CN Tower EdgeWalk: Facing your fears, or enjoying adrenaline?


We did it! On August 10th, we did the thing we’ve been planning for over a year (since we couldn’t swing the money for our anniversary last year): the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower in Toronto.

Yes, it’s pricey. It comes to almost $200 per person with tax. It’s also a pretty cool experience. I was lucky enough to enjoy it with my Hubbibi Sean (married nine years!), my brother Ben, my two sisters, Em and Beth, Beth’s boyfriend Dylan – and Ben and Jasmine, the two other random people who chose the same walk time.

EdgeWalk suits = adorable, n’est-ce pas?

If you’re thinking of going – or if you’re just curious – here are a few things you might like to know:

  • The EdgeWalk happens just above the observation deck, i.e. 116 storeys above the ground. (That’s 356m/1168ft.)
  • It’s the highest full-circle hands-free walk in the world – a Guinness World Record – but apparently something similar did exist in New Zealand first.
  • In French, they call it “Haut-Da Cieux”, which would roughly translate to “High Da Skies”, but it’s cool because if you say it aloud, it sounds like “audacieux.” Audacious. Yes indeed.
  • It’s really quite safe. They’ve been doing many EdgeWalks a day since 2011 and haven’t lost anyone yet.
  • You have to wear their custom-made suits, and wedgie harnesses, and then there are two different ropes to attach you to the structure (one stretchy).
  • Your shoes must be closed – if you accidentally wore sandals, though, they lend you shoes.
  • You can’t have ANYTHING droppable up there. No jewelry, no phone or camera, not even your watch. My sister had tape put over a piercing, and several of us had our glasses on lanyards attached to our suits.
  • You CAN get married up there (I know you were wondering), with real pretty bride-and-groom walk suits, but you have to use their special elasticized rings, and you can’t have more than eight guests. Oh, and you pay $6K.
  • You walk on a see-through metal grate the width of a sidewalk (1.5 m).
  • You spend about half an hour on the walk itself. The rest of the hour-and-a-half includes suiting up, being checked over for safety many times, hearing the rules, and coming back to base camp for your DVD and solo photo (included in the price – but if you want all the photos you pay extra).
  • For a full 8-person walk, you get two guides, who take you through several exercises when you’re up there, as well as offering some information about the giant buildings you’re looking way down on.
  • We did Toes Over Toronto (walk right to the edge and put your toes over it – and look down if you can), the backward lean (sit in your harness and shuffle back until you’re at the edge, then straighten your knees and lean back), and the Titanic Pose (walk almost to the edge, lean straight forward into the rope, and go up on your toes and let go).
The backward lean. BMO and Royal Bank buildings visible on the right.
  • We were lucky to get an absolutely gorgeous day: warm with a light breeze, clear enough to see across the lake. The SkyDome roof was open (yeah, I know it’s the Rogers Centre, but it will always be the SkyDome in our hearts), and the noise of the crowd whooshed right up to us whenever they cheered.
See the SkyDome under our feet?
  • Some of us loved it, and some of us endured it.

Ben and Jasmine were cool as cucumbers (Ben was so cool he barely cracked a smile). Five of our party were loving the view and wishing we could spend more time out there. My poor Sean, though, was visibly anxious the whole time. In fact, he’d been anxious about it for at least a week before we even went. He was unable to get all the way to the edge for Toes Over Toronto, even though he was trying as hard as he could to breathe himself through it. He was able to do the Backward Lean, but did not choose to look up at the spike of the tower.

It was interesting to show the DVD footage to our kids. It was a good opportunity to talk about what courage really is. E was asking, “Why isn’t Daddy doing it? Why is he nervous?” The big, strong, pragmatic, hardworking guy who never seems afraid – and whose idea this excursion was – has a terrible time with heights.

On the day of the walk, once back inside the tower, Sean said he had to give us all props for doing the leaning and the looking and the letting go. He felt bad that he couldn’t make himself do the “daring” things the rest of us did.

