Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Referrers

This blog is the #1 result on Google for the search string "how did leslie harpold die?"

Every time I see that I want to throw up. But if I take the relevant post(s) down I'll break the Internet. Sigh.

Lots of people get here by searching for Vicki McCarty Iovine, whose asinine Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy I ranted about here. (Do not buy this book. Do not give it to your friends. Track down a copy of Spiritual Midwifery instead, and while you're at it, throw in Nine Months Strong and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth as well. Harrumph.)

Others get here by following links to Titland. Still others stumble here by looking up home birth or breastfeeding. One person wondered whether Toronto's Mt. Sinai Hospital was a good place to give birth. (I'd say only if your pregnancy is very high-risk. If it's low-risk, as the vast majority are, I've heard good things about Toronto East General; I can also strongly recommend home birth with midwives. This from someone who used to be terrified of the idea of not going to the hospital.)

Some searches just break my heart. A few months ago there was one about no fetal movement at 37 weeks. (I hope, hope, hope everything turned out okay. No way to know, I guess.) There was one earlier today that brought me to tears: "I just feel so sad my baby has died."

I am so, so sorry. What a difficult thing to be poking around on the web for over Christmas. Whoever and wherever you are, you have my empathy.

Clara's first Christmas was full and busy, with stockings, breakfast, presents, lunch at the Holiday Inn in downtown Kingston overlooking Lake Ontario, more presents, a visit from Edna's brother and one of his daughters, snacking, and finally more presents. She got toys, books, and clothes, and a 2006 set of Canadian coins, which she deemed appropriately shiny. She has learned how to use her hand to pull a soother out of her mouth, but not how to put it back in. This leads to crankiness. Next up on the development chart: learning about cause and effect.

Hope everyone has had a peaceful few days so far, and that 2007 will bring happiness. I hardly dared dream a year ago that by now there would be a baby here, but here she is, dozing on my lap. Sweet, sweet girl.

All the best for the new year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas notes

1) I'd been feeling fairly benevolent toward Paul McCartney lately; he's always struck me as a decent guy, and it's sad to watch a decent guy go through such an ugly divorce from a psycho. But then the other day when I was wrangling Clara through the Eaton Centre, I heard his song "Wonderful Christmastime."

I try not to be a violent person, so I don't wish him harm, exactly... oh, what the hell. Yes I do. Augh. Nothing life-threatening or permanently disfiguring, just enough to convince him to pull all copies everywhere of that song and destroy them. He's a rich man, isn't he? He can do that, right?

(And if I've earwormed you, sorry. No, wait. No I'm not. Misery loves company.)

2) I still hate shopping malls, and evidently Clara does too. There was a huge (HUGE) screaming meltdown in the washroom of the Indigo Books and Music because she was simultaneously hungry and dirty-diapered. One thing about parenthood is that it often leaves you doing things you've sworn not to do, like feeding your child in a bathroom. There I was standing there with my tit in my daughter's mouth, shopping bags all over the floor, diaper bag open and spilling its contents everywhere, while the cleaning lady worked around us.

I'm learning to tell who has kids and who doesn't: the parents look upon screaming infants kindly and sympathetically. The non-parents give dirty looks. I was a non-parent for so long that I often find their reactions in me as well. Shut up shut up shut UP you're bothering everyone everyone is going to think I'm a bad mother. But then the experienced parents say soothing things, and I think, Oh. Oh yeah. She's a baby. Babies cry. She'll stop soon. And sure enough, she does.

So, thank you nice cleaning lady in the Indigo washroom, and nice security guard gentleman at the Sunrise Records at Yonge and Dundas. You helped a lot. I bet you have good kids.

3) I've seen more movies in the theatre since October than I think I had in the previous five years combined. Thank you, thank you Movies for Mommies. I've seen Hollywoodland, The Queen, Casino Royale, Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Prestige, and today K. and I are off to see The Pursuit of Happyness. I've liked all of them, especially Little Miss Sunshine, which had me laughing so loudly I was a little embarrassed.

The theatre where we're going today is walking distance from here. I love living in the city.

3) The yap dog across the hall is still going. You'd think he'd get tired. Sigh. Perhaps the Christmas gift to the neighbours can be a giant Milk Bone soaked in Valium.

4) We're going to Mr. K's parents' house for the holiday. His sister will be there too -- she came home from Japan last summer after living there for ten years -- and this is Clara's first Christmas, so Mr. K's mother should by all rights be happy as a clam to have her clan around her. I love the in-laws dearly and they're very, very good to us; I'm afraid the differences in childrearing philosophies will continue to make for some tension. (Yes, I am going to feed her now, even though she just finished eating half an hour ago. Last time we checked, she was in the 95th percentile for height and the 3rd for weight. She's a skinny little thing. Damn straight she eats whenever she wants. And no, we never just let her cry. Sigh.)

5) Huge congrats to Esquiver, who's coming home. E: what are you doing for St. Patrick's Day?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My heart grows three sizes every day


"Is that so?"
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Clara seems to like her dad an awful lot.

I do too.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How I knew her

Leslie Harpold was part of a great big community of people ten or twelve years ago who all met on the Usenet newsgroup alt.society.generation-x. (Remember Usenet? Back before the Web? When all we had was plain text and 14.4k dialup, and we liked it?) Other old asg-xers who have posted remembrances: John Scalzi, Amber, David B., Mig, Joe, Nicole, Robert, Kerry, B, Twonk, Steve. (If I've missed you, kick my ass in comments.)

I met her in person three times, all in the mid-nineties: once in New York, once in DC, once in Boston. I didn't get to see her as much in NY as I'd have liked: after dinner, we gathered at the townhouse of one friend to hang out for an evening, and she got there much, much later than the rest of us. Later we got a terse explanation that on the way over she'd run into some people who had known her fiancé. All anyone seemed to know was that he'd died -- how recently wasn't clear, but now that I look back, it couldn't have been more than a few months. I don't think any of us knew then about her incredible grief. All we saw was the brash, brassy, hilarious, warm, loving yet catty woman so thoroughly eulogized all over the 'net in the past few days. By the time she arrived we were all pretty well toasted; she and Kerry were upstairs watching Godzilla vs. Mothra long after the rest of us were near catatonic on the downstairs floor.

In DC... well, there's Miguelito's story about the hotel rooms. And I remember her at Sunday brunch, on the back patio of a nice restaurant, coming completely unglued at Mr. K's deadpan remark about one of the other people who had come for the gathering. (It was just like any other group of people anywhere: not everyone got along with everyone else. But those of us who did have cleaved to each other for more than a decade now.) She had the most contagious laugh.

In Boston (to be accurate, its suburbs), she, as Jason Kottke put it so well, "did me a favor I didn't know I needed precisely when I needed it." She and some of our other best friends from the Internets were going to be in town for the Columbus Day-slash-Remembrance Day weekend, and Dave and I, having been together for five and a half years already, had suddenly decided to get married there. We were engaged for a month; the City Hall wedding was one step up from an elopement.

She offered to be the official photographer, and the night before the wedding she and Kathleen took me out to a dive of a bar. We drank Bud out of bottles and smoked cigarettes and joyously belted along with the Journey tunes on the jukebox. As the night wore on, Leslie started talking more and more openly, finally telling us the story of how her fiancé had died and how she'd found out. They had bought a house in the south, and the move was imminent. She waited for him to pick her up one night, and he never came.

The details aren't really mine to share -- not in public, anyway -- but they were so heartbreaking. She never got over his loss. Hearing that story in that place, at that time, added so many layers of meaning to David's and my union the next day. She was there to document it, and her presence, her story, and her love were visceral reminders of how fleeting everything is and how critical it is to grapple our tried friends to our souls with hoops of steel.

This from the woman whose favourite phrase in the English language was "Look, bitch."

Last night I said to Dave, "God damn it, why did Leslie have to go and die?"

He replied, "I know. It was so selfish of her. She's totally off our Christmas list."

She'd have thought that was hilarious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More about Leslie

I spent a lot of last night wide awake, clutching Clara to me and thinking about Leslie, or dreaming about her when I finally did fall asleep.

She was fiercely private, and had one of the most difficult lives of anyone I've ever known. Deaths of people close to her (including her fiancé, who was buried cremated before she knew he was dead), a fire in her apartment in which she lost nearly everything (including her novel), a routine surgery whose post-op care was botched so badly it sent her to a rehab facility for five months and left her partially disabled and in searing pain for the rest of her life (for her account of what happened, start here and read the next few entries), a burglary that robbed her of the diamond earrings that her fiancé had bought for her in Paris, the premature deaths of both of her beloved cats, the loss of an unexpected pregnancy. I never knew how one person stood it all.

