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.

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Wrecking our new house

September 7, 2010

So we destroyed our new house on the weekend, just two days after being handed the keys.

This is how it looked on Friday morning:

And this is how it looks now, after the long weekend:

On Friday and Saturday, I had help from my uncle, my brother-in-law, my father-in-law, my Dad, and The Best Man (circa 2004) in tearing our 129-year-old church/home a new one.

We took up the main floor carpeting, saving enough to redo two bedrooms upstairs in the coming weeks. We took out the kitchen, stripped the lath and plaster and paneling off the walls of the kitchen and dining room (which was a den), pulled down the old ceiling tiles, removed an antique woodstove and the two layers of bricks supporting it, and took out a four-foot section of wall. We also removed about 8,000 tiny staples that held the former carpet’s underlay in place, as well as another 8,000 which held the ceiling tiles up.

And that’s just on the main floor. The Boss – a trooper, despite being 24 weeks pregnant – and her sister, my Mom, a friend and even The Hurricane did an awesome job stripping decades-old wallpaper off the walls of two bedrooms and a bathroom, setting us up nicely for painting within the next few days upstairs.

Luckily, we’re not living in this mess, and we hope to have all the renovations completed in time for October 1, but you just never know what you’re going to find in an old house. Although I’m knocking firmly on wood as I type this, we haven’t come across anything earth shattering yet, and that’s a testament to the care the previous owners took of the home in the 40-plus years they owned it.

While all this destruction was taking place, The Hurricane was just in her glory. She spent two full days running from the ground floor to the second floor and back  to make sure everything was on track, seeing if she could help out in any way, and chatting non-stop, even if nobody was really listening, which is hard to do with all that work and noise and dust and swear words going on.

We were worried she wouldn’t let us get as much done as we wanted, forcing one of us to be on parental duty at all times, but she really stepped up and let us accomplish everything on our weekend to do list, and then some.

So now we have to get our electrical roughed-in, and then our carpenter begins his task of drywalling and levelling out the floors of the old girl, before handing it over to the kitchen guy and then the hardwood floor installer. Although it looks like it’s a long way off right now, I’m pretty happy with the progress we made this weekend and can only hope the rest of the renovation goes as smoothly from here on out.

Oh, and I now know ripping down walls is as fun as it looks on TV (except for the dust and the crowbar-accelerated chunk of wood in the nuts, which made me a little more tentative for a few minutes, but gave the brother-in-law a good laugh so, uh, no harm done).


Another clarification

February 18, 2009

I knew I wouldn’t come out of this blogging experiment unscathed, and yet I continue to do this.

For you.

My faithful reader.

This is my second official clarification for a blog post (read the first here), although this one is not at the urging of The Boss, as she’s unaware I’m writing this. In fact, she’s dead asleep at 9 p.m. with the Berlin Wall already firmly in place.

This clarification has to do with my early Valentine’s Day post of last week.

On Sunday night we were out for dinner with a group of our friends, some of whom have a sadder existence than I and actually read this blog (wait, is it more pathetic to read or write this drivel? Anyway…). So I’m at the very far end of the table from The Boss (boys on one end, girls on the other, just like a Grade 6 dance) and I overhear her saying that people likely think I’m some sort of hero and great romantic after reading my Thursday post.

She – clearly – was not moved by the heartfelt softening of my anti-Valentine’s position. She said it had something to do with the fact I chucked a card and a bag of chocolate (are you telling me Zellers doesn’t use the finest cocoa beans?) at her after I got home from work Thursday night as we rushed to feed The Hurricane and ourselves, pack our bags and make a short 350 kilometre trek home for the weekend.

Well, if that was wrong, then I am guilty. As charged and as sin.

But here’s the deal. I didn’t – no, couldn’t – do the whole flowers thing because we weren’t going to be home for the weekend and they’d be withered and dead by the time we returned Monday night. That’s logical.

The following isn’t, but here it goes anyway.

I simply couldn’t sell out my buddy Dutch like that. There’s a reason that, come June 6, we’ll have been each other’s best man – we take a bullet when we know (or figure) the other is likely to do something stupid like not even get his fiancee a couple of flowers a few months before they exchange the rings.

How could I let him be the only one who failed to achieve the lofty standards set by my jerk someday-brother-in-law and his dozens and dozens of roses, moonlight walks, singing telegrams and $25 entrees? Well, I just couldn’t (although, Dutchie, a card probably wouldn’t have killed ya – you could’ve picked one up when you were grabbing a pack of smokes or hangin’ out at coffee club, y’know).

