fiction unfolded, acting as scribe while his characters told him what to write.
I know many authors say that their stories marinated for many years before they were able to write them, but Andrew worked on his book faithfully. For eight years. He even wrote a diary in character, and it wasn’t even a main character. He wrote a diary for a secondary character; a diary that he never intended to publish or include as any part of the story. He did it to delve into the character, to ensure that she was speaking in an authentic voice, congruent throughout the pages and completely aware of her motivations.
As far as I know, Andrew Davidson was not writing under any publication promises, advances or deadlines that he was obligated to adhere to. He allowed his process to be personal, creative and natural.
Miram Toews stresses that her books begin as little jotted journal entries, and that once she acknowledges a theme that won’t go away, a character, and then a tale develops.
Anne Marie MacDonald says that she wrote her first novel in fits and spurts, and that writing was an exercise in trying to ‘…coax these disparate, floating bits of cosmic debris’ into something cohesive.
I am fascinated by stories like this, because I am cultivating one of my own.
10 years ago, I spent 10 months in the Middle East. I travelled for a while, then lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for 8 months. I have never written more than a passing anecdote of my time there, but for 10 years, I have relayed the stories to friends, family, myself. And now, it seems, they are begging to be put to paper. Whatever the spark that was needed to light the fire under the writing of these stories, I seem to have found it. As fiction, the tales are inspired by my time on the Kibbutz and the people I spent every hour of every day toiling alongside of, partying with, loving.
My own exercise in writing this manuscript has been a hybrid of sorts; I move from frenzied, non-stop, totally inspired bursts of story writing to out and out fatigue, unsure I want to continue.
I don’t know if the stories will ever become a book, or if the book will ever get published, but I have finally begun a process of my own, and I am excited to travel down/across/through the paths that are appearing. It is doubtful that I will be able to dedicate eight solid years to the telling of my tale, but that voice, the one that Andrew Davidson and Miriam Toews and so many other writers I have read about, stress that they must hear and heed before they can begin? Well, she is finally whispering in my ear. And I know that if I pay attention and listen very closely, she’ll have a lot to tell me.
Hello, Belly? You there?
Yes, of course you are. You’ve been there since deflating in a most inglorious, surgical manner almost two years ago. I’m as familiar with you now as I am with the baby that expanded you in the first place. Problem is, as that beloved baby grew bigger, you did not grow smaller.
You’re a persistent little bastard – yes, bastard – unwanted, unclaimed and something I really do not want to admit patronage of. And yet there you waddle, sad and flabby, restrained only slightly by thick waistbands and hideously unsexy underpants.
I have tried to tame you; saw glimpses of a shrinking hope during my year of chasing babies at home; my year of pushing 60 lbs worth of stroller through the snow and eating carrot sticks for snacks when and if I had a free hand, a free moment. I saw glimpses of my former self; legs toned, hips narrow, clothes fitting,
And then I went back to work and you laughed a rueful, cruel laugh, knowing that you once again had the opportunity to merrily burst forth from the top of my pants; knew I was little more than powerless to sit, hour after hour and watch as every stagnating day; every tiny indulgence literally fed you; made you stronger, made me feel weaker in my powers to defeat you.
I try not to let you crush me. I try not to look in the mirror and loathe what I see. I try not to feel defeat as I remember that, the flat, size zero stomach I used to carry belonged to the body of a girl; that this rounded, supple, hard-working body belongs to a woman. I try to want to be a woman, even as the girl I see in the mirror laughs at me, a fat fool entering her mid-30s with as much grace as a lame hippo. I try not to see my own mother, see her constant battles to lose weight as much my reality as it has been hers. I try to feel happy with who I am now while still maintaining a goal of who I could be. I try not to think of who I was.
But you, you soft, fleshy, mutant of a belly, hanging off of my body like a deflated balloon, you mock me daily, rejecting more and more of the clothes that you previously wore comfortably, cutely. You ingest all my good intentions like so much bacon grease, impervious to my attempts at exercise, ignoring the many healthy food choices in favour of responding to the one suspect morsel.
You mock me; remain big enough that I am able to detest and fear you, to barely recognize myself; to be aware that anybody that looks at me now knows that I have put on weight, that I have fallen from the thrown of svelteness that I sat atop for 32 years. And yet, I remain just petite enough to make complaining about you cue head-shaking or eye-rolling in others that have known this battle for years.
I sit, glaring at the rolls that greet me when I cast eyes downward, and wait for the epiphany. You know, the one that holds the answer to weight loss, esteem gain and serenity. I implore you to make me fat and happy or to just go away. How can I make you acknowledge the efforts I am making – I am running for chirissake, running! – the snacks I am skipping; the comfort I am not seeking.
How can this be how you repay me after years of service? After getting through high school without majorly abusing you? After loving and sharing and appreciating you? After growing and birthing and feeding two beautiful, healthy girls? How can this be my repayment? How can this be my present, and how can I ensure that this is not my future?
C’mon, jellybelly, what gives, besides the elastic waistbands of my future? Is it humility you want me to learn? Self-control? Bovine empathy? Because I’m fresh out of food for thought. Of course, I do know where I can scare up a muffin-top.
