Thursday, April 30, 2009

History of me

9 days overdue.

Waiting for your first child to come into the world invariably makes you think about your own childhood. So, I've decided to give a brief (if that's possible) history of me. Everytime I write a history of my childhood I always discover new things. Last time it was that I am too self-pitying. The time before that I realised that I blame all my problems on others, etc. So this will attempt at being non-judgemental as well as self-exploratory. I will try and exclude unimportant extraneous details for the comfort of the reader. Here we go...

I was born in the summer of 1984 in Toronto, Ontario. My mother was the same age as I am now, and my dad was a year older than Mike. I was an 'accident', but as far as I can tell a happy one. My mom walked long distances in the mucky Torontonian heat, and from what I understand, had a relatively easy pregnancy. I was born in a hospital, taken home, and loved.

Mostly what I remember of Toronto is the east end of it known as Little Greece. I still love this part of Toronto and if I could afford it, would love to live there. Unfortunately all the houses are running at half a mill. I remember having a steep front lawn that would topple any self-respecting lawn chair; I remember our elderly neighbors with whom we shared a yard giving me ice cream; I remember my babysitter making me honey sandwiches with the crusts cut off. I remember it was always summer. What I don't remember is probably more noteworthy, but this is my history, not someone else's. All I can rely upon are these sketchy memories.

When I was five, we moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. My dad is a Nova Scotian, and met my mother there, though she's technically an American. I was first placed in the public school down the road, where I learned colors and names of foods. The kids in my class seemed enormous. My friend was a girl with stringy hair and perpetual conjunctivitis. I sat near female twins that sucked on their hair nervously whispering to one another. During recess and lunch I would stand outside the school and stare at my pink velcro sneakers that had become increasingly brown and dirty from the Halifax rain. There was no playground, it was just a perpetually wet blacktop. The black girls would play double dutch, but gave up on me immediately when they realised I had no aptitude for it. My dad would pick me up and zip up my coat and ask me how my day had gone. I think I probably lied, making up more interesting things than had actually happened in that place. After school I would ride my bike in the gravel parking lot of our apartment building while my parents looked on, god-like, through the glass sliding doors on the level just above.

We moved again within Halifax to a detached house on a residential street, and I switched to a private school. To get in, I took a test in an airy classroom with sections for desks and sections for play. The test asked me to draw lines from coloured kites to the names of the colours. I suppose I passed. What followed was 5 years of intense academic study and wonderful friends. I would cry at night because my own brain wasn't organized properly for the amount of homework that private school expected. My mind would wander. I excelled at art, singly. All other report cards stated that I enjoyed socializing too much, and that I was disorganized. My best friend organized her coloured pencils by the tiny golden numbers engraved at the side. My cubby developed an incurable case of fruit flies. I learned subversion in this place. I purposefully forgot my uniform for gym constantly, learning that it would exempt me from the tedium of jumping, running and competition. My friends were children of doctors, lawyers and construction barons. They carried leather backpacks, and lived in enormous houses with pillars and had nannies that would pick them up after school and feed them celery with peanut butter. That said, I never felt they were better than me. I never envied what they had. I had plenty of my own, really. Perhaps they pitied me, but I'll never know. I did feel different from them, but this feeling of difference was minimal compared to what I was about to experience.

When I turned ten, the announcement was made that we were moving to Ontario and moving onto a farm. This was an ongoing dream of my parents': my father liked the idea of living on the land and being able to shoot guns whenever he wanted, and my mother was an acknowledged horsewoman. So we moved to the farm. This is where things get messy. Or maybe they were always messy, and this is just where I get old enough to notice. People ask me if I liked living in the country, and I've never really felt like I can answer that question fairly. All I remember about living in the country, start to finish, was how lonely I was. Through elementary school into highschool, it didn't matter how many people I had around me. I would walk around the land of our expansive farm by myself for hours. The majority of the year it was grey or snowy and the wind whistled across the fields and through the trees and I could scream and no one would hear me. It made me feel very very sad. Of course, other things were happening then too. My mother moved out, and became a teacher at my local highschool. I stayed with my father, on the farm, where my mother still kept her horses, as I recall. I started dating a boy from a nearby town. I think I liked him because he was tall like me, and gentle. To this day, I appreciate his gentleness, because it was a quality that previously I didn't know that men could posess. After that, it was one of my main attractions to any potential mate.

