How do you know if you’re done having kids?

baby toes

It seems silly, sometimes, to wrestle with this question. Should we have another child?

I know it’s a luxury even to be able to ask this. There are lots of people for whom having kids is not a true choice – either the opportunity or ability is not there, or, in some cases, the option not to have more children is unavailable.

Still, I know I’m not the only mama fortunate enough to struggle with this “dilemma.” Every time someone asks “So… do you think you’ll have any more?”, indecision rears its adorable, baby-faced head. I envy the parents who seem peaceful and sure when they say, “Yep, we’re done.”

It’s weird. Some days I’m SO SURE we’re done, and some days I think… How can we possibly be done?

We presently have an almost six-year-old son E, and a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter AB. They are both healthy and smart and cute and normal. (If you can ever call a kid normal.) We also have our sweet salmon-spirit boy, stillborn Sebastian, in our hearts. We are incredibly blessed, overall.

I don’t need more children. But sometimes I think I want them. And even though my Hubbibi was all “I’m gettin’ snipped!” after our daughter was born, I know he sometimes has similar wavering feelings. Sometimes.

Initially, in arguing with myself about children, I tried to be methodical and logical about it.

  • Glowing pregnancy and sweet baby kicks VS. tiredness and nausea.
  • Adorable maternity tops VS. maternity pants that don’t stay up.
  • Visiting with my midwives VS. all that anxiety again.
  • That wonderful, perfect birth VS. … you have no idea how the birth will actually go.
  • Those priceless infant-breastfeeding moments VS. starting all over with the Great Sleep Challenge.
  • Gorgeous baby cheeks, hands, toes, bums… VS. DIAPERS.
  • Precious baby clothes VS. unthinkable amounts of laundry.
  • Snuggly newborn VS. screaming newborn (since you never know which one you’ll get).
  • Leaving the house with one bag VS. leaving the house with ALL THE THINGS.
  • Peaceful naptimes VS. stressing about whether the naps are happening…

And so on. You get the idea.

But I’ve realized that this method is useless in this context. The things that make me want to have another child are not subject to rationality or quantitative comparison to disadvantages. They’re things like:

can’t believe how fast my babies weren’t babies anymore. AB is just passing the age that E was when we conceived her. She is a big girl, running around and chattering and putting on her own pants and shoes. Not a baby at all. Where are my babies??

Anticipating a new baby is the most exciting thing on earth, like Christmas and birthday rolled up together, times a billion, with a little dash of terror to spice it up. Visiting my midwives, seeing my wiggly bean on the ultrasound screen, waiting to greet a whole new person… indescribable. As Sean once said, while we talked about our children with parental awe, “I just wonder – what else can we make??”

And when my kids say, “Can we have a new baby?”… There are no actual words to depict the yearning that squeezes my heart for them, wishing to witness their anticipation and joy. Especially the time E said, “Can we have another Sebastian?” He knows he was supposed to have a brother, and as much as he loves his sister – she is not one.

I remember talking about babies with Sean shortly after Sebastian died, and realizing that we had a simultaneous, identical urge to have a whole houseful of kids. Of course, that was partly grief talking – but that feeling has never fully gone away. We both grew up in larger families, and that big-crew feeling runs deep.

There are also, I have come to grasp, societal forces that glorify the concept of having more children. I’ve read bloggers who designate people deciding not to have children as selfish, because they don’t make the sacrifices associated with parenthood. Sure, parenting requires sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean it’s a noble thing to do. There are lots of selfish reasons to have children, and many selfless reasons not to.

To be clear, I certainly admire the stamina and gumption of the parents who make life work with more children than we have. And there is a semi-conscious part of me that thinks stopping at two = copping out. Surely we’re tough enough for more. But intellectually, I know that’s ridiculous. It’s not a competition, it’s not a charitable act, and we haven’t been charged with re-populating the earth. (Some would argue it’s the opposite.)

It’s been valuable for me to recognize that insidious, illogical pro-child inclination, so that I can remind myself to discount it.

There’s another realization that has helped me too.

A while ago, I was visiting a friend with three children. Her youngest was still a baby – one whose conception had been a surprise. I asked her about the three-child dynamic. She admitted it had been hard, but added a statement that crystallized things for me: “She completes our family.”

That’s it, right there. I know that’s what I’m looking for. I also know it’s unattainable for me. I could have twelve children and still not complete my family, because one will always be missing. And in a way, it’s a relief to realize it. I have no choice but to let go of that idea.

With that in mind, I’m more able to grasp the arguments that have to do with reality.

I can remember saying aloud, during my last pregnancy, “Note to self: DON’T DO THIS AGAIN.” Three pregnancies in a row, close together, were increasingly hard. I feel sorry and wistful, remembering how much of E’s toddlerhood I spent exhaustedly pregnant, then grieving, then pregnant again – with extra anxiety and double the number of appointments. I was not as present as I wish I had been during that unbearably cute phase of his life. I want to be truly here, enjoying the children I’m so fortunate to have, right now. If I think time is going fast right now – I’m pretty sure it redoubles in speed with every child.

