Off To A Rocky Start

A toxic environment.

That’s what my doctor called my uterus.

He didn’t really mean it to sound so harsh. “The infection in your uterus made it too toxic an environment; we had to get him out fast”.

Getting him out fast meant distress, which earned Oliver an express ticket to the neonatal intensive care unit, Das Piper told me later that at one point his heart rate went from a terrifying 189 beats per minute to an even more terrifying 45 beats per minute just before he was pulled out.

Getting him out fast meant less time for my body to adjust to Oliver’s shape and size, which earned me a long and painful repair and recovery. All told Oliver and I were not discharged from the hospital for 5 days after his birth.

At the beginning of our 5 day stay in hospital, I thought little about it. The doctors and nurses assured us that we were both healthy, and that the IV antibiotics were routine and harmless. In short, we would be bringing home a totally healthy and normal bouncing baby boy, just a few days later than expected.

A number of contributing factors meant that we would be spending this time in a tiny curtained off corner of a larger public room watching other families come and go. There was the teenager who spent most of her stay alone and crying while frantically text messaging on her phone, the east Indian family with the delicious smelling food that made me even less excited about the hospital slop I was eating, the family from out of town who were evidently hard of hearing judging by the astronomic levels of their television’s volume.

I took it all in stride. I smiled and nodded at the nurses trying to tell me how to breastfeed, all of whom had different ‘facts’ and opinions about how I should be feeding my child. I didn’t punch the lab techs that came in every morning to draw blood from my baby right there beside my bed. (They don’t just use a needle on infants; they cut their little feet and squeeze out drops.) And I stayed calm and optimistic while learning to clean, calm and feed my son around the IV and the hoses attached to it, all the while telling myself that after 5 days, I could bring him home and never have to think about it again.

On the 4th day, when Oliver was in the nursery receiving his daily medication, they told me that his IV needed to be redone, again. I'd heard him crying on my way back from a soak in the gross hospital tubs. I entered the nursery to see his arm swollen around the IV. I had just enough time to kiss his head and find out that the IV had slipped out of his vein and allowed some of his antibiotic to be injected into the tissue rather than his blood stream, before they whisked him away to the NICU for the third time to have it fixed. When they brought him back I lost it.

For lack of anywhere else to put it they had stuck an IV line in my son’s head, then handed him back to me along with a bag of the hair they had to clip away to do it.

I know it sounds really stupid to be upset about a few little pieces of hair, especially when it was medically necessary and part of keeping him healthy. But that little bag of hair completely ruined every ounce of strength, patience and calm that I had in me. That little bag of hair, and the barely noticeable bald patch it left behind on my son's head would be a constant reminder to me that my body had made my baby sick.

When I saw that little lock of hair, the one that looks almost identical to the one my mother still carries with her from my late sister, a little voice in the back of my head said ‘There! You see! Proof, physical proof of your negligence.’ That same voice that had been quietly asking why I hadn’t mentioned having a slight fever to my doctor, why I had been so quick to assume that my flu like symptoms were one final bout of morning sickness, and not a sign that my uterus was infected and becoming less hospitable by the day.

That little bag of hair was a reminder that my uterus had been a toxic environment for my baby, and I was suddenly terrified that the toxicity wouldn’t end there. What if there was something wrong with my milk? What if there was something wrong with our home, and the environment we were taking him to? What if I dropped him, or bumped him, or somehow injured him by accident? What if I fucked this kid up so far beyond repair that he became an axe murderer or something and the police and all the news papers would say that it was as a direct result of his toxic home environment?

Thank God for Teresa the night nurse who sat with me and rubbed my back while I clung to my baby (who was fine and slept through the whole procedure by the way) crying how sorry I was for the 15 minutes it took Das Piper to throw on some clothes and drive like a mad man back to the hospital. And thank God for Das Piper, who managed to calm me down and reassure me enough to breastfeed and then go to sleep.

Since being home I have calmed and reassured myself that everything will be ok. I’ve come to accept his little tiny bald spot that no one but me notices, but even more important than that I have come to accept the profound vulnerability that comes with being a parent. I have come to accept that pretending everything was ok in those first 3 days in the hospital would never have worked even if they hadn’t cut his hair, because even without the bumpy start, I would still be worried about doing the right thing, I would still be worried about being good enough for my son.

Today Oliver and I attended our first Y’s Moms group. Y’s moms is a totally free walk in social group for mothers of small children held at the YMCA. The purpose is to have a place to talk about what has been going on in yours and your child’s life, whether that is good or bad, and to provide a support group of other parents. When I mentioned this vulnerability, that I hadn’t been prepared to be suddenly so fragile, there was nothing but complete understanding in the eyes of the other mothers there.

‘It’s that vulnerability that makes us good mothers’ one woman said. ‘If there was nothing on the line we wouldn’t work so hard to give these babies the best we can give.’

