a state of want and the season of christmas

So I have a confession. I cried while watching The Grinch the other day. Like real tears streaming down my face. It happened during the scene where Cindy Lou's dad stands up for her after the mayor blasts her for ruining Christmas. It was as if I have never seen that scene before even though I've watched this movie every Christmas since it's been out. Am I the only one who one year, in their late twenties suddenly woke up out of a seeming state of sleep and went "this holiday feels like a joke"? Like, I don't know if it's having a kid of my own for the first time, or feeling a little extra frugal than usual, or living in a co-op amongst a community who value leisure and mother earth above possessions, but this year, I find myself getting more and more depressed observing all of the fussiness surrounding this season.

As I said to Lucas the other night over dinner, "I feel like a total Scrooge this year" -- I don't know what happened! I use to love everything about Christmas. But now I feel like Christmas is so basic; finding the perfect thing for your friends and family, wrapping it, taking selfies wrapping it (crop, filter, caption, post), waking up on December 25th to a full stocking, and a dozen presents to open and watch be opened, and moving along to later in the day to stuff our bodies full with sweets and fat, all in the name of "Christmas." It's like the more we talk about "the spirit of giving," the more I feel like it's a cheesy cop-out. The bigger companies have caught on to our sentimentality of the season and use it to sell us things and I feel like I'm being brainwashed to think it's all about a "spirit of giving" when it's actually just about spending more money on things we don't need for a temporary state of fulfillment and joy.

I reeeeeeally need to check my heart and spirit on this one. I know how bitter I sound. And don't be confused -- I am bitter. I think part of my difficulty with this season, is that the reality is my family doesn't have the means to go all out and 'spoil' (as they'd call it) each other. As I said, I think maybe part of my disgust with holiday consumerism is the fact that gift giving in our home is a few small doodads in each others stockings. I'm not trying to sound lowly or humble or meek. The reality is we spent a lot of money on our trip to Austin in the fall, and decided that would be our Christmas present. The reality is when you have to buy a new car seat, and have mini home renovations, and are saving up for a couch, you will sacrifice the thrill of gift opening on Christmas morning. So it's not that we don't have money, but just that we decided to use it in other ways. So partly, maybe I feel a little on the outskirts of what I would normally cheerfully join in on.

But I don't think that's all. I feel like part of my bitterness is justified. Part of my bitterness is bred from the desperateness that so many people in our world face and how that desperateness will still be there when they wake up on Christmas morning as I sit all cushy with my Baileys and coffee in my pyjamas by the tree with my family. Part of my bitterness stems from the waste; after all the stressing, and time, and energy is spent on going out, picking out, buying, wrapping present upon present, how much of it will be forgotten about. Part of my bitterness comes from wanting my son to grow up in a world where memories are more important than possessions, and not being sure if that's even possible at this point. I know this is totally the new mom in me, but I want him to embrace the knowledge that if it were not for Jesus entering in our world as a humble baby, we wouldn't have hope that extends beyond the material world. I just don't want to wake up 15 Christmas's from now as that mom who got so caught up in getting things for my kids that I forget about the mom who sits here two weeks away from Christmas 2015, penning a blog about how sad I find it is all becoming.

Please don't hear this as me criticizing people for getting presents. Honestly, like I said, I realize that a part of me is sorry for the fact I can't go out and spend buttloads of money on the people I love. Sharing is caring and it's wonderful and it's kindness and it can be a beautiful thing. This is just me venting. I'm mourning a loss of meaning in my Christmas's in the past, and I'm freaked out by the fact that I'm only really finding all of it more sobering than joyful at the age of 27. And I know I'm partly responsible for allowing myself to be compliant with consumeristic values. But it's so easy in our society because of the state of want that we live in -- especially in a city like Vancouver. It's like we want and need so much of the year, that our culture has tried to remedy it with Christmas -- "lets just have one month at the end of the year when we just buy tons of crap so we don't have to live in this uncomfortable state of wanting-but-not-attaining."

So maybe that's that. Maybe I cried watching The Grinch for the first time because being in a state of want this Christmas has caused me to think more critically about the ways I deal with those feelings of wanting. Maybe being in a state of want is right where I need to be more of the time - to bring me to my knees in realizing that what I really need is more moments like these; maybe we could all use more moments like the one The Grinch had when he heard the Whos in Whoville singing:

"He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more"

Merry Christmas, with Love from The Grinch


my top baby out of the ordinary "must-haves" and "don't-bothers"

yes, i know what you're thinking: why are all these posts about babies? and why does she think she can give us baby advice when she's only had one and he's still only 6 months old? ok well, for one, a huge portion of the content on my social media is about Casper, babies, sleeping, mommying, etc, because that's what my life is now! people blog and post about whatever they want. if they're into the gym, they post about that. if they're into veganism, or makeup, or marianas trench, they post about those things. i'm pretty into this human i am with (practically) 24/7 so imma post about it and you can unfollow if you don't care and i won't be offended. this just happens to be what is on my mind and heart right now. and as far as inexperience goes, i am totally with you! but i share things as they are fresh on my mind in hopes that they may be helpful to someone else. i don't claim to know very much at all, in fact having a baby makes me feel the opposite of that, but i can share with you what wisdom i've been graced with thus far while it's hot off the press.

