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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The Blooming Season

This weekend is a big one for me.

On Saturday, I’ll be thirty-five years old. (Holy smokes.) And of course, Sunday is Mother’s Day.

Over the past week or so, something has been making me feel slightly odd and touched in the head. There’s been a phantom baby inside me. Not that I have actual pregnancy symptoms (other than exhaustion and fluctuations in appetite, which can be chalked up to the baby outside me). I am definitely not pregnant.

But it’s weird – I feel movements. Convincing ones that make me involuntarily put a hand on my abdomen.

If at this point you want to take me gently aside and explain about my digestive system and gas bubbles, don’t worry. I know most of what I’m feeling is the normal business of the human body. I’ve been thinking to myself, Dilovely, you’re being ridiculous, you haven’t been pregnant for seven months.

And then it occurred to me: I have spent a large fraction of the last five years pregnant. More specifically, I have been pregnant for 4 of the last 5 birthdays and Mother’s Days.

In 2008, one of the years my birthday coincided with Mother’s Day, a cluster of cells the size of a poppyseed was growing in my womb, only to release itself 17 days later.

In 2009, I was rotund, less than a month away from the hardest and most amazing experience of my life to that date: delivering my firstborn son.

In 2011, I was expecting his brother, who would, as you know, arrive five weeks early, and leave us even before we held him.

Last year on Mother’s Day, I was halfway through my pregnancy with Baby AB, having monthly ultrasounds and periodic ECGs, hyper-aware of every signal she provided telling me she was okay. Now, she’s just over seven months old, and as healthy as rosy little piglet. She weighs over four times what Sebastian weighed at birth.

Once I put all this together, I stopped fretting about my phantom baby. No wonder when I sing lullabies to my daughter, I find myself reflexively imagining the sound travelling through my body to envelop a tiny person inside. It kind of makes sense that as my body takes in the thrilling fragrances of the blooming season, it should also remember its own blooming. It’s not a flight of fancy; it’s just a memory.

Baby Sleeping in a Rose by Catt Kyriacou

And why should I be the only one to feel this presence?

This morning, E asked me, seemingly apropos of nothing, “Mama, when is the new baby coming?”

There was an upside-down moment where I was right in step with his question, then a jolt as I reminded myself that it was a strange thing for him to say.

I had to ask him to repeat it, just to be sure I’d heard him right. I know he still wishes for a baby brother (one he can keep). Lovingly, I told him I’m not pregnant; he responded matter-of-factly, “Yes, you are.”

And it’s rational enough. Why shouldn’t I be pregnant every spring, like a mama duck? His memories of my pregnancies may be vague, but they might still inform his inner concept of spring.


My first uninhabited Mother’s Day since Sebastian. There’s something really hard about this.


In truth, I’m glad not to be pregnant. I definitely have my arms full as it is. If I feel emptiness as well… I can manage it. It hurts, but then – there’s so much joy in living with my scrumptious little progeny. This full-empty Mother’s Day is unique to this moment in my life, this golden babyhaving time that’s as tough as it is glorious – and brief.

I’m thankful for all of it.



Visit Yeah Write for some high quality weekend reading…


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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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To my big boy, before his little sister arrives

Dearest E,

We have been talking about your baby sister a lot this week, because we know she will be here very soon. In fact, as it’s now Thursday evening, chances are very good you’ll meet her within 48 hours!

This morning you remembered, very soon after waking up, that your sister is almost here. It was so awesome to see you grin with pure, delighted anticipation… your joy just makes everything more special and wonderful.

Also, it makes me ache to think of the joy we wish you could have had with your brother.

I really, really hope you’re going to be just as happy once she’s actually here. Right now, you know she’s going to be small, and we’re pretty sure she’ll be cute (you were a darn cute baby yourself, after all).

grammie and ev
Newborn E with Grammie.

We’ve been trying to let you know that she won’t do much at first – she won’t be ready to play with you or learn the things you want to teach her. She might not be as exciting as you’re expecting. But I hope she fills you with love, and that this will make you happy.

