Garden Updagte June 22

I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for a couple days but each time I try a little person needs my help.  I suppose that’s the life of a mom – especially moms of younger ones.  So I’ve resorted to writing this on my phone – convenient but not as trust worthy when it comes to spelling (dang autocorrect!) so forgive any grammatical and spelling mistakes.  

It’s been a good week in the garden. We are going to be having fresh salads next week and I cannot wait! There’s several tomatoes forming, some of the plants have sun damage but there’s lots of healthy new growth which is what really matters. The hot peppers seem to be struggling I guess I should have been a bit more patient before putting them in the garden.  I have a lot still in the greenhouse to fall back on if they don’t produce anything.  My paprika peppers, jalapeños, and sweet peppers all seem to be doing well though! The rest of the garden is sprouted and growing – I’m most surprised by the watermelons, really hoping to get at least one! The wildflower gardens are thriving as well – it’s going to be fun seeing what pops up there when they start to bloom.  

Here’s the pictures this week: 


Gourmet, rocky top, and midnight ruffle lettuce in the back.  


Arugula (super delicious!) and kale in the back.  Swischard and spinach in the middle.


Butternut squash, cucumbers and watermelon, peppers in the back. 


The tall pepper plants are paprika, then there’s the tomato forest! 


The rest of the peppers and the squash at the back. 


I’ll never tire of looking at this! Greens in the back, carrots in the center and onions in the front. 


Barrels of potatoes are doing well – time to add more dirt.


Ezekiel’s gardens are also doing pretty good.  I’m interested to see for how long they do well.  Carrots in the top picture and peas in the bottom.


Wildflower beauty.


Last but not least – the greenhouse.

How are you gardens growing? Any fun surprises? Or hard challenges? 

Happy gardening friends! 

2017 Garden

It’s officially garden season around here, although I’ve been gardening since February! I thought I’d get you caught up to where I’m at and then try my best to get back to weekly garden updates.  Now that the garden is planted I’m not feeling so pressed for time and I have some more downtime – there is still lots to do of course but hopefully I can keep up with weekly pictures and updates.  The last two years I’ve made picture books of my gardening seasons and I love looking back on them so I want to keep doing that.

I ordered the vast majority of my seeds online this year.  I ordered in January from West Coast Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  What I didn’t order I bought from a couple local stores but kept with those two companies as well as Renee’s Garden, Strathcona 1890 and a local Calgary seed company called Seed Plus Soil.  I’ve grown seeds from all four of these seed companies and have been impressed both with the germination and quality of produce.  I like that they are all non-treated and non-gmo seeds and a lot of what I ordered has been heirloom varieties.

So without further ado I give you my gardening thus far.  I will warn you this post is going to be very picture heavy!

I started my peppers back on February 3 – such a long time ago! I started a large amount of seeds this year and because I let them germinate on top of our fireplace for the extra heat, I had to start my peppers and tomatoes separately.  Last year my peppers were later producers than my tomatoes so I figured I’d try starting them earlier. The varieties I started were:

  • Jalapenos
  • Paprika
  • Thai Red Chilli
  • Sunset Mix
  • Orange Gilboa and Red Yardenne
  • Red Habanero
  • Caribbean Red Habanero
  • Chocolate Habanero
  • Trinidad Scorpion

Yep I definitely went overboard!

On February 15 I started most of my tomatoes.  I planted 13 different varieties (!), I just couldn’t narrow them down! Online shopping for seeds is a bit dangerous but so much fun!  The varieties I planted are:

  • Toma Verde Tomatillos
  • Marvel Stripe
  • Black Krim
  • Red Brandywine
  • St. Pierre
  • Bonny Best
  • Amish Paste
  • Arbason Beefsteak
  • Caiman
  • Roma
  • Fox Cherry
  • German Lunchbox
  • Italian San Marzano

Then it was a lot of watching and waiting for both my plants to mature and my baby to arrive!

They were doing really well! I probably could have transplanted them the last week in March or first week in April but I was pretty fresh postpartum since Eden came along March 17.  The plants had to take a back burner for a couple weeks.  I didn’t start transplanting until April 16 – the same day I moved them all out to the greenhouse, and didn’t finish until May 1! They were starting to look pretty sickly and I wasn’t sure how many would survive.

When all was said and done I had 136 tomato plants, and close to 90 pepper plants.  Insane? Yes absolutely but honestly I’m totally OK with it! Initially I really wanted to start up a side job selling them which is why I planted so many in the first place.  Then life happened (like having a baby) and I didn’t get on top of advertising and setting things up.  I did end up starting a new instagram account to get the word out that I had some plants for sale but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get rid of what I wanted to.  Feel free to check out the account (@plantloveyyc) and if you’re local keep your eyes open for some other things for sale!

