Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Love Dare

A local Christian television program (100 Huntley Street) is launching an interesting project for the New Year. Based on the book "The Love Dare" (which is based on the movie "Fireproof"), it is a challenge for couples (mostly married couples) to expand and explore their relationship. No matter the condition of your relationship - whether you are both hanging on by a thread, or if one person seems to have checked out, whether you are newlywed or celebrating 25 years together, whether your marriage needs a little check up or if you want to enrich an already wonderful marriage, the Love Dare has something to offer you.

At this time of New Years Resolutions, promises we traditionally make to ourselves and break within the month, this resolution is 40 days long and involves considering a different aspect of love and relationships every day. Each day also has a challenge - some active step you can take to demonstrate love toward your partner. There is no illusion that it will be easy - the first day involves saying nothing negative toward your spouse for the entire day. Heaven knows that can be difficult, if not next to impossible some days! But just imagine the reward after 40 days of selfless acts of love toward the one you have given your heart to.

You don't even need the book - you can follow along online at Every day a new dare will be posted. There are three couples taking the challenge and posting online about their journey. You can follow along with them and read about others as they are en route to discovery.

I'm definitely going to take this journey also, although I will likely wait for a month or so until we are settled in a little more with Benjamin. But I so encourage everyone to pop over to the webiste, have a look, and see if it isn't a New Years Resolution you might be interested in making. This is one challenge that could change your life and your marriage.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The days go by

There is something magical about the first week of a baby's life. I look down into Benjamin's eyes as I cuddle him in my arms, and I realize that he will never be just a few days old again. After week one, you start to count his age in weeks. But these first few days are simply amazing as I think to myself "you are only 3 (or 4, or 5) days old. It's like I can't wrap my head around just how tiny and young that is! Truly, it feels like he's always been a part of our family.

The boys are head over heels for their baby brother. Caleb constantly stops what he's doing to inquire where Benjamin is, just to make sure he's okay. They both love to cuddle him, and give him kisses and hugs all throughout the day.

Benjamin is doing great. He's taken to breastfeeding really well, and, like Caleb, seems to get most of his meals within 10 - 15 minutes. Which is really nice, as it means I don't have to spend hours and hours each day sitting and feeding. I guess my milk flow is really strong. He also hasn't taken to long bouts of crying. He fusses a little when he's hungry, but when he's not eating or sleeping, he likes to just sit and look around at the world. His eyes seem to slowly scan all around him, as though he just wants to observe and take it all in.

The one trouble we have is his congestion. He has trouble lying down, which means that we need to hold him upright a lot. It also means that some nights (every other night or so) I stay awake and hold him in my arms at an oblique angle so he can breathe better while he sleeps. I'm hoping it's just related to the delivery (mucous and such) and that it will clear out soon.

Most of all, I am amazed at the feeling over overwhelming love I experience when I hold him. Just like the other two boys, my heart seems to grow and multiply in its emotional capacity with each baby. I spend a lot of time just gazing down at my little boy, basking in the pure sense of joy that fills me. There is nothing better than being a mother.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Benjamin's birth story

Our newest family member has arrived! Benjamin Martin Gawthroupe entered the world on Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 9:38pm. What a whirlwind it all was!

Sunday morning at 3am I awoke to moderate yet manageable contractions. They didn't last more than 20 or 30 seconds and were 15 - 20 minutes apart. As the day went on, they never got closer than 15 minutes, and I sometimes went 45 or 60 minutes without one. All this means that while labour might be close, it could still be days away. (I experienced this with Caleb; the contractions got all the way down to 10 minutes, and then I didn't have him for another 5 days!) While I started getting excited, knowing that likely he would arrive by Christmas, I didn't really expect anything to happen that day.

Then in the afternoon, I began to wonder if might be leaking amniotic fluid. With Colin my water broke at home, with Caleb they broke it in the hospital. Unsure, I called the maternity ward at the hospital and they told me to come in for an assessment. With my nephew's birthday party happening at my house for dinner, and then a Christmas music program I was scheduled to play the piano for that night, I figured I'd hurry over, get assessed, then zip back for all my events.

