Thursday, August 31, 2006

Belly Dance Again

So Ishra just phoned me to let me know about the new session of belly dance classes and rehearsals starting the week of Sept. 11. And she mentioned that local singer Livingstone hosts a variety show once in a month in Guelph, which include belly dancers. Watch Ishra dance and Stephanie.

I (heart) South African music

South African music seems to have become a soundtrack for my life with Ezra. Right now, Ezra is asleep in the sling and I'm listening to the soundtrack of Amandla, a fantastic documentary about the role of music in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. It was one of the cds we bought with an Amazon gift certificate Dave's aunt very kindly gave us for a wedding gift two years ago. I must confess though that we only just redeemed it, weeks before it was due to expire.

I think African rhythms have become a lullabye for Ezra. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I made some cds of South African music and listened to them rather incessantly. (I do that a lot when I like a song or cd - drives Dave nuts.) So I had two cds that I took with me to the hospital when I went into labour; mostly with music by Brenda Fassie, the Mahotella Queens, Vusi Mahlasela, Hugh Masakela and others. They really helped me relax when the contractions were getting too intense. But I remember the nurse commenting that this baby's going to come out singing to the Lion King. I remember I was mildly insulted by this - we are not listening to the Lion King lady; this is quality township music not some children's musical. But not for long because I had other things on my mind.

In the weeks following Ezra's birth, we really did find that he was soothed by those and some other African cds. Especially a trancey cd with lots of drums by Konono N1, which Dave endlessly rocked Ezra to sleep to. It was amazing actually; as soon as we put that cd on Ezra would immediately settle. We got so sick of the cd we were forced to buy the sequel, Congotronics 2, which I actually like better.

When I was about six months pregnant with Ezra, we went to see - oh crap, I can't remember the name. It was a South African musical, tracing the evolution of South African dance and music. It was entertaining but I remember being disappointed that it just skimmed over the political environment. I think Ezra enjoyed it though; his kicks kept time with the deep thrumming of the drums as he danced in the womb. I think it was the most active he ever was in my pregnancy. (It's called Umoja - I googled it.)

So where am I going with this? I dunno... I just love listening to South African music. I find it amazing that apartheid didn't drown the songs; if anything it fueled them. I remember when we were in Johannesburg and watched Amandla for the first time I thought I was coming down with something it gave me such chills. But I didn't get sick. Then when we went to the Hector Peterson Memorial and Musem a couple of days later, I thought I was getting sick again. And at the Apartheid Museum the next day. When we were home we bought the dvd and shared it with my family and again, those chills came on. I don't get the chills the same way now that I've listened to the soundtrack many times but I even got chills watching Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform in Kitchener (why they came to Kitchener I have no idea).

I guess it's just that the music is so upbeat and optimistic despite horrendous oppression. It's a lesson for me I guess.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

If you need cheering up

Turn your sound up and play this video of Ezra giggling.

Dave doesn't usually go shirtless in public but has agreed to let me post the video because Ezra is just that cute. He's shirtless because yesterday was just one of those days for me and I met him on the porch holding Ezra out to him. He rides his bike to work and was hot and sweaty so he took his shirt off before he took Ezra.

Ezra's just getting so busy, I'm exhausted chasing him around. And with him sleeping pretty much only in my arms or the sling, I didn't get any physical space in the day. Plus I ate my lunch too fast and had indigestion for the rest of the day. I find I eat really fast when I'm alone with Ezra because I never know when I'm going to be interrupted. In the morning I put him in his jolly jumper for a bit and he pooped - not only down his leg but onto the floor so that all of a sudden he was skating in poop. Yes, it was a pretty sight. It took me a while to clean him and the floor up and then the jolly jumper was out of commission because it was soaked with poop as well. Then once I cleaned it all up I plopped him in his crib so I could pee and when I got him he'd spit up and rolled around in the spitup. Mothering is just so glamourous. I think with the teething, he's harder to get to sleep and slightly more grumbly than usual.

By the time Dave got home around 6 I was just done. Then he made Ezra giggle with the coke can camera my parents picked up in Cuba and that made me feel much better.

Mom if you're reading this, please try to call us. Your cousin Patsy phoned me last night.

ps - while trying to figure out how to post that video, I got sidetracked with this muppet personality test.