The other thing I need to admit to myself is that I’m not super-human. (*shocked gasp.*) Sweet and lovely as those baby moments are, later ones are never as enchanted as the first-born ones, where everything is new and you can stare endlessly at your baby… because there’s at least one other little human to (rightfully) demand attention. And I have had enough hard mothering moments – the ones that put my weaknesses as a parent into ugly relief – to know that three or more children is unlikely to be less stressful. I don’t want to be the overtaxed mom, the one who raises her voice and reacts with grumpiness, any more often than I already am. I don’t want to do this if I’m going to do a bad – or even mediocre – job of it. I’m sure my kids wouldn’t want that either.

Since all these thoughts fell into place, it’s been easier to be swayed by the other practical arguments: fewer children are more affordable, more transportable, easier to house, more manageable when sick (in March when they both got a stomach bug, I couldn’t help thinking, Thank goodness there are only two!), and so on. And it’s good knowing I have a holding-hand for each child.

We do have a certain beautiful balance the way things are. Seeing my kids play together (even though it’s often punctuated by screaming) is something I’ll never tire of. We have all types of toys – the cars and the dolls, the tea sets and the Lego – and both of them play with everything. They have each other, and there’s no-one to be left out.

And I hope that someday, the thought of Sebastian will be a comfort to them, at least in some ways – a presence of love in their hearts that is part of their sense of family.

We are finally beginning to get rid of baby things in our house. It’s hard and it makes me all emotional. Looking at baby clothes makes me want to abandon all my good arguments… but so far, I haven’t. Every time I say to someone, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re done,” it’s more true, and gradually, it becomes less painful to say.

I know I’ll always feel pangs around infants, as lots of people do… and there will always be an ache in my arms for Sebastian. But I can live with those things. My family is wonderful as it is, and that’s the bottom line.



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Celebrating One Year of Baby AB

Dear Baby AB,

It’s hard to believe it’s already, and only, been a year since you came on the scene in person.

The night I laboured with you, so many people could hardly wait to for you to arrive. There were people scattered across the city, the province, the continent, who were thrilled to hear about you, but none more than your family. Your big brother E was so excited, but the waiting was hard for him – we’d been trying to get things going all weekend. Auntie Em stayed with him that night, reassuring him and answering all his questions, while Daddy and I were helping you out into the world.

Your first day of life: at the hospital with E, Auntie Em, Grammie and Papa.

Your healthy birth and your spirited presence were such a relief and such a joy – and a huge adjustment, too.

At twelve months of age, your personality is a force to be reckoned with, one that has changed and elevated all our lives. You’re like a shining rainbow balloon – apt to awe the world with your round, tranquil beauty one moment, and explode noisily the next.

People often comment on what a good-natured baby you are. You love people and engage with others readily, using your incredibly expressive (and deliciously kissable) face and hands to draw them in. No one could be hard-hearted upon hearing you laugh or seeing you play peekaboo.

Most people don’t witness you asserting your INALIENABLE RIGHT to have things EXACTLY AS YOU WANT THEM. That’s when you use your earsplitting shrieks, your most tragic expressions, your gymnastic writhing and arm-flailing. It’s quite a sight to witness. When you decide you’re being wronged, there is very little that will soothe you. And yet, your joy is palpable and contagious when things go your way.

So, at the first birthday mark, what matters to you? What takes you from agony to ecstasy and back?

Things you love:

  •  Your family: You love to nap in the crook of Daddy’s arm; seeing your brother in the mornings makes you wiggly and excited; you and I have wonderful snuggles; and you have so many doting grandparents and aunts and uncles you love to be with, too.
Two peas in a pod.