our beautiful friends, matt and meaghan, are having their first baby this winter and, as she was building her registry, she asked me to share a few of my favourite must-haves. after i sent her the list, she said i should post it so that other expectant mom's may glean from it as well. (also a few things i wish i didn't waste my money on - you're welcome!) behold:

my top must-have's for the first 6 months

1. the D-link DCS-800L day & night baby monitor

got this idea from a friend of mine, super mom, kelley leil! super small and easy to use, this wall-mountable camera connects to an app on your phone so you can see your baby literally anywhere you go. other than the obvious benefits of being able to see and hear if your baby wakes up when you may be in the opposite end of the house, this means when you sleep-train your baby (if that's a thing you chose to do), you can literally watch your baby learn to self-soothe before your eyes and be amazed at how BRILLIANT your child is. and rather than burst into their room and wake them up in a panic-stricken moment when they've actually slept longer than 5 hours, you can quickly open your app when you want to check to see that they're still alive (i've, many a time, zoomed in on C's tummy to make sure it's going up and down). it's so handy. can come with you for overnighters. and for less than $100 you can't go wrong! can find at walmart or amazon.ca
ps. it came to my attention that some people may be worried about "creepers" who hack the camera and watch your baby and 1. why would someone want to watch your baby other than you? and 2. there are like a billion steps for getting it first synced with your phone so i truly don't think it would be possible for someone you don't know to hack into the camera. but i had to put the disclaimer for "con's" about this camera. 

2. conair sound therapy system 
don't waste your time and money with sissy sound machines that are so quiet. the point of a sound machine isn't to lull your baby to sleep (although it will probably help do that in the early newborn days - aka the "fourth trimester"). the point is that you can put your baby to bed and actually talk at a relatively normal decibel past 7pm without waking him up. can't tell you how many times we have dropped a pot doing dishes or the smoke alarm has gone off, and he doesn't even know because this thing is so loud. this machine has 10 sounds (and i'm pretty sure they threw the questionable ones such as "heart beat" in there just so they could say it has 10 sounds - i mean really how many sounds do you need?). we use the "running stream." it's nice and loud, and i think we've used it enough and for so long that now casper also associates it with sleep and bedtime which, once again, is awesome for sleep-training! (can you tell that we're sleep training right now? ha!) this literally plays all night and has become the soundtrack to our own dreams as casper's bedroom is right next to ours. can't complain - who doesn't want to sleep beside a running stream? you can pick this bad boy up at london drugs for a whopping $24.99. 

3. phil and ted's portable travel cot - "the only full size cot that's lighter than the baby!"
ok so let me preface this by strongly stating i have done extensive research on this. although most people boast that the bjorn travel crib is the best one out there, i'll give you some reasons right now why this one is way more worth your money. first, it's $100 cheaper. need i explain more. second, the newer design is way more sleek and much easier to use than the old phil and ted travel crib system - i've used both: once when i borrowed my friends, and after when we went and bought the new one. i can see how bjorn beat out p&t before but the newer one is super simple to install and pack up. thirdly, it's longer and narrower meaning, your kid won't grow out of it as fast. fourthy, you can carry it over your shoulder like a camping chair as opposed to in one hand like a briefcase. and lastly, and most importantly, if you ever plan on traveling by air with your child before the age of 3 or 4, you will want this travel crib as it fits as a carryon where as bjorn has to be checked as an additional piece of luggage -- there goes an extra $50 every time you fly return.
the benefit to the bjorn over the p&t is that it sets up way faster. but when i say "way" i mean you save approximately 4 minutes. i think you can handle it.
if you don't think that you need a travel crib, i'm just going to stop you right there and say that you're wrong. i didn't think we would need one either. when you're pregnant you're just trying to get through labor. and then as soon as they grow out of their bassinet you're like, how are we ever going to put him down for naps at friends houses, or stay the night at someone's house, or go camping? unless you literally never leave your house, you will need a travel crib and i would suggest staying away from traditional "pack and plays" unless you, again, like throwing your money away when you travel by air, or want to get a serious arm workout lugging around a 20lb massive child's bed everywhere you go. whatever you do, just get one really good travel crib. it's about as important as your stroller as they both benefit you by allowing you to be completely mobile with your baby. you won't regret it.

4. love to dream - swaddle up 
shoutout to casper for his modelling!
someone told me when i was pregnant that i absolutely must get one of these and i was like, hmmm, k bye felicia. i think it's because i thought it was gimmicky but guys. this swaddle is awesome! i've noticed that swaddling does tend to be a really personal thing. some moms swear by it and some moms say their baby hates it. this, i find you could do if either. casper did like to be swaddled, and tended to sleep better that way, but, like most babies, no matter how tight i made it, he always broke out of it and it made me nervous how it always ended up around his neck every morning! also once i tried this, i realized it has the benefits of swaddling (baby isn't stimulating their nervous system with reflexive physical movements, or waking themselves up by swatting themselves in the face) without the downside (baby can't self-soothe). this offered a happy medium where he could bring his fist to his mouth and not feel totally constrained, but wasn't constantly jerking around waking himself up. best of all, it always stayed on him. it was used as our "transition" into sleeping without a swaddle and really saved our butts. i remember the first time i put it on him, he was crying and almost instantly settled. these things are only $30 at west coast kids on main street. do yerself a favour and just get one and try it on for size.

