…and Delivery

This post is Part 2 of a two-part series chronicling my first birth experience. For Part 1 – visit the post, “Labour”.

Throughout my first pregnancy, the question of pain management during the inevitable birth was always at the back of my head. Would I get an epidural? How would I handle the pain? WOULD I be able to handle the pain? 

Thanks to some unfortunate googling, as well as many years of hearing birth stories, I was pretty terrified of giving birth. There was so much unknown – except that it would absolutely, no doubt about it, be painful. 

When I was in grade 7, I awkwardly tripped over my own feet while chasing a boy on the soccer field (*cringe*) and went shoulder first into the ground. I felt a change in my body instantly and my chest and shoulder filled with pain. I got up quickly, extremely embarrassed. I shook it off and walked away, only to quickly realize I couldn’t extend my arm, I could only hold it at a 90 degree angle. My 13-year-old self thought, No biggie, I’ll just walk around school with my arm held like this the rest of the day, it doesn’t look odd at all. For some reason, I thought this would be less embarrassing than admitting I broke my own collarbone from failing to succeed at… running. 

I continued on with my day, going to class pretending nothing had happened, all while trying to ignore the dull throbbing throughout my shoulder. Eventually, and not surprisingly, the pain got to me, and I sat silently crying in my seat during English class. When my teacher noticed he took me to the office. Turns out, I had broken my collarbone. Instead of listening to my body, I just endured the pain, hoping it would go away on its own. 

Years later, I broke it again while playing ringette, and I remember laying on the bench in the dressing room, eyes closed, feeling the pain intensely and just shutting out the rest of the world. The recovery time after the break was painful, but manageable. 

Then, at 8 months pregnant, I experienced passing kidney stones. Very painful. 

So as the due date drew nearer, I had just been through one of the most painful experiences of my life to date and had got through it. While the pain of my impending labour was a scary factor, at this point, my feelings shifted a little and it just wasn’t the main thing I was nervous about. I am not comparing a broken collarbone or kidney stones to childbirth (although some have), let me just make that clear, but I knew I had handled painful things before in my own way and I really hoped I could again. 

But what I knew I couldn’t handle? Staying completely still and calm while a small catheter type needle was inserted directly INTO MY SPINE. 

Even writing that makes me feel woozy. 

I knew that would be a straight ticket to the floor if I had to endure it. Needles and me, we have a toxic relationship. We don’t mix. 

Over the years we have come to an agreement – if I can lay down and not watch that needle come anywhere near me, I MAY be able to avoid losing consciousness. I did have a stretch where I was able to get through immunizations and bloodwork without fainting (if I followed my strict protocol) but then I ended up in the hospital after a bad sunburn turned staph infection when traveling down south (tip, don’t fall asleep on the beach on the first day of vacation with sunscreen everywhere but your face). 

I remember watching the nurse put in my IV, feeling confident since it had been so long since I had fainted, and trying to look tough (or even just, normal?) in front of my new boyfriend of 6 months. I can do this sitting in a chair for sure, I thought. I didn’t ask to lay down. But even as she was doing it I started to feel gross. I tried to shrug it off but when the nurse left about two minutes later I started feeling the dark tunnel that precedes fainting start to invade my vision. I got up and quickly laid down on the bed. I remember the nurse walking by and it seemed like she smirked when she saw me lying on the bed. Or maybe not? Maybe I was just acutely aware and self conscious of my lameness. As I laid there, a guy walked in casually holding his hand tightly over an actual gunshot wound. 

Meanwhile I’m laying there on my side breathing deeply over an IV line. 

I’m not sure I ever felt more pathetic in my life.

Safe to say – needles and me, WE AREN’T FRIENDS. I know this from many fainting experiences over the years – mostly associated with needles. Although, I’ve also fainted after other things, like standing up too quickly after an injury, getting claustrophobic at concerts – hell, I’ve even experienced what I’ll call ‘secondary fainting’ – fainting after watching someone ELSE faint. Although, a needle was involved in that one too.

That occurred after a trip to a tattoo shop to get my bellybutton pierced with my sister when I was 15 or 16. I urged her to go first then stupidly WATCHED them press the needle through (*barf*) while also watching her face at the same time (*currently trying not to faint while I type this*).  

I’ve never seen someone’s eyes widen so fast. I immediately started feeling hot and firmly said, “Mmmm no, I’m not doing that.” I started pacing back and forth (feeling the possible fainting coming on), glancing back at my sister every few seconds as she sat listening to their aftercare instructions. She slowly stood up, continuing to listen, but then, to my absolute horror, SHE FAINTED. The nerve! Didn’t she know I was about to do that? Many props to the lady with the quick reflexes who grabbed her on her way down. She yelled for another employee to come help her and in came a very large, heavily tattooed man who attempted to help hold her up. In my almost feral state I continued to pace quickly back and forth and screamed, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?!?!” 

Meanwhile, my sister was out cold, completely slumped into this stranger who was holding her up by the armpits, and hilariously, she was SMILING. 

Eyes closed. Completely knocked out. Lips spread into a smile. If you know her, this is even more funny, as she is just one of those people that seems to always be smiling – apparently even while unconscious. 

I love her so much – but that expression just added a whole lot of weirdness to the situation for me. Was she joking? Is this really happening? Slowly, she came too, and as soon as I saw even a semblance of consciousness from her, instead of rushing over and hugging her and reassuring her that she was okay – I bolted. 

I still remember bursting out the door into the dark narrow hallway, literally ricocheting from one wall to the other as I attempted to move forward, feeling that dark tunnel of doom closing in fast. Like a scene in a movie, when I reached the waiting room the door to the outside was lit up – a bright, yet hazey silhouette – beckoning me to freedom. I pushed through the door with the tiny bit of strength I had remaining and I swear I passed out mid stride.

THUMP. 

The tattoo place was across from Burger King at the time. I still wonder if anyone was sitting there in the glassed-in dining area, mid-bite into their Junior Whopper with Cheese, gazing out the window peacefully, only to see me across the street, flying out the door of the tattoo parlour and landing in a limp heap in the gravel parking lot. I also am grateful that there was not a car entering or leaving the parking lot at that exact moment. 

When I came to, I heard several voices all around me talking SO loudly. “Leave me alone! Go away!” I remember mumbling. Is it my sister? The staff checking on me? I opened my eyes to see… no one. Not a soul was there. I was so disoriented I had heard voices. I managed to pick myself up and stumble to our father’s empty truck, where I sat with my face in front of the AC vents pumped on high for 25 minutes. 

This was also in BC times (Before Cell-phones). I had no idea how my sister was – but I knew I’d just pass out again if I tried to go back in there. I sat there with guilt consuming me while I tried to work up the nerve and strength to go back in. 

Then she came out, led by the same lady that had caught her, opened the passenger side and said, “Move over, you’re drivin’.” 

I mean, I felt like the worst sister ever for leaving her there but also… I… didn’t have a full license. I told her I fainted too and we laughed together at the absurdity and embarrassment of it all – while having to hold our heads between our knees. I mean, I probably should have stayed there in the room with her, but flight kicked in hard. Also, just imagine! The staff would have had an even better story to tell. And I mean, a story is all I got out of it. No navel piercing. We both went through the fainting, but at least she got her piercing out of it! The only thing digging into me was pieces of dirt and gravel from my parking lot fall. 

Twenty years later, I’m still dealing with this ever present possibility of fainting AND how to recover after doing so. When you’re pregnant, that light headed feeling can come and go quickly and often. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing the warning signs and acting fast, and have been fortunate that I’ve only fainted once in three pregnancies, while getting routine blood work during my first. 

As soon as they took me in the room and I saw it consisted of multiple chairs with no privacy curtains, I knew I was doomed. No stretchers around to lie on. No way to avoid the others hearing me if I told the phlebotomist I might faint (which I often think truly helps so much, takes the power away from the anxiety a bit). So instead I gambled that I wouldn’t faint. The man beside me was telling a long, drawn out story (kinda like me right now). I focused on his voice but as soon as I felt that needle I started getting woozy. I still remember the phlebotomist cutting his story off to say, “You alright there darling?” to which I replied, “NOPE – think I’m gonna pass out.” As my head started to slump I heard her say, “Okay hunny, you go ahead” – as if I had a choice! I was going down and I knew it.  

A few minutes later I woke up hearing the same man continuing on in his story and a sinking feeling realizing what had happened. She assured me that, “Sometimes baby makes that happen.” Little did she know I was a repeat offender. I just gave her a small, grateful smile through my tears, and sat there, a 31 year old woman drinking out of the little juice box she got me, feeling so infantile. 

And the feeling you get upon waking up after passing out is honestly just awful. You feel desperately hot, like you are about to vomit, very dizzy, and so disoriented. Then there are also the heart feelings… shame, embarrassment, frustration, and regret. 

So maybe it’s not needles that I fear so much, it’s actually the possibility of fainting. That I could lose control of my body suddenly. The knowing that something so minor can lead me to just lose consciousness with little warning. 

And I can fear it so much, that I would rather endure birthing a child without pain meds than get a needle in my spine or anywhere else! It sounds ridiculous, I know. And while there were a few reasons why I hoped to go medication free, the thought of getting an epidural made me extremely uncomfortable and was my major motivator. 

But even though I knew needles and I didn’t mix, I did NOT know what childbirth would feel like… I could start feeling the pain and after five minutes be begging for an epidural. I just didn’t know. So I went in with an open mind and gave myself permission to be flexible. 

I’m going to do what I need to do to get this baby out

But as they were wheeling me quickly down the hall to the delivery room, it became clear to me that there wasn’t going to be a lot of time to contemplate my options. The birth was happening – soon. “So, it’s too late for an epidural, right?” I said to the nurse.

“Yes, it’s too late now.”

Ok. That settles it. I was actually grateful and relieved for the confirmation, to know there could be no back and forth at this point. I was doing this without the epidural – no question.

Being wheeled into the delivery room and set up for the first time was such a new experience. I had no previous knowledge or experience to draw from. I was learning in the moment. I didn’t know if the baby would be born in two minutes or two hours. My contractions were amping up and a part of that is scary. Since they gain in intensity, each one you have is usually the most painful one yet – until you get hit with another one. But during that contraction you start to have a strong urge to push, and again, I had no idea how much pushing the birth would entail, so part of me was even afraid to follow that urge. 

A couple labour nurses would come in and out of the room periodically, setting things up for the baby’s arrival and checking on me. At one point I recognized the one I’d seen earlier in the day. 

“Oh, hello… guess I was wrong about the two weeks thing, eh? Bet you’re not liking me right now.” 

I managed a smirk but I was honestly just so happy that she had been wrong. To be fair, how can they judge the severity of someone’s pain? How do they really know when someone is in the early stages of labour versus just uncomfortable in their pregnancy? Everyone’s pain threshold is different and maybe I should have said, LISTEN – I think I have a high pain threshold and I am IN HELLA PAIN RIGHT NOW. 

But I’m actually so happy I was able to experience a lot of my labour at home, in my own comfort zone. It forced me to really experience it with limited distraction. I would love to be someone who could be comfortable enough to have a homebirth, but I knew that just wasn’t my way. I needed the reassurance of health professionals with me.