He and I moved to Montreal. But that is where my childhood ended, I think. When I paid (or didn't pay) my bills and cooked my food, and got fat and then skinny again. When I bought beer and cigarettes and it was legal.

Parenthood, as far as I can see it, is a chance at a second childhood. While my own was imperfect, I hope I can give my son all that I had, with regard to breadth of experience. I look back on what I've just wrote, and I realise I've left out some of the most heart-wrenching, smuttiest and hilarious stories that I have. The best thing I can hope for him is that one day, he'll have a mind and body full of similar stuff.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Activists need not apply

8 days overdue.

The biophysical profile at the hospital went well. It seems baby boy is healthy and from what I could tell, has a very fat little face!

So my dear blog followers, are you going crazy with waiting yet? I certainly am. I actually laid in bed for a while today, arms petulantly crossed: "I'm not getting out," I said to my baby "until you at least try to." Both he, and my bladder, won. It would seem that it has come to a battle of wills, and I'm losing. I'm not at all surprised considering his father and I are both pig-headed to the point of insanity. Thank goodness we have internet at home, which slices most 'I'm right and you're wrong' arguments in half with regard to duration.

Another midwife appointment tomorrow, another attempt at the 'stretch and sweep' hopefully with better results than last time. Then another biophysical profile on Saturday. Between the calls, e-mails and trips to the hospital, I'm feeling rushed. I can't imagine how liesurely it would have been to have gone into labour a couple of days before my due date.

Now, Mike and I are off for a picnic, which will serve the purpose to help me forget that waiting is driving me mad. He tried to nap, but I'll have none of that! I need mental stimulation, and plenty of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


1 week overdue.

Last night Mike and I went for a drive down the waterfront. Our plan was to go for a walk. Unfortunately, after nine is the worst time to try and find parking there. We drove up and down one stretch of street four times before I flipped out and told him to take me home. He didn't, and parked in the airport island ferry parking lot. Thank the good lord for this man, who ignores my screeching and puts up with me.

After I calmed down, it was really the loveliest walk imaginable. The air was very warm and the breeze was light. The lake was almost still and reflected the light in little pinpoints from the sailboats in the marina. We walked to Lower Spadina and sat on the 'wave boardwalk' sitting and talking and staring at the lake. It felt like we were dating again. It also reminded me a little of when we lived in Halifax, and used to go for walks by the waterfront at night. It's different of course, the lake doesn't have that wharfy smell or the dynamism of the ocean, but there's something about sitting by a large body of water that soothes two parties into a restful, easy conversation that couldn't have occurred anywhere else. They should have international peace negotiations in front of bodies of water in the summertime. I'm sure it would do wonders, especially when the wind picks up and drowns out everything they thought was important.

By the end of the walk I was getting painful contractions and the baby was sitting so low I needed to get home. When I start to feel this way a car ride is incredibly painful. Every bump is torture; I gasp involuntarily as Mike swerves around attempting to avoid the potholes that litter the spring streets. Some streets are worse than others. The ones around our house are the worst. When it comes to the municipal purse, ours is a forgotten neighborhood. Our sidewalks were nearly blocked with ice and snow all winter, keeping many elderly residents housebound; our power went out for a full 35 hours on the coldest day of winter; our water gets shut on and off on a regular basis with less than two hours notice; and now our roads are being completely ignored. Mais, c'est la vie. If it weren't this way, it would just be one more neighborhood where we couldn't afford rent.

