Thursday, December 8, 2011

Either/Or

Dear Sam,

You are 23 months old. When I talk to strangers, and they ask how old you are, I've had to start talking in years (He's almost two.) because they struggle to do the math when I say 23 months. I'm talking in years. When did this happen? So quickly, but so slowly. Six months ago, you couldn't walk. Seven months ago, you could barely talk. This afternoon you ran past me in your fuzzy bear slippers that you call your "skates," and shouted "Sammy skatin'! Go! Guys! Go! So fast!" Then you ran into the ottoman and got distracted by the wooden airplane you'd came face to face with when you hit the floor, and the next I heard was "Vrrrrrrrr! Take off!" 



It's been silent around these parts for a little while, but I had to start writing again, because there are some changes coming down the pipeline. These are happy changes, and I'm so excited when I think about the year to come, but I'm also cautious, and I feel preemptively nostalgic for this time before it has even passed. Every day, you take another clumsy step from baby to boy, and you narrate the passage in your own eloquent way. For example, your Daddy is delighted when you announce "FARTED!", while I am partial to the quiet "Bwess you Sammy!" that I hear after you sneeze. 



The baby growing in my belly (which you already kiss) is speeding your inevitable passage to boyhood, as you will soon be a big brother, with all the pride, independence, and perspective that comes along. It will be difficult for me to pretend that you're my tiny baby during the requisite photo opportunity of you holding the newborn baby burrito in your lap while off-camera, a whole chorus of adults entreats you to use gentle hands, and you wonder about the location of those dang goldfish crackers you were promised.

I don't worry that you will lack for love and attention. In fact, I'm 100% confident that your father and I will always have more to give than you could possibly need. Besides that, you have more grandparents than any one child has a right to, and they are all rubbing their hands at the prospect of spoiling you silly under the guise of preventing sibling jealousy when the new little bundle comes along.

No, what I worry about is that this time will not be remembered as clearly as it should be. That I'll think about this as the winter when I was pregnant with your brother or sister, rather than the winter that your personality became more defined and delightful each day. Actually, some of the delight may come in retrospect, unless you are one of those aforementioned grandparents. I really think they live for the tantrum stories.



A few weekends ago, you and I took a trip to Oliver to stay at your Uncle Bryan's place, along with most of my side of the family. Your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and your cousins were all with us for two days, so there were no shortage of memorable moments and good laughs to take home. However, when I think back on that weekend, the first thing that comes to mind won't be your Uncle Bryan's unsurprising dedication to Swamp People (as awesome as it was), or your Gamma's hysterics during the taped BC Lions game - it will be something much more quiet, just between you and me. At 2:00 in the morning, you couldn't sleep. You, who have woken in the night maybe five times since you were a year old, were wide awake in the room we were sharing, and I was in for a very long night of two hours awake, one hour asleep, two hours awake, repeat until morning. I should have been infuriated, but I was surprisingly calm, having already come to terms with the fact that I will be spending many nighttime hours walking the floor of a nursery in just six months or so. I considered it practice. Around 3:30 in the morning, you took stock of the situation, and this is the bit I will never forget: "Xavier...sleeping. Lucas...sleeping. Gamma...sleeping. Auntie Dee...sleeping. Sam [with big eyes and headshaking]... noooooot sleeping! Mama.... noooooot sleeping!" You said it as though you weren't the rate limiting step, but some puzzled and concerned bystander, and I couldn't stop laughing. Around 6 am, I gave up completely and brought you to bed with me. This was apparently what you were waiting for, as you were asleep before you even finished wiping your nose on my shoulder and cuddling your face into my neck. I laid there for an hour, pretending that your snoring was the reason I was still awake. Pretending that your weight on my chest was a burden.  


Really, I know I don't need to worry. There will be nothing either/or about you and your little brother or sister. Even while I was doing my best to lull you to sleep that night in Oliver, I was also thinking about the little one in my belly, and how I didn't really mind the thought of a newborn looking for snuggles at 2:00 in the morning. (Perhaps I will revisit that sentiment in six months.) All of your personality that I'm so eager to record will make it impossible for you to be overlooked or overshadowed as our family grows. I already see you resolving the problem before it surfaces. As we've been taking about the baby in my belly, and you've been eying my growing bump with interest and suspicion, you've developed a convenient love of baby dolls. You want to talk about them, hold them, and see pictures of them. Sidenote to Google Images: when I searched for "girl with bottle and babydoll" with my son in my lap, I was not referring to lingerie, but thanks for that. 