Anyways, here’s the progression in the greenhouse:

Considering how sickly they looked when I transplanted them I’m so impressed with how they are doing.  I planted the tomatoes and peppers into the garden just last week with my dad on June 4.  I planted 32 Tomato plants and 36 pepper plants into the garden.  The rest will have to be in pots, although I’m not really sure where they will go! I’m thinking of getting a shade cloth and trying to keep some in the greenhouse again.  If I can keep it cool enough I think it would work.  Also, last year I did little to no fertilizing of my potted plants and I think that had a lot to do with how poorly they did.  This year I’m going to use a liquid kelp fertilizer for my potted plants that I buy from a local plant store here in Calgary (Plant).  The fertilizer is from Strathcona 1890 and you can order it here.

IMG_1292

Ok, so that takes care of the tomatoes and peppers but I planted a whole lot more!

In the deck garden I planted a variety of leafy greens:

  • Ansar Lettuce
  • Ghandi Lettuce
  • Midnight Ruffle Lettuce
  • Gourmet Mixed Lettuce
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Arugula

I also planted two varieties of carrots and two rows of onions.

 

In the greenhouse gardens I planted two different wildflower packets – a butterfly mix and a bee mix.  I really can’t wait to see them bloom!

The big garden had a surprise crop of onions this year.  I had no idea that the seed onions I planted last year would appear again this year.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them so I let them grow for a while and then they started blooming! So I decided I would just dig them all up and preserve them.  My husband made a batch of an onion/lemon/hot pepper hot sauce that he uses often and I canned one jar.  The rest we dehydrated and made into onion powder.  I bought a dehydrator for this task and I’m actually quite excited about using it as a method of preservation this year.

Other than the tomatoes and peppers I also planted zucchini, pumpkin, cucumbers and watermelon in the big garden.  I planted along the side and back to give them room to grow out of the garden by the fence instead of on my lawn like last year.  I doubt that any pumpkins or watermelons will grow but I thought I’d try for fun! I also planted two barrels of potatoes and I’m hoping for some big harvests.

We have two raised planters that my dad had built for us last year and so this year I’ve designated them for Ezekiel.  He picked what he wanted to grow and basically just put them wherever he felt like it – I tried to give some direction but didn’t want to interfere too much.  I really want him to have a sense of independence and pride over what he grows.  So far his carrots have sprouted and I think zucchini.

We also have an old (I think) antique wash basin that my parents had been using as a flower planter.  My mom had painted it up with the name and address on it and some flowers on the sides and they used it to mark their cabin (or house really) at the lake.  Last year they decided they didn’t want it anymore and I had asked if I could have it when they were done with it and so now it’s mine!  I’m trying my hand at growing some herbs in there – something I’ve never been successful at growing from seed so we’ll see how it goes!

Some other notes on the garden this year:

I knew that my soil would need some amending so I used 6 bags of sheep manure compost on the big garden and 3 bags on the deck garden.  I also used a lot in the front of the house – that soil was AWFUL and the plants were showing signs of decline last year so I knew I had to do something.  I also bought some fertilizer spikes for the front as well as for the rose bushes, Japanese maple and the mysterious tree with beautiful white flowers in the back.

So here’s some progress pictures bringing us to today – the next posts shouldn’t be as wordy or lengthy!

Thanks for plowing through this post if you’ve made it this far!

Happy Gardening Friends!

Post Partum Body

Hi Friends.

Posts are few and far between around here (what’s new right?).  I was hoping to have a bit more consistency on my year (plus 4 months) off but it turns out that having a newborn in the spring makes life pretty crazy.  If I’m not holding, rocking, or feeding the baby, then I’m probably playing with a toddler in the yard and/or doing yard work and planting the garden, and if I’m still not doing that, then most likely I’m cleaning the house or sleeping.  So – life, it’s a bit hectic right now but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my postpartum body and I figured I’d write out a few thoughts.  This is a hot topic for anyone who’s been pregnant, is currently pregnant or thinking about/trying to get pregnant.  Some people will tell you while you’re pregnant that you should eat clean and stay fit no matter what.  Others will tell you to take it easy and eat what you want, don’t stress.  Then you have the baby and you begin to notice everyone else who has had a baby recently and the age old game of comparison begins.  On top of that you have people giving advice – don’t worry about your body, just enjoy your baby OR you should be working out 6 weeks after having your baby GET YOUR BODY BACK!

It’s an exhausting mind game and one that I wish I could say I didn’t participate in – but I do.  Still, I think there’s some validity to entering into the conversation.  I want to  break it down to solid truths for myself and by writing it out I hope that you can glean some truths for you as well, not only if you are a postpartum momma (regardless of how long it’s been!) but also if you are just a person that struggles with this topic in general.

Here’s the facts for us birth momma’s:

  1. You grew a human.
  2. That human changed you as a person – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
  3. You will quite literally never be the same again.

Think about it – you nourished a rapidly growing person for 40 weeks (give or take some weeks), and if you are breastfeeding you are continuing to be the only source of nutrition for that person.

INCREDIBLE. MIRACULOUS. AWE-SOME. MIND-BLOWING.

I’ll never ever ever stop believing that being able to give life to another human is less than this.  I truly think it’s a sacrifice worth giving and if it wasn’t possibly life threatening for me I would hands down want to do it again.