You Are Animal

A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.
You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.
But you sure can beat a good drum.
"Kill! Kill!"
The Muppet Personality Test

I don't think it's very accurate though because my answer to number 2 wasn't an option. I would have told Stupid Dave stories followed by Stupid Kate stories.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

exploring the blogosphere

Ok. I'm beginning to feel like... hmm... can't find appropriate simile, probably because of my dumb mum.

But this whole blogging thing - well there are just so many clever blogs out there. I didn't even really want a blog, I thought they were kind of silly. Why have a diary available to the public if you want to keep a diary? But I've been writing while on mat leave and I suddenly decided I wanted to put some stuff online. Maybe other people were going through the same things I was with Ezra not sleeping in his crib. I just felt really alone. So my web designer husband suggested a blog but I didn't think that's what I wanted.

Anyways, I started it and now I've started looking at other people's blogs and reading books about blogs (Who Let the Blogs Out? by Biz Stone) and I'm realizing that I may never have to endlessly search my library for funny British novels because there are many funny British bloggers. And they really talk like they do in the novels. And I'm realizing that novels like Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (I'm so pleased she used the apostrophe s - that's another pet peeve of mine), Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella and Lucy Talk by Fiona Walker probably all grew out of the British blogging tradition. And I'm feeling stupid for just having no clue about all this until the last week or so.

So today's funny British blog is Johnny B's private secret diary.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dear Mum

Dear Mum,
I'd email you if I thought you'd been able to remember your gmail password. Maybe you should just use a single account (gmail) for all your locations instead of your account at home, another at the cottage and a third when you're on vacation. Hope your cruise to Alaska (hmmm... is it a cruise to or from Alaska? I seem to think maybe you flew to Alaska first) is going swimmingly - well not literally of course... I really hope the boat's afloat.

So Ezra's tummy is still upset so I took him to the doctor this afternoon. She thinks it's his teeth. She said his gums look very full, which I guess means full of teeth about to erupt. He's been sleeping a lot (though not in longer stretches, shorter stretches if anything), spitting up a lot and a bit more grumbly than usual, though I wouldn't go so far as to call him cranky. So I guess we'll wait and see if anything comes through in the next few days. She said to give him rice cereal, because it's binding but to wait 5 days before introducing new foods.

Other than that, not much else is new... give our best to the fandamily. See you soon.

Love Kate

Zanzibar. Zanzibar.

Last week, my friend who is in Zambia and working for Right to Play, emailed some stunning photos of her holiday in Zanzibar. Zanzibar. It's such a magical name, kind of like Xanadu, Coleridge's opium dreamscape, but better because it actually exists and has two z's. Apparently it's an island off East Africa. Anyways, seeing her photos has inspired me to post some of my favourite photos from South Africa on my blog. But that requires plugging in the scanner, pulling out my photo album, choosing the pictures and scanning them, then uploading them. Ugh. Things like that just don't seem to happen in our house (I'd like to blame the arrival of Ezra but the truth is things have always taken longer in our house). I'm seriously considering buying a digital SLR sometime in the future. Definitely before our next trip to SA. In the meantime, one day I will post more photos; just not today.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ironic continued

Aha! His name is Ed Byrne.

Wow, I've never really used Wikipedia before but I've heard of it and it rocks. It has a great discussion of Alanis Morrisette's song, pointing out that the song itself is ironic because it doesn't actually contain irony.

Grammar Fiend

I've just finished reading a cheesy British novel (my favourite kind of novel for the last few years) with the following on its cover:


First off, it annoyed me for its lack of punctuation (I loved Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss) but then I realized that seriously funny is a funny phrase. Kind of like pretty ugly. I think it might be ironic but even though I have an English degree, I find the concept of irony hard to pin down and I usually just avoid ever using the word for fear of misusing it. It's one of my pet peeves actually, other people misusing and overusing ironic. Though Alannis Morrisette provided great fodder for an Irish standup comic I once saw making up similar scenarios that would actually be ironic. (Wish I could remember his name because it was really funny... maybe I'll try to google him.)

Anyways, I'm a grammar fiend. And I have some pet peeves. Like when people misuse literally (As in: I literally laughed my guts out... if they weren't misusing the word that would be really messy). And this doesn't really count as a pet peeve because it makes me giggle so much and isn't nearly as widespread as the literally and ironic pet peeves but I worked with a woman who always said pacific instead of specific. Like "Let's be pacific" (why not be Atlantic?) and "Pacifically, we need to..." I had a really really hard time keeping a straight face in meetings with her.