We were at a playgroup today, where you immediately sought out a baby doll, and spent the next hour and a half towing around your precious bundle of fake eye blinking creepiness - teaching it to walk, reading it a story, and poking those weird, blinky eyes. You were nurturing like a champ, and I have a feeling you'll transfer all that big brother love to the real thing when the time comes, hopefully with a bit less eye poking. There are changes coming, but you'll be ready, and when that time comes, I'll be ready for it, too. By day, you are my big boy, picking up speed and using all those new words to tell me quite literally that "Sammy! Is not! A baby!", but at night, when you can't sleep, I rock you the way I always have, and I sing you the same songs, and you fall asleep snuggled into my neck, snoring in my ear. That isn't going to change.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prayer for a Son

Tina Fey's hilarious and lovely "Prayer for a Daughter" has been kicking around the internet for a few weeks, so I thought I'd patch one together for a son. Specifically, mine. Here's hoping I landed on the side of 'tribute,' rather than 'rip-off.'

First, Lord: no contact sports. Though you did not deign to make me a morning person, it is not the 5am practice that I fear, but the risk of damage to his beautiful brain, because he is clearly a genius, and such potential would be a shameful thing to waste. I'll do my part to push him towards board games and Tolkein, if You'll do the rest. Just do whatever You did with me. 


Let him be confident, but not cocky, for it is a swollen head that draws contempt despite talent, and fails to see the strengths of others.

When challenges are issued in bars, let him know his limits and bow out, or at least pass out, before he pummels his liver or his pride by falling asleep under a urinal and being found the next morning by the cleaning crew. Actually, forget his pride if that's what it takes to teach the little fool a lesson. 


Guide him, protect him from stupid ideas like running with bulls, jumping out of planes, throwing himself off the edges of cliffs to land in bodies of water that are deceptively shallow, skiing out of bounds, swimming with sharks, playing with things that explode, donning a crotch harness and dumb little shoes to scramble up rock faces that are not meant to be scaled by anything but a mountain goat, ingesting food from street vendors in foreign countries and parts of downtown, joining expeditions to climb mountains that are so treacherous that they require the assistance of short, stocky locals who carry equipment and shake their heads at danger-seeking westerners, or being lured by the siren song of interest-free loans and no-money-down purchases. O Lord, when he does so choose to test his invincibility, mix me a shot of whatever it is that You drink when You're up there watching us get up to no good down here. This I pray. 


Lead him not into a never-ending PhD of Sociology, but do foster in him a thirst for knowledge and education, be it at a university, an internship, an apprenticeship, or other source of expertise. Give him the luxury of time and security to pursue said education, and not squander more than one semester on binge drinking and pranks. When he emerges from his training with fresh ideas and optimism, let him not become jaded, but find fulfilling work, and maintain a drive to become very good at his chosen profession, for it is in success that we find joy, hard work that we take pride, and hope that we make lasting change. It would also be great if he could support himself and put a little something away for his future, if it is not too much to ask of Your Beatificness.


Hear me, Lord, if he is bullied, grant me the grace to not drag those little shits home to their mothers demanding discipline and apologies, but focus my attention instead on my own son that I may fortify him with my love and overwhelming pride, as well as the knowledge that he is better than those insignificant little asses who will always be mean because they are unhappy. Let him not hesitate come to me with his troubles, so that I may assure him that things will get better, and that he is valuable, precious, and not deserving of such pain. (However, in Your Overwhelming Generosity, I trust that You will not begrudge me brief fantasies of the dragging and demanding and comeuppance for said little shits.)

Though he must feel the sharp sting of love unrequited, let him heal from those wounds with no lasting scars, especially not in the form of eternally-regretted tattoos. Dear Lord, this I pray. 