- Clean the basement
- Bake a cake/freeze for Thanksgiving this weekend
- Find fabric to recover little chair
- Put together new (vintage) lamp for girls' room
- Make an apple crisp for dessert tonight
- Hang pictures that have been sitting on floor waiting to be hung
- Make an apple crisp for dessert tonight
- Drink coffee
- Read blogs
10. My ‘omg, did you see Gray’s?!’ tweets a week after the season premiere will get way more responses and attention than if I had been one of thousands madly tweeting during the actual first showing like the rest of you chumps.
9. I can record the kids’ shows that I actually find tolerable, then kibosh the really annoying ones like Max and Ruby, by exclaiming that Backyardigans is on! Right now! Booyah.
8. My husband will never again have to argue over whether Cities of the Underworld is more important to watch on the good tv than Top Chef before he loses and is ultimately relegated to the basement and the old tv.
7. I will no longer regret not buying the entire Little House on the Prairie series at Costco that time.
6. No more almost peeing in my pants waiting for a commercial.
5. No more cursing my light sleepers for waking up 7 minutes before I find out who is in, and who is out.
4. I will actually slice the veggies and put them on a plate with a dollop of hummus and a glass of water instead of just grabbing the bag of chips because it is closer and faster.
3. This effectively puts an end to the philosophical dilemma we have about subscribing to cable in the first place.
2. No more *buffering* watching *loading* missed episodes *a word from our sponsors* on the *buffering* internet.
1. I don’t have to wait until Sunday mornings to watch relaxing fishing shows.
2009/9/24 John Dykes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was just reading some comments on a site, and I found your interesting comment “If I squirt myself in the face with breastmilk, will I look like Cindy Crawford?”
I went to your blog and do u have any pics of ur breast, can u post pics of u breast feeding, it would be really cool.
And I replied in my typical, diplomatic way:
How bout you go squirt yourself in the face with battery acid?
By the time we find the entrance for the tiniest of the school’s new inhabitants, I can tell that she has gained some of her courage back. She stays close and quiet, but moves determinedly toward the door that the teacher holds open, pulling me along beside her.
I try not to hover as she finds her nametag in the pile on the table; as she finds a marker to print her name on the welcome sheet; as she finds a place to sit on the alphabet mat – her ground zero for the next 10 months. Soon, she is raising her hand to answer the teacher’s question – or rather, not to answer the proposed question, but instead to inform her teacher that she has a puppy named George (news to me). I resist the urge to interject, to correct her in her enthusiasm. I resist the urge to direct her to the playstations that I think she will enjoy most, and instead let her scope things out herself, watching her settle on the painting station. I resist the urge to coach her to wipe off the extra paint; to make sure she has put her name on her artwork, to place it neatly on the drying rack. I resist the urge to be her mother in the ways that I know how to be her mother, and try to embrace a way of being her mother that involves me not being involved.
How do I feel about my tiny, beautiful, wide-eyed daughter starting Junior Kindergarten?
I feel like I have fed her to the wolves.
I feel like her free, wholistic, spontaneous childhood is over, way earlier than it should be. I feel like I am institutionalizing her and let the indoctrination begin – this is how we become good little citizens, ok boys and girls? Everybody line up, everybody listen up, everybody hands up! I feel like my smart, creative, imaginative, clever daughter is on her way to becoming a trained automaton, the bulk of whose first year of formal education will be mostly about learning how to respond correctly to Pavlovian cues. I feel like I am failing her as a mother, as a human being. I feel like I am having an asthma attack, or maybe an existential crisis.
And then Junior Kindergarten is over for the day, and my daughter leaps towards us, bounds towards us and tells us, unprompted that Kindergarten is awesome! and her smile radiates confidence and enthusiasm, and I think that she’ll do just fine, she’ll thrive, she’ll be ok, and maybe, just maybe, I will be too.
Happy long weekend, everybody!
*Originally posted November 26, 2007*
Well, she’s here. Thankfully, blissfully, finally here. And if her entrance into this world is any indication, she’s gonna be trouble.
If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that best-laid plans are simply that, and that there are no guarantees.
Like a baby remaining head-down at 41 weeks and 2 days gestation. Apparently, in my grand naivety, I thought we had this one in the bag.
I woke up Wednesday morning early, sad to have to say goodbye to my sister and niece who, after a nearly 3-week stay had to travel back to BC to fulfill a previously-made commitment. Seems naivety runs in my family, as my sister was sure that this child would have made her entrance by then. Ensconced in panic that our labour/childcare support plans A, B and C was walking out the door, we hastily implemented plan D, and Chris’ mom was on a train to Toronto within the hour. My sister joked that more than sex, spicy food or acupuncture, her stepping on a plane would surely be our successful method of labour induction. She wasn’t far off.
That afternoon, as Chris and Bee headed to the train station to pick up my mother-in-law, I went to my scheduled midwife appointment. We joked about some of the non-traditional induction methods we might think of implementing as Tracy, my midwife, felt my belly. Abruptly, the joking stopped and Tracy looked at me more seriously than she had throughout this or my previous pregnancy with her.
‘She’s transverse again.’
Oh, good Christ on the cross, I thought, this child is so grounded when she’s born.
After much palpating, consultation and discussion with all of the midwives in the clinic, Tracy sent me home for a vigorous walk with Chris. She would be back at my place in a couple of hours, and we would map out next steps then.
So off we go, in the pouring, cold rain, to try to walk this baby back into head-down position. We had already discussed the possible courses of action and outcomes, so really, the time we were given was pretty much just to come to peace with what lay ahead. At that point, only one thing was pretty certain – this was not going to be the birth we had expected.
