My Birth Story - Part 2

…Continued from previous blog entry

The wave oxytocin that flooded my bloodstream made it difficult to realize what really was going on in the first hour after giving birth. I was hearing things being said, but they were not registering on my emotional scale in a normal way. It was as if what I was hearing was passing though my ears; I could hear it, but it had no impact on me. I was still blissful and processing the fact that I had just given birth to my beautiful baby boy, and feeling so incredibly strong and proud of what my body accomplished. I felt surprisingly well; happy, serene, and thankful. For that reason, my recollection of all that happened in the first 2 hours is blurry, and my retelling might be slightly out of order….


Shortly after being laid down with my new baby Lauchlan and having some skin-to-skin with his father and me, Our family was invited into the room. There was so much joy and awe from everyone. I remember my Mother-In-Law came to us with tears in her eyes. “Thank you! Thank you!” she said to me over and over. I smiled at everyone, only vaguely recognizing their presence in the room as my head swam in the happiness of it all.

The midwives asked for the family to give us some brief privacy, and took Lauchlan from me so I could deliver my placenta. Oh right, I’d forgotten about this. “I’m sorry to have to do this, but its time to deliver your placenta. I will need to put some pressure on your stomach to help it out, okay?” Asked my secondary midwife “Okay” I said hesitantly. “well… it wont be pleasant” she said. And sure enough, it was (very surprisingly) one of the worst parts of my labour. The unexpected pain that shot through my body as she gently massaged my abdomen had me shout out in agony. I was not at all prepared… No one had ever mentioned to me that the placenta delivery would be just as bad, and maybe even worse, than delivering the baby. But thankfully, it was over in a matter of minutes.

My midwife took the placenta away, but said “do you mind if I take a picture of it?” Amused, I said “Sure“ and she explained to me that my placenta was very unique, and she had “read about it before, but never saw one in real life.” This fact would be something that shook us to the core, but not still much later.

learning about lauchlan

My baby boy was brought over to the scale across the room, and my family filed back in and crowded around him and the midwives. His Apgar test was being conducted while I was being served my first postpartum meal. I had expected to feel a sense of urgency when they took him from me to do his tests, but since it was all in the same room I felt fairly comfortable. And although my view of him was obstructed by my family, I was able to hear them coo and awww at every finding which put me at ease, so I sat with a smile and enjoyed my meal.

Lauchlan on the scale, 7lbs 9oz

Lauchlan on the scale, 7lbs 9oz

One of the midwives suddenly switched her tone of voice from gentle and positive to guarded. “Oh,” she said. “Well, hmmm” followed by a hesitation. I heard her speak the words, but they didn’t register on my emotional scale the way they should have.

“Lauchlan has an imperforate anus. It’s okay, but lets call CHEO (Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario) now”

The energy in the room dissolved from pure joy and excitement to a nervous questioning from everyone. My family shuffled around. I was unphased, still enjoying my hormone high, and knowing that families naturally worry and things were probably fine. The phone call made to CHEO was quick, and the midwife ushered my family out. She sat beside me on the bed and put her sweet calming tone back into her voice. “Lauchlan has an imperforate anus. It means that his bum was not fully formed, and it looks like theres no hole. That means he might not be able to poop, and getting rid of meconium is very important. CHEO wants to see him right away so we are going to get him dressed right now and take him immediately.”

I heard what she said. My honest response was a calm and cheerful “okay!”

In that moment I felt like it was mostly a precaution, and we were lucky to be so close to CHEO, a mere 3 minutes away. I was confident that whatever imperforate anus was, he was getting amazing care right away. My joyful state protected me from realizing what was actually happening; they were rushing my baby into the emergency at the children’s hospital for a birth defect that could have major implications.

I remember looking for my husband, and finding him across the room dressing our son with a very different energy than his typical relaxed demeanour. I felt like I was in a haze; I knew something was worth worrying about, but it just wasn’t coming to me. Within minutes he was leaving. He kissed me goodbye and he left with baby Lauchlan in his carseat. I realized that I didn’t have a moment to hold my baby boy since they started his APGAR test, but still, my emotions betrayed me. I remained in the happy bubble as everyone around me began to panic.

I spent the following hour (maybe longer) getting cleaned up. My primary midwife stitched my 2nd degree tear (which I didn’t even know I had until she said it was time to address it) and then my Doula gave me some Advil, walked me to the bathroom and held me for balance while I peed (which i was scared to do, but it was fine!), taught me to use the peri bottle and assisted me in the shower. They were so caring and positive with me that I nearly forgot that something important was happening with my son.

Once I was showered and dressed, my secondary midwife escorted me to CHEO. During our short drive, she explained to me “You might be shocked when you see Lauchlan. He will likely be undressed in an incubator, under bright lights with tubes in his nose and wires attached to him. Right now its only a precaution. But I want you to be ready for what you will see. It can be very upsetting, but its normal for any new baby who comes into the hospital.” I understood what she was saying, and for the first time I felt something other than joy. It was a small wave of fear.