  • Mama’s milk: there are still some situations that only nursing can soothe, and you’re very possessive of it. You clearly believe that my “milk jugs” are your territory.
  • Kisses: you have recently learned to give kisses. We who receive them are so charmed by your “mmmah” that we always exclaim, “Thank you!” It was pretty much the cutest thing ever in the universe when you started giving kisses and then saying “Thank you!” yourself.
  • Food: we’ve been encouraging you to try lots of things so you will have an easier time with food than your brother, and it seems to be working. You are happy eating practically everything we’ve given you so far, including curried lentils, quiche, lasagna, perogies, chili, tahini-mustard sauce, and most recently and voraciously, seaweed snacks. It’s awesome. (The other day at the park, along with your apple slices, you inadvertently also ate a wasp. That was NOT so awesome. Well, you didn’t actually eat it, but you certainly munched on it, in spite of my [apparently inadequate] vigilance – it was well dead when I scooped it from your mouth. Gah, heart attack for Mommy.)
  • Music and dancing: we put on the tunes and you hold onto the table edge or someone’s knee and bop up and down. IT. IS. ADORABLE. We try to do lots of dancing with you.
  • Cats: one of your first words was “GATTT!” They always make you smile. When you were still tiny and nursing all the time, and poor Nico would try to share my lap with you, you would just grab his ear and hold on. You are still learning to be gentle.
  • Bonobo: there’s a picture in our kitchen of a bonobo with its simian mouth wide open – a picture that used to fascinate your brother, too. You love to point to it during meals and say, “Bobo!” with your big eyes and your ooo-mouth.
  • Babies: whenever you see a baby’s face on anything, you get all grinny and pointy and say beebee a bunch of times. You immediately latched onto your brother’s baby doll the first time you saw it, and you lick her face whenever you get the chance.
  • The bath: you seem to love being in the water, especially now that you get to share the bathtub with your brother and his toys. There’s drama when we remove you.
  • Exploring: you are going to be a climber, I think. You would dive headfirst down the stairs if we let you. Although you haven’t started walking yet, you have experimented with no-hands standing and seem to find it exhilarating. Watch out, world.
  • Tickles: you get lots of these because hearing you laugh is fantastic. And now you’ve learned to say “Tico tico tico!”
  • Being a ham: it’s one of the funnest things about you. You love making silly faces, and putting your arms way up, or on your cheeks, for emphasis. Irresistible.
  • Stuff you’re not supposed to play with: cat food, toilet paper, pencils, markers, small/sharp things, squishy balls you can take chunks out of with your teeth. You’re all over that stuff.
  • Talking: you babble very expressively, especially when we read to you. And you’re learning new words so fast our minds are boggled (34 at last count). Yesterday you said something that sounded exactly like “It’s a ball!” (A sentence? Can that be real?? It’s a little freaky.) Also, I’m pretty sure you were speaking Parseltongue last evening when you were lulling yourself to sleep. I kind of expected snakes to emerge from the plumbing.

Things that elicit bloodcurdling screams:

  •  When I take your (my) milk away before you’re precisely, exactly ready.
  • Too many kisses: you love them, but you do have a limit and DON’T CROSS IT, people.
  • Diaper changes: wrestling! Flipping over! Unholy screeching! It’s impressive. And tiring.
  • Sitting in your eating chair when you’re not precisely, exactly in the mood.
  • Too much car time. We had a few dicey moments going to and from Cape Cod, but overall you were a trouper – especially considering that you used to scream through ANY car ride, particularly at stoplights.
  • Getting out of the bath, as mentioned above.
  • Having your face wiped. How dare we?
  • Not enough snuggling, or too much snuggling, or putting you down, or picking you up, before you’re precisely, exactly ready.

So… you’re not the easiest baby in the world. But you are wonderful.

And actually, I’m glad for your toughness. For one thing, it has kept us from romanticizing (too much) your status as our Rainbow baby, so wished-for and worried-over… You being so forthright and determined and loud means that we live firmly in reality. No danger of over-idealizing or coddling this kid – which wouldn’t do you any favours anyway.

I hope you keep this, too – this knowing what you want and don’t want, and making no bones about it. I’m glad you object when someone crosses your personal boundaries in a way you don’t like. (Though I hope you will learn a bit of diplomacy someday.) You go right ahead and be a tough kid, and a flinty kind of woman. We are all proud of you.

I love the time we spend together. I love watching you and your brother being silly and making each other laugh. I love watching you get absorbed by a book or toy (or some other random item) on your own: the way your dimply little fingers handle things, the studious way you examine them. I love the kisses and snuggles, and I even love (on some level) the screams and thrashing, because that’s you being YOU.

And you are sensational, little girl. We love you beyond all description. Go get ’em.

Photo by Daddy, with love.



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A request for moms with a story to tell (I’m lookin’ at you, NaBloPoMoers and Yeah Writers)

As many of you already know, I am a two-timer. I have another blog besides It’s Dilovely – a blog called MotherGather, where I collect birth stories. I was inspired to start this community when I had my first child and realized how important birth and its stories are: real, unsanitized, passionate accounts of what are, for many women, the most intense and life-changing experiences we have.

Some of you have already contributed at least one story, for which I am exceedingly grateful. Your stories are amazing, genuine, unique, full of truth and love. Some of you wrote the stories yourselves and sent them to me, and some of you spent time telling me your stories while I tried to capture your voice as best I could. Some of you are working on your stories right now. 🙂

Today, I’m putting out an official request for more stories. I am always looking for new ones. One of the reasons I ask now is that it’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), a chance for bloggers to prove their mettle by writing every day of the month, and through BlogHer I’ve been perusing many an awesome blog these last two weeks. I’ve been enjoying the writers on the grid at Yeah Write, a community of “writers who blog and bloggers who write” – people who love writing, who do it because it brings them joy and satisfies a need for a creative outlet. Many of these bloggers are also mothers.

Dear Mom-NaBloPoMoers and and Mom-Yeah-Writers, I would be honoured if you would consider contributing your birth story to MotherGather. I would be thrilled to share your stories, linking back to your blog if you like. Please take a look at the Share Your Story page and think about it (and of course if you want to wait until after November is over, there’s no rush!).