But really, he was the brave one. Just being out there is a big step for an acrophobe. For those of us who don’t mind heights, there wasn’t really courage involved. I mean, I walked out to the edge and felt a thrilling flip in my stomach, but I never felt like panicking. For me, heights are exhilarating.

On the other hand, if I think of something that would make me panic, like being locked in a small space, you could not pay me enough to make me do that for half an hour. (Well, maybe you could – but it would have to be a LOT of money.) Fortunately for me, there is no industry glamourizing the thrill-seeking bad-assery of folks who want to confront their claustrophobia by braving small spaces.

So, the essential message for my kids on Courage: it doesn’t kick in unless you’re afraid.

What’s the worst fear you’ve confronted?




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Are police officers supposed to be scary?

If you’re Ontarian, or even Canadian, you’ve probably heard about Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old who was shot dead by police a couple weeks ago on an empty Toronto streetcar. You’ve probably heard that he was armed with a knife, that he was acting threatening, and that he was shot at nine times. (Eight of the shots are said to have hit him.) And you’ve almost certainly heard that Constable James Forcillo has been charged with second-degree murder in Yatim’s death.

In the car with my four-year-old, a piece came on the news about a protest being held by the families of people who had been killed by police. (This kid has really started listening to the news, and often comments on what he hears.)

“Killed by police?” he said. “The police don’t kill, they rescue.”

That’s verbatim. Broke my heart.

So I commenced an awkward explanation: police officers carry guns, and sometimes when they’re on duty, they use them… and guns can kill people, so sometimes that happens.

He thought about that. “Mummy, I never want to meet the police in person.”

“Oh, honey, you don’t have to worry if you meet a police officer. They’re not going to hurt you. They’re here to keep you safe.” I reminded him that his Uncle R is a police officer and a really nice person – that most of them are.

But he insisted: “I just don’t want to meet them.”

It makes me think of the little kids at my school who cried with fear when the police officers visited. Mind you, there are children who cry and dramatize over any old thing (my own almost-kindergartner included), but it still seems sad. There are local officers who come to the school to talk about bicycle safety, and they’re always lovely and sincere, and yet some kids are scared.


I still remember the time a police officer visited my class when I was a kindergartner myself. He wore a blue shirt and had a fancy hat, and mostly I remember his shoes were very, very shiny.

My husband and I were recently discussing this topic. Sean has been both a corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces and a correctional officer in an Ontario Detention Centre. He knows some things about uniforms and weapons and boys’ clubs and the psychology of violence. I asked his perspective on all this. This is what he had to say.

I think it’s right that the officer was charged with murder. I read that 15 officers have been charged with murder since 2008, all acquitted. The charge has never stuck to any of them, but the consensus is that the video evidence is overwhelming in this case.

It has been true forever that there’s an omertá* feeling within police departments all over the world. It’s disconcerting, especially in a democracy, that people who are given, by society, the goal of protecting society, and the right to use deadly force when necessary, can abuse it with impunity. Of course, because we’re human beings, there are bound to be times when deadly force is used inappropriately, but there need to be consequences for that, just as there are for anyone else who uses deadly force inappropriately.

But within the police department it seems there is a different standard. Let’s say I – a normally law-abiding citizen – used deadly force on someone who was going to rob my house. In Canada, I would be charged with murder. (Maybe not in the States, I’m not sure, because their gun laws are crazy,** but in Canada I would be charged with murder.) And a police officer would come and arrest me.

But if a police officer kills someone who appears threatening, no other officer goes up and says “You just committed a crime, you’re under arrest.”

In the Yatim case, there were six officers there. It is supremely obvious from the video that the constable acted way outside legal use of force precedents. So in any other situation – if he had been a civilian – the police officer nearest would have turned around and arrested him for murder. But in this situation, even though all of them were there and they all witnessed it, none of them turned around and said “Whoa. What are you doing? You’re under arrest for murder.”