Here’s some more truth:

Growing a human is HARD.  Even if you had the most amazing pregnancy ever, your body had to work unbelievably hard to do that.

When I think back on my pregnancy I know I’ll never forget the crazy amount of hard that it was and because of that I want nothing more than to HONOUR my body.

The truth is that to honour my body I must nourish it, move it and treat it with respect.  I must listen intently to what it is saying.  I must take time each day to understand what it needs that day and also understand that it’s needs are going to change each day.

 To honour my body I must work towards my healthiest self – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Will that take me down a road of weight loss? Truthfully, I hope so but it’s no longer my goal. My goal is health and your goal should be health as well.

Not a size zero? No one cares and neither should you!

Be confident and radiant in who you are right now in this moment.  Take steps towards a healthy you and eventually the number on the scale isn’t going to matter to you anymore.

As you nourished your child (and maybe still do) honour your body by nourishing it as well.  How can you give something to another person that you don’t possess yourself? If you are unhealthy physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally then how can you expect to nourish healthy human beings? Even if you didn’t grow a human and even if you aren’t breastfeeding, you are still nourishing those around you by what you give.  Are you giving the best of you?  If you aren’t giving the best to yourself then I would argue that it’s not possible to give the best to those around you.

More than anything I need to focus on me so that what I pour out to those around me (especially my children) is healthy and nourishing for them.

Here’s some practical ways I’m putting this into practice:

  1. Eating mostly whole “real” foods and very little processed food
  2. Listening to my body when it tells me that gluten is bad (even when I desperately want a pastry)
  3. Engaging in a hobby (hello garden!)
  4. Making time each day for me (hello early mornings!)
  5. Praying
  6. Allowing myself to feel all the feels and be honest about feeling them
  7. Being realistic about my to-do lists (bye bye spring cleaning wishes)
  8. Talking to people frequently and being intentional in relationships

I had a much different post planned out in my head when I started this, but as is the case so often I let my hands do the talking for my brain and it’s usually exactly what I needed to hear.

So here’s to letting go of postpartum body expectations and to embracing a healthy new me.  Here’s to letting go of the numbers.  Here’s to honouring my body so that I can honour those around me.

 

On Doing “It All”

I get a lot of comments about how I look like I’m able to do it all, how I’m able to get so much accomplished, how I can keep my house so clean.  I get so many comments that sometimes I start to feel bad.  If you go on Instagram and browse through some feeds of mothers, a common theme will be “keeping it honest” and making sure that everyone knows you are not perfect.  Then you get pictures of piled high laundry, toys everywhere, dishes in the sink with a caption about how you should leave it all and just play with your kids.  Instead of relieve me of need to clean it just makes me feel guilty for needing to clean instead of play.  I chose the word “need” intentionally because friends, if I don’t clean and keep my house clean then I am a moody mess of a mom and definitely no fun to play with.

Even as “clean” as my house looks there are a lot of things that are filthy! I’m really good at keeping my house tidy and orderly, keeping the floors clean and the bathrooms scrubbed.  I’m really really not good at things like cleaning windows, baseboards or walls.  So while it may look like I accomplish it all let me assure you that for every one thing I do accomplish there is a list of 5 that I don’t.

Yesterday morning I woke up later than normal but with a lot of motivation to get my house spotless and get a lot of my spring cleaning list completed (prime example of my “list of 5”).  Sunday I spent the day relaxing and honestly doing nothing.  My husband even made me supper and brought it to me in bed.  Due to my “day off” I neglected a lot of my daily rituals that make me sane and keep my house looking presentable.  I went to bed aware that my house was a “disaster” but vowing to get it cleaned up today.  Yet when I went downstairs this morning I was overwhelmed with just how much there was to do and how much I wanted to accomplish.  I quickly realized that my expectations of the day were unrealistic, but it took me a few hours to really let go of those expectations.  During those few hours I was annoyed more than I was joyful, I was overwhelmed and anxious about the state of my house and about the gardening that wasn’t getting done and supper that I hadn’t planned or thought of and preschool for Ezekiel that I haven’t started and the list goes on and on and on.  On top of that Eden’s reflux flared up pretty bad and she was irritable, Ezekiel was going on and on about going for a walk and I was quickly losing patience.  My expectations were driving me crazy and so while I was feeding and rocking Eden I closed my eyes took some deep breaths and released them.  I adjusted my expectations and I let go of my need to “get it all done.”  I became OK with getting done what I could and letting go of the rest.

Once I did that it was incredible what I was actually able to accomplish and how joyful I became.  At the end of the day I couldn’t believe how I was able to turn my day from a very bad day going worse to a great day – it’s usually the other way around.  The only reason that happened is because I focused on one task at a time instead of focussing on my never ending list of tasks.  I was even able to check off a few items on my spring cleaning list.  As I went about the day I reflected on why it is that I am usually able to keep my house clean and organized and why I’m not usually overwhelmed by it – it came down to 2 words:

Discipline and routine.

