Thursday, 24 August 2017

Butterfly Baby

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I held Chloe tight in my arms as I scanned the restaurant for our table for 12 that was waiting for us. 

We were on the last leg of our mini vacation to Niagara Falls, stopping off for one last dinner before heading home from our trip with our entire family.

I could feel the exhaustion of travelling with a newborn and lots of young kids setting in as we pulled up to the restaurant--hungry and tired, but happy from a fun few days away with everyone.  

As I stepped towards the crowded tables and manoeuvred past fast moving waiters carrying trays of cold drinks, I could feel eyes on me in the dim light of the room.

"Oh my", I heard from behind me, "she is beautiful".

I turned my head to see an older gentleman staring at the tiny baby in my arms. His wavy hair filled with streaks of grey and deep wrinkles on his cheeks that moved when he smiled told a story of a life well lived. He wasn't much taller than me, so when I looked up to see who was talking to me, our eyes locked immediately.

I smiled back at him, "Thank you", I heard myself say as I ran my hand over the tiny body tucked in my arms.

"She looks so little, was she a preemie?" he asked with a curious, but warm smile.

"No, she was actually 6.1 pounds when we left the hospital" I told him, "and she's now a bit over 7 pounds".

"Oh, that's wonderful", he continued, "my daughter was so tiny at that age too--and we're now here celebrating her 25th birthday. Hard to believe. I really do remember her being that small all those years ago. She was actually a surviving twin, so this birthday somehow feels even that much more special".

I could feel my heart stop for just a second and I lost my breath for a moment.

I looked down at my sweet girl and then looked back up at him again "She is a surviving twin too", I said quietly.

His eyes instantly filled with tears. I mean, immediately.

"Ohh...oh wow" he said between deep breaths. I watched as his body fell a bit limp and he moved towards me.

"Oh I'm so sorry", he continued, "it's just the hardest, isn't it? It's just so awful" and with a tear running down his cheek he pulled me in and gently hugged me, carefully wrapping his arms around me without touching the sleeping baby in my arms.

I was taken aback a bit, a little surprised at this stranger who all of a sudden had his arms wrapped around me as he cried--but it then odly felt okay, like I somehow knew him, like he was somehow familiar to me and like I somehow understood him.

Because, well I did.

I tried to look away as he gently pulled away from me, knowing that if I looked him in his tear filled eyes the flood gates of my own grief would open--and I wouldn't be able to close them. I would be standing in a packed restaurant, baby in arms, two sobbing strangers hugging each other while everyone stared at us, dumbfounded, wondering what on earth was going on. So I took a deep breath, and I told him I was so sorry for his loss as well.

"You have a butterfly baby, a beautiful butterfly baby", he continued.

I pretended like I knew what he was talking about.

Then before I could even respond, a young girl with short dark hair that fell just below her shoulders interrupted us and the man quickly said to her "Look at this beautiful baby--she is a survivor, just like you". And he introduced me to his 25yr old daughter.

She gushed over Chloe for a moment, then turned to her dad and put her hand on his shoulder--a gesture of comfort towards him that didn't need any words. She saw the tears in his eyes and understood why they were there.

Twenty five years later, the grief was still raw.

She pointed to her ankle where a tiny butterfly tattoo sat. "Just as a reminder of my twin that I unfortunately never got to know" she said.

"It's beautiful", is all that I could muster.

I felt like I was in a bit of a dream--this family grieving a loss that happened so long ago, combined with my fresh grief that I still haven't fully dealt with, standing in a packed restaurant that somehow all of a sudden felt incredibly quiet. I felt their pain and they felt mine--and as I stared at this girl with the butterfly tattoo it spun me ahead 25yrs, picturing what life will be like for Chloe as she thinks about her twin that she never had the chance to know.

We left the restaurant that night after our plates were cleared away and we packed up the six kids, whose bellies were full and whose bodies were tired. And in the silence of the car ride home I looked up "butterfly baby" on my phone to find out what it meant.

I scanned pictures of purple butterfly stickers stuck to baby bassinets and incubators in hospitals. It turns out that hospitals will sometimes place purple butterfly stickers on the bassinets or incubators of babies who are twins/triplets or multiples yet who lost a sibling. This way nurses, visitors or people passing through will know the story of the baby before even meeting him/her and the parents won't have to explain their loss over and over again and those around her will understand if the parents are extra emotional or need some space to grieve.

I immediately thought back to the moment when I was sitting at the edge of my hospital bed, cradling Chloe in my arms and sobbing--then feeling like I had to hide my tears as a new nurse walked into the room since I just didn't want to have to explain myself. I wish that I had had a purple butterfly sticker that day.

So to Chloe, our butterfly baby, we love you. We loved both you and your twin from the first moment that we saw those two beautiful sacs, side by side and those beautiful baby heartbeats that were once so strong together. And as that stranger in the restaurant taught me that day, life moves on--Chloe will one day be that 25yr old girl celebrating her special day with her family. But you never forget the pain from that loss.

Even 25yr later.