Why not?

If we give you that responsibility, you need to uphold it. It’s a big thing. You’re paid well, you’re given this massive responsibility and the power that goes with it, but you need to understand that if you go into that kind of work, you’re going to be held up to a particular standard, or at the very least, the same standard as the general public.

Police officers are not soldiers. Soldiers are ostensibly in combat zones surrounded by potential enemies. A police officer is not. But we’re getting into this mentality of the “war on crime”, the “war on drugs”, etc., and many police officers I think have that mentality of going into a war zone, of being surrounded by bad guys who are out to get you, and that’s simply not the case in a place like this.

But if you see everyone as a bad guy, of course you’re going to shoot the kid with a knife. On an empty streetcar. Nine times. Absolutely ridiculous.

I think that if he’s found anything but guilty, there are gonna be riots – as there should be. We cannot allow police officers – those to whom we give the power to use guns – to kill other people casually in the course of their duties. We cannot allow them to utilize that force without major consequences if it’s not done properly.

There’s no excuse for this. The kid was cornered on an empty TTC car. Nobody – not the officers, nor any member of the public – was in any danger. So there was zero reason to do this. NONE. The situation would have been different if he’d visibly had a gun out; then yes, the officers could reasonably say they didn’t know if he would point it at them and fire. But it’s a knife. I mean, by all accounts it was a little jackknife. For God’s sake. He probably couldn’t even throw it at you and do any harm.

Why couldn’t those six officers just wait him out? It seems to me, whenever I see videos of police officers nowadays, they no longer seem trained to deescalate. They actually seem trained to do the opposite. They always seem to talk to people in this overly authoritative voice, not quite yelling but very strong, and to present themselves as bigger than they are, and they sort of move forward as a group, deliberately intimidating.

And in certain situations that’s warranted, but it seems they use these tactics in every situation. And that’s not cool. It’s not their job. And that’s the thing that police officers need to realize. Their job is there because the public allows it. The scariest thing would be – and we seem to be heading in this direction – a feeling among police officers that they have a right to be here, whether the public says so or not. And that cannot ever be the case. Because that’s how fascist states and police states come into being. As soon as a police force realizes “Hey, we’re the only ones around with guns, so we can do what we want,” then you get Egypt. You get Syria.

{I asked him his opinion on the weapons used by police officers in Ontario.}

They carry way too many rounds. First of all, it’s heavy – I’m not sure why you’d want to carry all those rounds – and second of all, it’s completely unnecessary. Just like the all-black uniform, the hip holster. Again, it’s part of this uniform that looks intimidating and scary: “We’re here for business, and our business is kicking ass and taking names…” and this sort of macho B.S.

And yeah, it’s totally unnecessary. We’re not in Beirut, we’re not in South Central L.A. Even there, I’m not sure how necessary it is. But certainly in Toronto and Southwestern Ontario, all the places I grew up, it’s not necessary. You’re never getting into a firefight where you’re going to fire all – whatever it is – fifteen rounds in your pistol and drop a mag and slap another one in to fire fifteen more rounds.

Unless you like to fire nine rounds into lightly armed young boys… in which case, maybe you do need all those rounds.

The key here is awareness and training. Officers need to be trained to deescalate situations. I was actually commended a number of times as a jail guard, by my captains, because I wasn’t the type of guard who went in, chest out, looking for trouble, wanting an inmate to say or do something so that I could come down hard on him. I learned how to talk, how to deflate potential trouble. I don’t know, maybe other guards thought of me as a wimp or something, but my goal and job there were to always have things as peaceful as possible. And that meant not being macho. Not having an attitude of “I’m gonna kick your butt.”