The nurses confirmed everything was okay. Benjamin reacting a little negatively to the random contractions, but then seemed to settle down. They sent me on my way: contractions were still about 20 minutes apart, and not showing any sign of progressing further.

The moment I walked back in my house, the contractions jumped to 7 minutes apart, then 6, then 5 within about half an hour. And each contraction was long and severe. My mom looked at me and said "I think you're having this baby tonight!" Knowing the long and hard labours and deliveries I've had in the past, I decided to head back to the hospital, having been discharged less than an hour and a half before. I wanted to make sure I had time for an epidural.

We signed in around 7pm, and the nurse laughed: she had only just finished cleaning out the room I had been in. She took us down and got us settled again. I immediately requested the epidural. The nurse looked a little skepitcal. Honey, she said, I will put in the request, but we've first got to do some blood work and get the results before they can hook you up. We'll start on it, but I don't think you're going to make it.

That tweaked my attention. Wtih my last two labours, it was at least 6 or 8 hours from this point before the baby was born. Did she know something I didn't? I hardly dared hope, but I was praying she would be right.

Well, she was right! I was already 5 cm dialated. By 8pm I was 7 cm, and the contractions were fairly running into each other. By 9pm I was 9 cm and ready to start pushing. The on-call obstetrician (who happened to be my own OB), was called in. Luckily he only lives 5 minutes away, because I was ready to push as they were calling him. The nurse hadn't left my side since I arrived, which I knew was a good sign. Usually the nurses are so casual about it all (they've seen it thousands of times), hanging around, gabbing, walking in and out of the room. Very frustrating for a mother in labour and in pain. But this nurse stuck close, so my instinct was it would all be over soon. My previous labours, I pushed between one and two hours. The the nurse intimated it would all be over before 10pm. So, with only a shot of painkillers in me that hardly took the edge off at all, I started pushing. It was not a pretty sight. Throughout the labour contractions the pain was so severe I was really thrashing around, demanding that they get the baby out. I alternated between threatening them and complete focused silence as I tried to deal with the unimaginable pain.

With both previous births I was eventually given an episiotomy. Even though my OB does less than one per year on all his patients (he was constantly amazed when he read my chart and saw that he gave me one with Caleb!). But I think that was part of the "pushing" problem in the past - they made me push and push and push, and then eventually resorted to the episiotomy. This time, after a few pushes to get the baby to crown, and after a few more pushes wouldn't get him out, I told them to just do the cut and get it done with. Thankfully there was no arguing, and with three more pushes Benjamin was born!

I immediately turned over and curled up in a ball. In fact, I didn't even see Benjamin until 11pm that night. I knew he was being taken care of, that the nurses and James were all there, and that he was sleeping in his cot right beside me. But exhaustion took hold, and all I wanted was to rest.

When I finally turned over around 11pm, I was filled with immense joy. I snuggled my baby boy in my arms, feeling a sense of completeness.

Congratulations have been pouring in from friends and family, but two comments specifically I want to record here, because they really touched me.

The first was from a friend who was attending the church Christmas musical performance I was supposed to play at. At the beginning of the program, they excused my absence, saying that I was in labour. Then my friend said that Brad Miller, Stake President of Mississauga Stake, who knew James and I really well when we lived in Toronto, opened the program with a prayer, in which he blessed my delivery. This would have happened at 7pm Sunday night - right as we were arriving at the hospital. I was humbled to know such an inspirational and spiritual leader was asking our Heavenly Father to bless the delivery of this little boy. And every aspect of this labour and delivery shows how that prayer was answered.

The second comment was from an old high school friend with whom I've recently reconnected. I knew him from the drama program we were both a part of. His comment came as a reply to the birth announcement I sent out. It was short, but both beautiful and touching:
"Welcome, Benjamin. You have no idea that you just won the lottery of good moms."

