Back to Work: I survived. It was one hell of a week, but I survived. 

This past Sunday my sweet baby turned one. A whole year old.

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A year where the first 6 months felt never-ending as I navigated the unknowns of motherhood. And where the last 6 months felt like my entire life was flashed before my eyes, as I watched my boy learn, grow and develop into what would be a happy, hilarious and tiny toddler.

As I reflect on my year with Jack my heart hurts. There were so many moments I neglected to enjoy as I struggled with postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation. My heart also hurts because it’s beaming so much with love and pride, a hurt that can only be felt when you truly love someone more than yourself.

While sitting on my couch this Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. the memories from this year, both good and bad, flew through my mind like you expect your life to flash before death. Indeed, I felt like a piece of me was dying – more specifically, a piece of my heart. In only a few short hours I would be bringing my son, my one very true love besides my husband, to a facility –  leaving him in the arms of a stranger while I spend my day in a cubicle making money for The Man. My heart ached and I cried.

As if this wasn’t torturous enough – abandoning my baby – my mind also questioned how we would survive?

If you’ve talked to me about my son recently, you would probably know he doesn’t sleep. If you’re inside my close social circle, you’d know I haven’t slept longer than 2 hour stretches in the last 8 months. This is no exaggeration, and yes, we’ve tried pretty much everything. Returning to work meant not only giving up my necessary afternoon nap, but it also meant a stranger holding, consoling and rocking my baby as he struggled to sleep.

If you’ve talked to me recently, you’d know my husband and I are expecting our second child. Another little being, who we are elated to meet. If you’re inside my close social circle, you’d know I found out I was pregnant when my son was only 8 months old and I was battling some serious postpartum hormones. Returning to work meant putting myself another peg lower on the totem pole, and not fully healing before the arrival of our sweet baby bean.

If you talked to me this week, you’d know my first day back to work was an absolute shit-show. I began my day on 3.5 hours of sleep and ended it with a scene out of a horror movie – though now that I’ve healed, it seems more like a comedy show. I picked up Jack and we scurried home for dinner and snuggles. Not knowing exactly what he had eaten at daycare or how much he had eaten at daycare, I filled him with his favourite ravioli. Note to parents making this transition; ALWAYS ask your care provider when your child last ate and how much. When I picked Jack up out of his high chair, he instantly projectile vomited on my shoulder which went in my hair, down my shirt and made its way down my pants. In return, my disgusted and pregnant self couldn’t contain my dinner and joined him in emptying my tummy. Cue the dog –  who decided it was time for his dinner. Dave walked in to not one but two babies, crying on the bathroom floor, naked and covered in vomit…and a very happy dog.

It was then and there on that bathroom floor, after just one day of trying, I decided I wasn’t cut out for this whole working mom thing. I decided I wasn’t strong enough and I decided the only logical answer was to quit. If I quit I could continue to make home-cooked meals for my family,  take my naps,  fuel my son’s mind, grow my young bean, be a kick-ass wife for my husband and heal my very neglected soul.

As all these thoughts went through my mind, I remembered a feeling from that day I hadn’t felt in a year – the feeling of being a useful, intelligent, strong individual and woman. The feeling of being proud of myself for providing for my family, communicating as an adult, and inspired by things I’m passionate about (outside my family).

In reality, as hard as it is to crawl out of bed after a restless night of (no) sleep, drive my son to daycare and wave goodbye to him (and his tears) in the arms of kind and loving women, not all of this experience is bad . Parts of it are challenging while parts of it are refreshing – and I’m learning I’m capable of so much more than I’ve ever given myself credit for.

Although I’m only at the beginning of my short jaunt as a working mom (kudos to the mommies weeks, months and years into this journey), I’m quickly learning that with anything, balance is important and putting yourself first is priority. Moms are seriously wonder-women – but do you hear me here? Putting yourself first is priority. There will be days I’m going to call in sick because I need a day to calm my mind or play with my son, there will be days I’ll order takeout because I simply don’t feel like making dinner, there will be days Jack and Dave won’t have my full attention because my heart needs it more and there will be days, like this Tuesday, where I just want to quit.