I will admit there were moments when I felt a little sensitive to the fact that people were coming in and out of the room while I was lying on the bed, completely exposed except for a small square of a sheet. It was hard not to fight the urge to cover up every time someone entered. I imagine that for labour and delivery staff, they have seen it all and are probably so desensitized to the whole situation. But I distinctly remember a random young woman coming into the room and up to one of the other staff very casually, with her hands in her pockets, looking around while saying, “What’s going on in here?”

Ummmm I’m sorry, who are you?? Can you kindly face away from my crotch region? Thanks byyyyyeee. 

But of course, I didn’t say that. Instead I just gave Travis a look that I hoped conveyed these thoughts. It’s a funny thing – I know they see it every day, but this was a HUGE moment in my life. And it’s also extremely intimate. So when people show awareness of that and a little sensitivity – it means the world. Every single little thing about the experience was new to me and there is something so vulnerable about that. Yes, you are ‘only’ exposed from the waist down but that exposure can leave you feeling so bare and on display. However, this was also my first birth. By the third, even I was more than a little desensitized. 

At one point one of them asked again what I wanted for the pain (there were other options besides the epidural) but I declined. I noted the raised eyebrows but kept my resolve. I was getting in the right headspace and yeah, I think there was a small part of me that wanted to see if I could do it. I think it can be revealing and encouraging to push your own limits, when possible, and give your body and mind a chance to surprise and impress yourself. I was fortunate that my pregnancy was low risk and I was able to choose. At this point, I felt I was already so far into the experience and I could feel the strength coursing through me with each contraction. It just felt possible. So I held off, even though I knew I may regret it. 

I had no experience to draw from and I had no idea what was going on in terms of the progression of labour. Each time the nurse left the room I found myself panicking… when is she coming back? I had asked Trav to stay right beside me, up by my head, away from the action. But there were several times we were alone in the room and I remember looking at him and thinking I was going to have to ask him to jump up and catch the baby. To me, it felt like the baby could come at any second… but it turned out it would be at least another 45 minutes before the actual birth. 

I kept wondering when the doctor would arrive. In the end I think he was only there about ten minutes before the birth. As I settled into the rhythm and routine of the contractions, I found myself wanting to not only escape the pain, but the situation…the bright room, all the people (even though there were only a few). A part of me just wanted to be alone. In hindsight, this makes sense to me…I’ve always been someone who retreats. I just wanted to deal with what I was feeling on my own. 

Contractions are truly that, your muscles contracting back and forth in an attempt to move the baby down and out. And they are powerful. It’s a very forceful, uncontrollable, pressure building squeeze – from all sides. A few times I thought I was going to pass out from the pain, but when I said that they assured me I wouldn’t. I asked for a cold cloth for my forehead, which helped my nausea, but then I moved it down over my eyes and it also provided that potential for me to retreat into myself a bit, to escape my surroundings. I laid there, eyes closed, gripping the bedsheet with one hand and Travis’s hand with my other, leaning into the contractions and repeating my mantras in my head.

Millions of women have done this before.

My body was made to do this.

It’s almost over. I can do this”.

It didn’t matter if that was true or not – I just needed to believe it.

The pain of contractions is really intense, but the fatigue is something I wasn’t prepared for. Near the end I know that I actually seemed to doze off in a way, if only for 30 seconds or so, in between them. I was SO spent. I mean imagine having every muscle in your body tensing up over and over again for hours and having to truly dig deep to scrounge up any ounce of energy to be able to make it to the end. I kept worrying that it was taking too long, that the baby just had to get out and I wouldn’t have the stamina to continue. But I’ll never forget opening my eyes and seeing my doctor sitting on the end of the bed, staring off into space in a daze, looking… bored.

For a millisecond I was slightly insulted. Exciting things are happening here Doc! But then I realized – bored is good. It reassured me that all was well.

When it came down to giving birth, my determination didn’t have much to do with it. It was like my body said, “It’s okay darling, you’ve done your part, I’ll take it from here.” That’s when I knew I was full on in labour, when the contractions really took over, and I could feel the urgent, yet somehow gentle, coaxing that came with each of them. It’s time to come out now, it’s time to be born. It felt unstoppable. I truly felt like I was being pulled along for the very bumpy and painful ride.

I had an incredible crew of nurses around me. I can still remember the earnest voice of one, her encouraging me, updating me, and supporting me. And Travis was coaxing me through each push, being comforting simply in his presence. 

I remember hearing a noise that could only be explained as primal. It was a low, guttural noise that was completely uncontrollable and came from deep with-in me with each final contraction and corresponding push. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed realizing it was me that was making the noise, but I literally could not have stopped it if I tried. 

Then suddenly, there was absolutely no doubt about it, I was experiencing what is called, The Ring of Fire.

Nothing to do with Johnny Cash, other than yes, it burns, BURNS, BURNS.

Ahhhh, THIS is the embodiment of the red faced emoji at the peak of the pain scale!

But even while experiencing that unfathomable pain, the exhaustion from labour forced me to stop pushing in that moment to give my body a moment of reprieve. Of pain filled rest. And a last moment to sit in the experience. 

Labour is a constant give and take, a balancing of the physical push and the emotional pull of wanting to get this little human out into the world and into your arms, while also fighting a small part of you that wants to keep them in your womb, in the safe place you have come to know them intimately over the past 9 months. And throughout the conflicting feelings, you have to find a way to give your body a chance, even if only seconds, to rest and gain strength in order to quite literally, push through with the birth. If labour is the final dance of pregnancy, birth is the final step.

Your first hello, but also – a goodbye. 

And it’s full of emotion and adrenaline and expectations and surreality. It’s a core memory if there ever is one. I won’t ever forget the feeling of giving birth for the first time, ever. It’s ingrained in my being.

I remember time seeming to stand still in those final moments. Breathing deeply, feeling that delicate hovering between what was and what would be, and experiencing a feeling of acceptance and surrender through that final push.

And with that final push my body was flooded with relief and the most incredible high as I saw my baby being lifted up to my chest, into my arms…my beautiful, black haired, 9lb 9oz, already tenacious, sweet baby. The most unbelievable reward.

We did it. We got through it. And we were both here. The disbelief flooded me. I was shaking from adrenaline, my eyes stinging with emotion. 

“Do we know what it is?”

“Yes. It’s a boy.” I stated, matter of factly.

“Let’s just check…” the nurse said as she gently lifted the baby into the air.

“Nope…it’s a girl!”

Cripes. Ten seconds into motherhood and I’m already making mistakes. Guess that was the umbilical cord I caught a glimpse of. 

But:

A girl.

My girl. 💛

Labour

This post is part 1 of a 2 part series chronicling my first birth experience.

When I was 38 and a half weeks pregnant with my first child, I woke up to some light cramping around 4am. The pressure in my body had been intensifying with each passing day, and that morning it felt especially obvious. My pregnant belly would tense up and get super hard, then would go back to being a little softer. I laid on my side in my bed feeling these changes with my eyes still closed, so tired I didn’t want to move, but also so stubbornly aware of my discomfort that I knew I had to start my day. I tried repositioning, but along with the cramping, I had pain in my lower back that was a dull, constant ache, and it didn’t matter what position I wormed my way into, the throbbing didn’t ease.

I maneuvered slowly out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. Maybe I just have to use the bathroom and this pressure will subside, I thought. But I didn’t need to use the bathroom, despite feeling like I might. I poured a bath, not too hot to elevate my temperature too much, but warm enough to hopefully soothe my aches and pains. As I carefully stepped into the tub and slowly laid back, I experienced the feeling of relief, of weightlessness, that only being in the water can bring.

I laid there for a long time staring straight ahead at the tap, just thinking. I laid there long enough that I had to add more water to warm myself up. I laid there, tracing my belly with my fingers in synchronized movements, letting my baby know I was right there with them, as I attempted to relax myself. I watched as my belly again grew very hard. Is the baby shifting positions? Is this Braxton Hicks? Is this…. labour?

I didn’t know. I started to time this firmness that I noticed happening more regularly, and recognized there was a pattern; it was happening in a rhythmic, seemingly intentional way.

But it was 10 days before my due date.. surely this wasn’t labour?

But what if it was?

I laid there, in a cloud of uncertainty, relishing – as much as I could – in the state of being pregnant. I could feel the baby moving around, I watched my belly shape contort with their movements. It was the last moments I truly remember savouring being pregnant. Feeling like we were in sync, that we were together. The baby was trying to communicate with me… to let me know they were ready to come meet us. And I was slowly saying goodbye to our first meeting place.

Around 6am I heard my husband stirring in the bedroom. He was substitute teaching at the time and I knew he didn’t have a job lined up for that day. I yelled to him to not pick up a job, because it felt like something might be happening – and I sure didn’t want to be stranded alone if it was.

As the hardening continued to ebb and flow, I came to terms with the realization that this could be the day my child was born. Nothing was packed, I hadn’t read as much as I wanted to. Mentally – I just wasn’t there. I wasn’t ready – as if there is such a thing.

When we were deciding whether or not to have children or when, I remember feeling even then that I wasn’t ready. I was 31 and felt I had lots of time. But I also knew that pregnancy doesn’t happen for everyone, and I just felt that it would take us a while to conceive. I didn’t feel ready, but I also knew I may not ever feel ready. And I think it turns out, you can’t really be prepared for motherhood – you just do it, one day at a time.

But we were lucky. Extremely lucky. I found out I was pregnant the next month. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it. I stared at the test with a mixture of shock, elation, and fear. I hadn’t even told my husband I was taking a test. He wasn’t even home. But here was my proof, and another test confirmed it. Ready or not, I was pregnant.

And nine months later in a similar vein, ready or not – I was in labour.

I got out of the tub and started haphazardly packing a bag, while mostly in denial. This is just in case. A precaution. I got so tired I laid down. As I did, I noticed the contractions slowed. Okay, just Braxton Hicks. We’re good. I’ve got another week at least I bet. But, then they picked back up again, and shocker – they hurt. Well, maybe hurt isn’t the right word, but they were very uncomfortable. Just SO MUCH PRESSURE. 

We headed to the hospital where they set me up with a fetal monitor – a couple small circular machines strapped to my belly. Okay, yes there were some contractions… but they weren’t happening quickly enough to indicate labour. As a first timer, I know I probably had a lot of questions. I was in a lot of pain, and I wanted to know why. A month before, I’d been in the same room, complaining of unbearable pain and yet I was sent home with the words, “It’s probably just something mechanical.”

“Umm what does that mean? I’m not… a machine?”

“Like, how the baby is laying… positioned”.

“What about the blood in my urine?”

“Yeah,… um, could just be some irritation.” 

I left quietly sobbing and feeling scared. The next morning I was vomiting from the pain and unable to keep food or water down. A trip to my OB led to a quick diagnosis. Yes, I was 8 months pregnant, but I also had kidney stones and was admitted to the hospital later that day.

So you can forgive me for pressing when I was told I wasn’t in labour.

“We can check your cervix and see if you’re dilated at all.” 

“Okay, yeah sure, whatever you need to do, whatever lets me know what’s going on here.”

