Head on over to the Décor and DIY section to see how Lennon's 1st Birthday went and for inspiration for your own Teddy Bear Picnics!
A week has passed since Halloween was upon us and I must say, I am already missing it! I have always loved dressing up in costume but now that we have a little offspring, it just makes it that much more fun, even if he is too young to understand what is going on. Last year was Lennon's 1st Halloween and I insisted on a unique group costume for my little family. This year was no exception. I narrowed my ideas down to two but I couldn't pick one so I decided to do both (it was Lennon's second Halloween after all, so why not)! We had four Halloween events to attend between Saturday and Monday so we mixed it up. Here is what I narrowed it down to:
How fun these costumes were! The Mary Poppins was easier to put together mainly because I had a heck of a time trying to find denim overalls and a striped turtleneck for Gertie, but I really wanted to pull the E.T costume off, and I eventually found what I needed to make it happen. This is how the costumes came about:
I got the idea for the E.T costume last year when Lennon was not even a month old...we wrapped him up in a towel after one of his baths and of course he reminded us of ET.
We went on a trip to LA in April and while browsing in one of the many gift shops at Universal Studios, we spotted a stuffed E.T doll which my mom ended up buying for Lennon (those grandmas sure love to spoil their grandkids). I immediately thought that this could be used as a prop for a costume. I then thought of my niece's red Radio Flyer bike and how appropriate this bike could be for an E.T/Elliot costume! So it was pretty much set in my mind that this would be our family costume for 2016 and with some persistence, it came together.
I couldn't get over what a cute Elliot he made! E.T will forever have a special place in my heart now!
About a month before Halloween, I saw a penguin costume come up for sale on a local shop and swap group. I couldn't resist buying it as penguins are my favorite animal (I am obsessed) and I just had to see Lennon dressed as a penguin. To be honest, I am surprised I didn't dress him up as a penguin the day he was born! He makes a pretty darn cute penguin, though, don't you think?
I thought of ways we could incorporate a penguin into a family costume and Mary Poppins was one of the first things that came to mind. Our good friends went as Mary Poppins and Bert last Halloween and it seemed easy enough to put together. We already had a lot of the things we needed. I just bought a black skirt, black hat and white top from Value Village. I also bought a broom from the dollar store which I spray painted black. I placed heavy books on top of the bristles to make them spread out and look like one of those chimney sweeper brooms. The dollar store also had white flower bouquets which I removed from the stems and glued onto the black hat. Everything else we had at home. And this is how it turned out:
I don't know how I am going to top these. Next year Lennon will probably make up his own mind for what he wants to dress up as but I will put that thinking cap back on and find a way to turn his idea into another group costume (as long as he is okay with that).
Which is your favorite of this year's costume choices? I loved both but watching him waddle in that penguin costume was pretty priceless! Let's just say I am not packing that costume away just yet! Thank goodness for dress up bins!
Roll on Halloween 2017!
I never got around to sharing these photos last year and since Halloween is approaching, I felt it was an appropriate time to share them!
I'm a big fan of Halloween, and dressing up in general. As mentioned in previous posts, I am also a fan of group/coordinated costumes so it was a no brainer that I was going to coordinate a family costume for Lennon's first Halloween last year. He was only 2.5 months old at the time (and being born 5 weeks early, he was more like a 2 month old). At this age, he basically slept all day, therefore, it made sense to use the carrier as part of the costume. The first babywearing costume that came to mind was Alan from the Hangover (played by Zach Galifianakis):
I wasn't crazy about dressing like Alan and I was hoping for something more unique, so I resulted to Google and Pinterest for some ideas while also requesting suggestions from my friends on Facebook. A former colleague of mine shared a suggestion she found on Pinterest:
I really liked the idea (found on mommyblogger Kate's blog This Place is Now A Home) and definitely thought it was unique but didn't know if I would have the energy to make it happen. I went to our local fabric store to see if they had the supplies and when I found everything I needed, I decided I was going to make it happen....and appropriately enough, I made it happen while babywearing!
I was basically going for the same look as seen on Kate's blog but wanted a little something extra for Perry's costume. I am all about the details when it comes to costumes....and this is how it all turned out:
To say I loved everything about this costume is an understatement. I was extremely happy with how it came together and it was a bit hit in our neighborhood as well. I can't even recall how many times we were stopped so that people could snap our photo. The best part was that Lennon was a part of it. Even though he slept the whole time, it was a lot of fun and very special making him our little popcorn! And it wouldn't have been possible without him!
The How To:
The costume was extremely easy to make and didn't require many supplies. The most time consuming and tedious part was gluing all the popcorn on the toque and paper bags but that could be done while watching Netflix (as long as you are careful to not burn your fingers). Unfortunately, I didn't take step by step photos so hopefully this tutorial makes sense. The above photos should help!
All I used was:
- red felt material
- white felt material
- a white toque/beanie for Lennon's head
- Poly-Fil stuffing
- a cardboard flat
- popcorn paper bags
- gluegun and gluesticks
- black duct tape
I basically cut out the base that would attach to the carrier out of the white felt. It was a rectangle that I cut to fit the carrier and then I cut little triangles out of the top edge to make the zig-zag pattern. I then cut strips out of the red felt and glued on top of the white base to make the stripe pattern. The base as attached to the carrier using large safety pins in the corners and pinning them to the straps of the carrier. If you have an older or more active baby, I would advise against using the safety pins. There are plenty other ways that you can attach it (ie. thread or glue string in the corners of the base and then tie around the straps of the carrier etc)
I then cut out the P-O-P-C-O-R-N letters out of the red felt and then glued them onto a piece of the white felt. Once that was complete, I cut the white felt around the letters, leaving a border to give it the effect I was going for.