Being a mom and a (pregnant) working mom is no easy feat. It takes time to adjust to new roles and routines but be kind to yourself, as I’m learning to do now. Life at home with Jack was hardly ever glamorous. We had our fun and I would jump back into that stay-at-home mom role in a heartbeat, but 5/5 days of the week Dave would always receive a subtle “when are you coming home” text when I was at the end of my rope. Neither being home with your kids all day or working full-time is glamorous.

Here’s a big (virgin daquori) cheers to you mommies, you bomb-ass-do-it-all-babes.  I’ll be taking notes from you as I dredge through this messy new chapter in my life and learn a whole new way to balance (I seriously was just getting the hang of having a kid).

 

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Pregnancy Update: 37 Weeks

WE DID IT!

Well folks, we did it! Today officially marks 37 weeks pregnant and we’re in the safe zone for delivery. New bets have been placed on when I’ll deliver (officially due August 16) and all to-do tasks are done! We’re ready!

Baby Stats

Baby boy has been measuring a week ahead of schedule and weighs (approximately) just under 7 pounds. He’s expected to gain half a pound per week until his due date. With three weeks left this could put him in the eight and a half to nine pound range. Pray for me.

Highlight from the Week

Bed rest is officially over. With an okay from my doctor, I was able to fulfill my maid-of-honour duties for one of my closest friend’s wedding this past (hot, hot, hot) Saturday. Baby boy was a champ and allowed me to party hard until 9:30 p.m. WOO.

Annmarie was a beautiful bride and her wedding left not one dry eye in the house. We’ve been friends for the last 16 years and to watch her marry the man of her dreams was truly a blessing. 20160723_204132

Mama & Baby’s Health

Yesterday morning I happily told Dave I hadn’t reached the “I feel miserable” stage of the third trimester.  Well, I jinxed myself and my body laughed at me. Everything and I mean everything started to hurt come mid-afternoon.  Getting back on my feet after being off of them for 6 weeks has introduced some new aches and pains but it’s nothing a good bubble bath can’t fix.

Overall, Pork Chop is doing very well.  He’s grown a little reputation for himself at the hospital as “the swimmer” (we’ve become well known from all of our visits). He’s always moving and grooving, making it difficult at times to take proper measurements – but a moving baby is a happy baby.

Cravings

Bring me all the watermelon and white flesh peaches!

New Symptoms

I really struggled with insomnia during my first trimester and it seems to have come back in full swing. If I’m lucky, I’ll score about 4 combined hours of sleep (between the tossing and turning and frequent bathroom visits). Despite all that I seem to be keeping my sanity and making it through the days fairly well with only one power nap.

I’ve also been experiencing loss of appetite and a ton of pain in my hips. Thankfully I have a kick-ass (and should I add, incredibly handsome) husband, who has literally gone above and beyond anything I could have expected.

On Saturday he offered to follow me around in an air-conditioned car while we snapped pictures outside for my friends wedding. He brought Popsicles, snacks and frozen bottles of water to ensure baby and I were well hydrated, well fed and avoided the dangers of the heat. Bless him.

That’s all for now – I expect my next post will be our birth story – so stay tuned and stay cool!

Thoughts on Pregnancy as it Comes to a Close

At this exact moment last summer my fiance and I were cruising down the highway with the windows down and fine wine sitting in the back seat waiting to be sipped on a dock at sunset – we were living the life. We were two mid-20 somethings in the middle of planning a wedding and buying our first home together. We had dreams about the life we were about to embark on as husband and wife, and a large part of that dream was to become parents.

This summer is a world different than last. Dave and I are married, we’re moments away from becoming “mom” and “dad”, and the spontaneous days of wine-filled weekends are only a distant memory.

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I’ts been a little while since I’ve put pen to paper…or keyboard to screen, if you will. I’ve been caught up in experiencing these new and different summer nights. Caught up in listening to crickets chirp at sunset, and sipping tea on the porch while my husband sips his caffeine. Caught up in anticipation for the arrival of our son. And most recently, caught up in my thoughts.