I remember looking at my husband while I scooted down at their direction. I wonder what this entails? I thought, I wonder if I’m starting to dilate. I wond- HELLO!!

GOOD. GOD.

WHAT. THE HELL. WAS THAT!!?

I don’t know what was more painful, the cervix check or the contractions. Actually I do, it was the cervix check. 100%.

The nurse said, “Yeah see, you’re not dilated at all.” It felt like she was a little annoyed, they had ‘real’ labours to deal with I’m sure. But there are few things as powerful as being validated, and on the opposite end, few things that can leave you feeling worse than your concerns being diminished, your pain not being recognized, and feeling, quite simply, unheard.

“So I could be hours away from this? Days?”

“Yup.”

“So I could go on like this for two more weeks?”

“Yup.”

I left feeling defeated, disappointed, frustrated, and most notably – still feeling intense pain!

We went home and I tried another bath. I had gone unmedicated my whole pregnancy except for the stones experience, but I caved and took a Tylenol, at their suggestion. It didn’t touch the pain – might as well have been a Skittle. And this time the bath didn’t help at all and so I slowly made my way back to bed. Every time my husband checked on me I asked him to rub my lower back, it was throbbing continuously and the only thing that brought any relief was hard massage. At one point he said, “Listen, I’m gonna have to go have a nap, cause if this is happening and we’re going to be up all night, I need some sleep.”

For any of you that grew up watching Home Improvement, there is an episode where the men on the show talk about ‘THE LOOK.” They were referring to the penetrating glare from a significant other – a look that was so powerful, it could make you do anything, and it’s message was clear – WHAT did you just say? How dare you?

Well, I was crouching on our bed in child’s pose, feeling so much pain I could barely acknowledge his statement. But if I could have, be sure that if there was ever a time for THE LOOK, that was it. I mean, yes, he needed a nap and he deserved one – but there is one thing you must NEVER do when a woman is in labour and that is COMPLAIN to that woman in labour. About anything. Any. Thing. Of course, to be fair, neither of us knew I was in labour. But still.

Anywho, in my state, I knew he had nodded off and I continued rocking back and forth on my knees and knew I needed a distraction, a comfort movie. So I put on The Notebook. Not exactly a feel good movie, as I can remember drowning a breakup in repeated viewings in my early 20s, but one I really loved and in my vulnerable state, wanted. I tried laying on my side but couldn’t. I tried my back, nope. I absolutely could not get comfortable. My fatigue started to creep in and I managed to doze for a few minutes at a time in odd positions cuddling my massive pregnancy pillow. A few times the need to move was so great that I got up and went to our spare room where our large exercise ball was and bounced up and down on it – reveling in the brief relief it seemed to bring.

A couple hours went by like this… me never being able to be comfortable, not able to sleep, not able to focus on watching a movie but the dialogue sneaking into my subconsciousness here and there. When Travis woke up he found me rocking back and forth on my hands and knees, quietly moaning a little. I was near tears at the thought I could be in this much pain for the next two weeks. It didn’t seem normal. He kept asking me what I wanted to do but I could barely process a sentence… Finally he said he was taking me back to hospital where at the very least maybe they could give me something for my pain. It had been 3 or 4 hours since we had left the hospital and the last thing I wanted to do was go back, only to be sent home again. But the pain was so intense that I didn’t object. I am so, so grateful that I didn’t. 

One of the funniest things to me is the way the trek to the hospital is always portrayed in movies and television. There’s a woman with her hair beautifully styled, make up perfect, wearing a lovely dress that shows off the size of her bump, and she calmly waddles to the vehicle, while her partner rushes around frantically all around her. Think – Annie in Father of the Bride. Or, there is the opposite, a drama filled, over the top, screaming, cursing, red faced, sweat drenched woman who makes her way loudly and dramatically. Both of these versions of ‘Woman In Labour’ are perfectly acceptable by the way. However I was neither of these things, except the waddling part. 

I was wearing maternity Pajama bottoms, and an oversized hockey t-shirt of my husbands, my hair in an actual messy bun (not a cute, styled messy bun), with my hair line stuck to my head, still damp from the multiple baths. And I was moving verrrry slowly. If you can picture someone walking with a large balloon between their knees – that was me. I made my way very gingerly to the car, and when it came to getting into the seat, I honestly didn’t think I could bend that way. But somehow I eased myself down and crouched low. I could feel Travis’s eyes on me several times, studying me, watching my movements and likely realizing I was generally beyond help at that point. 

We only lived a five minute drive from the hospital but I remember him going down the 2 km hill from our house and stopping at the stop sign at the bottom. The dreaded T intersection that didn’t have a left turning lane, and that of course at that moment, had endless traffic going both ways. I was gripping the door handle and breathing hard, squinting my eyes and feeling every ounce of pain that was going through me. It felt like time was standing still. I was ready to scream, “JUST GO!! Risk it!!” Not caring if we had to lay on the horn and pull out into traffic and just hope that the other drivers would slam on their brakes. But just as I was about to do so, I felt the car lurch forward and quickly dart between traffic.

I also felt every pothole, every sharp movement of the steering wheel, every line in the road on the way up there. Come on County, repave your roads!! Pregnant and full bladdered people everywhere will thank you!!

“Take me to the door!!!!” I managed to breathlessly squeeze out and when he did, despite the frantic energy building inside me, I got out in that same slow way, just with a tad more urgency. I made my way through the doors and sat in the first chair I saw, promptly bent over, and started moaning. I couldn’t control it. I often think back to how that must have looked to people going by, this pregnant lady just groaning in the foyer. Do… we… help this lady? Leave her be? Someone did approach me and I waved them off, saying, “I’m just waiting for someone, I’m ok.” Trav rushed in a moment later and we made our way back to Labour and Delivery.

I remember walking in sheepishly,… even apologetically, telling them I needed to be checked again. They quickly set me up and said they would have a listen. They were quieter this time, more focused on the monitors. I couldn’t help the moaning and didn’t try to stop it. I was in an assessment room for two patients, with a curtain divider for privacy. At one point a nurse came over to my side after checking the other patient.

“Okay honey you need to breathe.” She said as she checked the data on the monitor. I couldn’t help it, the pain was taking over and all those slow breathing exercises were going out the window. The nurse said she would check my cervix again to see what was happening and I geared up for the coming discomfort. Except this time, it wasn’t nearly as painful. She said, “Hmm,… you know… I’m not feeling anything…”

“What does that mean?!?” 

“Hang on” she said. She quickly went to get another nurse. The other nurse actually ended up being a cousin of my fathers. Women have been through pelvic exams since their teens, but it’s still awkward and vulnerable being so exposed and at this point I was still ensuring the sheet covered up as much of me as possible. I mean, even in labour, I do enjoy the illusion of privacy from time to time.

Again, I geared up for the possible pain of the check, but the pain I was already in made it practically unnoticeable. After a pause, she confirmed what the other nurse said… “Yeah, I think you’re fully dilated Elaine!” 

I remember looking to Trav, trying to sort out in my mind what this meant, when suddenly I felt a massive gush, heard liquid hitting the floor, and felt a HUGE release of pain and pressure. Oh my god, the release of pressure. It was incredible.

What just happened? Oh lord… my water just broke – all over my dad’s cousin.

I. Was. Mortified. I thought I peed myself. “I’m so sorry!! Oh my god!! Was that my water?!”

“This is happening!” is what I remember hearing in response, along with being quickly wheeled out of the assessment room. I was in a state of shock… on one hand I felt so much relief to have my pain validated. I had just laboured at home by myself, going from 0 – 10cm in about three hours on one regular strength Tylenol. I was in disbelief and felt the emotion – all the emotions – but the pain was always at the forefront. 

Some hospitals have posters with a pain scale of 1 – 10 up on the wall. The corresponding faces to go with them are almost comical, a 1 being a very happy, relaxed face, and a 10 being a swearing, red faced emoji or someone with an extreme grimace. Each stage of labour definitely progresses up that pain scale and there I was, being wheeled down to the delivery room, thinking my pain up to that point had been pretty darn close to a 10. 

Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

And I was about to bring to life not only our baby, but also the embodiment of the swearing, red faced emoji from the pain chart.

Birth: The Not So Silent Silenced Experience

*Trigger warning: This post talks about childbirth.

From the moment I knew we were having twins, I knew that *I* would be having twins. As in, I would be birthing… twins.

Two babies. At once. Well, not simultaneously (ouch), but – consecutively (still ouch).

As if carrying two babies wasn’t challenging enough (and trust me – IT WAS), I was tasked with the climactic job of actually getting them out of me. Although, climactic might not even be the right word when it comes to twins… I mean, by the time Baby B surfaces, everyone’s like, “Yeah, it’s ok, I already saw a birth like, a few minutes ago, I’m good.”

Even though I’d been through it twice already, I was still… well, terrified.

I want you to read this next sentence realllll slow. Birth is a beautiful, emotional, humbling, life altering, empowering, primal, crazy, surreal, mind bending, panic inducing, painful, terrifying as hell, and often, traumatic – experience.

I mean, mine were most of those things. Maybe yours weren’t any of those things. And that’s fine! Even though elements can be similar, there are also no two births that are the same – even when a womb is shared. Your birth experience is yours and yours alone. Just as the experience your partner has if they witness it, is theirs alone. Having gone through it four times now (and yes, I count each twin as two separate births because they are in fact, two separate births!) I feel like I can attest to this statement – that all births are in fact different.

With my first pregnancy, I was riddled with apprehension approaching my due date. Let me just say that when you are pregnant… Google? It ain’t your friend. YouTube? Even worse.

I mean, I actually taught a Child Studies class years and years before, when filling in for someone. I remember putting on the birth video. Whyyyy? Why? Those poor teenagers! I even avoided watching it myself but after I went to the room next door to retrieve something, I turned back into the room and, to my horror, saw the exact moment of birth up on the big screen.

You can’t unsee that.

I mean – bless every woman on earth and every partner, doctor, nurse, doula, midwife, and labour ward custodian, because WOW – it is something. It’s miraculous, truly… and in the absolute deepest way, but it is also, well, a bit horrifying. Yes, I said it. It’s scary!! Your body goes through an incredible transformation, one you can’t even really control, and you’re just along for the ride. You simply can not look at any woman after giving birth – after the euphoria of holding their baby, after their body stops shaking, after they have a minute to realize what they just did, and tell me they don’t look completely shell shocked. 

I still remember rushing to the hospital to visit a close friend right after she gave birth. I will never forget the look on her face when I entered the room. She looked at another woman who had had three children who was in the room and said, “And you did that two more times?!! After feeling that???!”

I remember starting to feel sick to my stomach and getting flushed, as I was only a few months into my pregnancy and it was all just too real for me. It was like an out of body experience and I wasn’t even the one that just gave birth! All I could think was, “This will be you soon”. Even watching them care for their newborn… even though it was beautiful and tender and touching, it still induced some panic within me. I mean I was just truly overwhelmed. And I was 32 years old!