It’s the whole ‘bros before h … yeah right, you’re nuts if you thought I was actually going to write that.

So I came up short. Again. And I want everyone to know that. I couldn’t sleep soundly ever again knowing there was one person out there who thought I was a Romeo-incarnate, bound to profess my love for my wife with the greatest of spectacles on February 14.

But next year … oh baby, you just wait.

Dutch and I will start the planning at his stag party.


10 seconds of sheer terror

February 6, 2009

I came across a horrific story out of Michigan about a month-old baby who died while sleeping with his parents.

That was always a huge fear of mine, even though The Hurricane never did and still doesn’t have any inclination to sleep in the same bed as us.

I remember either the first or second night we had her home from the hospital. With all the grandparents around, and a new Mommy trying to bond with her baby, I hadn’t had a lot of time with my new daughter. So, after a feeding, I sent an exhausted Boss to bed, put on the movie The Last Samurai, found a comfortable spot sitting up on the couch, and snuggled with my new baby, who was sleeping soundly.

Well into the movie, I realized The Hurricane, who was swaddled and cradled in my arms, hadn’t moved for a while – not a leg kick, finger bend or little cry – and I started to panic. I remember trying to rouse her while we were still sitting on the couch, but she didn’t respond to anything I did, which admittedly wasn’t much because you can’t exactly shake a baby awake or flick their ears when they’re less than two days out of the womb.

I then remember leaping to my feet and calling her name, doing what I could to wake her up – to get some sort of response – without completely losing my mind. All I could think of was that I had suffocated her against my chest while I watched a fucking movie, and I didn’t deserve to be a parent, and I could never forgive myself for this horrific act of irresponsibility …

And then she woke up. I don’t think she started crying, but just made a peep, just enough to let me know she was OK, and I had over-reacted to a soundly sleeping baby.

What I do remember clearly is the greatest sense of relief I have ever felt – it washed over me like a rolling wave in a warm ocean. I sat back down on the couch with her, stunned, my heart racing.

I hugged her tight, but made double-sure she was still breathing.

I know it was the scariest 10 seconds of my life, and I can’t imagine the pain, and guilt, and self-loathing, and sadness, and heartache those young parents in Michigan are feeling today.


Parenting solo

January 22, 2009

Last night The Boss had a long list of work and social activities to tend to after her work day ended, so I was on daughter duty, with no net below.

I don’t know what it is about knowing you’re parenting solo, but it still makes me a little nervous whenever I look at the clock on my computer screen. Yes, even 18 months after becoming a father.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have to get out of work at 5 p.m. so our poor babysitter doesn’t have to stay in the eye of The Hurricane any longer than necessary.

Or maybe it’s because I know I have to pick up, drive, de-coat and de-boot, feed, water, clean, change, bath, read to, rock and drop this wild-child all on my own, with nobody there to say, “Here you friggin’ idiot, let me do it.” (I’m paraphrasing, The Boss only thinks about calling me a friggin’ idiot, but I know … I know).

So, even on a random Wednesday night, the pressure was on. The pick-up I managed (albeit, not until 5:35 p.m. because of work issues – sorry Carolyn!) and I even got her in the door just fine. Then, because she won’t stop saying (Musical) ‘Baby on’, I put her favourite DVD on while I fried us up a pizza.

And then, once we got settled in, it was like nothing. Food, check. Water, check. Time out for pulling the dog’s hair and screeching ‘No Dadda!’ when I pried her hands off the dog, check. Book, check. Bubble bath, check. Jammies, check. A quick rock, a goodnight kiss and a soundly sleeping baby a few minutes before her regular bed-time, check, check and check.

And I was worried? Shee-it.

I guess it’s just because Moms are the favourite and so damned good at what they do, that it’s easy to just let the jobs that don’t involve rolling around on the floor tickling baby tummies fall to them. So when we have to do everything ourselves, it can be a little daunting.

But it’s a good reminder for myself to know that I can pull off a victory when parenting solo.


Gettin’ creative here

January 16, 2009

I haven’t had a chance to try some of the interesting options that WordPress offers the cheap bastards who won’t pay for a subscription and only use the free version.

So, because the past two days have been pretty draining at work and I just finished embarrassing myself on the basketball court, I thought hey, maybe it’s time to try building a poll for the … uh … masses of people who drop by daily.

