Saturday, March 29, 2014

These Days

If I actually sat down and wrote all of the blog posts that occurred to me, well, I guess I'd have a more active blog! Instead, I tend to pass out at 8 every night, wedged between a baby and a toddler. It's a thrilling existence, let me tell ya.

We've been having beautiful weather these past few weeks. It's still cold at night, -25 or so, but it warms up with the sun. It's usually around 0 by mid afternoon. We get outside then to soak up the day. The snow has come off  the roof completely in some places, and is taking its time in others. This past week I've noticed little flocks of snow buntings at the roadsides...they usually pass through this time of year. I've even seen the catkins beginning to grow on the willows! I'm hoping this gradual spring continues, because I'm really loving it.

We've been dealing with a very itchy-headed baby lately, and it's been at its worst this week. The doctor's keep calling it cradle cap, but I'm convinced it's eczema. The skin became infected, and after trying a few home remedies, I caved and Colm is now on a course of antibiotics. The infected skin is looking much better, but his head is still red, rashy, dry and itchy. I hope once winter passes and the woodstoves burn out for the last time, it will clear. It's hard for me to take pictures of Colm, but I don't want to miss documenting this time in his life, so I force myself to do it. Looking through photos from Ontario to now, I can really see it progressing. I hope we're on the downside!

Aside from itching a lot, Colm has started rolling over! He's also begun to babble, and he's just the cutest thing since Aedan! I love this rollie-pollie, pudgy-baby, not-yet-mobile stage!

Aedan is a real challenge. He "helps" me a lot, which is cute. But he's so physical. When he gets excited at our playgroup, he'll push kids down, hit them in the face, pull hair...the other moms reassure me it's developmentally normal,and I know it is, but it's hard to parent him right now. We're working on showing him appropriate ways to play. I try to focus on his sweeter times, when he's giving kisses or hugs or snuggling up to me in bed (though that last also drives me crazy!) I'm eager for this phase to pass.

Aedan and his whale "helping" me do dishes. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It Ain't Easy

Some days, I think to myself: "Yeah, I've got this."  These are the days when my patience and creativity seem limitless, when I am in total control of my thoughts and my actions, when I get the toddler moving smoothly from one moment to the next without tears, and the baby is content and unscathed. These are the days when we all get outside to play, the days that I make some quality time for myself, the days when everything seems to get done..and if it doesn't, I shrug my shoulders and think "oh, well".

But then those other days...those are the ones I need some help with. Those are days like today, where things go relatively smoothly, but beneath it all is a current of nasty, negative thoughts, causing ripples on the surface. Thoughts like "I am such an unnatural mother", "I can't do this", and "I hate this". I struggle to stay in control of myself if Aedan hits me or scratches his brother or pulls Cilla's fur. I find myself yelling. I find myself wanting to lose control, just to see how it feels. 

I don't, though. Somehow, I manage to (mostly) keep my shit wired tight. I do a lot of apologizing on these days. I also do a lot of contemplating leaving on these days. I'd like to scream "I QUIT!!" into the face of my tiny two and a half year old boss, throw the dish rag (or dirty diaper) in his face and storm out the front door. 

And on to what? If I wasn't doing this, what would I be doing?

Would I still be slinging drinks at the Pit? At least there, if you do your job well, people leave you money at the end of each service. Today, Aedan left me a bunch of chewed up Gala apple, spit all over the floor.

I'm trying hard to feel passionate about this job of parenting, because a) I don't have the option of quitting and walking out the door, and b) on an intellectual level, I think it's actually a pretty damn important job. I'm raising HUMANS. Future adults, future MALE adults, and that is a huge and frightening responsibility. It's just not the one I thought I'd have.

Let's be honest, though. It's not like I ever seriously envisioned myself as a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or whatever. I think the only serious envisioning I ever did was to picture myself as a moody poet/novelist who lived in an apartment with a cat, chain smoking and drinking strong black tea and churning out masterpieces. I thought I'd be the next Margaret Atwood. Except I don't think she smokes. And neither do I.


Here we are. 

The boys are napping now, and I'm drinking green tea, the kind with the bits of toasted rice in it, and blogging about being a mom. Nap time is a chance for us to start over. Aedan will wake up in couple of hours and his hair will be all tousled and my heart will burst and it will all be okay.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Colm's Birth Story

A little background...while it's not illegal, women are very strongly discouraged from giving birth in Dawson City. There is no midwife here, there is no obstetrician, there is no labour and delivery ward in our shiny new health center. Women from Dawson, from all of the communities, must go to Whitehorse, usually around 38 weeks, to wait for their baby to be born at Whitehorse General Hospital. Some women and their families stay with friends or relatives, some are lucky to house sit, but most end up in a hotel room. After Aedan's exciting arrival, we decided to have a midwife assisted "home" birth. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to rent a small house at a beautiful place called Sundog Retreat (with two nights at the Westmark in the middle of our stay) to serve as our home away from home.

Colm's story begins the day before he was born, October 13th. 41 weeks pregnant, and tired of the waiting.  We were getting ready to leave the Westmark and move back into our home at Sundog. My dad was set to fly back to London without meeting his new grandbaby, and my mom was staying on another three days, with all of her fingers and toes crossed that this baby would come soon.

My parents checked out of the hotel, taking Aedan with them down to the river to throw rocks. P and I lay in bed together, dozing in the sunshine streaming in through the window, the white hotel sheets seeming to glow, the whole room, really, glowing. It was a beautiful moment that still stands out in my mind. I had stopped worrying about when labour would begin, had given myself over to letting it happen when it would. But all of these moments must end; we could hear the housekeepers in the room next to ours, so we got up and left to meet with my parents and Aedan.