I didn't have a red apron but had so much of the red felt material that I decided to make one. I took an apron that I had and placed it on the red felt material and traced the outline to make the red apron that Perry is wearing. This can be done freehand as well as it is a pretty easy shape to make. I cut two strips out for the straps and used buttons to sew them on, but they can also be glued on with the glue gun.
The bow ties were bought from a costume store but they can also be made very easily (lots of no sew bow tie tutorials available online)!
The extra accessory I added to Perry's costume was the snack tray. I made it out of a beer/pop can flat and just covered it with black duct tape. I also made the straps using just the duct tape. I bought the popcorn bags from the dollar store and filled them with some Poly-Fil stuffing I had leftover from a previous project just to fill them out and give them some weight (you could also use newspaper or lots of other things to fill them out) and then I glued the popcorn onto the stuffing. I glued the popcorn paper bags to the snack tray so that they would stay put. I also used the Poly-Fil for Lennon's toque. The Poly-Fil worked well because it is white and fluffy so easily camouflaged when gluing the popcorn on (and then you don't need to use so much popcorn...gluing all that popcorn on took some time and was a bit tedious). My favorite addition on Perry's costume was placing trick-or-treat size candy and chocolate into the snack tray and when we saw little trick-or-treaters while out in the town, we would offer them some (and also sneak some ourselves now and again).
What do I have up my sleeves for this year's costume(s)?!? You will have to check back and see!
For now, I leave you with two more photos from Lennon's First Halloween...funny enough, we found someone dressed as John Lennon! Enjoy!
Pregnancy Adventures: Finding Out the Gender of our Baby and a Look Into our Gender Reveal Party
One year ago today, we invited our friends and family over for a gender reveal BBQ (or as we called it, a BaByQ). Gender reveal parties are a fairly new thing and we didn't care if we were having a boy or a girl but I love to entertain and figured this would be one of the last chances to do so for a long time to come! I also liked the idea of sharing this moment with my loved ones and was extremely inspired by all the fun ideas on Pinterest and the world wide web and I used the excuse to get creative!
Only two people - not including our midwife and ultrasound technician - knew what was in my belly - and it wasn't Perry or I! Junior Senior is what we called the baby bump. Perry's last name is Senior so it was a fun play on words! We were pretty convinced that Junior Senior was going to be a girl because lots of signs were pointing to girl and we haven't had a boy in my side of the family for a while - all my cousins are girls, my sister had a girl, my cousin had a girl etc etc. After our ultrasound, I said to Perry "I just got a really strong feeling that its a boy!" and he said he did as well but we didn't want to get too excited. I had delegated my sister to be in charge of the secret as she was also baking us a cake with the appropriate color icing on the inside. She contacted our midwife who told her what the ultrasound revealed and she was the only one that knew (except for a close friend of hers that she accidentally spilled the beans too...I would have probably had to tell someone too!).
I loved the idea of using silly string for the reveal as well so I stocked up on pink and blue silly string with the intention of returning the ones that we would not use. The only way we could tell what color was in each can of silly string was by the color of the lid. So I asked my sister to take the appropriate colored silly string aside and take half the lids off and replace them with the lids of the other color so that we wouldn't know what was inside. So in the end, half the cans had pink lids and have the cans had blue lids but only one of those colors of string would come out of the can! I was nervous about this idea not going smoothly (what if someone changed the lids at the store?) but luckily it went well. One of our guests got really excited and couldn't wait ten seconds to see what was in their can of silly string but the others followed right after. Here was all the excitement so you can see for yourselves (Warning - there are tears of joy - ahem ugly crying ahem! I had an excuse: I was pregnant!)
We would have been happy either way - a healthy baby is all we really care about - but I must say we were pretty darn excited to find out we were expecting a real Junior Senior!!! The best part is seeing Perry's delayed reaction! I love seeing the look on his face when he realizes he's going to have a son around the ten second mark! Priceless!
So here is a closer look at all the details of the party and some ideas for anyone who may be wanting to throw their own party. The decor was quite simple...use pink and blue everything and any baby items you may have and voila, you've got yourself a gender reveal party! This can easily be done on a budget by using your local dollar store! Here's what we did:
We draped the tables with pink and blue fabric as well. This table was used for fun activities. I used chalkboard paint and pink and blue chalk for the signs. I also used pink and blue water beads for decoration. It was a very cheap option as we already had the vases and a few water beads go a looooong way once they have expanded!
It was a lot of fun throwing this party but I wouldn't necessarily find out the gender if we were to have another baby in the future...or maybe I would. I became so attached to the little boy that I was carrying, talking to, reading to, and singing to him, referring to him by his name and just generally bonding with him that I got worried about there being a mistake, as the gender is never 100% guaranteed and the ultrasound technician only spent 20 minutes with us when the anatomy scan is usually 45 minutes to an hour long (apparently). Following the party, there were three occurrences of people I know and some ladies on Facebook mom groups that ended up birthing girls when they were told they would have a boy. Eventually I stopped caring and accepted the fact that it could be a boy or girl and even started joking about it and thinking it would make for a funny story if a girl came out! I remember even when I was in labour, a nurse asked me if I was having a boy or girl and I said "its supposed to be a boy but who knows?!" so it was quite funny when he entered the world and we received confirmation that the ultrasound technician was right all along! As mentioned, we would have been happy either way!
Hope you enjoyed a look into our gender reveal party and found some inspiration for yours if you are planning one! For more ideas, check out my Gender Reveal Party Pinterest board.