Sure enough, Tracy’s visit revealed no new information, and we headed to the hospital for a consultation with an OB. The only time I had ever been in this particular hospital was to register for each of my births, and though I can see the place from my bedroom window, I certainly never expected that one day I would be looking out the window of the hospital back at my house.
In triage we met the on-call OB, a warm, straightforward doctor originally from Africa, who went over the options that Tracy had alluded to. Really, this whole part was a ruse, designed to make me and Chris feel as though we actually had options. We didn’t. Well, we did. We could choose to wait for or implement a couple of risky things that would most likely end in an emergency c-section, or we could plan for a c-section now, and at least enjoy the benefits of controlling as many of the circumstances as possible. It didn’t take long for us to let them know our ‘choice.’
The next 4 hours were completely surreal. Even though I was now well on my way to delivering via c-section, I had a really hard time realizing that it was me that would have to actually go through it. As the IV was set up and inserted, as we walked the hallways with the drip, waiting to be summoned to the OR, as Chris was taken away to be gloved, gowned and masked and as I was prepped for and administered a spinal block, I had this weird sensation that this was just all part of some third-person narrative, and that this was not actually happening to me.
The morphine helped. Stupidly, I thought it was the oxygen going up my nose that was making me kind of giddy, and I remember remarking that it was obvious why people liked going to oxygen bars. I believe it was the anesthesiologist that said, ‘Oh, they don’t get what you’re getting at the oxygen bar!’
So Chris came in, the surgery began, and so did the puking. I’m a puker. It actually had a pretty good distraction factor, and I don’t really recall much sensation of the surgery because of it. Or maybe that was the morphine.
At any rate, our baby was born healthy and purple at 1:37 am, the news of which I believe I reacted to by barfing. She had a good rubbing by my midwives, and then was able to enjoy skin-to-skin contact with Chris, which I think was really wonderful for him, and helped him recover from looking over the sheet just a little too early and peering into a pool of my blood with a purple leg sticking out.
The next couple of hours, also blurry, due to the rush of hormones, and well, morphine, but I do remember a few things about being in recovery. I remember ice chips, and I remember the baby practically crawling up my chest to latch herself onto my boob, and I remember Chris holding the little blue trough over the baby’s head so that I could puke without disturbing her first meal.
The hospital stay was not as bad as I had anticipated a hospital stay being, and improved greatly once a private room became available after the first night. The nurses were attentive, and for the most part very warm and considerate of both the fact that I was a midwife’s client and the fact that I intended to make informed decisions, but I still managed to piss a few of them off. Like after the decision not to allow them to bathe the baby after 8 hours on the outside, and the decision to not allow them to repeat the jaundice blood test after the first, administered with the PKU, did not yield enough blood to get results. You poke my baby 3 times already and leave a bruise on her heel and you are not my friend. You’re not coming back for more.
I also pissed off a night nurse who didn’t like my latch. She woke us up in the middle of the night to check temp/blood pressure for the millionth time, and at that point the baby was pretty much asleep on the boob, after having nursed for a good half hour previously. She was slipping off already, and the nurse was concerned that she was too high up on the nipple. I insisted that she was ok, that I was in no pain, and that this was just fine for a baby that had just been nursing lying down for a while. The nurse clucked at me and left, and Chris made a joke that she was going to sic a lactation consultant on us. I balked, but sure enough, at 8 am the next morning, there was a knock on the door and in walked Lori, the lactation consultant. I happened to be nursing at that point, and her visit was a very short one, especially when I told her that I had just weaned my firstborn 5 months prior.
Rest assured that although I viewed this as a minor, humourous annoyance, I am impressed and happy that so much effort is made to ensure breastfeeding success. I’m just not used to someone second-guessing my mad breastfeeding skillz.
Anyway, I was released on Saturday, early by hospital standards, and again I was thankful that I had my midwives as both advocates for my release and as dedicated caregivers responsible for overseeing my recovery at home.
Home, ahh. It’s better to be here for sure (hospital food really is as bad as everyone says it is, although Bee loved the copious amounts of jello I always saved for her), but the realities of recovering from abdominal surgery are slightly more vivid than they were in the hospital. Apparently I’m healing very well, and Tracy took my staples out today, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by the long road to full recovery. No steps until next week if I can help it, and no picking up Bee for 6 weeks. The pain is manageable, peaking at night or when I sneeze (holy fuck, sneezing hurts), and I’ll milk this for as long as I (or Chris) can manage.
And the baby? Holy mother of sweetness, she is worth any discomfort, any discarded birth plan, any sneeze trauma and any perma-paunch that comes my way. I forgot how tiny, how alien, how fascinating, how miraculous new babies are. As for the bond that I always thought could only come from the anticipation and hormonal rush of early labour; from feeling my body extract my child in an intense choreography of pleasure and pain; from that new baby being placed immediately on my chest; from introducing Bee to her baby sister in the warm, welcoming comfort of the bed that she had also been born in – well, I was wrong about that. I didn’t have any of those things this time, but the result is there. The result is the same, and it is powerful. She is my baby. She was born to me. And she is love.
But first up, Bee's story:
*Originally written May 14, 2005*
On Monday May 9, 2005, I was feeling crampy and well, just different. By the middle of the night we knew that these were (mild) contractions, and started keeping track of them to see if labour would progress. In terms of intensity, things were slowly moving, but in terms of frequency, it was all over the map. Although the excitement and anticipation were also mounting, I managed to sleep around the contractions.