Reality is a hard brick wall

When I arrived at the hospital, I was put in a wheelchair and brought into the emergency department. It was the middle of the night, roughly 2am and the lights in the room were dim. At the far end of the room there was a single bright light and an incubator with my baby boy in it. I stared at the scene as they pushed me towards him, and it was as if reality began to take hold with every inch that I got closer. There he was, undressed under the lamp with tubes and wires, exactly as my midwife said he would be, and still I was not prepared. I took one big shaking breath and began to sob.

Lauchlan in emergency at CHEO

Lauchlan in emergency at CHEO

Everything after seeing him in that moment became a blur of tears, hugs, and emotional pitfalls that took my breath away. Im unsure of the correct order of events in the 24 hours that followed, but I remember key things. I was not able to hold him, which devastated me. The nurses brought him a stuffed animal, which made me so happy that they cared for him more than just as a patient, but as a child. My husband couldn’t look me in the eye, but when I saw his face, his eyes were red from crying. I never saw him like that before and it threw me into tears again. I stood from my wheelchair so I could get close to my boy and touch him, but it made me feel faint. I knew I was not strong enough for him. I cried that I should be holding him, giving him comfort, and learning to breastfeed. But I was ordered to go home.

I don’t recall the drive home or going to bed that night, but I know I was instructed to do so for my recovery. It was all a blur. My husband stayed with Lauchlan so he was not alone.

My first time holding him at the hospital

My first time holding him at the hospital

When I went back to the hospital, I was greeted with news that Lauchlan not only was moved to a private room in the NICU, but he passed a small amount of meconium which meant there was at least a small opening near the anus. I practically celebrated! I felt like we were out of the woods but I came to realize laster that it wasn’t the case. I was finally able to hold him, and I was flooded again with the oxytocin that protected me after delivering my boy. My husband and I spent time passing him back and forth and cooing and snuggling our precious child as if nothing were the matter. I was unable to get him to latch to my breast (even with the help of a nurse*) so I pumped for him while my mom took a turn snuggling him.

Some time later, the surgical team came to Lauchlans bedside to deliver us the news about his condition. We learned that imperforate anus is a non-genetic birth defect that occurs in 1 of 5000 babies. It has varying levels of severity from minor to complex, and it often affect other systems of the body (the closed anus is only the visual indicator of potentially more issues) including the bladder, kidneys, esophagus, heart, lungs, spine and limbs. They didn’t yet know how severe his condition was, but they were planning a laundry list of investigative testing. In the meantime, we needed to keep the small anal opening (which was located just beneath his scrotum) open, which meant he needed to be dilated; a process by which we inserted metal dowels into his anus, to stretch the hole open as much as possible. It was a procedure we had to do 2-3 times a day, and something that the parents—not the surgical staff—had to do (since we had to continue to do it when we took him home). Its a horrifying thing for parents to do. Poor Lauchlan would scream and wail each time. I cried every time I did it, feeling horrible about putting my new born baby through pain on purpose. But this was our new reality.

Moving on up

The next day, Lauchlan was moved from the NICU to the surgical patient floor. He was watched round the clock by room-in nurses as my husband and I sleepily switched shifts. He would stay with him while I got a few hours rest and pumped for him at home, then I would take my milk to him, and spend time with him while my husband went home for some sleep. The days blur together, punctuated by failed nursing attempts, diagnostic tests, and conversations with hospital staff about results. We learned over the course of a few days that many potential IA related issues were ruled out, but surgery was imminent.

The surgical plan was to make an incision in his bottom and complete a plastic surgery of his rectum and anus. They would make an incision in his belly at his upper intestines, and create a stoma, where he would wear a colostomy bag until his bum was healed, and then it could be reversed. It sounded simple enough but there were many risks and the prognosis after the surgery is varying. The surgical team did their best to explain what could happen for him in his future; if everything goes extremely well, he may have full bowel control like any other child/adult but will likely need the assistance of some laxatives. On the other hand, we need to know that he may never have proper bowel function or control as a child or even into adulthood.

Learning this shattered me. I cried for days on end, unable to see how we could provide our child with any sense of normalcy. The idea that he would be starting school in diapers destroyed my vision of a EC Diaper Free baby. Thoughts of misunderstanding parents, child bullies, and affected romantic relationships flooded my mind every hour of every day as I tried desperately to be thankful for him even being alive, and hopefully dealing with a low severity level of a terrifyingly persistent condition. In some ways, I resented that the most joyus time of my life was being weighed down by worry and fear. I just wanted to be in the moment, enjoying my son and my new family without being haunted by these thoughts.

The universe grants Perspective

Perspective came swiftly, when we then learned about my ‘strange’ placenta. While spending time in the hospital, my husband began to do some research on what my midwife evenrually told us was a bilobed placenta and a velamentous cord insertion. Essentially, my placenta was not only divided in two, but the blood vessels that travel through the umbilical cord were exposed and abnormally inserted into the placenta. Both of these conditions are dangerous and could have resulted in stillbirth, haemorrhaging, and maternal death. Bilobed placenta occurs in 2% of pregnancies, while the velamentous cord insertion happens in just 1% of all pregnancies. Had either of these conditions been seen on an ultrasound (they were missed by the techs) my midwife would have had me closely monitored, possibly on bedrest, and had a scheduled c-section at 36 weeks to avoid complications that could lead to death. Instead, I was swimming, shopping, dancing and carrying on as if I was having a perfect pregnancy, right up until my water broke. I had absolutely no idea how close i was to losing everything.