So if I don't go into labour tonight or early tomorrow morning, I have to go get my biophysical profile done at the hospital. Well not mine really, but the baby's. He'll get his little lungs looked at my ultrasound, and a battery of other tests to make sure the placenta is still giving him all he needs to survive inside of me. I think tonight's the night though. I can feel it. Or tomorrow. haha.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


5 days overdue.

Sunshine has been replaced by rain and humidity. Somehow I still managed to wake up with a dry, hacking cough. I blame the fan, which oscillates in a full circle around our bed, and dries everything out including my throat. Hack hack.

What shall I write about today? Well the thing on my mind today is boobs. Yes, boobs. Last night I watched the very underrated comedy starring David Schwimmer called "Breast Men" which is the story of the men who invented the silicone breast implant. The story is interesting on a twofold level:

Firstly, because the fact that several generations of women (when they have adequate funds) see nothing bizarre about stuffing their breasts full of sacks of fluid. If you are one of those women, one really only has to watch a breast implantation surgery to make it alien. If the incisions are made in the crease where the breast hangs, the surgeon stuffs his hands in there, separating muscle from rib, then cramming the gelatinous pod inside. If it is an armpit or belly button insertion, the empty implant is rolled up in a tube and once at its desired location, inflated like a life raft. One of the main issues post-surgery is the hardening of the breasts, where the body recognizes the foreign object and begins to wrap scar tissue around it. This can be alleviated by massage.

Secondly, the story is interesting because the silicone scare in the 90s was nothing more than hysteria. To this day there is no medical evidence that silicone in the body causes auto-immune disorders or any kind of sickness. Silicone is still used in a number of medical procedures, cosmetic (facial implants, most notably) and otherwise (pacemakers, for example). However, the claims that women were immobilized by those beacons of power -- full, voluptuous bust lines -- were too interesting to ignore. It was sexy and tragic. It represented so many archetypes: Narcissus at the river; the mutilated prostitute; even the forbidden apple of original sin. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to women who claimed they were victims of silicone. For a while silicone breast implants were inexplicably illegal. Now, if you want silicone you need to get saline first and then the doctor will change it up for you after. If you peruse cosmetic surgery forums, there are women who plan to do just that: they undergo expensive surgery with the full intent of them being 'starter breasts', waiting to get the more lifelike feel of silicone.

I feel like this has all been too condemnatory. I'm not opposed to breast implants at all. In fact, I think along with rainbow colored hair, piercings and tattoos, breast implantation is just another side of the multifaceted aesthetic of womankind these days. If all people were gung-ho about the appearance of altered breasts, I would be more concerned. The fact of the matter is, it's just a different kind of breast which tells a different story. Frankly, I think that's glorious to have as an option.

Breasts are on my mind, unremarkably, due to that movie, as well as the idea of breastfeeding. Our culture doesn't really explicitly prepare women for the transition of breasts from being sexual to functional in any way. I can see why after pregnancy, when they no longer look the same, women line up at the door to re-inflate. Instead, I hope to look at the whole activity the same as my stretch marks -- when they first arrived I was devastated. Now I see them as a testament to the journey that me, my husband and my son have all gone through together. I hope that I will have the same strength and joyous association with my whole body.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


4 days overdue.

It's a gorgeous day out. It's only 11 o'clock and it's already in the twenties. Mike and I stood outside for a little while, enjoying the sunshine. The plan is to go find a patio to have lunch on, if they're not all full. We have a car, so it shouldn't be difficult to roam around and find one. My heart starts to beat too hard from overexertion if I just stand for too long, which is a strange sensation. The baby is still happy in my womb, it would seem. Mike lightly jiggles my belly with his hands every once in a while, urging him to come out and meet us. He doesn't want to. I've decided I am making peace with this today.