Fast forward six months to me approaching my due date, and do you think I could get that look on her face out of my head? Nope. I mean, I knew – I was going to go through something big. Those leading months felt like gearing up for a marathon, except there’s only so much you can do to prepare. Now, on the other side of four births I have the hindsight to know that I am so, so lucky to have had positive experiences, and all, also very fortunately, with good outcomes and healthy babies. But that doesn’t change the fact that although there are so many supports and information readily available, people still don’t really talk about how crazy an experience birth really is. 

And don’t even get me started on Caesarean deliveries. I have never experienced one, so I feel I really can not say anything about them. But I will say that after hearing many first hand accounts, I wanted to avoid one if possible. I mean this is major abdominal surgery people. And people talk about it as casually as someone getting their brows waxed. I can not even imagine the recovery involved. So whatever type of birth you had, while you are sitting there on your cot, trying to play catch up with what just happened, you are handed your baby all the while thinking, now what? There’s no processing time for the birth because you are immediately thrown into motherhood without a safety net in sight.

I know that times have changed and with them, so has the birthing process. Medications. Procedures. Protocol. Hospital or home birth? OB Gyn or midwife? Laying down or squatting? Planned C-Section or not? I mean, yes there are many decisions to be made, but ultimately the one thing you know is that that baby has to come out. I’ve seen it in movies and said it myself on the delivery table, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” 

Too bad. That baby is coming out. You just pray that it happens safely. 

And part of the dread about the birth is the fear that something goes wrong. My heart aches for anyone who has ever experienced birth complications. It’s unimaginable. But, my mind would go there. And I have talked to many, many moms, and the reality is, I’m not alone in those thoughts.

Some women can approach birth with a zen like calm, while others will scream the entire way through it. For either option and every possibility in between – they are all perfect. There is no one in the world who can dictate how a woman will go through their birth experience – even the woman experiencing it.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I wanted to hear everyone’s birth story. I wanted to hear what it was like from people I knew. But afterwards, I don’t think I really needed to hear anyone’s story, because I really wanted to share mine (how self involved, I know). Sit in any Parent Tot class or meeting of moms, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a woman who isn’t eager to share theirs. Typically, and especially the first, we want to talk about it. To know that our experience was important. To have someone validate that what we did was remarkable. And for many, to recognize that we have gone through something very intense.

I remember seeing a post by The Ugly Volvo quoting hospital advice that referred to her postpartum recovery as recovering from a car accident, while also taking care of someone who also was in an accident.

The Ugly Volvo

I’m not sure I’ve ever related to something more. Yes. This is what it feels like. You have gone through something – you are STILL going through something, and you feel a bit like you are being thrown to the wolves. Okay, maybe not. They do give you a tonnnne of pamphlets… while still throwing you to the wolves! Except, now you have a lot of reading material in hand. And if you think it would be hard to read and comprehend all those pamphlets while fighting off wolves, it might actually be easier to do than while caring for a newborn (and yourself), and for many moms, other young children as well. There is no time to even process it because you are still going through it. You are still exposed, still so vulnerable, and now you have a baby on your chest doing the ‘breast crawl’ (no, not a swimming maneuver) – another new experience to navigate. Birth is both the finish and start line, with no overlap or chance to catch your breath in-between.

After my first child’s birth, I remember being scared to leave the hospital. We dragged out our stay for four days. I soaked up as much as I could about how to care for her, while simultaneously checking my bed for blood stains every time I gingerly got up. When we got home, I went to the bathroom and suddenly passed a huge blood clot. It terrified me. I started bawling immediately. What the hell was that?? Was I hemorrhaging? Was I okay?

I called the hospital and whoever answered received this news with about as much concern as if I’d told her my toaster wasn’t working. I pictured this girl on the other end of the phone playing with the phone cord while she chewed gum and asked how large it was. 

“Was it the size of a baseball? We’re usually only concerned if it’s the size of a baseball.” 

“Yes!” I said with trepidation. 

“Well, like a baseball, or like a softball?” She asked. 

I mean if you asked me what my first ten minutes home with my baby would be like I know for certain I wouldn’t have ever anticipated it would include me hiding in the bathroom, bawling on the phone with a stranger while having this conversation. 

“I don’t know, more like a baseball I guess?” 

“OH okay, you’re fine then. Just let us know if it happens again.” 

“But you just said…” 

“I know I know, but really I meant more like a softball.” 

Okay, so luckily for me, I didn’t have anymore sports equipment sized things falling out of me in the coming weeks, just the ‘normal’ postpartum care.

I remember saying in the weeks after my first daughter’s birth, “If I just had ME to take care of, I’d be fine. If I just had HER to take care of, it’d be fine. But taking care of both feels impossible.” Newborns don’t care that you need to have a sitz bath or take your meds or eat. They just want you. They’ve had you non stop for 9 months. They went to the bathroom with you. Ate with you. They are an extension of you. You can’t just leave them now.

So even though we may feel like we’ve just been through one of the most life altering 10, 20, 30 (or more) hours of our life, we push it down, and we soak up the newborn days while also feeling guilty for worrying about ourselves. We sometimes hide from our partners the gore and intensity of what we went and are going through,… but why? We should be able to talk about it, and not just in hushed tones and self deprecating comments while minimizing the outrageous transformation we have just gone through. 

Birth is your baby’s introduction to the world, to you, but it’s also the birth of a different person, a different version of yourself. And maybe you’ll want to talk about it, or maybe you’ll want to shut that conversation down if anyone asks because it was too traumatic, but if you can… write about it. Get it out. Maybe so it can sit in a journal in your drawer for your eyes only, or your kids some day… or online, for all to read. Cause yup, that’s where I’m headed. Coming up next: The Birth Series – ‘cause when you have four births, it’s a (limited) series.

Surviving Six Months

Our little twin girls will soon be six months old. There’s something about this milestone that feels important. Like, a reeeeally big deal. We’ve made it this far. We’ve survived the newborn stage, just barely, and come out the other side with more wrinkles, bigger bags under our eyes, and two little perfect girls who are showing their personality more and more every day.

In Canada, we are very fortunate to have one year maternity leave, if your job enables it. Some can even choose to go off for 18 months. But if you choose a year, as I did, once you hit six months you know you’re halfway through the leave and then, at least in my previous experience, those last six months fly by. Maybe it’s because there is a running countdown in your head of when you are going back to work. Or maybe it’s because pretty quickly, your babies go from fairly stationary, nursed or bottle fed babies, to solid food eating, crawling, climbing, and walking little beings. As their movement increases, so does yours, and even though you thought the first six months were busy and tiring – the busy-ness of babies on the move is a whole other stage where sitting becomes a luxury.

These past six months have been filled with so many firsts. Little moments so small you might miss them, and that may seem so minor to many, but for their parent are each worth celebrating.

The first time they looked up at me and made eye contact while feeding.

The first time they focused on our faces and the corners of their lips curled up and they smiled at us, as if seeing us for the first time.

The first time their little fingers rested on the side of the bottle or my body as they fed.

The first time they outgrew a sleeper.

The first time a little giggle escaped their lips.

The first time they sat in a bouncer and discovered they could move it up and down on their own.

The first time you could hold them without having your hand right behind their head, knowing they now had the strength to hold it up on their own.

So many firsts, and with each one, your heart stretches a little more as you feel pride and surprise and dismay all at once at their movement into being a bigger baby, a bigger person…and needing you less and less.

In these first six months every day feels somewhat the same and yet when you look back at it as a whole all you can see is change. All these little moments collectively help form the foundation of your love and connection, every little first and beautiful little moment intensifies your bond. When I had my first child, as soon as she started smiling at me, I remember spending so much time staring at her little face, deep into her little blue eyes, and it was like I could feel all those feel good hormones surging through my body. It was the purest type of happiness I think I’d ever experienced. I made this human. I love this human, and her smile tells me she loves me too.

That feeling doesn’t go away with your second, third, or fourth child. That first smile and all the smiles that follow are the ‘good stuff’. One of the things that helps keep you going through all the challenging stuff. This is your babe, your sidekick… it’s you and her against the world! Until she starts talking and tells you she needs some alone time.


But all these ‘baby steps’ that come even before they’ve made actual baby steps, seem so important. You live and breathe them. Even baby’s first cold is in some way treasured. Holding their little body upright almost all night long so their congestion can be relieved enough to sleep. Feeling the relief sweep through your body when the thermometer finally settles on a normal reading. Feeling the emotional fatigue of constant monitoring and worrying begin to lift as they start to feel better. And yes, even using a snot sucker in an act of desperation when their congestion is extreme. I mean, that’s when you know undeniably, hands down – this is true love. I will stick a small part of this weird contraption gently up your nose and from the other end of a long tube, I will suck that snot as quickly and as hard as I can to try to get it out of your tiny little nostril if it brings you even a moment of relief. Even though as I’m pulling it away from my mouth I identify a faint taste of salt on my tongue and eye the suspiciously small ‘filter’. Ahhh yes this, is love, and sometimes, well, it’s disgusting.

But you do it!! Because if you have a way to stop them from suffering, well, you’re going to try! This baby – THESE babies, are relying on you. So suck it up. Literally.

My sweet little babes have moved through these little milestones and now the more noticeable ones are on the horizon: the big physical milestones. Rolling. Sitting. Crawling. Walking. These are the ones you hear about more, even as you get older. We’ve attached a lot of meaning to them, even linked them to their personality. My oldest hit all her physical milestones on the early side. Crawling by six and a half months and taking her first steps in her ninth month, I barely thought about trying to help teach her to do any of these things, I was just playing catch up. Our second wasn’t too far behind but the twins are on their own schedule – and that’s more than fine. They will do things in their own time and trust me, I am in no rush for them to start crawling in opposite directions. But because they were born at 36 weeks, we often have to remind ourselves of their ‘adjusted’ age, which is basically their age based on their due date. So when they are six months on the outside, their adjusted age is five, and when I think of these milestones, I have to keep that in mind because they likely will hit them based on that. I didn’t think too much about any of benchmarks until I had to fill out an Ages and Stages Questionnaire for a doctor’s appointment. Now, if you weren’t paying close attention to what they are and are not doing before, once you do that questionnaire, it’s hard not to. In fact, nothing will make you obsess about them hitting developmental targets more than having to fill one of those out. It asks questions like, ‘If you dangle a toy above your child’s head, do they reach for it?’ ‘Can your child lift their head off the ground three inches for more than 10 seconds while on their belly?’ ‘Can your child translate a legal document from English to Spanish in less than one hour, without having their head supported?” Okay, maybe not the last one. But they are very specific questions. Add in that there are two children and you have to make sure you don’t confuse what they can each do, it can be time consuming and alarming as you realize you are checking ‘not yet’ more than you are checking ‘sometimes’ or ‘yes’. When I completed theirs, they had just turned 3 months and we were doing the 4 month questionnaire, which can be done anywhere between 3 months 0 days and 4 months 30 days. I was confused going through the questions because since the twins were at two months adjusted age, they were not doing a lot and they were mostly just, well,… blobs (said tenderly and with love). Adorable, squishy, precious little blobs, but blobs just the same. I mean they wouldn’t know a rattle from a rice cake at that age. But filling out the questionnaire definitely made me pay more attention to all the things they were and were not doing. But obsessing over it is useless, because in baby days, a day really makes a difference, and a month or so later they were doing all the things on the questionnaire easily (still waiting on the Spanish translation though).