That’s really it.

Every day I have a variation of a routine I follow, it’s constantly being tweaked to fit our lives better and to try and fit more into a day (think walks, park play, craft time etc.) and it’s revised daily to fit the needs of a baby with an awry routine but it works.  The only reason it works? Discipline.  There are a lot of days I just don’t want to put the dishes away, water the plants, pick up after my family, do the laundry, sweep the floors or tidy the things that have been left laying around but if I don’t I know the next day is going to be an uphill battle for me mentally.  This is how I keep my mental stability intact always but especially in my postpartum days.  A screaming baby is much less irritating to me when I’m walking around my house trying to calm her if my house is clean and orderly.  An inquisitive and whining 3 yr old is a little more tolerable if I’m not staring at a disaster that I’m trying to clean up.  My routines and disciplines didn’t happen overnight though, they were slowly incorporated into my day.

So as a response to those wondering why it looks like I’m always getting things accomplished I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my routine. Maybe you can pick up a habit or two and overtime feel like you aren’t drowning in trying to get your house to a tidy state, or maybe you are truly ok with leaving it the way it is – that is JUST FINE.  Honestly – you do you, but I have to do me for the sake of my mental health and relationships with my family.

MORNINGS

I’ve always been an early to rise early to bed girl so my mornings are a huge part of my sanity.  I despise waking up with everyone else and have to work really hard to be in a good mood if it happens.  Thankfully Eden has been sleeping long stretches (6-8 hours) at night and will wake up in the early morning for a feed before going back to sleep for another 3-4 hours, this is my wake up call.  I change her and feed her and then shower and get ready for the day after putting her back to bed.  It’s never a specific time but if she wakes up anytime later than 4:30 then that’s when I get up.  I have found it much harder to shower and get ready if I don’t do this.

After that I go down and get coffee, take my medications, put away any lingering dishes, wipe off counters, tidy anything that wasn’t tidied the night before.  I also do a quick check on the plants and water them if they need it.  I prepare breakfast for Ezekiel and I and have it on the table for when he wakes up – it varies from eggs to cold cereal depending on what I feel like.  He’s not a picky eater so this works for us and he gets very very hangry if he doesn’t eat.  I’ve found that if I don’t have it prepared we both get distracted and it gets very difficult to get him to eat anything.  Then after doing all that I sit down with my coffee and usually browse social media (or write a blog!) until one of the kids wakes up.

After everyone wakes up honestly the day takes shape as it goes.  I usually have some sort of plan for the mornings – whether that be a coffee/playdate, the zoo, cleaning the house, a long walk but aside from cleaning day I try to get out in the morning.  Ezekiel is an outdoors kid, and he’s also a kid that wants me to be with him and play with him always so if I don’t do something fun for him in the morning he gets super annoying with asking to do something and wanting me by his side always.  Eden is still able to go with the flow and doesn’t have a set schedule so for now we use Ezekiel’s schedule to plan the day.  Eventually two mornings a week will be dedicated to school for Ezekiel – that will start in the next couple weeks.

Lunch is around 12:30 and this is when I am able to do a tidy of the house and kitchen in particular because I eat a lot faster than Ezekiel.  While he’s finishing his meal I’m checking off tasks (sweep the kitchen, fold the laundry, start supper prep, do the dishes etc.), I get as many as I can off the list.  Then we all go upstairs and Ezekiel gets to watch one Netflix episode – if Eden is content this is another time I can do a quick tidy upstairs which usually includes putting away clothes, picking up whatever has been left behind in our various trips up and down the stairs.

Nap time is usually 1:30 or 2 and thankfully it’s almost always nap time for them both so I get a bit of a break.  I always take 30-60 minutes just to sit, sometimes I read, sometimes I watch a TV episode but it’s usually with a coffee in hand.  After taking time for myself I start to get supper prepped – marinate meat, chop veggies etc. so it’s easy to actually prepare when it’s supper time.  If I’m lucky I’ll get to do a “one off task” like mow the grass or bake some muffins and I base that on what I feel like doing that day or what desperately needs to get done.

Ezekiel will wake up around 4:30 or 5 and I make sure he has a small snack and we usually check in on the greenhouse at this time.  I sit outside with him if Eden is sleeping and it’s nice out, or we’ll read books.

Supper is around 6 or 6:30, we eat, clean up, tidy the downstairs and head upstairs for bedtime.  Ezekiel will watch one more Netflix show, both the kids will have a bath, we get them dressed, give meds and put us all to sleep.

Throughout the day I do a lot of 30 second tidies and that’s the key to my house being kept clean.  I should mention that Ezekiel is always responsible for his own tidying so he does a lot of 30 second tidies as well.  I also always do at least one load of laundry a day – it keeps it manageable and less intimidating, it also ensures that the clothes get washed and put away instead of just washed.