Let him understand that he is lucky, and foster empathy for those who are not so fortunate, that he may lessen burdens by taking up fights that are not necessarily his own. In Your Infinite Wisdom, please understand: I am not talking about storming oil tankers or moving to Tibet, for BP is formidable and China is unmoving, and surely there are worthwhile causes within a timezone of his mother, she who has absorbed the entire canon of Raffi, and sings Joshua Giraffe repeatedly at his sign language request of "more? moremoremoremore? more?"


May his childhood be long and spoiler-free, so he may have many years to believe in the magical powers of wondrous characters like the easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and me. Yes, knowledge is power, but wonder is invaluable, and there will be plenty of time for hard facts and controlled experiments as the years go by. O Lord, let him not be smarter than us until he is wise enough to navigate the treacherous waters of The Internet without the lifeboat of his father's watchful paranoia and sneaky nanny programs. 35 is probably a good target age for this one. Maybe 40. 


If one day, he should take on fatherhood, grant him solid arms for rocking, endurance for long nights, and a strong stomach for that first blueberry diaper. As he stares in terrified wonder at this little piece of amazingness that is his to cherish and protect, let him save a little wonder to consider that his father and I felt that same fierce love for him all those years ago, and briefly ponder how he could ever express the gratitude that he is feeling. But he won't have to. I'll just know, because I'm pretty sure my mother said this same prayer as she was holding me, and it's clear that You came through for her.

Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Sam: You Were Born, For Real.

When I last left this story, I had just taken the epidural, and was beginning to appreciate the wonders of modern anesthesia. Actually, I wasn't quite at the appreciation stage yet, because your Granddad, my Dad, was busy learning the back story of the anesthesiologist who was in the process of jabbing a gigantic needle into my spine, and this was not helping me calm down. Forgive me if I wasn't interested in where he went to school or how he decided to go into pain management; I was a bit more concerned about how focused he was on the task at hand, and how steady those hands might be.

Now, you are very, very fond of your grandfather, as am I, but there's something you need to know, if you haven't figured it out already. Get ready for a Life Lesson: Sometimes, the traits you love and respect the most about a person might drive you to want to kill them under extraordinary circumstances. Your grandfather has a commendable appetite for information. He watches the news at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00, and he reads two newspapers a day (I'll explain what a "newspaper" is another time). Most importantly, he is eager to learn from the people he meets on a daily basis, and he truly is interested in what they have to say. When I was a teenager and therefore self-conscious beyond belief, I was horrified by benign trips to the grocery store, where he could not resist chatting with the cashier (I thought he was holding up the line), or stopping to catch up with the parent of one of my friends (dear god, what if that parent went home and told their son/daughter?? I could ask teenage Kathryn 'what if' indeed, but she was too focused on feeling simultaneously conspicuous and unappreciated to think of anything that abstract). 

These days, I'm proud to think that he passed that interest in the stories of others on to me, and I do enjoy talking to the people I come across on a daily basis. Prepare to be mortified, teenage Sam. However, in that moment, with that needle poised to go where no needle is really meant to go, I couldn't care less if that anesthesiologist had lived in a submarine, interviewed J.D. Salinger, or seen a double rainbow in Yosemite Park, so long as his aim was true. As far as I was concerned, your Granddad was NOT HELPING in that regard, and my mother took note of my desperate death glare and diverted my father enough to let me breathe deeply, as the nurse who was kindly letting me crush her hands was instructing me to do.

Shortly after that, when your Dad and I settled down to sleep for a few hours and get some dearly needed rest, as was the purpose of the epidural, your Granddad and Gamma headed home, where I knew they would be thinking of me all night, and eagerly awaiting news of your arrival. Before they left, they told me that they knew I could do it, and that meant a lot.

