20 Lessons from our First 20 Months

Well, I blinked and our little one is 20 months old. People always said that time flies when you have a kid, and man, they weren’t kidding. I’m amazed at how much a person can learn, both me and our little guy. And as I’m reading through them again now, its interesting to see how much applies to life in general, not just life with a kid. So let’s dive in and see a few of the things that I’ve learned…

  1. It’s important to pay attention to all the little things – Everyone focuses on the milestones; when they started to walk, what their first food was, first words. What I’m missing now are the little things, and without paying attention to them, I may never have noticed I was missing them. Things like what it felt like for him to fall asleep in my arms, or what it was that made him laugh. When he’s grown, I won’t remember how old he was when he first rolled over, but I will relish in the memory of how he smelled right after a bath, or even after a good breastmilk poop. 
  1. The dishes can wait – and the laundry, and the floors and everything else. The time when he was little enough that I held him almost all the time was fleeting. I don’t think I was fully recovered from our birth before he was rolling over and wanting to be more independent. I’m glad that I didn’t stress so much about getting the chores done right away, because now that he’s on his own all the time now, I don’t remember once that I had a full sink or an overflowing laundry basket. I do remember rocking in the chair for hours with a tiny baby in my arms who was mine. I don’t get that anymore, so I’m glad I soaked it in while I could.
  1. I can love him more every day – the first moment I laid eyes on him, I didn’t think it was possible to love anyone anymore. And then I woke up the next day, and I did. And then the next day and the next day. I find it overwhelming how much I love him. And then he smiles or runs to hug me, and I love him even more. How is it possible???
  1. And I love my man even more too – I remember thinking that I was the luckiest woman in the world. I had a supportive partner, who makes me smile, who shares my values so deeply, who encourages me every step of the way. And now I get to see a whole new part of him, and I love him even more. He is the most amazing father and I’m falling more deeply for him too as every day goes by. How is it possible???
  1. Your parents love you way more then you could fathom – you have no idea how much your parents really love you until you can grasp how much love is possible. I apologize now for all the stress I put my parents through. I should have called you all those times. Sorry.
  1. Waking up early is awesome – I’ve started waking up before Gabe, and it completely changes how my day goes. Instead of feeling disorganized, I have things in order. Instead of feeling guilty about scrolling through social media instead of playing with my kid, I find I’m tired of it and moving on to more productive things before I even finish my tea. I feel ready to take on the day instead of playing catch up the whole time.
  1. Breastfeeding is not easy at first, but it’s worth it – There are so many health risks that go along with formula feeding, I knew that breastfeeding was the way we were going. I have tons of training, so part of me assumed that we wouldn’t struggle as much as others. But even with all the extra knowledge and experience, we still needed to have a bit of guidance to get off on the right foot. And now, I am so grateful that I have such an easy way to feed, comfort, connect and put him to sleep. I don’t need to stress about water or bottles or packing extra supplies.
  1. Lazy parenting is where it’s at – I like to think of myself as a minimalist of sorts. I like having few things, I’m loving our small house and I enjoy sharing experiences with those I love. I’ve also discovered that minimalist parenting is my jam. Letting Gabe explore and discover on his own, giving him space while giving me room to still be myself. It gives him the best chance to learn and means I can also get things done. Win-win.
  1. You don’t need much – my best advice is to wait until you know you need something to get it. You’ll be amazed by how little you and your babe need. You don’t need to pump. You don’t need a crib. You don’t need a baby monitor. At least not right away. Give yourself a chance to figure out what is necessary before you spend money or bring more clutter into your home. You can also work with your friends to develop a hand-me-down train. Kids don’t wear out their clothes, so most people have boxes full of stuff that they’re looking to find a new home for. Be that home!
