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The Happy Tech

February 21, 2017 — 7 Comments

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Just over two years ago, I went for an ultrasound.

I was nearly 8 months pregnant with my son, Connor, and things were going exactly as they should. I was round, I was comfortable, I was excited. This ultrasound‚ÄĒa purely precautionary measure recommended by our midwives after a very slight fender bender‚ÄĒwas to be done at the walk-in clinic just minutes from my house. The clinic was, as almost all walk-in clinics are, unremarkable. Beige and windowless, never without the pall illumination of fluorescent lights overhead.

But when I think back to that ultrasound, I don’t remember the beige or the bland. I remember the Happy Ultrasound Technician. He was a small man, with wirey hands and thinning hair, but his eyes were bright, and his smile was big. From the moment the ultrasound began, The Happy Tech beamed. While the whole process was old hat by then‚ÄĒbrace for the cold gel on my stomach, place the pillow in the small of my¬†back‚ÄĒ¬†the man beside made that beige room light up.

“A Christmas miracle!!” He said.

“…Oh gosh, I hope not!” ¬†(I was, after all, a good month from my due date).

“Even better then!¬†A New Year’s baby!”

“Haha,¬†let’s hope.”

“Such a blessing, such a blessing.”

Looking back, he didn’t diagnose anything, of course. That’s not what ultrasound techs do. But his warm congratulations, the way he ushered me out of the office, and his parting smile as I went on my way, reassured me that all was well. And it was.

I remember telling Matt about The Happy Tech. Commenting on his sweet demeanour, grateful for his pleasant presence. But the cynic in me had to wonder, just a little, why he was so happy. Was it his first day on the job? Did he have a baby coming himself? Maybe he just got a raise! Or ate a really good breakfast?

Nearly two years to that day, that question got its answer.

On January 3, the Happy Tech conducted a very different ultrasound. He did not greet an 8 month-expectant mother. He did not see a soon-to-be-born baby summersault across the screen. And he did not talk of Christmas miracles.

Instead, he greeted an 8 week-expectant mother. And things went very differently. He had to look closer, and search longer than he expected for what he wanted to find. In the end, he could only note not where things were, but where they should have been. He offered no blessing. He gave no smiles. He only looked away, as the woman beside him barely disguised the panic in her voice.

“…but everything is OK, right?”

“I…well…you¬†will¬†have to discuss the results with your doctor.”

He could not wish her well. He could not smile. He could only go back to his office, and listen to the muffled sobs of a confused conversation between the woman and his receptionist.

“But…when will I know?

The Happy Tech was not happy that day, of course, because he already knew.

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1in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. These are the statistics you never bother to learn until you join the ranks of the 1. And only once I had, did I realize that that technician must encounter anxious eyes and empty screens almost as often as he does the opposite. At first, this made me tremendously sad. Comparing our happy meeting with the one that confirmed our miscarriage only heightened the sense of loss.

But that¬†is¬†not what it does for The Happy Tech, and that’s not what it’s done for me since.

Because here is what I’ve realized: It is only because of the darkness he must encounter, and the heartbreak he must bear witness to, that he is able¬†recognize the¬†wonder¬†when he sees it.¬†On that day two years ago, as he caught a glimpse of Connor rolling around the screen, he¬†knew, more than I did, that the ultrasound¬†monitor¬†was a window¬†into something miraculous: a mystery, a¬†marvel, a¬†blessing.

Of course our miscarriage broke our hearts. Of course it altered the vision of our family. Of course we¬†grieve it still. But as I do that, I¬†will try, everyday, to be a little more like The Happy Ultrasound Technician. I will not be defined by the dark days, instead, I¬†will freely talk of miracles when I see them. I will¬†fervently thank¬†the Lord for grace he’s already bestowed.¬†I¬†will recognize the blessings in my life and remind myself to not take them for granted, not for a minute.

I will try, as he did, to make even the beige rooms bright.