In the face of it she showed astonishing self-awareness, optimism, generosity, righteousness, grace, wisdom, and yes, fierceness. Even after all this, she was the one that others went to for advice and comfort. She was fearsome and beloved. She was so beloved that when her apartment burned, a large online community came together for her and did everything they could to get her back on her feet.When she was burgled, she found the guy in her apartment and scared him out of taking some of what he'd planned to steal. She dealt with her chronic pain by focusing on small moments with people she loved, and being grateful for them. Recently she had moved back to Michigan, buying a house there to be near her mother, whom she loved so very much.

On Thursday, the date of her last post to this year's always remarkable Advent calendar, she IM'd a friend that she was dealing with her annual bout of bronchitis by sleeping sitting up. On Friday she was supposed to contact her mother and didn't. On Sunday her mother, concerned, went to her house and found her.

Leslie didn't want a memorial service. On one of her sites she endorsed the charity Modest Needs; I think donations to them would be a fitting way to remember her.

Bless your soul, Leslie Harpold. Life is too damned short. I miss you.

Update: read this.

Update redux: and this, which has links to some of her writing at the bottom. Thanks to prairie for pointing it out.

Update #3, December 13: this is a roundup of links, assembled by Kevin Fanning, to tributes to Leslie. Miguelito's has a great story about her.

Traffic to this blog is up nearly 1,700% in the last two days. I hope she understood the scale of the love for her. She moved so quickly through so many people's lives, and left just about all of them better for having known her. What an incredible life.

Update #4, December 15: Shauna's post about Leslie is beautiful, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Leslie

The richly talented writer, designer, and photographer Leslie Harpold took this picture of us on our wedding day, November 10, 1997. I've always loved it. It's the first thing you see when you walk into our home.

Leslie died alone at home sometime late last week; her mother found her on Sunday. She would have turned 41 on January 8.

Bless you, Leslie, and thank you. Next time I see Kathleen, she and I will go to a biker bar and hoist longnecked Budweisers, as we did the night before my wedding, that night when you told us so many of your stories of heartbreak and showed us your still endless capacity for optimism and love. The next day was the last day I saw you, and now it'll be the last time ever. Godspeed. You are already terribly missed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tribes

I keep coming up with ideas for entries but am still too sleep-deprived and small of brain to remember what they were.

The most notable news is that Clara now fits into sleepers that were too big TWO DAYS AGO. She ate like crazy on Thursday and had three (count 'em) thermonuclear meltdowns; yesterday she passed out on the way home from fitness class and slept like a log all afternoon. When she woke up, she was bigger. This infant development is pretty wild stuff.

Moxie says that it's important to find one's tribe when one is a new mother. Other than in the immediate small circle of friends from before the pregnancy, I have not managed to do so yet. I seem to have very little in common with the moms at the midtown fitness class, who pull up in their Volvos and pull their carseats out of the cars and snap them into strollers, and then spend the whole class chatting about cribs and Diaper Genies and afternoons in shopping malls, as the impossibly perky drill sergeant of an instructor demands 25 more leg lifts to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and I fantasize about doing unspeakable things with a 45-pound Olympic bar.

Our carseat stays in the car (we had to pay someone to install it), we don't have a stroller or a crib, Clara has never worn a single disposable diaper, I hate shopping malls, I go almost everywhere on public transit with Clara strapped to my belly, and I fucking loathe leg lifts. Loathe them. I am craving the gym, with the squats and the deadlifts and the bench pressing and the weights that aren't covered with coloured vinyl, and even the reminders of how much ground I've lost since I was able to hoist 225 pounds as high as my knees. I've told myself I'll go back in the New Year, when Clara's a bit older and I can leave her with her dad for a couple of hours as he works from home on Mondays and putters around the house or goes geocaching on Saturdays. Twitch. Twitch.

I'm going out this afternoon to the apartment of some friends so a bunch of us chyx can knit and kvetch about the upcoming holidays. The host is childless (so far) but more than child-friendly; she and her husband looked after Clara last weekend for a few hours while Mr. K and I went to a wedding. I need to spend time with the friends that we do have, and not take them for granted.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Clara's day


Another milestone
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
She bounced back very quickly from getting her first round of vaccinations yesterday, and today she and I have spent a quiet day at home hanging out with each other. This morning she spent some time having breakfast, and then lay on her play mat for a while reaching for and eventually grabbing one of the toys dangling above her. She held it for quite a while, pulling it toward her mouth. She's figuring things out, yup.

Later she grabbed her pacifier by the handle and pulled it out of her mouth. Then she promptly shat herself. It's hard work being a baby.

She is cuter and more interactive every day. Lots more pictures on the Flickr stream. I love this baby so much.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Our lives are so sedate now

Joe.My.God asked for bad neighbour stories, so I told ours. It's a doozy. He said I won the thread. Made my day. Yay! Thanks, Joe!

These days our neighbours are retired couples and the family across the hall with the new yap dog. Other than the dog, we hear nothing because the walls are solid concrete. We're such grownups now.

There is still a baby here. She is cuter every day, but still not gaining weight as quickly as the new pediatrician would like. But hey, someone has to be at the bottom of the growth curve. She's otherwise healthy as anything: bright-eyed, alert, attentive, able to fill diapers in a single blam. She spent yesterday sleeping and eating her way through the new Bond movie (which I liked) and then through about two thirds of the One of a Kind Craft Show and Sale. We're going back this afternoon, after fitness class, to see the rest of it. Who knew it took hours and hours to see 800 artisans?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pink does not suit her


Pink does not suit her
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
The little skull-and-crossbones T-shirt does, though.

I try to preserve my professional self

Last Tuesday was bad, and Wednesday was worse. On Tuesday, the laptop that is my lifeline stopped connecting to the Internet, and the water to our apartment was shut off for no apparent reason. Hours after it came back on, the faucets were spewing orange gunk. In the afternoon I started back to exercise class (first time in six weeks, and I've been craving getting back in shape); I left in plenty of time, but the streetcars were agin' me, so I was ten minutes late. Clara had huge screaming meltdowns both at the beginning and end of the class. When we were all to introduce ourselves and say something pithy about motherhood and how it's changed our lives, I found myself blurting to a roomful of women that I'd been sleeping in baby shit because we hadn't remembered to change the sheets. Oddly enough, I was not invited along to the weekly kaffeeklatch after class. The cherry on the sundae had to be the new puppy across the hall, who yaps all the time. Yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap. You know those battery-operated dogs in shopping malls that go "Yap yap yap yap yap" and then pause to flip over? This one sounds exactly like that, but without the pauses. Yap yap yap yap yap yap yap SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP OH GOD PLEASE JUST SHUT UP.

(And the owner's on the condo board, and the dog [who is admittedly very cute] is a birthday gift for her painfully adolescent son. Sigh.)

On Wednesday, I stupidly agreed to teach an SAT class on Thursday night. Some other instructor couldn't make it, and I want to keep my hand in so that I'll still have at least one of my jobs when I'm ready to go back to work. I envisioned going to the exercise class in the afternoon, and then teaching in the evening. Later that night I remembered that Thursday was the beginning of the TESL Ontario conference, and that the plenary speaker was Jeremy Harmer, one of the most well-known and respected names in the field. He wrote the book used in my TESL training course, and I'd been planning to go to the conference since... well, since last year's conference. (I have to go to these to maintain my professional certification, and anyway, it's nice to find out about what's going on in ESL-land.)

The realization that I'd overscheduled myself was enough to turn me into a sobbing wreck. It's too early. I can't have both a profession and a child. I'm a bad mother because I'm selfish enough to want stuff outside the realm of the baby when she's only six weeks old. Lizard Brain went into overdrive and I cried for more than an hour. Mr. K loved on me and told me to go to the conference and skip the class, but I couldn't back out: I'd committed, and like I said, I want to keep this job. Finally I worked out a plan: I'd go to the plenary speech on Thursday, register for the sessions on Saturday when Mr. K could look after the baby, and go ahead and teach Thursday night's class. Six teenage boys, a soccer team from north of the city. Bozhe moi.

On Thursday morning, though, the tide changed. At 9:30 the courier arrived with the package of materials that I was to teach from. Shortly thereafter, I got onto the streetcar with Clara and rode over to the hotel where the conference was taking place, arriving ten minutes before the speech began. I ran into some of my former colleagues, who were thrilled to meet the baby (and happy to see me, too). Clara was quiet as a mouse for the whole speech, which was more than worthwhile. I then had lunch with two of my friends, and went home for a few hours to prepare for the class.

Soon Clara and I were on the streetcar again and then the subway, heading up to the end of the line, where Mr. K met us and drove us up to York University (site of the class), stopping for subs on the way. (I had forgotten to factor my dinner into the day's plans.) The boys were 15 minutes late, so I had a chance to eat and feed the baby before they arrived.

I was on. I got through the assigned material at a good pace, adding stuff I think important at the appropriate places, and managed to keep them as focussed as anyone can when high school boys are punchy, pubescent, and tired. Even as recently as last year the prospect of teaching a class like this would have alarmed me, but you know what? After an unmedicated labour and childbirth, dealing with a few adolescent boys for three hours is nothing.