  1. Take all the support – but ask for help with things like cooking, cleaning and laundry. Especially in the first few months, the best thing you and your partner can be doing is bonding with and getting to know your new baby. Sometimes the best meaning people offer to take your baby so you can get things off your to-do list but learn to be comfortable asking for help with your to-do list, not your baby.
  1. Your body is frickin amazing – have you paid attention to the fact that you grew a person? From scratch? And then your body grew so you could protect and feed that baby for 3/4 of a year? And then you birthed that baby. And recovered from that. And now you can feed that baby (don’t get me started on how incredible breastmilk is). And hormones do crazy things so you know how to respond to and love that baby. It boggles my mind! You are AMAZING!
  1. Sometimes you don’t immediately love your baby, and that’s ok – this was a hard one for me to learn. It took me some time to process that the baby is my arms, was the baby I birthed. I loved him because I knew he was mine, but it took a bit of time for me to grasp that I was a parent and that he was truly mine. It’s hard to describe, but if you’re feeling this way too, just know that it’s ok. If you feel like you need help, reach out, but if you didn’t get ‘that feeling’ right away, know that it doesn’t make you a horrible parent.
  1. Your happiness is important – this was another hard one to learn. Taking the time to focus on your wellbeing is caring for your child. They see how you treat yourself and they feed off of your energy. They learn what’s important by watching you, so make sure the priorities and the values you’re showing them are what you want them to learn. You want them to be happy, so you too must be happy.
  1. Try to get outside when you can, because you won’t always be able to – take those nice days when you can get them because you’re not going to want to take your little out when the wind is taking their breath away, or when it’s so cold it hurts your face. Embrace the weather when you can. Dress warmly on cold days, put on splash suits on wet days, head to the shore on hot days, find shade on sunny days. Get outside as much as you possibly can.
  1. Research, advice and guidelines change – it’s hard to know the best decisions for your baby. It’s important to do your research, ask questions and pay attention to the recommendations. It’s also important to listen to your gut. You need to be comfortable and confident in the decisions you make.
  1. Travelling makes a good traveller – It’s not always easy when your baby isn’t an easy traveller, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Give them the chance to learn to travel, and they may grow to love it.
  1. Use the resources available in your community – family resource centres, public health, breastfeeding support groups, lactation consultants, doulas. There are so many people out there who genuinely want to help you and your family as much as they possibly can. Make their day; call them. Go to groups and meetings. Take advantage of the family nutrition supplement and free snacks at events. Take your kids out to see other kids. 
  1. Love should be the guiding force in your decision making – base all your decisions on love and you won’t be disappointed in the outcome. You will do the best things for your family if you focus on how to best love your child.
  1. It is amazing to see how fast they learn – it will blow your mind to watch those wheels turn in their little heads. You can see them noticing new things, connecting concepts and objects, leaning about relationships. And then the world opens up to them. Pay attention to what and how they learn and you will be blown away by what you may have overlooked.
  1. You are not alone – our villages look a bit different from how they used to, but I guarantee you still have a village. Sometimes people are far away, or you don’t talk often, but they still love and support you. People will come running if you need help, you just need to give them the opportunity. Also, no matter what you’re going through, someone else has been in similar shoes. Find those people and lean on their experience. You are not alone in this journey.