Now, instead of symbolizing all of my guilt and terror over an infection that was not my fault, and not something I could have prevented, that little bag of hair is a reminder of the extraordinary change that this little boy had made in me. For better or worse, I am his mother, and I am giving him nothing but my absolute best.


GIST # 23 of 365

1) Waking up to the gentle murmurs of Das Piper talking to his son.

2) Banana pancakes.

3) Reassurance from the home visit nurse that I am breastfeeding correctly, and recognition of the fact that I stuck with it even though the doctors and nurses at the hospital were getting jumpy about my ability to nurse effectively after breast reduction surgery.

4) Teeny tiny baby socks.

5) Finally being together as a family at home in our own beds.


He's finally here!

It's the first honorary passed-out-naked photo of Oliver!
He's such a rock star.

Oliver Malcolm Blair
September 21st, 2009
8 lbs 11 ounces
22.5 inches long


Pregnant Bellies Are Not Fashion Accessories.

This lazy Sunday morning started with a big bowl of cereal and Project Runway. This week’s designer challenge: to create a look for pregnant celebrity Rebecca Romijn. (Ok, so it wasn’t really this week’s challenge at all, it was a re-run, but I am really not the kind of dedicated T.V watcher who sees things on first airing.)

To my horror, the episode featured the usual skinny, cellulite free, un-swollen models of the show who’s only reason for feeling ill or woozy would be the meal or 5 they missed to be so skinny and cellulite free, with pillows strapped to their otherwise perfect midriffs while they strutted down the runway in 6 inch heals.

I would look and feel that good in heels too if I wasn’t so swollen that my ankles disappeared about a month ago! I could wear short shorts and confidently strut down the street if I could bend far enough to shave my legs or use make-up to cover the varicose veins! Sure those leggings look great on the model, but they’d be tight enough on me that the whole world would be able to see the diaper sized maxi pad I have to wear to catch the copious amounts of mucus and discharge that no one ever warns you about. I would love to show off that much cleavage too, except that there’s no room in those tiny cups for nursing pads, a definite must have when your boobs start squeezing out sticky colostrum every time anyone even mentions a hungry baby. And last but not least, I would like to think I could rock a runway walk like that too, except that cramping, ligament pain, extra weight, and a baby in the way makes it absolutely impossible to walk without a waddle, let alone any faster than a slow meander.

Maybe Heidi Klum is just better at this whole pregnancy thing than I am, I mean, she’s certainly had more practice having had almost four children to my almost one, but I doubt that even she believes her own line.

Yes pregnant woman can be sexy; yes we can still look good. Occasionally, even feel good and sexy, and thank God we are no longer subject to the horrid maternity fashion of old. But the image of pregnancy being portrayed in Hollywood is completely ridiculous and unattainable. On the whole, women are constantly held to impossible image standards by the fashion and entertainment industries every other day of our lives. . . Is it too much to ask that we be given a 9 month reprieve while we are growing your future consumers?

If I have learned nothing else over the past 9 months, I have learned this lesson the hard way: There is absolutely nothing glamorous about pregnancy.

Don’t let those cute little Hollywood starlets fool you, the next time you see a tabloid photo of a glowing Gisele Bundchen, or an even bustier than usual Kendra Wilkinson, do me a favour and spit on it.

The reality is that between the clumsiness that makes you feel like a bull in a china shop, the weight gain and swelling that make you feel like a beached whale, the morning sickness that has the potential to be so bad that you literally loose four months of your life, The many and varied substances that your body discharges, and the number of different people that need to poke and prod and swab and look in your most intimate of places, you are lucky to even feel human most days. What makes it awesome is the little bundle of joy that’s wrecking your body to get to you; there is simply no other way to dress it up.


GIST #22 of 365

1) Das Piper somehow managed to make hamburger helper out of veggie meat. . . I was obviously suspicious at first, but it was delicious. . . The upstairs neighbour must be leaving red neck germs in the hallways or something; enjoying Hamburger Helper today. . . Watching Dog the Bounty Hunter tomorrow.

2) Only two more days before my doctor goves me some natural induction methods to try. This baby will be here soon.

3) TSN may suck gigantic balls in the sports coverage department, and I may have had to watch said shitty coverage with people I really really don't like. . . But it's hard not to be happy with a 45 point win over Winnipeg in yesterday's banjo bowl. . . Especially when people I do like bring me ice cream at half time.

4) The Food Network.


Still Pregnant.

In the excitement following last Friday's doctor's appointment I made the mistake of telling everyone I know, including the faceless masses of the Internet that I am 3 centimeters dilated and can expect to go into labour any day.

OK, mistake is a strong word, it is exciting and I don't regret sharing this excitement with everyone else. Nor am I not extremely appreciative of all the support that I am receiving from friends and family.

Our cellphone provider is going to be extremely appreciative as well. Since Friday afternoon our phones have been ringing off the hook.

"Have you popped that baby out yet?"