Mr. K brought the baby back at break time so that I could feed her, and then after the class was over he drove me home. Bless him. I married the right guy. Having to have a support staff in order to teach means that it's too tough for me to go back to it regularly at this point, but I am so glad I got the chance to do it for an evening. I remembered that I really am good at what I do, and realized that the confidence that's come to me from giving birth the way I did is going to affect the rest of my life. Can't ask for more than that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Farewell to the midwives


Melida, Clara, and Cynthia
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Today Clara was 59cm (23.2") long, had a head circumference of 38cm (about 15"), and weighed exactly eight pounds.

Today we said our goodbyes to the wonderful midwives -- their scope of practice is only to the sixth week of the baby's life. You can see that Clara likes staring at Cynthia, whose face is the first one she ever saw.

I cried on the way out of the clinic, from sadness that they won't be looking after us anymore, and from relief that we've gotten this far and have a healthy, happy baby.

I guess the changes aren't going to get any slower.

Every day a developmental milestone


The aforementioned play mat
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
See? She's smiling. At five weeks.

Today I put her on this mat on her belly, and she promptly rolled over onto her back. The intarweb sites about baby development say that this doesn't happen until the third month for advanced babies, or the end of the fourth month for average babies. She's at least a month and a half ahead of schedule. We're doomed.

Anniversary


Clara and her grandpa
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Friday was the night that Mr. K's parents came to visit; if I'd remembered it was our NINTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY I might have asked them to come on Saturday instead. But it ended up being good that they were here: Mr. K's mother looked after Clara for an hour so that Mr. K and I could go out to our new local brewpub. Clara was sleeping like an angel when we got home, but, of course, was in full meltdown mode for most of the time that we were gone. Poor Edna (not her real name, but it really is what we call her).

Pictured is Ralph (also not his real name); he is, as you can probably tell, not so comfortable with tiny babies.

Clara is eating well and filling diapers like there's no tomorrow. Her weight gain is still slow but she's growing like a weed: she's almost three inches taller than she was when she was born six weeks ago. (Six weeks ago!)

Postings are infrequent because it's hard to type with one hand. (The other hand is usually holding Clara to my breast.) But things are good. The blessed thistle and fenugreek are keeping my milk supply up, and the occasional glass of stout helps. I don't have body odor anymore; instead I smell of fenugreek. It's weird.

More pictures soon.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Welcome to Titland

Clara is the star of the show these days, and my breasts are the all-important supporting players. They are still tired and sore, and Clara wants nothing more than to gum them all day every day. Often she's not even eating; she just wants to suck on them for comfort. Although she is healthy, she is not gaining weight quickly enough to suit the midwives, and so they've got me back on four doses a day of fenugreek and blessed thistle. On Monday she was 7 pounds, 11 ounces; they were hoping for 7lbs 15oz. (7lbs 11oz is still much better than 6lbs 4oz, which was her lowest weight [and still an ounce and a half heavier than I was at birth].) Breastfed babies often take longer to gain weight, but are far less likely to become obese later in their lives.

She is a great baby, minimally fussy. When she does fuss, she wants to be fed or changed or picked up and held, or she wants a finger in her mouth. (We tried a pacifier. "PIH!" said Clara as she spat it out. Oh well.) She has been to two Movies for Mommies so far: last week's The Prestige and this week's Little Miss Sunshine. It has been many, many years since I saw two movies in movie theatres in such quick succession. Clara was wonderful: fed or slept straight through, both times. Bless her. Today I was practically giddy at having gotten out of the house with her all on my own. I'm mobile again! Hooray! Calloo callay!

Martha likes to sit on my lap pressed up against Clara as I feed her. Charlotte has finally, four weeks later, started to sleep on our bed again. She still doesn't like the baby, but she's seeming a little less freaked by the idea.

Mr. K has Clara in the sling right now, and she is sucking his finger for dear life. So I need to get some dinner together for him. Two nights ago I made a massive pad Thai (I make fabulous pad Thai, if I do say so myself), and last night we collaborated on a baked pasta dish with cheeses and tomato sauce and ricotta and the rest of the tofu left over from my mother's tofu cheese pie from the weekend. (My mother is a good cook. I wish she'd felt more like cooking while she was here. My dad, bless him, did the dishes several times and cleaned the bathrooms. Hooray for Dad.)

This time is hard, but also very rewarding. My love for Clara is sneaking up on me. I think that if it had hit all at once, my heart might have exploded. Sweet, sweet baby.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Life with baby

Something I didn't know before Clara was born: the active ingredients in Preparation H are yeast and shark liver oil. Who thought of this? "Ow, my anus hurts! I know, I'll squeeze the oil out of this here shark's liver and put it where the sun don't shine!"

I wonder about such things.

Clara is a great baby. She gets fussy sometimes, as babies do, but she doesn't cry much at all. One or the other of us is holding her just about all the time, except at night, when she sleeps in her co-sleeper. Mr. K has been reading about all the great benefits of having the baby sleep in the parents' bed, but when she does, I don't sleep. If I don't sleep, I don't make milk, and baby doesn't get enough to eat. (Plus I get incredibly cranky during the day.) So into the co-sleeper she goes.

We went to the Canadian Car Seat Installation Centre yesterday and let them do their thing. Clara is still very small and looks pretty ridiculous in the seat, but it's nice to know that she's protected when we're riding around. I sit in the back with her and Mr. K chauffeurs us as we go out to buy things such as nursing clothes for me, baby clothes for her, and small pieces of furniture from IKEA, such as a little table and chairs for the nursery (the chairs to be assembled later, when she is old enough to sit in them) and a pair of lamps for the living room. I'm finding it pretty necessary to get out of the house every day. Yesterday we discovered the baby care room at IKEA: wow. Nice armchairs, changing tables, free diapers (which we didn't need, but still), a nursing pillow, stuffed animals lurking here and there, dim lighting, and a lock on the door. We took Clara in there to change and feed her both before and after we went shopping; this meant that we could spend more time out of the house without worrying that she wasn't eating enough. (I'm still working on mastering the art of breastfeeding in public.) Why can't more places have rooms like that?

Clara wanted to eat ALL DAY yesterday. Every time I took her off the breast she wanted back on. While I was getting ready for bed, Mr. K gave her an ounce of expressed breast milk through the feeding tube off his finger, and she finished the whole ounce in four minutes. (She's been known to take as long as 25 to polish off the same amount.) There must be a growth spurt coming.

My parents arrive tomorrow, and Mr. K goes back to work on Tuesday. Life goes on whether you want it to or not.

Update: I see I'm getting a few hits from an amusingly satirical blog. The more I learn about breastfeeding, the better an idea it seems: savings of thousands of dollars, no supporting incredibly irresponsible and soulless corporations, non-stinky diapers, reduced chance of ovarian and breast cancer and osteoporosis for me, a better immune system for Clara, less stuff to haul around, no worries about formula recalls, and lots of quality time bonding with my baby. Yeah, it's being tough to get it started, but I know it's worth it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Progress

  1. Clara is feeding much better and is back up to her birth weight as of yesterday. Hooray. We went to the breastfeeding clinic again a couple of days ago to try to get her latch fixed, because my nipples were on fire. There was another couple there describing their experience having a baby at Mount Sinai Hospital. The doctors refused to give the baby to the mother for the first hour (critical bonding time) because they said her (the mother's) blood pressure was too low. Then the night nurse, when the baby wouldn't feed, laid a huge guilt trip on them about how the baby was STARVING and was going to get JAUNDICE and needed formula RIGHT THEN. What a great idea: actively discourage a new mother from trying to breastfeed. Grr. Hearing this made me nearly incandescent with anger. (Everything is very, very close to the surface right now.) If I hadn't thought before that we'd made the right decision to have midwives... This poor couple. We talked to them and tried to reassure them that yes, it's hard in the first week(s), but if they really want to do it they'll be able to feed their baby the way they want to. It was weird feeling like the grizzled veterans already.
  2. The family politics, never enjoyable even at the best of times, are taking their toll and, I suspect, are only going to get worse. Hint to everyone: now is not the time for deep discussions with me and it is not the time to grouse to anyone about my requests for only positive energy in the house. Sigh.
  3. I need more sleep.
  4. I don't want Mr. K to go back to work next week, even if my parents are going to be here. He's my rock.
  5. For a while this afternoon, both Clara and Martha were asleep on my lap, baby's back smooshed up against the cat's. Hooray redux. (Now if only Charlotte would start sleeping at the foot of the bed again instead of spending all her time downstairs.)
  6. Right now my life doesn't seem to have changed all that much from the way it was in the last month of my pregnancy: I'm home most of the time, I screw around on the Internet too much, I watch some TV, and it's hard to move around. The biggest difference is that I'm a lot more sleep-deprived, and there's someone small around who likes to munch on my tits all the time. She's not very interactive yet and even though I love her, I don't feel as engaged with her as part of me thinks I should be by now. But evidently this is normal too: falling completely in love with the baby takes time. Hard to believe she's two weeks old already.
  7. I think part of me is still grieving the loss of the first baby two years ago. When I lost the pregnancy, we wrapped the pee test stick up with an amethyst (would've been a February baby) and a cotton cloth I'd knitted, inside a piece of paper that Mr. K had made. Something from his hands and something from mine. We buried the little package on A. Island, where his parents have a bit of property. (Our beloved James is buried there too.) Last night it occurred to me to put Clara's footprints on another piece of Mr. K's handmade paper; I mentioned the idea to him this morning. He said that he'd thrown the paper out during the Great Cleaning before the baby came. I went to pieces and cried for much of the day. Tonight, thank heaven, he found five pieces of it. Oddly enough, I don't feel that much better yet. Tomorrow we're going to hunt down some water-soluble ink.
  8. Clara is stirring. Titmunching time again, I guess.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Martha seems to have come to terms with the recent addition