Pregnancy has broken and healed my heart repeatedly over the last 34 weeks.  It pains me greatly to admit that my pregnancy has been challenging and difficult but I have never carried my son without gratefulness, I have never stopped counting my blessings. My blessings extend beyond our son to our family and friends, who have rallied around us and provided us with an outpouring of love and support.

There have also been moments where people’s comments and questions have caught me off guard. Moments that have strengthened me and my ability to hold my composure when faced with great ignorance.

Although my pregnancy has been emotionally draining and although I’m scattering these words across a page while on bed rest due to an escape attempt by my son 9 weeks earlier than his anticipated arrival – I sit here in awe, in love and in wonder of the journey the last 8 months has taken us on.

From the moment two pink lines on a stick dissolved all my worries of ever carrying a child to discovering we were having son that may have a chromosomal micro-deletion, to tears we cried when we learned he was healthy and the fear that filled us when we learned he is impatient like his momma, to this moment right now, where I feel him roll and flutter and kick inside my body which has become his home. All of it has been surreal, humbling and life changing.

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Until my son started powerhouse kicking me in my ribs, squishing my lungs, and sticking his bum straight out of my belly, there were many things I hated about this miraculous experience.   I hated all the hardships we had to experience and I hated feeling out of control. However something has overcome me in the last few weeks. Maybe it’s the fact that my son could arrive at any moment or the lesson’s I’ve learned over the last 8 months – but I am so incredibly grateful for every lesson Dave and I have been volunteered to learn.

Last summer we thought we were living the life – but today, we are living our destiny. It may be without wine, it may be without spontaneity, it may be with my feet permanently kicked up and my child’s head so low in my cervix that I nearly cry every time I have to move, but this is where we’re meant to be. Every hurdle we had to cross – it was meant to be. Every tear we cried in fear – it was meant to be.

I really questioned whether or not I’d want to do this all over again, carry a child. Whether my 16x20 sunshine print yellownext pregnancy will be as difficult as my first – but one of my cousin’s wisely advised me that one day this will all be a memory, and my son will be my reality. I will hold him, I will love him, I will care for him, I will look at him in awe and know he is the reason I was able to survive. We know parenting will be filled with many more learning experiences that will challenges us, but as we grow closer to meeting the little boy who strengthened our relationship, strengthened our faith, strengthened our love for our own parents and grew our hearts, we grow more certain that he will be a force that will continue to better our lives each passing moment.

Pregnancy Update: Week 24 – Viability

Women live by milestones in their pregnancy and this week is a big one – 24 weeks is when a baby is considered to be viable, meaning if it was born at this time it has a reasonable chance for survival. The baby’s rate for survival will continue to grow at 2-3% per day until week 27, as baby continues to pack on the pounds and develop organ maturity.

Baby Stats

At 24 weeks I feel and look pregnant. This belly has officially popped. At least once a week someone will tell me how big my belly is and how gigantic they think Pork Chop will be (thank you by the way, both Pork Chop and I are flattered). All joking aside, Pork Chop has been growing in leaps and bounds and as of Friday weighs 1 pound, 6 ounces and is a little over a foot in length.

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Left: 11 weeks  Right: 22 weeks 

 

Highlight from the Week

At 24 weeks I’m able to tell the difference between the magic of pregnancy gas and the baby moving. And let me tell you, this kid loves to move. Pork Chop has literally turned my uterus into a dance floor and is constantly wiggling and kicking about. Not only has Dave been able to feel Porky’s powerful punches but we can actually see the baby move when we lay in bed at night. The baby’s movement has quickly made me love being pregnant. Keep in mind, pregnancy is demanding both physically and emotionally, so this feeling can change on any given day.

Each and every time Pork Chop gives me a nice big kick in the bladder, my heart literally explodes into a million pieces. It’s these special moments that calm my anxiety and make everything worth it.

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Louie has become very attached to me lately and is obsessed with his baby.

