Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to mourn, how to remember

After I shared my thoughts about miscarriage on this blog, and then after The Banner graciously printed my piece, I had several conversations with people who agreed that, yes, we need to do a better job at remembering those who are suffering the loss of a pregnancy. But then the question came up: how?

It’s a good question.

Before going through a miscarriage myself, I would not have known how to respond to a friend or family member facing this loss. I very likely wouldn’t have said anything, to avoid potentially hurting them. Or I may have offered some platitude that did little to alleviate their suffering, and may have actually made them feel worse.

So how do we mourn with them, how do we remember?

Here are just a few ideas. Please understand that this list is not exhaustive, nor will it apply to everyone. We are all unique, and our emotions and needs during a period of suffering will vary. This is meant, instead, to initiative some thought and discussion on ways to lovingly weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

The loss they feel is real. And raw. 

Let’s get this one out of the way first. If you haven’t suffered the loss of a pregnancy yourself, or know someone else who has, you may not realize the depth of loss that is miscarriage. It doesn’t matter if the baby was only 10 weeks in utero, or if the gender was not yet known. For the couple, that tiny cluster of cells was their child. They were already dreaming of holding that child, of rocking them to sleep, and kissing their perfect toes. The loss of that child and of those dreams is devastating. And it is real. Honour the gravity of that loss, even if you don’t understand it yourself.

If you care about their loss, you need to let them know. 

I have often been guilty of caring for others from afar. Of praying for them, but not actually telling them of my concern, of my prayers. Don’t just assume that those suffering will “sense” your sentiment. You need to communicate to them that you care. Tell them you are praying.

How you go about telling them will depend on your relationship. Maybe it will be a phone call, or stopping in for a short visit. Maybe it will be more appropriate to send a note through the mail or have flowers delivered. Always respect their need for privacy and space. Try to discern what method of reaching out would be most helpful and beneficial to them, and then do it.

Mourning takes time. And it takes different shapes and forms over time. 

After you have communicated your concern and love for the person in mourning, keep in mind that the coming weeks and months will require sensitivity and awareness on your part. The grieving process doesn’t have a specific timeframe, and there will be ups and downs. Be patient as they mourn, and don’t try to rush or push them along.

Eventually they will “move on.” But that doesn’t mean that they will forget. And you shouldn’t either.

While it is so important to relay your concern for a loved one in the days and weeks following a loss, it is also vital to remember their loss months and years later. Sensitivity is key here: you don’t want to upset them by bringing up painful memories, but you do want them to know that you haven’t forgotten their struggle.

Every year, my sister and I give a bouquet of flowers to our sister whose first child was stillborn. This sister has since had another child, and so the temptation might arise to forego this tradition. But her new baby does not negate the loss of her first child. A bouquet is a small way that we can remind her every year that we remember, that we love her and our brother-in-law, and that we miss the nephew we didn’t get the chance to know.

When we had a miscarriage, my dad and step-mom gave us a glass-encased flower with Matthew 19:14 engraved on the bottom, and my mom and step-dad picked out a figurine of an angel to display in our home. Whenever I see the flower or the angel, I think about the child we lost as well as my parents’ love for us.

Perhaps just saying, “I’m thinking of you today,” or sending a small note will be your way of continuing to love and care for your family member or friend years down the road.

And finally, a guarantee: You will mess up sometimes and say or do the wrong thing as you come alongside your loved one. But that is better than not saying or doing anything. Strive to be gentle and sensitive, and respect that everyone mourns differently. Above all else, love them and pray for them as they navigate their road of loss.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A birth story

So, it has been an age and a day since I posted. I am a very neglectful blogger. 

To get back into the swing of things, I thought I would share D's birth story as we celebrate his birthday. One years old! Where on earth did the past year go?!

I scribbled down D's birth story in the hours and days after he joined our family. And then, a few months back, I pulled it all together for my cousin, Jennie, who is training to become a doula. Reader be warned: this birth story isn't graphic, but it does contain words like "uterus" and "mucous plug." (I'm thinking specifically of you here, Tante Toni.) 

We had a planned home birth with our wonderful midwives. I won't get into why we chose home birth here (perhaps a topic for another post), but for some interesting info about its safety, etc. for those curious, here is a good article to check out. 

What an amazing journey this past year has been. I feel so immensely blessed to be D's mom. 

So, without further ado, here is our birth story. 

Whoa belly.
I was already in bed for the night when Ben came home from his pick-up hockey game he plays on Wednesdays in the winter. As he slipped under the covers, I said to him, “I think I might be having contractions.”

I had been asleep when the first cramp-contraction hit at about 11 p.m., and the feeling of it caused me to wake, wide-eyed. I had heard from other women that they just knew when they were in labour – when it was the real thing – and at that moment, I knew what they meant. Something was happening.