 

 

The Lion Coat

January 26, 2016 — 2 Comments

Hand-made Coat from Tulip and Bunny // Julie Van Can

Hand-made Lion Coat from Tulip and Bunny // Julie Van Can

Hand-made Lion Coat from Tulip and Bunny // Julie Van Can

Ok guys. I promise, when I rebranded, it wasn’t to sleathily convert this blog into a mommy blog. I PROMISE.¬†But, I do recognize that¬†between¬†this post and¬†the one previous, I’m dancing¬†dangerously close to that edge of mommy-blogdom. Much like Mufasa dangling over the edge of that fateful wildebeest-surrounded ridge. It’s just, THIS COAT. HOW CAN I NOT POST EXCESSIVE PICTURES OF THIS COAT? IT HAS EARS AND A¬†TAIL. LIKE YOU WOULDN’T DO THE SAME.

Woof. Okay. I’m sorry. Coats with ears launch me into caps-lock mode. Anyways, about this coat: This is the coat that Aunt Robyn made¬†from an old wool blanket.¬†Robyn is my dear eldest sister, and she’s amazing. She makes things – beautiful things, and this coat is among them. Robyn is Chief Proprietor and Head Sewer in Charge over at the shop Tulip and Bunny. (Insta here, Etsy here). She’s currently testing some patterns for Big Little, a pattern¬†shop, and this coat is the result. AND she’ll make you one if you want! I truly don’t know how she does it.*** Like, literally. I don’t understand. She has four kids at home. ¬†One is still a tiny baby. Whaaaaaaaaaaa? (That is both the sound of me saying a prolonged¬†“what?” AND the sound her tiny baby makes.)

Hand-made Lion Coat from Tulip and Bunny // Julie Van Can

Hand-made Lion Coat from Tulip and Bunny // Julie Van Can

Anyways, Connor turned 1 this past weekend, and the gift of this coat is just one of the many wonderful ways our family and friends showered this little man with love. I cannot believe I have a one year old. Like, he smoulders.¬†How did that happen? One day he’s a little baby burrito and the next day he looks like he could be on the cover of Baby GQ. Geez! The circle of life! I could launch into caps-lock mode about it all over again but I think this post has enough of it. I’ll lay off the SHIFT key.

Happy birthday little lion man. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

(…oops)

***When I texted Robyn to tell her I took some photos, she said she’ll look when she’s home from McDonald’s. So, that¬†answers¬†how she does it. That’s how we all do it, #amiright?

1.You will grab your lunch from the fridge, because you prepared it the night before. It will be delicious and well-balanced. It will hit every major food group. There will be a microwavable component. It will involve no less than three tupperware containers in varying sizes. It is the only lunch of this kind you will ever eat.

2. You will spend a¬†long¬†(too long) amount of time planning out your child’s outfit. He will, for the first time in his 11-month long life, be wearing matching socks.

3. You will wear a black blazer. It will be a black blazer you have scarcely worn before. It will make you feel very professional. You believe it will announce to all your colleagues that you are now very serious because you have a black blazer. If they have any questions, they should just ask the blazer. The blazer is in charge.

4. You will be early, so early, to drop your child off at daycare. You will smile too much at his caretakers to mask your intense panic and distress at the insane speed in which time passes. You will go to your car, and have a tiny cry.

5. You will get to work on time.

6. You will notice a run in your nylons. There will always be a run in your nylons.

7. You will walk right passed the coffee kiosk on the wall to your office. You will not buy a muffin because of your¬†delicious, well-balanced lunch. You will notice, though, that they added new flavours since you’ve been gone. You will try to banish the words “Chocolate Raspberry” from your mind.

8. You will joke with all your colleagues about how your daycare has a webcam and WOULDN’T IT BE SO SILLY TO WATCH YOUR KID ON A WEBCAM ALL DAY WHO WOULD DO THAT NOT ME OBVIOUSLY.