Happy Monday. Have a great week everyone!
This past weekend, my sweet niece Michaella celebrated her fourth birthday. The party was an ever so currently popular Minion theme at a local indoor "beach" called 6Pack. There isn't actually any water play involved at 6Pack(unless you include the foot rinsing station) but just lots and lots of sand play, which the kids loved (and its a great option for those kids with winter birthdays- they can actually have a "beach party"!) . My sister Anna (and, who am I kidding, the rest of my family) really loves to throw a party and entertain...and really loves to get ideas from Pinterest (who doesn't). There was definitely lots of Pinterest inspiration at this party and, since I was the official photographer at Michaella's party, I thought I'd share the snaps in case any other Minion lovers would like ideas (just don't judge my photography skills by these photos...I had a 6 month old attached to me most of the time).
The adorable invites were made by Anna using her Cricut machine. The back of the eye included the details of the party.
Surprisingly, the dollar store (Dollarama) had Minion party supplies (plates, cups, napkins, tablecloths) but these can also be found at party stores. There are also many Minion themed snacks at bigger grocery stores that you can add to the decor or snack table with (as was done here with the Minion Minigo yogurt).
Minion balloons were found at local party store Party Express but most party stores and specialty balloon stores should carry these. You can also make Minion ballons by taking yellow balloons and attaching printed Minion eyes to them (lots of printable Minion eyes out there on the internet, see below for example).
If you can't find Minion themed supplies, you can always opt for blue and yellow as was done with the food table. Anna made the eye for the juice container using her Cricut machine but there are many Minion eye printables that you can print out and attach to various objects to "Minionize" them (see below for examples).
The candy buffet jars were just vases from the dollar store wrapped with yellow and blue ribbon. Fill with blue and yellow candy of your choice! Marshmallow bananas are a must if you can find them! BA-NA-NA!
The water bottle labels were also a printable. There are lots of these on the internet.
The piece de resistance. Anna is a very talented cake maker and makes cakes, cupcakes and cookies as a hobby here and there (I am always telling her to quit her job and open up a shop)! How cute is this cake?! You can see more of her amazing creations on her Facebook page: Blue Daisy Sweets. If anyone in the Vancouver needs a cake for a special occasion, check her out!
Bananas are also a very appropriate and easy thing to decorate with!
Banana Bread (and anything banana flavored really) is an appropriate addition to the party food!
More of the food....yes, my family tends to go nuts at parties....I made the fruit platter and had to include a photo as I was very proud of it!
Blue and yellow candles and a very happy birthday girl!
The goody bags were made using a yellow paper bag and printable eyes found online. A black marker was used to draw the mouth and hair.
That's one husband proud of his wife's cake (or extremely excited to dig into it)!
Many guests came in Minion themed gear and because it was at a "beach", some wore beach attire. If you wish, you can ask the guests to dress as Minions, wear Minion gear or even yellow and blue like our little Lennon did (see below).
I was incredibly proud of our outfits....well, mainly because they were found at a new thrift store in my neighborhood! The Minion shirts that Perry and I are wearing were brand new with tags for $3.50 each, the BabyLegs legwarmers were brand new in the package for $2 (and I didn't even buy them for the party but as I was dressing Lennon the day of, I saw them in his dresser and realized how appropriate they were)!! I made the bowties for the boys and hair bow for me from fabric I found at a nearby fabric store.....and an aside, those are my pre-pregnancy jeans!!! woohooo!
Lennon found a crocheted Minion toque in his goody bag! As you can see, he LOVES it and looks way too cute! He also found some Banana flavored baby Mum Mums in his goody bag (great idea for the little guests).
The indoor beach really is a great idea for those that are born in the cold or wet months! This was Lennon's first time playing in the sand! Of course it consisted mainly of him trying to eat it!
That's it for this year's fiesta! What will birthday number 5 have in store for Michaella? Hope this gives some of you ideas for your Minion themed parties! Check back for more party ideas later this week!
Baby's First Big Fat Greek Christmas
I have always loved Christmas, but there is just something about "baby's first Christmas" that really added to the excitement this year. We visited Santa and many Christmas events around town. I think Perry and I were definitely more excited about it than Lennon was, partly because he still doesn't understand what is happening but it was good to get practice for next year!
Our Christmas morning started out with just our little family of three waking up in our matching onesies and Skyping with the in laws in England. We had a lot of fun with Lennon's stocking and found the cutest Christmas card for him. We thought it would be appropriate to fill his stocking with breastmilk seeing as he is not eating chocolate yet:
Lennon, Perry and I opened a couple of gifts at home before loading the rest into the passion wagon to bring to my sister's as my family wanted to be a part of his gift opening. We decided we wouldn't get Lennon many presents as he is only 4 months old and does not have a clue as to what is going on (and we have already acquired so many clothes and toys) but somehow there were about a dozen gifts from "Santa" alone for Lennon under the tree on Christmas morning. This didn't include gifts from family and friends. Most of the gifts were practical: teething toys, eating equipment seeing as he will be starting solids soon, books which, in our opinion, a child can never have too many of, and some bath toys. I guess we got carried away with the excitement of this holiday but we know all his gifts will be well used (and many already have been, just one day after Christmas, especially the teething toys...ahem Sophie the giraffe and chewbeads, I'm talking to you)! I must admit I felt extremely guilty for the gift giving this year, more so than in the past. As much as I love giving gifts, I feel like we are already so fortunate and am planning on donating the money we normally spend on Christmas to a charity (or a few) instead next year.