Police officers seem scary now in most situations. They don’t seem approachable or friendly anymore. The “serve and protect” motto seems to be rarely remembered. I would not approach an officer in Toronto and ask for directions somewhere, even though that’s what people used to do all the time. You’d look for a friendly neighbourhood police officer if you needed help. But nowadays, I don’t know. I would be intimidated and I wouldn’t want to do it.

2010_G20_Toronto police
Another occasion when use-of-force went haywire: Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police officers near the intersection of King Street West and University Avenue during the protests surrounding the G-20 Summit in Toronto in 2010 – from Wikimedia Commons.

I have so many questions. Is there really an increase in police violence, or does it just feel that way right now, since there was also a fatal police shooting (of Steve Mesic) in Hamilton this past June? And we still freshly remember the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski – and the investigation that seemed to go on and on, but also featured police overreaction. Do we just hear more about it because now every other person (at least) has a pocket video recorder?

In this CBC article on the police’s use of force in Hamilton, it’s said that violent crime is down, but use of force is up. Assuming that’s true, is there a good reason for it? Do we actually know which came first? Is the visible use of force effective in deterring crime? Are would-be criminals less likely to mess with authority when officers look more forbidding?

Certainly my husband would argue that meeting machismo with machismo leads not to calm, but to desperate behaviour – particularly violence.

I watched the video of Sammy Yatim’s shooting for the purpose of writing this post. What I saw was fear. Police officers who yelled at the nervously shifting figure on the streetcar from their phalanx position on the sidewalk, pointing their guns in an urgent stance, as if they were expecting a small army to exit the vehicle and attack. Then three shots. Then six more. All from the same side.

There was nothing about that group of officers that conveyed a feeling of control, of calm, of “We’ve got this,” even though there were six of them dealing with a single kid. They should have felt complete confidence to simply walk in and do their job.

Everybody knows you don’t put guns in the hands of twitchy, nervous people.

Is it true that police officers are feeling more fear? Is it because guns and gang violence are infiltrating Canada to a greater extent? Or is it because of the “war” terminology that’s been all the rage, especially since 9/11? Is it because of that new SWAT-team look that someone somewhere in some government decided was better? Are insidious expectations changing outcomes?

Does it suck to be a police officer in this position? How are you supposed to be the friendly neighbourhood police officer AND a soldier in the War On Everything? How are you supposed to serve and protect the public as well as intimidate and subdue the enemy? Those are totally different people skills.

Or maybe all this has to do with a few isolated incidents, and there is really no issue at all.

I have great admiration for police officers. I know I could not do their job. I couldn’t hold up to the stress of being faced every day with the most troubled and needful members of society – and being expected to know what to do with them.

I don’t know where we are headed, or how worried we should be. I’d like to hear your thoughts.


* I had to look this up: “As practiced by the Mafia, a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.”

**Reminder of how crazy those American gun laws actually are: today I was asked to sign a petition to ban guns in Starbucks locations across the U.S. What the what?? People bring their guns to Starbucks??? NOT A JOKE, apparently. (And it makes the customers nervous. No shit.) No offense, Yankees, but we Canucks can’t process this. At Starbucks up here, we’re like, “Wear a shirt and shoes, please. Have a lovely day.”



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November: aftermath

The first day of November. What does it mean?

  • My house is filled with candy wrappers. Empty ones. Mostly in garbage cans, but there’s the odd escapee as well, decorating the carpet. It’s not a source of pride: this week there are four adults in the house + Sean went a little crazy with the on-sale Halloween candy (think 170 treats for the usual 35 trick-or-treaters we get at our house) + the weather has kept us in most of the week + the weather was also not great last night so we got 1/3 the usual number of kids = we’ve eaten more candy this week than we usually do all year.
  • Between the fruits of trick-or-treating and the extras, we still have lots of not-empty candy wrappers as well. Oh dear.
  • Last night, my 3-year-old looked like this:
E in his dragon-fairy costume
Scary dragon.

