Photo shoot!

January 20, 2011

The talented parent in the family (hint: not me) held a photo shoot of our two little girls last week and they turned out beautifully.

Enjoy (and send donations to The Boss’s photography fund via me – I’ll, uh, see that she gets it).


Yes, we had a home birth

January 15, 2011

Nearly four weeks after Jace was born, people we haven’t seen in the meantime still ask, incredulously, “You had a baby at home? Intentionally?”

Well, yeah, we did. In fact, people have been having babies that exact way for thousands of years, minus the past 70 or so.

So, in hindsight, I don’t really see what the big deal is. Babies are meant to come out a certain way, and a woman’s body is designed to make that possible. At least, that’s how it looks from the sidelines.

But I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical when The Boss first floated the idea of a home birth this past summer, early in her pregnancy. Having just moved back home and not loving the new family doctor she met shortly after discovering she was pregnant, she decided to explore her inner-hippie (which is always bubbling near the surface) and shun conventional medicine for the more holistic approach of midwifery.

Although part of Ontario’s health plan since the early-1990s, I’ve discovered through casual conversations that there’s still a misconception about midwives being cult-bound flower-children, living in communes and delivering babies in an unsafe manner. The anti-doctor, if you will.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our midwife Sarah, who is in her mid-20s,  completed 120 births (with a prerequisite of at least 10 at home) during her four years of university. Doctors spend mere hours on childbirth during their extensive training. She was prepared with all the necessary equipment should a problem arise, and promised she would take extreme caution with both Amy’s and the baby’s health and not hesitate to call the ambulance to get us to Walkerton if things were looking dicey.

So, I got over my nerves about the home birth fairly quickly, and was excited when Amy had that first contraction in the early morning hours of Dec. 21.

Without getting into too many gory details – I don’t know what The Boss would approve of me making public, to be honest, so I’ll err on the side of none – the contractions hit high gear at 3 p.m. and, after just four minutes of pushing, Jace Ashlee arrived at 6 p.m. that night. The midwife – and her colleague, who came for the last hour to assist with the delivery – was awesome. Very laid back. She pretty much left us alone, allowing Amy to get into a zone, focus on each contraction and work through it in any way she felt comfortable – pacing the floor, in the tub, on the toilet, anywhere.

Without drugs, it was mind over matter, and being in the comforts of her own home and not tied to a hospital bed, Amy used everything at her disposal to do it in the way that suited her best, not what fit the hospital’s criteria.

Me? I provided comfort when asked, rocked with her, talked her through rough spots, relaxed and read my book while she was in another galaxy, and took pictures as Jace was making her triumphant entrance. And no, I won’t be showing you those pictures, because then I’d lose at least half my shit and be sleeping in a tent, if she let me take it with me.

The best part was immediately after Jace was born. At the hospital, babies are quickly put under a bright light, have gunk sucked out of their throats, are poked and prodded to make sure everything is in working order, and cleaned up, before being presented to Mom, probably at least five minutes later.

At home, Jace went directly onto her relieved mother’s chest, the baby’s eyes wide with shock. In fact, Sarah didn’t even do the ‘weiner-yes-or-no’ check before throwing her towards Amy. I guess she figured we’d find out sooner or later, and presenting her to Mom was more important. I managed to catch a glimpse and let Amy know through a brief spurt of tears, which could have been related to the joy of the moment or the realization I’m faced with another 18 years of Barbies, boys and Bieber.

And then we were left alone. Literally. We laid on the bed, staring at this wrinkly little miracle wrapped in a blanket, who looked exactly like her older sister did at birth. As Jace scanned the room, searching for our faces and voices, we cuddled her for the longest time. We forgot the midwives were still in the room, but they were there, sitting on the floor, out of sight, at the end of the bed. They did some paperwork, popped up the odd time to listen to her lungs and heartbeat, and check her temperature, and then disappear again while Jace gave eating a try for the first time.

They were like wallpaper, there but unnoticed, springing up only when necessary, and then fading into the background again. I couldn’t have imagined a better first hour with my new daughter and unbelievable wife, and hope other people get to experience that intimacy in a child’s first moments at least once. We certainly didn’t have the same experience in the hospital with The Hurricane.

And then, naturally, I went to get pizza for the four of us.

I had a beer too (hey, I earned it), although the midwives took a pass on a celebratory pint, while Mom and babe rested.

After three hours, they bid their goodnights and headed back for Owen Sound, leaving a happy but exhausted family to sleep comfortably in their own bed. After getting next to no sleep in the hospital after Layne’s birth, it was a fitting end to a perfect day.

