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8 Unromantic-Sounding Ways I Know We Will Last

two hearts making an effort

“How’s your relationship these days?” is not a question most of us ever ask people. I’ve probably only ever asked it of newlyweds (where it’s more like “How’s married life?” nudge-nudge) or of very close friends with whom I have a precedent of relationship discussions.

It is a bit odd, though. Among parents, there are the constant “how are your kids” conversations, and it’s expected that you’ll dish on the hard parts as well as the fun parts. But for some reason, even though Sean and I are at the age where the majority of our friends are in committed relationships, we rarely discuss that very important aspect of daily life. Somehow, it feels rude or intrusive to ask, even though we certainly care about the answer.

One result of this is that when friends have major relationship troubles or break up, it’s often a complete shock – sometimes even to close friends. You think, But they always seemed fine!

Obviously, the reasons to break up are as diverse and numerous as the couples who do it. For the couples who stay together, there are myriad reasons for that, too. Presumably, though, most couples who’ve had a long-term relationship – whatever its future – had a period of awesomeness at some point. A chapter, of whatever length, where the connection was uplifting and the chemistry was wild and both parties thought, “This could be IT!”

Setting aside the Big Bad Wolves of Relationship Destruction (infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc.), how else do those paths diverge, such that some couples stay together and some split up?

I can only speak for myself in this, of course. I’m no expert. If someone asked me, “How can you be sure you’ll be together forever?” I’d say, “I’m not. It’s impossible to be a hundred percent sure. But I am supremely confident.”

How, you ask, can I be supremely confident without blind faith? What’s the secret? And could it be helpful to anyone else?

Well, shucks, that’s why I’m writing this. So that you can all SOAK UP MY GLORIOUS WISDOMAlors, voilà: here is my carefully crafted counsel, based on my own untrained and entirely non-objective experience of thirteen years with the same person (9.5 of them married).

1. Let Your Inner Grub Out.

If you’re gonna be with someone for the long haul, they need to see the real you, and your real habits. Not dressed up, not scrubbed down. When Sean and I moved in together, cohabitation was our way to make sure that neither of us had habits that would be deal-breakers for the other. We are lucky to have very similar scores on the slob-to-neat-freak scale. If I forget to put the CDs back in their cases (yes, we’re sooo retro, we still have CDs), or if he forgets to put his nasal rinse packet in the garbage, we know we’re about even. We have also found we’re able to handle each other’s dirty laundry and live with each other’s stinkier sides, and we like each other even in comfy pants and scruffy hoodies.

2. Get Used To Non-Perfection.

Speaking of grubs, your personality-related grubbiness is gonna need airing out too. We all have our flaws. We all have at least one side that’s lazy or naggy or procrastinatey or judgey or grumpy or insensitive or whatever. (Fun game: guess which ones are mine!!) And if you join yourself with a person, you join yourself with their flaws. Those flaws are not going anywhere. And Sean and I are well aware of the less awesome parts of each other – and ourselves. Sometimes we drive each other a little bit bonkers with that. But even though we know we can’t change each other, we do support each other’s quests for self-improvement, which are constantly evolving.

3. Forget Sweet Talk. Try Straight Talk.

Speaking of imperfections, it’s good to know we can live with each other’s, but sometimes discussion is necessary. It’s amazing how easy it is to find yourself playing games, manipulating, expecting someone to read your mind if you’re feeling pouty. But that’s lame. If my husband is driving me bonkers in some way, and I never articulate it to him, then what chance is there to improve things? If he’s upset with me for something, I want him to tell me – even when it hurts to hear. (Contrary to some beliefs, it is NOT more respectful to say nothing in an attempt to spare someone’s feelings.) It usually hurts, although we also take pains to word things as plainly-but-tactfully as possible. Those moments are really hard, but bearable – and worth it – if they come from a place of caring. Leaving those unsaid things to fester, on the other hand, is a great way to drive spikes into the potential cracks in a relationship. (We consider that, true to our marriage vows, being irresponsible with spikes is not an option. We have invested; what we have is not disposable or replaceable; therefore, proper maintenance is necessary.)

4. Learn To Mess Up Properly.

Speaking of upsetting each other, Sean and I have learned, many times, that if you handle mistakes with honesty and sincerity, it works way better than denying or deflecting blame. THIS IS HARD, too. Admitting you’re wrong… I honestly think everyone struggles with it. True apology feels deeply vulnerable. But it’s also humbling, illuminating, disarming, and endearing. It allows a couple to be a team, with both members party to the resolution. And I’ve noticed that when a person can be candid about mistakes, those aforementioned flaws and foibles can sometimes even be… kinda cute.

