Rose’s Story

Birth stories are one of those things that most people aren’t interested in until they have their own. At least, that was my experience, so feel entirely free to skip over this if it’s your experience too!

It feels like you could hardly have two more different birthing experiences than Pearl and Rose. I shared Pearl’s story after she was born (part one and part two) but short version: Pearl was a transverse breech that went unnoticed until after my water broke and I had an unplanned caesarean section. She had been diagnosed with heart and kidney issues in utero and so spent the first day of her life in the NICU.

From early on in my pregnancy with Rose the question was “to VBAC or not to VBAC?” (VBAC = vaginal birth after caesarean). I have no regrets about how Pearl’s birth went. It was far from ideal but it was what was needed to deliver her safely. The result was a healthy, thriving baby and that is what matters. So I went into this pregnancy with the attitude that as long as we ended up with another healthy baby, I didn’t really care how it exited my body. Labour and delivery does not a mother make.

That said, when you have a baby, people want to know how long you laboured, how delivery went. New moms swap stories and I always felt like I didn’t have much to contribute. I had never been through labour. As well, recovery from the c-section had been hard and I didn’t relish going through that again, especially now with a two-year-old.

I was a good candidate for a VBAC but ultimately the decision would be left up to the wisdom of our local OBGYN (and the baby’s position, of course). I had my first appointment with him in August where he outlined his reasons for and against VBAC and suggested a date for an elective c-section. I was surprised by how disappointed I felt that he seemed to be leaning towards another c-section but we agreed to wait another month and see where baby was at.

My due date was October 8th but I was sure that baby would arrive earlier than that. I’d been having false labour and irregular contractions for weeks, something I never had with Pearl. Labour Day weekend, while Peter and Pearl camped out in our backyard, I felt the baby make a big movement I hadn’t felt before and the next day Peter commented that I was suddenly carrying lower than I had been. Contractions continued over the next weeks and by the time I saw the OBGYN again he was happy to see how low the baby was. Baby was in a great position for me to deliver and so we agreed to wait and see what happened, with the knowledge that if I hadn’t delivered by my due date they would schedule a c-section.

I felt increasingly ready for baby to arrive and so when my doctor suggested a membrane sweep at my appointment on September 29th I eagerly agreed. I made an appointment for the following week but we both felt confident that we’d be seeing each other again much sooner.

Heading out to the doctor’s office, Friday morning.

Contractions ramped up almost right away. Peter was skeptical but I was increasingly feeling like the baby would join us that weekend. Peter and Pearl and I went on a pre-bedtime walk that night and Peter timed my contractions as we strolled through the neighbourhood. They were coming close together but didn’t feel that intense so we took the long way home. Peter put Pearl to bed while I sat down on the couch and read up on signs of labour and when to head to the hospital. Contractions slowed down significantly and we went to bed.

Friday evening, out for a walk.

I woke again at 1:30 am and now my contractions were strong enough that I couldn’t fall back asleep. Moving to the couch, I timed them from 2 – 3 am and at 3am I woke Peter up. After calling into the hospital we decided it was time to go. Peter’s parents came to stay with Pearl and by 4am I was hooked up to the fetal monitor.

One last photo as a family of three!

I’ll spare you the gory details but will say that giving birth the traditional way is super painful. I know everyone says that but it is a next level pain that nothing prepares you for. While pushing (which lasted about 45 minutes) I couldn’t keep myself from yelling out, just these really deep, primal cries. Peter tells me that I wasn’t actually that loud but it felt like I was screaming my head off. I’d heard about the pain but also about the intense relief you feel when the baby actually arrives and both are true. Rose was born at 2:01pm, so all told I was in labour about twelve hours. It felt like a long time and I recall feeling frustrated at several points because it seemed like things weren’t moving as quickly as I wanted. Over and over though the nurses and doctor told me that things were progressing well and moving along.