 

Mama & Baby’s Health

The active movement of the baby has kept me on my toes and landed Pork Chop and I in the hospital on Monday. Being a first time Mom I’m really not sure what to expect in a pregnancy and with all the high risk testing Dave and I have been through, I’ve been on high alert. Last weekend after a very active week in my belly, Pork Chop decided to take a three day hiatus from dancing. This stop in movement also came with cramping and with that, a very worried Mama. Although a baby’s movement isn’t consistent until 28 weeks, a quick call to Labour and Delivery validated my concerns. As soon as I shared my symptoms with the hospital, I was told to immediately head to the hospital’s prenatal clinic.

When I arrived at the hospital I became so overwhelmed with worry and the lack of parking that I sobbed in my car. Wooo, hormones! Once I was able to collect myself, I made my way to the prenatal clinic and was immediately hooked up to monitors. All of our records were transferred over from our high risk doctor and genetic specialist, and within fifteen minutes, we could hear baby’s very regular heartbeat on the monitor. I was soon released but had to return a few days later for additional testing.

The doctor’s at the hospital we’ll be delivering at have decided they would like to continue to monitor the small amount of fluid in Pork Chop’s brain but told us their concerns are minimal.

Cravings

Peanut butter and chocolate. I seriously can’t get enough of it, guys.

New Symptoms

Overall, I’m feeling great which is a big change from the first trimester. My emotions have started to balance out (I think a big part of this is being released from high risk care) and my energy is coming back in full swing. Three to four times a week Dave and I will spend at least an hour walking around our neighbourhood or a park. It feels great to get back into a routine and have enough energy to make meals for my man.

One symptom that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon is my dislike for meat. Most days I still border on being a vegetarian. In this regard, Pork Chop does not live up to their name.

Oh, and, my innie is now an outie, hollaaa.

Baby Purchases

We’re trying to keep baby purchases minimal and based on necessity. Although we haven’t made any recent purchases, we did set up Pork Chop’s nursery this week which still needs some art. Once our baby’s gender is revealed – in a month (yay!) – I’ll be doing a whole feature on the nursery, so stay tuned!

 

The Results Are In…

Dave and I are overjoyed to share that our sweet little Pork Chop has officially been cleared of all genetic/chromosomal conditions!!!!!!

Of all the times I’d love a drink to celebrate, this is it but instead, we’re going to treat ourselves to a round of ice cream!

There are no words to express the relief and happiness (happy is an understatement) we feel right now, which is probably why I’m sitting here blubbering away as I write this.

It’s always so much easier to be positive on the flip side of things, but faith, love and kindness from others kept us strong. If you’re currently going through a shitty situation, we pray you can find some light in your darkness.

Peace & love,

Annie and Davey

Why We Need to Stop Referring to Babies as Normal

As seen on the Huffington Post.

 

What is normal? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, normal is defined as usual or ordinary; not strange. In the same definition, Merriam-Webster’s adds normal is a representation of mental and physical health. In the concept of society, normal is defined relatively the same. Normal is largely based on how a person’s behaviour and appearance conforms with social standards. You are either “normal” and you fit into society or you are “not normal” and therefore do not. Until recently I placed little thought on the definition of normal and the injustice it serves for many members of our society.

It may be because I’ve been exposed to the sensitive nature of human normality, but I find fault in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defining normal by the mental and physical health of human beings. There is also fault in our society in the way we judge each other and categorize one another based on social norms. We live in a world that is so complex and filled with great difference. Differences that should be embraced and used as inspiration for kindness, generosity and understanding. A world where the term “abnormal” should only be used as a term to indicate results in medicine, not to define a human being. Even more so, not to define a fetus in limbo of a diagnosis.

It was only three weeks ago when my husband and I had our twelve week ultrasound with our first child. I watched my husband light up as he looked at the little life we created on a black and white screen. I clenched my husband’s hand with excitement, awing at our tiny baby’s nose. Little did I know I would rely on that hand only days later to be clenched as a result of panic and fear. In the days that would follow, we would anxiously be seated in our doctor’s office awaiting results we never anticipated to hear — that our baby had an abnormality.