So now I've identified myself as a grammar fiend but I'm also contradicting this announcement with all the grammar rules I've just broken in this post. And I'm completely unapologetic.

postscript: when I googled Irish stand up comic ironic, I found this blog, which included these gems in the comments from someone called Stef the engineer:

"Ironic" analysis. Yay! Mind you, there was an Irish comedian who did a great standup piece on this. Shame I can't remember his name.


I love Canadians, and Canada - it's like America with a healthcare system and better spelling. They do have a bit of a production line in angst ridden female singer-songwriters 'though (Sarah, Alanis, that 12 year old in the baggy trousers). Love 'em all. (Saw Alanis in concert once; like paying money to watch a nervous breakdown live on stage. I gather she's mellowed since then. Shame.)

I think I will need to explore that blog, Urban Chick, further because I just love British slang and humour - that's why I love British chicklit so much. I guess that's another contradiction in me: I have an English degree and can't stomach litrachuh anymore... Anyways, I'll keep looking the the Irish comic.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

When I Was Pregnant

After a trip to the library this afternoon, I have just started reading Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It by Andrea J. Buchanan, on the recommendation of this blogger. It's great so far and she is a fantastic writer. Anyways, her description of her miscarriage and first weeks of her second pregnancy started me remembering the early weeks of my pregnancy with Ezra.

We were trying to make a baby and I had a notion that I was ovulating. Exctly two weeks after that idea, I couldn't resist taking a test. I'd been having twinges and my breasts seemed more sore than they usually are before my period. So the night before Ishra's belly dance student recital, at which I was performing two or three times (can't remember now), I stopped at the drug store on my way home from work. When my husband got home, I mentioned that I was thinking about doing the test but that it wouldn't really be conclusive if it was negative. He thought it was too early but I couldn't resist. So I peed on the stick and waited and a faintly pink symbol appeared. I went downstairs and showed Dave: I think it's positive. And he looked and said, "Yeah I think so too. Cool." And off I went to my rehearsals, giddy but panicky too.

For some reason, ever since I was a kid, I've always thought that pregnancy must be a scary time for a woman because so many things can go wrong. I'm not exactly sure what gave me this idea but I think it could be have been partly because I grew up on a farm. One year, we had two mares who were expecting and, sadly, we lost both babies and nearly lost one of the mares too. I think I was around 11 or 12. As a result, myfirst trimester was characterized by intense anxiety.

A week after the positive test, I dreamt that I lost the baby. And I woke up and felt in my deepest self that I'd lost it. My breasts weren't sore and I just didn't feel pregnant. The doctor scheduled an ultrasound even though it was probably too early to see a heartbeat. The ultrasound showed a pregnancy but no heartbeat so was somewhat disappointing. Some symptoms had returned though and I hadn't bled at all.

I found that time crept by more slowly than I'd ever experienced in my life when I was pregnant. I watched a virtual fetus grow each week online and felt its fragility intensely. For me, each week brought the baby closer to survival.

At eight weeks I had my first consultation with the midwives. At 11 weeks, another appointment. She tried to hear the baby's heartbeat with a doppler but she warned me that she may not be able to and it wouldn't mean the baby was dead if she didn't. Only my heartbeat echoed around the room.

I remember feeling a little goldfish swim across my belly around 14 and 15 weeks. I had another appointment around 15 weeks and finally we heard the magical sound of the baby's heartbeat. I cried so hard because I'd had three months of wondering and worry and this heartbeat was clear and strong and the perfect speed. The midwife said I couldn't possibly have felt the baby move already but I know I did and my husband even felt a little kick or something at 17 weeks.

After that, my anxiety lessened as my belly grew and I could feel the baby's movements more regularly. I definitely enjoyed the second and third trimesters and I even belly danced publicly when I was seven and a half months pregnant. Although it was hard to keep up with how fast my body was changing and it sometimes felt like I was on a speeding train and couldn't get off, I loved having this belly. I felt like a walking affirmation of life.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ezra Jack: 6 1/2 months

So Ezra is over 6 1/2 months and my mat leave is already well past the halfway mark. (Ok well that picture was actually taken the end of June but it's just so cute!) On the one hand, I really can't believe how quickly the time has past but on the other, when I see newborns, I can't believe Ezra was ever that small. I think this is the maternal amnesia.