Erica xo

Thursday, 10 August 2017

When motherhood calls for chocolate

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I polished off a handful of Smarties the other day--letting each and every one of them melt slowly in my mouth, trying to extend that moment of bliss and distraction that only something like chocolate can bring.

I've tried to not touch this type of food since Chloe was born--trying desperately to eat healthy and lose the 20lbs left from when this tiny babe grew inside of my body only a few weeks ago. Happily watching each passing day as my once large, round belly housing the most miraculous living miracle slowly goes back to normal, eliminating any evidence of the life that once grew there.

Isn't it strange though how we do this? How in a matter of days, we go from proudly rubbing our beautiful round bellies, to delivering our babies and then somehow desperately trying to wash away any remnants of this time in our lives?

I still remember getting out of the shower in the hospital just hours after Chloe was born, looking down at my deflated stomach and thinking "dear God, I forgot about this part". So I was determined from the day that she was born to follow suit with every other pregnancy that I've had to lose the weight--every last pound before baby turns one. I've done it successfully with Mya, Carter and Sophia and I'm just as determined with Chloe. But the other day, those Smarties were calling my name and I caved into that emotional eating craving--because the reality of having 4 little kids and one very sleep deprived mama is that some days chocolate is the only thing that will get you to bedtime.

When everyone is being too loud, when 2yr olds are having meltdowns over anything, when kids are bickering over nothing and when I'm tripping over toys with every step I take, sometimes it's okay to treat yourself to a little chocolate...even when the scale still annoyingly says 20 more pounds mama.

So I'll keep my little stash of Smarties hidden high up on the top shelf, where I'll hopefully forget about them--but where they'll never really be too far from the grasp of my desperate hands on those tough days that motherhood inevitably sometimes brings.

But, in saying this--although some hard days of parenting are certainly going to happen (that's a guarantee), I have also learned that nothing lasts forever. There will be days when kids will give you grey hair, and there will be days when you'll feel like Superwoman--able to pull off every last detail of motherhood like a champ.

So I take the great days and hold onto them. I breathe them in and savour them. I sit back and pinch myself, wondering how we got so lucky to have four beautifully healthy children who we adore more than life itself. And even late at night, when it's just Chloe and I in the dark of the night, I hold her after nursing her back to sleep and I just feel grateful. Sleep deprived and all.

So we go on adventures, just the kids and I, when I'm feeling like I got this..I can handle this. Four kids 6yrs old and under? Whatever. No problem.

We slather sunscreen on, pack everything but the kitchen sink into a diaper bag, bring half of our kitchen in snacks and pile into our van to try to create a day that the kids will remember.

And when dad is home on the weekend, we take off to places like the beach and indoor playgrounds where kids come home drained and ready for bed.

Which is absolute perfection.

And during those moments when I'm feeling exhausted or overwhelmed--when I'm bouncing a crying baby while trying to get dinner on the table and clean up the spilt milk on the floor, I'll dream of those Smarties stashed away in my cupboard and know that they'll always have my name on them. Because chocolate should always be hidden in every parents cupboard.

That's for sure.

And maybe a little ice cream in the freezer too. Just in case. 

Happy Thursday everyone. One more day 'til the weekend!! 

Erica xox

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Chloe's birth story and life at home now

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Our girl is home. 

Sweet baby Chloe Isabella made her grand entrance into the world on July 12th and she has completely stolen our hearts.

It's been three weeks now since we brought her home--three weeks now since I felt those unbelievable pains that made us jump into the car and race to the hospital and three weeks since our household has gained one more tiny sibling to love on. 

A sibling so tiny that she actually fits perfectly into their beloved baby doll crib--just for kicks.    

And a sibling who is so adored that our biggest issue since coming home has been trying to give Chloe time to sleep without constant little hands and kisses all over her. 

But with that said, these past three weeks have flown by and I feel like I barely have a minute to breathe, barely have a second to sleep, barely have a minute alone, barely have a minute to even write an email--let alone write in this space of mine. But I want to make sure that I remember the details...remember the moments, remember the feelings of how it all began. Because I just don't want to forget.

So here it is...Chloe's birth story.


So there are rules, you see. Rules of labour. 

Rules that I didn't even know were rules until I had my first baby back when labour was an unknown mystery that I was about to experience. It was a time when I went into it expecting that Terry and I would follow the protocol of him rubbing my back, talking me through the contractions, holding my hand and wiping the hair out of my eyes--all lovingly, and supportive as good husbands should. 

And then I experienced labour for the first time, and all of that went right out the window. 

Instead of asking Terry to lovingly hold my hand or rub my arm as a contraction whipped around my body, I found myself telling him to please don't touch me AT ALL. Every touch radiated pain somehow throughout my body, and every loving word of support and encouragement distracted me and irritated me. 

I can do this on my own. Thank you very much for your help...but I'm good. 

So the rules of labour began--no touching, no talking. Just sit there. The doctors will let you know when it's time to cut the cord. 

So after debriefing the nurses about his crazy wife's rules "just so they don't think I'm a jerk ignoring you" Terry told me, he stood there and followed protocol, like the champ that he is. 

**insert picture of me in full blown raging labour--one blonde pouf of hair to prove my existence in this photo, and Terry fulfilling his duties as perfect supportive husband, doing exactly as I asked.    