Charlotte... not so much. She spent the first three days downstairs. She's reclaimed her place at the foot of the bed, but the second that Clara starts fussing, Charlotte is gone like a shot. Pics here.

Clara had a big day: her grandparents, Aunt Sheila, and great-aunt Mary came to visit. Grandma made lunch (her famous mac and cheese). The visit was nice and it was good to see everyone, but it seemed more exhausting for me and Mr. K than it did for Clara: it's still hard having extra people around, even if they're helping.

Clara has had lots of visitors so far, and more are on the way. Aunt Dori and her sweetie Melody blew through town on Monday night, leaving Dori's and my parents to be the last close family to meet her. They're arriving on the 21st and staying until the 31st. I'm a bit worried about this. It will of course be great to see them, but as I said, even the mere presence of extra people in the house right now is draining, and we're going to have to be crystal clear that there is to be no negative energy brought in. Certain topics (like family politics) stay outside, for example. If it gets to be too much, I think we'll gently suggest that my parents visit Mr. K's for a day or three.

In other news, Clara is feeding much, much better. She's not getting all her nutrition on the breast, but she's figured out how to nurse and will do it much of the time. (If only my nipples weren't so damn sore.) She had her first bath last night, going into the tub with me, and got through it by breastfeeding for dear life. Sweet little girl.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Feeding Clara; how to visit new parents; where we've found help so far

On feeding Clara. She had her first away mission yesterday, to the breastfeeding clinic at the Toronto East General Hospital. A very, very nice public health nurse watched Clara at the nipple, and then made some suggestions and adjusted how I was holding her. Clara then fed like a champ for more than 20 minutes. As we were leaving the clinic I was teary-eyed with relief: she can do it, she can do it, we're over the next hurdle.

After we got home, Clara decided once again: screw you, nipple; I want the finger with the tube. So back she went to the clinic today.

Today's nurse watched what I was doing and said yes, you're doing everything exactly right; it's just going to take time for her to figure it out. This evening, Clara will go to the nipple without screaming, she'll get a great latch, and then she'll just hang out without sucking. This is a step forward, so we're happy about it. Each small step brings us closer to an easily fed baby. So many parents have told us that the first few weeks of breastfeeding their kids were sheer hell, but that they got through the rough patch, and the patience required to get things started is more than worthwhile.

How to visit new parents. Mr. K's sister Sheila is the queen of visiting new parents. She's in the first days of her student teaching, so she has plenty to keep her busy in her own life. But on Monday she brought us a full homecooked Thanksgiving dinner, spent some time visiting with the baby, and then washed all of our dishes. Washing the dishes seems like a trivial thing, but for new parents who are overwhelmed by everything, it's a wonderful gift. Every time she comes by she brings food and support and a sensitive ear, helping so much to keep a positive energy in the house even when she herself is exhausted. She puts her own stuff aside and just pitches in to help. Yay Sheila.

Moxie describes the first days at home with baby beautifully:

[You] soon realize that you'll be attempting to nurse, changing diapers, attempting to nurse, changing diapers, attempting to nurse, changing diapers on a nonstop loop, spelled only by going to the bathroom to change your pad and looking at your partner saying "We have a baby!" with a mixture of wonder and fear.

When you're doing nothing but lactating and changing diapers, your partner has to pick up the slack by doing everything else involved in not only running a household, but changing your entire way of life. Plus fielding phone calls and dealing with a crying baby and crying mom (the hormones!). It's really hard.

You'll need help.

It's easy to think about how romantic the first few weeks after the baby's birth will be, when your cozy little family will be working things out. And it's true that it might be like that. Some people have a pretty smooth postpartum period. But it's also a possibility that you'll be either a little or a lot overwhelmed, the three of you, with odd sleeping schedules and engorgement and sore nipples and poop all over and dirty laundry and crying (all three of you) and friends demanding pictures and thank-you notes and it's-8-o'clock-what-are-we-having-for-dinner? and you're all just so tired. And it would be really helpful to have someone there who could fix you some food or take out the trash or even just smooth your hair and tell you you're doing a good job.

You need someone who will actually help you, not make you cook or make tea or have certain things on hand while s/he holds your baby and gets all the sighs and coos you should be getting. The only people who are allowed to come for more than an hour are people who understand they're there to help you, not just fawn over the baby.

Amen, sister.

Places where we have found help so far. So many people have been unbelievably kind to us. Andrea Page of FitMom kept me in shape through the pregnancy, gave freely of her endless knowledge and encouragement, and even lent us her handheld electric breast pump. Cristi and Ian got me through the pregnancy by giving me a huge stash of maternity clothes. My dear friend AM, who just had a baby herself four weeks ago, has sent us a shiny new double pump that her insurance covered but that she doesn't need; she's been checking in almost every day to see how everyone is doing. Cynthia, Melida, and Tia, the midwives: I can't say enough about them, especially Cynthia. Stephanie, our doula, coached us through an intense labour and helped make sure that the birth was exactly what we'd wanted. She's even going to give us boxes of baby clothes as she cleans out her basement. Moxie and her commenters have been lifesavers. The nurses at the TEGH breastfeeding clinic have given us reassurance and calmness. Mr. K's colleagues sent a huge, gorgeous bouquet that has been brightening the bedroom for a week now. Vik, those two blankets you guys gave us are in heavy, heavy rotation; Clara sleeps swaddled in one or the other every night. Everyone who chats with me on AIM (Krapsnart) or Yahoo (Knitchyk) is helping keep me sane as I try to adjust to this fundamental shift in my identity. (This will become even more important when Mr. K goes back to work and the midwives aren't dropping in every few days. I have a history of clinical depression and am doing my damnedest to ward off the PPD.) And so many our friends and family have offered congratulations and support: this is a wondrous time, but it's also very hard and we are vulnerable. We really, really appreciate your kindness.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Evidently breastfeeding has a learning curve.

Holy fez, have we been having a rough few days. My milk did indeed come in, but not enough of it, because Clara hasn't been nursing enough to get it going well yet. A typical feeding: I pump my breasts for 15 minutes and get less than an ounce of milk. We tape a tube to my nipple and put a bright-eyed little Clara to the breast. She finds the tube and gets a bad latch on my breast as she drinks greedily from the easy supply. We pull her away to try to get a good latch. She gets angry and starts to scream, then refuses to go back on the nipple. We end up finger-feeding her what's left for the tube. She finishes it in less than a minute, then screams and screams because she's still hungry.

Alternatively, we try to wake her up for a middle-of-the-night feeding (which she needs; she's lost more than a pound since she was born) and nothing will rouse her. Not tickling her feet, not swabbing her with a cold wet cloth, not speaking to her loudly, not changing her diaper, nothing. Except maybe another finger feeding, which means another missed opportunity to get her established on the breast.

Or: I let her suck my finger for a while, then try to move her mouth to my breast. She starts to scream. She seems to want to suck anything (finger, wet washcloth, her own hand) except what makes the food.

This morning she was busily refusing my nipple while Mr. K was downstairs getting me some breakfast, and the dam finally broke and I started to sob. When he came back up to report that the breastfeeding clinic at the Toronto East General Hospital was closed today (Canadian Thanksgiving), he started to sob too.

You know what? Sometimes the occasional sob really helps.

So we called Cynthia. She has been so great through this: she came over at quarter to ten on Saturday night to see what she could do to help, and she came again today with some herbs (fenugreek and blessed thistle) to get my milk supply going. She stayed for the better part of three hours and saw a whole attempted feeding, from the pumping, to the WAKEY WAKEY bit, to the tightly pursed little lips at the nipple, to the screaming, and eventually to the finger and tube put in frustration into Clara's tiny mouth just to get something into her.