(Actually, I think that’s his cheese-face, as opposed to his roar-face. Cool facial scales are courtesy of Auntie Em; lavender fairy wings – I mean dragon wings – are courtesy of Auntie Beth; dragon hat is courtesy of the Great-Aunties. Sorry the view of these features isn’t better.)

  • That same kid has been trying to get into the mini-boxes of Smarties ever since. They’re his favourite and he wants to eat ALL OF THEM. NOW. (Please.)
  • Our front porch looked like this:
jack o lanterns 2012
Angry and Starry.

(Angry jack-o-lantern by Uncle Ben, starry-eyed jack-o-lantern by Daddy. E sobbed heartwrenchingly because, for some unknown reason, he didn’t want the pumpkin to have star-eyes, and Daddy went ahead and thwarted His Royal Bossypants. E is rather dramatic of late.)

  • Speaking of stars, we are thanking our lucky ones: Sandy the Frankenstorm has moved on. We have been very fortunate in our part of Ontario – we had some scary-sounding wind and plenty of rain, but very little actual damage.
  • We are sending our best wishes to folks not as lucky.
aftermath of superstorm Sandy in New Jersey
Aftermath in NJ – photo by Steve Nesius
  • It’s damp and chilly out, so I can’t be that sorry that I’m not getting out much, being mostly pinned to the couch with my newborn.
  • The trees (at least the ones I can see from my house) are very bare indeed. Very Novemberish.
  • It’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)! That means bloggers are encouraged to write a post per day for the whole month. I’m pretty sure it was BlogHer‘s idea.
  • I thought about trying to participate this year, and then determined that, with a month-old baby and a husband most likely starting a brand-new job any day now, I’d have to be insane to do that.
  • Then I mentioned it yesterday, in the company of Sean and Skye, both longstanding supporters of this blog, and they both said I should do it. Just give it a try. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?
  • So, I succumbed to peer pressure. 🙂 I’m trying Day One, at least.
  • I’d like to think that if I don’t succeed, I won’t be too hard on myself, since I have such good excuses. (And frankly, judging by today and how long it’s taken me to get one li’l blog post written, the prognosis ain’t great.)
  • I’d like to think that along those same lines, I won’t stress out about it too much. (Though, as I was reminded last year during NaBloPoMo, I am confoundedly stubborn about things like this.)
  • Finally, November 1st means it’s my Gramma Sue‘s birthday. Her first one where she is not on Earth to celebrate. We are all thinking of you, and we love you very much, Sue-Sue.



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Talking about death with a preschooler

I know that birth and death are basically the two most universal things on the planet. Well – and sex, I guess, in its various forms.

That doesn’t make it easier to talk about them with a three-year-old.

E has been asking a lot about death recently, for many reasons. Last summer, he had his first exposure to death when our day care provider’s father died – he had lived with the family and interacted with the kids, but he was quite sick – and also old. Then, this summer, E’s great-grandmother (Gramma Sue) died in July, and one of my parents’ cats died in August. Both of them died of old age, which is relatively easy to discuss, though still sad.

Me: Sweetie, I need to tell you something. You remember your Gramma Sue? Well, yesterday, she died.

E: She died? Why did she die?

Me: Well, she was really old. Everybody dies eventually, and she was done with her life.

E: Oh. (pause) Is Grammie going to die?

Me: Someday she will, but not for a really long time.

E: I don’t want Gramma Sue to die.

Me: I know, honey. It’s sad when people die, because we miss them.

E: Yeah, we’re sad.

I was glad to find he didn’t actually seem very perturbed, emotionally. (He had many visits with Gramma Sue, but not spent a lot of time with her overall.) Later, we saw Grammie (my mom) and he gave her a big hug, as we’d encouraged him to do, to help comfort her. Then he announced, “Grammie, I gave you a hug because your mom died.” Nice tact, kiddo.

He has asked more about Gramma Sue, and Sabine (the cat), on several occasions, with different people. I’m glad that he feels safe asking questions when he’s thinking about it; I really want him to talk with us when he’s wondering about things.