There are no words to explain the mental leaps and disbelief that happens when you realize that, not only was your son born with a rare birth defect requiring immediate surgery, but also your pregnancy suffered two unnoticed complications that could have killed us both. It was incredibly grounding. Somehow we beat so many odds, and we were both here. Both happy and thriving.

Mu husband and I were in complete shock at this finding. How on earth did we dodge the odds? And suddenly, our boy felt like a true miracle. Not just in the way that all babies are miracles…. I mean a real one. He was meant to be here, and so was I with him. My resentment turned to pure awe and gratitude. No matter where his unique path would go, we were damn lucky to walk it with him.

Finally, we were able to take Lauchlan home. It was for a short 3 days before his surgery, but they were paradise. Being in our little nest with our new baby was everything i’d dreamed it could be. Sadly it was all too short as he had to return to the hospital for his surgery.

Surgery at CHEO

Nervous mom, moments before surgery

Nervous mom, moments before surgery

Even though I knew he was in the best of hands, my whole physical and spiritual being vibrated with nervous energy on the day of his surgery. I had nothing to fear, but fear I did. Would he remember any of this? Would he recover? What if there was a complication with the anesthetic? What if they found something that their previous tests didn’t show? What if they made a mistake and ruined any chances he had at bowel control? I could not stop running this track in my mind, no matter how hard I tried and how much I knew it was useless.

I fought tears the entire time we waited for his surgery. 3 hours later, the surgeon came to see us to tell us how it went. The surgery went well, but he did have something he had to tell us. I didnt even have time to brace myself.

Dad keeping Lauchlan comfy before surgery

Dad keeping Lauchlan comfy before surgery

“Unfortunately his urethra was nicked as we attempted to cut the wall that divided the urethra from his bowel. We had to get urology in to repair it. He will have to use a catheter to urinate.”

if it wasn’t for my husbands arms, I would have fell to the floor. Why were these things happening to my baby? Why did he have to endure such a start? I was angry. Not at the surgeon, but just at life. I was frustrated for my baby. Frustrated for us as new parents. Frustrated that I was being petty. I knew to be more thankful than this, but I just wanted to take my baby home.

Lauchlan just waking up in recovery

Lauchlan just waking up in recovery

Seeing him later in the recovery room was the most broken hearted I’ve ever been in my life. He was so sedated and groggy. I could see fear in his eyes. It’s not fair to see a baby, just a week old in such a state. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t feed him. I could give him no comfort. So I just sat at his bed and cried.

A family in Recovery

From that day, Lauchlan progressed well. My husband and I continued the dilations, now in his newly formed anus. We also learned how to empty and replace his colostomy bag and his catheter bag. It all felt nearly impossible on such a tiny baby, but we got more adept every day. We felt like nurses in our own right. And after 4 days of monitoring in the hospital, we were sent home.

I expected being sent home would be difficult. Many parents talk of the feeling of not knowing what they are doing, and feeling all to unprepared to be left in charge of a child. In a way, all that we’d gone through in those first few weeks seemed to prepare us. We were just so glad to be home. There were moments that were scary and challenging to be sure. We worried about the correct way to hold him with the bags and tubes. We were paranoid about changing his colostomy bag. But they all seemed scarier than they actually were. We were good at this. And we relied well on one another to make it through these tough times.

After two weeks we returned to the hospital to have his catheter removed. And since then, we’ve just been learning and working with our baby as he grows. We’ve been back to the hospital for follow ups and Lauchlan is doing very well. We wait patiently to hear about when his reversal surgery will happen, and in the meantime we absorb every precious moment with our miracle baby.

As we learn more about his condition, and experience the next surgery I will continue to share what this journey looks and feels like in this blog. Please subscribe if you’d like to follow Lauchalns progress.

*Nurses helped me try to breastfeed, since CHEO, even though its a childrens’ hospital, does not have lactation consultants. I learned later that they also do not have any private areas for breastfeeding.

 

My Birth Story

Lauchlan-Portrait-Painting-cropped.jpg

Trigger warnings: vomit, unmedicated pain, birth defects.

Its been 11 days since I experienced the earth shattering reality of child birth. In those 11 days my body has gone through a significant amount of change quicker than I thought possible. My stomach has shrunk, my posture transformed. My hair and skin look different, and my breasts have gone though engorgement, painful wounds, and various levels of milk supply. And still, none of that compares to the awe inspiring transition that my body went though for 3 days between November 4th and November 7th.

With family surrounding me, we waited day to day as November 2nd (baby’s guess date) came and went with no signs of labour other than braxton hicks. I wasn’t having trouble sleeping, my appetite was still hanging around, and induction was not something I wanted to discuss yet. My plan was to have a natural unmedicated water birth with as little interventions as possible. My pregnancy was uncomplicated, so there was no medical reason to ‘push things along’ as they say. Plus, I was very comfortable and ready to wait out baby’s arrival.