What I struggle with and what I want to start incorporating into my day is the spring cleaning tasks.  I usually look at it as a huge thing that needs a tonne of time to get done and I just don’t have big chunks of time anymore.  I can’t take a day or two and just dedicate it to spring cleaning because I have two small children who would not cooperate with that plan – as I learned yesterday.  If I start to add a task or two to my days my list would be done in no time and I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by it and then if I kept up with it – like spot cleaning walls, wiping down baseboards every few months etc. it wouldn’t have to be “spring cleaning” because those things would just be done always.  So that’s what I’m going to do – start adding one or two tasks a day and hopefully that motivates me to keep those things cleaner than they are now.

Whew – that was a long post but honestly this is how I “do it.”  I’m so far from perfect though guys, there are definitely days that nothing gets done and that breakfast, lunch and supper are a variation of baking, fruit and veggies and that’s OK.  We need grace daily to get through the day and we need to remember that we are human – imperfect and flawed. No one will ever accomplish it all, where they excel in one thing they’ll lack in another.  So instead of focusing on where you lack focus on where you excel and just let go of the rest.  Your sanity will thank you.

 

Infertility – Our Journey

I’ve thought all week about writing this post.  I’ve gone through it a thousand times in my head.  Every time I look at one of my children more words come and more tears flow.  I have very little extra time these days, and what time I do have beyond keeping 2 kids alive is usually spent cleaning, cooking or caring for my seedlings but tonight, I’m sacrificing a bit of sleep because this topic is so very near and dear to my heart.

This week was Infertility Awareness week, a topic that I know intimately.

From the moment I decided to start dating my husband (after a few weeks of his persistence!) I knew that I wanted to spend my life with him and we also knew that we wanted a family.   It didn’t take us long to start trying and at first I didn’t worry about it.  I wasn’t obsessed with it and I wasn’t heartbroken when nothing happened right away.  A year went by though and I decided to go see a doctor.  It wasn’t very long and I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and it didn’t surprise me in the slightest.  The doctor that I went to see prescribed me clomid for a couple months and sent me on my way.  It didn’t work and I never went back to that physician.  I happened to find an amazing family doctor and he eventually referred me to a fertility clinic.

That was about 2 or 2.5 years after we had started trying and I was then in nursing school.  It took a while to even get into the clinic and then an even longer time to get things going.  Multiple tests, and several referrals for me before we even started treatment.  We went through 4 rounds of clomid and by the end I was on the highest dose they prescribe.  I only ovulated on the last cycle and it didn’t result in pregnancy.  At this point I had my hopes up, I was desperate for a baby and I experienced all the emotions that go with that.  Thankfully I had the distraction of school but it was still devastating month after month and especially when taking a medication that is supposed to make you ovulate.  My body was failing me, failing us and even medication couldn’t fix it.  After four rounds they made us take a break and we took a long break to decide what we were going to do.

Then, miraculously and surprisingly we got pregnant and it was twins! We were over the top excited, we couldn’t believe it and we found out only one week before we had an appointment at the fertility clinic to start treatment again.  I called and cancelled that appointment and the next week we learned that I had miscarried both babies.

That was my lowest low.  I don’t think I’ll ever begin to put into words the complete and utter devastation and heartbreak that comes with a miscarriage in the midst of infertility.

After the miscarriage I was referred to an OBGYN for a consult and he advised me that although we conceived naturally that we should still proceed with a referral to the fertility clinic.  I continued to have absent menstrual periods so my chances of conceiving naturally are about 25% of that of a normal couple.

We were eager to start a family and so we decided to get another referral and surprisingly were accepted within a month.  For some reason they let us forgo the usual testing even though it had been a long time since they had seen us and we started treatment right away.  To my complete surprise we got pregnant our first round! That round though, it was difficult.  I experienced every negative side effect of clomid, so much so that I was convinced I had some sort of inflammatory arthritis.  

I spent the entire pregnancy beyond grateful for this gift of life.  The pregnancy wasn’t easy but I didn’t feel the difficulty because it had taken so long to get to that point.  From that first pregnancy test to every single ultrasound the awe and wonder never left.  Even now as I look at my 3 year old son I know just how incredibly blessed I am.  

After having Ezekiel I was strongly encouraged to use 2 forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy for 2 years.  I declined because how could I prevent something that took 6 years to achieve? We didn’t want to get pregnant right away and just tried our best to “be careful.”  Then miraculously (for real miraculous!) somehow we ended up pregnant again and naturally!

Growing our family has been the hardest, most beautiful journey we’ve been on.  It’s been our highest highs and our lowest lows.  We’ve experienced desperation but we’ve been taken down a journey of hope.  When I look at my children I see redemption, I see love, I see joy and I see hope.  They are my reminder that God’s timing is always perfect and his hope is always present. 

There’s a lot I could talk about regarding timing.  Both my children were conceived at times that were crucial in our lives, but that’s another blog post for another time. For now, if you are going through infertility I want you to know that I understand, you are not alone and I stand with you in hope.  