While the contractions – irregular at this point – weren't painful, they demanded my attention. I was able to stay in bed, but getting back into a deep sleep was out of the question. I dozed between contractions, feeling excited as well as apprehensive. I urged Ben to try to get some sleep. There was no telling how long this process would take, and it would be prudent for at least one of us to get a good night's rest.

The contractions continued as the night went on, and I began to use my phone to time them. They were every six minutes or so, and lasted around 30-60 seconds. I found it difficult, though, to determine exactly when they started and finished.

At some point during a contraction, I felt a warm gush. It wasn't enough to be my water breaking, so I figured it must be my mucous plug. Okay, things are really happening here, I thought. I had to turn on the light to investigate if my suspicions were correct and to clean up. Ben woke up and began preparing the room for labour – changing the sheets, putting down drop sheets on the floor, and getting the other supplies ready. By about 4 a.m., the room was all set up and Ben lay down again to try to get a bit more rest.

Eventually it became too uncomfortable for me to remain laying down in bed on my side. I propped up pillows against the headboard and tried sitting up. I also tried moving down to my knees on the floor with my arms and head resting on the bed. Shortly afterwards, my water broke. The liquid was clear, so I didn't feel an urgency to phone the midwives right away. I spent the next while with a towel under me as the fluid seemed to keep coming and coming with no end in sight.

By around 7 a.m., I felt the contractions were strong enough to warrant a call to the midwives. I didn't want to phone earlier and wake them, as I figured well-rested midwives were a good thing to have around. I phoned the midwife paging system, and soon received a call back from one of my midwives, N. I filled her in on the night's happenings, and she said she would stop by to assess me. She popped by within 30-60 minutes. She determined that labour hadn't yet progressed, so to try having a hot shower and taking some Gravol and Tylenol. I had taken some Gravol earlier that night to try to help me relax enough to sleep.

I attempted the stalling techniques, but my labour only continued and increased in intensity. Ben went downstairs and busied himself by doing some dishes and tidying up. Meanwhile, I continued to labour upstairs, the contractions at this point strong enough that I had to breathe through them. Using my phone again to time them, I noticed that they were coming closer together, around four-and-a-half minutes at this point and lasting 45-60 seconds.

Around 10 a.m. we paged the midwives again. N phoned back, asked some questions, and said she would stop by again for another assessment. After arriving about a half hour later and assessing me, she began to bring in her equipment and prepare the room. At this point, I was labouring while seated at the edge of the bed. After finishing setting up, N examined me and found me to be six centimetres dilated and well effaced. I remember feeling elated at that news, as it was affirmation that things were indeed on their way. It also gave me added stamina for the journey ahead – I had made it through six centimetres, what were a few more?

I continued to labour at the edge of the bed, while Ben ran up and down the stairs to heat up our magic bag in the microwave. Ben was a huge support for me, rubbing my lower back and ensuring that I was continuing to sip on water and Gaterade, as well as use the bathroom frequently. His presence was there with me, and I knew he was available should I need anything, but he didn't smother me or try to get me to talk too much. I found that I needed to have quiet in order to focus and concentrate on each contraction.

Our other midwife, C, arrived at some point. Eventually she encouraged me to try changing positions, as I was still at the edge of the bed. I moved to the floor and leaned over our exercise ball. I found this position helpful, as I was able to roll the ball back and forth with the contractions. Labour then began to become more intense. The pain of the contractions felt white hot around my uterus and radiated down my thighs and through my lower back.

Rather than deep breathing, I began to take in four short inhales of breath and exhaled to the count of four. I found this gave me something to hold on to during the wave of pain. Breathe in to four. Breathe out to four. Repeat. Repeat.

Before long, I began to feel the involuntary urge to push. My body felt like it was shuddering, taking over. I knew I was getting close!

N and C were in the other room for much of this time, giving me my space, which I appreciated. They would pop over from time to time, encouraging me along the way. Once I began to feel the urge to push, N asked me if my contractions were changing. I remember feeling very impressed that she could tell – from my body language, or my breathing, perhaps?  – that I was getting close to the next stage.

Soon afterwards, C advised that I move back to the bed and lay on my side. I remember feeling hesitant, as the early contractions when I was laying down were painful, but I didn't have the desire to explain that so I just did as I was told. Laying on my side turned out to be comfortable (well, as comfortable as one can be at that point), and pushing was just about to begin.

Pushing was different than what I expected. I suppose I didn't anticipate the constant pressure. I was envisioning a push, then a break, then another push. Instead, I felt a push, which was rather painful, and then a lot of pressure. I remember uttering at one point, “It hurts!”

C and N were encouraging me, saying that baby was almost here and that I was doing a good job. I recall C reminding me to breathe, saying that I was giving breath to the baby. C told me that I had to listen to N, that she was going to tell me when to stop pushing or when to start. I nodded, yes, I understand.

After about 15 minutes, and as the midwives and Ben cheered me on with words like, “Baby is almost here!”, I felt a release, a gush, and out came our little boy.