Cynthia, in consultation with Melida, finally recommended that we do this:
  1. Boost my milk supply with pumping and herbs.
  2. Put Clara to the breast as much as possible, supplementing what she can get out of there with whatever breast milk I can produce plus whatever formula (sigh) is needed to bring the supplement to two ounces.
  3. Go to the TEGH clinic tomorrow.
So that's the current plan.

Just sitting and talking to Cynthia for more than an hour, about babies, career choices, life histories, travel, etc., made me feel so much better. When she finally left, able to report that even with Clara's grumpiness she'd still gained two ounces since Saturday, I felt calm again. Mr. K and I have been trying so hard to stay calm and positive to keep a good vibe going in the house, but there's only so much we can do by sheer force of will. I know this will all work out and that I'll be able to breastfeed this baby, but oy, I can sure see how tempting it would be to throw up one's hands and just quit trying. And there are all those formula companies lurking and waiting to prey on exhausted parents who just want to make sure their babies are getting enough to eat, waiting to profit from people's misery. I feel very lucky to have so much support available to get us through this fiercely difficult stretch.

I find myself thinking a lot about whether these first few days reflect Clara's character: will she always be so impatient? What can we do to teach her patience, now and later?

I look at this tiny person on my chest and think: I cannot believe how much I love you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

There really is a baby here

Clara, Mr. K, and I have spent the past few days learning about each other. She likes instant gratification. My milk is not in yet. Yesterday was rough. She screamed for the entire day and well into the night because even though she could get a good latch on my breasts, the good stuff didn't arrive quickly enough to suit her. By 2am she was dehydrated and we were beside ourselves. Mr. K took her into the nursery to rock her for a while so I could try to sleep, but when the shrieks of desperation started again, they hit me like jolts of electricity.

I checked Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding, which mentions that the second best choice for a newborn after pure colostrum is colostrum mixed with a bit of sugar water. So I hauled my sore self downstairs and made up a little shot glass for her.

Mr. K held her as I cup-fed her. We both got teary-eyed hearing her swallow. She calmed down immediately, and even fed from the breast for a while afterwards. Words cannot convey the relief we felt.

The midwives visited this morning, and Melida, the primary one, confirmed our decision, saying, "You have to go with whatever works." She and Cynthia, the student midwife who was mostly in charge during the labour and birth, gave us a piece of long, 1/16" surgical tubing. One end goes in the sugar water, and the other end goes right next to my nipple. This way, Clara gets her instant gratification, and once she's sucking, away goes the tube. This is a fabulous way to jump-start a feeding: she gets fussy, she gets a few drops of sweetness, she's on the nipple and happy. She's been drinking colostrum on and off all day, and the more she works, the sooner the milk comes. Melida says it will probably arrive by tonight. Yay!

Adam asks (hi Adam!) who does suturing at a home birth. If the home birth is attended by midwives, as this one was, they do. In Ontario, registered midwives go to school for five years and do at least a year of supervised clinical practice, as Cynthia is doing now. They bring a great deal of equipment to a birth: oxygen, a neonatal resuscitation unit, IV supplies, and so forth: at least 80% of what would be available in a hospital. They have to be recertified annually to do certain procedures, and often what they do is based more on evidence and research than what many OBs do. Plus, they don't limit themselves to what would be available in a hospital pharmacy: they use a lot of traditional herbal remedies such as black cohosh and blue cohosh (which brought on my labour like gangbusters after the water broke) and the aforementioned shepherd's purse, which is very effective at stopping bleeding. I suspect midwives have been using such remedies for hundreds of years.

Mr. K and I have both been so impressed by them and by the quality of care that Clara and I have received. They are far less interested in numbers than they are in holistic assessment, and this laid-back approach suits us all just fine. For example, they never asked once about my weight, because they don't consider it as relevant as the size of the uterus. They put Clara onto my chest as soon as she was born, and gave us well over an hour together before they even mentioned weighing or measuring her. Today they didn't weigh her or check her bilirubin levels (she's a bit jaundiced, as is common in breastfed newborns); Melida told us just to put her in sunlight, which has worked wonders already. Melida's quiet wisdom seemed a bit brusque at first, but as we've gotten to know her it's come to seem exactly the right approach. Cynthia's enthusiasm and love for her new work make her a wonderful complement to Melida. Cynthia's eyes were so bright as she talked about how exciting it was for her to watch the development of this baby in utero and then finally meet her on the outside.

They've shown great respect for the emotional and spiritual aspects of pregnancy and birth, as well as great medical knowledge and competence. I feel that they've cared for us as whole people, and that has been such a gift.

And now Clara Elizabeth sleeps on my chest, and all is right with the world.

P. S. It has taken all day to write this. The milk truck has arrived. My breasts are now bigger than Clara's head. Yow.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Meet Clara

Clara Elizabeth Born at home with wonderful midwives and a doula yesterday at 6:41am. Seven pounds, six ounces; 20.5 inches long. My water broke with a huge gush at 2:30 Monday morning, and by midnight I'd started seven hours of intense, intense unmedicated active labour, most of it standing up and hanging on for dear life to Mr. K. Eventually they got me to sit down on a birthing stool, and she crowned fairly quickly after that. At the end of it her whole little body came out with one giant push.

She is alert and mostly very calm. She and I are learning how to keep her fed. I am sore -- I tore in a bunch of rather odd places and needed stitches, and oh my god the hemorrhoids -- and had a bad time yesterday a couple of hours after the birth when I got up to use the washroom. I ended up leaving a trail of bloody footprints from the bed to the toilet, and nearly passed out while I was sitting there. A big bottle of Gatorade, a shot of Oxytocin, and some shepherd's purse helped a lot; within hours I was feeling worlds better.

The home birth was exactly the right option for us. Surrounded by familiar things, able to move around as we wanted, into our own bed shortly after her arrival. I haven't been out of bed much since; she's been getting plenty of skin-to-skin contact. So far she's met Mr. K's parents and sister, who are somewhat pleased to have her around. Mr. K has handled all the diaper duty so far, which is more than fine with me.

She is here and I feel like a lioness.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Waiting



Waiting
Originally uploaded by Spamily
I think I give this baby at least another week in utero, maybe more. The prenatal instructor said that first babies come an average of eight days after the "due date," and I don't feel like this one is in a hurry, even if the head is down.

Sleepers and onesies and socks and diapers and receiving blankets are slowly accumulating in the nursery. We're going out tomorrow for a changing pad to go on top of the dresser that used to be full of yarn.

J., the aforementioned prenatal instructor, has picked up on the grief and fear that are still lingering from the miscarriage two years ago, and suggested an extra hypnotherapy session to help me let them go. I find myself awfully skeptical, and yet willing to grasp at anything that will make it hurt less. This baby doesn't deserve to have birth slowed or made more difficult by anguish about what might have been. So I think I'll take J. up on her offer, and see what happens.

In cat news, Martha has been unbelievably clingy the past couple of nights. bringing her snake directly onto the bed next to me, and spending most of each night curled up half on top of my belly and half on top of the body pillow. Yesterday when I was puttering around in the nursery, she and Charlotte both came tearing up the stairs and then spent a while running around the room, wild-eyed. There's a disturbance in their Force. Poor kitties. They don't know the half of it yet.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thirty-nine weeks

It is getting harder and harder to haul myself off the couch. When I sit on the exercise ball, my belly touches it. This baby is riding low.

I am still making it to my FitMom classes -- last night was yoga -- and this afternoon I'll be out of the house for quite a while, first for a massage appointment, then for some shopping, then for a haircut. (If I want a nap today, I'd better have one now.)

The painter finished last Thursday. The nursery is a nice cheerful yellow with red and green here and there. The master bedroom is a dark indigo-purple, slightly darker than before. It looks fabulous. The piles of crap are diminishing slowly; yesterday we got rid of the big pine table that had been my desk for years. I posted it on Freecycle.org, a network intended to keep stuff out of landfills by making it easy to give things away. Within a few hours I had a response; a single mother of three is moving out of her basement apartment and needed a new dining table. We probably could've gotten $40 out of it if I'd tried to sell the thing, but giving it away to someone who really needs it was much better karma. Now to move along the old CD cabinet, my old nightstand, and a box of tumbled marble tiles.

Mr. K is under the gun for a big deadline at work; he pledged that he'd be able to finish this piece of work before the baby showed up, and so he's really feeling a lot of pressure. I find myself getting nervous that the baby will come before he's had the chance to learn enough about labour and birth. I'm glad we've hired a doula.

Man. I am exhausted. I think that nap is a good idea. (Hello, baby. You sure are active today.)

(By the way, I did vanquish the bootie pattern. The results are ridiculously cute. Pictures forthcoming.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

There oughta be a disclaimer

This pattern for knitted booties ought to have a warning on it:
Warning: not suitable for pregnant women
It is way too fecking complicated for my poor shriveled brain.