On Tuesday morning, we went for a long walk (well, it wasn't that long of a walk, it just took a long time since I had to stop every few minutes to wait for a mild contraction). We gave our midwife a head's up when we got home, and she came over around noon to check on the progress. Low and behold, I had made it to 3 cm. She told us to keep doing what we were doing, and that she would call again in a few hours.
By our next check-in at 5 pm, things were still intensifying but not speeding up. Tracy (our midwife) said that she was sure we would be having this baby that night, but probably not for a little while. She would call back at 9 then go to sleep early and wait for us to page. By 7 pm, things were rockin’ and I called Tracy back at 8. my contractions were 2 minutes apart and I could do little through them but breathe and ‘vocalize’. She said that she was on her way.
Tracy and our student midwife, Jen, arrived at 8:30, and upon checking, we found that I had made it to 6 cm. Through a series of different labouring positions, and a surprising ability on my part to completely give in to whatever my body was wanting to do, I made it to 10 cm by 10:15 pm.
I pushed for just over 2 hours, and I admit that I meshed my most primal instincts to birth this baby with a healthy dose of, ‘Please, please, just take it out!’. I was not quite prepared mentally for the difficult, often discouraging, and EXHAUSTING task of pushing (I was actually falling asleep in between pushes – Chris told me later that at one point I started snoring!). But on the flipside, I was also not prepared for the perfect ability my body had to do the job, and the very clear messages it sent my way, that I had no choice but to respond to. And when one of my pre-natal fears came true, and Tracy said that she wanted to perform an episiotomy due to the baby’s slowing heart rate, I didn’t care. All I cared about was having this baby; for my baby to be out and safe.
At 12:28 am, on May 11 2005, our baby was born on our bed. Straight to my chest she went, and of course, that was indescribable. We didn’t even look to see what the sex was for a few minutes, and were overjoyed when we found out that this beautiful, alert, perfect little creature was our baby girl. After getting a shot of oxytocin and delivering the placenta, Jen got our baby to latch on – she’s a natural – and my new little family was left to wonder at each other for a while. When my midwives came back upstairs, I let go of the baby for the first time while I was stitched and she was weighed and examined.
So now we’re doing great; I’m a little sore but my wonderful sisters (who were at the birth) are totally spoiling all three of us, and we’re having a good time in the cocoon we’ve made of our bed. I’ve been a bit emotional, but I’m sure every new mama is. Even without all of those vacating hormones, how can you not be when you’ve just fallen in love harder and faster than you ever thought you could?
You are my sunshine.
Next: A Dove flies into our lives and hearts.
My mother had four bratty kids to feed, and ground beef was cheap, yo, so it made an appearance on our dinner table at least once a week. This meatloaf was pretty standard; a bit dry, but you could fix that with the trusty ketchup, whose presence on the table could always be counted on.
9. Paprika & Garlic Salt
If I were to tell you what my childhood tasted like, it would be paprika and garlic salt (plus ketchup, see above). These totally innocuous flavouring agents (I don’t even think they count as spices) may as well have been the only tenants in the spice rack, as they were the only two that ever saw food. Paprika and garlic salt went on just about everything, and along with ketchup, complete the holy trinity of perfect seasoning according to my mother.
8. Spaghetti & Meatballs
The only thing more economical than ground beef is pasta, so you can guess how many times we sat down to this meal in a month. The sauce was always from a can, and my dad would add so much parmesan cheese and dried red chilis that it would make my eyes water from across the table. I was out of the house for more than a decade before I was able to cook this for myself. And I have never, ever used canned sauce. On anything.
7. Ham ‘n Eggs
Like the good Jews that we are, we sat down to a brunch of ham ‘n eggs on English muffins pretty much every single weekend of my childhood and youth. A testament to how much my dad enjoyed this dish is that, once he and my mother stopped having anything to do with each other, he continued to cook ham ‘n eggs for himself several times a week. Or maybe it was just the only thing he knew how to cook. Either way, Sunday mornings at my house smelled decidedly more Gentile than we like to admit.
Every Jewish person will tell you this, but seriously, my mother’s brisket is better than anyone else’s brisket. She makes it the traditional way – with onion soup mix – and puts rice in the bottom of the pan to cook in the juices. Holy Moses, but my mother’s brisket (and rice) is so good. Too bad she always ruined hers by drowning it in ketchup. I loved it as a kid, but then became quasi-political and shunned red meat. Thankfully, any pretense I ever had of being a vegetarian went out the window during the Rosh Hashana of my first pregnancy. Baby wanted meat. Lots and lots of meat, and I happily obliged. I now eat my mother’s brisket without shame. (And without ketchup)
5. Sausage & Peppers
More pork, don’t tell the Rabbi. This was actually a really tasty dish. So easy, and great for a chilly autumn day. I now make this for my own family, though I use organic peppers and nitrate/sulphite/additive-free sausage – things that did not even hit the radar of an economically-minded housewife in the 70s and 80s. Chunks of spicy sausage with onions and green and red peppers simmering slowly in their own juices and then slung onto a bun – just yum. No need to add ketchup (I’m looking at you, MOM).