5. Never Mind About That Honeymoon Phase.

Speaking of admitting things, let’s be frank: the exorbitant new-relationship ecstasy does not last forever. Sometimes Sean and I look back on how snuggly-wuggly and cutesie-wootsie we once were, and we think, Yeesh. Our friends must have been nauseated. That swooning stage is not sustainable, long-term. And to be even franker, in a long relationship, there are sometimes downright cool periods – times when you feel distant or annoyed or just not that attracted to each other, or even disconnected.

N.B.: DON’T PANIC. It doesn’t mean the spark is gone forever.

For me, those are usually the times when I’m feeling deflated about life in general. Fortunately, I’ve learned not to put stock in those times. I know that that’s just how I feel if I’m short on sleep, or not eating right, or stressed out about certain things. I wait it out. I know it will pass. It always does. If it needs a little nudge, some of that straight talk (see #3) comes in very handy. Invariably, the moment comes when I look at my husband and feel the affection/happiness/spark surge back in.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in my experience, the settled, solid, non-swooning phase is, in many ways, more sublime than its predecessor. And it still includes kisses that make me weak in the knees.

6. Go Ahead And Take Love For Granted.

Speaking of sometimes-latent affection, one of the perks of being in a committed relationship is getting to take love for granted – in a way. It’s not that I take love in general for granted; it took me ages (years, even) to tell my high school/university boyfriend that I loved him, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I knew what I meant, and meant it well. But once you’ve taken that leap and decided that yes, this is love!, it’s your right – and responsibility – to trust that it’s there… even at times (see #5) when you feel crotchety and not-so-loving. My Hubbibi and I always end phone and text conversations with “I love you.” Especially if we’ve been exasperated with each other, or having a difficult conversation, we both know that by saying “I love you,” we’re affirming that we don’t take challenging moments as bad signs, that we both trust in the proof of our history. Unless one of us were to go through a fundamental change, we know: I’m me, and you’re you, and we love each other.

Furthermore, I really believe that the out-loud declaration of “I love you” is, for lack of a better analogy, like a valve that opens to let the love flow. The absence of “I love you,” on the other hand, is not just a silent moment; it’s a gaping hole through which the love can gradually – and painfully – drain out. I know couples have very different outlooks on when to say it, how often to say it, not wanting it to “mean nothing” if said too often. I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t think saving I love yous for special occasions makes sense. Love, with your life partner, is a gift – but not the diamond-bracelet kind of gift. It must be a practical, everyday gift, like a high-quality glue that can get kinda grungy but does not let go. Even if you say it dozens of times a day, it still means everything.

7. Love Is Not All You Need.

Speaking of love, it’s not the last word. It’s also really important to like each other. If you don’t enjoy each other’s company, all the good chemistry in the world won’t make up for it. I always smile when I see that quote on someone’s wedding program, “This day I will marry my best friend,” etc., because I think that’s the dream. What more could you want? Permanent sleepovers with your best friend! Always coming home to your favourite person! Once you cohabit, and more so once you have kids, it won’t always be “quality” time. There will be many humdrum household activities to share. Once in a while you might think, “Remember when we used to do FUN stuff together??” And you will again. But in the meantime, even if you don’t spend lots of time together (couples on opposite shifts, or with very different hobbies, for example), just sharing those run-of-the-mill activities can be lovely with a cherished friend.

8. Smarten Up And Be Grateful.

There are lots of couples out there who make their marriages function even though they’re not particularly happy or compatible together. Sean and I are fortunate in lots of ways some couples aren’t: we have very well-matched senses of humour; we enjoy the same simple ways to spend time together; we like the same music; we have similar nerdy and/or intellectual tendencies; we have harmonious politics; we genuinely love each other’s families.

We do, however, have differences that can be difficult. We aren’t passionate about all the same things; we don’t have the same style of communication; we have different instincts on a lot of minor issues; but all those things are surmountable with some conscious effort. And with the time we’ve already spent together, we owe each other that conscious effort. Who are we to let small things mess up our relationship when other couples have such larger hurdles?

Ignoring my good fortune seems spoiled to me – like living in such abundance that you feel entitled to waste perfectly good food – and I HATE wasting food. I’ve made a habit of intentionally appreciating the good things, so that when things don’t seem super-rosy, I never forget that I’m still an extremely lucky gal.