Well, I certianly know I won the lottery with my three boys. I'm fairly certain this is the last pregnancy for me, and I really do feel the completeness of our family as we welcome Benjamin into our fold.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Kitchen Aromas

Sometimes I amaze myself when I remember I'm the grown-up here. Even though I'll be 30 next year, I think I permanently feel about 20. And so, even though I'm feeling like I've been hit by a bus, there are still things that, as the grown-up/mommy, I still need to do.

Cooking is one of them. For some strange reason, my children and husband still seem to want to eat even though the thought of food and cooking is tiresome for me. And my body demands nourishment also. A couple of months back I bought a terrific book called "Once-a-month cooking," with the idea of taking a Saturday at the end of November and cooking up a month's worth of meals that go right into the freezer, ready with little preparation on the day you want to eat them. My thought was to have them stored for when the baby comes. Unfortunately, I started getting even worse through November, which not only meant that I never got around to my cooking marathon for the baby's arrival, but also that I didn't even have the energy to put a meal together now. I knew I had to do something the night James came home and asked what I made the boys and I for dinner, and I replied "oatmeal." He genuinely thought I was kidding. I genuinely wasn't. Instant oatmeal from those little Quaker pouches. I think I made "Raisins 'n' Spice," hoping the raisins could count in the "fruits and vegetables" food guide category.

So the first week, I broke down and bought a pile of frozen meals - lasagnas, stir fries, frozen entrees and the like. I can't remember the last time I bought or served one, but I figured it was better than oatmeal. Unfortunately, my kids weren't fooled for a second. James and I thought they weren't bad, but my kids have grown-up with whole foods and meals I make from scratch. They wouldn't even eat a bite.

With a freezer still half stocked with those prepared boxes, I happened across a lovely book in our local bookstore: "Crock Pot: 5 ingredients or less." Well, I have a small crock pot, and with 5 ingredients or less to toss in a pot and let simmer all day - I figured even I, feeling like I'm on my deathbed, could handle that. Turns out - I can! We've had numerous delicious meals, rounded out by a side of frozen vegetables. We've had to adjust a little to the higher salt content (most meals use a can of condensed soup as the base), since I never cook with salt, but other than that it's been a hit! Each meal does us at least a dinner and a left-over lunch, and sometimes even a second dinner.

I think this will be my new "baby shower" present for my friends.

PS - I also did a little "holiday baking" today. Ginger cookies and some yummy bars. Not too much and not too difficult, but it will be nice to have them around to put out over the holidays. We're hosting both family Christmas' this year (as the only ones with a house)!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The nesting itch

I've got the nesting itch and I can't wait to scratch it! I'm still beyond exhausted and can't find it in me to tackle the day old dishes, mop the much-needed kitchen floor, do the bi-annual toy clean-out, scrub the bathroom, or do any of the other hundred things around here that need doing. But I'm really feeling the urge to get down to it! Should be less than 2 weeks until the baby arrives, and hopefully my recovery is as quick as my last two.

The once nice thing about winter babies is that there is nothing outside to lure me away from getting the house back in order. I'm not a winter person at all; if I have to go outside I bundle up in more layers than the kid in the book "50 Below." I will have lots of time to bustle around my home, cleaning and tidying and making our house feel like a home again.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A time apart

My parents, who arrived back in Canada last Thursday, have graciously taken Caleb up for a visit at my grandmother's, in Bobcaygeon. They left Sunday night and will return again this Sunday. This is the longest stretch I've gone without my little boy. The trip came about after both my mom and Nana noted how worn out I was looking at our family Christmas on Saturday. And it's true. I hadn't had a day in a while where I found myself rejuvenated enough to get me through two or three rougher days. And knowing that sometime in the next two weeks I am going to be facing labour, I knew I had to somehow get some strength back. Colin is in school three full days this week, and so having my mom take Caleb is giving me exactly what I need - a good solid week to store up some strength and energy for what lies ahead.

I miss my little guy, though. He calls each day to tell me what he's up to. My mom says he's been good as gold, although he does ask several times a day about me. He is even more attached to me than I am to him, and I wondered how he would do apart from me. But my parents, my Nana and her husband are all wonderful with him; what toddler wouldn't bask in the complete focused attention of four adults, with no other children or chores getting in the way?