After doing the questionnaire, I noticed little things a little more. Oh, okay, she just reached for that toy. Oh, look, she turned her head when she heard my voice. I felt better about seeing them develop and not missing things, because one thing I’ve learned as a twin mom and a mom of four is that you miss out on a lot. It’s just impossible to be physically present for everything for all of your kids. Some things aren’t as big a deal, like not always doing bath time. But others eat away at you a little, like missing important moments like their first goal, or being there for them when they get a needle (although let’s be honest, anyone who knows me knows I don’t want to be present for any needles! #fainter.)

And now with twins, well, the guilt cuts deep. It is nearly impossible to be there for both of them at the same time. Nap time has proved to be the most challenging, because if they are both fighting it, one of them is often crying. You can only pick them up and alternate so many times to soothe them and listening to one cry while you’re soothing the other is simply heart wrenching. There are times when you can manage to juggle them both but I am not a weight lifter and these arms start to fail me. Some days you end up rocking both of them to sleep and then, as you revel in the silence (which is really just the lack of crying), you immediately get an itch on your nose. Or your phone appointment with your urologist (what? Don’t all 37 year olds have urologists?) occurs right when you’ve settled them on top of you and you have to answer and conduct the call in a whisper and hope he doesn’t misinterpret your tone as inappropriately seductive.

So with the twins, I’ve prepped myself that I may miss some moments. No, it’s not about me, but I would like to be there for them and cheer them on. Especially when they get older…when they look up to find me, I want to be there.

The other day, I came down the stairs and saw our littlest baby girl, our “Baby B”, propped up on her forearms giving me a big smile. “Look at you! You doing some tummy time? Hi sweetie!” As I said this to her my husband looked over and said, “I didn’t put her like that.” After some quick back and forth we realized that she must have put herself that way which meant: she rolled over! On her own, for the first time. I couldn’t contain my excitement. “You are such a big girl!! Wow! I’m so proud of you!!” I was so happy but also a little annoyed at myself for missing it. I mean, I have too many videos on my phone of ‘almost rolls’ to count! My oldest took bigggg notice of all the attention this roll brought. And there’s something about babies doing these things that can take a tired, stressed household and completely turn the mood around. Everyone was happy and excited and I took a minute to type ‘first time rolling over’ in my phone with the date before I forgot.

I moved her back onto her back and put some toys around her and watched for a while hoping to see her do it again but, no rolling. I missed her first roll, but I certainly wouldn’t miss her second! But,…after ten minutes or so and no rolling, I got thirsty. I got up to quickly grab some water from the kitchen. Our main floor is pretty open, with large openings instead of doors, so when you leave the room you’re not really leaving the room. There are multiple sight lines and you can hear what’s going on everywhere on the main floor. So after a minute around the corner in the kitchen, I heard an excited squeal from the living room. I quickly poked my head around the corner and lo and behold, saw Baby B propped right up on her arms with a big grin. You gotta be kidding me. “You did it again!! Oh my goodness!! Good for you! I missed it again!!’ I couldn’t believe it. I had sat and watched her and then the minute I left, she did it. What a little turkey.

But the guilt was settling in and, determined not to miss the third time, I pulled a chair over to the mat and sat there ready with my camera rolling. This time I waited 25 minutes, and…nothin’. She’d get her legs up and turn her body and be sooo close, then rock the other way and spread her arms out with a squeal. Her sisters kept coming to check too, watching her carefully, watching our reactions, but she still didn’t do it again.

“Alright, I gotta grab a load of laundry upstairs quick… I’m sure she’ll roll over again when I leave!” I joked. I went up the stairs, turned and looked back – she was still on her back happily playing with a toy. I took three steps into the older girls’ room and grabbed their bin, then turned around and headed back down the stairs to see – a baby bum sticking up in the air.

She did it again!! I can’t believe it!! I waited this whole time and then missed it again! Omg! Am I the only one who hasn’t seen her do it?” At this point I realized Trav hadn’t seen it either. Both of us were somehow missing it. We joked about her having performance anxiety and even tried spying on her from behind a wall. But still, no roll. We would go on with our day and then turn around only to find her on her belly again, all smiles, looking proud as ever. This happened three. More. Times. So she rolled over 6 times in her life and I missed every single one. I mean, what a failure! At this point though, it was becoming comical. I mean all you can do is laugh. So Trav decided to set up the iPad to record so that if we missed it again, we would at least have it on tape. And I know there are people thinking, “Is this baby being left alone again?” No. Remember, open layout. We are always very careful to make sure the twins are in a safe space and one of us is always 5-10 feet away – just maybe not looking directly at her. So, once again, I go into the kitchen and after about a minute I hear my five year old exclaiming, “Oh, oh!” Then I hear the baby fussing and starting to cry so I run in, and this time she is on her belly but her arms are under her and she is hitting part of the wall. I scoop her up and calm her as Travis goes to the iPad to check the footage. We are both so eager to actually see the roll, it’s borderline pathetic. He gets it going, and we watch with excitement.

We see her laying on her back happily on the mat. Okay…yes…where’s the roll…? Then we see two small feet quietly tip toe across the screen, and then we see – NO…NO, it can’t be!

We see our five year old bend down and quickly (but gently) roll the baby over to her belly, then quickly skip away. A second later you hear her ‘surprised’ “Oh, oh!” Both our eyes widened in disbelief and my jaw dropped.

That. Little. Sneak!

All day long I had been thinking I was missing this moment over and over again, thinking she was really becoming a pro, when the whole time she was not rolling over… she was BEING rolled over. I couldn’t believe it. We’d been had – by a five year old. I tried to keep a straight face to confront her but it was pointless, the laugh came and it was such a good, tears streaming, body shaking, barely able to speak, kind of belly laugh – and we need every one of those we get nowadays – that I embraced it for about five minutes before going to chat with our little prankster.

Of course, we were told she was ‘just helping her’… but I think I know better. I think she saw how much joy it brought us and wanted to keep it going all day, which is beautiful…and also a little sad. And trust me, I’ve had many thoughts about making sure I watch more carefully, you really can’t take your eyes off them for a second. Thank goodness it was just rolling the baby over and not trying to pick her up or give her some change to count. What’s also hilarious is that our three year old confessed to watching her sister do it each time. And she just watched Travis and I go on about her doing it on her own with a Mona Lisa smile and without saying a peep. They are co-conspirators and they aren’t even pre-teens! Be right back, I just have to go install some nanny cams.

So… Baby B rolled over before she turned six months. Or did she? We were told that she didn’t help her the first time, that she did that on her own. Honestly, we’ll never know for sure, but is the accuracy of the date really that important? Does it really matter when exactly she rolled? If she ever asks me in the future, I most definitely will not remember the date. But, I will remember the story of how, on one dreary winter day, her oldest sister gave us moments of suspense, joy, excitement, and disbelief, some time before she turned six months old – and I think that is better than a date, any day. So obsess not over these milestones, they’ll happen in their own time – unless there’s an opportunistic older sibling standing close by, ready to lend a hand.

We survived these first six months with four kids under six, something to be celebrated in itself. Fingers crossed we find a way to stumble through the next six relatively unscathed, or at least only occasionally outsmarted.

So… This is Christmas?

December 23, 2021. A day that in many other years, would be filled with shopping, meeting up with friends home for the holidays, or decorating your tree. But this year, well, this year is a little different. And it’s a little bit harder to get in the Christmas spirit.

This is not unique… there are always years that seem to lack a little magic. Honestly, it seems to ebb and flow for me. One year, I’m totally in it – I’m rocking all the christmas tunes December 1st, getting my lights put up early then obsessing over whether or not they’ve been turned on… and feeling extra generous. The exhaustion that comes with the holidays is a minor set back, barely recognizable. It’s Christmas! It’s the best! If I’m tired I’ll just have another spiced egg nog and enjoy being tired by the fire and the Christmas tree. It’s peaceful. It’s perfect.

But then there are other years where you struggle a bit to find that same joy. Where your Christmas spirit can be summarized by the word, “MEH.” You try to make an effort of course, buying gifts, baking cookies, doing ‘all the things’… but your heart isn’t it – for whatever reason. Maybe you’re fresh off a break up, maybe you weren’t inspired in your Christmas shopping,… maybe you’ve lost someone you love, and it’s your first Christmas without them. Christmas is so many beautiful things wrapped up in nostalgia and comfort, but it can also be incredibly painful and…harsh for so many. A day to get through. A season to get through.

But when you have kids, well, your heart probably really SHOULD be in it. It’s for them after all… you are building memories with them that will define what Christmas is. It’s important. I don’t take it lightly. But, you can’t force a feeling… and you can’t deny how you’re feeling some years. Maybe it’s that all the things I normally do to get in the spirit just don’t really go easily with having kids. Usually I’d have Christmas music on repeat, but even calming Christmas music contributes to the sensory overload and while The Eagles sing about bells that are ringing – so are my ears.

Then there are the movies I usually put on, but with babies waking up through the night, my bedtime is just too early to fit any TV time in post bedtime. And there aren’t many you can put on when the kids are around that aren’t inappropriate. My holiday go tos are usually Love Actually, The Holiday, and The Family Stone. But there’s just too many questionable scenes that I wouldn’t want my 5 year old walking in and saying, “What are they doing?” in each of these that they are off the table! My absolute favourite is the classic Home Alone, and well, that’s been on a lot. But it’s not quite the same when it’s constantly interrupted by your 3 year old saying, “Mom… he said ‘stuuuupid’,”or by yourself feigning shock through out multiple scenes and saying, “THAT wasn’t a nice thing to say!” It’s also brought the added bonus of interrupting your night, well past when you were watching it, by the same child leaving bed at 9pm to jump up and down at the top of the stairs screaming, “I’M LIVING ALONE!! I’M LIVING ALONE!!……Mom?…. Mom?….Did you see that part? Kevin says, “I’M LIVING ALONE!! I’M LIVING ALONE!…. Mom? Do you remember??”

*Insert wide eyed, staring into space emoji here.*

So, music is out. Movies are… a risk. And when you’re wrapping presents for like, everyone, it kinda loses a little joy. You can’t even bring them out in front of the TV for fear you’ll hear a little voice when your back is turned coming down the stairs saying, “…What’s that?” No, instead you are squirreled away in the coldest room of the house, tripping over cardboard and wrapping paper rolls with nowhere to sit and playing a relentless game of, “Where’s the scotch tape now?” I know, this is supposed to be fun. But until you’ve wrapped many oddly shaped gifts in said scenario, all while using toddler scissors that your fingers can barely fit through because they’re the only ones you could find, don’t judge me.

And of course, parades, tree lightings, and Santa visits all look a little different now, if they’re even still happening. I never knew how much I’d treasure the pictures of my girls on Santa’s knee from years ago, when we thought nothing of it, as much as I now do.