We had one stop to make before heading to my sister's and that was at the nursing home where my Yiayia lives to pick her up and bring her along. We (well...I) decided it would be fun to dress Perry and Lennon up like Santa to do the pick up. This was a riot, especially when we had to stop and get gas...Not so much fun for Perry BUT the seniors at the nursing home really loved it and Perry was a real trooper for playing along. I secretly think he loves dressing up as Santa as he "forgot" to pack a change of clothes and was stuck wearing the Santa pants all day, along with my amazing ugly Christmas sweater. It was definitely a great outfit!
Unsurprisingly, Lennon was spoiled by my family when it came to the gift giving. Again, there were many practical items and books as per our request. They were just as excited for "baby's first Christmas" as we were.
What I really loved about Lennon's first Christmas is the family time that was had. My parents and my older sister and her family live about 40 minutes away. We don't see each other as often as we would all like due to the distance, busy schedules and me not driving (although Santa also gifted me with two hours worth of driving lessons which means this could all change soon). Even though he doesn't see his cousin Michaella often, Lennon always seems so happy and content when she is present and this is always so fun to watch. His eyes follow her around the room and he smiles non stop. Michaella also loves to spend time with Lennon and was really sad when he couldn't sleep over last night. Lennon also seems to be really fond of people, especially as of late, whether they are familiar or not, and loves when people interact with him. My family will take every opportunity that they have to hold Lennon, play with him and interact and bond with him in whatever way they can (including diaper changes, woohoo). This makes Lennon happy and my family happy (and Perry and I happy, especially when the diaper changes are involved) and yesterday provided a perfect opportunity for everyone to bond. As loud as my big fat Greek family can be and as unrelaxed as our family gatherings sometimes are, spending time with them is important and I hope to do this more often than we do (hello, New Year's Resolutions)! Seeing the little ones together and the family love that they emit is really heartwarming and definitely brings us closer together. This was definitely a highlight for me.
Lennon is definitely the best gift we could ever have and this Christmas was definitely a special one with him in our lives. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and if you don't celebrate Christmas, hope you had a lovely day anyways!
I've always been a sucker for anything matching or coordinated. My wardrobe is full of kitschy and cheesy attire. One gander at my closet or high school photos and you will understand my style (or lack thereof). Since Perry came along, I love matching my outfits to his when there is an appropriate occasion to do so. Having a couples costume at Halloween is a must and I definitely enjoy coordinating our outfits when we go to a wedding or special event. See for yourselves:
Last Christmas, onesies seemed to be all the rage. There was one that I saw around town that I really wanted to see Perry in. It was the plaid Bear Cheeks onesie by Lazy One which is part of their FlapJacks collection. FlapJacks are what the company refers to as a "modern take on the classic long john" and that is a very accurate description. I ended up gifting him a pair kind of as a joke gift (and also cause I secretly think longjohns are sexy) but he has ended up loving them and wearing them all the time (hooray for me). I find the butt flap to be hilarious and a total selling point, don't you agree?
Part of the reason I was so excited about these pyjamas (besides the butt flap) is because they are made in various sizes, from infants to adults, and I knew that when we eventually had kids, the coordinating outfits would include the little ones as well, wherever possible. This year just so happened to be the year that our Lennon entered the world (he just so happened to be created at Christmastime....hmmm, I wonder if the Bear Cheeks had anything to do with it?) and I wasted no time in dressing us all up. Here was Lennon at 2.5 months old, dressed up as, none other than, popcorn! Ridiculous, I know! But I loved every moment of this!
From the time Lennon was in the womb, I knew that I would want to make a cheesy Christmas card when it was time and I thought that it doesn't get much cheesier (and awesomer) than matching family pyjamas! In preparation, I bought myself a pair of Bear Cheeks while I was pregnant to match Perry's and, before the Christmas craziness, I acquired a pair for Lennon. The smallest size that these onesies come in is 6 months old, which is the one negative thing about them BUT we made them work on our 4 month old (who, being 5 weeks premature, was about the size of a 3 month old at the time). They fit his torso well but were a little longer at the feet. It just seems like a sleeper without the enclosed feet. Lazy One does advise to wear the onesies snug fitting as they are not flame resistant but we felt confident that Lennon would be okay wearing his pair momentarily, and he was. And this was the result:
As you can see, the Bear Cheeks did fit Lennon pretty well except for they were a little long at the feet so if you have an at term 4 month old, there is a chance they would fit the 6 month size snuggly (Lennon was about 11 lbs at the time, if that helps).
Now, there are plenty of matching parent and child options out there, but they seem to be more for mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, not so many for mothers and their sons or fathers and their daughters. Lazy One has done me proud with making the FlapJacks onesies a unisex option. Heck, they even have a pair for your dogs! How fun is that?
They definitely feel durable and well made and are extremely cozy. They have kept us nice and warm in our basement suite, which can be chilly at times. For you breastfeeding mamas, they work well for breastfeeding as they button down! Bonus! And they are simply fun! What started out as a novelty gift for Perry has definitely turned into a functional and fun piece of attire, perfect for this time of year!
Check out the rest of the FlapJacks collection (and take a look at all the funny, and dare I say punny, butt flaps) and other fun sleepwear and clothing by Lazy One, and find your pair at a Lazy One retail store near you. Lots of great ideas for gifts and Christmas jammies! They can also be found at many gift shops and, of course, online. For those in Vancouver, I found a pair at the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop and have seen them at gift shops in Gastown and also at Exposure Home on Commercial Drive.
I leave you with my little family sporting our Bear Cheeks around our home this holiday season. Sending you all warmest wishes this holiday season!