Because I was a VBAC patient, I was kept on the fetal monitor for most of my labour, with a few breaks in order to walk up and down the hall. Baby’s heartbeat dropped a few times during contractions early on and then later as well so there were some nervous moments. Position seemed to make a difference so I stayed on my side a lot (which was the position in which I most felt the need to push later on) and the OBGYN hung around the hospital all day, despite not being on duty, just in case he needed to spring into action. My doctor and the nurses who cared for us were so available, helpful, and encouraging and I’m so thankful for the amazing care we received.

I had worried that I wouldn’t know when to push but what everyone says is true – you know. It’s a pretty undeniable urge and when I started to feel it I wasn’t yet fully dilated. Fortunately, my doctor quickly decided I was close enough and let me push. Almost immediately, everything stopped. I didn’t feel the urge anymore and my contractions moved further apart. They hooked me up to the IV and moved positions and things quickly started up again. This was definitely the most painful part but things were happening so fast, contraction following contraction, that I didn’t really have time to think or focus on anything other than pushing and getting the baby out. At one point, someone asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head and I don’t think I even replied. I remember thinking, “I will when this is done.”

And then, the pain diminishes and you are suddenly holding the world’s newest person. “Let Karissa see,” said one of the nurses as they passed me my baby. I got to hold her right away, skin-to-skin, something that I missed out on with Pearl.

For all its unflattering qualities, I love this picture. Me, completely exhausted and euphoric. Rose, covered in vernix and so brand new.

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While checking her heartbeat, one of the nurses noticed that Rose was working hard to intake air so they took her over to the warming station in the room. She had cried a little upon coming out but her lungs were full of mucus. The doctor spent a few minutes suctioning out her lungs and she was on a respirator for a little while. It felt like longer as I watched but she was soon crying again and back in my arms. She nursed right away (something that took much longer with Pearl, likely because we were apart for most of her first 24 hours) and Peter and I just got to enjoy our new little love.

Peter and Rose

Pearl came to meet her baby sister later that evening – she was more interested in the dinner that had just been brought to me but was excited to introduce Baby Rose to her grandparents. Rose and I stayed the night in the hospital while Peter went home with Pearl and we were discharged Sunday afternoon.

Recovery this time around has been so much easier than after a caesarean. While giving birth is hard on your body no matter what, this time around it feels like my body went through something hard but something that it was made to do. This time around I’m able to go for walks, carry my newborn in a carrier, and get in and out of bed or a chair easily.

I’m thankful for each of my girls and how they entered the world. It’s been an interesting experience, having two such different birth stories and I feel very grateful for living in a place where I have medical care and options available to me and my family.

We are continuing to get used to life with two little ones but it’s been pretty straightforward so far. Peter had a week off work, which was wonderful, and I’m taking the days on my own with the girls easy as I figure out what parenting looks like now. Rose has been a great eater and sleeper and that also makes life much easier. Now I just need to figure out how to shower with both of them around!

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Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?

Today is the first day of the autumn season. A year ago, I sat in a hospital, swallowing back tears, repeating to myself the lines from that famous psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” It was the closest I could get to praying in that moment. I couldn’t keep from crying and a kind nurse sat beside me on the edge of the bed. He brought me tissues and a glass of water, told me it was okay to be scared. He told me how beautiful my little girl was, how lucky I was to have her. He told me that he’d never been able to have children but, later in life, he’d married a woman with two sons and become a dad for the first time. I don’t remember his name and I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again but I’ve never forgotten his kindness.

The next morning, I held my son for the first and last time. Sixteen weeks old and so amazingly perfect.

A year has passed and while the rawness of pain and grief has dulled, I still think about that little baby every day. This past year has been hard and good and heartbreaking and joyous. Peter and I have held tight to one another and I’m so thankful that we have each other to share all of this life. I’m so thankful for our Pearl and all the life and laughter she brings to us. On my darkest days last autumn, I knew I still had to get out of bed, still had to make breakfast because of her, for her and for my husband. That no matter how broken I felt, my life was still needed and valuable.