One more thing… A Note About Mental Illness.

As many of you know, my beloved Hubbibi is subject to chemical depression sometimes. It took a long time for both of us to understand that while depression can be triggered or catalyzed by circumstances, at its foundation it has nothing to do with how many things are good in one’s life. I have had to pull myself back from feeling like my failings were directly contributing to his depression.

The thing is, before our marriage, we did almost break up – several times – and I mostly blame the depression. It’s an illness that steals your mojo, takes the glow out of even your favourite people and things, makes you feel like stuff isn’t worth doing, saps your motivation to do even the things you know are good for you.

So again, speaking just from my own perspective… If your relationship seems lacklustre despite solid history, consider that mental health (or lack of it) could be an issue. Because there are ways to deal with that. We would never have gotten through those almost-breakups, not to mention having children, not to mention losing one child, without confronting those issues head-on. Being open about this, and being a united team where mental health is concerned, has saved us multiple times.

Just sayin’.

So, to sum up:

If someone were to ask me, “How did you know that Sean was THE ONE?” I’d say, “I didn’t. But I knew he was a super-special-awesome one.”

If someone were to ask me, “How do you know Sean IS the one?” I’d say something annoying like, “He is… because he is.”

I don’t necessarily believe there’s only one human in the world I could possibly make a life with. But Sean is the person I’ve chosen, who has also chosen me, with whom to build something special and interesting and beautiful. He is the only person with whom I can have THIS life, and this life is the one I want.

***

P.S.: To read more about mental health struggles and successes, please click here.


 

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The Ladies of Election Day

Here we go, Americans: the Day of Reckoning. I hope you’re on your way to vote – or have already done so.

According to the Chicago Tribune, lots of voters wait until Election Day to decide whom their ballot will support. That seems so strange to me, in a country with what is essentially a two-party system, with wildly differing candidates.

As I see it, if you support the Republicans under Romney, there’s no way you can support the Democrats under Obama – and vice versa. Either you blame Obama for stuff that’s occurred during the last four years that you consider bad, or you credit him for stuff you consider good.

It’s not really my place to weigh in on the American election (even though I know who I’d vote for – and can’t imagine doing otherwise). Frankly, I’m fairly disillusioned up here in Canada, where we’re currently living under the sneakiest, most underhanded Prime Minister in history. I don’t want to talk about that guy either.

What I’m wondering today is what those two women are feeling – the ones who are poised as potential First Ladies for the next four years.

Over on BlogHer, shortly after the big presidential debate, I read posts by each of them, talking about their husbands and the campaign trail. It’s pretty interesting reading. Naturally, each woman speaks of her man with esteem and love, vouching for his character and her faith that he can fix things. I hope that all of this is sincere, but I can’t help wondering if these women would like to say things they don’t say.

Ann Romney has battled multiple sclerosis and cancer. She writes that Mitt is her hero, and that he has always stood by her during the tough times. She also writes: “I have to admit, though, five years ago at the end of the last campaign, I told Mitt I would never do this again. Mitt laughed and said, ‘Honey, you say that after every pregnancy.'” (The Romneys have five children.)

Mitt and Ann Romney campaign
Mitt and Ann Romney

This has been a vitriolic, exhausting lead-up to the election. Is there part of Ann that wishes her family weren’t having to go through all this? Has the presidential race turned out to be more than she meant to sign up for? Does she ever worry about how things will be if her husband actually becomes the President?

Michelle Obama writes very proudly of her husband’s election priorities, as well as his accomplishments thus far. She also mentions that the night of the debate was her and Barack’s 20th wedding anniversary – a big milestone.

michelle obama campaign debate
Michelle Obama

When you’re the First Lady of the United States, do you ever get to show frustration at the inconveniences that must be part of that role? Does Michelle ever wish she could just go back to being normal? Does she feel that the man she married has changed in ways she doesn’t love? Does she secretly kinda hope Barack will lose, so that she can, in some measure, have her husband back?

I’m sure that each of these women feel just as passionately about the outcome of this election as other engaged voters do: they want their candidate to win, because they feel strongly that he will help her country the most.

But, to be blunt, I think I’d hate being a First Lady. I mean, I get exasperated when Sean works extra hours unexpectedly and it infringes on our plans; I also treasure my freedom to disagree with him. And for that to be our business only. I have no desire to be nationally – much less internationally – recognizable and famous. I could probably adjust to the adoring masses’ adulation of my husband (eventually), but I’d be severely uncomfortable with the vilification that would be just as inescapable. As a borderline introvert, I’d be drained meeting and chatting graciously with so many strangers all the time. And I really don’t think my fashion sense would pass muster with the critical public.