Already I'm feeling much better. I've been able to sleep in until 7am, take uninteruppted naps, and spend most of my days lying about, reading. James has also been gone during the days, which has left me with some much needed quiet, alone time. I know that within weeks this will not be possible again for a while, and so I am relishing this week of solitude before I embark once again on the craziness of life with a newborn.


Caleb tried egg nog for the first time yesterday. He thought it was amazing. He calls it "Meg MAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHG", using a very loud and gutteral voice for the "nog" portion. Every time. And then he dissolves into laughter. He makes me laugh.

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Blessing of Work

This is a concept I've been mulling over in my mind for the past while: when did "work" actually become that dirty four letter word? When did life become about entertainment and pleasure, about building machines to eliminate the amount of work we have to do? What have we filled our lives with that is better for us and better for our world? If you look back through history at eras in which pleasure was the main goal, you would fine the Rome of Nero, the France of Marie Antoinette. And you would see the decline and ruin of those eras follow quickly.

These thoughts all started when I saw a news piece on the end of the TV Soap Opera. A few of these shows that have been on the air for nearly half a century are being canceled, and the reporter wondered if and why this might be the end of the Soap Opera format. Well, my theory is that soap operas become popular with the rise of machines in the housewives' world. When all of a sudden dishwashers did the dishes and washing machines did the laundry and microwaves did the cooking...women who would once fill their days morning to night with making and keeping their homes and families suddenly found themselves with unprecedented amounts of free time. Which was promptly filled by another machine - the television. These days, fewer women are staying home, and those who do are making that choice to consciously spend their time with their children, not in front of the TV. Hence the end of the Soap Opera.

But I'm wondering what we as a people and a society are losing as we eliminate the need for work in our lives. Here is an excerpt from a magazine article from the "Ensign" that touched on exactly this:

Today, many have forgotten the value of work. Some falsely believe that the highest goal in life is to achieve a condition in which one no longer needs to work. David O. McKay was fond of saying, "Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success."

Work is not a matter of economic need alone; it is a spiritual necessity...To work - honestly and productively - brings contentment and a sense of self-worth. Having done all we can to be self-reliant, to provide for our own needs and those of our family, we can turn to the Lord in confidence to ask for what we might yet lack."

This passage made me reconsider my own views of work. Like most, I feel like work is something I need to get through and finished with so that I can get on to the "fun" things. But can I find pleasure and joy in work? Can I languish in my work, not feeling the need to rush through and get it done? Can I find peace and a sense of calm while I am working? My work right now is specifically related to housework (ugh). But I wonder if I can shift my mentality of it so that hemming a pair of pants or mopping the floor, or organizing the garage or cleaning the bathroom or tending a garden are simply ways of passing time, not things that are eating up my time.

Why must my day be divided between dreary work and pleasure activities? I need to find the joy in every aspect that is my life, and even eliminate the word "work" from my vocabulary. Although in its original form "work" might simply have meant those necessary things in life, it has come to carry such a negative connotation that I think I should drop it altogether.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

"Mommy" in movies

Caleb calls every female character in the movies he watches the "Mommy." And it is the only character he is genuinely concerned about. He tells me when the mommy is sad, or happy, and continually asks "where's the mommy?" when she is not on-screen. And, more specifically, he thinks that Princess Fiona, in the movie "Shrek," is me. (Likely it's the red hair). He is extra concerned over the princess and her trials and tribulations. I love my little boy.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Test results are in

I seem to have come to the end of the testing possibilities for what it is that ails me. The conclusion: pregnancy. Although my heart rate is getting up to 180 bpm (while resting!), I'm still suffering major dizzy spells, and the nausea has no end in sight, everything else is checking out just fine. So the only conclusion is that my body is just taking the pregnancy really really hard. Needless to say, I don't think I'm doing this again!