I hope that my experience helps you all to see the small wonders in your child’s day to day. Even if you don’t have children, many of these lessons I’ve learned still apply. Enjoy the small things, get outside, reach out for support, your body is amazing, you don’t need much, travel more, some things are hard and that’s ok, and love, love and more love!

 

A Letter to Potential

This letter was written the day I took our home pregnancy test. It took me a few days to muster up the nerve to go to the store to get it. It seems like it was yesterday, but it was 5 months ago now. I’m working really hard to pay attention to all the little moments. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and never again will this experience be the same. I know how lucky we are, and I am grateful for it every day. Here’s to our next big adventure!

 

 

Hi there little one. I’m writing this before I even know if you exist or not. I’m writing this because I am so excited for you, and if it turns out you’re not really there, I still want you to know that I love you. I love the potential of you. I love the excitement you generate, and I don’t want that to be lost just yet.

I’m terrified to take that test because I’m afraid that it’s going to tell me you’re not real. I’m afraid it’s going to tell me that I need to wait just a little bit longer to see you. I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment. When I get to see your face, your eyes, your lips, all for the first time. When I get to hear your voice for the very first time.

But that is so far away yet. I don’t want to lose these moments that we get to share before then. Including this one, where I still don’t know for sure if you exist or not. There are so many possibilities for you right now. I don’t want to take that away from you yet.

I want you to know how loved you are, little one. I’ve already talked to you. Quietly, so Nathan doesn’t think I’m weird yet. He went to sleep early last night and I laid there, thinking about you. Holding my hand over where you would be. Sending my infinite love to you.

I woke up early this morning, thinking of you. I thought how perfect it would be to be able to tell your grandparents about you for Christmas. I thought about how your due date is really going to screw up your Aunt Sally’s summer plans.

You are going to be so loved by so many people. You are already loved by me. Your Nan and Pop are going to be over the moon when they hear about you. I keep trying to think of the best way to tell them. It will be such a special moment. One that will go down in the history books as one of the best days ever!

And your Nanny and Grampa are going to be overjoyed! There will be tears of joy, just for you! They already have grandkids, but none quite like you. I feel like they’ll be over to visit a lot as you grow. One of the benefits of being not too too far. You are going to be so loved!

And your dad…oh sweet darling, your dad is going to be the most amazing dad ever. We have grown together over the last 7 years so that we could be as good as we could be for you. He’s going to take you on so many adventures. Whatever you want, he will work his ass off to get it for you. Or to show you how you can get it yourself. He will support you through everything, as he has supported your mom. But this will be different. You are part of him, and that is special beyond description. When I think about the first time I see you, I also picture the first time your dad sees you. That moment overfills my heart.

You overfill our hearts. And we don’t even know if you exist yet. I’m afraid to take the test. You’re the opposite of Schrödinger’s Cat. I need to open that box at some point, but I’m afraid of what I’ll find. Or won’t find. I’ve been disappointed before, and I love the thought of you. I love the potential of you. I don’t want to lose that just yet. Because you are so loved.

The First Snowfall

We finally have had some progress on moving things forward to get ready to build our home, so we wanted to do something to feel accomplished this year. We were hoping to have a weather-tight house at this point, but, things don’t always work out. So the plan is now to start building in the spring, and hopefully, be living in it this time next year.

So we took the weekend, rented a Kubota and got a little bit of work done so that we could feel like we got something done before winter came. We put in a drainage pipe and moved some topsoil to get ready to put the garden in in the spring. It was two solid days of work, a lot of fun, and incredible to be outside the whole time.

As it was getting dark on Sunday, we could see in the distance that there was snow coming. The clouds hugged the coastline of the bay as it inched it’s way closer and closer. And then it started. Big beautiful flakes floated down onto our land. OUR land. This was the first time it had really snowed since we bought it last spring. I sat on the tailgate of the truck, watching as Nathan moved a giant pile of soil from one spot to the other and it struck me…

This was the first of so many snowflakes that were going to fall on us, our land, our future. And it was glorious. All I could picture was the snowmen and sledding that would happen. The snowy walks up from the car, wondering who lives in the cozy warm cabin at the top of the hill. The white Christmases to come. The stormy nights without power cuddled next to the fire. So much shoveling. So many memories that were just waiting to be made.

The snow blanketed our land. Everything was white except where the tires from the tractor moved, and my footprints as I tried to keep up with the roots and rocks that would eventually need to be cleaned out of the soil. I could not keep up. But that’s ok because we have decades ahead of us to get all this work done. A ridiculous amount of dead trees that need to be cleared away. This giant pile of dirt that would eventually turn into a beautiful garden that would feed our family. That pile of rocks where we will build our home. So much to get done, and a lifetime to do it in.

We have so much to look forward to. Every small step gets us closer to the perfect life we have pictured. Although I know that it won’t work out just as we plan (we’ve already had to make adjustments), I also know whatever we end up with will be a happy life. Even though things can be frustrating and trying at times, it is all with this end goal in mind. The challenge is learning to enjoy and be thankful for the moments between now and then.