When we woke up an hour or two later, I assessed the changes, and found that I definitely wasn't steady enough to walk anywhere, but I could feel the contractions, and still had enough sensation to push effectively. That was good thing, because I pushed for four hours. FOUR HOURS. I'll spare you the gritty details and just say that some parts were uncomfortable (good lord, the nausea) and some were precious (but that's between me and your Dad), and just tell you that the overarching theme was how damn long you took to make your appearance. The experienced and knowledgeable nurse kept assuring me that I was so close, and told me at least three times that I probably had less than an hour to go. On the less encouraging front, the OB resident would pop in every hour or so to judge my progress, shake her head discouragingly, and remind me that I was on a deadline: if I couldn't get you out by 4am, she was going to take matters into her own hands, and bring out The Forceps. Yes, I capitalize them in my brain. Like the epidural, I had a great fear of the forceps. Unlike the epidural, I'm still pretty convinced that that fear was justified. Now, I know women who have had forcep deliveries, and came out of it just fine, but I also know that they bring certain risks to both the baby and the Mom, and besides all that, they are just friggin huge. Really. So big. Visceral recoilingly big. So anyway, I was on a deadline, and despite a lifetime of being late for everything, I was determined to get you out on time.

The fact was, you were stuck. You weren't breech - that would have required a C-Section - no, your head was down, as it was supposed to be, but you were laying sideways. That meant that you were butting up against my pubic bone, and couldn't slide under it the way a properly aligned baby is designed to do. Besides requiring extra work on my part, you were under stress. Our wonderful nurse did a commendable job of shielding me from that information, but your Dad could tell you that he wasn't missing anything that had to do with monitors going off and your heart rate dropping. He bore all of that fear, while I just kept thinking "Wow, it's so nice of them to give me oxygen to help me breathe," totally unaware that it was for you, because you were struggling. So, that's why I had a deadline. As uninspired as her bedside manner might have been, the OB resident did not have some kind of twisted eagerness hone her mad forcep skills on my delicate bits (sorry), so much as she knew what could happen if you were pushed beyond your limit. Due to my work in the neurology clinic, I also know, and I am grateful for her inclination to move things along.

And that is why I know without a doubt that you were born at 3:59, not 4:00 as your birth certificate would attest. I made one last big effort, and the OB who was standing there with her forceps at the ready dropped them and caught you, and after that, nothing else mattered, because I was holding my baby, and you were so beautiful. I tore my eyes away from you to look at your Dad and confirm that you were to be Sam, and in that moment I remember thinking that there's no way I could have done it without him. If you're going to be all logic loving and fact-y like your Dad you'll ruin that sentiment by saying "well yes, because you wouldn't have had to," but draw on my side of your brain for a minute and go with what I really mean, ok? 



 


You were 7 and a half pounds, which is a good healthy weight, but you felt like so much more than that laying on my chest. I thought I could be crushed by the force of my love, and I knew that everything I had, I would gladly give to you. I was pretty much ready to burst, and I've never been so happy in my life. You were born.





Sunday, March 27, 2011

Country Mouse, City Mouse

By 'country,' I actually mean those rural reaches of Kitsilano, but bear with me for the sake of the reference. 


Observations on one week of life downtown:

There are still people in Vancouver who smoke cigarettes.

My eternal question: "Who in God's name wears heels like that on a regular basis" has been answered 50 times over.

I could not previously have imagined being the only person pushing a stroller in a grocery store. I'm on the receiving end of some kind of hard-to-define reverence, like "Lo, there is a stay at home Mom among us. Let us give her full reign over the cereal aisle, as is her due."

People are delighted by Sam in a different way. Baby charm is more of a rare commodity downtown, so his smiles mean a lot to parents who are looking forward to the end of their work day, and singletons who don't have a lot of contact with kids. He's like a mini ambassador, spreading his chubby love around and leaving a path of melted hipsters in his wake. The flipside is that the smallest whine at a coffee shop draws a few terrified glances, but thankfully, he knows that you catch more flies with honey. And giggles.  



It is not implausible to find your Sunday stroll interrupted by folks offering Free Hugs to celebrate their Persian New Year, only to hear the strains of a celtic-tinged big band as a truck full of firefighters playing instruments drives by, waving a banner proclaiming themselves the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Band. Obviously.

Sam is thrilled to pick Daddy up at work and walk him home, and I might just love it, too.

The fountains in front of the Wall Centre are like splashing, liquid delight for a 14 month old baby.

There is a cold beer and wine store around the corner that sells deliciously dry English cider. Viti Cold Beer and Wine, I can tell that we are going to be friends.

I had never thought of a high rise as a welcoming community until I experienced the pleasure of a 24 hour concierge and consistently friendly elevator-mates.

