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.