I struggled to pray in those early months. We sing a song sometimes at church with a chorus that declares, “How I love You, how I love You, You have not forsaken me” and those words seemed to choke me when we sang it in worship last fall. I could not get them out. I felt that God had forsaken me. I felt like God was not who I thought He was. After a life time of Sunday school answers regarding the goodness and love of Christ, I was painfully confronted with the reality of “Where is God in our pain? Does He still love me”

Pearl has a children’s Bible that sums up the arrival of sin in our world as the moment that people began to question, “Does God love me?” Satan planted this doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve and it has dwelt there ever since. Reading to her one night recently, this struck me as the fundamental fear that took hold of my life last autumn. Does God still love me, even when He allowed this horrible thing to happen to us?

There are a lot of answers to these questions and the scope is greater than I can delve into here. For many months I longed for a large and dramatic reply from the Lord. I wanted to hear His voice, feel His hand. I’ve had those moments before; I had a couple of them in the months following my first miscarriage in 2014. But this time that moment never came.

Instead, people showed up. Friends brought soup. They sent texts and Facebook messages. Friends on the other side of the world made time for phone calls and checked in with me. When the days stretched out in emptiness, others made time for me, often people I didn’t know well. A neighbourhood mom I didn’t know well yet hugged me as I cried at the park. Some of these people are Christians, some are not, but in each one the love of Christ was steadily revealed to me.

There was no miraculous moment where things got better. There isn’t with grief. It is a slow and steady climb that I will still be on years from now. I will always wonder about that lost little one. I will always miss and grieve over what could have been. There is so much I don’t understand about how God works and His purposes. Yet I do believe, with all my soul, that He was with us every step. I believe He used the people around me – which included doctors and nurses and a trained psychologist because those are necessary too sometimes – and He walked those dark days with us. I believe God grieved with Peter and I for our son and I believe that we will be reunited one day beyond this world. What that will look like, I have no idea, but I know that death is not the end.

In early January of this year, walking with Pearl on a grey, cloudy day, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. The sadness didn’t vanish but it was the moment when I knew I would be okay, that life would continue, that joy and celebration were still a part of that. And life does continue. It was not long after that I discovered I was pregnant again.

I won’t lie: getting pregnant again so soon has made this year much easier. It doesn’t extinguish the sadness but it has made the milestones gentler and it has turned 2017 into a year of hope. I hope to share more of what this pregnancy has been like but today I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and filled with joy at the thought of meeting this new person any day now. My due date is Thanksgiving weekend and it feels very fitting.

Today, one year later, I remember and I grieve for what has been lost. I’ll be thinking of that little one as I wait to meet this new little one currently kicking around in my belly. I am learning to praise God in all things and as the season turns once more, I keep working to turn to Him, to trust Him in all matters. Death has no victory here.

The Rest of the Summer (So Far)

Bella and Pearl – summer beach buddies

As August quickly approaches its end, we’ve started to look ahead to the fall in our household. Peter’s work schedule changes to its more regular hours in a couple weeks and so the rhythm of our days will revert back to its more ordinary flow. In the meantime, we are enjoying our last days of summer. It’s been a good one.

Beach Pearl

We’ve spent as much time as we can at the beach, whether it’s the one near our house or slightly further afield. We’re fortunate to live in a land of beaches, though most of them tend to be pretty rocky. This summer we’ve definitely had our favourites and have tried to take advantage of low tides where hidden sand bars are revealed. Pearl is not much for ocean swimming yet (she’ll wade) but she’s enjoyed splashing around, building castles, and searching for crabs.

Some dear friends of ours came to visit and we loved being able to host them. These are friends we’ve had since before Peter and I were married and we’ve watched each other get engaged, celebrated weddings together, and welcomed each others children. Pearl falls right in between their two boys age-wise and in previous visits, the kids haven’t interacted much. This time, they quickly became friends and it was wonderful to watch our friendship continue into the next generation.

Klein Lake

After our friends left, we headed up to Pender Harbour for a short camping stint. One night is a good amount of time for us at this stage of our lives so we opted to try out Klein Lake, a place neither of us had visited before. It was the perfect spot for camping with a two year old – quiet and right by the lake. We brought up our rowboat and Pearl loved “rowing”. If you ask her about camping now she’ll tell you that she slept in a tent, ate noodles, and that mum fell on the dock. All true.