I know, in time, there will be different things that bring about the holiday spirit for me now that I have kids… but I can tell you that the responsibility of providing a memorable Christmas for them is huge. I remember sitting in the living room last year late on Christmas Eve, surrounded by gifts and wrapping supplies, feeling incredibly overwhelmed, thinking ‘How will I do this every year? How will I keep all this straight? How will I deal, when I can see in their face one day, that they are disappointed by their Christmas?’ This year, I started the assembling and wrapping earlier, and I somehow feel prepared (but check back in with me Christmas Eve).

But that brings us to the big virus that is hopefully NOT in the room that is making it very hard to get in the Christmas spirit and instead is making this a very Covid Christmas:….Omnicrone…. No wait, omicon….No, it’s omi…OmiCRON.. Omi- COME ON!!

C’MOOOONNN!!! Again?! Really?! Another wave? But oh no hunny, this ain’t no wave. It’s a tsunami. This thing is coming at us faster than anything before and I’ve got Tom Petty singing, “It’s Cooooooviiiiid, all oooover, again” on repeat in my head. Home for the holidays? DUH. Where else would I be? Out caroling door to door? We live in Nova Scotia where we have been sooooo so lucky. I have put my trust in our main man Dr. Strang and his team faithfully. I trust the science. I trust the professionals the same way I trust the professionals in pretty much all other aspects of my life that I have no training or education in. Have I felt safe the past two years? No. But have I felt safer than many, many people in other parts of the world, or people here at home but in a different situation? Yes. But not anymore. Not when people who are close to you who you care about deeply start getting it. Not when you see the numbers go higher for days on end and you know they are only a tiny snapshot of what’s really out there. And not when I know that by this time next week, hell, maybe even on Christmas day, it could be in my home. Affecting my kids more than it has before. So yes, maybe we aren’t ‘feeling’ this Christmas, but so far, I AM feeling good – I’m not sick. I think I’ll count my blessings.

So, here we are, as in olden days… isolated olden days… and still wanting more. Our friends WON’T be gathering near to us, and the fates are NOT allowing us to all be together. But yesterday over 500 people in N.S. got a text message telling them they tested positive for COVID. Even the worst break ups usually offer a phone call. I’m lucky enough to not to be one of them, so not being together pales in comparison. And cancelled plans are disappointing, for sure, but they aren’t cancelled surgeries, or cancelled flights. They’re a plan that can be rescheduled.. hopefully sooner rather than later. And I say this knowing I won’t be alone, I will be with my immediate family because, well, they live with me. And I know that makes me very blessed. But my parents, siblings… will that happen? We don’t really know. Will we be able to get together again sometime soon? I mean… we also don’t really know… Omicron’s spread is so fast it does bring a feeling of inevitability with it. Like I’ve been successfully dodging the ghosts through three levels of Pac Man but then make a wrong turn, followed by another, and suddenly I’m cornered by two of them. It’s hard to not feel defeated. We’re fighting resignation every day against this thing. And we’re all tired. And now… now the virus is gonna be The Grinch and come take our Christmas without giving us the happy ending? That’s cold.

And in the midst of it all, our kids are still smiling. Teaching us resilience. Teaching us that they don’t care what’s going on in their world, they’re still gonna have a tantrum about how you peeled their banana, and they’re still going to want snuggles at night,… and bottom line, they’re still going to need us. As far as they’re concerned, this is the world they know, cause sadly, they’re young enough to not remember pre-Covid life.

But Christmas adds another element. When we had our first child, we talked about how we wanted to downplay the commercialism of Christmas. “She doesn’t need much! We don’t want to spoil her!” There was the old saying to guide our gift giving: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” How quaint. How perfect. How easy to pull off when your kid can’t talk yet.

When a pandemic is in the picture, it’s hard not to throw those rules out the window. It’s hard not to want to give them every little thing they ask for. One of my girls has been writing Christmas lists non stop for three weeks. I thought the advantage of not being in the stores would mean her list would be short… but then the catalogs arrived (damn you Amazon, Walmart, and Indigo!Kids!!). When I tried the good old, “You know, Christmas is about giving, not receiving” I was met with, “Okay mommy, what would you like to GIVE me?”

But since then, Covid numbers have spiked, school has ended early, and Christmas parties have been canceled. So while we started out saying, “You know you won’t get EVERYTHING you ask for, right?”…. Now I’m thinking, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?? I’LL GIVE IT TO YOU!!” Hell, I’ll give them things they didn’t even ask for.

I can’t give you a crowded family gathering but… here is a BARBIE DREAMHOUSE (in your favourite Price Is Right announcer’s voice)!

I can’t give you a planet that isn’t deteriorating everyday because of us but here is a BARBIE DREAMHOUSE!!

The world’s on fire but look! A BARBIE DREAMHOU – ok, you get the point.

Do I know it is wrong to try to buy their happiness? Yup. Do I maybe have a problem when I don’t want to ‘see cart’ online because I don’t want to see the total? Because as the stress increases, so does my VISA balance? I mean, yes, wholeheartedly, yes. But, am I wrong for wanting to give them some sort of normalcy and joy on Christmas Day?

I don’t even know anymore.

But when you’ve been battling a constant cortisol stream for almost two years you’ll happily do what you can to get a dopamine fix. You can’t control Covid’s spread but you know what you CAN control? What you put in your cart. You want a PJ mask toy? Done. You want some books? AWESOME. You want a iPad? YOU GOT I- wait, no, you don’t got it. Even I have limits.

CONSUME. CONSUME. CONSUME.

DISTRACT. DISTRACT. DISTRACT.

DOPAMINE. DOPAMINE. DOPAMINE.

But the problem with dopamine is, it wears off. That hit makes you feel good in the moment, like you CAN buy their happiness, and your own by proxy, but it’s all only temporary. Even with online purchases, by the time the package arrives I’m already over it. GREAT another box to break down. UGH more toys to pick up. SHOOT – we really didn’t need this.

Last year, after all the gifts were opened, I actually just felt sick to my stomach. Even if you limit yourself, there are so many gifts from family. And you don’t want to take that from them, especially now. But the kids can’t even handle it. It’s overwhelming. I know this, and yet here I am, standing like Vanna White presenting a DREAM HOUSE!! (Cue Jennifer Hudson singing It’s a Dreamhouse instead of We’re Your Dreamgirls in the background). And the Price Is Right announcer is back, letting you know that, “Here, you can lounge by the pool and drink from your glass without worrying about sanitizing your hands first. That’s right, there’s no Covid here. It is pandemic proof. The only limits on social gathering are imposed by your parents wallet! Have fun cozying up on the couch or enjoy a night dancing on the roof where you can even sing in each others faces. You can pretend your days away!”

So yes, this Christmas, I’m giving the gift of pretend play. But who’s pretending? I’ll enjoy watching them play for hours, in oblivion, while trying to fight images of the plastic contraption (and all it’s redundant packaging) in a landfill 200 years from now, dirty with evidence of years of play, but still existing, never breaking down. Expensive purchases like these are always rationalized with the lie we tell ourselves that ‘we can always sell it later’ – knowing full well this thing is too big to get out the front door and it won’t make it through several years unscathed by multiple players. But with four girls, well, it’s an investment piece. And trust me, the feminist in me is fully aware how stereotypical Barbies are for girls, but part of being a feminist is having the choice to play with whatever toy they want – and Barbies it is.

Anyway, the point is, this Christmas we have to work a little harder to make the magic, to feel the magic. It’s hard not to think of the gif of the dog sitting in a burning room saying, “It’s fine. Everything’s fine”. The gift opening may feel like a bit of a charade, but our kids don’t need to know we’re on fire. This will one day be a Christmas they ask about and we all shudder. And hopefully all we have to mourn, is that we didn’t get to be together. In the meantime, we’ll do whatever we can to get in the spirit, one Baileys and coffee at a time. Some traditions will prevail, but look a little different. And Christmas will still be there, even if it’s a little blue. It will be there in their excited eyes. In the small moments of knowing between parents. In their excited squeals when they see Santa ate their cookies. We won’t be rushing outside to join hands and sing ‘fah who foraze’, but we will welcome Christmas all the same. And we can still dream of next Christmas, and those to come, where Covid is a distant, though traumatic, memory, where finding a mask in your stocking is a groan provoking joke.

So despite all this, I wish you happiness where you can create it. If you are mourning someone lost, or battling Covid yourself, I am so, so sorry. These words from Dr. Strang brought me some comfort yesterday: “Hope is fundamental to the true meaning of Christmas”.

So have yourself a merry little *covid* Christmas, let your heart be light… if even for a day.

And have hope.

Sleeplessly Serving Squash

When I was pregnant with my first child, so many people told me to “sleep while you can” and once the baby comes, “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I’d nod and say something like, “Yes, for sure!”, but after a while it just became repetitive and basically the one big piece of advice anyone would give. I get it, I started to think… we will be tired. I’ve been tired before, we’ll be fine.

But, I didn’t get it. We would not be ‘tired’. Tired is a word reserved for how you feel on a Friday after a full week of work. Tired is what you are in your 20s after you stayed up until 3am and got up at 9am. Tired is a mild fatigue easily cured by sleep. And when you have a newborn, you are not ‘tired’. You are exhausted.

Ex. Haust. Ed.

You WISH you were ‘tired’. Cause you’re really beyond exhaustion, you are actually incredibly sleep deprived – and it affects you in everything you do. And once you feel that sleep deprivation, you understand why so many people tell you to sleep whenever you get even a small window to do so. Not only do you understand it, but you have to fight the urge to channel Billy Madison and grab both sides of someone’s face when they tell you they are expecting and tell them to, “Sleeeeep… sleep as loonnnng as you can!…. Cherish it!!”

But, you fight that urge, because no matter how many people say it, it’s hard to really comprehend the level of sleep deprivation until you are IN IT. It’s simply impossible to really convey just how exhausted you will be and just how many factors play a role in getting a good sleep. Now, I know this isn’t the case for EVERY family with a newborn, but if you were lucky enough to get lots of sleep in this stage, well, this post isn’t for you. And quit bragging.

What people don’t tell you is that even if the baby is asleep and you are exhausted, sleep may not easily come. That you might lie in bed, riddled with anxiety that if you fall asleep, something might happen. Or that you may lay in bed, staring at the bassinet, looking for the rise and fall from your baby’s chest to reassure you all is well. Or that you may finally drift off, but then be startled awake by a little exhale or grunt from your little newborn. Or that when you finally do feel like you’ve surrendered to sleep, their little squeaks and stirrings that then turn into hungry cries will enter your subconscious, blending in with your dreams to pull you awake, while so much of you is fighting it, begging you to stay asleep – because you’ve only just got there. But wake you will, of course, and then battle that drowsiness as you go through the motions of feeding, changing, burping, and rocking the baby, day in, day out, night in, night out, in a repetitive cycle that’s reminiscent of Groundhog Day.

With my first two daughters, I always got up in the night on my own because I was nursing. I was usually careful not to wake my husband, Travis, while he slept. He didn’t need to get up, so why should he? And then he could be fully rested and ready to take the baby after their earliest wake up so that I could go back to sleep for an hour or so. It worked for us. But, there were nights when through the lens of bitter exhaustion, I would stare at him with a mixture of jealousy and disdain as he let out a content snore while I was up for the fifth time feeding… and maybe I wasn’t so careful to be quiet. I didn’t purposefully throw things at him and say, “Oh, you’re up!” like Harry does to Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber, but some nights I was definitely tempted. Cause no, my babies were not what you’d call ‘good’ sleepers. And well, sometimes it’s true… misery likes company (and by ‘misery’ I am referring to the lack of sleep, not spending time with my beautiful babies – I love that part).