So what is Ezra doing? Well, he's crawling of a sort and has been for a month and a half I'm sure (yep this picture was taken July 10). Just in the last week or so he's mastered turning on a dime so that turning him away from something he shouldn't be touching doesn't get him sidetracked. He simly turns himself around, more determined than ever, and heads right back to the same thing. The most intriguing thing for him that we'd rather he not get too acquainted with is the digital cable box. Obviously we'll need to move this out of his reach very soon.

While we were at the cottage he mastered rolling onto his back intentionally. It started by accident, when he was reaching up to touch his plastic car thing and lost his balance and fell onto his back. As always, he was determined to keep touching the car and he kept falling onto his back. Soon he decided it was fun to roll onto his back so now he just puts his arm up and waits for gravity to takes it course. Also at the cottage, he sat without bracing himself with his arms.

We started solids when we returned from the cottage. He seems to enjoy the rice cereal and some butternut squash we made for him. I also tried him with a jar of peaches but it didn't agree with him. Also, for the last few days his tummy seems to have been upset. Maybe it was the banana I gave him on Wednesday morning but I think he was spitting up a bit more than usual on Tuesday night so I'm inclined to think he's picked up a bug along with everything else he puts in his mouth. So I've slowed down on the solids, figuring maybe his tummy needs a break. He's been a bit grumbly and slightly out of sorts too and not sleeping well at all. So maybe he's teething, maybe it's some developmental thing, who knows. Perhaps all will become clear over the next few weeks.

In general, he seems very active, strong and happy. Personally, I'm hoping a tooth or two will pop through soon and he'll go back to being even happier.

The idea of returning to work doesn't seem quite as horrific as it did three months ago but I still haven't done a thing on the daycare front. I really must get started on that.

On another front, Dave just put up this funky little spiral down the side last night and I really like it. Ezra needs attention now so must sign off.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Native Plant Geek

I discovered this weekend that I am a native plant geek. I've taken an online nerd test before and actually registered as barely nerdy at all (which is just fine with me because I've always figured Dave is the real nerd in the family) but native plants were not on the exam. The evidence is in the following conversations while on a garden tour put on by the Waterloo-Wellington Wildflower Society.

A man, fingering the leaves of a small tree, "I think this is a cornus."

Me: "Yes, it's cornus alternifolia."

Him: "I have a cornus florida. It's a little more rare than cornus alternifolia."

Me: "Wow, they're really pretty."

Then later, with two women:

Them: "Do you know what those small trees with the big leaves are?"

Me: "Yes they're pawpaws, in the banana family. They're the only tree in the banana family that are native to Ontario and the fruits are edible." (Sadly, I couldn't remember the latin name but I have known it in the past - I blame the baby brain aka dumb mum.)

And in another garden, with the owner:

Her: "The black-eyed susans are stunning but I don't what these are."

Me: "It's rudbeckia triloba. But I don't know that one."

Anyways, just in case anyone's interested, the tour provided great inspiration. The first garden was nice but had lots of non-native plants, which don't do much for me. The next garden was in a huge backyard with large oak trees and belonged to someone who shares my passion for native plants. There were many native shrubs and she'd even gone to the trouble of labelling many of the plants. Being a native plant geek, I especially pleased that she even included the latin names. The best discovery was her black elderberry, a large shrub in full sun with beautiful clusters of shiny black berries... now I just need to figure out where to plant one in my yard.

The third garden belonged to Henry Kock, a U of Guelph professor, eco-activist, key player at the university's arboretum and all-round character. Unfortunately, he passed away this past Christmas but volunteers have been maintaining his garden, Hotel of the Trees, in his absence. He has a great collection of unusual native and non-native trees. This garden had a sign reminding me of the arboretum's plant sale, so I've gotten a catalogue and am planning my purchases.

I may have to talk about some of my favourite native plants on this blog in the future...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Confessions of a Pack Rat

We have decided to try and clear out our basement a bit so that we can fit the baby stuff that Ezra's already outgrown down there. Before we started I couldn't remember what we'd put down there so I figured we could be ruthless and just get rid of it unless it had real sentimental value.