But a midwife was back the next day, and Day 3, and Day 10 for follow-ups for Mom and Jace, and now, weeks later, with the novelty of having the first baby that we know of in decades to have ‘Ripley, Ontario’ on their birth certificate, and having answered numerous questions from friends and acquaintances about the home birth, we’ve made a pact not to get preachy about midwifery or home births. I’m told women have different comfort levels with pain, conventional medicine and drugs. Some think there’s no way they could do it without drugs or doctors (although they’re probably not giving themselves enough credit), and that’s fine. It’s their vagina, not mine.

So the only preachy thing I’ll say is that expecting women need to get on Amazon and buy (or lend from the Bruce County library, which we did after Jace was born because, well, the system is a bit slow) the documentary The Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake, the former TV talk show host. Here’s the documentary’s summary. Do it early in your pregnancy and then give it to your friends if you buy it, because it has some startling statistics that, while American, surely relate to Canada as well. In fact, did you know that America has one of the highest death rates of mothers and the second highest infant mortality rate during delivery in the developed world?

Seriously. The country – where only a few per cent of people use midwives – is nearly third world, while some European countries see a third of expectant mothers use midwives and have babies at home, with very few deaths.

So educate yourself about midwifery. Don’t just do what your friends, Mom or doctor says is right, and then make the choice that is best for you and your family.

We’re certainly glad we took the opportunity.

Picture day!

January 9, 2011

Some of my favourite photos from Jace’s first week.

Believe me, there’s plenty more where these came from!

A newborn pic of Layne beside Jace. There's a fair bit of resemblance there!


Welcome, Jace Ashlee Irwin

January 7, 2011

I started this blog post on Dec. 23, 2010.

That was two days after the 6 p.m. on the Winter Solstice birth of Jace Ashlee (in honour of Aunts Janine Ashley and Shantel Lee), our second beautiful daughter.

Every day since I have told myself that I should finally write a blog post about her arrival, the very unique way she got here (home birth), and all the, uh, fun we’ve had trying to keep Jace healthy while living through a Category 5 Hurricane 13 hours every day.

But the thought of a new blog post passes quickly, like breast milk through a newborn. Between family Christmases, sleep deprivation, general family life, shouldering (hopefully) some of the load in the household so The Boss doesn’t get too worn down, keeping The Hurricane occupied and out of Jace and Mom’s face once in a while, hockey, an unnecessarily nasty Jan. 1 hangover, and returning to work, I just haven’t had the energy, or motivation, to sit at the computer to do anything but look up tutorials and easy songs to play on the guitar, in my futile attempt to be cool and fulfill a lifelong New Year’s resolution of shredding the axe (see, I’m cool now, right?).

Someday I will probably feel guilty about not immediately documenting Jace’s triumphant arrival, when the adrenaline was pumping and I was flying high. That’s what I did for Layne, which I’m thankful for when I look back at her baby book, which was essentially my now-defunct blog from my former employer (which I cannot find a surviving piece of anywhere on the Internet when I am… uh… not… uh… Googling myself). Luckily, I printed all Layne-related material before leaving, so I have my post from July 3, 2007, when she arrived, and the dozens of related posts in the years to follow. Everything from her first couple of years is at my fingertips, in immense detail. I don’t need it now, but it will be wonderful to have someday.

So far, I have no such thing with Jacey. I don’t like that feeling. I know Aunt Shan over in England is none too happy about that either, as she keeps my blog hits existent by checking every day for a scrap of information or even a new picture of her newest niece, whom she’ll meet in a couple of weeks. I have to make time to write about the minutiae of our daily lives as a new family of four. And I need to do it for me, Amy, Layne and Jace, because I know, although ridiculous overkill now, these posts are our family history. How else will I tell embarrassing stories at their wedding, which, by then, I hope are paid for by the groom’s family – or, at the very least, after the dowry system has been reinstituted, since it appears I’m in the girl-making business.

Oh, and she was 6 lbs. 5 oz and 19.5 inches. And healthy. And gorgeous, like her Mom and sister.

Home Sweet Home

November 30, 2010

Forgive me Internet, for I have sinned.

It has been a month-and-a-half since my last post.

(And yes, I realize this prolonged absence came barely a month after my two passionate posts about my desperate need to write and preserve my family’s history via the Interweb).

But we’ve been busy. In fact, we – and by ‘we’ I mean highly-skilled tradesmen and my talented wife – turned this…

into this…

into this…

and finally into this…

and this…

So yeah, I guess we’ve been busy with the renovations, the move, the unpacking, the setting up, and the cleaning, with plenty more to go.

Plus, The Hurricane is skating, just finished swimming, and going a million miles an hour in anticipation of Santa’s arrival, as well as the arrival of her new baby brother or sister, which could coincide with each other.