Pearl’s first Pirate Pak

We made a quick trip to Vancouver to visit with family (fun!) and go to Ikea (less fun!). The older Pearl gets the more fun she has with her older cousins. She works hard to keep up with them. She also got to enjoy her first ever Pirate Pak. For those not from BC, this is a childhood classic. Basically, the kids menu at a restaurant chain here comes in these pirate boats and you can only order them until you’re ten. We’ve just begun needing to order Pearl her own meal at restaurants so our days of dining out as a family are limited.

Courtesy of her older cousins, Pearl came home with this balance bike. She loves it and is so good at racing around on it already. I love it because it’s turned out to be a great way to get her to the park and back at a decent pace. (We’ve only had to abandon it halfway in the midst of a temper tantrum once so far!)

Seven years!

Peter and I recently celebrated seven years of marriage and we were able to take a night away, just the two of us. (Thank the Lord for grandparents!) This was actually the first time we’ve both been away together since Pearl was born. We didn’t go far – a night at the Ruby Lake Resort in Pender Harbour – but it was so good to get away, just the two of us. We also had an amazing meal at the Italian restaurant there and spent time the next day swimming and canoeing on the lake. I’m so thankful that after seven years of marriage (and ten years together total) we still really like spending time together.

Canoe on Ruby Lake

Canada Day 2017

This year Canada celebrated 150 years of existing as Canada. We are obviously a young country and we would do well to remember that culture existed and people lived on this land for many, many years before European settlers arrived. In 150 years, we as a nation have made a great many mistakes and we are still working to fix and atone many of them. At the same time, I think we live in a nation worth celebrating. In all the upheaval of our world, there are a lot of things that Canada is doing right and I’m proud to be a Canadian and feel privileged to live in a land like ours.

Canada Day is a big deal in our little town and we love going to the parade each year. (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012) This was Pearl’s third Canada Day experience and her most enjoyable. She was really engaged with what was happening and has been talking about some of the sights she saw ever since.

The parade always starts with kids on bikes that they’ve decorated themselves. I kept telling Peter that next year he’d be there, running alongside Pearl!

Then come the classic cars. We have a lot of retired folk in our community and that seems to translate into a lot of classic cars. As soon as the weather gets good, they all come out for the summer.

Then the veterans, pipers, cadets, and others in uniform. (Mounties too, of course!)

Pearl waved her flags and cried, “Yay Canada!”

This “tiny horse” with a flag on it was a big hit.

As was this bear that wore pants and a hat but no shirt. (Pearl and I recently encountered a bear in our neighbourhood so we’ve had a lot of conversations recently about the two bears that she’s seen.)

Of course there were lumberjacks.

Happy Canada Day! (Or whatever other national holiday you may be celebrating this month!)

Life in June

June is coming to a hectic end and we are heading full force into July without a break in sight. But the sun is shining and Peter’s work schedule will (eventually) slow down so June is also getting really good. We spent a good portion of this past weekend at the beach, including a Saturday dinner picnic. Pearl loved playing in the sand and the creek and trying to find tiny crabs. Here are a few pictures from our life lately:

Our hikes (or “forest walks”, as Pearl calls them) often look like this when we have Bella around. Bella runs ahead and off the trail, Pearl runs after her, yelling, “Bewwa! Come!” Bella does not often listen.

The tricycle we found at a thrift store in Washington is a big hit. Pearl is now tall enough so that her feet can reach the pedals. Bike riding is limited to the carport/driveway currently but we have big plans to one day bike to the park.

“Pearl help!” is something I hear a lot. And while it would definitely be faster for me to empty the dishwasher myself (and the cutlery would get into the correct spots), I remind myself that we are (hopefully) instilling good habits. Plus, she’s such a cheerful and eager helper!

We are currently spending a lot of time in our backyard and in this little pool.