With my first, I remember waking up anywhere from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours after putting her back down. I remember experiencing low lows as I rocked her, wondering if I would ever, ever sleep well again. I remember blinking back tears when I was out for coffee with some other moms, and they were talking about how their baby woke up a lot the night before. Finally, someone else who gets it, I thought. Someone to commiserate with who understands what I’m going through. But ‘a lot’ ended up being once or twice, after they had slept a five hour stretch. (And trust me, I am not begrudging anyone for complaining about lack of sleep, no matter how few or how many times you were up – it’s not a competition!). But, my heart fell upon hearing this and I knew I couldn’t hide my eyes widening in disbelief. A five hour stretch was a pipe dream for me. It was winning Set For Life. It was the moon.

I remember it all. The sleepless nights. The brain fog. The forgetfulness. So, if nothing else, when it came for round number three, I knew what to expect. My husband on the other hand? Not so much. I tried to give him some credit when talking to others and say he got up a few times with me during the other baby stages, but he always interjects, “No, I didn’t. Not at all.” Once the toddler stage came on the other hand, he definitely put some time in on our daughter’s floors on a pillow bed or was the first one up when they got up way too early. But, he still completed a few REM cycles a night! Something I could only dream of (but, not REALLY dream of). All this to say, when we found out we were having twins, we realized his days of escaping the sleep deprivation that comes with all night feeds… were over.

Finally! Lol

I mean I’d be lying if I didn’t say a small part of me didn’t feel a little happy to have someone really going through it with me. To help me feel not so alone. Cause let me tell ya – it’s hell. I mean there’s a reason sleep deprivation is an actual form of torture!

For the first couple months, the twins had to feed every two hours, even during the night. They were born at 36 weeks and weighed 5lb 12oz and 5lb 10oz. Because of their early birth, low weight, and some low blood sugars, they were started on formula right away. I had exclusively breastfed my others, so this was new to me. That is a whole other story, but basically for that first while I was in a special state of feeding hell that included a combination of pumping, bottled formula, and nursing. So the feeds took.. a long time. In the very early days, I’d wake up 20 minutes before the two hour mark, pump milk, divide that into two bottles, then wake up Trav. We’d each have a baby, feed them their bottle of pumped milk, then they’d get their ‘top up’ bottle of formula. Then we’d burp, change diapers, and hold them upright for 15-20 minutes before laying them back down in their bassinets. Usually, when I stole a glance at the clock I’d be lucky to have 30 minutes before I’d have to get up again (and 50 minutes before he’d have to get up). I mean I know you can all tell time and do the math but basically if I was able to go to bed right after all the kids were asleep and got up at 10, 12, 2, 4, and 6, I was really only getting around 2.5 – 3 hours of nonconsecutive sleep a night, and Trav was getting just over 4 hours.

Not. Great. The other factor is that we were rarely able to snag any naps during the day. We tried to sneak them in when we could, but it was mid summer with our other children at home, so…. Yeah. And this was every night, for at least two months. After that, the babies started to get up every three hours, and then eventually had some longer stretches. So to say we were sleep deprived is pretty accurate. You could even say the Young’s were restless. The Young’s were very restless.

Again, for me, I was on auto pilot. I knew it would eventually end. I went through the motions and tried to soak up the newborn smell as much as I could. Although I was still very anxious, I was so beyond exhausted that I literally fell asleep as soon as the babies were back in their bassinets or cribs and as my body fell into the bed. There were no thoughts. I was lucky if I got between the blankets sometimes.

For Trav, it was a whole new ball game. In the hospital, we had the nurses checking the babies frequently, bringing us formula, and waking me up to pump if I slept through my alarm. Or sometimes, waking me up to STOP pumping. That’s how I know I was really more than tired – cause being hooked up to a double breast pump isn’t exactly… comfortable. If you can sleep through that? Ouch.

So, at the hospital, we always had reinforcements. You could feel the support and the diffusion of responsibility. I mean yes, we are their parents, we are responsible for them, but we knew we had helpful and watchful eyes to help keep them safe. The nurses even took over the formula feeds a couple nights when I was in rough shape (again, another story for another day). But once we left, we knew it was all on us. No one would be making sure we got up – except the babies of course. Yes, they would certainly let us know if they were hungry. If you think it’s hard on the heart to listen to one baby cry, just try to imagine two. Luckily, somehow our timing has worked in our favour and there were only a few times that both babies were in a full on meltdown. It only needs to happen once to make you work very hard to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We both survived the 8 night hospital stay because we actually could sleep when the babies slept – even if for only a small amount of time. Our older children were staying with my parents, and even with Travis being able to leave to see them daily, he would still manage at least one nap.

But, once we got home, well, there were rarely naps. I mean, it’s all a blur in hindsight of course, and I know there were some naps, but I would say very, very few. Once I moved away from pumping and was able to drop that step of the feeding, and we moved to concentrated formula for top up, our routine switched up a little. As soon as my alarm went off or a baby started to stir, I’d get up with that baby and start nursing them. I was only ever able to produce enough milk for one baby, not two, so we continued supplementing with formula which definitely added a layer of inconvenience (making formula, sterilizing bottles, warming bottles). I’d nudge Travis to go get the bottles ready, which entailed going and grabbing two premade bottles from the fridge and sticking them in the bottle warmer and bringing them up. Then, when he returned, he would feed that first baby the top up and I would nurse the second baby, then give them their bottle before changing their diapers and burping. We got into a good little routine – as good as it can be for getting up every 2 (and eventually 3) hours. Some nights we’d sit side by side silently, with the glare of our phones lighting the room and helping to keep us awake. But scrolling your phone isn’t exactly exciting and we needed something to keep us awake, so we started turning the TV on during some wake ups. Other times, it just wasn’t worth it. I usually kept a snack and lots of water on my bedside table because I’d have to keep my calories up, and that usually helped wake me up. But Travis wasn’t having any snacks.. and he was having a hard time fully waking up.

In early days, when we kept the ready feed formula and bottles upstairs for quick access, he would come around to my side of the bed to get a baby from me or bring the other baby to me. Let me preface these stories by saying he has given me permission, and even encouragement, to do so. One time I woke him up and he came around the bed and sat down. I was just sitting up, feeding, trying to stay awake… we weren’t talking. I kept wondering what he was doing, and he was holding his arms in a weird way. I tried not to get annoyed (because patience is thin at 3am). What was he doing? Why wasn’t he getting up? I finally caved, and asked slowly, “What are you doing?” He looked down into his arms, and then jolted up – “Huh? I… I don’t know…! Ugh.. I thought I had the baby already!” He had been sitting there, bouncing a non existent baby in his arms for several minutes. Oops.

Other time, he was standing over the foot of the bed, clawing at it slowly. I kept watching him, again, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt… but eventually I couldn’t hold back anymore and asked, “What are you DOING?!” Exasperated, he said, “I’m trying to pick up the baby!” To which I replied, “The BABY is IN THE CRIB!!” and he quickly realized why, in his mind, he was having trouble picking the baby off the bed: it wasn’t a baby. It was a pillow. He was trying to pick up a pillow. At least he wasn’t trying to feed it a bottle – we’ve got enough laundry to do.

Of course, along with these vague midnight memories, he was also sleep walking through the day – we both were. Sleep deprivation puts you in a semi permanent fog. But once Trav started having to walk downstairs to get bottles, he said it helped wake him up a bit. The few minutes he spent waiting for the bottles to warm could be spent using the bathroom or getting a drink. But, apparently that wakeful feeling only lasted so long.

One night, I woke him up, same as usual. He jumped up and headed downstairs. I was sitting up in bed, leaning against the wall, feeding one of the twins. I could hear him downstairs puttering. Time went by… it had to be 15-20 minutes. I was wondering what on earth he was doing but time is also tricky when you’re in that state. It just seemed like a long time. The way our second floor is arranged, when you go up the stairs and turn right, you go right into our bedroom. And the bed is facing our bedroom door. So, I was facing the bedroom door, and had full view as he rounded the top of the stairs holding something in his right hand. Of course, we tried to keep as many lights out as we could, so I could just see his silhouette backlit from the hall light. I could also see the shape of a low, wide bowl of something that he was balancing up in the air, the way a server might bring out a tray of drinks. But, Travis has never worked in a restaurant a day in his life. There was a split second when I felt a twinge of excitement and thought, “What is he bringing me?” For some reason, I thought he had been down there making me some special snack or something (don’t judge me, nursing moms are famished most of the time). He came in the room, stopped a couple feet from me, and then slowly reached up with his left hand like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat. I watched with amused anticipation. But, there was no rabbit,…nope. Instead, he picked something up by the stem, and then very carefully and slowly he placed it on my nightstand, as if presenting me with room service. It was when the object was ‘hovering’ about mid air that I realized what it was and started to form my now familiar question.

Beside our fridge (and the bottle warmer), we have a large pasta bowl that we use as a fruit bowl. About a week earlier, my dad, a produce farmer, had brought over some items. I don’t remember specifically, but I’m sure it was the usual: cucumbers, peppers, and this time, an oddly shaped “patty pan” squash. Their oval, orange, unusual appearance leads them to also be called, “flying saucer squash”. Neat. Well, for reasons we’ll never know, THAT is what my sleepy husband presented to me, one September night, in the wee hours of the morning. You can’t say his gifts aren’t unique.

I looked at him with incredulity and said once again, “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING?!”

He looked at his hand, still touching the squash on my nightstand, then at the fruit bowl he was balancing up in the air, and shook his head – hard. “What?… I donno! I’m an idiot!” (his exact words) and he quickly grabbed the squash and bolted back downstairs. I mean, I don’t even know how to react to that one. I sat there, shaking my head and laughing in that kind of low, embarrassed giggle that you are trying to suppress at inappropriate times. But, I mean, this was just too good. When he came back, I reminded him the babies weren’t eating solids yet, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Tears were streaming down my exhausted face, and he just kept shaking his head. The greatest mystery to us is what he was doing downstairs for the 20 minutes before that. He had no recollection. I had heard him walking around, opening the fridge… I mean at what point did he reach out and grab the fruit bowl to bring it up instead of a couple bottles? Then, this wasn’t even an isolated incident, as the next night he brought me a half eaten apple my daughter had left on the counter (I know I said I was always hungry but I do prefer whole apples) – but at least that time he remembered the bottles. I found the apple on my nightstand the next morning and in a cruel form of continuous confusion, stared at it, perplexed. Did I eat that? Did I put that there?