Either C or N lay my son down on my chest. It was a surreal moment. Could this really be happening? Is he really mine? The room was dim, D was a bit bluish, and his sweet, sweet cry. Time stood still – I didn't really know what to feel or how to express my emotions. Just a stunned, surreal silence of just looking at him, taking it all in. Welcome home, baby.

One proud Papa.

Friday, August 2, 2013


A few of my pregnant friends have recently asked me what advice I might offer about raising a wee one. I've been mulling over what advice to give ... advice is, after all, such a tricky thing. Every momma and every baby is unique; there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting.

Tip No. 5: Sleep is your friend.
Still, there are some principles I wish I had known before taking the plunge into motherhood. So rather than offering advice to my friends, here is a list of advice I would have offered to myself a year ago, had I been able.

To my expecting friends, and to anyone else who happens upon this post, please glean from this list only what is helpful and disregard the rest. A sentiment which leads me to my first item ...

Find your own way - There are countless parenting styles and philosophies. Read, study, and learn. Listen to other parents and ask them questions. But at the end of the day, listen to your heart and to your baby. It can be tough, especially when your decisions aren't popular or the ones chosen by your friends or family. Still, you are your own person and you will have your own unique style. Find your own way, realizing and accepting that it will shift and change over time.

Babies are perplexing - You will never "arrive." That is to say, you'll never have it all together or be able to say you're a perfect parent. There will be weeks and months where you will think, "I've got this down!"But then your adorable son or daughter will serve you a hefty slice of humble pie, and you'll wonder what on earth you're doing. We experienced this phenomenon recently ourselves. Suddenly, D decided he hated sleep. Despised it. Never wanted to do it again. After a few painful weeks, he is back on the sleep train. During these perplexing times, just think about how inconsistent and unpredictable you can be. Babies aren't robots, they are keep-you-on-your-toes human beings. Just when you think you have a handle on your baby, they'll change things on you.

Reject perfectionism - You aren't perfect. You will fail. You will make a gazillion mistakes. You will lose your cool, you will say something unloving, you will think something unkind. Accept that you aren't perfect; you're far from it. But you can try your best, and you can say, "I'm sorry." And you should. Often. Say it to your spouse or partner. Say it to your child. Say it to yourself, too.

Search for balance - It's hard to juggle the various aspects of life, and babies don't make that any easier. Although it's challenging, make a point of searching for balance in your life. Take time to do your devotions and pray, journal or read a novel, watch that TV show or movie, get together with your friend for coffee, etc. Don't become a martyr and "sacrifice" your previous identity or your interests for the sake of motherhood. Being a mom will certainly change you, but it doesn't need to define you entirely. You still have other aspects of yourself, such as a wife, a daughter, a friend, an employee. Those other roles will surely shift and change, and some of your interests or goals may need to be set aside for a season. But try not to lose yourself as you embark on motherhood.

What did I miss? What advice or words of wisdom would you give? 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

To market, to market

One of my favourite things about summer is the weekly Farmers' Market

Here are some of our delicious finds this morning on Main Street.

Freshly baked sourdough from The Glen Oven Tea Room. Ben's favourite!  
Our weekly organic veggie CSA from Whole Circle Farm. We went with potatoes, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, green onion, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, spinach, and herbs. Yum! 
Nothing beats fresh, local berries. Hello, strawberries!

What are your favourite market finds?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


D and Dad. Also featuring Rory the Dog.
Ben recently changed D's diaper at the nursery at church, prompting one of the women there to say to me, "You've got him well-trained!"

We've run into this several times since welcoming D into our family: the varying opinions and expectations of the roles women and men play in raising kiddos.

Ben has shared with me how he has felt the unsaid assumption from others that, when I'm not available, it would be better if D was in the care of another woman rather than with him. He's a man, after all, and so baby-caring isn't in his job description. He lacks the skills; he doesn't have the right touch.

Well, we disagree.

I'm so pleased that we live in a time when men are increasingly on the front lines of child rearing. That many of the men of my generation change diapers, wipe up snotty noses or spit-up, and feed bottles. That they feel competent in caring for their child in all capacities, not just by providing financially for him or her.

Some years down the road, D will understand the love Ben shows our family by leaving the house every day to work, allowing us to have a roof over our heads and food on our plates. But for now, the way D knows his daddy loves him is through the silly songs he sings to him during those diaper changes, by playing games and feeding bottles when mom is away, and by holding and cuddling and kissing.

So, is Ben well-trained? Maybe, but certainly not by me. I suspect he received his training from his own mom and dad, who both held him, and played with him, and comforted him.

I hope D will grow up "well-trained," knowing from example that manhood and fatherhood need not shy away from the tasks sometimes assigned only to women. I hope D changes diapers and rocks his own kiddos to sleep. And I hope, by then, these contributions won't raise eyebrows or shake expectations.