And if you don’t think you are a writer, but want to share your story, please contact me at itsdilovely(at)gmail(dot)com. We will make it happen.

I can’t wait to hear from you!





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Journey to the two-child* family

After twelve days with the new girl in the house, we are settling in. Two whole, living children. As expected, it’s a rather large adjustment. Worth it in every way, of course… but large nonetheless.

I guess there’s still lots I haven’t told you, starting with the big weekend o’ birthing, but finding moments to write has become a wee bit more difficult, so guess what… bullet points!

The Birth

What was the same:

  • My three births were all very different, but wouldn’t you know it – they all hurt. Ha ha.
  • They were also all inductions, with care transferred to our local hospital.
  • We had planned to deliver at the hospital, and it meant a lot to us to do so, to “come full-circle”, as Sean put it, by having a joyful experience to follow up our tragedy, in that same place.
  • The midwives were there for me through it all, for every birth.
  • As with E, I ended up having an epidural for Baby A. This was after 8 or 9 hours on the oxytocin drip (to strengthen contractions), through the night during which I obviously didn’t sleep, so everyone assured me I was making a good decision: get some rest before the really hard work. (Still had an internal battle about it, though.)
  • As with E, I did the pushing on my back in the hospital bed (because of the epidural IV – not a lot of room to move). I’d been reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and had high hopes for moving around during labour and getting gravity to work for me… but you can’t win ’em all.
  • There was the same feeling of total surreality when my baby was suddenly out in the world… I can’t believe you’re here – I can’t believe you’re real – I can’t believe ALL of you fit inside there!!
  • The maternity nurses were freakin’ awesome.
  • My midwives were freakin’ awesome.
  • Sean was a fantastic birth partner, as always.
  • Joy.

Daddy, Mommy, and Baby A

Finally in my arms.

What was different:

  • I had to have two doses of prostaglandin gel over 24 hours to get my cervix ready. With E, they gave me one dose and bam – contractions began on their own a few hours later.
  • I was dilated 3 cm and having very mild contractions by the time I would have been given the third dose (Saturday evening, around 9), but chose to go on oxytocin drip anyway.
  • For a moment, I was like, Wait – why did I pick this?? I really wanted to stay in the care of my midwives, and see what my body would do on its own… but then, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t have needed the drip anyway. The biggest consideration was that Sean could only get Monday off, therefore we really wanted to have this baby soon, so he could be there for the birth and have a bit of time with her.
  • Finally, I got to experience real “early labour” – you know, that part they tell you about, where you can talk through contractions and go about your business? Never had more than a few minutes of that before. Wasn’t bad!
  • I also remembered to use some visualization, which worked well for me for about seven hours. I was reminding myself of Ina May’s information on sphincters – that the cervix is one, and women have shown themselves able to help open or close theirs with certain thoughts and emotions. During contractions, I would consciously relax all my nether muscles and picture the tension/pain exiting my body that way. It really did help with the pain – until… it didn’t any more. I don’t know if it helped me dilate – it still took me those seven hours to get from 3 cm to 5 cm. Sigh.
  • The pushing stage was positively leisurely! I remembered it being overwhelming with E’s birth, and now I know why: there are supposed to be breaks. These contractions were a few minutes apart, whereas his were almost on top of each other. I recall barely having time for an ice chip and one breath of air before the next push, and feeling that there was no way I could keep going. For this birth, there was actually time to relax in between pushes. It made a huge difference.
  • No episiotomy, no vacuum assistance! And only two stitches. Yay!
  • Although it was technically a transfer of care, the doctor on call knows my midwives and didn’t feel the need to come in. So it was just the maternity nurse and my midwifery team, and the student midwife caught my daughter. Pretty great.
  • We were privileged to have a very talented, sensitive photographer in the room – so glad we made that decision!
  • Post-natal cramping: Wowch. I was warned that with any child after the first, uterine cramps are way more painful during those first few days, especially during breastfeeding. YES. It’s true. They feel like contractions.

What I’d forgotten:

  • That getting an epidural is a rather laborious process (oops, bad unintentional pun). With E, I was so exhausted by the time I got the needles (after labouring for 37 hours), I have almost no recollection of the procedure – only the relief.
  • Just how loosey-goosey everything feels when you suddenly have no baby in there – like your internal organs can just joggle around. Way more so this time than with Sebastian, since Baby A was close to double his birthweight.
  • That the placenta resembles the tree of life. What a crazy-cool organ – and pretty brawny for something so ephemeral.
placenta tree of life
Here’s a nice dry diagram for you. The real placenta was much bloodier, but you see what I mean.

What I remembered:

  • Pain is a weird place to be; a different dimension. It transports and warps your perspective… and it just wears you out.
  • The epidural is pretty magical. Otherwise, who would ever want to get multiple huge-ass needle injections between her vertebrae?
  • Birthing a baby makes a big ol’ mess. (I can’t deny it’s nice to have all that taken care of by hospital staff.)
  • I was grateful for hospital food, unexciting though it is. Tomato soup and raisin bran muffin tasted scrumptious after all that work.