5. weleda - calendula nappy change cream (aka bum cream) 
i've heard of some pretty badass (heh) butt rashes out there on babies and it's such a sin! honestly it's something that can be so easily avoided and a really high quality cream can provide so much relief to your little one. just spend the extra $8 or whatever it is and get this one. it is so sensitive on your babies skin and literally any time there was a bit of redness on casper, this would clear it up in one day after only a few diaper changes and applications later. it was such a life-saver! i actually like this product so much i'm looking into their line for adults as well (not for butt cream but for their facial skin care stuff. har, har. glad i clarified that one).

so that concludes my top major
recommendations. it goes without saying it's good to have a really great electric breast pump and hand pump but i wouldn't go spend $400 on a breast pump unless you have to (also i would recommend waiting and making sure that breastfeeding works out - it would be a shame to buy one only to end up formula feeding anyways! breast pumps are not usually refundable for obvious reasons). the best thing to do is borrow from one of your friends who won't need it for about a year and then buy the accessories in a kit on amazon. that's what i did. and you should get a hand pump as well for any time you don't have the convenience of plugging in a back-pack sized device.
also ask me if you would like a PDF of a good sleep training program. it's been handed down to me and it is probably the most clear and concise and arguably the most effective sleep training program for babies (especially once they're 4 months and up!)

my "wouldn't bother with these things" list is small but worth mentioning:

1. these soothers. 
cute, nice idea, but ew - they taste weird and they squeak (yes i've tried them)! and casper, along with his two friends west, and georgia, both hated these soothers. a soother that i've heard lots of people having luck with is the one piece nuk. but you might have to test run a few before you find the one your baby likes. let me know if you have had luck with these and i'll remove this product bash, but i think most babies like the texture of traditional soothers better. 

2. these things you put in car seats (or any kind of fluffy insert/sleep suit/onesie for the carseat). 
we had one of these and when the nurse was inspecting our carseat before we left the hospital with C, she told us that any type of padding between the baby and the carseat/harness can be fatally dangerous unless it is fully attached to the carseat itself (as in, stitched into the fabric). she said if you need to support a tiny newborn's head in the carseat, it is much safer to roll up two receiving blankets and place them on either side (not above or behind) their head. don't shoot the messenger! just saying what she told us and i subsequently have read multiple times on the articles that mom's always are posting to Facebook about carseat safety. i just wouldn't take my risks with something like that, y'know?! 

3. baby shoes. for the first little while.
i know how tempting it is. they're sooooo tiny and cute tiny versions of normally big things are the most tempting. however, it is simply not worth it. there are a few types of baby shoes out there on the market which are totally worth the investment (think minimoc-esque shoes that have the elastic band). if you're going to outfit your babies feet in something other than socks, it needs to be something that can go on easily, but also won't come off. so do some research! don't just buy size 3-month ugg boot knock-off's at TJ Maxx because they're cute. they won't be cute when you take 10 minutes to put each one on and they they get kicked off within 40 seconds. 


my advice for first time mom's [based on my extremely limited, yet fresh, knowledge]

whew! that was a RIDE. now that it's all over, i'm just going to lay out on the table some of my big take-aways for end of pregnancy, labor, and "fourth trimester" madness. i know from first hand experience how when you're pregnant, people like to smother you with well-intended advice and it can often come across as condescending and just plain annoying. i figured if i wrote mine here, then i can get it off my chest and not be one of those people. if you're here and you're pregnant having your first baby and looking for advice, well then, that's your choice! i'm not going to force anything on anyone -- but maybe some of these can help some of you out there with the many a'questions that pregnancy tends to bring up.

out of all the advice i received, here are my top things i either did do and am really glad i did, or didn't do and really wish i had've done!

i'm really glad i...
  • hired a doula. someone who is pregnant wrote me a message a few weeks ago asking if i would recommend getting a doula and i practically wrote a novel in response with my resounding YES. i remember when i was about mid-pregnancy, someone in my bible study trying to convince me that hiring a doula would be worth the money and me just sitting there so incredibly unconvinced. looking back, i don't know what i was thinking in my scepticism. our doula was a little bit of heaven when i was in labor and i would never want to do it again without one. if you're going to get one, make sure you feel you connect with her and that your values align. this is going to be one of the best, but also one of the most difficult, days of your life and your doula will play such an incredible role in it!
  • read and listened to lots and lots of stories. don't be afraid to talk birth -- it's all weird and gross and awkward, and some of it is scary too, but you're going to have to go through it eventually so just cut to the chase and make the most of it. ina may's guide to childbirth is filled with real birth stories of real women. each detailed story is so unique and so awesome. i also watched dozens of youtube videos of women giving birth -- lots of weird ones ha! it's ok if you watch one or listen to someone tell a story and it scares you - that's normal! you're going to do something you've never done and you have no idea what day it's going to happen or how it's going to happen and you know there are chances it could not go how you plan and that's crazy but it's all okay and the reason it's okay is because trillions of women have blazed this trail before us and we have them to inspire us that we can do it too! in my opinion, the worst thing you can do is just put it in a box in the back of your mind or shut yourself out from the possibilities. at the end of it, you get to be a part of the secret club of knowing what it's like to give birth and that's a pretty spectacular thing to look forward to. 
  • had a "plan" but not a P.L.A.N.. obviously you should go over with your doctor/midwife your options for different things (i.e. interventions) during the stages of labor and consider B.R.A.I.N. (benefits, risks, alternatives, instinct, nothing). it's good to know, and talk about, your options before you're pushing a baby out. maybe try to envision what your ideal birth might look like and have a "if this, then that" action plan. but i think many women who have been through it would tell you, try not to cling too tightly to your vision of your ideal birth. i know that's hard because when people told me that i was so annoyed. but your body has a way of doing what it wants to do, and no two birth experiences are the same so try to have a sense of flexibility and embrace that your story is going to be uniquely yours!
  • sex! had lots of it! especially near the end of your pregnancy it's good to have sex - everyone will tell you this. yes - it's great for getting things moving and softening your cervix. but more importantly - you don't know the next time you'll get to. so enjoy it while you can. 'nuff said.
  • didn't buy tons of baby clothes. people will give you tons of baby clothes (no they won't use your registry! ha, silly!). but also, your baby could come out a 5lb ragamuffin or it could come out a 10lb beast. my baby fit his heavier fall clothes in the heat of summer because he was just a little bit bigger than average and so he never got to wear many of those things. so try not to get too carried away with your baby's wardrobe before you know how big he/she is!
  • hired a lactation consultant. i think i was about a week into breastfeeding when i really accepted that things weren't quite working. the baby was gaining weight ok, but i was once told by a very wise woman that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. probably 90% of women i talked to said "it will hurt the first 6 weeks." however, i trusted the wisdom, and my instinct, that it shouldn't hurt. makes sense right? we've been doing it for eons and it's the most natural thing in the world! so when it began to become habitually painful for me and my sad nipples, i called shahrzad. she came over to our apartment for one hour and helped me learn how to get the baby in the right position so he could get a good deep latch on his own and the difference was night and day! if you find it painful, message me and i'll give you her number. it was probably the best $100 i ever spent!
  • introduce a bottle and keep it going. so glad someone told me to do this! although i adore breastfeeding, i, for one, couldn't imagine going the whole year being the only way he could get his milkshakes. i knew i wanted to do little weekends away from him here and there and was determined to make sure he could take milk from a bottle. at 4 weeks, breastfeeding was going well - there were no major red flags or issue with c's latch, so we gave the bottle a go! i would say, if things are not going super smooth with breastfeeding, to maybe wait it out a bit longer. but 4 weeks is apparently a sweet spot for many people and babies. try different bottles if the first one is a fail. and then, once you've found the right bottle and nipple, try to do one bottle a day every day after that. the baby may accept it the first time but then refuse it if you wait even a week or two before doing it again. we got into a good routine where lucas would feed casper his last bottle before bed, and i would pump for the next night's feeding before i went to bed. this way, the baby is use to someone other than mom doing the bedtime routine, and you can have that time to yourself to tidy or read or whatever you want! it's nice for dad to have a way to bond with the baby - because that can be tricky to do otherwise. also something about pumping a baby full of milk before bed seems to make them snooze just a little bit longer before the next feed - but i might be just making that up!