"Still pregnant?"

"Hey! haven't talked to you in a while, weren't you supposed to be having a baby this month?"

And of coarse, the most common one:

"Am I a Gido/Baba/Grandma/Grandpa yet?" (To which I can only say this: Have I done something to make you think that I won't call and let you know when you are?)

Yes I am 3 centimeters dilated, and yes I am experiencing other pre-labour symptoms, and yes the doctor seams to think that, though it is possible, I won't be going all the way to my estimated due date. BUT that does NOT mean that I am in active labour, from what I've read pre-labour symptoms can precede active labour by up to 4 weeks.

You've made it through the first level, but sorry Mario, our princess is in another castle.

What it DOES mean is that I am exhausted, uncomfortable, and irritable. So while I appreciate the support, I cannot be held responsible for what kind of response well wishers will get when they call. Here's how to avoid having to call.

1) If you are just calling to see if I am still pregnant, the answer is probably yes, I promise you that I will be shouting with glee from roof tops (And by roof tops I mean this web page, and twitter, and mass text message) and you will know.

2) If you are calling to see if I need anything, the answer is not really, but here's a wish list of things to make you feel useful.

- Frozen casseroles and other such things to heat up and eat after the baby is born when I don't have time to cook.

- Movies and or TV series to watch/play in the background so that I don't forget what adult conversations sound like after the baby is born and Das Piper goes back to work.

- In suit laundry.

- Books to read. . . In the last few months, having nothing better to do, I have run out of things to read. If you have anything interesting, I would love to borrow it.

- A million dollars. For obvious reasons this would be VERY much appreciate.

3) If you are calling because you want to drop by for a visit. Then by all means, call and see what I am up to, I'd probably love to have visitors, but don't call when you're already here, or only a block away. I may need a few minutes to find pants that fit, or put some deodorant on.


The Great Epidural Debate

The great epidural debate is one that I had originally decided not to touch on in my writing here, or really discus at all with anyone else. I believe that whether or not a woman chooses medication as a form of pain relief during labour is a decision that she can make with her doctor and partner. I am apparently the only person who believes that this topic is none of anybody else’s business.

At a certain point in pregnancy every second person you meet wants to know one thing. ‘Are you going to get the epidural?’ When I tell people that I don’t want to but am not ruling it out I get one of two main reactions, both of which are extremely annoying.

Reaction #1, the most common reaction comes from the people who I’ve written about previously, the ones who are about to tell me all about how horrible it was to birth their children and seam to think that telling me this is at all helpful to my own birthing experience.

One of these people actually rolled their eyes and laughed at me before delivering her lines; ‘You know there isn’t a special place in heaven for mothers who give birth naturally. Oh you’ll end up taking it, trust me’. It’s that last part that gets to me the most, the part where the say ‘trust me’ in the most ominous voice they can muster.

I’ve already addressed these people in a previous post, and when I address them in person I usually calmly explain that my partner and I have talked about it, and my doctor and I have talked about it, and I am comfortable with the birthing plan that I have made for myself.

Reaction #2, usually comes from people who either don’t have any children, or feel very smug about having had there children sans epidural.

‘By even making it an option you’ll use it, do you know all of the horrible things that those drugs can do to you and your baby?’

Why yes, I am aware of the possible side effects of an epidural. I am aware that it can slow down labour, that it can be ineffective or partially effective making the rest of my labour worse, and most of all I am aware of the studies suggesting that the epidural drugs can have negative effects on bonding and nursing in the first few hours of my child’s life. I am however, very satisfied with my doctor’s reassurance that it will not turn my baby into a three eyed flying cancer monkey, nor affect his ability to thrive in any other way.

Once again what I actually say in real life, because I am not as cool in real life as I am on the Internet, is much the same as what I tell the first category of people. I am comfortable with the birthing plan that my partner, doctor, and I have agreed upon.

Said birthing plan is relatively simple, if I can stay calm, and stay focused, then I should be able to avoid the use of the epidural, and if I do ask for pain relief Das Piper knows to talk me through the contraction, and ask me again so that I don’t end up making a rash decision in the heat of the moment.

My reasons for wanting to avoid an epidural are simple as well. In general I’ve never been one to take medication for anything unless it is absolutely necessary, that applies to antibiotics, pain relievers, and anything else. I always like to give my body a chance to heal itself before resorting to drugs.

What experience I do have with being under anesthetic also makes me weary. Waking up from my breast reduction surgery was unpleasant to say the least. The shaking, vomiting, and headache resulting from the anesthetic were far worse than any other part of my very painful recovery. While I understand that an epidural would be administering different drugs than those from my surgery, I also know that these are possible side effects of an epidural as well and would prefer not to feel like that during one of the happiest moments of my life.

Regardless of my reasons, or my birthing plans, or anything else though, the point remains that there are many different pain relief options to choose from during labour, and I believe that I have done sufficient research to make a well informed decision for myself.