We had quite a few visitors that first day (all family, or close enough), and Baby A slept angelically for basically the whole time. When E arrived to meet his baby sister, he came straight to me instead and climbed right up on the bed for a snuggle. Poor guy had been so excited for his sibling to arrive, and now he wasn’t sure any more if he was happy about it. But after about ten minutes to reassure himself that there would just be more love along with the additional person, he approached A and swiftly fell in love.

Daddy went home that night, to be with E, while Auntie Beth kept me and A company in the hospital.

And I did have a little moment all by myself with my brand-new daughter. I just looked at her precious face and hands, kissed her velvety cheeks, and cried with gratitude.

So beautifully, perfectly alive.

Dilovely's Baby A


P.S. A more detailed – and chronological – version of the birth story will be up on MotherGather sometime soon!

*For the record… we consider ourselves a three-child family, in our hearts. But the semantics are tricky. You know.


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Dear Rainbow Baby, now that you’ve arrived

Dear, sweet Rainbow Baby A,

You are finally here. Today you turned four days old.

You arrived on Sunday morning, September 30th, at 10:21, after about thirteen hours of labour. It was a beautiful autumn day, and we could see spectacular orange and red trees from the hospital room.

Precious girl, it was so amazing to meet you, finally. I know that in some ways, I’ve been waiting for you for much longer than nine months. I really enjoyed feeling you move around in my belly, getting to know a bit of your personality that way… But that was nothing compared to the joy of holding you in my arms and seeing your perfect self at last.

Mama and baby A
Newly born.

You look like your big brother E, and your Daddy; there’s no denying it. (I guess Mama’s genes just can’t compete.) Actually, your Daddy and I both noticed right away that you look like your other brother, Sebastian, maybe even more. Your hair is brown, like his, just as I imagined it. Your cheeks are adorably round, your ears are perfect, and you have actual chubbiness in your legs and tummy (you weighed 8 lb, 8 oz – even more than E!). You have long monkey-toes, and slender, ladylike fingers (unlike either of your parents – I think maybe your Gramma Sue sent them).

baby toes
Baby toes.

Unlike E, you did the classic newborn thing and cried angrily when you found your breath. It was so good to hear your voice.

newborn baby A
Expressing yourself.

Then you calmed down when you were put on my chest and heard my familiar heartbeat. The elation we felt, seeing and hearing you in sturdy good health, was indescribable. I shed a lot of happy tears.

In the past four-and-a-half days, we’ve learned a few things about you.

  • You have, as your Uncle Ben puts it, two modes: sleeping and hungry. You eat a LOT. Even on that first night in the hospital, when many newborns don’t eat much, you spent a good few hours learning to eat and asking for more. (Good thing your food is essentially free!)
  • You are a bit nocturnal. Your longest awake periods have been at night. I should have guessed, considering how often I would lie down in bed at night and you would be dancing up a storm inside me.
  • Although we didn’t see much of them the first day or two, you have beautiful eyes. I am mesmerized by them, during those moments (becoming more frequent) when you are calm and awake. You remind me of some kind of woodland creature, a chipmunk maybe.
  • You are full of expressions, awake and asleep. We all just watch you in fascination. You have one face you make in particular that makes me think of a confused monkey and never fails to make me laugh.
  • Your expressions extend to your hands, too. They are very eloquent and do lovely dances to match your face.
  • You are very, very cuddly. I know babies are meant to be cuddly… it’s just so wonderful having the chance to enjoy this stage where you just curl up on somebody’s chest and sleep – your great-Auntie CL calls it the “tree frog stage”. You are so soft and snuggly and delicious, you’re irresistible.
  • Everyone who meets you is delighted by you – especially your big brother. He was a little unsure for a few minutes when he first came to visit you in the hospital – I think he could see that his parents were going to have to spend a lot of time on you – but now he’s your biggest fan. He sings to you about how sweet and beautiful you are. He wants to give you hugs and kisses and touch your silky cheeks all the time; the only challenge is helping him remember how fragile you are, that he must contain his excitement enough to be safe around you. He is all ready to protect you (once he learns how).

We are so excited to be your parents, lovely girl. Thank you for being in our family. We love you more than words can express.


A very special thank you to LouLou West Photography for capturing these moments so beautifully and sensitively.

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Talking about anatomy with a preschooler

Sean and I have always used the scientific words for certain body parts when talking with E. There are reasons for this.

For one thing, we both know that personally, we would feel like tools if we used words like winkie and hoo-ha or whatever. (This is why I never got the immensely popular “Once Upon A Potty” book for E – lots of parents love this book and find it incredibly helpful, and I’m glad for you if you did… but I got to the part where it said Joshua had “a Pee-Pee for making Wee-Wee” and I was like, HELL NO. No one can make me read that aloud.)