When I went down there, here's some of what I found:

Dave's old office chair, which we removed when his office became Ezra's room and the computer was relegated to a corner of the dining room. It's way too much the worse for wear to donate I think (note duct tape holding the padded arms on).

The door to the dining room, which we removed to allow the computer to sit behind it.

Old lamps and the crutches Dave needed when he sprained his ankle playing soccer for the first time in 10 years (we're actually going to keep them because they came in handy when Dave broke his toe kicking the car that had just hit him on his bike a few years later).

Dead dryer that came with the house and died two years after we moved in. I think they must have assembled it in the basement because it won't fit up the stairs and there's no other way out or in. We had to move the new washer and dryer onto the main floor last fall, which has actually been great since Ezra was born.

(Sorry the photo is sideways) My grandpa's old headboard and footboard. The frame broke shortly after we started sleeping in it though and we sank to the floor. Also in the picture, suitcases that were relegated to the basement after my parents gave us a new set to go to South Africa with. Undecided about what to do with these. And Dave's roller blades, which he was wearing when he got up the courage to give me his phone number (but that's another story).

Apartment sized washer that still works but we stopped using it when the dryer died and we decided to buy a whole new set. The matching dryer is somewhere in the basement but not pictured. My parents have said they'd like them for the cottage. Seen with an old monitor (which Dave is keeping for when he sets up his own network again), photographic paper (which I'll donate to the fine arts department at the U of Guelph) that I haven't used since 2002 and bought in 1999, and tripod that we'll keep.

Funky, froggy shower curtain that came with the place and I thought there might be a way to make it less disgusting and use again but has just sat in the basement. It's underneath the drop cloth we use for painting.

70s chairs that were in my parents' cottage for years but that I had to have when they got new ones. The were replaced by cooler, silver, sparkly 50s chairs that were given to us along with a funky raspberry formica table. Our less-cool plaid formica table is also in the basement but I'm not sure what to do with the table and chairs. I need to know they're going to a good home so I think I will hold onto them a bit longer. Also pictured: dead printer that one of us thought we might be able to fix, the bike rack for the car, and the empty box our modem came in. Dave insists on keeping empty computer boxes in case we need to move his hardware.

What's in your basement?

Baby Daze

In late June, I had an epiphany. During that time I'd been feeling very nostalgic for my university days, or more specifically, days of beer, cigarettes and patios on hot days. When I walked with Ezra on a steamy morning past student porches with beer bottles, butts and candles, I would sigh nostalgically. So, one morning I was walking along with Ezra asleep in the stroller and some young people were just coming out... it looked like they'd just gotten up after a fun night out. I mused about how nostalgic I am about those days when, at the time, it was actually pretty stressful pulling all nighters to finish papers and study for exams, and chalk full of anguish caused by unrequited love after unrequited love. It occurred to me that these baby days share something with those student days... maybe the intensity, the constant stress, the lack of structure, I don't know. But I bet I can look forward to looking back on these days with great fondness and an awareness that I didn't appreciate them enough when I was in them. So I decided to try not to put too much emphasis on the sleepless nights and focus on the beauty of spending my days with Ezra and the wonder of the world as he explores it. Obviously I haven't been too successful at this but I'm working on it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Away and Home Again

So, we've been away to my parents' cottage on a little lake in Eastern Ontario and have returned home. The vacation was great. I feel so much more relaxed about Ezra's not sleeping in his crib. And something happened while we were away and I found I like having Ezra sleep in our bed and I sleep better than I used to with him. I found I didn't want to put him in his crib at night (though I hope my dad doesn't read this because I was so frantic about the situation when we arrived at the cottage that my mum bought a crib).

When we went away I started composing a post of the Top 10 things I would do differently with a second baby. I only got to four items.

1. Put the baby down. Dave and I were too nervous to put Ezra down for the entire first week. Dave would stay up over night and hold him while he slept between feeds. When we did start trying to put him down, often Ezra protested. So now we have a 6-month-old who rarely sleeps in his crib and only if we are very persistent.

2. Not listen to my mom. She told him me to try to stretch his feedings out by giving him the pacifier. But now he just needs me to give him the pacifier somtimes as often as every 10 minutes.

