Thursday, 26 April 2018

5 years reflections: gift card

Back in January 2014, I went to a post Christmas school staff party. One of the organizers had a fiancé who worked at a luxury hotel chain, and they were able to get a deal to hold the dinner there. The hotel also donated the grand prize and behold.....My name was drawn! This was shortly after our IVF was cancelled. Several  people there knew about it, and told me they were particularly happy we had won since we surely needed a pick-me-up. It was a sweet moment. Our prize consisted of gift certificates to brunch and “death by chocolate”  (a dessert buffet) at the hotel, as well as a  $100 gift certificate and a gift basket.

Then, a few days later....our house was burgled. Seriously, that month. It was insane. Afterwards I hid the gift certificates in the back of a cupboard, although logically I knew we were unlikely to be robbed again and it was even more unlikely a burglar would take them.

The surprises were not over, however. A few weeks later we got the biggest surprise of all.

I meant to use the gift certificates. In the early weeks of our first pregnancy, I took them on a weekend trip to the mountains. We stayed in the hotel chain and I intended  to go to the spa. Instead I was stuck in bed either throwing up, asleep, or awake trying not to throw up. I spent the weekend watching CNN and late night infomercials on the hotel TV. Many months later, after AJ was born, I did finally take a friend to Death By Chocolate.

The other day I was digging in the cupboard for a can of something and spotted the bag where I had hidden the remaining prizes. Inside I found the brunch certificate and the $100 gift card. The brunch certificate expired three years ago. But the gift card was still valid.

I decided we would finally use it to have a date night. It seemed somehow appropriate to go out and celebrate now that both our children are safely here, and the events of that January a memory that has mellowed with time.

We enjoyed delicious food, but the best part was the conversation: having the time and attention to explore trains of thought together and let them take us where they would. It is reassuring to realize that after knowing each other for 10 years, and being married for nearly 8, and now with 2 children, that we do still like to talk to each other.

Salad, and wine. Living dangerously!

Main course: lamb

Blurry dessert. Having too much fun to hold the phone steady. This was a “melting chocolate sphere”: dessert inside chocolate globe that melts when hot sauce poured over it.

Several times wait staff asked if we were celebrating anything: anniversary, birthday etc. We replied “no just date night!” But after being asked and asked I thought back to early 2014, and said impulsively to Mr Turtle: “It is the anniversary of the death of despair.” And as soon as I said it I really liked it. Worry and uncertainty didn’t end with the pregnancy; in fact they were really just getting started, from one point of view. But there was no more despair. People embrace the future in different ways, and we often have to be creative, and flexible, not knowing what it will bring, or when it is different than imagined. Four years ago, we were just learning to embrace what our lives would become. It wasn’t always an easy process but it was a good process.

The thought fills my heart with light. Something to celebrate. One day, I think we will look back on this dinner as a new beginning in our lives.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Comfort zones

I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job of getting myself and my children out into the community, rather more so than when AJ was a baby. Some of this is no doubt because I have a three year old now, and it’s rather more difficult to poke around all day at home with a young energetic child. But I like to think some of it is me being braver and more imaginative, too.

AJ is now home 3 days a week, at daycare 2 days a week. We are still working out a routine, but we’ve gone to one weekly play date with a local moms group and plan to keep going.  I’m going to take AJ to kids yoga this week.  We go for walks regularly and I have taken both kids grocery shopping. AJ does really well when all 3 of us are out. We talk a lot about safety when we are out walking, crossing the road, pointing out blind corners and back alleys, etc. I hope I can help her a get a good sense of independent safety so she can have the maximum amount of freedom. I really hate hovering and hectoring.

I’ve also started going to a stroller fitness class at a local rec centre, although it hasn’t involved strollers so far as it’s been too cold to go outside. This has been interesting. My first choice would have been the mom and baby barre class, but it wasn’t on the day I wanted. 
So instead  I found myself in a gym with a few other moms running laps and skipping rope and using weights and whatever else the instructor came up with.