4. Bubilehs & Matzo Brie
As far as my heritage goes, I would say that I am a cultural, rather than religious, Jew. We observe the holidays in our own special way (like, we eat a lot and not a single prayer is said), and this includes Pesach (Passover), which is observed by (among other things) not eating anything with yeast for 8 days. We usually made it one day – one meal really, the seder – but would supplement our heathen ways by diving into our two favourite ‘Passover’ foods for breakfast, bubilehs and matzo bries. A bubileh is a huge, fluffy, eggy panckake that you sprinkle sugar on, and a matzo brie is essentially French toast, but made with matzo. We kids ate it like you would French toast, that is, drowning in syrup. My mother would douse it with – you guessed it – ketchup. Good thing we are the chosen people, otherwise I’m pretty sure my mother would not be let into the kingdom of Heaven for that reason alone.
3. Salmon Patties
I do not like canned tuna. I have never liked canned tuna. My sister has not eaten canned tuna since she got sick as a child after eating a tuna sandwich (it had nothing to do with the tuna and everything to do with the flu, but still, she blamed the tuna). My mother likes canned tuna. My father liked canned tuna. Canned tuna is economical. So my mother made tuna patties. And called them salmon. She didn’t tell me that the salmon patties were really tuna patties unitl l I was in my 20s. I retaliated by telling her that we once put a hole in the dining room wall during a party, and patched it up with materials stolen from a nearby construction site. Take that, mom.
As in, a cow’s. Pickled and sliced. In a sandwich. All bumpy and European and gross. I did not eat tongue, but my mother, my grandmother and my aunts did, and seeing it sitting there on the platter from the Pickle Barrel, contaminating the lovely pastrami and corned beef beside it with its nastiness was enough to make me eat tuna. Almost.
1. Ketchup Stew
So named due to the main flavouring ingredient, this stew will be the butt of family jokes until I
die. Chunks of bargain-priced beef alongside potatoes, carrots, peas and onions, in a soupy, ketchupy sauce, my mother would add more ketchup once the stew was in her bowl, because she is gross. I have not had ketchup stew in almost 20 years, but it still haunts me today, and I would not be surprised if, like Citizen Kane’s Rosebud, it is the thing that I stupefyingly cry out for on my death-bed. Curiously, my vegan sister craves ketchup stew when feeling under the weather.
Like going bra shopping. I need a new bra like I need more coffee – that is, a lot, and it is as much for the benefit of those around me as it is for my own damn good.
Currently, I am wearing a 4-year old stretched out, too small, ugly, natty nursing bra that has faded to a lovely shade of swine, from my first round of breastfeeding, and it is doing not a thing for me, except making my sunburnt shoulders itch. As for my figure, it is riding up and cutting my tits in half, which certainly makes for a lovely silhouette.
So, I should just go get a new bra, right? Yes, but then I have to give up the fantasy that I am still a perky, nubile young thing in a respectable 34B, and accept the fact that some old Russian frau will unceremoniously stuff my lovelies into a contraption that looks more suited to carting around weapons of mass destruction than bosoms, and which forces me to accept that my actual measurements are more stubby than tall-boy. I’m just not ready to give up the fantasy (or the money), even though the flap on my left cup just popped open and hit me in the chin.
The other masochistic nonsense I’ve been considering is taking up jogging. Seriously, who the fuck runs for fun? I run if a) I’m being chased by zombies or b) my child is about to knock over my beer. Otherwise, I prefer not to break a sweat. (This might have something to do with the cause of my fat boobs; see above.) But the ugly truth is that I
Oh, who am I kidding? The laundry often sits there for weeks.
Anyway, I’ve heard that joggers get this thing called
I’ve been advised that the best way to start running (only losers call it jogging), is to walk for five minutes, than run for one. I think I can handle that! How long am I allowed to do that? Six months? Sounds good. It’s like when I used to work as a cashier at Dominion – I kept my, ‘I’m new, please be patient!’ badge on my god-awful blood-coloured polyester straightjacket of a uniform for 2 years. I prefer that one’s expectations of me remain base for as long as possible.
So yeah, running. I can do it for a few minutes a day, I guess. But I’m certainly not going to increase the amount of sweat equity I put in until I get a new bra.
Which will be anytime now, I promise.
10. You don’t need a bear whistle if your kid cries for the entirety of your 1.5km hike in the woods.
9. Brunette children taste better than blonde children, according to the mosquitos.
8. Red squirrels are loud, and don’t feel the need to quiet down as they plot their revenge on you for taking away the food they were about to scavenge.
7. It IS possible to get 4 people on a queen-sized air mattress, but none of you are going to actually sleep.
6. I look really cute in cargo shorts, a Chairman Mao hat and unwashed hair.
5. It is typical that I pack enough food for a family of 8 to last two weeks in the woods, but I forget to bring an extra pair of pants for one of my kids.
4. I apparently cannot go more than 7 minutes without fussing over one of my children and worrying that they have enough sunscreen/bug spray/after-bite/water/shade/snacks/love.
3. Surrounded by trees, rocks, bugs, logs, dirt and trails, my 4-year old and 20-month old found it more novel to play in the unlocked car than in nature.
2. Jews (like me) can be good at camping. Righteous gentiles (like my husband) are a hundred times better at it, and it turns me on.
1. There is nothing better for recharging the spirit, clearing the mind and healing the body than spending 3 days outside with your family.
10. @ItsBritneyBitch No sitter! Gotta get to TCA. Can stuff Jayden in my purse. What should I do with SP? Where r my panties? Who cares!!!