When the levee breaks

On November 4th, 2 days after the guess date, we were all sitting around the dining room table after a delicious meal when my water broke. Ever see the :O emoji in real life? Cause that was my face. I jumped from the chair giggling and squeeling, and ran up the stairs to confirm I didnt just pee my pants. My husband came to the bathroom door and said “are you sure its your waters?” I responded “well this tinkling sound isn’t me peeing! Its go time!”

Except, nope, it wasn’t go time. I wasn’t getting contractions. And I was still really comfortable except for the feeling of my fluids continuing to leak. We paged the midwife, and since there was no signs of labour yet we stayed home. I laid down in bed, and did my best to shove aside my excitement and get some rest.

The next morning November 5th I woke after a restful sleep to no contractions at all. Luckily I had a midwife appointment booked for that morning anyway, so we headed in. The midwife on call strapped me up to the monitors to check baby for movement and to see if any contractions were happening and to my surprise both were happening! Baby was moving lots, and even though i couldnt really feel them (I thought they were braxton hicks) I was contracting regularly every 7 minutes. Still, theres nothing to be done* so we were sent home.

* The midwives that I attended do not conduct regular vaginal exams to check dilation because it risks introducing bacteria into the vagina especially after the waters have been broken, and it’s also not an accurate gage of progress… some women spend weeks art 3-5cm dilation with no progress.

We spent the day counting time between light contractions but it seemed like things were slowing down. I was getting a bit nervous since I knew the longer we went without baby starting their departure, the closer I got to a medical intervention, and away from my water-birth plan! By the evening, all cramps completely stopped. Not a great feeling.

The next day November 6th, we went to see the midwife again (this time it was the midwife I had chosen, yay! She was back on shift) I was feeling contractions again, but was able to talk through them still, so we did the same monitoring, and baby was still moving. With fear creeping up on me about needing to be induced, I opted for a stretch and sweep. I was 2cm dilated at that point. Woo progress! My midwife also suggested that we try the Castor Oil cocktail (castor oil, pear juice, champagne and almond butter) to get things moving a bit more naturally. The concept is that its a strong laxative, so it will irritate the bowel enough to disrupt baby into -hopefully- starting their journey. So when we got home, my husband made the cocktail, and I drank the first of 3 doses at about 11 am. It was hands down the most disgusting thing I’ve ever drank in my life. It took everything in me to not throw up.

Soon after, my contractions started to make themselves very well known. They were getting stronger, longer, and closer together. We decided to call our Doula to let her know. She was in the neighbourhood so she stopped by to see how I was doing. She assured me that I wasn’t in active labour yet, and she would be back when I was. Before she left, my husband brought me the second dose of castor oil cocktail. As soon as he brought it in the room the smell wafted over to my overly sensitive pregnant nose and it immediately turned my stomach. After some coaching from my husband and Doula, I tried to drink it and managed only a single sip before RUNNING to the bathroom where I proceeded to vomit for the next 5 minutes. It was horrifying. I am severely emetophobic (fear of vomiting) so this was a highly traumatic moment for me. I was crying and shaking a lot after that. But, as my Doula reminded me, it was puking with a purpose; almost immediately my contractions were super charged… 1 minute apart, lasting 1-2 minutes each. And OMG were they strong. I couldn’t talk or walk through them at all. There was no ramp-up to this pain level. It started knocking me down instantly.

About an hour later we called our Doula back again (roughly 1pm), and paged the midwife. It seemed to me that this was active labour and it was time to get the show on the road! Our Doula was a super star; she hooked me up tp the tens machine, fed me water and grapes, helped me focus on my breathing and assisted in finding positions that helped the pain. When our midwife arrived, she did another vaginal exam and I wasn’t dilated any further. What!? Damn it! That meant to me that this wasn’t truly active labour, and that put a lot of fear in me. I was not handling this pain very well, and according to the textbooks, it was going to get worse. My Doula assured me that no, this is the worst of it. I just have to keep enduring it for a while. And so we laboured in my bedroom through contractions that were only a minute apart for approximately 7 hours. Props to my Doula again, for knowing that it wasn’t ‘go time’ even though the timer between contractions said it was. She knew exactly what to look for (which still remains a mystery to me) and knew I wasn’t there yet.

somewhere around 7pm I began saying “I cant do this anymore” (just like every other birth story!) and saying I wanted pain relief. My husband, my mom, and my Doula were all reminding me that I wanted a natural birth, but I was wailing in pain and ready for the epidural. It made me cry even more to think about having it, but 7 hours of contractions that close together and that strong was too much. My Doula called the midwife again, and said to her and me that it might be time to consider a new approach for me because it was too intense for too long. She saw I was getting tired and weak and wouldn’t be able to withstand much more. Together we made the decision that if I wasn’t dilated enough to go to the birthing centre (4cm) then we would go to the hospital instead to give me some relief. But if I was at 4 or more, we would stick with the birth plan.

My midwife arrived around 8 and checked my cervix…thank GOD I was ‘a soft 4’ which meant we could go to the birthing center! I was so incredibly relieved that I think I cried tears of joy! So we packed up and headed out. I sat in the back of my SUV and quietly laboured, humming and moaning low to myself as my husband and mother drove in the font in complete silence. Being in silence and not being coached helped me I think. I became more centred, more focused, and more relaxed (probably also due to the relief that I was NOT going to the hospital!!)