i really wish i...
  • did those damn perineum massages. (yes, that is a wikihow link. you're welcome). i probably had 5 people tell me to do this before labor. yes, they sound raunchy. and apparently they can also be a bit painful. but i think they could have saved me a lot of post-birth pain. think of it this way, you wouldn't go into a sprint without warming up your body first right? same thing.... basically...
  • organized a meal train for post-birth. everyone wants to visit you and see your baby and many people actually do want to help but don't know how to help or what to do. introducing technology and this website to help organize all of those things! it's so nice to have home-cooked meals (especially ones you can eat with one hand!) delivered to your door with a few awesome friends who want to hold and cuddle your baby. i didn't want to set this up because i didn't want to put anyone out of their way or make them feel obligated to do something, but really people will only do the things because they want to! and they're really all looking for an excuse to come over and squeeze your baby a bit. just do yourself a favour and start one - no one is going to think it's selfish or weird. 
  • had not focused so much on my due date. our prenatal instructor warned us of this, urging us to use the term "due-month" instead of due date and i did not listen. i think next time, i'm just going to tack on 2 weeks to my due date and if it comes earlier, then it'll just be a pleasant surprise. my doula told me to get really vague and say "it's a spring baby" so do that when you're asked what your due date is and leave people super confused. one of the many benefits is that no one will be hounding you with text messages such as "sooooo... how are you feeling?" when your due date starts to approach. 
  • trusted my body, trusted the process, and trusted my instinct. i know me saying this isn't going to magically make you trust in yourself. there is nothing that makes doing this easy or natural. but man, i wish i did. throughout my pregnancy, leading up to labor, and in labor itself. and even now as a mama. if i could just trust a little more, i could make this a lot easier on myself.
  • started a stockpile early. i'm going to end on this very practical note. start your stock pile of milk early. it takes weeks to get enough for days worth of milk so if you ever plan on leaving your ball and chain, start early. also pumping once a day every day from the beginning will be easier then starting three months in like i did because your body will respond to the demand with higher supply. if you place the order early when the baby comes, supply will stay high as long as you keep the demand there. just chose a rhythm and get grooving girl. or else you'll be like me, dealing with stinky formula farts after a weekend away with your husband. 
so i could write a conclusion here but i'd rather just leave on the notes of stinky formula farts. happy birthing!


being ok with the new us

fancy free - one week before finding out about C
Sidebar: I had been drafting something for lifeispleasing for the two-month mark of parenthood - a few little eye-openers about babies. But, of course, "something" distracted me and I never got around to posting it. However, my friend Lauren, whose baby girl Georgia was born the evening before Casper, did an incredible job summing up what I probably would have babbled on about for pages and pages. Check out her blog, Grown Up Party, here

It's no secret that having a baby was not part of the plan for Lucas and I at this particular stage in our lives and marriage. I always like to express this whenever I talk about having Casper only a few years into marriage. I use to be of the opinion that people who got pregnant young/early into the marriage were throwing the best years of their lives away - the DINK years. The years to dance, and travel, and have crazy nights filled with wild antics and meeting people and doing the things you'll never get to do once you finally do buy a house and have babies; the days to not be quite a grownup yet, but still getting to cash in on some sweet benefits of adulthood including enjoying a partnership with your best friend.