No one can say Pearl doesn’t know how to relax.

I decided to let go of keeping the play dough colours separate. It still makes me cringe when she mashes them all into one giant ball, but it also means I can let her play by herself and get something else done and that’s worth it to me in the long run.

We are currently making our lists of goals and dreams and projects for the summer. No big plans but lots of fun and friends and sunshine ahead, I hope.

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of an epic tantrum, I picked Pearl up and carried her outside. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can help calm her down and give us a fresh start so I held her, thrashing and screaming, against my body and walked to the end of the driveway. Turns out, a crew of men were arriving to work on our neighbours’ roof and so as Pearl wept and I paced back and forth, speaking to her softly, I had an audience. Most of them were young men who watched me with surprise and a hint of laughter but one fellow, a little older than the others, gave me a knowing nod. I can only assume that at some point, he too has done this walk.

Posing with flowers from our backyard.

Pearl is two. Tantrums are part of our lives right now. She has intense desires and a growing sense of independence. She wants to do so many things by herself and so many of those things are still hard or impossible for her to do. Sometimes she just can’t do them (like reaching the light switch in her room) and sometimes I can’t let her do them (like buckling herself into her car seat). Her vocabulary is constantly expanding but we often run into moments where she has trouble expressing herself or I have trouble understanding her. Sometimes I’m impatient, sometimes she’s tired. We might go days without a tantrum or we might have three in one afternoon.

A rainy day at the park.

More and more these days, when strangers ask how old Pearl is and I tell them, the reply is, “You have your hands full.” Sure, but not really. Pearl is smart and fun and imaginative and delightful. She’s two, she’s not a rabid wolf. She’s learning a lot – about herself and the world – and it’s my job to help her figure it out.

New gear for the summer.

I do believe that some ideas can be become self-perpetuating and so I make a concerted effort to avoid the idea of “the terrible twos”. Why should I approach an entire year of my daughter’s life with the idea that it is or will be terrible? Can I honestly expect that when she turns three, everything will magically be easy? I can miss the docility of a newborn and look forward to the independence and real conversation of a five-year-old and still embrace and enjoy where we are right now.

Stories with Bella.

Two. It’s playing games that she’s made up all by herself. It’s waiting a painfully long time for her to climb into the tub “her own self”. It’s the morning cry of “Hi Mum!”. It’s the sharing of lip gloss, it’s pulling toy cars out of my washing machine because she fills her pockets with them. It’s rushing out of the shower because I can’t hear her anymore, only to find her quietly looking at books in her room. It’s learning who is this little person that I helped bring into the world but is suddenly so much herself.

Observing what Pearl refers to as a “pillar-cat”

The tantrums are hard and frustrating, I won’t gloss over that. The reasons for them vary and are often minor and I regularly find myself wondering if I should have just given in right away but of course I can’t give in now or I’ll teach her that tantrums work. So we walk to the edge of the front yard or we rock together in a chair or we read stories and look at birds and it usually ends with a cuddle. Two also means there is always another chance, always a time for cuddles.

I pray a lot. The last three years of pregnancy and parenting have brought me more joy and sorrow than I ever knew before. They have stripped me of many of my illusions and brought me continually to my knees, praying for the Lord’s guidance. I have a feeling that won’t change any time soon. They have also filled me with a greater and larger and better thankfulness than I have ever before experienced. Two is good. I am thankful for my two year old.

Easter 2017

I’ll admit it, this post is nothing more than cute pictures of my kid. While I’m fully aware no one else but her dad cares quite as much as I do, I also think these pictures of Pearl having her annual Easter Hunt in our backyard are pretty adorable so I’m going to show them to you.

Patiently waiting while Peter hides the goodies.

Last year, Easter was even earlier but we had Pearl outside in a springy dress. This year was boots and rain jacket.

Her hunting skills have really improved though.

This was her favourite find. We had lots of chocolate eggs and bunnies for her but since she doesn’t get much chocolate, she didn’t really know what they were. We filled a couple of these eggs full of goldfish crackers and she knew right away what that was.