 

Eden – A Birth To Remember

I started writing this shortly after being released from the hospital.  I was very surprised to realize just how emotional it was for me.  I hadn’t thought that Eden’s birth and our hospital stay had been as hard for me as it was coupled with a very difficult pregnancy and I guess it was just a little much.  As I began to write I found that I would need to stop and come back to it several times because I just didn’t have the energy to revisit the experience.  I persevered though, mainly because I don’t want to forget these details – as hard as they are.  I want to remember it all – the beautiful moment they took her out and announced she was a girl, the difficult moment of being wheeled away from her – I want to remember everything.

So without further ado – our birth story.

We walked into the hospital to check in for our c-section and my husband looked at me and said:

You look so relaxed, so fresh!

He couldn’t believe that on such a big day I was acting so calm, he most certainly was not feeling calm.  Several people after that asked if I was nervous, and my response to them – not at all.  I was all in, 100% ready to meet this miracle baby that my body fought both for and against.  I was eager to be on the other side of pregnancy, ready to take on life with a newborn.  Besides, I’d been through this before and although there were some “complications” for lack of a better term, I was determined that regardless if the same complications happened I would be ready for them and they wouldn’t catch me off guard.

We checked in and the nurses did a non-stress test and gave me my gown to change into.  Carlos and I talked and laughed and decided on names (can you believe we hadn’t even discussed names before that day?!), took some pictures and he changed into his white coveralls, head covering and booties.  We were ready, and they were ready for us.

Our nurse walked us up to the OR and we waited in the holding area surrounded by patients and family members there for various procedures.  Each one being visited by their anesthesiologist and surgeon as we waited for ours.  Finally our anesthetist came out to chat, immediately I saw the kindness, care and professionalism in this man and I breathed a sigh of relief.  He was going to be a major player in this surgery and I knew I needed a kind, caring individual.  I saw that he cared about every single detail, most importantly he cared deeply that this went as smoothly and as closely to my wishes as possible.  I have since spoken with my OB and she said that he is one of her top two anesthetists and if she needed any procedure done she would want him – this just confirmed what I was feeling that day and I’m so thankful for him.

We talked for what seemed like an eternity, we went through every single detail and possible complication.  He had already combed through my file and taken in all the important details.  He explained our options for anesthesia – spinal, spinal/epidural, or general anesthesia.  I made it very clear that a general was my worst nightmare and I wanted to do everything possible before going down that road and he promised that he would exhaust all options before doing that.  We talked about my last section and the excruciating chest pain that I experienced.  I explained that I was 100% sure that this would happen again since I had been having chest pain on and off from 19 weeks that despite everyone’s attempt at trying to explain, could not be explained.   I told him that I wanted to try to get through the pain without too many narcotics so that I wasn’t drowsy afterwards.  I could tell that the whole situation concerned him and I could see the wheels turning in his head.  We decided together that we would try a spinal first because an epidural carries a higher risk of complications post and because of my Marfan Syndrome those risks are even higher.

Next my surgeon came out – and I was surprised and slightly disappointed to see that it was the physician that I wrote this post about.  I knew from speaking with many nurses and admittedly browsing reviews that in fact he was an excellent physician but just one that I didn’t particularly “jive” with.  Although disappointed I was also grateful to have someone who was slightly aware of my case and someone I had met before and I knew that we were in good hands.  In the end I was so grateful it was him, he was nothing but kind, professional and perfect for this birth.  We talked briefly and he returned to the OR and I followed with my nurse shortly afterwards, leaving Carlos in the holding area until I was draped and ready.

When we walked into the OR the anesthetist said that he had thought it over again and reviewed things one more time and thought we should try a spinal/epidural.  His rational was that with an epidural we might have a chance at getting a block high enough to control the potential chest pain.  I was agreeable to whatever he thought would be best.  Next he prepared me and attempted the epidural a few times all of which caused extreme pain in my hips and down my legs.  After three attempts at inserting the catheter he said that due to the curvature and nature of my spine an epidural was proving to be far more difficult.  So we abandoned that and tried a spinal.  I was a bit nervous that the spinal wouldn’t work either, but he gave me a higher dose than normal and after a long wait it finally worked.  They prepared me and draped me and brought Carlos in – he had been pacing holes in the floor because the first part had taken a good 20-30 minutes.

Carlos came and sat down and then it was go time.  I felt nothing at first other than the surgeons gently massaging my belly moving Eden down.  At the same time they were cutting and also narrating.  At one point the surgeon said – your baby is waving at us through the water bag, and in the next minute I heard “IT’S A GIRL!”  During the prep the conversation revolved around Ezekiel and how he wanted a sister and wouldn’t be satisfied with anything else and so when Eden came out the whole room cheered.  It was a moment I hope I never forget.  They passed her by my head on the way to clean her off and make sure she was fine.  I did here her cry when they took her out and wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening with her but she did have low APGARs initially but recovered well with suctioning.

The actual birth of Eden was everything I had hoped.  I was relaxed and fully present, the physicians were gentle and communicative.  With Ezekiel’s birth they were anything but gentle and I don’t remember any communication (though admittedly my memory could be foggy).   I was so thankful for the way the birth went, it’s what comes after that makes this story interesting.