This moment, sitting on the tailgate, giant perfect snow floating down onto my eyelashes, Nathan playing in his dirt, was a truly happy moment. I felt like I was home, even though there’s no house there yet. We have our whole lives to live, and it will be on this land. And this was the first of so many snowflakes that would fall.

Why Would I Need a Doula?

If I were pregnant I’d choose to have a doula as part of my childbirth support team. I am a confident woman, who is sure of what I would want during my labour and I have experience and understanding in the medical world. My partner is beyond supportive and my family has experience with their own childbirths.  So why do I still feel that I need a doula with me during my labour?

A doula is much more than just another person to help you through your labour. We are trained professionals that are there to support you AND your support team during your pregnancy, labour and postpartum. We don’t replace the people you’ve chosen to be with you, rather we enhance the relationships you have so that you feel connected and strong when you need it most.

My partner is a wonderful man who, someday, will make an incredible father. I know that I will have his full support in the decisions that we make and that he’ll be there for me 100%. That being said, he’ll most likely just go with the flow. Childbirth is not his passion, and so he still has a lot to learn. As do we all. But he probably won’t be the type to ask our doctors and nurses to give us space or to stop asking if we want interventions. He’ll listen to what they have to say (as he should) but probably won’t ask for more information if they have suggestions. And honestly, in the middle of everything, will I? It’s hard to say no when you’re in pain and all you want is to have your baby with you as soon as possible.

Our doula would help to facilitate conversations with our health care team. They’ll ask if there is time to discuss other possible options and give us space to make the decision ourselves. They probably would’ve already had these conversations with us during our pregnancy, and so can remind us of the benefits and risks of what’s being offered. Even I, with the knowledge and experience I have, would still need someone else to remind me of everything so we could truly give informed consent. They’d make sure that I’m not in the middle of a contraction when being asked if I want medication or an epidural for pain relief. They will keep my partner focused on our birth plan and wishes and will give us suggestions on how to help stick to it as closely as possible. They’ll also help us to continue to feel confident and strong if we need to change our plan.

My mother has gone through three childbirths. She also has nursing training and is confident speaking to medical professionals. She probably knows me and understands my wishes better than any one. She also hates to see her baby girl hurting. As much as she understands why I would want a natural childbirth, I know it would be hard for her to watch me be in pain.

Our doula would learn before hand what our values are and what are wishes would be when it comes to our care during our labour. She’ll be able to remain unbiased and so can focus on getting us through difficult moments during our labour rather than trying to get me pain free as quickly as possible. They also understand that every labour, just like every child, is different. They have training in how to support you no matter what, whether your labour is “stalling” or you’re experiencing back labour, or if everything you had planned needs to be thrown out the window.

A doula is also an amazing support for your support team. Childbirth can be exhausting for everyone involved. Having a doula by your side allows your family to rest when they can, knowing that you won’t be left unsupported. Your doula will remind them to eat, so that they will have energy to hold you up after a long labour. They’ll also provide suggestions on how your family can help you. Nobody loves you more than the people you’ve chosen to be with you in this special moment. Your doula will help them to be as present as possible so that you’ll feel loved and you can get that oxytocin flowing!

There’s all the support you’ll get after your baby has arrived too. Especially here in Central Newfoundland, there is limited resources available to mothers and their families. And often, the resources that are available are quite a distance away. Imagine having personal postpartum care, right in your home. This includes breastfeeding support; support that often dwindles after you’ve left the hospital. It’s also someone that you can talk to, without judgment, about the struggles you might be having. They have a great list of people you can reach out to if your needs go beyond their area of expertise.

Now, I am a science brain. Statistics are what make sense to me, and the statistics about doulas are incredible.

Women who had continuous support from a doula during their labour had a:

  • decrease in the use of pain relief medication
  • decrease in admission of their newborns to hospital for medical care
  • decrease in the use of Pitocin
  • decrease in the risk of Cesarean birth
  • increase in spontaneous vaginal birth
  • increase in satisfaction with their birth experience
  • shorter labours
  • higher breastfeeding success
  • decrease in the rate of lower APGAR scores for their babies
  • the list goes on…

 

For me it’s a no brainer. The way I look at it, a doula is just another tool in my tool box. I’m going to want to do everything possible to hopefully have a positive birth experience and having a doula will help me do that. They know the science and they know the emotional stuff that comes along with it too. I can’t say no to something that has been proven to be beneficial for me and my someday baby, no matter what our birth looks like!

