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Life with Vera

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It has felt near-impossible for me to write and share about Vera. It would have been nice to accomplish a monthly check-in. It’s manageable to write about a month! I started something at three months but it wasn’t possible to get it done within a baby nap. And yadda yadda – then it was four months, five months, etc and the thought of writing about all that time in the way I hoped felt too daunting.

Maybe I’ll just pick a few memories. What I’ve experienced over and over is how better you feel when other people say “our baby did that too” or something along those lines. The more sharing the better.

Our worst night was in the first week. Vera kept crying and crying so we kept walking and rocking her. She wasn’t settling into sleep. 3 or 4 am approached and we were so tired. DESPERATE tired. I would fall asleep instantly and have to wake back up. Bran took over for me and I felt so bad for him with his head slumped down as he bounced her in his arms. This is funny to me now but I ACTUALLY thought about calling 911. Like – can I go to the ER for this? Thinking back, I think she was hungry or just wanted that comfort. Who knows if she was getting all the food she wanted. Nursing takes some time to figure out.

The first couple weeks were definitely unique. The FEELINGS. I felt extremely attached to her and a bit scared of the outside world. When she was five days old we went for a walk with my parents. I had her wrapped on me and my eyes kept misting up. I think someone was smoking nearby and I thought “How could they!! I have a baby!!”.

Now I wonder: does this happen again? Will I feel as intense and vulnerable the second time?

There’ve been more hard days since, of course. But overall? Joy, warmth, laughter. When I’m with her I think “look how big you are!” but when I look at that same time in pictures she looks so small.

Every morning while I make coffee and breakfast she plays on her blanket. She bangs toys around or marvels at her hands or the patterns on the quilt. I find myself clenching my teeth because I can barely handle the cuteness of it all. When I glance at her and she’s already looking at me and smiling? Wow.

She is so good. So goofy and lovely and unmarked. We are drinking this precious time in.

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Vera Jane is Born

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I took the maternity photos above at 37 weeks, about a week before Vera was born. I remember thinking – I better shoot something now before time escapes me! I set up the tripod and decided to stay in my “sweatsuit” to be realistic.

My labouring began late Sunday evening. We spent the day with our friends Ben and Rhoda and funnily enough, I told everyone I thought the baby might come early. My belly was quite hard all day but without any pain or other signs, I didn’t think anything of it. We went out for a shawarma supper and parted ways with the usual “probably won’t see you till after the baby comes”.

Bran and I were watching some late night TV when I started feeling some uncomfortable cramping. In retrospect, I can see my instincts setting in. I needed to be on all fours, swaying. I stopped focusing on the TV. I dismissed the idea of labour because it was early, our condo was dissembled and dusty due to plumbing repairs, and baby couldn’t come until it was finished. (duh). I was banking on a false labour but I moved to the bathroom to “figure things out”: what I told Brandon. And I began timing contractions.

From the get-go, I was having minute long contractions about 4.5 minutes apart. I put my arms and head against the bathroom counter and swayed, swayed, swayed. Breathed, breathed, breathed. I told Bran to go to bed. False labour of course!

I drew a bath, hoping to relieve some tension. I couldn’t sit when the pressure came back so it ended up being a bit of a cold, cramped move on my part. During this counterproductive bath time, I started addressing the possibility of being in labour. I thought “if I’m in labour, I need to start embracing it”. As per Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, I started making low humming noises through the pain.

Ditching the bath, I consulted some info sheets about the stages of labour, trying to figure out where I was. It suggested resting/sleeping through contractions so I laid down only to experience the most paralyzing wave of agony of all. Lesson learned – I was past the sleeping between contractions stage.

I called my midwife Noreen around 2 am unbeknownst to Bran. Bran had told me earlier that we couldn’t call her in the middle of the night unless it was REAL. Noreen and I decided I could labour a little further on my own and to call when I felt I needed support. (Wait – I’m in labour?!?)

About an hour later Bran was up (and half our condo probably). I needed him to call Noreen. She had a 45 minute drive to our place and things were escalating. He was hesitant. Was I SURE? We now know I was entering “transition” – the most intense portion of labour in my experience. I was on the bed, on all fours, my head stuffed into a pillow. I didn’t feel like I had much control during this intense point – my body took over. My arms would give out and my back would bend with the extreme pressure. And then victory! – my water broke around 4 am, just as Noreen walked through the door.

To my great delight and horror, she told me I was ready to push the baby out.

Bran frantically pumped up the birthing tub, filled it with water, and I got in. Our second midwife Jenni arrived. Noreen applied pressure to my lower back while I pushed which was PERFECT. Exactly what I needed. Jenni was a calm voice in my ear, coaching me through. Bran was cheering me on as I crushed all his hand bones.

In my own experience, pushing a baby out was as much a mental hurdle as it was physical. Eventually I just committed to doing it. I stopped making noise. I pushed silently as Jenni suggested. My memory is foggy but I think I said “GET OUT”.

Vera was born May 5th at 5:22am. The relief was immediate. I sat back against the pool wall and held her. Or held “baby” as I hadn’t even looked to see what she was yet. A girl! We were so surprised! Her sweet little cry and big open eyes.