Getting Messy With a Baby
Okay, let's face it, babies are messy. They poop and pee - sometimes while they are sans diaper and sometimes so much that it doesn't even stay in the diaper (Poopocalypse, anyone?) They drool like there is no tomorrow, they throw up without warning (case in point below), and when they start solid food, so begins a whole new level of mess (and smell). The little ones can't help it so all you really can do is embrace these messy moments and maybe even laugh about the cute innocence that babies have, and, if you're like me, take a hundred photos of the messy moments....you never know, they may want to make a wedding slideshow one day!
When a time comes to voluntarily make a mess in baby's early months, I imagine not many parents or caregivers would want to partake in such an occasion. The time came for us this past week. We were gifted a keepsake Christmas ornament that you imprint baby's handprint and footprint on. We thought it would be fun to try but also knew it would get messy so we decided to try it out right before bath time. Making the handprint ornament was difficult as babies often like to have their fists clenched. The footprint was definitely easier. Lennon seemed interested in what was happening so we decided to take it further. What resulted was not only the imprinting of the Christmas ornament but also an impromptu painting session with Lennon. Out came the washable finger paint and dollar store canvases that I had stored for DIY projects and we let him go at the canvas with his feet. There was paint everywhere. His feet, his hands, my hands, his cardigan, the towel we had him on, and, since brave us were simultaneously giving him diaper free time, the paint ended up on his genitalia as well. It was a mess but it was nothing a little bath and laundry couldn't clean. Seeing the excitement in Lennon's face (and legs as well) made this activity definitely worth all the mess. There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest to introduce your little ones to art and spark their creativity and also many great recipes for edible paint. I highly recommend trying an activity like this with your little ones. Just be prepared and have the bath ready! Here are some photos of the mess that ensued and little Lennon's art work (or should we call him little Leonardo?) Looking forward to being creative and allowing him to explore more of the wonderful world of the arts soon!
Journey into Motherhood
The following was written on Thanksgiving weekend but I have finally found the time to finish writing it and to share it with those interested. It is quite a personal story and contains "too much information" at times but I want to remember every detail of one of the most important events in my life and how our little offspring came to be - and let's face it, as beautiful a thing as making a baby is, giving birth is not necessarily "pretty"....oh and because of all the details, it is quite lengthy. It starts from the TTC stage (trying to conceive) but if you are interested in just the labour, scroll down to the heading "...Then Comes a Baby in a Baby Carriage".
I have been feeling inspired to write for a long time now. It has been 8 weeks since I gave birth to our son Lennon and I regretfully have not even written my birth story yet but trying to balance this with being a new mom and the demands of a newborn baby (which comes with a lot of sleep deprivation) has proved to be challenging. Even now, I am writing this on an iPhone notepad as Lennon has a nap on me - which I would not trade for anything as I love his cuddles! I have finally found some downtime this Thanksgiving weekend to sit down and write (...I mean type) and it being Thanksgiving I thought what better thing to write about than my birth story (FINALLY) and the person I am most thankful for this year, that being our son Lennon! They say to write down your birth story as soon as you can after the birth as the details and emotions will change and get blurry the longer you leave it. It has been just over 8 weeks since Lennon entered this world but I like to think that I haven't forgotten the birth and my journey into motherhood,
On New Year’s Day of this year, I made a "gratitude jar" for my husband and I in an effort to "always look on the bright side of life" and be more positive. The goal was to write down something - anything - that we were thankful for at least once a day. We had been trying to conceive for a little over a year and it wasn't always the best of times, often feeling stressed, discouraged and hopeless so having something to keep us positive seemed like a good idea. On multiple occasions, Aunt Flo was about two weeks past due (when she had always been regular). The first two times Aunt Flo was late, I felt hopeful and completed a pregnancy test, both times coming out negative and not knowing if I had had a chemical pregnancy (a miscarriage in early pregnancy). We were in the process of having fertility testing done to see if there was a reason why it wasn't happening for us. Perry was feeling extremely uncomfortable with the sperm sample testing. This has a funny story associated with it involving the need to get the sample to the lab within half an hour of producing it and not having any car2go vehicles available anywhere nearby when he needed to go ( we didn't have a car at the time). He ended up having to run to the bus stop and take public transit to the lab. The reason why this is funny is because it was all unnecessary! Unbeknownst to us, I was actually pregnant at the time, having just conceived a week or two earlier (one of those "Christmas babies" if you're wondering..TMI?). I had given up hope so when I had missed periods, I didn't even consider I could be pregnant anymore.