There have been many times that we've talked about moving somewhere with better weather. We are young, transient, with very few obligations that keep us in one city. I like to live this way, even though home ownership has been an idea that's been batted around lately. Not having to endure another winter (though by far this one, combined with pregnancy, was one of my worst) is an incredibly appealing thought. However, I suspect that if we lived in a place where the weather was fine most days of the week, and I didn't own a winter jacket, I would in some ways feel cheated out of the unadulterated joy that the first warm sunny day of the year brings. It's like christmas morning for me; I open one eye just a little when I wake up, noticing the sky is blue. Cautiously, I open the window next to our bed and stick my hand out to feel a warm breeze. Warm! It means so many things! Sandals. A day outside. That delicious city smell; a mix between rotting fish guts and sunshine. Fantastic.

I seem to have lost my attention on this post, half way through. I meant to write more, but I am distracted. More later.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Induction insanity

3 days past due date.

The 'stretch and sweep' didn't work. The baby's head wasn't quite low enough to get a good hold of my cervix and therefore, no results. I am still terminally pregnant. Once again, I cleaned the apartment in preparation for nothing. Its cleanliness is starting to get to me. I feel like I live in a show home. I have the odd compulsion to throw things around, just to make it look more lived in.

So, as I've awaited going into labour, I've tried a good many things to get labour started. Some old wives tales, some supported by hard science. As a friend of mine said, these things seem to just keep a woman waiting for labour busy, more than bring it on in any fashion. At first this comment annoyed me, but here I am and I see the truth of it. So far I've tried:

1. Walking
I have walked high and walked low. Yesterday we walked through the Brick looking at couches (which admittedly turned into a lot of sitting, but the up and down motion must be good) and then cruised up and down EVERY isle of my favourite grocery store in forest hill. Yes, I have a favourite grocery store, and it's mostly because of the movators; slanty escalators that push your cart uphill from the underground parking. Awesome. Anyway, walking always seems to make my cervix hurt, and bring on a few contractions. Nothing really serious though.

2. Sex
I don't know what cruel scientist decided to test this and then publish the results that it helps bring on labour. Like a woman burdened with child really needs her husband to know about it. Ugh. But facts are facts, so they say, and even the midwife recommended it. Again I quote a friend in describing it as a 'kinky cirque du soliel'. It isn't pretty, it isn't comfy, and it hasn't yet brought on anything aside from a fit of giggles over feeling like a human pumpkin when I'm nude.

3. Spicy Food
I think that I had a few strikes against me for this one already since we consume spicy food many nights a week. Hotsauce has a place on our table next to the salt. I ordered the spiciest food they had at an Indian restaurant that I love. The waiter kept on checking on us making sure we were okay, stating that we were crazy and even he wouldn't eat something so hot. We broke a sweat, I had a few contractions, and then zilch.

4. Nipple Stimulation
I used my breast pump for this one. It did nothing except hurt. Ow.

5. Red Rasberry Leaf Tea
I've been drinking this since 36 weeks or so. It doesn't induce labour, but everyone operates under this false assumption. It is just supposed to improve the usefulness of the contractions. Admittedly, I've fallen by the wayside in my tea. But then again, I figured I would have this kid a week ago.

6. Evening Primrose Oil
Again, not meant to induce, but prepare the cervix for dialation and effacement. The midwife said I was 1cm and 30%, so I guess it worked?

So there you go. The conclusion I've come to? Natural induction doesn't work, and I probably won't waste my time if I ever have another overdue kid.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pioneering motherhood for Torontonian twenty-somethings

2 days past due date.

I have my midwife appointment today around three. I'm going to get my 'membranes stripped' also known as a 'stretch and sweep'. Basically what happens is the midwife puts her fingers up my hoo-ha, and if I'm dialated sufficiently (I think it only has to be 1cm or so) she will seperate the bag of waters from the uterine lining. This trauma, which can have side effects of light bleeding, releases the hormones that spur on labour. Studies that I've been reading say it increases the chance of spontaneous labour by 20% in the 48 hours following the procedure. It sounds terrible, doesn't it? But at this point, I'm just happy for that 20%!! Also, I'm going to clean in preparation for the homebirth, before my appointment, just in case I get hit with really hard labour right after. My plan was to clean in early labour as something to do and get things moving along, but I'm afraid it'll hit me like a ton of bricks and I'll look at my hubbie's undies on the floor and be like, screw it! It doesn't matter! I hurt! Which to the pain-free me seems like a horribly embarassing, but very likely, thing to have happen. I like to maintain the illusion of cleanliness, even though we are slovenly pigs.

