Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To Matty, on your birthday

It's Matty's 39th birthday! On this special day, here are five things you might not know about him:

1. He's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
2. He once went ten years without eating a vegetable. (And then he met me.)
3. He proposed to me after dating for three weeks.
4. He once used his own sock as a napkin.
5. He often falls asleep at night tucked in with a good book on minor league baseball stats.

He's also funny, kind, big-hearted, and handsome. Happy Birthday, my love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Days like these

I wonder what I used to do all day before I had children. I can't even remember, though I expect that I felt very busy. Now, with two young children, my days are so full with outings, adventures, and general chaos, that I sometimes find myself daydreaming about my life before. Did I go for brunch on a holiday Monday (like it is today), maybe after having slept in a few extra hours? Did I stroll places, in a leisurely fashion? Would I have cared that my neighbourhood was filled with ear-crackingly loud fireworks at the exact moment children are being tucked into bed? I'd wager I didn't give it much thought, unlike tonight when I'm writing this, where you will find me cursing the damn fireworks while requesting politely* that the girls kindly get back into bed and ignore all those pops and bangs outside their window.

We're winding down eleven days of girls-only time at home while their Papa has been away  in Greece. He will tell you he's working, supervising university students while they explore Athens and Crete. I will tell you that he's on vacation.

We had the entire day before us on this holiday Monday, with the girls home from school and me done with placement. After watching Mrs. Doubtfire together (after waking up at a very unholiday-like time of six in the morning), we decided to take a walk to the bagel store, both as something to pass the time and to solve my problem off not having much food in the house to pack school lunches this week (bagels and cream cheese it is!). It was a delightful walk, filled with excited declarations about snails and flowers. We even met a cat on our path who chaperoned us through at least whole three blocks. We named him Marshmallow and decided not to take him home with us. Four cats are enough. (Frankly two cats were enough, but we're slow learners.)

Next we met some good friends at one of Toronto's best parks, Dufferin Grove. Though we have named it the Mud Pit Park, because it offers the most enormous sand pit children could ever dream of, complete with water, shovels, and stacks of wood for building bridges and other necessary structures. My friend, the smart one of the two of us, packed a change of clothes and a towel for the necessary clean-up at the end of our three hour visit. I did not, which worked out less well when it was time to leave and Shira was covered it dirt from head to toe (she explained calmly that she needed to lay down in the mud, obviously). But I did remember snacks because I am not a complete novice.So after our fun we packed my dirty children and my friend's more presentable children and went, of course, for ice cream.

These kind of days feel so familiar to me, though it has been a long time since I've had one. With the summer coming up, and my recent (temporary) break from midwifery school, I'm going to have a lot more of them. It feels good. Really good. In our house we don't do a lot of structured play time. Rarely do we sign the girls up for camps or activities, which makes us the black sheep family of the girls' school. There are days I wonder (loudly) why they are home so often, and then I remember that I want this for them. I want days filled with playing with friends, and of course, ice cream.

Let the break begin.

Be well.

*Mostly politely.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Do you ever find yourself looking for a pause button? That things are getting a little out of control and you need to stop, drop, and take a moment to catch your breath? Not the stop button, that's not what you're searching for, but just a breath, a moment, a pause. 

I just finished my first clinical placement in the midwifery program. Four months of following midwives around and being thrown into as many learning opportunities as (superhumanly) possible. I took blood, started IVs, performed vaginal exams, read lab reports, palpated bellies, examined tiny, minutes-old newborns, listened to fetal heartbeats, and, oh right, I caught babies. With my own two hands. As in a woman pushed her baby into the world and I was there to catch its round, soft head in my hands, asking her to push just one more time so that I could reach the baby's shoulders, and then, after the baby swam the rest of the way out into the world, I did my most important job--I lifted to the baby to its mama. I'm going to tell you a secret: it doesn't get much better than that.

I'm two years into my midwifery education program now. It's hard to believe that I'm here at this point, the point at which I can stand in the middle of this enormous, life-changing program and look back to my eager, excited, and wide-eyed first year self. The thing is, I'm still eager, excited, and wide-eyed, these two years later, probably more so now that I've dipped my toes in clinical practice.

It's only been two weeks since my placement ended, and it's still a little too fresh in my mind for me to talk about all the feelings, feelings that are still swimming around in my head, deciding where to land. I'm trying to navigate around the ups and downs of learning how to be a midwife, from the highs of being a witness and a participant in the birth of a human being, to the lows of sleep deprivation, to the complicated middle place of being challenged/judged/evaluated/supported as I learn my way around caring from women and their babies.

It's intense and amazing. Let me leave it there for now.