A "concierge" can be a slightly odd but totally agreeable guy named Al or Norman (day shift and night shift) who knows the names of everyone living in a 125 unit building, and genuinely cares about when Sam and I plan to be home from our day trip to the park.

From our window, we can see the sunset over English Bay, the edges of UBC and Stanley Park, the gargantuan penthouse of the building next door, and the strange shantytown-esque dwelling some dude has set up on the top of a four story apartment building a few blocks away. This city really is a gem. Tonight, Ryan and I watched an eagle drift and dip and soar around the Shangri-La, like some kind of majestic embodiment of those cheesy Vancouver slogans: SuperNatural British Columbia, and Best Place on Earth. I gush, but you must forgive me: I just watched an eagle effortlessly stake her dominance over our tallest building, owning the sky just as she has centuries. We've built our way up to such great heights with wonders of engineering and imagination, but she's just doing what comes naturally. I pointed her out to Sam, and he squealed with excitement.


It looks like Sam's going to be a city mouse, at least for now, and I think he's going to like it very much.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dear Sam: You Were Born, Part 3.

We were moved into a delivery room around three in the afternoon. It had been nine hours since my labour had started, but we still had more than twelve to go before you would make your grand entrance. It's good that I didn't know that. You'd think that spending that much time in one room, especially hours that must count among the most life-changingly important in the overall sample of my time to date would have ingrained the finest details of the space into my mind, but I can honestly tell you that I would not be able to pick that room out of a line up, if they did that kind of thing for rooms, which I'm pretty sure they do not. What I'm saying, in a very long winded way, is that I remember almost nothing about the room in which I spent thirteen very long hours working you out. It would seem that the limit of my focus was about three feet away from my face. I remember the fantastic nurse and med student who were with us for the whole time, I remember your father's face, and his voice as he said my name over an over again and did everything he could to help me do what I had to do alone, and I remember the exact shade of glittery red nail polish I had on my toes. This is why I tell very pregnant women to get pedicures shortly before their due dates. The fact is, your toes are going to spend some time near your nose. They might as well look pretty.

When they moved us into the room, I remember having a feeling that I was ready to go. No more of this stop-and-start; I wanted some momentum and progress and the pain that would come with it. I put on my music, leaned on your Dad, and got through the contractions as they got stronger and more frequent. The OB resident came in to check on me after an hour or so, and she had some not so good news. Yes, I was dealing with those contractions like a champ, but they were still on the mild to moderate end of a scale that would inevitably take nature's course up to another level of hurt entirely. Also, considering my level of dilation (not very) and the pace at which we were going (quite slow) there was reason to worry about fatigue setting in. She recommended that I get an epidural. I burst into tears.

It would seem that for all my talk about not having a birth plan beyond getting you out safely, I had set some part of my heart on doing this without pain medication. Part of it was the pressure that most women feel to go through labour "naturally," which is a topic for a whole other rant, but an even bigger part of it was pride, and the fierce desire to disprove some assumptions. Way back at the beginning of this whole ride, when you were the size of a blueberry and I was blissfully unaware of the key role heartburn medications would soon play in my day to day life, we had initial meetings with the midwives who we had chosen to take care of us, and they were lovely. Unfortunately, when they learned that I have epilepsy, they had felt the need to refer me to an obstetrician because they did not feel equipped to manage my medications and other concerns. The midwives meant well, and felt that they were doing their jobs responsibly, which is why I didn't argue with them and point out that my neurologist and I would be the ones responsible for that aspect of my care, and that, statistically speaking, I was not facing higher risks than any other woman in labour. I did not point out that through my work, I'm lucky enough to have access to the most up to date information on pregnancy and epilepsy, as well as experts who understand it, and that I had done my homework. I didn't say any of those things, because that would have been rude. That didn't stop me from thinking them, and maybe muttering them repeatedly to your Dad, who has plenty of practice in patting my head and talking me down.