I saw my family doctor today, and she was overjoyed to hear that my parents arrive in town tomorrow, and will be staying with us for about 4 weeks after the baby comes. She was really concerned about how I would manage once the baby arrives. I was a little surprised to hear that - I thought all my problems would be solved once this baby came out. But apparently even the normal amount of blood loss during delivery will likely set me back a good deal, and that's if everything is normal. She also echoed my own concerns about being able to handle labour and delivery. I am not a 'one hour, one push and the baby is here' person. I am an '8 hours of hard labour followed by two hours of pushing' person. Oh, and I'm also an 'epidurals don't seem to take' person. The last two labours were difficult, and I was nowhere near as sick as I am now. My doctor assured me that they would monitor me the whole time and would step in as soon as they saw either myself ro the baby in distress. Once again, I am so grateful for modern medicene.

So the only thing left is to actually go into labour! Let's get this thing started. My bag is packed, baby clothes washed, everything is in place. So, any day now, any day...

Monday, 7 December 2009

I've done this before...really...

I'm now 36 1/2 weeks, and I forgot to pre-register at the hospital.

I've done this before...twice. You'd think I'd have the hang of things by now. I know a mother's memory of birth is somewhat wiped after the experience (so that she'll do it again), but somehow I seem to have forgotten everything to do with pregnancy! I've given more than a few blank stares to my OB when he asks a question I should know the answer to. I've blown tests that they assume I know how to do. I actually have been checking up on the Ask Dr. Sears website about the different stages of pregnancy, and how to recognize labour. And I forgot to register at the hospital. I called this morning, but it's too late now (they can't fit me in before I will likely deliver). It's not a big deal - for some reason there's still always paperwork to fill out when you arrive, keeled over in pain and in the midst of contractions. I just can't believe I forgot yet another thing.

I think this solidifies my argument, however, that until you're on your 5th or 6th kid, please do not consider yourself an expert in pregnancy and childbirth. Everyone's experiences are different, and this whole memory loss thing makes it unlikely much of what you say will be relevant to me or that you even recall it correctly.

Hard days, good days

Sometimes the hard days and good days are all wrapped up in one, oscillating from one to the other by the minute.

This morning I had to carry Caleb stretched out across my chest through Zellers while he had a crying fit. He didn't want to follow me through the store, and I was getting a little dizzy and needed to go. I then strapped him into a cart, where he proceeded to scream and cry until I got him to the car.

Then, for lunch, I made him crackers, cheese and frozen mixed vegetables. He ate the whole plate, then asked for more vegetables. Yes, my two-year-old asked for vegetables. And then he told me that "after vegetables, time for nap." Ah, there are some fair moments to life after all.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The waiting game

This period of waiting during my pregnancy is a curious one this time around. With Colin, his early arrival was so completely unexpected that I didn't have time to wait in anticipation. With Caleb, I was wrung with suspense beginning at 38 weeks, wondering if each pain I felt might be the onset of labour. With this pregnancy, I have an eerie sense of calm, behind which lies the knowledge that labour really could begin at any moment - in the next five minutes, or in the next 4 weeks. It is strange to know that there is little that precipitates the big event. One minute I will just be pregnant, and the next I will be on a quick journey toward my third baby. And everything will change in a matter of a day or two.

I feel this one will come early, but perhaps that is just wishful longing. Maybe I am bound to go all the way to my due date, or even past (although I certainly hope it will not string out that long!) I worry a little about the actual labour. My labour and delivery history is a long, drawn out, and painful one. I wonder, in my weakened physical state, if I will have the same strength I had for the last two. I see images of myself lying in exhaustion, overcome by the pain and anguish, much more silent than before. I fear a pale complexion dampened with small beads of sweat. I rejoice in the apparent strength of the baby, but tremble slightly at my own disappearing strength. I am grateful for the wonders of modern medicene that will ensure all goes as it should, for I need this assurance more than anything right now.