Sometimes we pause. Or at least, sometimes I pause. I'm pressing the button, just for a short while. For the next year I am taking a medical leave from my program, because while I've been in school these past two years, I've also been figuring out how to cope with fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed a few months before I started midwifery school and frankly I didn't quite know what to do the diagnosis. It felt (and still feels) like this fuzzy, catchall for someone who is depressed, exhausted and in chronic pain. I was diagnosed, like most people, after no other disease or syndrome could be identified, a sort of last-minute declaration that since it isn't all these Other Things, it must be This Thing. Truthfully, I've never really done much with the diagnosis. I've made half-efforts at caring for myself with my diagnosis in mind, but it's always come second, third, tenth behind all of life's other responsibilities: parenting, working, and midwifery school.

I'm reaching for the pause button because I need to finally pay some attention to my own health. As first year midwifery school turned into second year and clinical placement, my health strategy of sticking my head in the sand declared itself to be a shitty plan. My exhaustion got worse (no big surprise), my body ached, I moved slower and slower, became more and more depressed, and I gained weight (because I needed another thing). Through all of this I was willing and able to do the hard work of clinical placement, motivated by the all those eager and excited feelings I mentioned above.

Now, I'm depleted. I need some time. I want to take a moment, sit awhile, and come to terms with the fact that my health sucks. Most days I feel like I'm one hundred years old (and not one of those spry and youthful hundred year olds we read about on facebook. I'm talking bent over, shuffling, declaring things like "Oh! My aching back!" kind of centenarian). Grumpy, too, just ask Matty. But the thing is, I'm not 100, I am 37, and I want to feel that way. I owe it to myself, to Matty, to my girls. And most importantly I think, with some hard work I can feel more like the healthy almost-40 year old I know is hiding behind all the fibro symptoms. But I can't do this without a break from midwifery school. I just can't.

And so I stop and take a breath. For the next year (the duration of my medical leave) I will make it my business to discover what I need to feel vibrant again (and my vibrant might look different from your vibrant, but the point is that I am desperately craving some lightness and sparkle). Here is to my year of health! And to me oversharing about it! Yes, I will be blogging about my adventures in learning how to leap and cartwheel through my days, rather than hobble my way through another unbelievably busy year. Knowing what I know about my (un)health habits, I truly believe that I can find a point at which my health doesn't stand in the way of my thriving as a student midwife.

I'll see you around then.

Ready, set, pause.

Be well!

P.S. I caught that baby.

(Photo used with permission.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ten things my mother taught me

1. To peel off the stickers and price tags from everything, no matter how time intensive.

2. To always adequately salt the potatoes.

3. How to pour a glass of wine.

4. That it is okay to make mistakes. (I’m still not good at this one. I’m a slow learner.)

5.  How to apply mascara.

6. How to read.

7. That gold really never goes out of style.

8. Not to let them see you sweat.

9. How to make buttercream icing.

10. To love my children.

Happy Mother’s Day, you gorgeous woman.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I survived the semester

So I'm mostly here to tell you that I survived the grand catastrophe known as clinical skills, reproductive physiology, and pharmacology. I did it. Passed. Done. Over. Survived. It was truly the most work my brain has ever done, and I say this as someone who has been in school since the dawn of time. I learned so much about fetal heart beats, placentas, and the use of medication to control postpartum bleeding (in addition to about a billion other things) that my brain is ready to explode. And explode it shall when I begin my first clinical placement in two weeks!

That's right. In two short weeks I will begin a little less book-learning and a lot more hands-on baby catching! Can you even believe it? I know I can't. I have my stethoscope at the ready, my pager is warming up, and I'm (sort of) ready to go. Do you want to know all the feelings I have about starting placement? Here's a sampling: giddiness, panic, trepidation, delight, anxiety, and exhaustion (that's a carryover from this past semester of superwork).  I think more than anything I'm excited that I'll be able to use my hands. I remember my own midwives' hands on my body, on my baby, and I want my own hands to learn that skill and attention. My hands are always warm, so that's a start.

Life is about to get real in an entirely new way. I will be on-call 24 hours a day, with only a handful of days off each month. I will be called away for births and appointments at moment's notice. Did I mention I have a family, with two young children? How will this work? Will they miss me? Will they feel left out of my new life? Will the girls be cared for in all those times I'm working? (Of course they will be, is an answer to that last question.) To this point I've been busy and chaotic and overwhelmed, but all of that has taken place within a framework of regular schedules and flexibility. But last I heard, birth with a midwife is unscheduled. I've known about this part of my student midwifery life for years, but now, now it is here. I'm talking to my children and to Matt, explaining how I think life will be for the next 18 weeks, but who are we kidding? I have no idea. Mama will sometimes leave in the middle of the night and only time will tell how that impacts the girlies.