During the entire procedure my anesthetist was looking over the curtain then looking back to me and asking how I was doing.  Up until this point I was doing fantastic and feeling great and he was very relieved.  After she came out he even said – “we made it through!” I replied with – “not yet we haven’t.”  Then about two minutes after that I said – “there it is!”  The chest pain that I had been anticipating and he had been dreading had shown up.  It started the moment they began cleaning out my uterus and removing the placenta.  The more they worked the worse it got.  I would get moments of a tiny bit of relief when the pain would go from a 10/10 (or more) to a 6/10 but from this moment forward the pain was pretty constant.  They finished with my uterus and were moving on to my tubal ligation.

Interlude to talk about ligation –

Early on in my pregnancy I had begun thinking seriously about a tubal.  I’ve only ever taken birth control for two months of my life and never wanted to restart – something about chemically altering my hormones that don’t function properly on their own just doesn’t feel right.  Also I will never have an IUD, I’ve heard one too many horror stories both from doctors and friends who have had one.  Trying to “be careful” obviously didn’t work out well for us – thankfully! My husband would die before being drug in to have a vasectomy.  So if we decided that we were done I was pretty sure I would want a tubal.  Then as the pregnancy went on it was clear that we were only going to have two children regardless of the outcome.  Honestly, I’d do it all over again for another baby (probably to the horror of every doctor that cared for me during this pregnancy) but it’s not just the difficulty of pregnancy that I need to think about.  My cardiac status thankfully stayed stable during this pregnancy but that’s just pure luck.  Another pregnancy could be the one that killed me, literally and so after a lot of discussion with a lot of doctors I decided a tubal was the best option for us.

Back to the birth:

So they moved on to the right fallopian tube.  The exact moment they cut the tube my pain skyrocketed.  It was so bizarre, I could literally feel them cutting my fallopian tube in my chest and it was excruciating.  I was trying my best to breathe through the pain, the anesthetist at one point had to remind me to breathe because the pain was so bad that I was holding my breath trying to get through it.  I could hear the surgeons repeatedly saying “I’m so sorry Ashley, you’re doing great.” I could also hear, “just sew it up as quickly as you can.”  It was very clear that although they deal with labouring women in pain on a daily basis they were very unfamiliar with a patient yelling in pain on the operating table, I kind of felt bad for them in some twisted way.  After the right side was done the pain decreased slightly and they asked if I wanted them to continue.  I adamantly said they better not close me up without making me completely infertile.  They asked if I was absolutely sure and then said something about me being a trooper.  The left side didn’t hurt nearly as bad but the chest pain never left.

Eventually they closed me up and then cleaned me up and it was done.  The nurses were amazing and doing their best to distract both Carlos and I from the pain. Also, sometime during everything Carlos got up and went and got Eden and brought her over to me.  He laid her beside my head so I could talk to her and kiss her.  Although I can’t remember at which part of the procedure this happened I know it’s a moment I’ll never forget.  It’s a moment that I really wanted in both of my births but with Ezekiel the room was frantic due to my chest pain and it just wasn’t an option.  I love that I got to have this moment and I love that it’s captured in pictures.

I wish this was the end of my birth story, I wish after this everything would have been normal and not worth writing about but it only got more exciting after the actual surgery.

They moved me to recovery and my nurse got to work doing everything she needed to do – check vitals, check bleeding, check the spinal block, check on my pain, get baby skin to skin and to latch.  Vitals and the spinal block were great, Eden latched and sucked like a pro right away and actually stayed there for 20 minutes or so.  My pain was very slowly subsiding but my bleeding was picking up.  Eventually they had to give me oxytocin for the bleeding.  My pain only subsided for a bit and then all of a sudden picked up back to 8-9/10.  The anesthetist came and checked on me a couple times, then the OB, they tried to get a hold of my cardiologist but couldn’t and eventually called the cardiologist who was on call.

Quite quickly I had a couple residents at my bedside, they began to go through the motions of getting the story.  They were only there for a few minutes before this small, young, feisty female physician literally barged in and interrupted them (as nicely as she could I’m sure) saying she wanted to hear everything and ask the questions.  This started 2 hours of pure chaos, I’m not even sure I can recall it all because it was just so chaotic.  She was lovely and very concerned, doing her due diligence to make sure I was getting the best care possible and I’m very thankful for her.  They did blood work, an EKG, and chest x-ray to start.  While that was happening the cardiologist was on the phone to the radiologist trying to get me a CT scan ASAP as well as trying to figure out who was going to take me there.  She wanted me connected to a “life pack” – a machine that traces the heart and is capable of shocking patients out of arrhythmia’s.  The problem was that my labour and delivery nurse was not trained on that machine and neither were any of the recovery nurses.  They tried getting a cardiac nurse but there was no one available – so the cardiologist took it on herself to escort me to CT.  She literally steered my stretcher to the CT, sat beside me and charted while we waited, sat in the CT control room while I got my CT and then steered my stretcher to the cardiac ICU.  Yep you read that right – I had an attending cardiologist escort me personally around the hospital, if that’s not VIP treatment I don’t know what is!