But now I am one of those people I secretly judged. We were only married a year when we found out about baby C. And although a part of me misses what we had during that first year, I am learning to embrace this shift in our lives and our marriage. Because while it has been a challenge and has, at times, brought out my absolute worst, being a parent has simultaneously allowed me to experience Lucas, and my life in general, in light of the kind of vulnerability only having a baby could have lead us to.

the day before we found out, we were enjoying DINK to the fullest
I've had moments in the past three months, where I'll look at Lucas from across the room after saying something nasty and short-tempered and immediately feel a pit in my stomach wondering how I let myself get to that place again. Instead of embracing him with a warm hug when he comes home from work, some days I greet him covered in dried spit-up, a messy ponytail, wearing only underwear and the same t-shirt I slept in, practically begging for him to take Casper because I am on the verge of losing my patience. While not everyday is this extreme, the days that are can really bring me, and us, down. And while we may have so much to check in with each other on to make sure that our marriage isn't taking a back seat to our baby, sometimes by the time we have a moment to chat, all we want to do is curl up in bed and pass out! I miss having so much fuel in my tank to give deserved love to a guy who works so hard everyday for our family. I miss feeling sexy and social and vibrant when there are lots of days I just feel worn down, messy, fat, and tired.

i was a little overwhelmed
But I do have to say that with all of the struggles and guilt, and stress and strain that having a baby has placed on our marriage, how incredible it's been to see our hearts, and attitude, and love for each other change for the better. There is nothing like the moments where the three of us are together - Casper being his usual weird self while Lucas and I are unable to contain our laughter and amusement with him. There is nothing like seeing Lucas come out of the bedroom after an hour of patiently bouncing an over-tired baby to sleep - pure relief and satisfaction! There's nothing like being told I'm the most beautiful woman in the world when I have bags under my eyes and haven't shaved my legs in over a week, because I know he doesn't see me with the same eyes that he use to see me with. Everything about our lives just became a little more complicated. But in the shift, has there also entered a deepness and rawness with each other like I didn't even know was possible. The hugs are different now; the cuddles are different; the I-Love-You's are different, now that we have a baby. Nothing has opened our hearts to one another, nothing makes me enjoy the simple things about our marriage, and truly nothing has made me love this man more than Casper joining our lives. I can't possibly think of a better team-building exercise that could have strengthened us as a unit more than having a baby together. We're not the same us that we were in the first few photos here, but I'm really ok with the new us.
still fancy and over the moon for each other. c, not so much.

This is still just the beginning of a journey for the new [parent-version] us. Happy (late) 2nd Anniversary to the man of my heart, the father of my son, my ride-or-die, partner in crime, perfect-puzzle-piece-of-a-match, Man. Happy one year anniversary to us on the day we found out we would be parents. Casper, thanks for coming. You have been the best surprise we didn't know we wanted and a source of inspiration now and for years to come.


what casper's first month has taught me about my self-love

Becoming a mom has exceeded my expectations for both the good and the bad. I remember nearing the end of my pregnancy and having moms caution me to "enjoy it now while you still can" and I really didn't get it. Isn't having a baby the greatest joy of life? Yes, I know it's hard but doesn't the bliss make up for the challenges? After 9 months of pregnancy I came to accept it and was prepared for a good challenge anyways. I typically would tune out these enlightening voices that would heed me warnings about how I'll never sleep again or watch a movie again or eat again.

Obviously every mom's experience is going to be so unique (and that's part of what makes this whole thing so difficult too). Along with warnings of the challenges of momming, many women also warned me about labor. I found my experience to be really different than they made it out to be - in the best way! So it's possible, then, that lots of moms really do find it a fun and adventurous challenge when their baby finally comes along. If, in the past month, you've asked me how everything is going, you've likely received my go-to answer which is that being a mom is 100x harder and more challenging than I could have ever prepared for and that, if it could somehow ease the difficulty, I would go through labor again a few more times. This is a far cry from what I expected myself to be saying during my first four weeks with Casper: sentiments like "I am totally blissed out and love being a mom" and "I love him so much I cry about it every day." Oh, yes, I am crying. But not always happy tears and because I'm bursting with love. Much more often, tears of desperation and because my hormones are bouncing from one extreme to the next.
Danaea Li photo

Typically, the feedback I receive is in reference to the lack of sleep many moms experience in the first few months: "Oh yeah, it's so exhausting -- make sure you sleep when the baby sleeps!" But for me, my struggle has less to do with the lack of sleep and more to do with the sinking feeling of losing my freedom. Nothing in this world could have possibly prepared me for how a baby would make me realize how incredibly tight I hold on to, and nurture, my love of myself. No one could have convinced me, before having Casper, the extent of which I love to love myself. If I haven't learned anything else this past month, I have certainly learned how selfish I am.

When Casper is working "according to my schedule" - i.e. when he goes for a nap and stays like that for 3 hours so I can shower, or wash the dishes, or write a blog entry, or when I take him out and he's peaceful and I can contentedly stare at the sun or catch up with a friend over coffee - when those things work out, I am like "hell yeah, I love my angel baby!" But when Casper interferes with my time and my "plans" and I can't figure him out - i.e. when he stays awake from 3 until 10 no matter how hard we try to coax him to sleep and I can't even sit down and eat a proper dinner with Lucas for an entire month - it really feels like Casper is "inconveniencing" me. I know that sounds bad. And it is. He is just a simple baby with simple needs: food, boob, me, and sleep. It doesn't feel good to admit that I sometimes look upon him like he is interrupting my world. He did nothing to deserve that emotion be felt towards him.

Danaea Li photo
So needless to say, I've had to have a major shift in my mindset. Everyday I pray for grace and pray that I may cheerfully view my day as a Casper-day where my needs may get fit-in somewhere instead of a me-day where Casper's needs get fit-in somewhere that works. I resurrect the simple, yet powerful, statement I heard everyday as a camp counsellor from our camp director, Greg: "Be Amazing Today!" Greg encouraged us staff that when we are sick or exhausted or have a bed-wetter or family drama or camp relationship drama (ha!), that it all takes a back-seat in lieu of the one magical week our campers are there to experience. His urge to us was that our physical and emotional needs as camp counsellors were to get put to the side every hour of every day so that we could give 100% Amazing to our kids. I never thought about how much that would return as the same attitude I need to have as a mom.