9. @JessieSimps Hey y'all! Watching the TCA w/u from Japan!! OMG - WHAT WAS THAT? Felt like an earthquake!! Oh, wait, just my stomach. SNAX!!
8. @Perez4Prez OMG, WHERE WUZ I SITTING? I CAN'T FIND MY SEAT! CALL 911 4 REALZ YOU GUYS!!! HELP!! HELP!!
7. @JoeJoBro Dude, I am so gonna bang Cameron Diaz tonite. She will be screamin my name. Miley can suck it - and I hope she does!!!
6. @JoeJoBro @NickJoBro, plz, plz tell me that I just DM'd you that last msg. I did right? It didn't go to my public profile right? Oh shit.
5. @SmileyMiley Nice job @JoeJoBro saw that tweet. watch out, dad is aiming his shotgun @ yur head. how r your 5 awards? my SIX are awesome!
4. @VampireRobP Hey @quentinT the next time u r casting, call me first - Brad Pitt is an old, old man. I'm what the kids want. srsly. Call me.
3. @foxymeg this stupid shit is so stupid. i'm only here for the swag. it's not like teens care about acting. stupid idiots. i'm so hot. SO HOT
2. @ChaseCraw Hey @ZakEfron I got your mail again and Teen People mixed up our pix - again! Weren't you thinking about going blonde? It's time.
1. @Madge If it wuznt 4 me, none of you little shits would even have jobs! My invite mustve bin lost. gt 2 go! fedex just delivered new baby!!
Hi Mum. How are you?
Fine. How are you?
What are you doing?
I'm on the computer.
On the COMPUTER?
Why don't you get off the computer and go do your sewing?
Top Ten Fresh From the Farm Foods
Top Ten Reasons Why Even This Cold, Rainy Summer Doesn’t Suck That Bad
10. Green and yellow beans!
What are your summer must-haves?
Top Ten Tuesday!
I just read that people like lists; particularly Top Ten lists. Now, I’m no David Letterman, but I’ve decided to implement this
Anyway, here is Top Ten Tuesday. Hope you like it.
The Top Ten Reasons I Didn’t Go To Blogher
10. I’m saving for a puggle.
9. No time to wax.
8. It’s Christmas where I work, and Santa waits for no woman.
7. My friend is about to have a baby, and in the absence of her husband, mother, mother-in-law, gay neighbour and the guy that delivers the paper, I’m on tap to be middle-of-the night childcare!
6. I couldn’t figure out what Miley Cyrus song I was, and knew it would nag at me all weekend.
5. I was really sure it was going to stop raining in Toronto, and I didn’t want to miss those two hours.
4. There’s no garbage strike in Chicago, and I’m not sure if I know how to breathe less toxic air any more.
3. All of my friends were going to see Bruno, and well, I didn’t actually go, but you know, I wanted to hear how it turned out.
2. I had plans to get schnockered on a patio with Lisa and these lovely gals. Oh wait – we did that because we weren’t at Blogher… not, we weren’t at BlogHer because we were doing that… Anyway – wasted!
1. I was holding out for NYC, bitchez!
Will placate myself with looking at all your photos of BlogHer, and drooling over the loveliness. And next year, NYC? My roots, baby. I'll be there.
And have cursed myself, often, for doing so.
Six Months in Sudan follows Dr. James Maskalyk from a Toronto emergency room to a Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) office in Switzerland to a rudimentary hospital in Abeyi, Sudan, an embattled border town teetering precariously on the tightrope of an unofficial truce between warring factions.
The first, and most important, thing I tell people about this book (and I have told many), is that it is utterly readable. I chalk this up to the second thing I tell people about this book – it began as a blog. Obviously, that point alone will score it big points with specifically, me, and in general, our community. Dr. James (as I, like those in Sudan, refer to him) is a fantastic writer. It’s compelling stuff, it’s disturbing stuff, it’s heartbreaking stuff, but thanks to a casual style, honest voice and a good dose of humour, it’s not stuffy stuff. Dr. James, without dumbing anything down or raising political ire, manages to offer readers a glimpse into a world most of us will never see – never want to see – firsthand.
Straightforward, without judgement (thanks, I suspect, in part to the watchful eye of MSF officials monitoring the original blog content) and unapologetic, Dr. James tells us what he experiences, sometimes through beautiful, prosaic descriptions, and sometimes in hard, fast, brutal detail. Original blog entries are peppered throughout the narrative, giving readers a nice blend of real-time account and thoughtful recollection.
Personally, I found this book highly relatable. In a past life, I spent the better part of a year in a war-torn country working on a communal farm. I’m not suggesting that a kibbutz in Israel is anything like a hospital in Sudan, but I was once the new girl in a new place far away, flung into a society I had to navigate quickly, making friends and mistakes along the way.
As a blogger, I understood Maskalyk’s compulsion to want to document his experience in the hopes that in doing so, friends, family and an online community might understand, at least a little, what he was dealing with. And, I suspect, as with many of us bloggers, writing is his venue for expressing thoughts and feelings that might otherwise be difficult to convey. Even in all lower-case with errant punctuation, Dr. James’ blog posts certainly capture those things.