I will vanquish it. I will.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The nursery


The nursery
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
The baby could show up any minute now and still be considered full term. The picture shows what the baby's room looked like as of yesterday. You might notice the dearth of baby-related stuff and the surplus of random crap.

We spent yesterday evening mucking the room out (into the study, which was previously pretty much done and is now unusable), and also doing lots to move stuff away from the walls in the master bedroom. When my midwife told me to stay away from paint fumes, I decided I didn't want to leave all the painting responsibilities on Dave's shoulders. I also decided that it would be a very good idea to cover the flat indigo paint in the big bedroom with an eggshell paint, so that when the kid gets mobile and starts leaving marks everywhere we'll be able to scrub them off. And I didn't want the painting going on with a baby in the house, so I broke down and hired a painter. He will take three days to do the whole job, and it will look great, and it will be done.

He started today. The room in the picture is now almost empty, and it's a nice yellow with a red bulkhead and green closet doors. Tomorrow he'll do the windowsill, the door, and the baseboards, and then he'll get started on the bedroom. Nice guy, highly recommended by others in the building. So: yay.

My feet and ankles are sausages. I'm finally getting stretch marks across my belly. I grunt a lot when I move around. I'm glad I'm not working anymore, because it's so much effort to get anywhere, and I get exhausted very easily. But even with all the discomfort and unpleasantness, I've really loved being pregnant. It's amazing to know that my body can do this, can build a tiny person by combining two cells. I'm a little sad that this part of the process is almost over.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thirty-seven weeks

Yesterday the primary midwife (M.) and the student midwife (C.) made their home visit. The cats were friendly; Martha certainly did turn on the charm. M. and C. had a look around the place, deemed the master bedroom an appropriate place in which to give birth, and then examined me. Blood pressure 110/80, fundal height 36cm, baby's heart rate 144bpm, head engaged in the pelvis, body starting to turn so that the back is toward my front. This last in particular is very good news, because I'm told it's extremely painful to give birth to a baby whose skull is pressed up against one's tailbone. (This is what's known as the dreaded back labour.)

Plus, we've made it to 37 weeks. The baby could come today and be considered full term. People keep telling me that first babies are usually late, though; we could be waiting for another five weeks. I hope that labour waits for at least three more, because the prenatal classes that we're taking end on October 4.

I'm not sure what to think about these classes. I've been very glad to be able to approach this birth with so much attention to its emotional and spiritual aspects as well as to its physical ones; the traditional medical model of care tends to ignore all the touchy-feely stuff (literally, with babies often being whisked away to warming units when they'd do far better to be lying skin-to-skin on the mother's chest). And even though I'm more than a bit of a hippie, I find myself oddly resistant to the idea of self-hypnosis, and I'm having a hard time achieving the deep relaxation that we're being taught. The classes are paid for, though, and I'm sure it'll be good for me to hold a lot of my fears about labour, birth, and being a parent up to the light so that I can try to let them go. It is nice to be in a class in which everyone has a midwife, not an OB.

Plans for the next week: exercise class tonight at 7:30. Lunch with the old boss and his wife tomorrow at 1:00. (I have to figure out a nice gift to give them. Suggestions welcome. They've been very good to me.) Trip to the west end tomorrow evening to look at the contact sheet for the pictures we had taken last Saturday, and to pick up another dozen and a half cloth diapers. (Doug: we're planning to wash them ourselves.) Then back out east to greet Teezonk and two other friends who are coming for the weekend.

Saturday is the neighbourhood garage sale; if I weren't so lazy I'd have spent part of today making price tags for all the stuff we need to get rid of. Saturday night we're having dinner at the Thai restaurant owned by one of my former students. (I hope she's there; I'd dearly love to see her.) Sunday we see our friends off and then get to work moving furniture and boxes of crap so that the painter can show up on Monday morning to work on the nursery and the master bedroom for three days.

Monday is lunch with my awesome trainer, with whom I hope to start working again a couple of months after the baby comes, and then yoga class in the evening. Wednesday is lunch with my friend Mika, and then another prenatal class in the evening.

I write all this here mostly to keep myself from forgetting something. I'm looking forward to getting my brain back someday. It's not a bad brain, when it has enough serotonin floating around.

I'm going to go downstairs and get some more food and water, and put my feet up, and finish this second baby hat. I like knitting for babies: yesterday's hat took, yup, one day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Baby-related consumer-based activities

Yesterday we dropped a lot of money on cloth diapers (yes we are planning to use cloth diapers), a diaper pail, diaper covers, and a baby carrier. On Thursday, after we dropped my parents off at the Buffalo airport, we went to a Babies-wah-Us* and bought a co-sleeper bassinet that attaches to the side of the bed. It's exactly what we wanted, but we couldn't find the Arms' Reach brand in Canada. We also bought a couple of onesies and a couple of sleep suits with feet. One of them has little trains on it because Mr. Krapsnart is such a railfan. High cuteness.

*Our friend Steve K., lexicographer extraordinaire, calls it this because the backwards "R" is pronounced "wah" in the Cyrillic alphabet. I love hanging out with language geeks.

The other thing we did yesterday was go to a professional photographer who shot pictures of me and the belly (clothed and not), and pictures of me, the belly, and Mr. K. We've been together for more than 14 years and had never had a professional portrait taken before. We'll have a contact sheet (she uses film!) next week, and some prints sometime after that. I am very excited about this, and very happy to have found a good photographer on short notice. (Had tried Heather Rivlin a while ago, but she's booked at least eight months in advance.)

I feel like every step we take toward getting ready to have a real baby around will delay the imminent arrival that little bit more.

People have been asking where we're registered. This is a very good question. The answer right now is that we aren't. This morning I tried registering at the Sears Canada website. Feh, I say. Feh. The "Register online" page was nearly impossible to find, and once I'd filled out our information (which I hate sending over the Internet) I discovered that there seemed to be no way to add items from the website to the registry. So I called the 800 number and, after being talked at for ten minutes by a particularly loquacious CSR, confirmed that no, there is no way to do everything online; to add items you either have to go to the store and fire a scanner gun at the things you want, or sit at home typing in numbers from the (paper) catalog.

Grr. So much for Sears.ca, then.

(Martha is washing Charlotte's head as I type this. They usually have quite an adversarial relationship, so this is nice to watch.)

Even though we've bought some stuff there, I don't think I want to register with Babies-wah-Us because they seem to have been pretty crappy corporate citizens over the past few years. Amazon.ca doesn't have all the baby stuff that amazon.com has, and most things coming in from amazon.com would be subject to Canadian taxes and import duties on arrival. So I'm at a bit of a loss about a registry. It would be nice to have one so we could specify "no pink or blue pastel" (one of the biggest reasons we haven't been forthcoming about whether this baby is a boy or girl, even though we've been 95% sure for months*) and "no branding, especially no Disney." Much of what we're buying is in bright colours (babies see them better!), and, well, don't get me started about Disney. (They bought Pooh Bear, dammit. And never mind their stranglehold on the American media, and the sexism and racism in so many of their products, and and and... Like I said, don't get me started. I'll know I've lived a bad life if I die and find myself eternally trapped in Disneyland.)

*Recently I was talking to a friend about boy and girl babies, and mentioned that one of my cousins and his wife had been expecting one and been surprised by the arrival of the other. My friend's response: "That would have been such a disaster! We'd have had to redo the whole nursery!" I don't get it; I really don't. Everything we have so far is unisex.

And yes, I freely admit that my stances on corporate and personal social responsibility are inconsistent and even at times hypocritical. I could be far more diligent than I am about refusing to buy anything made in China; I could spend a lot more time researching the provenance of what I buy; I could get off my ass and actually move the money in my RRSP out of the big corporate funds where it lives now and into more socially responsible funds at the credit union. [FWIW, the bulk of my investments, made back when I was living la corporate vida loca ten years ago or so, are in ConglomMutualFundsCo's ostensibly "socially responsible" fund, which has done much better than many of their other ones.)

But: I live in a big city and almost never drive; I haven't eaten meat in 15 years; lots of my non-pregnancy clothing is made from organic cotton; and I do my damnedest to avoid buying anything made by Nestlé. I'm going to have to think about all this stuff a lot more so that I can explain it to our child over the next few years and provide enough education and facts to enable the kid to make her or his own decisions.

This is the long-winded way of saying that no, we are not registered anywhere, and probably won't be. We really appreciate the inquiries, though. You guys are awesome. If you really want to send us something, drop me a comment or an e-mail and I'll send you our address.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Almost 36 weeks


Almost 36 weeks
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
The scary thing is that this is the biggest my tits have ever been.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes

This morning started at 7:00 when the alarm went off. We lay there dozing through the national news on CBC, me with my head on Mr. K's chest and my leg across his legs, Martha curled up in the small of my back. Charlotte, as always, was at the foot of the bed.