But now that life is seemingly returning to ‘normal’, if there is such a thing, I hope to find some more time to write about our family and all the fun things we do, and all the trials and tribulations that are just part of life, whether we want them to be or not.

And, since it’s my blog, I guess I don’t need to make any more excuses!

It’s all happening too fast…

October 14, 2010

Life that is.

It’s flying by, whether I want it to or not.

Some things can’t get here soon enough – like the still unlaid hardwood floors in our new-to-us house, which is preventing us from moving in anytime soon – while other things can just fuck the hell off, like The Hurricane becoming too old to want to her Mom and Dad hanging around all the time.

Today was the first step on that inevitable journey – Junior Kindergarten registration day.

She’s three years and three months old, and more than 10 months away from actually attending class, but this is heavy.

She’s going to school next year.

For the first time, with at least another 13 years to follow, someone we don’t know is going to play a major role in deciding my daughter’s future, whether that be by encouraging her to embrace her free spirit and tapping into her obvious intelligence, or pigeon-holing her as a troublemaker because of that free spirit and deeming her not worth the hassle, and just pushing her through so she can become another teacher’s problem the next year.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a stroll down memory lane and picture the kids in your elementary class who were the ‘bad-asses’. Were they stupid or unteachable? Probably not. In fact, the ‘trouble’ kids I grew up with are some of the savviest, most intelligent people I know today, they just didn’t have much love for books and classrooms. Despite their intelligence, they barely scratched their way through school, because their reputation always preceded them, and they played it up and eventually the teachers let them be, rightly or wrongly, on both sides, in hindsight.

I’m pretty sure The Hurricane will get along great at school – she’s extremely bright, plays well with other kids and will be a teacher’s pet, because she is such a ‘Mom’ and will end up babysitting her classmates more than learning beside them.

In fact, at registration today, the early childhood educator who will be assisting with The Hurricane’s class had a one-on-one chat with her at the meet and greet. The idea was to see where the future students are in their development, a year before class begins.

The woman asked, “What’s your name?”

“Layne,” came the reply. “L-A-Y-N-E.”

‘Nuff said.

So I think she’ll be OK, but it just doesn’t feel right. She’s my baby. She can’t be going to school next year. She can’t be growing up this fast.

The days are long and the years are short.

No shit.

Almost home…

September 17, 2010

A ‘regular’ life is on the horizon.

Barring an unforseen disaster during our home renovations – our carpenter is finishing up drywall, and The Boss is painting the upstairs like a trooper despite being six months pregnant – we should be moving our stuff into our new house on Oct. 1.

The flooring and kitchen are both slated to arrive late next week, although we expect to get nothing accomplished next weekend because it’s Ripley Fall Fair, the most wonderful time of the year. Except for the Sunday… for some reason it generally sucks, although no 3 1/2 hour drive to Port Hope this year makes it seem less daunting.

That means we’ll soon be able to unpack our boxes, bother to put up our bed frame, find our kitchen utensils and begin our life in the home we’re going to raise our soon-to-be larger family.

There’s a good chance this is the house our kids will graduate high school from, if I dare to think that far in advance. Of course, you never know, we may sell the house along the way, but that’s my thought process going into this new house. For the first time in my adult life, I will have a home.

Our first house in Edson, Alberta, was never going to be more than a stopover and a great investment, and it did both jobs very well. Our condo in Kincardine sufficed for our childless year there, but I knew in my gut we wouldn’t be spending too long there, and sure enough it was a year to the day when I started my new job in Cobourg. Our Port Hope house was simple yet perfect for our young family, but it never felt 100% like home to me, despite the wonderful time our family had while we lived there (led by The Hurricane’s birth, and first three years of her life).

It came close, but I never day-dreamed about Layne getting her diploma from Port Hope High.

But this time, it’s for real. And it feels right. As things come together and the house begins to look more habitable, I’ve started to think about things like the positioning of our streetlights and how they will affect road hockey games, or putting a rink in the backyard each winter, or walking Layne to school, or charting Layne’s height on an upstairs wall, or who in the neighbourhood will make a good babysitter for the next 10 years (and they MUST be within walking distance, because why get a babysitter if you have to drive them home? Am I right?).

I have always had a penchant for looking towards the next opportunity, instead of living in the moment and enjoying life in the now. I was too young to know any different when living out west – oh to have back those many Sundays spent on the couch recovering when I should have been hiking in the mountains! – and I spent a better portion of our time in Kincardine and Port Hope plotting our next move.

But no more.

Oh, I’ll still dream big, and long to see parts of the world many wouldn’t give a first thought, but now it doesn’t involve packing everyone up and relocating again.

It just feels right to be home.