And I am a mother, one whose heart broke over and over reading of Dr. James’ experiences tending to the mothers and children that came to the hospital. Some came in time to find relief under the doctor’s deft care. Some came too late. But in all cases, Dr. James managed to humanize his patients in a way that no saccharine infomercial ever could (of course), and when he described the wails of a grieving mother or the silent struggle of a sick infant, the miles, the distance, the differences dissolved. It’s powerful stuff.
When we discussed Six Months, members of our book club showed up toting manuscripts heavy with sticky notes, and the discussion was animated. Does humanitarian work do more harm than good? Is it morally responsible to practice abroad, intent on making changes in a far-off country when there is still so much that could be done to our own system here at home? Are MSF doctors just thrill-seekers running away from commitment? Would it count as stalking if a bunch of 30-something mommybloggers showed up at his workplace pretending to need his (medical) attention? As I said, the discussion was animated. We even later told one member, who unfortunately missed the Six Months meeting, that if he didn’t like the book, he was getting kicked out of our club. We weren’t joking. But he'll like it.
I hear that there will be a few more press stops as Dr. James continues to promote Six Months. I hope so, because if the opportunity to hear the good doctor comes up again, you can be sure that this time around, I won’t pass it up.
And with those words, the scariest night of my life as a mother, commenced.
Dove had been coughing for a couple of days, bark-like and definitively worse at night and first thing in the morning. I thought it could be mild croup, but she had weathered that before, when a steamy bathroom and a cuddle offered all the relief she needed. I thought this night would be similar.
I was mistaken.
Curled up on the couch after a great dinner with two friends, I was sipping a cup of tea and getting ready to watch a movie, when I heard Dove stir over the monitor. Her cough was a bit higher pitched and more staccato than it had been the past two nights, and instead of sleeping through the episode, as she had been doing, she woke up, the coughs turning to throaty, reedy cries.
I went up to her, and although she had no fever, I could tell that something had turned. She seemed pale, and she was breathing hard. I brought her downstairs and walked around with her a bit, thinking that being upright would help. She cried and struggled to lay in my arms, so I sat down with her and tried to nurse.
She couldn’t hang on, constantly interrupting herself to breathe deeply and cry. Alarmed – nursing is the ultimate comfort, and if she was rejecting the breast, there was surely something very wrong – I called Telehealth and described what was going on.
The nurse on the line assessed the situation, and asked me to put the phone up to the baby, so that she could listen to the sounds she was making. Dove was now crying, each sob punctuated by a high-pitched keening sound. I let the nurse listen for about 20 seconds and asked her if she was able to hear.
That is when she told us to go to the hospital. Do not pass Go, do not bother brushing your hair or checking to see if your sweater is on inside-out. Just go.
So we went. The hospital is only a block away from my house, so at 11:20pm, I left with Dove in my arms. I walked in to the emergency room at 11:25, and readied myself for a long wait.
By 11:31, Dove was in a room in the ER, with an oxygen saturation monitor attached to her foot, dexo-metho-something having been administered, being given oxygen as she screamed hysterically, bucking against my arms as I held her down and my heart shattered.
Within a few minutes, Dove’s oxygen level was back up to 98%, and we were both breathing more easily.
Still upset and unsure of whether she most wanted to cry, nurse, sleep or point at the mural of fish on the wall, I walked her in circles in the little room for hours. Arms and back numb, I was finally able to lay her down on the bed in the room at about 4am. Her breathing was still pretty deep, but nowhere near as bad as it had been, when the hollow at her throat caved in with every struggled breath.
She slept. As she did, my mind had time to shift focus and I realized three things – 1) I had been drenched in a cold sweat for hours and I stank 2) my bladder was about to explode, and 3) I was lucky. So lucky.
This had been one of the scariest nights of my life, but it was almost over. Dove was ok, and at 5:30am, after being monitored all night, Dove was given an oral dose of a bronchial-dialator, and we were allowed to leave.
Our short walk home was so peaceful. It felt, in our big, busy city, like me and Dove and the birds were the only living creatures on earth. Living. Healthy; on our way home. We were so lucky. I sat on the front steps of the house with my sleepy, soft, beautiful baby in my arms, so tired, but wanting just a few minutes more of this calm peace between me and my baby and the world. I wanted to appreciate all that was in my arms and around me.
I wanted the universe to know how much I valued the gift of my two beautiful, healthy children; wanted to acknowledge the strength and courage of the mothers that endure nights like the one I had, with their own beautiful babies, time after time.
Dove layed back on my chest, and I leaned into her head. I whispered my love into her sweet, sweat-formed curls, and then, weariness crashing over my body, climbed the steps and entered the house, leaving the dawn to wash away the dark.
Some of us are bad mothers. Some of us are Bad Mothers. Some of us are Good Enough Mothers, and some of us are good mothers. Is it semantics? Maybe. Some say no. I tend to think it is, but if it’s not, than I know what I am.
I am a Good Mother. With caps and all.
This is not because my children are loved and cared for and safe and encouraged and cuddled. To me, that is basic mothering, and in my world, it goes without saying that my children are receiving those things from me. Those are the fundamentals of the job – a job that I signed up for, and I try not to forget that.