 

The words used to describe this abnormality were as complex and scientific as they come. In medical terms, our baby had a thickened nuchal translucency. In more common terminology, the condition placed our baby at higher risk for genetic differences such as Downs Syndrome, and congenital heart defects. As quickly as the words left the tip of my doctors tongue, the tears were streaming down my face. I locked my eyes on my husband and plowed through an entire box of Kleenex as our doctor explained the tests we would have to undergo, doctors we would need to see and risks of our pregnancy. There were few words that stuck with me during that conversation.

We were sent home with a copy of our ultrasound. The top of the paper stamped with urgent in big, red, block letters, and the bottom of the ultrasound using the word abnormal to define our little 12 week baby.

In the days that would follow I would search the Internet to find expectant parents in a similar situation. To my surprise baby forums were flooded with parents whose baby had the same abnormality. The majority of mother’s discussed the tremendous amount of heartache they went through, only to find out that their baby would be born “normal.”

From the few people we shared this heart breaking news with, many wished us well and hoped that our baby would be born “normal” rather than healthy — and each time someone wished our baby be born normal, my heart ached. In one sense, I understood that their intentions were well-meant, but in another sense it was clear that if my child was born with physical or mental differences, my child would not fit into society’s definition of normal. In combination with the serious complications and medical issues that come along with Downs Syndrome, society viewing my child as “not normal” was not something I was ready to accept.

A team of genetics counselors prepared us for the worst possible outcome. We were forced to place value on the life of our child, and the value they would have in our world. I continued to imagine our little baby, who my husband and I created through love. A baby with innocence and purity. A baby who I loved without even meeting and continued to love despite the differences he or she may have.

After a grueling two weeks our baby’s DNA testing came back low risk for trisomy related chromosome conditions. Before we had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, we were told a second abnormality was found and we would require further genetic testing. My heart aches for my husband and I as we face this new path of unknown, but my heart also aches for the families who will become the statistics we fear. The family who will have to integrate their beautiful child into a society with a closed definition of normal.

If you know a family member, friend or coworker in a similar case of limbo, please do not tell them you hope their baby is born normal. Rather, substitute normal with the word healthy. It may seem like a small request to make but it means a world of difference to the people living this situation. The word normal is a shitty reminder that it’s not just good enough to be born healthy.

To everyone who has ever felt like they never fit in, who has ever felt like they were not normal, know: what makes you different makes you beautiful. Embrace your difference. Our world is a beautiful place full of many beautiful people. Placing a standard or status quo on what makes a person normal in our society masks the true beauty of all of our differences.

A Letter to My Body During Pregnancy

Dear Body,

We need to talk. I know you’ve come to learn that something foreign has been hanging out within your skin. It’s okay. I know it’s there – and it’s time to ease up, we’re growing a baby.

That’s right. A baby – not a virus, or a parasite. Just a human, that we need to grow… from pretty much scratch.

It may seem like a lot to ask, but hear me out. Women have been doing it for years.

Between the all-day “morning” sickness, mood-swings, and aversions to pretty much all of my favourite foods, I could almost swear you weren’t happy to be housing this little sea-monkey.

Mom’s have shared that you’ll eventually come around and give me a little bit of a break. But they’ve also shared that before long you’ll start attacking me again with sleepless nights, swollen feet, and leaky-breasts.

I’m here to ask you to be patient as we protect and grow this new love of mine. This is new for us. You’re changing in ways you’ve never experienced before (yay, boobs!) and you’re also supplying life to a very special little person. This is something to be proud of.

They say we will forget about all of this, after we go through hours of painful labour, and eventually push a 7 to 10 pound person out of our vagina. I’d like to believe them. Women often do this more than once after all.

One thing I do know for sure and can promise you, is whether we forget about this or not, the prize we gain at the end of this journey will be more than worth it.

So hang in there, body. You’re doing okay.

We have a 6 more months left to go, so it’s time to man-up and give it our all. One small request though – can you stop making me cry? My husband is starting to think I’m a little bit batty.

Love,

Your soul.