I got up at about 7:40 and got into the shower. After I was clean and dressed, I came downstairs and had some breakfast: a scrambled egg, slices of cheese, and a pile of alfalfa sprouts on a wholegrain English muffin. Mr. K has become very efficient at making my little breakfast sandwiches. I put on a bit of makeup (concealer under my eyes, some definition for my eyebrows), poked around on the Web for a bit, and finally got out of the house just after 8:45.

The Pigeon Man was out this morning, lying on a small mound of grass in the little parkette he frequents, shaking out a bag of bread to feed the masses of pigeons and sparrows that were clustered around and on top of him. He always looks terribly unhealthy, just inches from death with his sunken cheeks and hollow eyes, but he's there almost every day, pulling on his giant foul-smelling stogie and letting the birds surround him.

As I walked north I didn't see the tall, nervous, thin woman who always seems to be in a rush to get to work. Nor did I see the squarish red-haired guy with the chinstrap beard.

The streetcar was relatively empty and I got a seat with no trouble. I'd forgotten the new September Metropass, but the very kind driver let me on anyway and even gave me a transfer so I could get on the subway. The chimes of the cathedral announced nine o'clock as we went past, letting me know I was on time.

I got onto the subway and rode to work. Took the stairs out of the subway station, and the two flights after I got into the building. Went into the tiny little teachers' room, chatted a bit with another teacher, gathered the books I needed, and went off to class, where I had one (1) student.

This routine, with minor variations (usually more students), has been my weekday morning for months now. Today was its last hoorah. I taught for a couple of hours, and then cleaned my stuff out of the fridge, said my farewells to my boss and his wife (they're taking me out for lunch next week), and left.

This is the seventh job I've left since I finished university. It doesn't get easier to walk away. This is the first time, though, that I've had someone kicking me from the inside to remind me why I'm going.

I've been thinking a lot about the work I do and about how it's compensated: even though there are more letters after my name than after Mr. K's, I make a fraction of what he does, and my jobs are far less stable. I discovered a week or two ago that I am most likely not eligible for any sort of maternity leave because I've been officially self-employed for the last eight months (read: working for a place that's too small to afford a payroll system).

The work I'm drawn to -- teaching English as a second language within the realm of social service -- is traditionally underpaid. There seems to be an assumption that because it's good, meaningful work, often in the nonprofit sector, those who do it shouldn't expect more pay. Aren't you committed to the cause? How dare you want more money? Shouldn't you be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good? (This hasn't been the case at all at the job I just finished, but then that job wasn't at a nonprofit.)

I find myself wondering about the degree to which the inequity of compensation between jobs I can get and the job that Mr. K has is linked with gender: when I go to professional conferences, I can't help but notice that 90% of my colleagues are female. Even the ESL jobs that aren't connected to social service are usually underpaid and unstable. (At one conference, the [male] keynote speaker noted that ESL teaching is "the armpit of academia." ESL programs in schools are often the first ones to be cut when budgets get tight.)

And the instability of my pink-collar job means that I don't get benefits when I have to take time off to do the unpaid work that women have been doing for millennia. This isn't what I had in mind when I finished my degree at a feminist women's college.

I'm feeling deeply dissatisfied by the lack of structural support available for women who find themselves in what are traditionally "women's jobs" and need to leave for a while to bring new people into the world. People keep telling me I'm lucky to be able make choices, but even if I had a job that guaranteed me a maternity leave, it just wouldn't make any financial sense at all for me to keep working and Mr. K to drop to only 55% of his salary so that he could take time off. For economic reasons, I have to make exactly the same decision that a working woman did 40 years ago.

So that's what's been kicking around in my head for the past couple of weeks. Kicking around in my belly is a baby, whose imminent arrival is freaking me out no end. Baby baby baby.

My parents are here, and they and Mr. K and I spent the afternoon poking around baby shops. We have bought almost nothing even though I'm due in less than five weeks. Right now the baby's possessions add up to this:
  • a dark blue Wellesley onesie
  • twelve small washcloths
  • three receiving blankets (two of which were gifts from friends)
  • a pair of soft-soled shoes (also a gift from friends)
  • one pair of socks (gift from my parents)
  • one bib (gift from my parents)
  • a travel playpen (a gift from Pina and Ian, given when they visited and their then-13-month-old needed a place to sleep)
  • a sling (also from Pina and Ian)
So far no diapers (we're planning to use cloth), no co-sleeper or crib, no big pile of onesies, no diaper cream, no nipple cream, no "so you've gone and had a baby" books, no changing table, no bedding, no curtains, no car seat, no stroller. The nursery looks like a storage room: it is currently full of crap purged from my study (soon to be our study, but currently in use as a guest room for my parents) and stuff that Mr. K needs to deal with. We haven't even bought paint yet.

I am simultaneously equanimous and overwhelmed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I guess we're keeping each other

After eleven years of living together and almost nine of marriage, it's finally happened: we've merged our book collections. I am thrilled about this. We merged the CDs long ago, but now I finally feel completely married. Phew.

The merger is a result of having to consolidate Mr. K's study into mine so that his can become the baby's room. Even though we've been working like dogs for a couple of weeks now, remarkably little has happened in what will be the nursery; it's all been going on in my room and the master bedroom.

Mr. K has complained for years that he's tired of having IVAR shelves. I've lost count of how many times I'd suggested Billy, only to have him veto those as well. So we've lived with IVAR for more than a decade, and it has served us well. Last weekend, however, I suggested getting an IVAR desk, and that seemed to push him over the edge. On Sunday he phoned from IKEA and said, "How about some Billy shelves?"

I am proud to report that I didn't climb through the telephone wire and hit him.

So now we have Billy shelving in the study we will share. Installing it involved taking all the books off the old shelves, disassembling the old shelves, assembling the new shelves, and putting most of the books back onto them. They have somewhat less capacity than the old ones, so there've been piles of books sitting on the floor quietly awaiting new homes.

Some of the IVAR has gone into our bedroom closet, which is (thank you, idiot architects and idiot builder) too shallow to hang clothes in. (We had to spend a large chunk of money six years ago to get a wardrobe and drawers installed along one wall of the bedroom.) All the trade paperbacks went in there, as did my collection of film books.* That closet is now done, yay.

* A great interest in silent film a few years ago resulted in the accumulation of a decent little library about it. My changing interests are reflected in my books: I have collections about not only silent film but representations of the female body, knitting, writing, teaching ESL, weightlifting and triathlon training, and Shakespeare. And that doesn't touch the novels.

Because Mr. K was out of town for the weekend helping his parents get their place ready for their 50th anniversary festivities in a couple of weeks, K. and J. came over today to help me move the five-foot solid pine table out of the study and assemble the new computer desk, which is considerably more complicated to put together than the Billy shelves were. Despite some very frustrating moments resulting from our not having read the directions carefully enough, we all managed to maintain remarkable equanimity and good humour. Hooray for us. I now have a new, fully assembled desk.

Left to do: take down the other wall shelf so that the printer can go on top of the desk. Plaster over the holes in the wall, and sand, prime, and paint them. Empty the contents of the large pine dresser (a ridiculous quantity of yarn and an embarrassing number of unfinished knitting projects) into big plastic tubs (yet to be bought) that will go into the linen closet. Move the dresser out of the study. Put my computer desk into place and reassemble the computer. Move Mr. K's computer desk into the study. Buy a four-drawer filing cabinet and fill it with the contents of both two-drawer filing cabinets. Dispose of the two-drawer filing cabinets. Sell the large pine table. Sell the big queen-sized futon that used to be our couch. (Snif. So many guest-based adventures happened on that futon. I'll be sorry to see it go.) Get a smaller pullout sofa to go into the study so that we still have room to put up guests. Paint the baby's room. Move the dresser into the baby's room. Get a changing table and a crib, preferably one that can be converted into a bed.

I get slightly dizzy thinking about all of it. And I don't stop working until the middle of September, and my parents arrive on August 23 to stay for two weeks. I still don't know where we're going to put them.

Best student error I think I've ever received, in a short essay about earthworms: "For instance, earthworms destroy the soil cover by taking neutrinos from pants."

Memo to my students: do NOT trust the spell checker. Just don't.

(Beware the pants neutrinos!)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Seven months


Duck suit
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
The nesting instinct has kicked in and we are trying to (a) excavate space in my study and (b) consolidate the contents of Mr. K's so that we can turn his into the nursery and move his stuff in with mine. There is a large, slowly disintegrating pine dresser (from IKEA, hence the disintegration) in my study that is full of yarn and unfinished knitting projects. There are also a half dozen large shopping bags around the house full of same. The knitting muse, once so much with me that I could hardly put my needles down, has been mostly absent for the past few years. She'd gone on holiday before, but never for this long.

