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.


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.

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).

Dada has left the building

February 19, 2009

I went into last weekend as a Dada.

I left as a full blown Daddy.

No, I didn’t have to make a religious pilgrimage into a forest with nothing but a jacknife and a piece of rope, hoping to come out 10 days later a different man.

I just had to listen carefully to The Hurricane when she called my name. Although I wasn’t the first to pick it up – The Boss listened to Ace of Base instead of Guns ‘n Roses in her childhood, so her hearing is better than mine – sometime on Sunday the little one made the move from baby to toddler by declaring the days of ‘Dada’ over, ushering in the days of calling me ‘Daddy’.

And oh my God, it is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

“Pees Daddy wawa.” (Please Daddy, water)

“Daddy potty.” (Daddy dropped a bomb)

“Daaaaaaadeeeeeee.” (Hey old man, I want you to pay attention to me)

“Daddy high.” (No, I’m not actually high, it means let’s hide under a blanket and tease the dog until she jumps all over us)

The list goes on and on. And, what’s shocking is that at 19-months-old that just scratches the surface of her vocabulary. The Boss signed me up for some parent website about, oh, 20 months ago, and every week it sends me an e-mail with tips and hints and things to watch for with my kid. Yesterday’s e-mail said a 19-month and three-week old should be able to say 10 to 50 words. The Hurricane easily has over 100 – hell she can rhyme off 50 words from just one picture book. In fact, last night when watching Baby Einstein Shapes (which she calls Baby Shay) she turned around in her chair, looked at The Boss and said, “Oval.”

Clear as day.


Some words only those closest to her can make out, but it’s still pretty amazing. I’m sure I’ll start a list sometime for the baby book, or to carry around in my wallet to bore amaze people with, because it seems like she knows too much for someone her age.

Her expanding knowledge is great and it’s scary as hell, because not only is she poised to pass me by any day, it also means she’s getting big, and I’m not sure I like that.

* update – I also noticed at supper last night that ‘choo choo’ (which was one of her first non-parental words, along with apple and baby) has been replaced firmly by ‘train’. So now when we hear action on the tracks about a mile from our house, the whistles will no longer be accompanied by a surprised ‘choo choo’, but a matter of fact ‘train’. She’s such a big girl (and it kills me).

An early Valentine’s

February 12, 2009

I’ve always despised never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day.

In fact, the first Valentine I sent The Boss – I think it was during relationship 1 of 3 (the current four-plus years of marriage and two years of living together being the third go-around) – was the epitome of romance.

It was an e-card, sent to her Hotmail inbox, as she attended college a mere seven hours away, with no plans for us to see each other for weeks. And this was no fancy, singing-and-dancing e-card that you’d find online now. Oh no. Back in the late-90s, when e-cards were practically brand new, it was a stagnant image that you typed a message into.

My message was along the lines of:

“Well, you know I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day, but I figured I should send you something or else I’m a dead man. So happy Valetine’s Day.”

Of course, a decade has passed and I don’t remember the exact wording, but if I was stupid enough to send my girlfriend an e-card and nothing else on the most celebrated love holiday of the year, then it couldn’t have varied much from that.

But I’ve wisened over the years, and I’m not so blatant with my loathing of Valentine’s Day – but she still knows paying $50 for $25 flowers and $20 for $10 meals busts my balls. But I always come through. And I don’t complain (although she’ll say I complain, but really I just show a lack of enthusiasm leading up to the big day, which is different than complaining if my dictionary is correct).

And y’know what, I’m starting to enjoy it. I pretend I don’t because I love to grind her gears, but I enjoy taking the time for us to be together, one-on-one, at dinner, or watching a movie, or just talking and enjoying each other’s company over a glass/bottle of wine, without worrying about work and bills and all the other day-to-day shit we get caught up in, that for some stupid reason blurs our vision of the bigger picture and causes us to forget to enjoy the awesomeness of being with the person we love every single day.

Not everyone is so lucky, and those of us who are shouldn’t forget that.

So happy Valentine’s Day baby. I love you.

No Neen, Neen

February 5, 2009

The Hurricane’s Aunt Janine – or Neen Neen in ‘Cane-speak – is coming to visit this weekend, along with her fellow sinner Curt.

The Boss asked the little one at supper tonight if she was looking forward to seeing her Aunt, who we haven’t seen since Christmas. Her reply was quick and emphatic.

“No Neen, Neen.”

Once, it’s a fluke. But then The Boss asked again. The Hurricane’s answer?

“No Neen, Neen!”

I very much concur.

I’m raising a butt sniffer

January 14, 2009

I think we’re going to have to stop smelling The Hurricane’s bum.

Oh c’mon, if you’re a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a friend of a person with a kid, or have ever babysat for five minutes, you’ve sniffed a baby’s ass. Don’t go acting all high and mighty, because nobody on this site is buying it.

We do it because we don’t feel like stripping a struggling child down to nothin’ only to find out if they soiled themselves. Believe me, there is a much better way, and it involves either lifting the child’s ass to your face, or acting like dogs and getting down on our hands and knees and taking a good ol’ whiff of the diaper.

It’s not pleasant, it’s not proper, but goddamn it’s effective.

But The Hurricane is just too smart for her own good, and proved it again last night as we played on the living room floor after supper.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of our belly raspberries and play fighting, or all our laughing and giggling, but I let a bit of a toot slip. Toot might even be too strong a word, because I would never, ever dream of ripping a huge fart releasing gas in front of my dear wife. I certainly wasn’t born in a barn.

Anyway, The Hurricane and her super-sonic hearing somehow detected my little poof and she quickly said, “Dada poo-poo”. The Boss and I laughed, but then as I stood up and turned my back to her, she smelled my ass.

Like literally ran up and shoved her nose in my butt crack.

The poor thing.

Laughing, I fell back to the floor, but she wasn’t done – she grabbed me by the hair and tried to pull me towards the bathroom, repeating the words “Dada potty”. She’s not a hair-puller, so she must have thought time was of the essence.

Although I haven’t bothered to check, I think my drawers are clean this time, but it’s nice to know I have a shit-detector at my disposal should I ever be unsure.