3. Not give him a pacifier at all. He didn't really take to it until he was 8 weeks old and I believe he would have found his thumb around 3 months old. And I would much rather he sucked his thumb since he can control that and I don't need to get up to give it to him.

4. Pump breastmilk and give him a bottle regularly. While at 3 months it seemed like too much effort, now I'm really ready to leave him for a few hours and not worry about him getting hungry.

But now I'm not so sure about the first one. Since we returned home, I've read a couple of books about 'the family bed:' In Search of Sleep: Straight Talk about Babies, Toddlers and Night Waking by Bonny Reichert and Good Nights: The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night's Sleep!) by Jay Gordon, M.D., and Maria Goodavage. Both make significant reference to the research of Dr. James McKenna, which suggests that babies are evolutionarily programmed to sleep with their parents and that night wakings are potentially life saving. I also found a great article, in which Ferber, the King of Cry it Out, recants some of what he's written in the past. Anyways, I don't want to make this a long post but bottom line: we've decided to just stick to the family bed thing that Ezra has made clear he prefers and which now allows us all to get a decent night's sleep. And I don't feel bad about how much we've held Ezra. He's happy and healthy and so are we and I want him to grow up feeling secure and loved.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Kirstenbosch, Native Plants, and Babies

Over the Victoria Day weekend in 2003, I read a book that changed my life. It's probably not the kind of book you're thinking of. It was The Gardener's Manifesto: Changing the World and Creating Beauty One Garden at a Time by Lorraine Johnson, and after I read it, I decided to buy a house so that I could have a garden with plants indigenous to my part of Ontario. No doubt there are easier ways to get a garden, especially with all the community gardens around. But many of my friends were buying houses and I wanted to join in on the fun.

So a few weeks later we found a house and bought it and took possession on July 18, 2003. It was a fixer-upper and cheap but in a central neighbourhood on a quiet street. I thought it would be a great project. After six weeks of ripping up floors, removing 50-year-old doggy carpet and yucky 70's fake wood panelling, painting, melting and nearly breaking up in the hot summer, we moved in. I started gardening immediately, bored with the house renovations already. I removed some hedges in front of the porch and began planting native plants. And then waited to see the results next summer.

Next summer we got married and I started planting flowers in a former vegetable garden that was far too shady for vegetables. Plus, being in an old, slightly industrial neighbourhood I didn't trust the soil for veggies. And veggies are just way too much work. A big reason for planting native perennials was for the low maintenance. I like planting but I've never been great at the maintenance. Anyways, again, I waited to see the results in the following year. The front garden didn't look so great. The right side flowered in the early summer and the left side flowered in the late summer so it was all very unbalanced. On to 2005.

In February 2005, my husband and I went to South Africa. He grew up there and all of his family except for his mum still live there. For details of my trip, see the emails I sent while we were gone. Our first day in Cape Town, we went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I was very keen to go because I've always loved flowers and now I was especially interested in the indigenous plants, especially the fynbos. My favourite place in Kirstenbosch is the medicinal plants garden, which describes how each plant has been used traditionally. By this time in our lives, my husband and I were beginning to talk babies. Well, ok, I'd been talking babies for a few years but finally my husband had joined in. For some reason I was scared I would struggle with infertility once we started trying. So one plant that really struck me in the medicinal plants garden was agapanthus. It's a blue flower in the lily family and very pretty. I think it was backlit in the actual garden when we were there so I couldn't get a good shot of it in Kirstenbosch. Traditionally it was used as a fertility charm. I wanted a charm like this to take home with me. So I spent the rest of the trip with my eyes peeled for agapanthus so I could take a photo for my fertility charm. Eventually, I found one at the Storm River's Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park.

Shortly after we returned to Canada, we started trying to make a baby. Two months later, I was pregnant. After we had Ezra, my husband's employer sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to congratulate us. It was blue, I guess because we had a boy, and in it were two beautiful agapanthus flowers.

Anyways, back to my garden: I didn't do much during the summer I was pregnant and here we are in the next summer and I'm too busy with Ezra. But I have a friend who is a fantastic gardener and has improved my gardens immensely. I like my front garden now and I just know my back garden will look great next year. Oh - and on our house: it's slightly more fixed up than when we bought it but it's still very much an unfixed-up fixer-upper. We've discovered that not only are we completely unhandy but we also don't much like renovating. Luckily, we've also discovered we really like our house and don't want to live in any other house.