What makes me a Good Mother is the energy, time and thought I put into the less instinctive, less intuitive aspects of mothering. The deliberate mothering that I do. The cooking I do so that my children will eat healthy, whole food. The nursing I do at 3am simply because my 19-month old has woken up and wants to nurse. The ungodly hour I wake up so I can get to and leave work early, enabling me to spend as much time as possible with my kids during the day. I make play-dough for my kids and then I spend an hour scraping it off the couch. We take our children on outings with their enjoyment specifically in mind. I try to have realistic expectations of my children, and of myself. These are some of the things that, to me, make me a Good Mother. And you know what else makes me a Good Mother, and yes, I will take that gold star now –
I actually, truly, honestly enjoy doing these things for and with my children.
(And ohmygawd, do NOT call me a martyr, because that turns me right into a Bad Blogger.)
I strive to be this, and I am proud and pleased to be this, and this brings me joy, and I wave my Good Mother flag seriously high in the sky.
And you know what else?
It’s not a competition. It doesn’t mean that I’m better than you.
It means that I am the mother of two small girls who are my world, and to them, for at least a little while longer, I am their world.
And I need that world to be a Good one. A really Good one.
Cancer made him look taller. It stripped him clean to the bones and he looked taller, teetering on shaky legs, propped up by a cane and by our love and by pills and pills and pills and drinks and needles and poison. He smiled and I saw him and help him please, my love is not working, my smoothies, the best smoothies, he told me, are not enough and they cannot keep the cancer from taking what little is left sticking to his bones. This is death, looking to claim him, and where is everybody, we need help. Please, please, please, a new pill, a new doctor, a new plan and we are together and we are not safe and we are not healing – the cancer and the father and the daughter.
And one year and nine months later I am starting, just starting, to try to let death live in a peaceful, natural place, without interventions, with acceptance and strength. Just beginning to understand why, in birth, I push away that hand, strive to let my body do what it is meant to do, and yet facing death, reach for it desperately. Each a dance; each graceful, and willful and necessary, if only you stop and let life’s natural rhythm finally, furiously take over.
Adrienne: Oh, yeah.
Me: So, you work in Royalties, right? You need to check all the publishing to make sure we're paying the right people, right? That's why you're noticing these miniscule, obscure mistakes, right?
Adrienne: No. I just used to be a proof-reader, so your mistakes jump out at me.
Me: Well, I used to work in fashion, so your mistakes jump out at me.
(Ok, I didn't really say the last line out loud.)
*names have been changed to protect my happily employed ass.
How I got onto this train of thought I'll never know (especially when I'm supposed to writing notes for a Zen album, not ruminating on my weirdo past), but anyway, here it is: a list of some of the crushes I've had over the years.
This is in NO way a conclusive list; in fact, I'm sure I'm leaving out some of the more permeating imaginary romances I've indulged in over the years.
By the way, as a teenager, I also spent time wondering who would have a crush on me if I were famous. *Gives head a shake*
- Mighty Mouse. I fell off a chair declaring my love for this rodent.
- Randolph Mantooth. I guess I had a thing for tv heroes.
- Pa Ingalls. Or maybe I just wanted to be Laura Ingalls. Either way, I think now that he would have made a really good husband. Not that I wanted to marry my father. I just mean that he was pretty progressive for a 19th century farmer, and he had good pecs.
- Almanzo Wilder. Pure crush. I definitely wanted to be Laura by this point. Oh, Manly. Smack my ass and call me Beth.
- John Taylor. He was my Duran Duran crush. I’m pretty sure it was always either Simon or John, right? My sister liked Simon, so I had to pick John. Even a youngen', I knew that if you picked Nick Rhodes, you were just being pretentious.
- River Phoenix. My first real true love. I spent a lot of time talking to the posters plastering my walls. He got me through my first unrequited real-life crush, pimples, stupid fights with my smother – he helped me navigate the angst of the tween years so that I could smoothly fulfill my destiny as a full-blown, obnoxious teenager. Too bad he never fulfilled his own destiny. RIP, Rio. (And p.s. – I’ll forget about A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon if you’ll forget about the stirrup pants and bedazzled sweatshirts you saw me put on every day.)
- Bjork. Ok, I’m jumping ahead a few years here, but save for a few months pondering Johnny Depp’s broodiness or Arlo Guthrie’s curls circa 1970, Bjork was next. I could not get over the magical pixie and her adorable squished up little face. I was tiny too, and wondered if I could pull off an Icelandic fairy look. I tried, I did. I twisted my hair up into little Bjorkies (as I still call them) and wore crazy quilted skirts and tiny halter tops and generally found my niche somewhere between neo-bohemian and stone-cold crazy fox (indulge me). Bjork helped me break down many boundaries, and inspired me to investigate a world just beyond my comfort zone; one full of artistic, creative and corporeal pleasures.
- Darcy Tucker. I am a Canadian girl after all. And I likes 'em feisty. Plus, he's a dad, so, hawt.
- The OC in general, and Adam Brody in particular. This was during pregnancy. I discovered the OC while I was pregnant with Bee, and it penetrated my psyche, I suppose. True, I went back and forth between Ryan and Seth, but in the end – and in my CRAZY pregnancy sex dreams – humour beat out fists. I am a pacifist, and I do have a weak spot for dark curly hair. If you want to know how totally I was into the OC while I was pregnant, you have only to ask me what name I blurted out when we decided that our first born daughter did not fit the name we had picked for her. Sexy Adam Brody infiltrated my second pregnancy as well, but as far as usurping my husband as the object of my desires, I think I handled it with more sensitivity the second time around.
- Liberte Dulce de Leche yogurt. This, my friends is the real deal. It’s love.
So, who you been crushin on?