In other things on my mind -- a ton of people I know are getting married this summer. When Mike and I got married last year, every last one of our friends were taken off guard. Firstly, because it was us and we were the last people that were expected to buy into such an institution (but isn't part and parcel of being nonconformist, doing exactly the opposite of what people expect?) and secondly, because we were all so young (or so they kept on saying). Now I know a bunch of people who have announced plans this month to get married in the summer. Some I'm happy for, some I'm not. I feel guilty that I feel that I, in some way, have a right to feel one way or the other about it. If they want to do it, great! We had such a supportive wedding, and I wonder now how many people were secretly shaking their heads and thinking it was a terrible idea. But then again, we had no history of infidelities, and were always happy with one another, etc. Ugh. I think this may be part of being a grown up; learning to keep your mouth shut. So, the question is, after this crop of weddings, how long after the crop of babies!? I probably shouldn't get my hopes Toronto friends are yuppies at best (or perpetual students, artists and various misfits), and most of them won't have kids until they are in their forties. By then, oh how they shall grovel on their feet for my maternal knowledge!

I don't mind. I'm glad I'm taking the road less travelled. It makes me feel like a pioneer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waiting is such sweet sorrow...

1 day past due date: The wait begins.

I knew this would happen. I've read, in total, 5 mom-to-be books, perused the "Mothering" and "Babycentre" forums for months now, and am friends with mothers, doulas, and have two very informative midwives. Yet still, as my due date came and went yesterday, I couldn't help but feel a sense of disappointment.

I am unusual, I suppose, in that I am not afraid of natural birth. It just doesn't scare me. I blame this on my mother, who has but a vague memory of her birth story, and always recounted it as 'not so bad'. My grandmother did four natural births before it was socially acceptable; she had to scour New Jersey to find a doctor that would agree to it. So this is the tradition whence I came. My mother didn't even know when I was due. We are very casual in our strength as matriarchs. I am not afraid of pain.

I am, however, afraid of missing out on spontaneous labour. I'm afraid of knowing in advance, whether it be in the form of induction or c-section. My mind will build it up too much and then yes, I will feel fear. Fear of staph, scalpels, pitocin, cervadil, extractions and infections. A series of contrived words that all seem to be missing vowels and humanity. Things that I don't want involved in the birth of my baby boy.

I think a lot about him these days. I wonder if he'll have the thick, spiky black hair his dad sported from birth, or my own downy peach fuzz. I wonder if he'll be willing to try calamari, foie gras and sushi, or whether he'll insist on hotdogs at every meal. I wonder if he'll like me. I wonder if when he cries it will make me cry, or when he pukes, if I'll puke. I wonder what we'll have in common when he's a teenager, if anything. Regardless of the answers to any of these questions, I am so excited to find out.

In a more trivial vein, I am also looking forward to getting back on the treadmill (metaphorically, of course, since sidewalks are just as good, and free) and getting back to myself again. This kind of 'body as temple' responsibility just doesn't suit me. I am a woman of evening cocktails, a late evening cigarello, and yes, I like to look sexy. Once you're pregnant, you immediately feel guilty for all of these things. Smoking and drinking most obviously -- but more insidiously, looking sexy. As soon as you see that tiny person scooting around on the ultrasound screen, you feel wrong wearing red lipstick, high heels and a pushup bra. There's a tiny baby being held inside you after all, and I doubt he'd choose for you to dress that way! haha. It's a strange thing. A strange sense of responsibility.

So here I am, waiting for my baby to come, with so much important (and less important) things to look forward to! Either way, he'll be here in the next 13 days. Huzzah!