Anyway, they referred me on to an OB, who was nice enough, but did not offer anything comparable to the excellent, comprehensive care practiced by the midwives. She also did not endear herself to me by being at least 30 minutes late for each of my appointments, and telling me early on that due to my epilepsy, I should have an epidural, and might even want to consider a planned C-section. To put it mildly, I bristled. To put it honestly, I was angry at her for making me scared. I know that the strength of my reaction might be difficult to understand, and I'm not about to dive in and flesh it all out; believe me, your birth story is far more interesting, and I'd rather get back to that. Instead, I'll just tell you that for me, managing epilepsy has everything to do with control, and with not letting it have any more influence on my life than it deserves. That said, I don't ignore it, and your father and I had done everything possible to ensure that you would be alright, as much as any parent can control those terrifying unknowns. So, when that OB told me to plan for an epidural, what I heard was that I was not strong enough to go through labour like any other woman. Some particularly nasty part of my mind seized onto that thought and hopped aboard the extrapolation express, taking it far enough to whisper that despite all of my careful planning and confidence, I had fooled myself into thinking that I could be a good mother, epilepsy and all. Thankfully, I gave my head a shake, and was left with a strengthened desire to prove those assumptions wrong.

However, nine months later, faced with the actual (huge) needle, it occurred to me that those desires had nothing to do with your best interest, and everything to do with my own silly grudge match with opponents who were completely unaware of how they had got all up in my business. By holding onto those grudges, I was being weakened - not by my epilepsy, but by my need to proves those naysayers wrong. Thankfully, misdirected anger is a lot easier to shake off than challenges that are actually worth worrying about. So, forgive the vulgarity, but I bent over and took that needle like a good Mom. Along with the blissful relief from the increasing pain came the realization that my priorities had been out of whack, that I was in a better place for having fixed them, and that sometimes, it can be really great to not feel your legs.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blame It On the Boogie

I have done my best to foist my musical tastes upon Sam. When I was pregnant with him, Ryan and I saw the Tragically Hip play at the Queen Elizabeth theatre, and when I caught a handkerchief that Gord threw into the audience, I rubbed it on my belly for luck. I got a feel for my changing balance and girth by dancing around to James Brown and Madonna. I worked through labour pains with mix CDs made up of painstakingly selected favourite songs that all carried their own memories of times that were good, times when I was tough, so that I would be able to call on those experiences, and mine them for the strength it would take to push that baby out. 

The first lullabies we sang to Sam were Beatles and Postal Service and Mamas and Papas - except for that one night when I heard Ryan successfully putting him to sleep with his renditions of House of the Rising Sun, then Piano Man. Apparently, nothing lulls a one month old like brothels and sad drunks.

As Sam got bigger, I took him to play groups and drop ins where I learned songs and rhymes that are actually aimed at babies, and I had to admit that he responded to the simple rhythms and repetition. Rather than be concerned, I was willing to take his love for any kind of music as a positive thing. When Ryan laughed at me for pointing out that Sam's skillful beating of a wooden xylophone and enthusiasm for his shaker egg might be signs that we have a musical protege on our hands, I comforted myself with the thought that it would be Mama to whom he dedicated his album of Radiohead covers when he was three years old and successfully captured the genius of OK Computer on a toddler tambourine. 

Though it must be obvious by now, I'll put it out there - music means a lot to me.

Certain bands take me back to highschool, and friends who took the crafting of perfect mix tapes just as seriously as I did, and joined me in planning our Friday evenings around the Much Music Countdown. Looking back at those years of perpetual melodrama, I can't scoff at my teenage self, because I remember so clearly feeling those songs resonate in a world where no one understood me, and they made me feel a lot less alone. Ninety percent of that pain was simple teenage angst, but for the ten percent that counted, those songs were a lifeline.

I was lucky enough to have a big brother with good taste in music, and to have the kind of relationship that made me want to do everything he did, rather than automatically scorn his picks. As I grew out of that teenage messiness, his favourite bands became my favourites too, and they've stuck with me since then. Thank goodness he made me love the Tragically Hip - otherwise Sam might not exist. I met Ryan when I was 15, and that very good brother had orchestrated a trip to Vancouver for his giddy little sister. I was almost as excited to see the Hip play at GM Place as I was to meet my brother's highly interesting university friends. I went home to Kitimat with a new love for live music, and a big crush on one of those boys. That crush came to fruition a few years later at my brother's wedding when I asked Ryan to dance, to what else - The Tragically Hip.