9. You will try to login to the webcam.

10. You will unsuccessfully try login to the webcam.

11. You will demand that your husband, who has successfully logged into the webcam, text you screen shots of your child on the webcam.

12. You will do some work.

13. You will, at long last, log into the webcam.

14. You will see that your kiddo is smiling. You will smile, too.

15. You will log off the webcam.

16. You will do some more work.

17. You will reward yourself for all your hard work with a raspberry chocolate muffin.

18. You will do some more work.

19. You will pick up your child from daycare.

20. You will give him all the hugs. There is now a nation-wide hug shortage because of all the hugs that were given.

21. You will go home.

22. You will throw your nylons in the trash.

23. You will realize that you did it. That he did it. That we did it. And¬†we’ll all be OK.

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This is Not A Birth Story

December 19, 2015 — 15 Comments

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I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story about the day my son Connor was born. But this is not¬†a birth story.

Oh, I wrote a birth story. 7¬†months ago, in fact. It’s 3500 words long¬†– a¬†good 500 words longer than most of the papers I wrote in my undergrad.¬†But I’m not going to share that story. That story sits in my drafts folder, and may surface someday, perhaps¬†as required reading in¬†high school¬†health classes¬†everywhere, as the country’s most effective means of teenage birth control.

So, why did I write a Birth Story Novella if I didn’t want to share it? Well, originally, I thought I would share it. In the weeks leading up to Connor’s arrival, I read every birth story I could find in my internet universe. Blogger birth stories. Family birth stories. Friend birth stories. Friend-of-Friend birth stories. Home births, c-sections, water births. You name it. If you’re reading this, and wrote a birth story, I read it.¬†And so, a few months after Connor was born, I figured I owed the internet our¬†birth story. I mean, that’s what¬†bloggers do, right? And writing a birth story is supposed to be healing! Cathartic! Magical, even!

So, I hunkered down, hospital charts in hand for reference, and wrote Connor’s¬†birth story. I wrote about my 36 hours of labour. The¬†tub labouring. The epidural.¬†The oxytocin. The epidural failing. The¬†saline injections. The¬†2.5 doses of lidocaine. The back labour. The midwives that began and ended their shifts during my labour. The 3 hours of pushing.¬†The vaccuum. The moment when everyone in the room finally realized Connor wasn’t coming out on his own.

And, worst of all,¬†I wrote about being strapped down to a table in the operating room, contractions still coming fast and furious,¬†and¬†realizing the spinal for my c-section wasn’t taking either.

“It’s not working. Oh God, Oh God, it’s not working.”

I wrote about the fear when I realized they’d have to put me completely under.

I wrote about¬†the panic, the agony, the despair unlike anything I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

I wrote about how¬†the¬†first memory of my son is hardly a memory at all – a fleeting image¬†– brief, and bleary. A hazy picture of Matt with a baby. “What is it? What is it?” I said, before drifting back to darkness.

I wrote about all of that, because that, technically, is¬†Connor’s¬†birth story.¬†And that¬†birth story sucks.

For a long time afterwards, I couldn’t think about it too much. It was too¬†unfair that so many people held Connor before I did. That so many people heard his cries before I even awoke. That I wasn’t there for his first hours on this earth. That after all the work, all the suffering, I¬†was robbed of the moment that was supposed to make it all worth while: A baby on my chest, my husband beside me, in on the world’s best little secret: that we were three.

Writing about those feelings wasn’t cathartic. It wasn’t healing and it wasn’t magical. It just made it all worse.

And so, after spilling 3500 + words on Connor’s birth story and feeling no better, I started thinking about the moments after that¬†story ended. Because when Connor’s “official” birth story ended, this story began:

This story starts¬†36 hours after my first contraction. 12 hours after my epidural. 3 hours after Connor was delivered¬†via c-section and 1 hour after I woke up¬†and¬†blacked out again. This is the moment I met my son. And it doesn’t matter who held him first or how he got here, because when my husband Matt put him on my chest for the first time, it felt like two pieces of a locket finally coming together.

This story continues when Matt handed me a phone, and I got to tell my mom, voice broken and cracked, that she and Dad had their first grandson. That his middle name was Thomas, after Dad.

This story gets even better when, after introducing Connor to a room full of people that will love him every minute of his life, the nurse turned of all the lights, wrapped Connor in a blanket, and tucked him right back into my chest. It was the complete reversal of the scene a few short hours earlier. Instead of¬†blinding¬†lights overhead, an operating room full of people I didn’t know, and a sleep that wasn’t natural at all,¬†I had only the soft light¬†lights of the city outside, an empty room,¬†and four hours¬†blissful¬†sleep with my baby boy.

This is the story that matters, and one I’m privileged to live out, chapter by chapter, every new day I spend with Connor.

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_

Birth stories can be beautiful, empowering, and full of memories to be cherished,¬†but they can also be gruelling, disappointing, traumatic and awful. And I’ve finally realized that those stories are¬†OK to forget.

I think I found it so hard to come¬†to terms with with that last¬†statement¬†because¬†we live in an age where people make playlists for their births. They bring in¬†professional photographers to capture every minute. They pick out candles and hire doulas and plan a birth experience. And that’s not a bad thing! That’s good! But the undercurrent running beneath that sort of attitude‚ÄĒthat a birth story is the most important moment in your life, and it will fulfill every expectation the internet puts out there‚ÄĒcan make it incredibly crushing when you don’t get a story you want to remember. Thankfully, I’ve learned that there are always other stories worth remembering.

Those other stories everywhere. Like the story of a¬†couple’s first glimpse of the¬†sweet two year old they’ll soon bring home from an orphanage.¬†The story a precious babe’s first night at home after months in the NICU. ¬†The story of these three young foster children getting¬†their adoption papers for Christmas. They’re not birth stories, but stories of beautiful beginnings¬†all the same.

_

Once the clouds around my labour finally lifted, I not only had a new appreciation for the stories like the ones above; I was also finally able to hear, and appreciate, one more very important story from that day Рthe one from my husband.

Matt didn’t get to see Connor being born. He didn’t get to hold my hand for the final push. He heard¬†Connor’s¬†first cries only as muffled wails¬†through¬†hospital walls. But none of that tempered the unbelievable joy and relief he felt when the doctor rushed out to tell him “It’s a boy!”

Connor didn’t get to spend his first hours on this earth with me, but he did¬†get to spend¬†them¬†with his Dad: skin-to-skin, head on heart.

Now isn’t that a beautiful story?

 

 

Lately

March 10, 2015 — 5 Comments

Well hello there long lost friends! Can I still call you my friends? Even though I haven’t texted, called, or blogged lately? Yes? Oh, that’s very kind of you. As most of you know, I do have a pretty great excuse for my little mid-winter blog hiatus, and his name is Connor.

connor blog

This little man stormed into our lives on January 22, 2015, and he’s amazing. I’ve opened up a draft post so many times since then – and nothing ever came of it for a few reasons 1) Time is no longer something I have in abundance and 2) There is just TOO MUCH¬†to say. Parenthood is a¬†wonderful and crazy and tiring and magical journey, and every time I tried¬†to write about, it ended up a lot like¬†this¬†sentence – rambling and¬†full of¬†cliches that didn’t do justice to the experience. So, I’m going to put all of those thoughts¬†on ice for a bit, and just say “hi!” from our new little family of three.

Lest this blog become a mommy blog, I’m going to point all of you to my instagram account for the baby picture spam. And spam there will be! Because he’s the cutest baby that ever was! (Sorry, I thought I could get through this post without doing that but turns out NOPE). But seriously, spring will be upon us soon, and my post-preggo thrift trips have already yeilded some great finds. So, stay tuned, stay warm, and I’ll see you all in a little while. ūüôā