She did miss some obvious hiding places.

But she got there eventually.


And then got to enjoy her spoils!

I hope you all had an excellent long weekend!

Pearl is 2!

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Last week we celebrated because our girl turned two! We’ve been talking with Pearl for a while about her birthday and that she would be two and she’d figured out the response to, “How old are you?” (“Two!” said with a huge amount of glee.) Though “two” also became the response to any other question involving a number. (How many dogs do you see? How old is Dad?)

Toddlers are great at celebrating their birthdays because their expectations are pretty much nil to begin with. This came in handy when Pearl woke up with a bad cold on her birthday and was running a fever the morning before her party. After warning the other moms, turn out was a little lower than originally planned but Pearl rallied after a nap and, in the end, seemed to enjoy her day.

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Because Pearl is very into tea parties right now and because there’s a song called “Tea for Two”, we decided to have a tea party for our brand new two-year-old. We kept it simple with scone (made by my father-in-law) with jam, fruits and veggies, and cookies in the shapes of woodland creatures. (Pearl “helped” me make them.) And, of course, vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting.

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Pearl got thoroughly loved on by friends and family and the afternoon was a lot of fun. She poked at her cupcake and never ate it but had a few cookies and scones to make up for that.

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The backpack was her gift from Peter and I and she wore it most of the day.

We feel so thankful for our beautiful, fun, healthy, smart girl and extra thankful that so many people, near and far, love her, celebrate her life, and have joined with Peter and I in praying over her life.

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January…

After the three of us recovered from our extended colds, January turned out to be a pretty good month around here.

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Pearl is now 23 months! Her hair is long enough that it occasionally gets in her eyes, she is currently getting a new tooth, and she is full of energy.

We stayed away from most of our usual toddler groups and drop-ins because we didn’t want to spread our germs around and so we ended up spending a lot of time outdoors, exploring the forest nearby and playing at the local parks.
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When the new year began, I made a list of a few goals for myself and while I haven’t worked out five times a week (probably not a realistic goal anyway), focusing on a few small changes have made a big difference in my attitude. Lots of outdoor time is key for both Pearl and I and makes our days more interesting.

Another of my goals was to spend less time on-line, especially before bed. I always have a book (or three) on the go so it’s a simple switch to close the computer and read inside. As well, I’ve stayed away from Facebook all month and I feel like that’s made a difference too. My Facebook feed is just too full of pregnancies and babies and while I normally love that I felt that I needed to step away for a while. I’ve been surprised at how good it’s felt for my own well-being.

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Pearl and I went on a fun adventure, just the two of us. We took a day trip into Vancouver, walking on the ferry and spending the day downtown. It was rainy and busy but we had a blast and I can’t wait to try it again when the weather’s better. We walked around a lot (her mostly in her stroller), Pearl had her first drink at Starbucks (steamed milk), and we rode the SeaBus just for fun (Pearl’s first time).

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Recently, Pearl had an appointment with the speech therapist. At her 18-month check-up, she wasn’t quite hitting the amount of words they expected her to have at that age (around 20) so we went on a wait list for speech therapy. By the time the therapist contacted me, Pearl had added a lot of words to her vocabulary; Peter and I estimate she has about 50 words now. It didn’t seem like it would do any harm to have her assessed by a professional though and to see if there was anyway we could help her along. I wasn’t sure how it would go since Pearl isn’t always the most outgoing around strangers. The therapist was awesome though, having a tea party with Pearl and bringing out lots of toys to engage her, all while surreptitiously jotting down her observations.

In the end, our suspicions were confirmed – Pearl is totally fine! It’s been apparent that she understands what we’re saying, including multi-step ideas (like, “Go get your boots and put them on”) and she’s adding new words to her speech everyday. She’s simply learning at her own pace and that’s okay! Just this past week or so she’s begun putting two words together to form sentences (“Hi mum!). I’m still glad that I took advantage of the appointment, plus I learned a little more about how to aid her speech development along. I can’t wait to hear what she says next!