I want you to know that I have treasured this summer with you. Even though I have often been tired, and have had to go to lots of appointments without you, it has meant a lot to me getting to spend time with you – just Mama and E. We’ve done a lot of fun things, although some of my favourite memories will be of just talking with you, getting insights into your fascinating young brain, without anyone else to distract us. I know those moments will not be as easy to come by when the baby is here.

Here is a little verbal snapshot of what life is like, the week before your big-brotherhood becomes active:

We’ve played a lot. Mostly with cars and ramps, but also with the new Play-Doh that Marcia gave you as a big-brother present, among other things. We’ve spent time at the park and in the sandbox. You’ve come with me to two appointments – one last ultrasound here in town, where you charmed the sonographer by being so, so well-behaved and telling her all about your Lego car (and during which it was estimated that your sister has already reached your birth weight – 8 lb 5 oz!), and one midwife appointment, where you asked if you could help and you held the Doppler speaker while we listened to the baby’s heart beating.

You are eating lots and growing lots. You have finally learned about dipping: you suddenly love to dip apple slices and carrots into peanut butter, having heretofore resisted ever dipping anything.

You have been loving “lawn mower rides”, i.e. taking walks with your pushable safari truck that talks and sings, getting its energy from the movement of its wheels. (You are so cute pushing that thing, in your earflap hat and running shoes, I almost can’t stand it.) It is still warm enough to enjoy bike riding, too, although yesterday you did have a fall that kisses didn’t fix right away.

You are enjoying the bright changing colours of the trees, but also looking forward already to the “pretty lights” of Christmas time – these have obviously stayed in your mind all year long.

You love counting right now, and want to count anything you see lined up. Thirty is your favourite number (which is about how high you can readily count – these days you even get all the teens in there most of the time). You are always speculating about thirty; for example, what things would you hold if you had 30 hands? Last night you apparently wondered aloud to Daddy what it would be like to have 30 noses. You figured, “I could smell everything… and there would be a lot of snot. And it would be hard to walk, because the bottoms of my feet would be made of noses.”     !!!

You also ask a lot about adding, and writing numbers – what number is a 1 and a 9 next to each other, or how much is it if you have 2 and 3 of something. You have a whole bag of little foam numbers and letters, and you even like trying to sound out basic words and spell them – with help, of course. We know you’ll be more than ready for kindergarten next year.

You are so eager to learn, and so quick to pick things up – and freakishly observant. Daddy and I are constantly shaking our heads in amazement at the things you notice and figure out and verbalize. To be honest, it scares me a little bit. I’m not sure what I’ll do when your brain starts to do things mine isn’t capable of… but for now, I am just hoping we can challenge you enough to make sure you keep on learning, and enjoying it. That we can manage not to get in the way of you doing your thing.

Tonight, I read you your bedtime stories, and I sang you your lullaby, at your request. (We call it yours, even though it’s for you and your brother and sister.) I was glad you asked for it; I realized it would be the last time I would sing it to all of you in your three different places, separate but close together, as you were when I wrote it.

Your lovely great-Auntie CL wrote you a message this week, which I read to you, about how much we love you and will continue to love you, even when your sister is here, getting her own love from us.

I just wanted to add to that. A few days from now, it might seem like the love isn’t the same, or isn’t as much, because we will have to be spending a lot of time and attention on the baby.

But here’s the thing: we will always love you more than we even have words to express. You will always, always be our precious boy, our cherished firstborn. You are so special, so sweet and funny and smart. You are a wonderful little guy (or not-so-little – you insist on “little” or “big”, depending on your purposes – and have sometimes decided that you are actually “medium”). No matter how much we love your sister, no matter how different or similar she is to you, we love you with a love that is just yours, created just for you – and by you.

We know things are going to be very different, very soon. To tell you the truth, Daddy and I are a little nervous. We learned so much from you after you were born, but we are worried that we’ve forgotten a lot of things… and we know that parenting both of you together will be a whole new challenge. At this moment, it is totally surreal to think that we will have another entire, separate person in our family by the end of the weekend. But we know we will figure it out, and I’m sure you’re going to help us. You are a great helper.

We are incredibly glad to be going on this adventure with you, sweetie pie. I can’t wait for you to meet your sister.

(And I hope you’ll forgive us for not actually taking your suggestion to make her middle name “Angry Birds”.)


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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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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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