I had at least half a dozen projects so close to completion that all they needed were a few hours' work. To wit: this duck suit needed some ends darned in, and the eyes and buttons sewn on. The nesting instinct is so powerful that it yanked the knitting muse back from vacation and forced her to sit with me as I went ahead and finished this damn thing. Hooray! One project out of a shopping bag and into... um... I guess, another shopping bag that will eventually fill up with things for the baby. We'll keep that new bag in the bedroom so I can at least feel like I've accomplished something in the study.

I also finished a child's sweater (but can't yet figure out how to blog more than one picture at a time, so you'll have to check my Flickr stream to see it). That one is going into the mail, so at least that's something out of the house.

Then there was the sock that just needed the toe stitches grafted together. I'm working on the mate for that one right now. Should have it done in a couple of days, and then I can make a baby blanket. I'm thinking a much shorter version of Alice Starmore's "Little Rivers" wrap, in bright red superwash sock yarn.

Knitting in sock weight yarn is not going to make much of a dent in the stash. Sigh. But at least the return of the muse seems to mean that I can stop with the compulsive Sudoku-ing.

The pregnancy continues and the baby is moving a lot. I am still coughing (after twelve weeks), with no sign of infection; the new theory is that the cough is somehow connected with the unbelievable heartburn. Thursday night and again last night, the cough woke me up in the wee hours and got so bad that it sent me flying to the washroom to puke. I guess the baby doesn't like Betty's black bean burritos. Alas.

At least coughing this much is making my abdominal muscles stronger for the birth. I really am feeling mostly positive about all this, even if my navel is disappearing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Backup midwife

Met the backup midwife today, and really liked her. She said that my glucose tolerance test came back fine (yay!) and that the baby's head is already down. She also pointed out that the baby had a foot up under my ribcage on the right. Yes, thank you (oof), I had figured out that (oof) a pretty powerful limb was there (oof). So far, all seems to continue to go well. Thursday is the 29-week mark.

We will meet the spare emergency auxiliary backup midwife in two weeks.

Still having trouble grokking the idea that there's going to be an actual baby. People keep asking whether we've bought anything or registered anywhere. We have bought one thing: a dark blue onesie with the name of my alma mater on it. My fitness instructor says you really need only two things when the baby arrives: diapers and nipple cream. I'm down with that. (Although a good friend also recommends lots of soft washcloths plus ass cream. Makes sense.)

The post about home birth may have to wait for a couple of weeks. I accidentally left the sheaf of photocopies from the student midwife at the in-laws' house, and today I finally returned the copy of Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery to the midwives' library. I'm waiting for my own copy to arrive from Amazon (haven't been able to find one in a bookstore). It's worth quoting. So far it's my favourite book about pregnancy and childbirth by a long shot. It was published in 1977, so all the pictures are of hardcore hippies and lots of the birth stories are full of words like "psychedelic" and "tantric" and "heavy." The mellow vibe is bringing me great joy. Ina May and her colleagues at the Farm Midwifery Center attended 186 births before anyone had to have a Caesarean; between 1970 and 2000, the Farm's Caesarean rate was 1.4%. (The US average in 2001 was 24.4%.) These women know what they're doing.

Outside babyland: Spent the weekend with the in-laws. Slept in their RV, and took the cat in with us. He spent most of the night on my pillow, crammed up next to my face. He is large and orange. I approve of him.

Also, a new student started in my TOEFL class this morning. He's from Russia, and he looks about 15. His mother brought him in this morning and warned the staff that he was shy. Well, yeah, I'd be shy too if my mother were shepherding me everywhere. Poor kid.

Time for the bed. I love the bed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Filler

I'm working on a post about the safety of home birth as compared with hospital birth for low-risk pregnancies, but my attention span is so short this morning that I'm going to have to come back to it later. In the meantime, I thought I'd post a little bit of filler. Here are some links to my favourite websites these days.
  • Cute Overload, which manages to be insanely cute and yet not cutesy. I know everyone already knows about it, but I link it anyway because it makes me so happy.
  • Waiter Rant, written by a forty-something former seminarian who manages to be both deeply compassionate and bone-wearily cynical. Compelling snapshots of everyday drama plus trenchant little character studies: it's a great read.
  • Working America's Bad Boss contest, with thousands of entries submitted by people who have had to endure incompetent, criminal, and even psychotic managers. (Why, yes. I do still have some unresolved anger toward my old boss, who made it impossible for me to continue in the best job I've ever had. Somehow it's comforting to read about people who are even worse.)
  • Mimi Smartypants. I still love Mimi Smartypants.
  • Ask Moxie, sensible and sensitive advice about raising kids.
There. That oughta hold the little bastards.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Insert amusing title here

My belly continues to get bigger. The placenta's in the front, so most of the sensations from the baby are somewhat dulled, but Mr. K finally did feel the kicking for the first time two weeks ago today, a few hours after it had awakened me at 3am. So far that's the only time that the baby's movement has interfered with my sleep.

Oh: sing ho for the comically large body pillow. I'm sleeping so much better with it between my knees and under my belly.

Today I put my hand on my belly at lunchtime, and felt something that resembled kicking, except that it came at very regular intervals. Hiccups!

In (somewhat) non-pregnancy-related news, last week I had (halal) pizza with two former students, one from Sudan and one from Iraq. F., the former, is a force of nature, big and beautiful and outspoken and funny. "How is your baby girl?" she asked. I asked her what made her think it's a girl. She said, "I already told you this one would be a girl." Oh. Heh. Okay, then.

S., a very smart woman of humour, dignity, and good will, was telling me about her brother's being kidnapped in Iraq and brutally beaten for four days. Amazingly, when the four kidnappers -- who took him at gunpoint in broad daylight as he went to buy stock for his grocery store -- realized that his family couldn't afford ransom, they let him go, just dropped him off on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere. He was so badly hurt he could barely walk, but somehow got himself to a police station. After his family came to get him and bring him back to their town, word went out on a PA system that he was home safely. Fifteen hundred people showed up to the impromptu lunchtime celebration. S. said that out of forty-one people kidnapped that day, he was the only one to come home. For a few months afterwards he tried to readjust, but finally realized that he couldn't stay there and get over the trauma. Late last week he left Iraq for good, to move to Syria.

Ayup, destroying the country's infrastructure and leaving it open for mercenaries to abduct and beat civilians at will sure was the morally correct thing to do.

Can't think about it too much. It makes me too angry. Saddam Hussein was a despicable tyrant, but what's happening in his country in the name of the United States of America is far, far worse. Americans were supposed to be the good guys.

I hope we're doing the right thing by bringing a child into this fucked-up world.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The third trimester looms

Lots happening but I'm too tired to write much. My feet and ankles have started swelling and it's getting harder to sleep. Mr. K bought me a body pillow. Hooray for the body pillow.

Evidently post-nasal drip happens to some women during pregnancy because the body is making so much extra mucus. I'm one of those women, and I've been coughing for seven weeks now. Sick. Of. Coughing.

I don't have anything serious to complain about, though. The baby is active and everything seems to be going well. I've found a great chiropractor who specializes in treating pregnant women, and I've hired a doula who comes very, very highly recommended. Tried prenatal yoga yesterday: didn't love it, but should probably stick with it. My balance for the tree pose is somewhat lacking.

I've discovered a marvellous Thai restaurant half a block from work. Gotten lunch from there three times in the past week. Today's lunch (with one of my colleagues, who is leaving in a week or two because he's about to burn out, alas): fish cakes, mango salad, and coconut rice. Yum, yum.

Some guy tried to pick me up as I was walking down Eglinton yesterday. I'm not used to having people try to pick me up, so the whole experience was strange and slightly unsettling. He stopped me to comment on my dangly moonstone necklace, asked several questions I didn't readily understand ("Are they your moonstones?" and "What are you doing?" at the top of the list) (and no, Mr. Friendly, my necklace did not come from the moon), and then said he hoped I'd join him for a beer. Guess he must've missed the wedding ring and the six-months-pregnant belly. Flattering but weird.

C., another colleague who is leaving soon (she's going back to school, and I'm taking over her job for a week starting next Monday until the new guy can get trained), told me today that her sister-in-law just lost her baby at eleven weeks. It's hard to talk about miscarriage: hearing about other people's experiences just dredges up so much pain and sadness. People mean well when they say things like "At least you know you can get pregnant" and "It's for the best," but dammit, all the hopes and dreams that were starting to take root are suddenly devastated, and for a long time every passing pregnant woman or tiny baby is like a knife to the heart. C. and I talked for quite a while; I think she's going to go visit her sister-in-law this weekend to help her grieve.

The Esquivalient One (to whom I wish peace and happiness as she tries to sort out her career and her relationship with her sweetie -- been through the rough patches myself, and yea, verily do they suck) mentions that she is careful about her blogging in order to maintain a narrative flow. A noble, considerate goal, that: makes reading her stuff more than worthwhile. All I have energy for right now, though, is brief little snapsnots such as this one.