For another, I’ve been privy to a few discussions in the staffroom among teachers working on “touching units” (i.e. learning about bodies, good touch/bad touch, sexuality) who have discovered that many of the younger kids don’t actually recognize the official words for things – they don’t know that what they have is called a penis or vagina.

It’s not that I judge parents who use cuter terms than, say, scrotum – since there’s nothing cute about that word at all. I understand the urge to use words that are more fun, but I guess I’d rather that we, the parents, be the ones to introduce the anatomical terms, rather than the Grade 1 teacher. Plus, there are countless terms if you’re going to use slang – how do you pick?

Also, it makes for some funny conversations – awkward, but funny. These words just sound comical, coming from a three-year-old mouth. It’s even funnier when you combine it with a three-year-old’s perception of how anatomy works.

When he learned that he had a penis, he assumed everyone had one – and why wouldn’t he? We all have eyes and knees and bellybuttons, so it only makes sense. He asked me, “Mummy, where’s your penis?” I explained that girls and women have vaginas instead. He was a bit mystified as to how a person can pee without a penis (since it does seem like a logical instrument to use). I’ve told him that when his baby sister is born, he’ll see the difference.

We’ve also had some conversations about nudity, and how it’s great if he wants to be naked at home, but when we’re at the park, we wear clothes. We did discreetly help him into and out of his swimsuit at splash pads and wading parks this summer, of course, but that was it. Once, when he started to resist getting his underwear back on, we asked him, “Remember why it’s important to wear underwear at the park?” He came up with an answer that made sense, even if it missed the point about public nudity (or keeping your voice down): “To protect my scrotum!!

Of course, my pregnancy has brought up lots of interesting thoughts and questions. He knows the baby is in my belly – he has felt her move, especially with hiccups. He sweetly brings his “caterpillar phone” (a little Baby Einstein device that plays snippets of classical music with flashing lights) and puts the speaker against my abdomen so she can hear it.

He knows she is growing, and has noticed that I’ve grown, as well. The other day, on a trip to the big potty (he still uses his little one most of the time, but likes to branch out occasionally) he saw that our toilet seat has a small crack in it (our bathroom just gets more sketchy all the time, sigh) and asked why. I said, “Well, we sit on it all the time. We put our weight on it, and we weigh a lot, so eventually it just cracked.”

“Yeah,” he responded, “Just like your belly!”

While I was digesting the aptness of this analogy – my belly taking more and more weight until it would “crack” – he continued, “Mama, your belly is humongous. I mean, it’s really huge!” Yep, thanks. I saw that too, kid.

I like to think that our layered pregnancy puzzle, given to E as a gift during the last pregnancy, might have been helpful in clarifying what’s going on.

pregnant mother layer puzzle

He is also dealing with the knowledge that this pregnancy thing will never happen to him, because he’s a boy.

E (as we are winding up playing with vehicles in the living room): Mama, you be the school bus and I’ll be the ambulance.

Me: Sweetie, I have to go eat lunch.

E: But don’t go eat! [Favourite argument in any situation: “But, don’t!”]

Me: Remember, I have to eat so your baby sister can eat. [We’ve talked about how I “share” my food with her, how she gets the nutrients through the umbilical cord, and that’s going to form her bellybutton.]

E (pause): Mama, I want to have a baby and I want it to be in MY tummy!

Me: Oh, buddy. You know what? I’m afraid you’re never going to have a baby in your tummy.

E: Why not?

Me: Well, boys don’t have babies in their tummies, ever.

E: Why don’t they?

Me: They don’t have the right parts. You have to have a uterus.

E (thinks this over): Then who has uteruses??

Me: Just girls, and women.

E (another pause): Will the baby have a uterus? [This struck me as a very astute question.]

Me: Yes, she will. She just won’t need to use it until she’s older, like a grownup.

Poor kid doesn’t necessarily want to resign himself to the reality of his inability to bear children. Weeks later, he had this conversation with Daddy.

E: Daddy, I’m pregnant.

Daddy: I don’t think so, buddy. You can’t be pregnant.

E: Why?

Daddy: Boys can’t get pregnant. It’s not in our physiology. Only girls can be pregnant. [This is the point where I am certain that, in his mind, Daddy was thinking, “Where’s the fetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box??“]

To illustrate his point, Daddy continues: Who do we know who’s pregnant?

E names me, and another pregnant friend, and then a non-pregnant mom we know.

Daddy: No, not her…

E: But you said all girls are pregnant!

Aha, the oh-so-subtle but vital difference between “all” and “only”.

I was quite glad when Sean related to me the conversation he’d had with E about how the baby was going to come out. Glad E had asked, and even gladder that he’d asked Daddy. 🙂 And that Daddy handled it so well.

He explained simply that most of the time (unless there is something unusual that means a doctor has to get the baby out surgically through the belly), the baby comes through the mother’s vagina. Shrewdly, E expressed his hunch that a baby would be too big to get out of there. Daddy explained that women’s vaginas are designed to do this, to get bigger and let babies out. Bravo, honey – way to be clear. (Considering how many obstetricians all over the planet seem to have forgotten this important fact.)