The problem is, none of the reasons for those deaths applies to E’s baby brother. I have the feeling that the older E gets, the more confusing it is, especially now that we’re expecting his sister. I hate having to figure out how to enlighten him.

I didn’t even know what stillbirth was until I was at least seven or eight. I remember my parents were watching some BBC miniseries on TV – something I wasn’t interested in, but I happened to catch part of a scene explaining that one character’s wife had died in childbirth. The doctor said sombrely, “The baby was stillborn,” but of course I heard “The baby was still born“, you know, in spite of its mom dying. I remember thinking, Well, that’s good, at least he has a baby… but then it became clear that he didn’t, so I had to ask for an explanation.

Stillborn, born still.  Oh.

We have tried to mention Sebastian to E on a fairly regular basis, so that he is still part of our lives – and so that E grows up with the knowledge of his brother. He knows that Sebastian’s heart didn’t grow properly (we’ve been very careful, as the books recommended, not to talk about him being “sick” or “going to sleep”, because that can cause a lot more anxiety and confusion). He knows our salmon tattoos are there so we can remember Sebastian.

Sebastian salmon tattoo

But this concept isn’t without confusion:

E: Mommy, is my baby in your tummy right now?

Me: Your baby sister? Yes, she’s in there.

E: Where’s Sebastogen?

Me: Well, Sebastian was in there, and he came out, but he wasn’t alive.

E: Oh. (pause) And he was a fish?

Me: No, he was a baby. But we like to think of his spirit like a fish, swimming wherever he wants.

He also knows that Daddy and I each have a necklace that somehow contains something of his brother – but lately I fear that even this is too confusing, since we haven’t been able to bring ourselves to explain cremation to him. I don’t want him to think that his poor baby brother is actually stuck in there, but I don’t want him to have to think about dead bodies being burned either. Either way seems like a recipe for nightmares.

cremation jewelry - eternity circle, mother and child
Eternity Circle, Mother and Child

I’ve had to do a bit of further explanation there, but it’s trickier than I feel qualified to handle sometimes.

E: (pointing to my necklace) Who’s in there?

Me: Well, Sebastian is, but he’s not really in there. It’s more like something to remember him by.

E: Where is he?

Me: His spirit is in heaven, a really good place where he’s safe and he knows we love him.

E: What did you do with Sebastogen?

Me: (God help me. I clung to him as long as I could. After that, it was all up to the hospitals and the funeral home. Can’t explain about ashes right now.) Well… All living things, when they die, they go back to being part of the earth. That’s what happened to Sebastian.

E: I want to die.

Me: What? Why do you want to die?

E: I wanna go to Kevin. So I can play there.

I guess I may have over-sold “heaven” (or Kevin). I’m not completely comfortable with the term, because I think it has too many connotations that I don’t actually believe in (clouds and winged harpist angels and so forth), but I do believe we all go someplace beautiful when we die. My feelings about what happens after death come from what I’ve heard about people’s near-death experiences, and those are all positive: being free, in the light, surrounded by love, knowing that all is as it should be in the universe… I can get behind that.

So I do believe Sebastian is in a really good… dimension, somewhere. Apparently if you’re a three-year-old, it sounds like an awesome place to go play.

Sometimes I wonder if I should show him Sebastian’s scrapbook – specifically, the pictures of Sebastian himself. A real baby, who looks like he’s sleeping. But really, I think that would just be upsetting at this point, at this age. My little E can be a pretty sensitive soul sometimes.

Earlier this summer, there was an incident that made me think he “gets” death more than most little kids. We were in the backyard, and E found a snail shell, and said, “This one doesn’t have a snail.” After a moment, he asked, “Can I smash it?” We are aware of little boys’ need to smash things sometimes, and this seemed a harmless option. He crouched down and smacked the shell with his sand shovel.