I’m not sporty. I’ll happily walk and bike and cycle and swim and ski, but I don’t “work out”  and have never played team or competitive sports. I’ve always been able to maintain a acceptable level of fitness and health without a great deal of effort, so I’ve never explored fitness culture. As for sports, I have little to no comprehension of them and am not the slightest bit motivated to run after a ball or other projectile. I’m more likely to run the other way. Luckily our stroller fit class has not involved any actual sports; that would be totally embarrassing (and probably dangerous for the babies).  However, I still felt a bit like I was back in high school gym class, except everything jiggled a bit more.

The sense of being slightly out of my depth is  increased by my cheap shoes (I didn’t think we’d be inside much so didn’t want to spend much on them), the fact that the instructor keeps reminding me that I don’t have to try anything too difficult, and by the conversation that can run to sports played by the other ladies as children, etc. I do find ways to insert myself into the conversation but thinking too much means missing the natural openings. Also I swear that women sense when someone is hesitant to talk and rush to fill gaps with more chatter. But really it is better to leave silent space so that people who need more time to think can say something. I’m going to try to remember that.

My crappy but also rather pretty shoes

Anyway, this got me thinking about how I approach situations  and I realized that when I feel uncomfortable I tend to pull back and analyze what is going on (as you can tell from this entry). That does come in useful sometimes but especially in a non-serious situation, it isn’t the best approach necessarily.  The stakes in my little fitness class are very low. I only see these ladies once a week and we don’t have to work together or anything. So I’ve decided to try to do the opposite of my  instinct and embrace the (slight) weirdness rather than be put off by it. I can learn useful things like what kind of sports to introduce the girls to. Even though it was never my thing I am sure there are many advantages to them playing sports if they want. AJ is already interested in hockey (although she can barely stand on the ice so we are a ways away from any solid commitment there). It’s fun to look for resemblances to yourself in ones children but also fun to think they can totally grow up without my personal limitations. And the best way to embrace that, I think, is to also push my limitations so I look forward to doing that, in little steps.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

5 years reflections: the fertility clinic

 torthúil was 5 years old in January 2018. I had other things on my mind then, so I didn’t write anything on my blogoversary. But I thought it might be interesting to write a few retrospective entries on the last 5 years. So I will plan to do that and put the label “5 years reflections” in the titles.

In January 2013 we got our referral to The Fertility Clinic for the first time. I remember being both anxious and excited and my entries reflect that. I felt like I was about to be initiated into an exclusive club, and I was nervous about what that meant. I felt like a lot of things were going to happen but I didn’t know what any of them would be. All we could do was set sail and hope we would ride out whatever storms were on the horizon. I didn’t doubt there would be storms. I didn’t think it would be easy.

Our first contact with The Fertility Clinic was in April 2013. Our first appointment was in May. We spent the next few months doing seemingly endless tests culminating in an IVF attempt January 2014.

I was trying to think the other day if I have any happy memories whatsoever of The Fertility Clinic. There’s really only one, and that was when I picked up my drugs for IVF. I had been feeling quite apprehensive about IVF shortly before. My mom came with me to the clinic to get all the medication and we rode back to my parents place on the bus. (Mr Turtle was still in the US visiting his mom.) It was cold, overcast and snowy. The bag containing the drugs was purple. I had not thought about this in a long time but when I finally disposed of the leftover IVF drugs and supplies a few weeks ago, I remembered later and thought: that visit was actually a happy experience. I liked having my mom with me. She was excited too. Later we played Scrabble and we made all sorts of fertility related words like “ova” and “baby.” Probably not coincidence. 

The next day I had to go renew my driver’s license. It was sunny and the light reflected brightly off the winter snow. I walked to a nearby registry office. As I walked home afterwards, I suddenly felt a lightness of spirit. I believed we were doing the right thing and beyond that, I felt a joyful presence with me. I was not alone. I have never talked about this experience because I can’t explain it. But I can’t dismiss it either. It is one of the sacred memories of my life.

Otherwise, however, I really have no good associations with The Fertility Clinic. They never got us pregnant. Almost every meeting was bad news. Mind you the last one was more hopeful, and it’s funny to think I was already pregnant when we were there but I didn’t know it. When the nurse called me the next month to get set up for IUI, I got to say “thanks, but I’m already pregnant.” Somehow that was more embarrassing than satisfying.

I was thinking of all this recently because I am as close to certain as I can be that we will never go to the Fertility Clinic again. Hurrah! We are probably done having children as well, but we do not intend to ask The Fertility Clinic to help in any case.