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Once we had rested for a while, Noreen and Jenni helped me to bed (I was so weak!). It was all so surreal. We had a baby all of a sudden! Bam! I could give you a hundred more details but I’ll leave it there.

I am immeasurably grateful to Noreen, my primary midwife, for being the greatest support through pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum (please deliver all my babies!!). And to Jenni, who I met with early in my pregnancy and guided me gently through labour.

Life with Vera has been SO FUN (mostly, we’re not perfect or anything). She’s 7 weeks old today and I’ll get around to sharing more thoughts and pictures soon enough.

FRANCE

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Some memories from France.

Paris. We stayed in the 10th Arrondissement, near Canal St Martin. We soon learned there was a bit of a blossoming food scene in the 10th with a *gasp* North American/New World vibe. Filtered coffee at Ten Belles! Thick cut bacon and baked beans at Holy Belly! I admit, I loved it. It was homey.

I developed a strong, strong yearning for near-freezing coke this pregnancy. I will remember Paris evenings spent drinking Coke Zero (sorry! I know!) and watching Elementary. Don’t take this as a recommendation for Elementary. Listen, it had its moments. Sometimes you just want something pulpy.

Isn’t there a bit of an expectation to do stand-in-line things on trips like this? We decided to visit Musee d’Orsay. This memory makes me chuckle. Brandon was so appalled at the lineup. We were there in November!

Biarritz. My first breath stepping off the train was pure relief. The ocean air and misty rain. It was late and we headed straight to bed but I was so happy to be there.

We kind of had Biarritz to ourselves. We embraced the slow pace. It was the small things – sitting at the farmer’s market cafe with a cafe allonge, green leaves, and watching grannies go swimming in the ocean (it was barely 5 degrees!).

Uzes I found Uzes by staring at google maps. I was looking for a specific size of town. Easily walkable but still reachable by train/bus. We stayed in the neatest townhouse. It had one of the loveliest parks with Roman ruins strewn about. It was a bit hilarious. Roman ruins sitting around, blasé, like a bench or garbage can.

Nimes. Our last couple of days we sprung for a bed and breakfast. Our host was Miriam and she brought us local bread, jam, and fruit for breakfast. And a cafe allonge with hot milk. Breakfast really is the stuff, hey?

Nimes has some incredibly preserved Roman structures. Miriam told us that the amphitheatre was still in use “for big rock star concerts, like Sting”. We did a self guided tour (again, place to ourselves) and once my brain couldn’t hold more of the audio tour, I followed Brandon, found the sun and closed my eyes.

We flew out of Paris. In what was likely a staff mishap, there was only one border patrol booth open and hundreds of us were packed in a snaking line for hours. I was about one second away from passing out at all times. I was frantically fanning myself, pumping my legs, and stuffing oranges in my mouth. Mentally, I started feeling like a toddler. Am I the only one who wants to flop down and start crying?

The last gift of travel is coming home. The Toronto airport felt like the land of milk and honey. I delighted in the clean bathroom, turned my phone off airplane mode, and soaked in the comfort of easy.

*shot with Kodak Portra 160 and Fuji 400h*

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The Netherlands

Is my post title too boring? Should I follow the obnoxious trend of internet articles and call this “11 Photos of the Netherlands That You’ve Never Seen Before”?

Well now –

I can’t believe these photos survived! I’m baffled. I shot less than two rolls of film in Europe this past November and the first mistakenly ended up in my checked baggage. How that roll escaped the corruption of the x-ray I do not know. I laughed like a maniac on my drive home from the the photo lab.

We spent a week in Amsterdam with one day trip to Edam (where the cheese originates). Brandon was absolutely smitten with Amsterdam, the land of bikes, brick, and walkable amenities. I could see his heart swelling and breaking at the same time. We found his city.

My reality was that I felt blue at times during our trip. Brandon mentioned it in Amsterdam and I felt stumped by its cause. I think it came off as a lack of enthusiasm and I’m pretty easily enthused (or contented). It was my fourth month of pregnancy and I was craving…stability? Routine? A warm, well rounded meal? I didn’t have the stamina or care for a full day of checking landmarks off the list.

We found a flow that suited us. A slower morning. Me, trying to load up on food energy and strategizing where/when I’ll eat next. Afternoons were our time out, largely spent walking outside. I could have brought a warmer coat. My scarf was regularly tied up to my eyeballs. I can’t remember if we did anything that required a line-up or ticket? We came upon a really nice clothing shop called Tenue de Nimes, chatted with the manager, and he made us coffee. That’s pretty decent time spent I’d say. We walked through a market of knickknacks; I ate shawarma from a street stand.

Edam was slightly unbelievable. Like, people live here? For life? I peeped through so many windows and it almost made me mad. Good taste is rampant over there and it must be cultural because I don’t think the country is solely made up of designers.

I don’t want to cause any riots but if it was a contest, I’d live in Amsterdam over Paris hands down.

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Caileigh + Brady | Sea Cider, Vancouver Island

This day was glorious! I assisted my friend Joey Armstrong for this one. Can’t say how much I appreciated the opportunity.

We started the morning in downtown Victoria: just picture one of those perfectly warm and sunny mornings where everything feels right. The day continued further up the island at Sea Cider Farm. Apple orchards, water views, and sheep grazing galore. Caileigh and Brady were delightful people through and through.

Take me back!

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