I think all three of us realized at the same time, when the shell did NOT make the sound we were expecting, that it wasn’t empty after all. Daddy and I couldn’t stop the instinctive wince: “Oh, buddy… there was a snail in there…” Poor E dropped the shovel and stood up, looking stricken but trying to be calm… He walked over to Daddy without a word and climbed in his lap – at which point he gave in and started sobbing.

We did our best to comfort him, explaining that everything dies sooner or later, lots of snails get eaten by other animals, this one will too… But it took him a while to calm down. (I couldn’t help comparing this to the glee with which some JKs squished a big bug on the playground at school, not long after that incident.) And he still remembered this, and brought it up to talk about it, two weeks later. I still want to cry whenever I think about his little face as he tried to be brave, but was obviously full of regret at what he’d done.

I know the idea of mortality in general is beginning to sink in. He’ll ask me or Daddy if we’re going to die, saying, “I want to have a Mommy and a Daddy.” Of course, we rashly promise that it will be ages before we, or even his grandparents, die. It’s not exactly honest, but I can’t bear the idea of him worrying his magical, innocent head about us dying.

E really does seem happy about his baby sister… but he has said many times since last summer, “I want a brother.” We don’t tell him he already has one, even though he sort of does. I don’t think it would make him feel better, at age three, to think that his brother is in his heart, or looking out for him. He wants a brother to play with.

We talk about love a lot in our house. We are constantly telling E how much we love him, and sometimes it’s a little game (loosely based on the book Guess How Much I Love You): “I love you as big as that tree!” or, more recently, “I love you as green as your shirt,” or “I love you as stripey as this rock.”

The other night, at bedtime, E broke Daddy’s heart with this little conversation.

E: Daddy, where’s Sebastogen?

Daddy: Well, he’s in the afterlife, we think.

E: Is he at the hospital?

Daddy. No, not anymore.

E: Is he sick?

Daddy: No. He won’t ever be sick.

E: Daddy… I want him back.

Daddy: Oh, me too, buddy.

E: I want him back as big as this whole house.

Oh, sweetie pie. If we could trade this whole house to get your baby brother back for you, we would.


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Calm is a fragile state.

1. Happy Birthday to my gorgeous younger sister! She is presently embarking upon a new chapter in her life, in a new city, and we are really excited for her. (Even though I’m bummed that she won’t be an 8-minute drive away.) We love you so much, Auntie Beth! You are one amazing gal.

2. (Sorry for this abrupt change of topic.) I had a reminder yesterday morning that the calm I’ve been experiencing in relation to this pregnancy is a very thin veneer. Like a layer of frost – distracting, but meltable at the first sign of heat.


I have been so lucky that this baby is such a mover. I know she’s alive because she feels alive in there, basically all the time. Whenever I wonder to myself how she’s doing, I never have to wait long. You could say she’s been working with me on the anxiety thing, helping me through it.

Yesterday morning when I awoke, I realized right away that I had been in the same position for almost the whole night – very odd indeed – which means I’d slept unusually soundly. Then I realized I’d been leaning a bit on my belly. I quickly (in a mammoth-like, awkward way) rolled over to give the baby a new position.

Normally, as soon as I’m awake in the morning, I feel her start to move. Maybe the increase in my heart rate gets her going, but whatever it is, it’s something I count on. This time, I didn’t feel anything.

Right away, the frost of calm began disintegrating.

I lay there and chatted with E, hoping my voice would rouse her. Then we got up, walked around, had breakfast. I figured food, especially fruit, would wake her up for sure. Still nothing.

I kept nudging her – but gently. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t get very aggressive with the nudging, and I know why. I was afraid to be justified in my paranoia. I was afraid I would nudge her hard and still get nothing – and proceed to shatter into a pile of anguish right in my kitchen. Continue reading “Calm is a fragile state.”