It all began though as dinner was fast approaching on that July 12th afternoon and the achy feelings of pain in my stomach and back started to creep up on me. 

"The moment you feel an ounce of pain, you need to rush to the hospital" my OB kept telling me throughout this pregnancy. 

"Have clean towels ready", he told me "just in case Terry has to deliver this baby in your living room". 

Because, you see, Sophia was born 40 minutes from the time that I had my first contraction with her--so every nurse, OB and doctor since then has told me that the next baby could come just as fast, or even faster this time around.

So as that first real jolt of pain crept throughout my body, I got on the phone and called my parents--who were at my house in a heartbeat, and then I called my sister who ran two doors over from her house and swung my front door open, ready to push me out to my car. 

"I just want to wait for one more contraction to make sure that these are real" I said, not wanting to waste all of our time if I was sent home with false labour. 

"Are you kidding me?!" I heard my sister say "GET IN THE CAR!!" 

"Just give me a minute, I'll wait it out until another one comes, just to be sure" I said. 


And as another contraction, ten times stronger than the one that I just had whipped through my body, I listened to my wise sister and bolted for the driveway.    

"This is definitely it--and it's happening fast" I told Terry as I held onto the side of the door as he raced as quickly as he could to the hospital. The pain was unreal already--exactly as it was when Sophia came so quickly. No build up, no time to breathe...just intense, wildly painful contractions, coming one after another quickly. 

So as he sped up to the hospital doors, I slammed the door behind me and yelled to Terry "I'll meet you upstairs!".

"I'm in labour and this baby is coming fast" I said to the receptionist in triage as I held onto the front desk as another wild contraction took over my body.

"Ok, just have a seat over there in those chairs and we'll be with you shortly", the receptionist said to me with the same calm demeanor as if I just told her that I'd like to buy a cookie.

I looked at her like she was crazy--then took a seat, waiting 2 minutes until the next contraction took hold of me...calmly waiting for her reaction from it.

And then I smiled as I quickly heard her panicked voice yell over to me "Would the lady in labour please go into triage right now!!"

I felt the needle go into my arm as they started the IV, and Terry stood over me as they explained "You're only 4cm dilated, so we have some time".

I looked at the nurse between contractions and explained to her "So, just so you know, when my last baby was born they told me that I was 4cm and then my water broke seconds later and the baby's head was out--as I was in the hallway".

She didn't seem too concerned.

"Can you get into this wheelchair and we'll take you to a room?"

I could barely see straight the contractions were coming so fast---""

"Wheel her out!" I heard another nurse say as another unbelievable contraction came, and all of a sudden I was being pushed in the bed down the hallway towards bright lights.

My sister was all of a sudden in the room with us and moments after rushing me in I heard her say "I see her head Erica! I see her head!".

And with a couple insanely intense pushes, we had our girl.

This tiny little bean. Sweet baby Chloe.

We called our parents just moments after she was born and they all trickled in to get some baby cuddles.

And after two nights of staying at the hospital, we were finally given the green light that we could take her home. So we started packing up our belongings and folding up our clothes when it really hit me. I held this sweet little girl in my arms, the most precious gift we could ever be given and I sobbed. 

Terry put his arms around me and without me even saying a word about why I was crying he said "I know...I know. I knew this moment of going home would be hard. And it is" and he kissed my tear streaked cheeks. 

Because he felt it too. The joy of bringing our baby home meant that the grief from the loss of her twin was all of a sudden so real again. When we once thought we'd be holding two babies that day in our arms and carrying two car seats down those hospital hallways, the grief from the loss of her sibling all of a sudden became incredibly raw.  

 So we took a moment to feel it as we held our sweet baby girl tight in our arms, and then packed up the rest of our things and headed for the car.

We made our way home where we were welcomed with cute little hand made signs, balloons and a lot of eager little people who couldn't wait to see their new sister and cousin.

**p.s. if you're pregnant, have you picked up one of these Baby Boxes? They're now available in Canada and when I was given one I honestly didn't think I'd use it--but now that Chloe is here we use is all the time. It's a box with a soft little mattress for the baby to nap in, and they fill it with all sorts of baby products for you to get started with your new baby. Just FYI.

And what would be better than newborn baby dolls for all the girls and new toys for the boys too for the day that Chloe came home. Thanks Nana! 

So life has changed around here. Life is full and busy, and tiring and great. It is full of kids who can't get enough time with their new sister--who beg to hold her all day long. Who kiss her constantly, who love on her all day long, who fight over who got to hold her the longest and who love to help with every last detail of caring for her.

We have 2yr old Sophia who gives us a play-by-play all day long of what Chloe is doing or what she notices about her....

"Chloe yawning...she sleeping...she crying...she SO tiny...she has little feet...she so little...she so cute"

But it's also a life now that is full of incredible sleep deprivation, a mom who is trying to heal her achy body, trying to keep everything afloat, keep meals on the table, keep up with mounds of laundry and cleaning and keep life moving for the kids.

Because that's just the life of a mom.

And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Love you sweet Chloe. Welcome to the family.

Erica xox

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