Today, on Caspers one-month birthday, I am so grateful. Not grateful for a perfect text-book child who runs like clock-work. Because that ain't Casper. But grateful for how my little peanut has opened my world up; for how he's taught me about this massive weakness I carry around. I always had it in me but never the opportunity to come face-to-face with it in such a real way. I'm grateful, as well, for the forgiveness I receive when I am unable to look at the task with cheerfulness in my heart. He still wants to come to me when he cries and smiles at me when I sing to him or talk to him. He is God's grace on my unworthy attitude and for that, I am eternally and altogether grateful.


casper david's debut

Throughout my pregnancy, and especially in the last few months, I was eager and interested to hear birth stories. I don't just mean the ones taken from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth of women birthing without fear; I mean all birth stories. The "scary" ones didn't really scare me the way that some people warned me they would. I think there is something so beautiful about how every person's story of how they arrived here is so different and so unique and I love listening to mothers re-live the day they met their precious babies. This past week, our first week with Casper, has been such a whirlwind and I want to make sure I remember details from the day he finally greeted us so I thought I would share in a post on a blog that doesn't really get much use anymore. It's a story of learning patience and grace and gratefulness for my body and it's one I am so encouraged by - I hope you are too. Here is my birth story for Casper David Lawrence, born Tuesday, April 28th, 2015. It's a long one cause it was a long process - you've been warned.

Saturday, April 25th, daytime:

This was a particularly difficult day for me to be overdue with Casper. It was a beautiful day outside but I was sore and tired and just needed space to mope so I wasn't enjoying it. At 10 days past my due date, there were no signs of distress in either me or Casper -- fluid levels were great, the non-stress tests showed Casper's heart activity was as it should be, and I rarely went an hour without feeling him moving and kicking away which was constant reassurance that he was still happy in there. I didn't have a great reason to be upset. But at my 41 week appointment, my cervix was still high, posterior, and closed. Additionally, at the amniotic fluid checkup I had two days later, the tech made a remark about how the baby didn't even slightly drop yet, which she claimed normally happens around 38 weeks. With each passing day with no signs, my hopes that my body was going to naturally go into labor were dwindling. I felt pulled between the wisdom from childbirth pioneers like Ina May to trust my baby and my body, and the practical advice from others that I should consider being induced for fear that my placenta will essentially shut down and stop nurturing the baby. It wasn't that I was so tired of being pregnant -- but more the idea of having to make this important decision once if I made it to the 42 week mark. Do I wait or do I induce? I certainly didn't want to put my baby at risk but I also wanted to heed the wisdom that my body will do what it needs to when the time is right. I started to feel some very mildly painful tightenings that day and spent a large part of my afternoon on the patio with my journal just asking God to bring me peace about not knowing, to forgive me for not trusting, and to help me, in these times of confusion and frustration, to continue to trust in his goodness. After all, all I truly wanted was for my baby to be safe and in my arms. That's the perfect ending to any birth story and one that dimmed the importance of the means to how we were to get there.

Saturday, evening:

Lucas and I decided to take in the final Canucks vs. Flames playoff game. We went to the nearby pub, Hyde, since we don't have cable. When we got there I went to the bathroom and to my surprise, I lost my show (click with caution - it ain't sexy), which gave me great excitement and so much hope! It didn't mean that I was in labor but it was a sign that things were moving -- and it was God's nudge to me that I needed to give up my illusion of control. I came out of the bathroom and, with tears welling in my eyes and a huge smile, I whispered to Lucas as discretely as I could the update. Because we took the prenatal course together (best thing we did!), he too knew that this could mean things were in motion. Once the Canucks pulled their goalie and the Flames scored on an empty net, I was over the game and wanted to go home especially now that I knew I might really need the rest.

Sunday, April 26th:

In the morning when we woke up, the mild contractions I was experiencing Saturday started to get a little more intense and a little more frequent. Still, we decided to go to church and go on with our day, running a few errands and spending time playing scrabble and making food with my mom who is visiting from the East Coast. Meanwhile, I was still experiencing the mellow tightenings and beginning to need to breathe through them a little more thoughtfully. I didn't want to get too excited so, at the time, I didn't admit that I was in early labor but looking back, I totally was. By dinner, the contractions had really slowed down, almost completely stopping altogether. I thought to myself "must have been false labor" but by bed time, they were in full force, and I was only sleeping between them waking every 8-12 minutes to breathe through these powerful tightenings. Labor really rarely is not how it is in the movies! Lucas would occasionally wake up from my achings and ask me if I needed anything. I didn't. I just was excited this was moving along. I told him to text his boss that he wouldn't be able to come to work on Monday.

Monday, April 27th, daytime:

This day was similar to Sunday just with slightly more intense contractions and things picking up a bit more. By mid-day, it was more difficult to continue conversations or walk through them. We decided to go for a late-afternoon stroll down in Olympic Village. Lucas packed some snacks and we walked around -- me stopping every few minutes to ride out the contraction. It was funny to be in labor in public but I didn't care. It was fun. In between contractions we entertained light conversation and joking around and thanking God. Things had been remaining the same for about 4 hours so I called Renee from Acumamas to see if I should get her to come over for a home visit to give me some points to get things moving. Her advice surprised me: she advised us to go home, have a bath and a small glass of wine and pop some Tylenol to try and slow things down to get some rest. Her suspicion and gut feeling was that labor was going to go full speed ahead by the time it started to get darker outside (apparently that's a thing?!). I was hesitant for fear of disrupting the process, but trusted her advice. I came home and spent 45 minutes in the tub to get contractions 15 minutes apart and Lucas and I laid down in bed, me with the TENS machine attached to my back, and slept between contractions for about 2 hours.