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I was going to try to come up with a cooler title for this post than “Mini-Update”, and then I figured that a short little title was actually appropriate(r) for a mini-update, duh. (Now I’ve just gone and ruined it by using a whole long sentence to explain myself. Oh well.)

  • The weekend before last I spent with my fantastic dance troupe ladies on a rock island in Gull Lake. The cottage we stayed in is as cottagey as you can imagine. No running water, outdoor composting toilet – it’s good to be reminded of how kinda miraculous our everyday amenities are. Also good to spend time with some awesome people and a lot of great food, in the midst of stunning scenery. How about a couple of gratuitous pretty-nature photos?

rock island in Gull Lake, Minden ON

softest moss in the world

  • It has also been soooo good to have quality time this month with people I don’t see enough of – my brother and sister-in-law from out East, and my cousin who’s wayyy out on the West coast. Sigh. I love my peeps.
  • It’s starting to feel like all I do is have appointments for the baby… but I can’t complain. I had another regular ultrasound yesterday, and all is well, perfect biophysical once again. AND, she put her head down! Yay! Now if we can just keep it there…
  • Also, she gained some serious weight. She’s been cruising along at the 50th percentile all this time, and suddenly she’s at the 97th (the doctor didn’t seem fazed, so I figure it’s all good).
  • Also, her cheeks are all round and cute! I saw ’em. Amazing. Continue reading “Mini-Update”

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Dear Rainbow Baby

Dear Rainbow Baby,

You have been living inside me for almost 34 weeks, and I’m so thrilled you’re there. Your Daddy and brother and I love you very much, and you have already made us very happy, just by doing your thing: kicking and moving around, and growing.

In a few more days, you will be at the same point of your growth that your second brother Sebastian was at when he died. (I started to call him your big brother, but he will never be big. I’d call him your older brother, but he will only be older than you for those few more days.) I think about the two of you together a lot, because his only home was the place you are now. We love him very much, but we are extremely glad you have not been following his lead.

The pregnancy website I go to says that you are the size of a butternut squash (a 4.2-5.8-pound one).


I like this image: butternut squashes are smooth and beautiful, and seem a lot more babyish than, say, cauliflower (from week 25) or especially durian fruit from last week! (I hope no human babies look even remotely like this.)


I’m pretty sure you are already over 5 pounds, because at your last regular ultrasound you were 4 lb 11 oz. (That is already more than Sebastian weighed when he was born – 4 lb 8 oz.) Good for you, Baby.

Yesterday was a big day for our family. You were (as you often are) at the forefront of our minds, because first thing in the morning, Daddy and I went to the out-of-town hospital to have the cardiologist look at your heart. And Baby, you are doing so well – your little heart is formed just as it should be, functioning wonderfully. We got to see it on the screen, pumping away in all its complexity. It’s hard to believe that between the two of us and the powers that be, we are building all those amazing organs of yours that are doing their intricate jobs. At this stage, your kidneys are working, because you’re peeing a lot in there. Your eyes open and close. Your brain is growing and getting smarter. Your ears can hear me singing – and probably even recognize the songs. I will be sure to sing lots for you. Continue reading “Dear Rainbow Baby”

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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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An Open Letter to the Gunman

toronto eaton centre shooting crime scene

Dear Mr. Shooter:

So. It appears, from the status of the person you succeeded in killing, that your decision, i.e. to open fire in the crowd at the food court in the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, was gang-related.

We, the public, still don’t know who you are or where you’re from. We don’t know what your history is. What we can assume is that you’re angry. You’d have to be, to pull a stunt like that.

As a teacher, I automatically wonder what kind of a child you were, and what your teachers thought of you in school. I wonder if you were ADHD or ODD. If you were a bully, or if you got bullied. If you were part of a visible minority that felt it had to stick together to survive, or if you had a bone to pick with visible minorities – or both. I wonder if you were neglected or beaten as a child, if you had enough to eat, if you had a parent in jail, or if you witnessed murder. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Gunman”

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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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