There’s only one scenario where I can see us going back and that’s if - God forbid - one of our children dies and we decide to do absolutely anything to have another. I don’t know why my mind goes there but that’s literally the only circumstance I can think of. Unless I also consider insanity. I hope neither of those things ever happen.

With that in mind, I feel like I can say we are “resolved.” Even if we choose not to actively prevent pregnancy (that’s another can of worms), I’m done with any form of assisted reproduction.

I am so grateful for my children and to close the book on assisted reproduction it makes my head spin. Paradoxically, it also makes me feel a little closer to the memories of when we were starting out. I can now re-read the entries where we were anticipating or doing various treatments and think “and this is how it ends.” What a great gift. There's a little frisson of deja vu, a thought of "so now what?" but mainly sweet relief and gratitude.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Dani 2 months

Here we are two months after baby Dani’s birthday. Since not every month has 31 days it’s exciting to celebrate a real month birthday.

Before Dani was born I rather hoped I wouldn’t have a January baby but now I think she has the coolest birthday. And because it’s at the end of January it will make furure Januarys better because of the anticipation.

Bouncing on the ball chair, the swing for short periods of time, car rides (sometimes), stroller rides (usually), smiling at her people, baths. Tummy time-kind of? I discovered I could make it more interesting for her by using those wind up toys. I send them skittering around her and it gives her something to look at so she tolerates tummy time longer.

Weight: 11.2 lbs

Length: “”

Fashion: 3-6  month clothes. Some even marked 6-9 months. Both my girls have long torsos (I guess?) so even though some of these are quite wide they are the right length.

 Wearing one of the two sleepers that I bought 
before she was born.  Almost outgrown. Sigh and smile.

Social life:
Smiling, cooing, little one and two syllable giggle sounds. When she is in a good mood she can interact for up to ten minutes with someone. 

Sleeping: 5-7 hour stretches at night, usually followed by another 2 hour snooze. Sometimes a longish nap during the day, though she can be a challenge to put down. She will usually sleep in car or stroller (but often wakes up VERY pissed). She also can fuss a lot before bed. Goes to sleep between 9:30 and 11:30. Wakes up between 4am and 7am to feed, then back asleep 40 to 90 minutes later.

Eating: lots of boob milk. Other than the sore nipples for  a few days after birth, no issues. I haven’t been pumping or practicing with a bottle since mid March. She is reluctant to take a bottle, despite initial success. Will try to start again next month. 

When I drive past the road we took to the hospital, I always think of Dani’s birth.  I remember how the foundations of my world shifted that night, the power that surged through my body to bring the new reality into being.

Nicknames: Dani Bear, Squish, Snuggleumpagus.

Looking forward to spring with family!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Microblog Monday: Baby shower

A few months ago, my MIL and I were talking about my SIL’s baby shower, and I mentioned I’d  never been to a baby shower. Or had one.

There aren’t a lot of babies among my family and friends, as I’ve previously mentioned. Of the few that have had babies so far, they’ve been from out of town. It’s not exactly true that I’ve never been invited to a baby shower. I was once. But it was a friend’s daughter, not a close friend, and we had vacation plans, and we were right in the middle of infertility. So I didn’t go.

I would have gone to my SIL’s shower. But she’s a 3 hour plane ride away. Hence the conversation.

MIL seemed rather perturbed by this information. She said: “ I just assumed somebody would have organized a shower for you.” (She’s also a 3 hour plane ride away.) As I explained though, my mother grew up and had her kids outside of the kind of culture that has baby showers (however you define that). So it wouldn’t occur to her on her own. I don’t have sisters or sisters in law. It would be a weird request to make of my friends without children. Or so it seems to me. My step MIL would have organized a shower for me, I’m sure, if I’d asked. Thing is, with AJ I was too anxious throughout the pregnancy 
to want a shower.  Any time I was at a family dinner or something and people started talking about my pregnancy, it made me panicky. I would briefly enjoy the attention then I would imagine the baby dying and everyone heartbroken, and it just added to my emotional baggage. 