Monday, 8pm:

When we woke up, we decided to get things moving doing all the things they say-- lunges, stairs, sex (like you needed to know that), and an interesting series of poses called the Miles Circuit which is great to get the baby in the correct position. By the time we were done, I was undeniably in labor! My contractions were becoming more intense and closer together.

Monday, 9:30:

Lucas made a snack -- my favorite munchies like crackers and cheese and cut up apple and carrots and hummus. We watched some of episode 2 of Netflix's Chefs Table and Lucas was in charge of pausing it when I was having a contraction - I was at the point where I couldn't handle the stimulation! In between them, I was as happy and chatty as ever. I definitely was noticing the waves of contractions and how they intensified and then mellowed out -- they would get more intense for about 3-5 contractions and then taper off in intensity as my body was responding to the pain with its built-in endorphins. The body is such an amazing thing. Lucas kept asking how I was doing, and I kept responding with, "you can handle anything for one minute" which was wisdom I reaped from many Bar Method classes (and also Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt who says you can do anything for 10 seconds... ha!). No matter how intense a contraction was, after it was over, it was the best feeling ever. And even during the contraction, it was only truly unbearable right in the middle as it was peaking which was maybe all of 15 seconds of it.

Monday, 11pm:

I could no longer watch Netflix and was trying to stay active and moving around at this point. Anything sitting or lying down was horrible. Lucas suggested we call the doula as he was running out of tricks for me.

Monday, 11:30pm:

Marie, the doula, came over and it was a game-changer! Throughout each contraction, she continued to apply pressure on my low back/tailbone area, she set up a great little seating position on the birthing ball with my upper body drooping over a huge stack of pillows on a chair, and started getting me to breathe lower into my abdomen with low-toned noises. I had hoped I wouldn't sound like a cow mooing during labor, but that's exactly what I sounded like and it totally helped and I totally did not care. Lucas went to rest for a few hours as Marie helped me through the new stage of labor. She massaged my whole body and in that few hours, I was so grateful we decided to hire an RMT Doula. What a massive blessing! Lucas says that before Marie arrived, it sounded like I was enduring the contractions, and after he woke up from his nap, that I was conquering them.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2:45am:

Marie had been writing down my contraction times and durations, and we finally decided to call Cora, the midwife. The time had come. I reported to Cora (my actual hero) all about the past few hours and she said she would be over in a bit. I woke up Lucas to tell him the midwife was on her way. When she arrived, she observed me through a few contractions, had a listen to the heart beat, and took my blood pressure. We decided to go into the bedroom so she could examine my cervix. I was nervous this would be a bad report - that my cervix would still be pretty closed. However, at this point in time, I really  began to trust the process and whatever decisions my team would be helping me make. I was so relieved when she reported that if we wanted to make our way to the hospital we could -- I was 4-5 cm and, as she said, in the beginning of active labor. Marie geared us up for the ride by helping to make sure I would be comfortable in the truck. She sat in the back with me and kept applying pressure every time I would have a contraction. I only had to endure about 3 or 4 in the truck - thank goodness. It was horrible. Lucas dropped Marie and I off at the entrance and went to go park the truck. I was registering myself in at the desk as Cora tried to finagle us a room with a tub. I had told her earlier that I was interested in water birth although I hadn't fully decided that would be my route yet. I met my nurse, Alyssa, who lead us to, as I like to refer to it, the honeymoon suite of BC Women's & Children's. It was so big with a shower and a tub with both sides open. It was so beautiful. The nurses and staff kept commenting that I didn't seem like I was in labor due to my calm and chatty disposition. It made me feel powerful and at peace.

Tuesday, 4am:

my mom helping me through my transition
We filled up the tub and I got in it to labor for a bit as Lucas put on the new Sufjan Stevens album and the the doula dimmed the lighting in the room -- it was honestly so peaceful. The team just kind of sat around and let me do my thing and Cora even took a lunch break. I had a little massage spikey ball which I would squeeze between my palms during contractions. Lucas also sat beside the tub and I squeezed his hand lots. The warm water slowed things down so by the time the water had gotten cold I got out and we decided to do some walking around the unit to pick up the pace. Alyssa gave us the grand tour -- probably her attempt to distract me. It was around this time my mom showed up and I was so happy to see her! It wasn't a part of the "plan" to have her there for the labor but it just worked. Marie showed my mom how to apply back pressure to me so she was able to help me through a few contractions. It was such an experience to have my mom there since she's never experienced labor herself. Around the same time mom showed up, I decided to do something wonderful -- happy gas! During contractions, I would just inhale and exhale. They warned me that some people feel dizzy or nauseated from the gas, but I felt neither. The small trance it put me into, along with Marie and my mom's pressure applied to my low back, made my transition so smooth and manageable. It was exactly what I needed. At this point, Lights acoustic album was playing.

Tuesday, 6am:

After a particularly difficult contraction, I asked Cora at what point do we know when it's time to push and she responded that she would examine my cervix in about an hour to see where I am at. I had one more contraction, and knew in my heart that an hour was too far away -- I asked if it would be possible to check now. Lucas, my mom, and Marie all left the room. I continued to inhale the happy gas as Cora examined my cervix and I was vaguely listening to her and Alyssa nonchalantly chatting about my cervix and the progress of the baby's descent. She reported to me that my cervix was gone -- it was time to push. As I reached for the gas, Alyssa pulled it from my hand and broke the terrible news to me that I wasn't allowed any more gas. It was go time.