On January 24th, Perry and I were having a date night. We were having Mexican food at Poncho's on Denman street. After a nacho starter, my enchilada entree was served and I had two bites and suddenly felt really full. All week I had been having indigestion problems. I never really had an indigestion problem before. At the beginning of the week, I had made a massive dish of quinoa stuffed vegetables and eaten some every day. After complaining of the indigestion to my mom she suggested maybe I was eating too much quinoa and sent me a bunch of internet links as to what could happen if you eat too much quinoa. My "symptoms" seemed to be pretty consistent with what I was reading so I figured that I had eaten too much quinoa and left it at that. But when I could only eat two bites of my enchilada before feeling absolutely full, that was a huge warning sign! You see, I love food and am always finishing any food in front of me, no matter if I'm hungry or full, be it on my plate, my husband's plate, a friend's plate. I felt extremely bloated and as I excused myself to see if I was going to be sick in the toilet, I started to put the signs together and think that maybe it was time to try another pregnancy test. I also remembered that earlier in the week, I came home from work and started crying cause I felt so tired. I even said “I’m soooo tired and I don’t know why!” – This should have been a giveaway! I returned to the table and, as I unassumingly finished my glass of sangria, suggested to Perry that perhaps we stop at the drugstore on the way to the movie theatre to pick up a test. We did just that, asking the pharmacist when I should do the test. He recommended the morning as that's when the pee is most concentrated. Pfft yeah right! Wait another 12 hours? Impatient me couldn't handle the anticipation. We had arrived at the cinema early AND they had plenty of unoccupied bathroom stalls - how convenient! I couldn't sit through Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 1 knowing this could be it so in the bathroom I went while Perry awaited the results in the lobby. As I took the test out of the box, clumsy me dropped it, falling right under the occupied neighbouring stall. Boy this was turning out to be like a comedy of errors. I picked up the test quicker than you can say "baby on board" hoping that my neighbour thought it was a tampon and not really caring too much. I went about my business and waited for the moment of truth (1 line = negative, 2 lines = positive) which, according to the instructions takes about 3 minutes. After 30 seconds, a second line began to appear. It was a very faint second line which, according to the instructions, still means positive and even though the instructions mentioned this, I still didn't want to get my hopes up so I didn't fully accept that I could be pregnant. I exited the bathroom and returned to my eagerly awaiting husband. I told him it was a faint line and discreetly showed him and we both agreed that, even though the box says "a faint line is positive", we were going to not accept the news as we didn't want any more disappointment and try again in the morning. And we did just that, watching Mockingjay with the thought that I could be pregnant lingering deep in my mind, and funny enough using the Run Pee app for the first time as my bladder was weak (which I didn't even think anything of at the time)! The next morning, at the recommendation of the pharmacist, I awoke to do another test. This time, the line was definitely not faint! Still, this was not enough for my husband and I to fully admit that we were expecting. We needed to hear it from a professional so we headed to the nearby walk in clinic. After my third test, the doctor confirmed what we already knew but weren't admitting. It was now official, we were expecting! My reaction?: "Now what???"
Next came all the fun and not so fun parts of the pregnancy adventure (in no particular order): telling our friends and family the news (see below for our birth announcement video), going for ultrasounds, hearing baby's heartbeat, taking a break from beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, planning and going on a babymoon, shopping for maternity clothes, watching my belly grow, taking baby bump photos, shopping for and collecting baby items, painting and decorating the nursery, having a scare at 11 weeks when our doctor couldn't find the heartbeat, having another scare when I was spotting, finding an amazing midwife team (Strathcona Midwifery Collective - highly recommended), taking a great prenatal course and learning A LOT (the Bradley Method - highly recommended), developing sciatic back pain and tossing and turning all night long, having an extremely weak bladder and consequently having to plan every route taken based on bathroom availability, throwing a gender reveal party and finding out we were going to have a boy, and generally enjoying the moment and what was about to change our lives for the better.
...Then Comes A Baby in a Baby Carriage
Fast forward to August. I was in my third trimester and despite having sciatic back pain and major hip pain which made for an uncomfortable sleep, I was loving being pregnant (except for sometimes during the heat wave). All the tests taken determined that everything was looking good with baby and I. They say that there is a relationship between the term of your mom's pregnancy and your pregnancy. My mom delivered past her due date with my two sisters and I and so did my sister with her daughter so all signs pointed to me delivering past my due date. According to this statistic, we figured we would be late but as we got closer to the September 18th due date we began to feel like our little offspring was going to arrive early!
Then came Wednesday August 12th. We went to visit my friend Diana who was in town from Calgary with her 10 month old. We talked a lot about my pregnancy and upcoming motherhood. I mentioned that it seemed like everyone was having their babies early - specifically 5 weeks early. There had been about 5 recent occurrences of people we know or had recently met that had their babies 5 weeks early. I don't know why this stuck with me, but it did. For example: when we went to get our anatomy scan at 20 weeks, there was a couple leaving the hospital with their newborn. We went to congratulate them and commented on their beautiful daughter. They told us she was 5 weeks early. Another occurrence: we sold a stroller on Craigslist (yes before baby came as we had 3) to a couple that needed something quick as their baby arrived 5 weeks early and they were not prepared (are you ever really prepared for a baby though)! Then there were friends and acquaintances that had their babies 5 weeks early. I was in my 34th week....2 days before week 35. We returned home after the visit and went to sleep. I awoke in the wee hours of Thursday August 13th, around 2am