With Dani I was much less anxious (those thoughts didn’t creep in till very close to birth), but since she was a second child and I didn’t have a shower for AJ, again it seemed like a weird thing to ask. Plus we already have a lot of stuff. And I haven’t been to any showers or organized any, so it wasn’t like payback was in order. 

(Speaking of payback, check out 
You Owe Me by Baroness Von Sketch.)

 MIL is action oriented, so once she had processed all this social awkwardness and omission, she decided we were having a shower for Dani. I liked the idea as Dani was already born, or going to be very soon (I forget when exactly we spoke about it). I much prefer a party with the baby here. Even if pregnancy was emotionally easier the second time around.  (I have never liked the adjective  “expecting” with its presumptive  missing noun. Everyone fills in “a baby” without a second thought, it seems, but I also mentally filled the gap with all sorts of disasters.)

As it happened, the past weekend most of the family on MIL’s side was gathering in a small town north of us to celebrate MIL’s brother’s birthday and retirement. So my MIL arranged a brunch the day after the party for our family. She booked a room at a cozy inn and bought a cake. Mr. Turtle’s cousins helped decorate. 

People with faces tastefully obscured with red scribbling.


It was fun. The food was delicious and we were able to talk and visit in a relaxed fashion. Dani fed and then slept in step FIL’s arms for the remainder of the party. There were presents for Dani but also for AJ and for the only other baby born so far on this side of the family, a little boy.

My favourite present was from Mr Turtle’s uncle: a beautiful, soft blanket monogrammed with Dani’s name and birthdate. I just love this blanket (here folded to preserve some anonymity.) 

I think seeing Dani’s name and birthday just makes me so happy that she is truly here and the twisting and uncertain journey that brought her to us has an end date, and a happy ending. And I can cuddle her in the blanket and be reminded of this every day.

I am glad that we got to have a shower after all. Despite all my previous excuses and mixed feelings I think it is important to bring people together to mark milestones. I am grateful to have people who will do this for us, and do it in the way that is most enjoyable.

Back to 
microblog Mondays

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A night out with Natalie

Before I found and fell in love with baby Dani's name, one of the girl names on my list was Natalie. This was in no small part because of Canadian musician Nat.alie Mac.master. I've listened to Natalie's music for twenty years at least and own most of her albums. I saw her live for the first time in 2000, outside in the rain, and since then I've lost count of how many shows I've been to.  As I grew into young and mid-adulthood she was more and more the model of a woman who had it together (I dislike the expression "has it all" but you could say that too).  She was close enough to my age to be relate-able but enough older to be a role model and to experience life milestones just the right amount of time before I did.

There is a life parallel or two. Despite being extraordinarily good looking, popular and talented, Natalie didn't date much in her twenties or have many relationships. In interviews she usually gave the reason that she was too busy playing music (for several years she had an incredibly busy touring schedule) but she also implied a few times that it was because she took relationships very seriously and was not into casual relationships or sex. I am not extraordinarily good looking, popular or talented but also didn't date much for similar reasons, so I liked the fact she was honest about this.

Natalie married at age 30, the same age I got married. She married another talented fiddler from Ontario who, like her, was part of a strong musical tradition. After this our personal lives become rather different. Natalie and her husband didn't have kids for two or three years after marriage. And then they started having kids....a lot of kids. Baby number 6 was born in 2014 when she was 42.  She and her husband continue to play music professionally, run a farm and home school their children. And as you might expect, all the kids are learning music and  dancing. I have yet to see them all live, but I'm sure it's adorable.

My favourite quote about the right time to have children is from Natalie: "No time is a good time, so any time works." I don't recall feeling resentful of her during the years we were struggling to conceive. Natalie and her husband must have already had four or five kids by the time we started trying, so it's not like we were ever going to catch up. Besides, she's so down to earth she's not an easy person to be negative towards. After baby 6, a girl, I assumed she was done especially since the baby was born with Down Syndrome (this has not stopped her from taking up the fiddle).

Anyway. Last year Mr. Turtle and I were discussing Christmas presents and decided to continue with our recent tradition of "experience" gifts, i.e. planning a date night for each other. I browsed through the concert listings in our city and noticed Natalie was playing here March 17th, so I suggested that to Mr. Turtle for my present. Neither of us bothered to calculate that we would have a six week old infant at the time; also maybe the memory of what babies are like was a little faint.