It must be really tough. I don’t envy Michelle or Ann at all. But I hope, for each of their sakes, that they love their roles – and their husbands – as much as they seem to.

It’s gonna be a crazy, difficult day for both of them, no matter what happens. I’m wishing them strength… and some relaxing, quality family time some day soon.

***


 

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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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The Baby Name Game

I’m always amazed when parents (-to-be) are able to agree on the name of their impending child many months ahead of time. I know two expectant couples, both due to have daughters in August, who had names ready (boy and girl options) even before they knew the sex of their baby. They make it seem so simple.

For me (and consequently for Sean), it’s a many-step process. With our firstborn, once we knew he was a boy, I combed through the entire male half of the baby name book (a big one – I think it was 100,000 names in total) and wrote a long list of names I liked. Then it was Sean’s job to do some initial veto work, then we let it simmer, then we looked again at the short list and did some more culling… you get the idea. I have a need to be thorough, so I don’t miss the perfect name.

As a teacher, I have very specific criteria for choosing a name.

  • I can’t have taught several children with that same name.
  • I can’t currently be teaching any child with that name (and as a planning teacher, I tend to have 6-7 classes’ worth at any given time).
  • I can’t have taught even one child with that name who drove me bonkers.
  • It can’t be a name that a future teacher (or doctor or employer etc.) is guaranteed to mispronounce/butcher.
  • The spelling must make sense, i.e. be potentially guessable by your average human.

Then there are the questions all parents (ought to) consider:

  • Does it sound good with the child’s last name?
  • Does it sound good with the child’s sibling’s name, if applicable?
  • Does it rhyme with anything really obviously bad?
  • Is it associated with any serial killers/skanky TV characters/inappropriate brand names/famously failed pop stars?

And this last one seems like a no-brainer, but there are obviously people who forget to ask themselves…

  • Is it actually a name? Or is it a random phrase that can only be considered freakish on a person?

All of these criteria hinge on Sean’s and my belief that it’s really important to think of the child. As in, imagine how he or she will feel with that name. You can’t control whether they will love their name or not, but it should be a name you would enjoy having yourself – otherwise, it’s not fair to inflict it on your child.trans The Baby Name Game Continue reading “The Baby Name Game”

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BANG Movie Review: The Business of Being Born

Saturday, May 5th, was International Day of the Midwife. In my city, it was celebrated by a special screening of a documentary by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein called The Business of Being Born.

This film is a few years old (2007), but I had not heard of it until Daily Buzz Moms did a feature on birth stories, along with Ricki Lake. As you may know, I am fascinated by birth stories and collect them in a blog I call MotherGather, so I suddenly felt a kinship with Ricki that I’d never expected.

When I heard about the screening of this documentary, I really wanted to attend – not just to honour the midwives I admire so much, but to see the movie. Unfortunately, it was a choice between that and an all-day retreat I was hoping to get to (MOTL), so I didn’t make it to the film.

Thankfully, there’s Netflix. I watched the movie, cried, had my eyes opened… and then made Sean watch it with me.

Continue reading “BANG Movie Review: The Business of Being Born”

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Why I Love My Midwives

As you know, baby-in-progress and I are receiving shared prenatal care from a renowned hospital ob/gyn clinic and our midwifery team. (All of this care is covered by our socialized medicine in Ontario. Thank God.)

I’d like to dedicate this blog post to my midwives, because they simply rock the casbah, on so many levels.

pregnant-belly

The Myths of Midwifery

I have a good friend who is a doctor, married to a doctor. We once had a long discussion about midwives, because he confessed that he was worried about the anxiety he and his wife would feel when they decided to start a family; they know too much, and have seen too many nightmarish situations.

Naively, I said, “You guys should get a midwife. They’re really practical and reassuring because they see their clients as parents, not patients.”

I can see, in retrospect, that this was maybe a silly thing to say to a doctor. Still, I’d like to think that our conversation was somewhat enlightening (for him), because he was full of misconceptions about midwives. Actually, it was enlightening for me too; I appreciated hearing his perspective, because I’d had no idea what it’s like on the medicine end.