We have also explained that once the baby is out of my belly, she will be staying out. (Implication: even if you get tired of your baby sister getting lots of attention, sorry – you can’t go back to being an only child.) Instead of me transporting her inside me, we will have to carry her, or wear her in a sling, or bring her places in a car seat. E seems to have a very logical approach, resulting in one of our favourite quotations: “Well, maybe we can just put her back in Mama’s tummy… for trips.”



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Baby Report (no… not that)

I wanted to let you know the latest scoops on Baby #3, since I know there are some of you wondering. Here’s how things stand:

  • On Tuesday, we had our final ultrasound at the hospital, and our final appointment with Dr. S.
  • Baby had a perfect biophysical profile once again, and her head is down (although the rest of her is kind of curled over like a comma, so her bum pokes my side as usual).
  • We have been officially released back into the care of our midwives, and plan to deliver at the local hospital.
  • Dr. S wished us all the best and asked us to visit with the baby if we could, which was very nice.
  • I’m not going to miss those appointments, though. An hour’s drive each way, plus SO much waiting. I had a 15-minute ultrasound, and a total of about 10-15 minutes of conversation and checkup with the nurse and the OB, and yet was at the hospital from 9 until after 12. Sigh.
  • On Thursday, I saw my midwife and we made a plan, which is a relief. I like plans – inasmuch as you can make one for the arrival of a (non-scheduled-C-section) baby.
    • Some lovely stretch-and-sweeps scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday;
    • Home-style labour-encouragement methods in the meantime;
    • One more ultrasound, local this time, on Wednesday (if baby’s still in there);
    • Induction gel for my stubborn cervix on Friday evening (if baby’s still in there);
    • Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin to start contractions) at the hospital on Saturday morning, the due date… unless I go into labour on my own. Nobody is keen on me going post-date with a history of stillbirth.
  • I’m really glad my midwife will be there, in any of those eventualities – and she’s really excited too. Having been the one to catch my beautiful, still Sebastian, she seems just as eager to see his healthy sister as we are.
  • We’re actually hoping I’ll manage to go into labour on Thursday afternoon, since Sean is now into his official apprenticeship classwork, and really can’t afford to miss any shop days. 😛
  • If not… my next hope will be to avoid the Pitocin. Been there, done that.
  • In any case, the real point is… Baby will be here, in our arms, very soon! It’s the actual home stretch, at this point.
  • CAN’T. WAIT. To meet her. Excited beyond words to see her face, snuggle her, nurse her… mother her.
  • Can’t wait for E to meet her, too. He’s met three very young babies in the past week (7 weeks old, 4 weeks old, and 11 days old), one of whom was his cousin. He was fascinated by all of them, and really wanted to get close, hug them, be involved somehow. He keeps talking about how they’re “so, so, so cute!” I can imagine this will only be more intense with his own sister. (I might die of cuteness myself.)
  • As much as E is looking forward to the arrival, it’s pretty clear he has some subconscious worries. The clingy, mommyish behaviour continues, as well as whininess that we’re doing our best to discourage. I’m trying to give him piles of love and snuggle time, even (or especially) when he’s really irritating. Since that de-escalates him best, I’m guessing he just needs the reassurance. And I already feel bad for how much things are going to change for him, very soon.
  • As for my own anxiety factor – and Sean’s too… I’d say it’s receding. We know that if anything were to go wrong at this point, it would have nothing to do with Sebastian – and it’s no more likely for us than for any other family.
  • While we wait out these last few days, I am trying to remember to enjoy the pregnancy, in case I don’t do this again. I sometimes forget to luxuriate, since being this big is awkward – heartburn is an issue – bending over is a project – stretch marks have surpassed my expectations – sleeping is not very comfortable – and me getting out of bed in the morning from our mattress-on-the-floor is like a round of slow-motion rhino-tipping in rewind.
  • But I do love feeling her move. When I can just lie there and feel that, I’m happy.



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Where I find I can’t organize my brain to write a blog post

I am taking a page from Daddy Runs a Lot, who titles all his posts starting with “Where I…”, because this way, I don’t have to be pithy. Also, I am taking a page from my erstwhile blogself, who used to write about whatever came to mind without trying to organize or craft or incorporate glints of awesomeness. I’m too pregnant and too humid and too noodley to be truly coherent. Cohesive? One of those.

Back to one of the reasons I love blogging: bullet list.