to go to the bathroom. I noticed a few small drops of blood in my urine accompanied by some cramping in my stomach. I disregarded this as I thought it was normal to have a bit of spotting and cramping during your pregnancy. I had some in my second trimester and got really worried but all was fine so I was trying not to get worried! I went back to sleep telling myself that everything was fine. A couple of hours later, I went to the bathroom again to see a tiny bit more blood. At this point I turned to Dr.Google as I didn't want to be paging the midwives with what I thought was not serious. Dr. Google did say that blood in the third trimester could be problematic so I became a bit concerned and sent the midwives an email (at 4:44am) describing the situation. I finished the email by apologizing for yet another email and saying "I'm trying to not be concerned and to disregard little things like this but there is constantly a little voice in my head that says 'but what if'?" I was starting to feel a bit nervous but had felt baby kick so that was reassuring me. Around 7am, I got up for work and again some more blood. This time there seemed to be a bit of mucous like discharge so I emailed a follow up to the midwives at 7:42am explaining this. Again I turned to Dr.Google while I awaited a response from the midwives and it sounded like this could be my mucous plug or "bloody show" which happens before going into labour (but it could be days or weeks before). I texted my friend Diana and told her what happened and she told me that this same thing happened to her and that her baby arrived 24 hours later. I told her I had a feeling baby would arrive early but not yet- maybe in 3 weeks or so. I also texted my mom and told her that I felt that baby would be coming early. I got to work for 8am thinking that I was meant to start earlier than my normal 8:30 start time but got my days mixed up and arrived half an hour earlier. Boy was I having an off day!!! At 8:30am, I received a missed call from one of the midwives. I immediately returned her call and after retelling her my symptoms she expressed that she was concerned as I was showing signs of preterm labour. When she said this, I took preterm to mean anything before 40 weeks so I figured that baby could come in a few weeks time. She asked if I could come to the clinic for an assessment but I told her it was difficult as I was working. She knew I worked as a nanny and was very active. Her response: "Katerina, you can't be working, especially with children! You need to go home and rest. Your baby could be coming TONIGHT!!!" Whoa whoa whoa. Hold on now. What??? I definitely needed a moment to process that information! Baby couldn't come yet! I had yet to have my baby shower which was just 3 days away and I had yet to have my maternity photo shoot which was 5 days away (and I had gotten a maternity gown made just 2 days before). I still hadn’t done a belly cast of my baby bump. My sister's birthday was also 1 day away and we had dinner plans. I had plans and baby coming early was not in those plans! I took a deep breath and told her I would talk to the parents I work for and explain the situation. As I expected, the parents were extremely supportive and extremely excited (the mom is also pregnant with baby number 2). They were definitely more excited than I. I was nervous and I believe it hadn't sunk in yet. The mom dropped me off at the midwifery clinic and Cora, the midwife I saw checked to make sure my water hadn't broken. She took a urine sample to see if I had a bladder infection which could trigger labour but we wouldn't know the results of that for a few days. She suggested I go on bed rest and take it easy to try and keep baby from coming early. We were hoping for a home birth but that could only happen at 37+ weeks and I was only at 34 weeks and 6 days. I enquired about going to my baby shower and maternity photo shoot. She didn't seem impressed by these questions. I really don't know how to take it easy or the meaning of "relaxing"! So I went home and lay in bed for a majority of the day letting my family know the situation and contacting my employers to do the same. My friend Diana was constantly texting me to see if there were any updates. I began to feel that nothing exciting was going to happen just yet. Perry got home in the evening and gave baby bump a talking to, asking him to stay in a couple more weeks. I instantly wanted to go through all the baby clothes and organize them into the various sizes (newborn, 3 months, 6 months etc) and tidy up the nursery a bit. I made a pile of newborn clothes and Perry was going to take them to the laundromat the next day. I definitely went into "nesting" mode. We then went and sat outside for a bit for some fresh air and called it a night. As I was tucking myself into bed, I checked my messages and noticed a couple from Diana asking how I was and if there was any progress. Our conversation, which also had Diana mentioning to make sure that a symptom I had wasn't my water breaking, ended at 10:43pm. Two minutes later, literally, I turned over in bed and felt something drop in my uterus. It was a sensation I had never felt and the best way I could describe it was simply a drop. I stood up being weirded out by this sensation and felt like there was a bit of dripping coming from in between my legs. It wasn't gushing water, just a little bit of dripping. My midwife had told me to wear a pad and page her if it got drenched with liquid/discharge. It seemed to be now so I paged her at 10:50 and explained what happened. As I was on the phone with her, I felt a mild cramping similar to menstrual cramps and thought it could be my first contraction. She asked me to meet her at the hospital for an assessment and she recommended I pack a hospital bag. I packed some books, music, headphones, my Bradley Method manual etc figuring it would be a looooong night/day if I were to go into labor but still not fully comprehending what was happening as I felt really calm. I had written a long list of things to bring to the hospital months prior but had not packed my bag as I saw no reason to yet. I had a short nervous moment with Perry where we held each other, I had a little cry and said "this could be it" as we got ready to leave our suite. In the car, I began having what I assumed were contractions every couple of minutes but they were bearable. We arrived at the hospital at 11:45 pm. I filled out some forms and at midnight, Cora completed an assessment proving that my water had in fact broken and I was 3cm dilated out of the 10cm needed to push. This WAS it! What now? Do I call my family and let them know or just continue with Perry as my "coach" and see what happens? Everything was happening so quickly, I really couldn't think straight so we just decided to not call anyone for the time being. This was going to be a long night, or so we thought.