At the birthing centre

we arrived at the birthing centre around 9pm, and the room and birthing pool were all set up and ready for me. My midwife and Doula helped strip me down and lowered me into the bath. It was IMMEDIATE relief. My contractions were so much easier to bear! In a way I wish we went earlier for this relief, but it probably would not have has such a big impact.

I laboured there in the water, by meditation music, with candle light for a few more hours. My mom and husband were by my side watching, waiting, and helping as they could. He brought me freezies and cool facecloths for my neck, and my mom played with my hair to calm me down. My midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes, my doula coached me through each contraction. By about the 2nd hour in the tub I requested the gas and air to help me through. Im not sure it actually helped the pain, but rather helped me relax more between contractions, and gave me a controlled breathing goal during contractions. It felt like they were slowing down to me, but they weren’t. Time was not real to me during any of this. I had no idea how long I had been labouring.

At about 11:45 I vomited again. This time, I didnt care as much… It meant I was in transition. Very soon after (it felt like minuets to me) I could feel the baby decend and I wanted to push. My contractions at this point felt like they lasted much longer than 1-2 minutes… I would intentionally push at the beginning of the contraction and at the tail end my body would fully take over with the expulsion reflex. It was the HUGEST feeling of my life. Not painful at all, but very very intense. At one point my midwife checked me and she said “i can feel his head! You can too Sarah, reach down.” I could feel my baby’s hair!! That was all I needed. No one counted, but I believe it was 3 more pushes after that moment of feeling my baby’s hair and baby was here! “Sarah grab your baby!” yelled my midwife! I reached down in the water, and felt his soft chubby little body in my hands and lifted him out of the water… my baby was born! I was in AWE!! I did it! We did it! We’re a family!!

When 2 become 3

After 1 minute, the baby wasn’t responding well, so the midwives had to suction him, cut his cord, and take him from me to get him breathing… He was okay, just a little stunned from the experience (cant be too safe with that situation!) I was mostly unphased knowing that its normal for a water-born baby to take a few moments to breathe and react, and knowing that he was in excellent hands with my midwives. (the amazing rush of oxytocin helped too!) My husband followed him and from the corner of the room he yelled “Sarah, we have a Lauchlan!” It’s a boy!! (In all the excitement and rush to get him to breathe, I forgot to look!)

My husband brought him back over to me, and we got to snuggle our new baby boy. I was helped out of the tub, dried off, and eased into bed with Ryan beside me and baby on my breast. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. Oxytocin rushed over me…I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt no pain, I felt only love and joy and awe for this precious little man and our new family.

We did it. Our wonderful baby boy was here. I was in paradise. What I didn’t know is that our journey was about to change our lives forever, and not in the ways we expected.

Stay turned for the continuation of this story and the earth-shattering news we received next.

Click here to read part 2

 

5 reasons I am 100% comfortable with people touching my bump

Touch_belly_bump

Yes, you may touch my bump. I know, I know. I should be horrified. But I’m 100% okay with people touching my belly... even strangers.

This is a highly polarizing topic among expectant moms and people everywhere; Are you comfortable with people touching your belly when you are pregnant? 

Many months before my husband and I became pregnant, anyone who who knew that we were trying to start a family would share stories all about the unavoidable horror of everyone–including strangers–wanting to touch the tummies of pregnant women. These stories were told with much disgust and warning that we should prepare for this inevitability of invasion of space, and that it's completely unavoidable and 100% guaranteed to happen.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I would casually laugh about how absurd it would be for a stranger to openly touch me, but deep down i was a bit conflicted. Was it something sweet that I would enjoy, or something invasive and offensive? I more or less decided it was something I’d figure out when my time came. God knows hormones during pregnancy will give me some hearty opinions on pretty much everything, and this likely wont be an exception! 

Well, now that my time is here, and I’ve had a few interactions with friends, family, and near strangers, I can firmly say that I am 100% comfortable with people touching my belly. Heres why. 

5 reasons I'm 100% comfortable with people touching my bump

  1. It's Non-sexual
    This is one of the only times in my life that I will receive a compassionate physical touch that is not sexualized and is purely positive. Thats a rarity, especially in the realm of strangers.

  2. The human connection
    Having your bump touched creates a true connection with people, especially when its a stranger. We should appreciate the immediate connection people are having with us when they want to approach us and touch our bumps and engage in conversation. We so rarely experience physical touch outside of the sexual or grief realm, that this can really be a gift if you look at it from this perspective. Positive physical touch releases oxytocin and enhances bonds between people, and having a baby bump is a really wonderful invitation or reason for someone to touch you with purest intentions.

  3. Spreading joy
    I’ve always loved and lived by the saying “happiness shared is happiness doubled” and Pregnancy is a magical, beautiful, and powerful thing. But its also a very singular thing thats happening almost exclusively to me and my body. Allowing others to touch my belly is a way of sharing the happiness and the awe inspiring process of whats happening within me now. It makes me glow every time someone places a hand on the baby bump, and so far, it gives a smile to others, too. I’m more than willing to invite people into the experience ever so briefly to double that happiness! Its so amusing for us both!

  4. Positive vibes only
    The transfer of energy (if you believe in that sort of thing) is powerful. Can you imagine a hand reaching out to touch your bump and that person scowling or saying something really hurtful? For most of us, that sort of interaction doesn’t happen. A touch of the belly is typically accompanied by words of kindness, soft facial expressions, positive affirmations, compliments, hopeful remarks for the future and the baby, and a general feeling of positivity. This can be VERY impactful on your well being (and the well being of your baby!) if you let it! Especially during a time when remaining positive, optimistic and grateful is so important to the whole experience.

  5. It's not that private
    My bump feels in some ways apart from me. Okay so that probably sounds a bit strange, but hear me out. If I wasn't pregnant, and people touched my stomach (even with all the kindness and positive vibes mentioned above) It would feel weird. my mind would fill with concerns on body image and how flat/flabby my tummy feels. Am I feeling bloated that day? Maybe I just ate and I'm literally digesting food. Perhaps my cramps are causing me pain that day. Or depending on where they place their hand, it might feel sexual, or be reminded of a negative encounter from my past. For all those reasons, I would not be comfortable with someone touching my stomach. Those thoughts and reactions are deeply personal and private, and no one knows for sure whats going on with me on that level. Pregnancy, however, is a visually obvious and common human experience, that most of us have a basic understanding of whats going on. Couple that with no longer being concerned about my belly flab (cause there is none now that Im sporting a watermelon!), having a renewed sense of beauty and vitality, and literally having a new human being hanging out in my torso sort of makes it feel like that space is not just my own anymore. Its significantly less personal and private. So a hand to my bump doesn't not feel nearly as invasive as a hand to my stomach. They are two different things.


So yes, please, by all means... if you want to...touch my bump! I'll greet you with a smile and join in the joy of this special moment. 

 

Changing your mind

Not all pregnant folks will share my views, and thats completely understandable. We are all entitled to our individual opinions and to have full agency over our bodies. However, If you are a mom-to-be who's having trouble with people touching your bump, and you’d like to make peace with it and adjust your perspective rather than struggle when people attempt to touch you, heres a few things to keep in mind that may help you adjust: 

  • People are not doing it to freak you out. They have the best intentions. They just want to connect, and share in the happy moment. Those connections we make, no matter how fleeting, simply do not happen when you’re not pregnant, so we should honour those interactions.

  • The time in which this will happen to you is incredibly short. Most women are not 'showing' until about the 4th month, which means you're only susceptible to touches from that point on (roughly 5 months).

  • Once your baby comes, no one will even look at you. All attention goes to your beautiful bundle of joy, so absorb the love and positive vibes for yourself while you can!

  • After you deliver your baby, you might be house-bound for quite some time, and deprived of social interactions. You might long for the days when strangers spoke to you or friends gushed about your glow, all while handing over some loving body contact. You likely wont have that again unless you decide to have another baby, so observe it now with love and remember that feeling.

So how do you feel about having body contact on your bump?  Are you on board or totally freaked out?  Tell me how you feel in the comments. 

 

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Being Pregnant

10-reasons-why-I-love-being-pregnant

Being pregnant is not all fun and games. We are often extremely ill, unbelievably exhausted, bloated, gassy, swollen, sweaty, hungry and grumpy. And thats not even the gross stuff (if you don’t know already, i’m not telling you). But there are some seriously kick-ass things about being pregnant, too.  

Here are some of my top 10 reasons why pregnancy has been super awesome for me so far, and things for all pregnant women to rejoice about! 

 

1. Feeling extra curvaceous 

Nothing feels more feminine and sexy to me than being curvy, and now at 5 months, i’m nothing but round shapes, and soft jiggles and I am freakin’ owning it. My husband doesn’t mind either! Bingpot. 
 

2. Healthy eating = healthy momma

I had a bad habit of over indulging in bad food basically all the time. Now that I’m pregnant and eating for 1.5 (my Doc says ‘you are not eating for two!’) what I eat is paramount. Since being more strict about what I eat, I notice that I am feeling much better. Plus my sugar cravings are at an all time low (good news for my upcoming gestational diabetes test). Cant say the same for salty stuff though. Oh hai blood pressure spikes and incessant thirst!

benjamin-combs-28896-unsplash.jpg

3. Sleeping whenever I want

Okay I admit it. Even though I got my energy back in the 2nd trimester (don’t even get me started on the exhaustion of the first trimester!) I still have a rubber arm for taking naps. If the opportunity is there,  you better believe I’m layin’ down. So far, no one has called me out on that. In fact, most people are pretty forgiving for my needing a rest. So, uhh… i’ll BRB I gotta take a nap. 
 

4. Built in reason to go home or stay home

Much in the same vein as taking naps, I also love the built-in reason to either leave events early, or not go at all. Out drinking with friends? 9pm rolls around and I’m gonna remind you that I’m pregnant and gotta go home. Formal function that I’m not feeling into? Yeah sorry about that…i’m just not feeling well. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. 

Bonus: this is also a great ‘out’ for your partner, too. My husband is now able to say ‘ahhh I better get home to the baby Mamma….’ 
 