(Although you can’t see me, trust me when I say I couldn’t manage to type that sentence with a straight face)

So here’s my first poll. If it doesn’t work, well then, I’m an idiot. If it does, then I’m a tiny bit less of an idiot than I was five minutes ago.


Pearl Jam-ming with my daughter

January 9, 2009

One of my goals during my week at home has been to introduce The Hurricane to music.

Not Elmo, or Old MacDonald, or that horrible counting CD that is so damn catchy I wake in the middle of the night with Three Blind Mice running through my brain. I can actually see how they run!

Nope, she’s going to Dad’s school of music, and Wednesday was the first class. Instead of having the TV or some other nonsense on in the background as we played, I threw on Pearl Jam Vs., the band’s second album, and second best in my personal book. Why not Ten, their acclaimed 1991 debut, you ask? — too overplayed, even though you likely didn’t ask. I want my girl to be a true Pearl Jam fan and know that Dissident is 1,000 times better than Jeremy, but it’s the latter you’ll hear on the radio and it’s a damn shame.

So we rocked out, man, me and The Hurricane. Although the first couple of tunes are a bit heavier than anything she’s likely ever heard, when Daughter came on, she danced without prompting.

And my heart leapt.

A Pearl Jam fan, right from the first listen — I wasn’t this proud when she took her first steps.

OK, that’s being overly dramatic, but it was still awesome to watch her dance to one of my all-time favourite bands.

Throughout the rest of the album she was in and out of attention, like an 18-month-old is with anything other than Baby Einstein. But I wasn’t going to let her away that easy, so I scooped her up for Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written. Click the link, listen to it, enjoy it.

This time we danced. Hand in hand, eye to eye, in the middle of the living room, not caring that the curtains were wide open and any number of passersby could see us. We went in circles slowly, we spun around quickly (to her great delight), we dipped, we got dizzy, and we laughed.

It was likely the best 3 minutes and 15 seconds of my week, and possibly of my life.

I don’t know why I have this desire to pass on my music to my daughter. Christ only knows what will be ‘cool’ when she’s a teen, but I feel it’s my duty for her to know what music was important to me in my younger days, and there’s nothing cooler than being the person that introduces that ‘old’ band to your buddies who are listening to Top 40 crap. My cousin was always that guy, buying Queen albums before Wayne’s World made Bohemian Rhapsody cool again. Or having the complete Twisted Sister collection when all we had ever heard was We’re Not Gonna Take It (OK, maybe not so cool, but a trend setter nonetheless in a small Ontario town of 600 with nothing but a Celine Dion playing radio station and its Randy Travis country counterpart).

The Boss always mentions to me that I know every song on the radio, no matter the station we’re listening to, even though I rarely listen to music outside my car anymore. I think it’s because some of my earliest memories were of singing along to The Old Man’s music, which unfortunately at the time was Air Supply (really Dad, seriously, in the early-80s when Queen, and Led Zepplin, and Aerosmith, and The Beatles, and ACDC, and the pre-Disney Elton John, and CCR, and so many other kick-ass bands were recently broken up or still going strong you were listening to Air Supply, the cheesiest group ever assembled?).

But if I’m going to rip on The Old Man, I also have to give him serious props for showing me how to run his 8-track player in the garage so I could wear out Meat Loaf’s epic Bat Out of Hell, which still kicks my ass whenever I listen to it, even without the 8-track channel changes and fading in and out mid-song.

He also had a great multiple-tape collection that was a giveaway from the local gas station — Shell Solid Gold it was called and even though I can’t even find a link for it on eBay, it existed — that introduced me to all the hits of the 50’s and 60’s — songs I still know by heart, although I haven’t heard them since, well the 80’s. Sure, these songs may not have moulded my future listening tastes — unless Motley Crue, Warrant and Poison are direct results of The Temptations — but I’m glad I know the music that came before me.

So I think that’s what I want to give The Hurricane. A working knowledge. I don’t pretend to be a music snob — I’ve been to four Poison and a (shudder) Creed concert for Christ sakes — and maybe she won’t like my music at all. But maybe, just maybe, she’ll be the kid in school who tells her friend to turn off Miley freakin’ Cyrus and listen to this mind-blowing shit from a band from the mid-80s called Guns ‘n Fuckin’ Roses.

That, to me, would be cool. Even if she swears, because sometimes the situation just calls for it.

Next up — Our Lady Peace. Then I Mother Earth. Then Nirvana. With GnR, Motley Crue, Poison, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and so many others to follow.

School’s in session, little one.