In university, I was introduced to a whole new world of thoughts and people, as well as downloadable music. Napster changed my world, as did burnable CDs. The many (many, many) albums of Ani DiFranco became my new soundtrack, coincidentally around the time that I became a card-carrying feminist - or rather realized that I had been all along. I've simmered down a bit since then, but I've made sure that Sam has been exposed to plenty of Riot Grrrl, especially when the world news makes his Mama angry.

As the years have gone by, and I'd like to think that I've grown up a bit, I've started to appreciate singers and and songs that are a lot older than me, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, CCR, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell. Though he may not go for Ani DiFranco, Ryan and I converge on these, and have found that Hallelujah makes an excellent lullabye.

These days, I don't have as much time to search out new music, but when I do, I find myself gravitating to more upbeat tunes, which lend themselves to spinning around the kitchen and bouncing up and down with a wiggly baby. He likes Cee Lo, Florence and the Machine, and Arcade Fire. I'd pretty much do anything to get that little bottom bopping, as it tends to do as soon as certain songs start up, which leads us to the Raffi dilemma.

Now, it's not that I keep him away from all children's music. There are some great kids albums by indie artists, and there are all kinds of versions of popular songs done up for kids as well. We're talking Radiohead, Coldplay, Flaming Lips... everyone wins, right? Then there's Raffi. My mother, Sam's Gamma, has waged an open campaign to introduce Sam and her other grandsons to Raffi, heedless of my protests. And dang if the little turncoat doesn't love it. From the first strains of "Baby Beluga," to the last notes of "Joshua Giraffe," he's a happy guy, and that bottom, it is bopping. As for me, I'm working on ways to combat the insidious catchiness of those two minute tracks of baby crack, but I find myself falling asleep with "The More We Get together" dancing around in my head, and I'm humming "Little Red Wagon" at the veggie mart.

What's my problem with Raffi? Honestly, it's hard to pin down. I hate to admit it, but it's something to do with how in earnest he is. There's no eye-rolling, no irony, no nod to how ridiculous it is to sing silly songs over and over again to babies, and how much we're giving them by leaving dignity at the door. It's not that I mind singing these songs to Sam - I sing them every day, (with hand gestures!). It's that I recognize that I'm doing it because I love him, while shaking my head internally and chuckling at how much my life has changed since the utterly unaware self-interest of my younger days. Also, I know he's trying to keep it real, but couldn't Raffi find some kids who can carry a damn tune to sing back up on these CDs? Seriously. Are there no musically capable kids on Salt Spring?

Anyway, as much as it pains me and my music snobbery, Raffi is on my iPod's most played list, in fine company with Radiohead and Dan Mangan. Sam's got me wrapped around that little finger that points at my stereo while he cocks his head and says "Uhhhgh?" The fact is, when I sneak my own picks into his little playlist, and dance with him, singing the chorus of Signed, Sealed Delivered (I'm Yours), there's no irony at all. 

video

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Sam: You Were Born, Part 2.

So there we were, at 7am on January the 6th, and I was officially in labour. Your Dad and I laughed to think that you would have the same birthday as your big cousin Lucas, who had been born exactly one year ago that day. Apparently your in utero hearing was very good, and you were displeased with this idea, because you bucked a lifetime of joint parties and shared cakes by drawing things out long enough to have your very own birthday, January 7th. I suppose I should be thankful that eight is not your lucky number.

Your father and I had spent nine months counting down to this moment of go-time, and I have to admit that it was somewhat anti-climactic when it arrived. It made me wish we were a little bit less over prepared, so that there could be a bit of scrambling - a bag to pack, relatives to call, livestock to tend, but we had no such distraction. Your Dad even had an app ready on his phone to time my contractions, which were irregular and not very long, but we had faith that they would pick up over the next few hours before we headed to the hospital. In the meantime, we sat down to watch an episode of the Tick. This is random, I know, and I don't have a great explanation for it. In fact, I don't remember the show at all. Instead, I remember sitting there cuddled up to your Dad, just the way we'd done in that exact spot for years, and realizing that the next time we settled down on that couch, we'd be holding you, and we would be absolutely terrified.