A word from the trenches – 4 ½ weeks postpartum

Life after baby surprised me. I guess most of my research during my pregnancy focused on the birth, and I didn't really think very much about what life with a new baby would be like. I did some research on the postpartum period and knew that it would be overwhelming but I didn't really consider what overwhelming would actually feel like.

Perhaps my experience is different because I had a difficult labour and cesarean to recover from (both emotionally and physically), but I found myself feeling VERY vulnerable and really needing to be taken care of in order to care for my baby. I found I really needed my mother in the days and weeks following Ezra's birth. This embarrassed me a bit because the other new mothers I knew didn't have their mothers to stay after their children's births. I cried every time she left in those early weeks (she stayed for a week and a half, then left for a few days, returning for a few more days, leaving again and returning again), which further embarrassed me. (What self-respecting 29-year-old needs her mother?)

I didn't expect just how uncertain I would feel about absolutely every element of baby care. I knew I had very little experience of caring for a baby and figured I would have to muddle through it but I didn't know just how scary that would be. Our little one is so important that every decision and action has enormous impact in my mind, even if babies are nothing if not resilient in the face of our mistakes.

Partly I needed my mom because she was able to take care of me and my husband while the centre of our universe shifted. Perhaps more importantly, though, after she left when Ezra was about three weeks old, I realized that she had also initiated me into motherhood. By then, I felt confident that I could care for Ezra and even gave him a bath all by myself.

The midwives and nurses at the hospital talked about the baby blues and how normal the feelings are. But what nobody mentioned was just how intensely I would feel them. “Baby blues” sounds like you may feel a little bit down, like a few days of the winter blahs. But I felt intensely sad, scared, anxious, angry, joyful, magical, and a ton of other emotions I can't remember or couldn't name anyways. And it felt awful at times. I didn't care if it was normal, I didn't like feeling that way and I really didn't want it to continue. But the worst of those feelings passed within a few days. At four and a half weeks postpartum, I have come to terms with Ezra's birth and no longer cry when I think of what he had to go through to join us; I do feel anxiety and fear but I think this may just be a fact of life for parents and now it's usually about specific things (is he breathing? is he too hot? too cold? is that snorting sound normal? etc.) instead of just a general feeling of dread that something bad will happen to him; I only cry occasionally when Ezra is breastfeeding and am struck by just how beautiful and amazing he is.

Postscript: just after I wrote that, Ezra went through another growth spurt and nursed every hour for 24 hours and then every hour or two for the next couple of weeks. Just when I thought I was getting things together, this nearly put me over the edge. I remember one night, I woke my husband up and said, “You have to do something, I just can't take this anymore.” Obviously he couldn't do much but just having him sit with me while I fed Ezra yet again was enough to get me through the night, knowing I wasn't alone. During those days I felt really trapped by the breastfeeding relationship – not that I wanted to stop breastfeeding him but I just felt like no-one could help me. I remember at 5 ½ weeks thinking that I was obviously going to be diagnosed with postpartum depression since nothing could change in a few days, but miraculously they did, and by my six-week appointment I felt much better – more confident, able to cope. I'm sure another curve ball will come my way but hopefully when it does I'll remember that it will pass.

Other surprising things about new motherhood:

I knew we would have to do a lot more laundry, but what I didn't realize was that I would be responsible for at least half of it and not just from baby spitup. As my milk supply established itself, I leaked... a lot. Overnight, I would wake up in a pool of milk, when I nursed Ezra, my other breast leaked, and of course sometimes I just leaked spontaneously between feeds. I'm still not happy about being wet most of the time but at least I bathe enough to avoid a cheesy smell. Also, I discovered Bravado breast pads, which are awesome.

That meeting and getting to know my baby really is like falling in love, with all the fear and vulnerability, though obviously it's different from adult love. I was also surprised by how physical this love is – not sexual but physical – probably mostly because of the breastfeeding relationship. I find myself needing to touch and cuddle Ezra and loving it when he first started reaching his hands out to touch me.

If I found myself talking to a pregnant or postpartum woman, I would want to share some of my learnings with her:

Don't be embarrassed by needing help or feeling vulnerable. I found that when I shared my feelings with those other mothers who seemed to be coping so much better than I was, they in fact were feeling or had felt many of the same things. Ultimately, though, every woman is different and if ever there is a time for asking for help it's during the first weeks following the birth of a child.