Can I tell you about how nervous I am about this transition? I think I'll make a good midwife one day, but am I ready for this? Will my hands learn? I am an anxious sort by nature and I'm having to work really hard to just keep breathing. Am I strong enough for this? I really do think so.

In these last two weeks before placement I plan to have the girls help me to prepare for all these big changes. We're going to make notes and drawings to carry with us, to peak at when we're missing each other. I'm going to ask them to make a sign for my bedroom door that says "Mama is sleeping!" for those days I'm catching up on sleep from the birth. I also feel the need to plan everything at home, which of course is pretty ambitious considering the next two weeks are filled with holiday dinners, marking, preparing for placement (translation: taking everyone's blood pressure). But I also want to wash my floors, sort my clothes, write up a meal plan for Matt and the girls, make food to keep in the freezer, and sleep. I'm nothing if not eager.

I also want to blog. What are the chances?

Be well!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11 tips for being an ordinary parent

1. Show up at home after a long day at and give in to the craziness of that witching hour commonly called "after school and dinner time." Accept that you feel frazzled after a long day at work or say, midwifery school, and that your children are only going to make you feel frazzlier. Yup, that's a word. One child will be happy to see you and the other will be panicking about a permission slip that ABSOLUTELY must be returned and where is it, Mama, where is it, where is it? Then the other child will declare that she doesn't like her dinner, while the permission slip child suddenly has no pants on. Come to terms with the crazy. Just go make yourself some food and you'll feel better soon. And tell that child who doesn't like her dinner to go and help herself to some cereal.

2. Always say yes to reading your child a book. Unless you have to go out and study, and then you have to say no. Make sure you only feel a little guilty.

3. Definitely don't serve vegetables at every meal. You know they say you should always offer healthy veggies at every meal, but if it's been a busy day and you're exhausted, just give them the damn pasta.

4. Give them a lot of kisses.

5. Sneak a chocolate bar from their Halloween candy and deny it wildly when one of your children finds the wrapper in the garbage. Then tell them it's not nice to accuse people of stealing candy. Yes, it happened.

6. More kisses.

7. Try to get your four year old dressed in a shirt and leggings. Then listen to her yelling that she wanted tights, not leggings. Just listen. Then explain that you don't have time to change clothes because you need to leave for school in five minutes. Don't tell her it's your fault for getting her dressed five minutes before you need to school, that you spent too much time packing lunches that you should have packed the night before. Don't tell her because she doesn't care. Then get her the tights.

8. Tell your daughter you will sew her new pajama pants the next day, the ones that don't fit her because nothing seems to fit her tiny body, not these pants or the three you bought her last month. Then forget to sew them because you're buried in studying for reproductive physiology. Then forget them the next day because you're buried in writing this blog post. Then maybe sew them on the weekend so your tiny child has pants that don't fall down her bum.

9. Tell your children that everyone makes mistakes. Tell them you've made at least 75 this week alone.

10. Remember that your children need to wash their hair and make a note to do it that night. Then when you forget, remember to do it the next night. Then a few days later actually put them in the shower with a bottle of shampoo.

11. Make pancakes for breakfast because you just feel like it, even though it's going to make everyone run late for school. Then bring your four year old leggings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Because we should say I love you more often

My midwifery student colleagues are the best of people. This program is hard work and many of us feel as though we're on the edge, delicately balancing all of our responsibilities. This particular semester is known to be a catastrophe of demanding courses, with reproductively physiology, pharmacology, and clinical skills, where we were are introduced to such a tornado of skills that the room after class is often left in shambles (fake blood on the floor, sharps containers at every turn, stethoscopes willy-nilly) and you can almost taste the adrenaline in the air. There are assignments and presentations and exams and skills tests and we become exhausted. It's just a ton of work.

But. This group of women rocks my world. We look after each other, feed each other, look after children, study together, and commiserate with each other until the wee hours of morning. Sometimes we are called out in class to settle down, but what our instructors forget is that this is how we cope. We take it one day at a time and each day is better when we're laughing together about something or other. If this sounds contrived, not to worry. It's just actually true.

We're not all best friends but that's okay. We don't need to be best friends to reach out to one another. We're all here for different reasons, but the reasons don't really matter. We're here, now, and we will continue to make each other laugh and have the hard conversations as long as we need to.

One of our colleagues is withdrawing from the program and I'm writing all of this as a way to say thank you. Thank you for being all the things you are. You will be dearly missed and that is an understatement. We love you lots and want the best things for you. I miss you already.

Hille sporting a knitted placenta, courtesy of Kyla Austin. Hille will miss you, too.