Dr. Holly told us that after six hours, we'd better head to the hospital regardless of my rate of contractions, because with my water broken you were at risk of bacterial infection. As soon as you master the ability to comprehend language beyond "Mama," "Dada," "dance," and "dog," you will come to understand what the words "bacterial infection" mean to your father. The first time you leave the lid off of the butter dish, you will hear about Louis Pasteur! And the falling bacteria! And contamination! And you will understand that your Dad would not take such a risk lightly. So, at 1pm, we headed off to Women's Hospital, me clutching my pillow, and your Dad driving very, very carefully. On the way there, I called your Auntie Teresa to cancel the plans we had for afternoon coffee. I had this thing about not crying wolf when it came to labour, meaning that I was terrified to be 'that woman' who shows up at the hospital, claiming to be in labour, only to be sent home a dozen times by admitting nurses, scoffing at lack of dilation and pain levels and the like. Considering that my water was broken, this wasn't going to be an issue, but I was still hesitant to make a big deal. When Teresa asked why I couldn't make it, I muttered something about the hospital, and getting something checked out, before admitting that uh, I was in labour. With the baby. Right then. Predictably and appropriately, she lost it, and something in her excitement made it sink in a bit more, that this was for real, and it was indeed a very big deal. You were coming.

When we got to the hospital, they checked me in right away, and promised to come measure my dilation. Now, I was confident that I was going to be at something significant, like five centimeters. The week before, at my OB check up, the doctor had put me at a two, and I was unreasonably proud of this accomplishment, probably due to my overachieving nature and high expectations for myself. So with my OB nodding in approval and assuring me that I wasn't going to go past my due date, I took that early dilation to be like: Oh yeah. My cervix has this under control. Nature is taking its course, you guys. So, with that, I was prepared to hear the intake nurse give me something sweet, since I had been in labour for six hours at this point. Instead, I was at three. I took this as a blow (see: overachieving nature). Nevertheless, I bucked up, and started walking up and down the halls of the intake area, since my contractions tended to peter out when I sat still. This really wasn't a good sign, but I ignored it. Positive thinking! I also ignored the sounds of the woman who came into labour and delivery a few minutes after me who was positively wailing in pain, and begging for drugs as soon as she came through the admitting doors. I clutched the cds I'd brought of my favourite songs, and the pain management tips from my prenatal yoga teacher, and reassured myself that I would get through this. Surely, that woman was overreacting. Let's get back to pacing.

The next little hurdle came in the form of an IV. You know what we haven't had in a while? A tangent! Here goes.

I hate IVs. Now, I don't like to think of myself as the kind of person who says "I hate needles," or "I hate hospitals," because that has always struck me as being redundant by definition. I mean, come on: if you enjoy getting needles or think it's fun to be sick enough to need hospitalization or visit someone who is, you are strange, and that is a fact. Can the rest of us all agree that we don't enjoy these things, without claiming it as an identifying feature? It may seem that I'm overly worked up about this (which is possible), but the real issue as I see it is that the people who state these obvious truths tend to serve them up as an excuse for all kinds of irrational behaviour, like avoiding needed treatment, or seeking sympathy. That said, I hate IVs. It may be the fact that I've had some bad experiences that left IV bandages on my hands for a few days at a time, or may just be that having a shunt inserted in your vein and taped down so that you can feel it under the surface when you move your hand or your arm in the slightest way is inherently nauseating, but whatever the reason, it makes me shudder, and appreciate every shunt-free moment. Let's all take a minute to flex our hands and bend our elbows. Isn't that nice? 

Anyway, I knew one of the first things they were going to do when they admitted me was poke me, and insert a line to stay there for the duration of my labour. The thought of having to deal with the contractions and pushing and fatigue and pressure was one thing, but being tied down by an IV was something I had fixated on, and was truly dreading. However, when they called me back from my pacing, I knew what was coming, and I was prepared to take it. In fact, I was feeling confident enough that I agreed to let the nice, nervous looking med student have a go. Yes, that was dumb. By his third attempt, he was mortified, I was gritting my teeth, and your normally mild-mannered Dad looked ready to give the poor guy a shunt of his own, if you know what I mean. The nurse stepped in, she got it on the first shot, and we were good to go. Next step: delivery room.

Part three to follow....