Find someone to help initiate you into motherhood. My mom gave us many tips and tricks for things like bathing the baby, how best to hold the baby's legs out of a poopy diaper, how to nurse lying on my side when I was too tired to get out of bed, and more. Being my mom, she also reminded me when it was time to sleep and took the baby off my hands so I could do it. Having someone else there who can do laundry and grocery shopping while you become enveloped in the timeless world of your baby is a big help. My mom also helped organize our home better, both for the baby and for a woman recovering from a cesarean.

The baby blues are horribly misnamed. The feelings are intense and overwhelming and far more various than blues but they get less intense fairly quickly (or they did for me). Perhaps a mantra of the postpartum period should be, “This too will pass,” whether it's your baby feeding every hour for 24 hours, or your feelings.

Maybe my experience was exceptional in some way, but maybe it wasn't and anyways I wanted to record some of my experience before amnesia sets in.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Our house is really hot... like 30 degrees at 10 in the morning hot. Our bedroom is slightly cooler but still disgustingly sticky. Ezra's room is too hot for him to sleep in. So he's taking his nap on our bed for the first time. I have the monitor turned up full blast and it's sitting on the bed with him so I'm hoping he won't roll off. I'm taking the opportunity to surf my favourite blog (I've only been checking out blogs for a few days so there hasn't been much competition for favourite blog. The decision to start my own came out of the blue and was super easy to implement. Anyways back to my new favourite blog): Mothering on the Edge:

All my principles have gone out the window since becoming a mother. I didn't used to want central air but with Ezra overheating (and me too since I'm home all day), we have succumbed and are scheduled to have it installed on Thursday. Luckily or unluckily, that is the day this heat wave is scheduled to break.

Ezra's (lack of) Sleep

From July 29, 2006

Well, I think I'm feeling a bit better. Ezra's not sleeping any better but for most of the week he would at least take 10 minute naps in his crib... then I'd have to go and put him to sleep again and he'd sleep for another 15-20 mins. Some loved ones have made snide comments suggesting that his light sleeping is a result of how we've parented him, that we don't leave him once he start crying. I was starting to buy into this thinking, that it's all our fault I haven't gotten more than 3 hours sleep in a row in six months, and that only occasionally, but then I have moments of memory (they are few and far between as I walk around for the most part in a fog of maternal amnesia). I have tried many times leaving him to see if he'll settle himself but he never does and just ends up getting more and more awake so it's much harder to get to sleep. And I remember when he was only a few weeks old, he was even then very difficult to put down for sleep. That's why I ended up bringing him into our bed, because it would take half an hour to feed him and then half an hour to try to put him down. When he was feeding every two hours, this was just too exhausting. So today and yesterday I've decided that Ezra is who he is, and he's just a light sleeper, who knows exactly where he wants to sleep, thank you very much – either in mum and dad's arms or our bed.

We are going away on Aug. 3 for 10 days so I was thinking we'd introduce solids today, before we go. But his pediatrician is very adamant about no solids before six months. And I already lie to her about where Ezra sleeps and I'd rather not lie to her about anything else. So now we've decided to wait until we come home, which is only a few days past his six-month mark. I spoke to a public health nurse and she said the guidelines are very clear (none before six months) and she can't tell us to disregard our doctor's advice. We have to make our own judgment. Apparently the guidelines are put out by WHO so I figure it's worth listening to them. I suspect it wouldn't really matter whether we start today or in two weeks.

I just realized last night that I've stopped fantasizing about Ezra sleeping for longer stretches. Until recently, every night that I managed to get Ezra settled into his crib, I would lie in bed and think about how long he might sleep for. If, say, it was 10 pm, I would think, ok, he should be good until 1 (he slept better back then) but maybe he'll sleep till 2, oh that would be a treat. Or maybe he'll sleep till 4 and I can email my baby group and tell everyone that Ezra officially slept through the night according to the medical definition. And I would imagine exactly how I'd phrase the email and forecast how wonderfully rested I'd feel in the morning. Of course, then I'd finally fall asleep and he'd wake even earlier than I originally thought he would for sleep until. Anyways, now I've given up any hope of Ezra sleeping five hours in a row before he hits 2, as evidenced by the lack of sleep fantasies.