5. Being more comfortable with gaining a few pounds

I never had unbearable struggles with my weight, but its still something I need to wrangle on a daily basis. It takes work. But now, its completely acceptable (and even encouraged!) for me to gain some extra pounds. Its really liberating to feel like I not only CAN have those extra calories, but its a damn good idea! Bring on the nachos!! 

Bonus: My body has a few new back rolls and a bigger muffin top and it straight up doesn’t matter. I’m pregnant and beautiful, bitches. Deal with it.

megan-lynette-402624-unsplash.jpg

6. The tenderness from my husband and family

My family and my husband are nothing short of amazing lights in my life. But now that we are expecting, they are even more attentive, compassionate, caring and protective. Theres more hugs, more teary moments, more hopeful and loving conversations, and more emotional support (and way more belly touching than any man would experience in his lifetime. I just one-up’d ya, dudes). There really is a feeling of community that comes about when you’re going to become a mom, even from the people who were already a part of your inner circle. It all gets augmented. 

Bonus/drawback: Loved ones, and sometimes strangers, will attempt to protect you like your a delicate flower, because for some reason, the amazing feat of growing a damn human makes me incapable of tasks like rolling your own damn suitcase through the airport, or carrying groceries to the car (even when i park so close…see below). This drives me nuts. I’m a freaking powerhouse right now, people! I can handle it.  But I have to admit that my husband not allowing me to help him paint (even with the safe stuff), my mom waiting on me hand-and-foot when I visit her, and complete strangers offering me help has been really touching. Thanks, y’all. You sure do know how to make a pregger feel special. 
 

7. Baby Kicks

It’s alive….ALIVE!! 
Seriously though, I was worried this would freak me out. I’m at 22 weeks now and i’m in that sweet zone where the baby’s not strong enough to bruise my ribs, but shows me in interpretive dance that s/he really loves bacon. It’s adorable, and makes me super excited to meet our little baconator. 
 

8. Nesting

I’ve always loved buying new things for the house, assembling furniture (want me to help you build your IKEA furniture?) and decorating. Now, I have a WAY less selfish reason than “because I want to” for filling the house with new important items and adding renovation chores (see above: painting) to my husbands ‘Honey-do’ list. 

Espectant-mother-parking.jpg

9. Pregnancy parking spots. 

Yeah those are just awesome. Only available for a limited time!! Get em while they’re hot!
 

10. The constant reminder that I am a Goddess who sustains life

Every time I look in the mirror, accidentally lean my belly on the counter when reaching for a treat, or catch a stranger steal a glance at my bump, I’m reminded that my body has changed so dramatically in the last 5 months and is actively creating and sustaining a human being. I am carrying LIFE. I am two people. I have a divine power to bring forth a child into the world, and that blows my mind over and over. I have never felt so powerful, so important, so gifted and so much self love in my entire life. Every minute of this miracle is a gift.  

 

Being pregnant is funny, beautiful and fun. There are many MANY more reasons why I love being pregnant. This just barely scrapes the surface. Perhaps I'll make part two in a few months.  What are or were your favourite parts of being pregnant? Did I miss any big ones? Let me know in the comments below. 
 

 

Art Battle

A lot of my work comes from Art Battle. If you have a piece of my art, chances are you've bought it at the silent auction at Art Battle Ottawa.  You might have also noticed that some of my paintings featured on this website are marked as 20-minute paintings. Those, too, have come from Art Battle.  

What is Art Battle anyway? Here's a great video to give you an idea of the event. If you look closely, you'll see me in the video a few times! 

Now you know. And now you should go check out an Art Battle event in your city! http://artbattle.com/

 

Finding a Tribe

I've been living in what I still refer to as a 'new city' for the last 7 years.

Ottawa was a very big and welcome change. It's a city with a busy nightlife, arts culture, and plenty to entertain yourself with, despite what many of it's locals have resigned to believe. What made me fall head-over-heels for this city was not all its lush life, but it's familiarity to a small town. It didn't shock me outside my comfort zone of eastern Canadian hospitality and kindness when I moved here. It simply added excitement and variety to my life in a way that only a countries' capital can.  

Something I wasn't able to maintain from home was the feeling of a tribe; My people, my chosen family, my community. I've been wading around in this pool of beautiful and vibrant people for more than half a decade, rubbing elbows and in some cases creating deep bonds with a chosen few. But somehow i'm still only just staying afloat in the social waters. While i've found everyone to be warm and welcoming, I still haven't found the people who make it feel like home no matter where we go. The large body of people who I want to move with... like the tide. 

This of course is not to be mistaken for having not made friends. In fact, it's been a point of conversation with our families in Nova Scotia that my husband and I have created a network of beautiful and caring people that we are lucky to spend our time with. And they are right. When I stand back and look at the friendships we've made, and count on my hands the people on whom we trust, the numbers are great. Perhaps even better than they were in the later years of living in Cape Breton, when so many of our friends had moved west. My heart glows when I think of the beautiful web of friendship we've weaved across the city. 

But thats just it; its a web. Every relationship cast out in a different direction, with only my husband and myself in common, at the centre of it all.