He got some of his feeling about midwives from personal experience. The midwives he’s been in contact with have fit a certain granola-hippie stereotype (Birkenstocks, hairy legs, patchouli, blah blah) that some would consider “unprofessional”… but more importantly, they are apparently militant to the point of obnoxiousness in the hospital setting. I’m told that they yell at doctors to get out of the room… They hate doctors and rail against them… They don’t remotely attempt to foster good relations. And then, if a birth goes terribly wrong, who gets to fix things and clean up the mess? The doctors. So basically, the belief is that midwives get all the easy births (because they are only allowed to work with low-risk pregnancies) and they get paid the same amount for less work. AND they don’t even have a College (like the College of Physicians in Ontario, keeping doctors accountable).

Luckily, we were Skyping so I was on my computer. I was able to Google-and-rebut.

  • Hippie midwives. First of all, I have never met a midwife who fits – at all – the stereotype mentioned above, despite living in a city with a high “granola” factor. (Okay, there is one on my team who wears Birkenstocks… but as a woman with weird-shaped feet, I’m all for comfortable shoes. We should all be taking better care of our feet. Amen.) I’m sure some exist, but they’re not the norm.
  • Doctor/midwife smackdown. It’s true that my midwives do not speak highly of every ob/gyn. They are always professional in terms of what they say, but I was warned about a particular doctor at our local hospital before being induced with E – one who acts like the C-section is the solution to everything. “He will probably tell you, ‘You don’t want to do all that work, let’s just operate,’ but you can say no.” Midwives know as well as anyone that there are times when a C-section is, indeed, the best option; what they can’t abide is doctors who make expectant parents feel that invasive, expensive (to taxpayers) interventions are necessary when they are not. (My labour with E was brutal, but I was still thrilled not to have my abdominal wall sliced through.) For the most part, the local midwives and doctors in my city seem to have a very functional, mutually respectful relationship going on. (If that’s all a facade, I am none the wiser.) As a mom who has had two transfer-of-care births, I’m really glad for this functionality.
  • Their job is easy. So it may be true that midwives have the lion’s share of “easy” births. (Hey moms, let’s have a li’l chuckle at the word “easy”.) You could look at it that way. My response is: a) any job where you have to be in top form, at the last minute, at an unscheduled hour of the night, for an undetermined amount of time is NOT EASY; b) Ob/gyns are completely overloaded with patients – do they really want all these ones too? c) Midwives go above and beyond. Please see below.
  • The $ Factor. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, and the answer is: hells to the NO, midwives do NOT get paid the same. I checked the Public Sector Salary Disclosure, and the number of midwives in the Association of Ontario Midwives making over 100K/year is exactly… ONE. And Ontario midwives are among the best-paid; Canada-wide, the average midwife makes 65K/year. The figures I found on ob/gyn salaries, on the other hand, made my jaw drop. (Not that I’m saying they don’t earn their money – most of them absolutely do, especially because they begin their careers freakishly deep in debt. But I’m trying to set the record straight: NO ob/gyn works for 65K.) You can read here that midwife pay hasn’t gone up significantly in seven years – and before that, there was a 10-year pay freeze. That’s ridiculous, especially considering their services tend to cost the province far less.
  • Accountability. Yep, they do have a College. They’ve had one since 1993.
  • Home births. Just a word about this touchy subject (not that my doctor friend mentioned this). Lots of people think that if you have a midwife, you must give birth at home (or in a barn or something). That is not true. Of course, the situation varies depending on the hospital, but midwives have privileges in most Ontario hospitals, so are able to offer the choice. Even if you do give birth at home, it’s not like they come armed only with swaddling clothes; they bring emergency equipment and medications – plus, two of them are required to attend every birth, so that one can tend to the mother and one to the child. Both my births were planned for the hospital (which was just as well – if I had planned home births, I’d be 0 for 2), but it was reassuring to know that if I’d been unable to get to the hospital for some reason, my midwives were ready to travel, and experienced in home birthing.

midwife-home-birth

What My Midwife Can Do For Me

In a previous post, I mentioned our appointment with the ob/gyns at the out-of-town hospital, coinciding with our 12-week ultrasound. It was kind of a funny appointment. The doctor we’d gotten to know (in discussing Sebastian’s pathology) was on vacation, so we were dealing mostly with a resident. He was very nice, young, likeable, and soft-spoken. He did the EXACT same questionnaire with me that I’d done at the midwife’s office three weeks earlier. I also peed on the EXACT same brand of pee-stick. We did the physical exam, the weight, the blood pressure, the Doppler. In our conversation, he indicated that the clinic would be doing all our appointments for this pregnancy.