My poor labour and delivery nurse was so great during this whole ordeal.  When I say it was chaotic I mean it was just so over the top dramatic.  I had cardiologists assessing me while my nurse was also assessing me and the baby, on top of that I had techs coming for all the tests.  I just imagined myself in my nurses shoes and felt so bad for her! 

Before going to CT we discussed that the cardiologist wanted me on the cardiac unit to be completely safe given that the postpartum nurses were not trained in cardiac complications and there was no cardiac monitoring on the postpartum unit.  There was discussion with everyone – and many phone calls to both units – about Eden accompanying me or not.  The cardiologist fought hard for Eden to be able to come with me but when I left recovery it was still up in the air.  What I didn’t realize was that when she was talking about the cardiac unit she actually meant the cardiac ICU.  I was very surprised to look up as they wheeled me through the doors and see the letters ICU.  I knew that my chest pain was not cardiac related and I was certain this was overkill, yet in the same moment I was so grateful that despite my own intuition my situation was not being taken lightly.  I also understood that even though they also knew that the likelihood of it being a cardiac incident was small that they had to take every precaution to be sure I was safe.  What I didn’t know and wasn’t told while inpatient (and never asked about) was that on the CT my aortic root actually looked like it had expanded and so that fact coupled with pain gave them more cause to worry.

I spent 24 hours in ICU and although I am grateful, it’s also the part in my birth story that makes me the most emotional.  I went through this pregnancy always thinking I was going to have a preemie and I prepared my mind and heart for not having my baby at my bedside just like with my first.  Once I hit 37 weeks I let go of that and began to be very excited to have at least one aspect of this whole 9 months be “normal.”  Once the c-section was over I was just going to be a normal mom with a healthy baby and I was so ready for that.  It ended up that Eden was not allowed to be with me – staffing issues – and I had to fight to even get a nurse to bring her up to see me.  What was worse was that they would give her formula before bringing her to see me instead of allowing me to breastfeed.  At one visit I got pretty upset and made it clear that breastfeeding was incredibly important to me and I would appreciate them to at least bring me a pump so I could provide milk for her.  I was crushed that once again I sat in one hospital room while my baby sat on a completely different unit.  I was so disappointed that things still weren’t normal for us.

The 24 hours in the ICU were anything but restful, being in a  room with glass doors that face the nursing station make it pretty impossible to get any sleep. On top of that I was up every couple hours to pump.  The nursing was amazing though.  My night nurse actually brought me down to see Eden overnight which I was so thankful for.  The next morning the doctors made their rounds and everyone was happy to let me go down to the postpartum unit and I was elated to be able to be with Eden.

I could write and write forever about this I’m sure, but I think I’ve done enough rambling.  I’ll save the rest for later.  If you’ve made it this far – BRAVO!

Birth is rarely easy, and every woman is attached to their stories on different ways, this was harder for me than I thought it would be but I am so thankful for every moment.  Thank you for reading and sharing in my story.  

 

 

It’s a GIRL!

Well, we made it! We actually truly made it to our scheduled C-section date of March 17, 2017! I’ll save the full birth story for another day but I wanted to do an announcement post for all you out there that follow along on our crazy journey.

Eden Bonandje (bon-an-jay)
March 17, 2017 @ 0938
7lb 8oz
20 inches

My entire life I’ve always been quite vocal that I would love to be a boy mom and wouldn’t mind if I never had a girl.  Regardless I was never curious enough or cared enough to find out the genders of my babies because in the end what really mattered to me was that I had a baby.  Early on in this pregnancy I had a strong feeling that I was carrying a girl, but by the second trimester I was back to the “who knows” mentality.  Still I often found myself referring to the baby as a girl in my mind.  I think there might have only been one person who guessed that the baby was a boy and the rest – even complete strangers – were convinced baby was a girl.  Ezekiel was beyond adamant that he was going to have a baby sister and you could not even try to entertain the idea that it just MIGHT be a boy.  My husband  really really really wanted a daughter and thought that since my pregnancy was so riddled with excitement that it had to be a girl because boys just don’t demand that kind of attention :).  I just continued on in the mindset that either way I would be happy.

When they pulled her out and announced excitedly that she was a GIRL the joy and pure happiness that flowed through me took me by surprise.  A girl, a daughter, my last baby is my baby girl.  I still tear up thinking about it and probably will for years to come.  I didn’t know how deeply my soul needed this girl.  She is pure perfection and we are completely smitten.  I find myself dreaming of raising her, of the values I want her to grow up with.  The fears I had about raising a girl were swept away when I looked at her and replaced with the joy I’m feeling at the privilege I have of being able to raise a strong, confident, capable and wonderful woman.

I’m so happy to have been blessed with something I had no idea I needed so badly.