Our friends are all from so many different walks of life. The adventurous outdoorsy travellers, the young famalies with kids, the serial singles, the chosen DINKs (Dual income no kids), the music professionals, the government workers, the gamers, the tradesmen, the tech geeks, the athletes. We've made friends with a seriously wide variety of people. And although it can be incredibly entertaining and our social outings have a wonderful variety, it also means that our time is fractured among many. Our time with these people is often short, and it's become a challenge to find the bond before we end up hanging out with someone from the other side of the web. We are pulled in many directions at once. 

My first-level response is to bring my friends together. On the rare occasions of birthdays or holidays, we find ourselves surrounded by those lovely friends, but still divided. Theres too much lifestyle difference and personality clashes for the melting pot to happen. It's simply, and sadly, not the answer to whats been lost for these past 7 years. 

Where do I find it? Who is my tribe and where are they? What exactly is it that i'm looking for?These are the questions i've been asking myself for the last few weeks. 

In early January I did something outside my comfort zone. I attended an 'artist meetup' in the city. I'm not a true introvert; I love to socialize and sometimes even feel mentally and physically sick when I'm not socializing regularly. I'm more of the new definition of a Extroverted-Introvert. I'm shy around new people and find it incredibly difficult to step into unknown social realms. But i've come to a crossroads. I can either face my fears and put myself out there in new and terrifying places with beautiful people full of potential who may accept me or reject me (or worse, not notice me at all)...or stay within my comfort zone with the people I know, trust, and care about, but live with an emptiness and longing for a community of like-minded people. I took my first step down the scary road of unknown social interactions and attended the Artist Meetup in hopes of finding refuge and kindness among other artist. After all, there are yet to be any 'artists' who are a part of the web of people I have across the city. I owe it to myself to find the creatives and create that bond. 7 years is long enough. 

The artist meetup was a positive experience. I can't say I had an epiphany or any sort of social breakthrough, but the people were shy and kind and easy to be around. I wasn't necessarily welcomed with open arms (and didn't expect to be), but I did feel a sense of acceptance. And best of all, i didn't feel isolated away from these strangers. They allowed me into something that already exists. And thats a pretty lovely thing in itself. 

At the end of the meetup I had some great conversations with new people. It helped me a lot. It gave me a sense of 'possible belonging.' An opening of a door. Thats just enough for my first attempt. I plan on going back to the next meetup, to see where it will take me. Until then, i'm passively looking for other opportunities to find my tribe. 

I'll find you soon. 

 

T'is the season for custom artwork!

Each year I get the opportunity to help other people fulfill their christmas gift lists and wish lists with something hand made and personalized. It's a lovely thing to be part of; helping others give gifts with lots of meaning, while being given the chance to create something thats usually outside my wheelhouse. This year was no different. 

A week ago, a friend asked met to paint a portrait of her partners' dog. While i'm a confident painter, animals are not typically my chosen subject matter, and my training in being able to recreate the likeness of an animal usually falls under drawings rather than paintings.  I accepted the commission and got to work. 

I spent hours researching painting techniques and viewing the artwork of others to help gain my footing, and then dove straight in. Painting this sweet dog was even more enjoyable than I had expected. Her absolutely adorable face (coupled with my undying love for all dogs) allowed me to get absorbed in the process, and helped the painting happen naturally. To my surprise, I completed the portrait in one sitting. 

My friend was delighted with the result, and said it brought tears to her eyes! I'm so excited to see how her partner responds.

If you have a pet that you'd like to have a portrait of, reach out to me with your ideas and together we can create a beautiful portrait!

Happy Holidays! 

 

Inspiration at work

For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated with the female form. The curves and angles and a womans inherent ability to communicate with her body. It's been my wheelhouse for artwork for a very long time. Branching out is difficult when i enjoy the subject so much.

Recently I took a two-week trip around Ireland. The landscape enchanted me the way no other has. I saw things that I thought were only written in fairytales and experienced moments that brought me to tears as I felt like i was walking through a real life painting. Slowly something stirred in me... a desire to paint the landscapes that I've traveled in. 

My latest project is a 4.5 x 5 foot canvas painting of one of my most favorite places in Ireland. I'm excited and nervous about it... landscapes are not my strength, but it's nice to be outside my comfort zone. Here is a sneak peak... it soon will be available for purchase in my gallery.

 

Finding time & Dicipline

I'm sure most creatives face this issue.

We take on a multitude of projects for other people and dance daily with the balance of our freelance work and day jobs. That is if you're not one of the lucky ones making full time work out of your passion. 

This dance is a beautiful and tormented one. On one hand, we love being able to work at what we are gifted with. But on the other hand, we are often saddled with jobs and challenges that prevent us from the purely fun and creative endeavors. And worse, when we do have time to 'play' with our talents, we often neglect the projects we have set up for ourselves in the administrative department. 

At least that's how it's been for me for the last number of years. The rare moments I have to work on my own projects, I reach for my paint brushes, sculpting clay, or sketchbook, and my web presence has suffered.  

This fall I've decided to stop dilly-dallying and start disciplining myself. It's time to set up a true representation of myself and my work on the web, so that I can push forward with my creativity and let the world see. 

And so,  here we are.  Thanks for being an open audience.