And so, I wait. I have more days of exhaustion than energy lately. A day of rest doesn't seem to restore to me what it used to. Sometimes two or three days go by before I can muster the strength to do what I need to. A day full of activity is sure to set me to bed. And yet, there is an end in sight...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Happy Birthday Colin

Today my big/little boy turns four! Perhaps because he is in school now, or perhaps it's just the number itself, but four years old suddenly doesn't seem like my little boy anymore. What a wonderful joy he is in my life. He has an insatiable sense of wonder and curiosity, a touch of seriousness and a deep compassion for family, friends, and all those around him. I am amazed to watch this little soul grow and develop before my very eyes.

Happy birthday, Colin.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Over the past month or so, Colin has developed a soft spot for me. Not that he hasn't always shown great love towards myself and other family members, but he's been very independent since the day he was born. He often stops to tell me that I'm beautiful, or that my hair is very pretty, or that I look beautiful. Then there are times, once every few days, where he approaches me, takes my hand, gazes into my eyes, then looks down to kiss my hand before gazing back up into my eyes. The gesture is very tender and slow, as though it is taking place outside the realm of time. The past few days he has also started to put his hand to my cheek and smile at me, caressing my cheek in a moment of pause, much the same way I do to him. I'm not sure if it's a stage, or perhaps related to our impending new arrival, or because he has started school, or simply a facet of his personality opening itself to us. Whatever it is, they are wonderful moments shared between mother and son. I hope they never end.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

When frustration builds...

I never like how I feel when frustration is boiling up inside. I have this acute awareness of myself when I am in a bad mood. Instead of just grumbling and moping and being generally unpleasant and not realizing it, it's like a part of myself is floating above me, watching me sulk in my grumpiness. So I can never even enjoy a bad mood, because I'm always aware of what a grinch I'm being to those around me, and feel guilty about my attitude.

Yesterday I had one of those afternoons. I got a call from the Internists' office requesting more tests (blood work). She asked me to swing by to pick up the requisition form, and then I could get the blood work done in the lab in their building. Perfect. I told her that I pick up Colin just before 3pm, and then I would be by.

Well, she neglected to remind me on the phone that their lab closes at 3pm. So after bundling the kids in the car and driving over, we arrived at 3:05 pm, and the lab was already closed. I knocked on the door hoping for a sympathetic lab technician who might take pity on a pregnant woman with two small kids in tow - no such luck.

The other lab in town is on the way home, so although I wasn't looking forward to bundling children in and out of the car again, I really just wanted to get the tests done. So we drove to the other lab. Out we all get, up to the door, only to find out that lab had been moved. Frustration mounting. Bundle the kids back into the car, drive to the new location.

Get the kids out. Walk up to the lab. Find another sign: lab has moved again. Now you can see the smoke pouring out of my ears. I'm exhausted from lifting the boys in and out of the car. They are peppering me with questions about why the lab was closed or why it was moved, or why it was moved again. This time, the lab was moved across the mall parking lot, and as I don't feel like doing the whole carseat buckling again, I scoop Caleb up in my arms, hold Colin close, and dart across the roads and parking lots to the lab location. I know that if this last step falls through, I think I will simply collapse on the spot in frustration.

As I approach the lab, there is a sign on the door. It's the lab hours. I grumble aloud that it had better be open. Wonder of is. And there is no one waiting there, which means we can go right in. Thankfully, the boys behave and stand obediently against the wall why I have my blood drawn. The kind nurse offers them stickers, which makes their whole afternoon adventure worthwhile. I'm just glad to have the lab work completed. The Internist already scheduled a follow-up appointment next week, which worried me a little. Usually they say "we'll call you if we find something wrong." To pre-schedule an appointment likely means they either expect to find something wrong, or, if they don't, know already they will need to do more tests.

Unfortunately, the whole afternoon put me in a funk. My stomach was already not cooperating, I had had two seperate medical appointments earlier in the day, I hadn't slept or napped well, and even though it was Monday (cleaning day), I was too exhausted to do any of it, which means it will likely go another week before I try again. The only load of laundry I did was towels, the easiest but also least important load to do.

Have I mentioned lately that I'm ready for this baby to come...any time now...really...I'm ready...let's just do this...please...