The weeks went by and this past weekend, it was time to go out and enjoy my Christmas present! By a lucky coincidence my mother in law and her husband were visiting so we had someone to watch the girls. I was a bit anxious, but I succeeded in pumping milk the week before, and after watching Grandma successfully feed Dani more than two ounces from a bottle, I started looking forward to the night out. We also had dinner at home, so we weren't away for more than three hours including travel time.

Natalie had played a show on Friday night, and my step dance teacher went and posted effusively about it on She added in the ensuing comment conversation:  "And she's expecting baby number seven! Amazing woman!" My response was "OMG LOL." Internet-ese is great for expressing emotion efficiently and opaquely in six letters.  Of course, I did the math. Natalie is 45.

It was an excellent show, and Mr. Turtle had bought tickets in the 4th row from the stage. This is not the ideal place for sound, but we could see all the expressions and the stepdancing. Natalie is a great showman. She walked on stage with a big grin, and rubbed her belly before launching into her first set. I could see the mischievous look she gave the audience while doing it, and it was awesome, I can't deny it. Nevertheless, I was glad I was warned. Knowing that I was going to see a pregnant woman performing on stage meant I could take it in and then move on to listening the the music, whooping and hollering, tapping my feet, and pondering such matters as how exactly she had attached her electronics to her back and how she was keeping her pants up.

After a couple of sets, Natalie patted her belly and said "I guess I should explain this...." She said she and her husband had not set out to have seven kids, but, life happens (paraphrasing). She told the audience "I'm 45" and joked about being "AMA": "Advanced maternal age." "Age is just a number!" and "We are looking forward to meeting this sweetheart." I genuinely liked her bold comments. Maybe (probably?) I would have felt differently if we hadn't been able to have our children. I may even have felt differently if I didn't know she was pregnant walking in. I don't know. But I can see how she could be judged for having a lot of children, or having children into her 40s. Even I am inclined to judge a bit for having another baby after one is born with Down's, because it's something I'm afraid of and would like to avoid. But at the same time....It was life affirming to see her on stage, joyful, and not remotely apologetic for her choices. I like that she is child positive. I like the fact she was open about her age. It's a pet peeve of mine that women are supposed to lie about or conceal our ages.

Although it is funny timing, coming just as I am sorting out my feelings about whether or not I am done having children.  But I think the lesson to draw from this experience is not that people should have more or less children, but that life is better when you do your best to open your heart up to whatever opportunities present themselves.

As for Dani, she did just fine. She ended up refusing to take the bottle, but she only fussed a bit and then dozed off in her car seat (which was the only place grandparents could put her down). I fed her and moved her to her bassinet with a lot less trouble than I sometimes have (her fussiest time is often before bed, and it can drag on for an hour or two).

Life is good.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Six weeks

I took Dani for her six week check up today (six week post partum visit for me). It was the first time she and I have been to the doctor since she was 5 days old. At 5 days Dani was already over her birthweight so we did not need to go in sooner.

She is 10 lbs and change (I really need to remember to note these numbers) and in good health. I mentioned her nose / throat mucus which can irritate her when we put her down to sleep. There wasn’t any reason to suppose it was caused by anything serious though.

I am also good: a bit of constipation to take care of, and my stomach muscles are slightly separated in front. I have to remember to breathe normally if I’m working out my abs. That seems to be all. I’ve lost about 15 lbs from what I remember of my last pregnant weigh-in. Still around 20lbs over pre preg weight. At this point I don’t really care if I’m losing weight as long as I’m not gaining.

This could also be my last ever visit to the maternity clinic, as Dani will now be seen by our family doctor. How do I feel about this? Well.....fine actually. Several times a day, I think to myself  “We have a baby.” Not a hope, not a dream. Not a gamble every month. Not a treatment plan. Not a little embryo or fetus that we hope makes it. An actual baby. That’s such a big deal. It is so very different than it was before.

Moving forward: 
  • Signed up for a stroller exercise class next month
  • Also next month AJ will only be at daycare 2 days a week. We are calling it preschool (because it’s as good or better, and we don’t have to find a preschool)
  • My extended leave is approved: plan is to return to work sept 2019
Rest of life, here I come!

Love and light to all.