I held back tears saying goodbye to my dad, but Aedan seemed to be taking it well, so I stayed strong as we headed back to Sundog to settle in for another week.

That afternoon, my mom and I took Aedan outside to play, and I chased him around, lifting him high in the air, kissing him and loving him up, enjoying what would be his last afternoon as an only child, my only child. Around dinnertime, I had some bloody show, and shortly after that, contractions started. Just like with Aedan's birth, they were short, not very strong, and spaced far apart. I went to bed  early that night, hoping tomorrow would be the day.

Monday, October 14th. We were all up fairly early, my contractions a little stronger. I ate a big breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, and called our midwife, Christina, around 7:30. We'd had an appointment scheduled for later that day, and I excitedly told her I didn't think we'd be able to keep it. She and our doula, Mufida, arrived a couple of hours later. My contractions continued, mild and regular, as we hung out, watching Aedan show off for our guests. I was sitting on a big exercise ball for a lot of this time, rocking and bouncing. I nursed Aedan through several contractions--uncomfortable, but I reminded myself that the oxytocin would strengthen labour. Mom took him out to play, and then I got him down for a nap, I think it must have been noon. This is when Chistina considers active labour to have begun. 

We blew up the birth pool and filled it, and soon after I climbed in. Everything was so relaxed...except P. I could tell he really wanted to be doing something. As I was settling into the pool, he was fiddling with the iPad we used to record the birth, and then he jumped up and announced he was going out to the truck to bring in a box of diapers. I ordered him to sit down in a chair beside me, hold my hands, and just be present with me. 

The warmth of the water was lovely, and it felt good to labour there. My contractions continued to increase in intensity and frequency; through each one I would turn my focus inward and downward, imagining my body slowly opening for this baby. In between contractions I was chatting with everyone, and stretching my legs out (I was labouring, kneeling, at the edge of the tub). I would tell Christina whenever I felt the baby move, but we never did an internal exam. 

At some point, I began to make low sounds through my contractions, and the room was mostly silent. As things became more intense, and I think I went through the trasition phase, I remember thinking "no way out but through" and also thinking that this was really gonna hurt! P leaned over and whispered that he loved me, and that I was amazing. Words a gal really needs to hear at a time like that!

Soon I was pushing just a little bit at the height of each contraction. I think this may have been when Aedan woke up from his nap. He was initially alarmed to see me in a big tub of water, but he got over it and was so awesome through the rest of the birth. I remember him patting my arm and telling me "s'okay"

Pushing seemed fast and very intense. I felt an internal "pop", which we assumed was the water bag breaking. There was no real gush of fluid. Maybe baby's head was in the way? I felt the baby coming down, the contractions were on top of each other. I reached down to feel, trying to apply some counter pressure as the baby crowned, hoping I wouldn't tear this time. It took some time to push him out; I would feel his head emerge and then slip back inside my body. I felt the "ring of fire", something I didn't notice with Aedan's birth. Eventually, I roared his head out, and oh! what sweet relief! I looked up at P and said "fuck that feels good!" 

My family all leaned in to see this little baby head, underwater, between my legs. What a trip! Christina guided me to take my time, to let my body stretch and to let baby's body turn. Then, with the next contraction, I pushed him out into the water, into my hands. How amazing a feeling! What relief! I feel like we all exclaimed, P had tears, or maybe it was silent. I don't know. My heart sang, though. It was over! Baby was finally here! 

I lifted him out of the water and held him to my chest. He took his sweet time taking a breath, instead just looking confused. Christina blew into his face a couple of times and finally he took his first breath. I peeked between his legs. A boy! I settled back into the tub, and we all marvelled at this new human with us. Afternoon sunshine filled the house. Everything was just as I'd pictured it. 

I was still having fairly strong contractions, and it wasn't long before I delivered the placenta. P cut the cord while baby latched on and nursed for the first time. Soon after that, Mufida and Christina helped me out of the tub and into bed, where Christina gave our boy his first exam. He weighed in at 7 lbs 12 ounces, a beautiful, healthy little guy. 

P, Aedan, proud Gramma and I were all enthralled. It is so amazing how life changes so completely with the arrival of a new baby! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Checking In

We're recently back from a little over two months spent with family in Ontario. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty wonderful having all those hands to take the baby. And I really miss it some days. But we're settling back in to life on the Dempster, trying to find a routine while nursing sick babies. 

The sun is back in full force and I'm so glad we missed those dark months. I don't think I can do them anymore. Getting out for at least December and January is necessary for our survival. I'm not sure if we would have all come out alive had we stayed here.

Two months spent in the city has made me realize a few things about myself. I've realized that I don't dig this lifestyle anymore. Pooping outside in the dark at 30 below isn't cool anymore. I miss taking a shower on a fairly regular basis. While I love looking out any window in our home and seeing only forest, I miss people popping in for a visit. I miss being able to walk to a park and see people going about their day. I feel like I gave off-grid, country living a fair chance, and it's just not for me. 

We're here for now, though. While we make our future plans, right now we're not going anywhere. So I will continue to poop outside in the dark at 30 below and shower sporadically and have only whiskey jacks for neighbours. 

I turn my thoughts to the garden. I watch the boys grow and I wonder about who I really am and the sun rises and sets and it's fine.