Near the end of the appointment, an ob/gyn came in to follow up, and confirmed this. She, in contrast, was loud and abrasive, and talked as if our being here were somehow a result of us being dumb. She said they would be taking over our care, so she wasn’t sure what our midwives could really do for us.

We countered that we were hoping to continue with the midwives if possible, and she was all like, “Why? Where do you want to deliver?” Well. It takes an hour to get to this hospital from our house. I would not take that ride in labour unless there were NO other choice.

“So, you want your care with us to last until when? Thirty-eight weeks?” she said, in a tone as if she were boggled by our confounding indecision. I allowed myself to get a bit snippy at this point, and informed her that it was Dr. S. who had recommended “shared care”.

When she told us our 16-week appointment wouldn’t involve a scan, I asked what exactly it would involve. Guess what: Doppler, blood pressure, weight, pee-stick. You want me to drive an hour – and pay for parking – for THAT. She acknowledged at this point, “Well, I guess ANYBODY could do that. You can have that appointment with your midwives, if you want.” Gee, thanks.

I wonder what her marks were in empathy class.

Don’t get me wrong: 5 out of the 6 ob/gyns I’ve been in contact with have been lovely, competent, professional. They work hard. They do the best they can, considering the number of patients they have. I have full respect for them. But it burned me that this woman clearly thought so little of midwives.

What can my midwives do for me?? What can YOU do for me, lady?

Are you going to give me a half-hour or more of your time per appointment, to anticipate my questions, educate me on possibilities and options, and allay my worries? (Statistics from my mom friends would indicate NO, you are much more likely to give me 3-5 minutes per appointment.)

Are you going to come to my home to check me when I’ve been in labour for sixteen hours, so I don’t have to get in the car only to turn around and come home again?

Are you going to attend my birth for support, even when you’re no longer in charge?

Are you going to do six weeks of post-partum care for me and my newborn?

Are you going to get there in time when my stillborn son makes his appearance hours earlier than expected? (The answer to that is NO – the ob/gyn did not deliver Sebastian. He missed the birth by a mile, but my midwife met us in the parking lot.)

When I’m grieving my lost baby, are you going to come to my home to visit me for that post-partum care, so that I don’t have to come to the clinic and sit among the glowing, expectant moms and garden-fresh, living newborns?

Are you going to have deep, empathetic conversations with me about baby loss?

Because my midwives did all these things. They are AWESOME.

grin945l midwife cartoon

So… I did have my 16-week appointment with my midwife – the same one who delivered my angel baby.

I’ll be honest: it made my day. While completely validating my stresses and fears, this wonderful woman also managed to reassure me more than anyone else has so far. In spite of the tragedies she’s faced in her life (and there are many), positivity radiates from her. Talking matter-of-factly about this baby as a person, and referring comfortably to its arrival as a given (when for four months I’ve been catching and holding back my every assumption)… she made me remember – and even feel, for a while – the joyful, vibrant expectation that characterized my pregnancy with E. She reminded me how it felt to be truly, deep-down excited to meet my child… who is going to be fine.

baby toes in a mother's hand

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Who would you have been when the Titanic sank?

Last night at about 2:30 a.m., the wreck of the Titanic turned 100 years old. There were four of us talking about it in our kitchen yesterday evening, and again this morning – about how there were boats travelling to that very spot in the Atlantic Ocean, to commemorate the centennial… and about what an overwhelming story it is, no matter how you look at it.

bow of the titanic wreckage

Just before Easter weekend, I went with Skye to see the movie Titanic in 3D. I remember I saw it twice in theatres when it first came out, and maybe once on video since then… but it had been at least a decade since I’d seen it. Certain scenes I still remembered perfectly, so deeply did they affect me at the time. (I know a lot of people call it a bad movie, but I’m sorry. They are just haters, and they are WRONG. The dialogue may be banal, but it is an incredible, monumental story, portrayed with obsessive attention to detail and accuracy. It’s an amazing cinematic accomplishment.)

Titanic_poster_kate_winslet_leonardo_dicaprio

I think I can honestly say that, although I’d seen many movies involving death before, this was the first film that made me really confront the idea. So many different ways to die with the Titanic, most of them inevitable. It is such a mind-blowing moment in the film when Mr. Andrews, the ship’s designer, tells the captain and others that it is a “mathematical certainty” that the magnificent, so-called unsinkable vessel will founder. Very, very soon. With lifeboats to accommodate only half the people on board. Human brains do not want to believe such things. Continue reading “Who would you have been when the Titanic sank?”

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