How did I get here?

How did I end up here? If you’ve found this website, you obviously know that I am working as a doula. I’m still a paramedic, but working in a casual capacity for now, at least until I can figure out how to balance all of this craziness that I call life at the moment. But how did I end up here? Ever since my first nephew was born, almost 19 years ago (holy crap, where has time gone?!), I have wanted, in some way, to be a part of people’s lives when they worked to bring their own incredible tiny human into their world. I was able to be a part of that day with my sister, and I want more than anything to be a part of it with so many more.

My original plan was to become a midwife. I wanted to be the one who brought back childbirth as it was for centuries before. Before all the drugs and the surgeries. Before birth was seen as such a scary thing. Before it was looked on by some as a malady that needs curing rather than a natural part of life. We’ve come a long way in the last couple decades, so I guess I won’t be THE ONE, but I can still be one of the ones.

I figured I would need experience to get even close to being accepted into what is a very competitive program. That’s why I went into paramedicine. Turns out, I actually ended up loving my work. It was supposed to be a stepping stone to something more, but in the mean time, I have found a job that gives me satisfaction, despite the fact that I did not intend on staying in this line of work for very long (it’s been 10 years since I graduated as a paramedic…that’s a long time).

My next stepping stone towards my dream, was to get more education. Going back to university was also a good excuse to tell my parents why I was moving to Newfoundland, besides to be a little closer to a cute Newfoundlander. I went and got my BSc in Bio from MUN, learned a lot, met some incredible people, and studied for my MCATs. My thought was, if I’m going to go back to school for that long, why not be a OB and have a much broader reach on the people that I could help. Trouble is, whether I become a midwife, or an OB, I need a lot of time, and I need to be far from this beautiful place in the world that I am lucky to be able to call home now. Time that, right now, I don’t feel that I have.

For now, I have changed the direction of my stepping stones, yet again. I’m moving away from the education piece and back to the experience piece. I’ve become a doula. And what a wonderful place to be able to do it. Currently, there are no other doulas in Central Newfoundland, a place that desperately needs more resources for pregnant women, parents and their families. I am so excited to have the opportunity to give families the chance to have the support that has been shown to decrease medical intervention, increase breastfeeding rates, increase the satisfaction rate of women’s birth experiences, etc, etc (I will talk more on how amazing doulas are another day).

So in other words, I have no idea how to get across to my final destination. I just keep jumping from stone to stone in hopes that I will eventually end up on dry land. I may not end up where I was originally planning on going, but really, who does? And if they do, did they have any fun along the way?

What else is on the go? So much! My cute Newfoundlander and I have recently bought a piece of land; a big piece of land! We are so excited to finally get to start building our house, developing our land into our little piece of paradise, and seeing what grand adventures the universe has in store for us next!

What I am hoping to get out of this blog (oh someone please come up with a better name)? Well basically, its going to be a place where I can share what I’m learning. Maybe this will be my way to be one of the ones… I’ll share what I’m learning about how to make births a more positive experience, what the evidence is saying about common birth practices, and also about how to hopefully live a happier and fuller life. Some of what I write will be about pregnancy and birth, obviously, but I also want to share things like the mistakes we make along the way of building our home, maybe even stuff on farming and homesteading if we ever get around to it, and food…cause I do love food. Just about life. Hopefully we’ll be able to learn together along the way.

My disclosure to you is that I am not a beautiful writer. I have always struggled to find the right words, or figure out how to make what’s in my head flow out to sound just right. I hope that I’ll be able to write in such a way, that you’ll want to keep checking in to see what new adventure is on the horizon. Hopefully the more I write, the better I’ll become. I hope everyone has a very safe long weekend. Thanks for reading!