We can laugh about this now, but honestly, it’s also a little scary! When you’re that sleep deprived, in that kind of a fog where you are basically sleep walking, and can’t remember your movements, it IS a little freaky. The truth is, when you’re up for the fourth time feeding a baby, you’re awake but you’re not truly awake… the states of sleep and wakefulness blend together like an unenjoyable intoxication. You’re aware of what’s going on, but there’s a part of you that is still asleep, still dreaming. It’s like you’re in a place of no return, trying to claw yourself out of a deep hole to some form of alertness. Little snippets sneak into your head, like the eerie theme music from The White Lotus that you were attempting to watch during the last feed. It mixes with random thoughts and as your head gets heavier and drops down lower and lower to your chest, you snap it back up while hearing the little boy from Jerry Maguire say, “the human head weighs 8 pounds!”.

It’s intoxicating in the most dangerous way, because you have to fight your way past it, force yourself to stand up, wake up, so you can take care of your baby. It’s terrifying because you know you’re exhausted and the crazy things you do while sleep deprived are funny – until something bad happens. And with two babies to keep track of instead of one and two older kids sleeping in the next room, sometimes you don’t trust your own brain. Did I leave water in the tub? Was that light green or red? Why can’t I say the word ‘potato’? Throw in the worry of falling asleep with the baby in your arms and some nightmares about waking up with the baby stuck in the sheets and you’ve got yourself in a state. When you really count up the minutes of sleep you are running on, it starts to make sense why your head is always pounding and you forgot picture retake day. Your brain is working overtime – on less.

Now, at just over four months old, the twins are sleeping well enough that I am back to waking alone, but not as frequently, and Trav is *usually* getting a full nights sleep. I’m happy for him. Really!…..Or maybe, *usually*.

As I sit here holding a sleeping baby over my shoulder, writing in yet another attempt to stay awake in the middle of the night, with the print coming in and out of focus – picking up on different thoughts here and there and realizing my eyes shut a little too long last time – I can’t help but yearn for the nights that will come with minimal interruptions to my sleep. Where the biggest interruption is hearing a thump, followed by fast little feet running into our bedroom and squeezing their way in between us. But that means wishing it all away, and I don’t want that. I want to remember every moment, even the really hard ones.

So I’ll somehow revel in this sleepless state, as torturous as it is, as long as it goes on, because it’ll be my last…

…at least until the teenage years.

In The Weeds

Otherwise known as: the twin newborn stage.

There’s a saying in the service industry: in the weeds.

Your shift starts easy enough; a few two-tops out for date night that are relaxed and in no rush. A table of four, but they order straight from the menu, no substitutions or extras to remember, and they’re drinking water. One table is a couple of regulars returning from a trip, so you haven’t seen them in a while. You want to give them extra attention, because you know, they do the things that make you feel human, like looking you in the eye, smiling when they see you, and using words that can often be rare in the service industry, like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You’ve got time to chat with them a little, tell them the specials, and generally provide the service they should expect. They’ve been craving the nachos they usually get all week, with extra sour cream of course, and as you walk to ring their starter into the computer you see that your four-top’s entrees need clearing and your other two-tops beers are almost empty. As you punch your code in and ring in the nachos you get distracted momentarily when another server walks by and whispers, “We’re out of potato skins.” Feeling glad your table got nachos, you hit submit, then see if your other two-top wants another beer. They do. You ring the beer in and circle back to clear the four-top. You see if they want dessert. They do. This is good – you want them to order more. You want them to enjoy themselves. One of them orders tea and two of them order coffee, one with milk, one with cream. You try not to openly cringe when they order tea, knowing that the bartender is about to get to your beer ticket and you need to get cutlery and side plates to your other table. There’s nothing wrong with tea, but you know it requires waiting for water to boil, and getting a mini tea pot along with the cup, saucer, and milk.

But, when you reach up to grab a tea bag, there isn’t one, the box is empty. You fight a small burst of frustration and quickly rush out back to get a new box. A minor set back, no big deal though, you just have a few tables. You can grab the tea box and be back in time to get the beers to their table and cutlery and side plates to your regulars. But on your way back to storage you pass the host who is leading a table of six into the restaurant. The host makes eye contact with you and mouths, ‘Yours’. Good, you think. Bigger tables usually mean bigger bills and therefore, bigger tips. You’re smiling as you walk into cold storage but then, when you try to get to the tea you see the boxes haven’t been stocked back up. You scan the room and see the big cardboard box from the tea supplier under a couple of others. And just like that, something that should have been easy and simple, all the sudden isn’t – and your service will suffer.

While you’re in the storage room wrestling off an obscene amount of packing tape from the box, it all seems to hit at once. Your buzzer starts vibrating – the kitchen is letting you know your food is ready – the dessert for table 9. Apple crisp with a scoop of old fashioned vanilla ice cream that is melting with every second. You finally free a box of tea bags and rush back through the kitchen, grabbing your apple crisp with the other hand, just as you get buzzed again. “I’m picking up now,” you tell them, but it’s not for your desserts, it’s the nachos that are ready. You rush the crisp out, circle back to finish the tea. You still have two other desserts to pick up to go to the same table as the crisp, but the beer you ordered is sitting at the bar, it’s once frothy foam head now completely depleted. The kitchen buzzes you again. You reluctantly ask the bartender to top up the beers and tap your foot anxiously as they oblige with only one eye roll. You deliver the beer then rush past your new six top who is eyeing you to the kitchen to get the other desserts. You see the nachos under the heat lamp and move faster. As soon as you drop the desserts off you see the host is seating another table in your section and you still haven’t got to your new 6-top yet. Your buzzer vibrates aggressively and you finally get the nachos – but they don’t look nearly as good as they did minutes ago. You feel bad… your regulars were craving the best, but you know the kitchen won’t make a new order. You carry them out, grabbing their cutlery and balancing their side plates on your wrist, and as you set them down you realize you forgot to order the extra sour cream. You let them know you’ll be right back with it, but on your way back to the kitchen you first swing by to check how the desserts are (great, but could they have some hot coffee?), and check in with your 6-top. They order a bottle of white wine (okay, I’ll need to get the ice bucket and stand) and three cocktails. You look back at your regulars who are watching you, and keep moving to the kitchen for the extra sour cream. You ask one of the line cooks for it – “You didn’t ring it in. You gotta ring it in first.” You fight the large “ARRGHHHHH!!!!” that you want to let out and instead, leave and move briskly to the closest computer. Your finger stabs in your code – denied. You try again – denied. You take a breath and go slower – it works. When you finally deliver the sour cream they comment on the nachos, “They’re not as good tonight”, and you feel a pang of guilt. Meanwhile, your other two-top is half way through their new beers and motioning for the bill, you still haven’t got to your other new table, and your four-top is sitting in awkward silence with their empty dessert dishes and tea and coffee cups (frig, the coffee refill!).

It’s not that you’re moving slow or that you’re incompetent. You’re just busy. And you care. You WANT to do a good job, and knowing you aren’t, adds to your stress. You don’t have time to think, let alone articulate what you need to any other staff nearby that offer to help. You’re flustered. You go to grab the coffee pot and turn with it too quickly, slamming it into the cups stacked beside it and, in slow motion, one falls to the floor and shatters. You feel the heat on your face. You’re flustered. The panic is rising in your throat. You have a horrifying moment when you think you might actually cry. You are sweating. You are on the brink of snapping at someone. You are…. “in the weeds” – bad.


And this folks,… is what parenting two newborn twins, a 3 year old, and a 5 year old is like. You are in the weeds every damn minute of every day. Even when you are sleeping – which as the joke goes – is barely at all. Even when you are sitting down, perhaps appearing relaxed, the hamster wheel is spinning in the back of your head. But unlike serving tables, there’s no 15 minute breaks (even the bathroom is not sacred) and instead of clocking out at the end of your miserable shift, it NEVER ENDS. Instead of reaching for a tea bag that isn’t there, it’s an empty clean diaper bin while you’re hands deep in a stage 5 diaper blowout. And of course, the stakes are higher. Instead of forgetting a coffee refill, you forget to give your infant vitamin D drops. Instead of being responsible for a few diners and their experience, you’re responsible for helping to KEEP SOMEONE ALIVE. Actually, four ‘someones’. Oh, and making sure they all turn out to be decent people and have an amazing childhood full of every opportunity possible and all that. And instead of disappointing your regulars with cold nachos, you’re disappointing your kids…, like when they fall asleep waiting for you to finally come read to them. And you WANT to come read to them, to lay with them and take in their stories and be there in the moment with them before the moments are gone… but you’ve been trying for over an hour to get two babies to sleep, juggling their little bodies, alternating feeding them, burping them, and holding them, just as they alternate their cries.

You’re constantly pulled in different directions, you’re multitasking and managing at a level that might rival the President’s Chief of Staff, while simultaneously experiencing the most torturous sleep deprivation of your life. You’re drowning in the mental load and every night you still lie to yourself and say you’ll get to that one thing you didn’t get to today, tomorrow. Then you wake up and lie to yourself all day when you tell yourself you’ll get to that same thing, or have a bath, or exercise – as soon as the kids are asleep. Except as soon as the kids are asleep, YOU ARE ASLEEP. Hell, sometimes you are asleep before they are all asleep, let’s be honest. It. Is. Impossible. One kid is starting school and needs extra attention to navigate the change of two newborns added in the mix, the other flies under the radar cause she’s so ‘easy’, but now all the sudden starts saying no to you and mimicking everything you say. Also, she wants a snack. Meanwhile, not one, but two newborns are in a full on meltdown while your firstborn asks you how to spell “camera” for the fifth time in half an hour while the dog barks incessantly in the background and your three year old whine-chants from the kitchen, “I want a snack! I want a snaaaaack!!”.

Nevermind that you want a snack too! Or that you’ve had to pee for two hours because you’re trying to drink as much water as possible to help produce as much milk for the babies as possible – which you can’t. Which you can then somehow zone out, amidst the shushing and rocking and “cccc…. No, C, not K, C!” and start thinking about again. But, don’t think about that too much! Anyone will tell you, it will affect your production. But, you really should be able to produce enough for two, the female body is amazing! So,….why can’t you? Stop stressing about it! Are you eating well? Try baking these lactation cookies! Oh, but you can only get their ingredients at one location that currently has reduced hours due to the pandemic. Oh right, the pandemic! That’s right, there’s a pandemic. And you can’t take your kids into stores because they might catch the virus, which would be so awful in itself, but then they could also bring it home to the whole house. Oh, and they won’t be able to go to school or daycare for a week if they get a sniffle at any point this year, but you’re home already, right? No biggie.

We. Are. Struggling. It’s HARD. There’s straight up no way around it. And it’s not for lack of help either! Our village has rallied around us and my retired mom is back to working 30 hour weeks – at our house, for free. But unless you have an army there every second… there’s no stopping the feeling of treading water with no life raft in sight. I love my family. I love them so much. And we have been so lucky. As excruciatingly hard as this is some days, I would never, ever give it up. And it’s so nice to be needed, to be their mom… and yet this kind of need is massive…. overwhelming… consuming….. and as heavy as a rear facing car seat you’re trying to install in the third row of your VAN at 9pm because when else will you be able to??!

THIS. This…. is the newborn stage, times two, set in the ridiculous demands and expectations of 2021. And we, are in the weeds. We are soooooooo in the weeds.

Feel free to drop off some snacks.