Tuesday, 6:30am:

Lucas came back in and mom and Marie stayed outside. I only wanted a few people there for the pushing. I changed into my nighty I brought so I could push without having everything exposed and in the open. Lucas and I were hugging and I was crying and telling him that I was afraid. I was! I had no conception of getting this far and hadn't really gone there in my mind yet. I tried the squat bar on the bed for a little while and I remember my first contraction when I was instructed to push, I had no idea what I was doing! My pushes were so weak and I didn't know how to bear down yet. Being as I'm a pretty private person, I wasn't really feeling the squat bar as I felt too exposed. Yes -- things like that actually crossed my mind at this point! Ha! They told me to try the toilet (ok TMI for some people but it's apparently a great place for many women in labor as the feelings can be... similar to what you normally do on there. You get the idea.) It was here that my water finally broke (hooray! And no mess to clean up!) but I didn't like being on the toilet either. I knew I wouldn't be delivering the baby there and I wanted to get comfortable wherever I would be finally pushing out the baby. I also felt the ring of fire here and remembered a few times hearing that water birth can really help ease the burning sensation on your perineum. I told the team that I wanted to do a water birth. Lucas was instructed to run the water and I headed back into the tub.

Tuesday, 7am:

I was in the tub alone for a bit pushing kind of on all fours when Cora asked me if I still wanted Lucas to come into the tub with me. I forgot I had even mentioned it to her. I looked at him and saw the pure terror in his eyes at the idea but I knew that with him, I would be so much stronger. I knew also that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both of us to experience something so insane together. I said yes and he put on a brave face along with his swim shorts. We sat with him behind me, my back to his chest, and I pulled against every push on the backs of his thighs -- it really felt like we were doing it together and I praise him now for his tremendous effort even though he
wasn't really doing all that much. It was here that I began to truly doubt my body -- can I do this? Can this baby actually come through me? During contractions, I needed the constant cheering of the midwife to really motivate me to use all my strength to push. And as I recovered between contractions, the nurse, who was a new one at this point named Cara, my midwife, and Lucas just kept telling me what a phenomenal job I was doing. It was gold to my ears. It was everything I needed to hear and more. I trusted and ate up every word Cora spoke at this point as she said "this is going to feel really intense and it's very normal -- everything is going beautifully and you're doing such an amazing job!" I started to trust in my body and in the circumstances. This is when my mind really left my body and I truly let my body take over. Nothing matters anymore -- not how ugly your push face is, not how your husband has never seen your lady parts like this before, not how loud you are. Casper's heart rate was being continually monitored and stayed at at steady 140bpm the entire time. The nurse kept saying "your baby is doing so well and is so happy!" Cora asked me to reach down and touch the baby's head as I pushed so that I could sense the feedback of him slowly poking out with each push and then sucking back in after. It was weird for me! I can't say I loved it but it did make me smile when she told me Casper had hair and I could feel it. I made a joke that his fuzzy head will make up for his dad's receding hairline.

Tuesday, 8am:

I was started to feel impatient -- I wanted to know the baby was crowning or something so I could feel close to the end but I was afraid it might still be far away. Because the length of time between contractions was getting longer, Cora asked Lucas to do nipple stimulation on me and he agreed to it. It sounds weird but it really helped move things along! I could feel my perineum moving outwards as the baby descended. Cora told me that because my perineum was particularly strong and thick, that it wasn't stretching as easily as it normally would be. I actually requested an episiotomy (I was in a hurry to meet him at this point!) and luckily, my midwife knew that I did not truly want one and kind of deflected my request. She said that the baby coming down and then back up was helping with the stretching and that it would be fine. I knew that meant I was probably going to tear, and just hopefully it wouldn't be too bad. With Casper's head crowning, holding on to the backs of my own legs now, I exclaimed "I don't think I can do this" and they kept reassuring me I could and I would. Lucas even had the nerve to say "this is the only way" which I didn't want to think -- I wanted to think there could have been some way out. But I knew he was right. I could hardly wait for the next contraction to push my baby out so I wouldn't have this burning feeling any longer and I could finally hold my son!

Tuesday, 8:28am:

With the next contraction, I pushed out Casper's head and with one final breath and push at the very tail end of it, his body. The feeling of the baby coming out is so incredible -- he almost shot out like a cannon.
the face of pure relief

Cora lifted Caspers slippery little body out of the water as Lucas and I scootched ourselves upright in the tub as she placed him on my chest. He was plush and soft and lovely and, as he cried and coughed up water, I couldn't do anything but stroke and kiss Casper and thank God in complete awe and wonder. He cried for about 15 seconds and then looked up at Lucas and I as if to question if we were the ones he was looking for. Everything was right.

My birth experience with Casper ended up being beyond my expectation and imagination. I can say with whole-hearted honesty, that it was not painful the way I thought it would be. It was purposeful and powerful and, yes, it was intense, but it was intense in such a different way than, for example, the way peeing is now intense (ouch! Yes I tore in two places as suspected). It was supernatural really. I can truly say I've never looked at my body with such respect, love, and appreciation. A big part of my story was learning to trust -- trust myself, my gut feelings, my body, and God.

Even though it was slow to respond and kept me guessing, my body did pull through in the end. And I had the longest early labor ever but I credit that to how well I was able to cope with the pain near the end. I am so beyond blessed for my story of how Casper got here. Our birth stories are uniquely ours, and they are so special.

I hope you share this story with anyone who has gone a week or more passed their due date and feels discouraged. A story like this one on that Saturday morning would have gone a long way in making me feel confident and assured so I hope it gives someone else a similar sense of positivity!