  • I want to thank you, once again, for being wonderful. You make me wonder why on earth I was nervous about sharing my lullaby with you. You honoured me by listening. Merci.
  • On the same topic, I would like to say that artists can be super-lovely. I contacted all the living artists I could track down whose work I used (turned out to be all but one) to ask if it was okay that I used their art to accompany my song. I heard back from one only a few hours later – Yury Salko, of the Ukraine, currently living in Rome. He wrote me the most delightful email which I wish I could just copy for you here, so adorable was his English. It’s full of exclamation points and quirky expressions. Not only did this kind man give me his blessing to use the image of his painting Lullaby (below – incidentally, it won the Golden Palm in Germany), he said, “Remarkably another event!” and went on to tell me that he had learned he’d become a grandfather only minutes before receiving my message, and that the name of his daughter-in-law who had just given birth… is Diana. Reason #378 that the internet ROCKS: random, fantastic human connections that could never exist without it.

yury salko lullaby

Continue reading “Where I find I can’t organize my brain to write a blog post”

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Sebastian’s Birthday: A Lullaby for my Children

Monday morning – July 9th, 2012

Dear Sebastian,

It’s 9:04 a.m. as I begin this post. It was important to me to write this morning, because I know that at this same hour, one year ago, you were still in my arms. It is exactly the same kind of morning it was on the day of your birth: sunny, breezy, blue skies. A perfect summer day.

I thought about staying up last night, holding my own little vigil until 2:45 a.m. – the hour you were born – but I didn’t want to be in a fog of exhaustion today, on the first anniversary of your birth. As it turns out, your Auntie Em couldn’t sleep, and without realizing the significance, she was reading about you at that same hour.

I remember so clearly being in that hospital room with you. I didn’t want to let go of you – I wanted to suspend time so that we could stay together, and I could keep looking at you. I tried so hard to memorize exactly what your face looked like… it makes me sad that it’s hard for me to remember it fully. The photos we took never looked quite as I saw you.

sebastian's hand

Those moments with you were some of the most precious of my life. Now they’re some of my dearest memories.

After writing all about you yesterday morning, I spent a marathon afternoon/evening at the park, where your Daddy and aunties and friend and I watched and picnicked (and even participated a little) as your big brother played and dug and waded in the pool, and even became a Handsome Prince in a game of Princess with a little girl he’d just met. It was an absolutely beautiful day – except for the sadness. I wished you could be with us… but I know you weren’t meant to be, except maybe as the salmon-spirit of yourself.

It wasn’t until I got into bed last night that I suddenly couldn’t stop crying. Your Daddy held onto me, and I listened to your brother breathing, and felt your sister moving, and eventually I was okay.

It makes sense that our emotions are very close to the surface today. I have already felt tears many times, but I’m ready for them. I think even your brother is feeling it in his own way – he has been crying about little things, without knowing why. That’s just how it has to be sometimes. Continue reading “Sebastian’s Birthday: A Lullaby for my Children”

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right where i am 2012: one year

I first read the writing of Angie, of still life with circles, last summer, during my first tentative steps into the baby loss blogosphere. I was very moved by this post I read of hers at Glow in the Woods, a blog for babylost parents of which she happens to be the editor. Last year she created the “right where i am” project, to encourage bereaved parents to write about how they are doing on their grief journeys, and to remind them that wherever they are, it’s where they are supposed to be.

I’m grateful for this reminder. I don’t know why some of us humans worry, in the midst of grief, about whether we are grieving the “appropriate” amount for our situation… but it happens. In fact, it is remarkably easy to do. (It’s probably a subconscious emotional stalling/distraction tactic, right?) I know we have to grieve however we do. I’m sure it’s true that I’m right… where I am.

It has been one year since we were told that our son Sebastian no longer had a heartbeat. I feel lucky to know when that heartbeat disappeared – almost to the hour – and to be able to honour, in my heart, the day he died as well as the day he was born.

So where am I?

When I let myself go there, I feel like I’m in a place so complex that if I tried to tell someone in conversation, words would definitely fail me. Back in September, when I went back to work instead of going on maternity leave, my supportive co-workers would often ask me, “How are you doing?” and I know they meant it. They were so lovely about it, but school is not the place to take on that topic. While working, I didn’t allow myself to delve into how I was doing, so I’d condense it into, “Okay,” with a shrug-half-smile, or “Depends on the moment,” to which people would nod sympathetically.

Now, when people ask me how I’m doing, I assume they’re referring, with the best of intentions, to my visibly pregnant status – and I usually abridge my response in a similar fashion.

But where am I, unabridged, uncondensed? Bereaved and pregnant?

I am torn, every day, between joy and grief. Right now, I’m watching my abdomen ripple as my daughter does some kind of martial-arts-yoga in there, and I fiercely love every second of it. Equal in my mind are my eagerness to meet her, and my yearning to cherish everything in case it’s all I get. My husband reminds me that there’s no benefit to worrying that lightning will strike us twice, and I know he’s right. I do my best not to let stress get the better of me – for me, for the baby, for the family in general.

But I cannot avoid thinking about it. I really do believe that this baby will be fine – I have not just hope, but confidence – but at the same time… why shouldn’t lightning strike twice, if it can strike once? Every time I talk about when I go on mat leave, when the baby comes, when we will have a newborn, I’m qualifying it in my mind. Every time. (You can understand why I don’t do this aloud – what a bummer of a conversationalist I would be.) This is not me being morbid; this is me staying sane. I need to let myself remember that life doesn’t always make sense. Continue reading “right where i am 2012: one year”

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