All the stories I had heard, books I had read, examples I had seen led me to believe that the first birth could be anywhere from 12-48+ hours. As Cora assessed me, a whole lot of amniotic fluid gushed out and from that moment things progressed very quickly. Out of nowhere, I felt like I had to vomit, which I did. I was then introduced to Shavon who would be our nurse for the evening/wee hours until the shift change at 7am. She brought me to delivery room number 8, which she told us is a special room as she delivered one (or was it both) of her babies there. I remember number 8 as it’s my favourite number! I did not expect that we would have a one to one nurse! I figured we would be with the midwife while the nurse made her rounds to other patients. This was a bonus as I didn't want doctors and nurses coming in and out interfering constantly during my labour. So there we were: Cora the midwife, Shavon the nurse, Perry the husband and I, the woman in labour! Oh, and The Shirelles. I can't forget The Shirelles! Throughout my pregnancy, I was envisioning me being completely empowered and that my labour would consist of a dance party. I had made a list of songs I wanted for this dance party including Salt n Peppa's "Push It", Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and many other songs which have nothing to do with pregnancy except for the odd word or term that related to giving birth. Ridiculous, I know but hearing these songs got me so excited and pumped to give birth! Unfortunately I didn't make the playlist in time so Perry chose to play the Shirelles Greatest Hits over...and over...and over again, which was (emphasis on the was) one of my favorite albums. It was a little bit too slow for the atmosphere I wanted but I wanted him by my side so changing the music wasn't really a priority. Plus I was extremely hormonal and don't think I could have settled on any music myself. So there we were in delivery room number 8. My contractions were about 2 minutes apart and they started off being bearable. I could feel pain but I was still managing to completely relax through them - something we were encouraged to do in our Bradley Method class. I was stood up with my forearms and head leaning into the bed and swaying from side to side. The entire time I felt like I had to go number two but Cora assured me that that is what I should be feeling and unfortunately this feeling would last the duration of labor. Eventually Cora asked if I wanted to try a different position and she suggested I try sitting on the birthing ball which results in a kind of squat position. We were told in our prenatal class that squatting shortens the birth canal by 10% and as soon as I tried this position, things progressed, and quickly! The contractions started to get more intense and about a minute apart and I started to feel significantly more uncomfortable. The squatting position was increasing the pain so I tried changing positions but the pain was too intense to be comfortable in any of the positions that I tried. Lying down on my side was the worst and relaxing through the contractions was becoming impossible. Cora suggested I face the back of the bed (which was in an upright position instead of reclined), lean into it and place my arms on top with my head resting on my arms. I did this and it felt okay (relatively speaking) in between contractions but when the contractions came my body would just tense up and flail around as the pain got more intense - pretty much exactly the opposite of relaxing through the contractions. I remember feeling like the girl from The Exorcist in my white gown, flailing around like a mad woman! Perry had to hold me still a couple times and calm me down. The pain was really excruciating around the hips. This is technically a good thing as they're basically loosening up and getting ready to push out a baby but it was really intense. Cora and Perry, and maybe Shavon too, took turns applying counter pressure to the hips when the contraction came and this really helped. As I was leaning against the bed, I clearly remember two thoughts going through my head:
A) it's only been a couple of hours and the pain is already bad...how am I going to last another 12+ hours without drugs?? I'm going to need drugs! I haven't even gotten to the "transition" stage which we learned in our course is the stage between active labour and pushing and the part where you are roughly between 8-10cm dilated and you want to give up and/or take drugs if you haven't already etc. I hadn't even got to the transition and I was already feeling like giving up and saying that I couldn't do it when I was flailing around like the girl from the exorcist! If I was feeling like this during active labour, how would I feel during the transition??
B) there is no way I am having a second baby and going through this again!
Cora also tried to help me relax during the contractions by telling me to "breathe it away". Those three simple words helped a great deal. Instead of flailing around, which I felt I couldn't help but do, I tried breathing those contractions away. I actually closed my eyes and envisioned them disappearing into thin air as I breathed them away. Moments later, during another contraction, I couldn't hold it back and let out a big loud yell. I remember Cora saying something along the lines of "that's really good that's what we want to hear" followed by another contraction (or maybe 2 or 3...it felt like it was only one) and her saying "okay I think it's time to push"! I stopped dead in my tracks. All of a sudden I had forgotten about the contractions! What??? Aren't I supposed to be doing this for another 12+ hours?? Isn't the pain supposed to get a million times worse? Was that the transition stage?? I was excited but also didn't want her to check for fear that I wasn't actually dilated enough and would be discouraged to continue. Cora quickly checked and somehow, around 3am, 3 hours after I was confirmed to be in labour, I was given the okay to start pushing. To say I was over the moon is an understatement. Perry said I was like a kid in a candy store. I forgot about all the pain I had just experienced and felt a surge of energy enter my body. Let’s do this baby!! I was excited! I was ready to give 'er some! A few months into my pregnancy, I had a dream that I had two contractions and then baby came. I was home alone and I didn't even know if I should call the midwife as the baby had already arrived (and was already talking). I wonder if this was a premonition of an extremely quick labour!
The pushing stage was a whole new level of pain but it was pain with a nearly there purpose and a result so I felt empowered. While I pushed, I couldn't help but yell like I've never yelled before. I didn't even know my vocal chords were capable of producing the screams that they did! I felt like a lion roaring in the jungle or a bear growling in the forest. I also remember feeling really bad for the others in labour on the unit (and beyond - I'm sure you could hear me from miles away)! I know I wouldn't want to hear screams like that from another laboring woman, especially if I was in early labor (and luckily I didn't), but I just couldn't help it. It's what my body needed to do to get through the pain and get that baby out. I couldn't believe we were about to meet the little human we created! I was also nervous as mostly everything is uncertain and unknown during pregnancy, even the gender of the baby is not guaranteed. I knew we would love this little person no matter what, we already did! And that's all I knew. At 3:18am, after 13 minutes of pushing and screaming, and to be honest, like I was relieving myself, out came our son Lennon. He was a boy, he had 10 fingers and toes, he was relatively healthy despite being 5 weeks early and he was ours - a new human to love no matter boy or girl, 10 fingers or 6, healthy or unhealthy. Our hearts grew a thousand times bigger. We were suddenly parents and a family of three and we haven't looked back since. I asked my mom to get us a lottery ticket that day as we were extremely lucky with everything that had just happened but no prize could top the gift we were given on August 14th, 2015!
The maternity photo shoot was replaced by a newborn one, molds of Lennon’s hand and foot prints replaced the belly cast, the baby shower was postponed for September and was more of a meet and greet and the planned home birth did not go according to plan. As John Lennon sings in his song “Beautiful Boy”, which we often played for my baby bump while I was pregnant, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” and that is exactly what happened with our own beautiful boy: he entered this world as we were busy making other plans - and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Some snaps of the journey: