Monthly Archives: November 2009

Not like teen spirit – babes in the woods

It’s time for a pinch. Just a quick one to make sure I’m not spinning at 33 1/3 in a long play dream. Well I felt that. I recommend going light on the unsupervised pinching. I’m still here, looking out the home office window at a drizzle day. Our new babe Lila-Jeanne has been home from the hospital for a week. She’s a big hit with the whole family.

So here I sit in the midst of luxury, a new baby in the house and nine months of parental leave beckoning me. The wealth is measured in the extended period of time I have to spend with immediate family. This is my second go of leave to love babies. The first time was for six months and it was a smash success.

Big sister and big brother light up when the little one is awake. They can’t get enough of cute, beautiful baby sis. Whenever Nellie-Rose sees either maman, or myself without le bébé in our arms, she immediately asks in a probing, semi-alarmed voice, “Where is Lila-Jeanne?” Lila is on Noah-David’s mind too. Just the other day he pipes up right out of the blue from the back seat of the car and says, “Dad, you know why I like this time of the year, this Christmas time?” When I told him I didn’t know, he replied, “It’s because I can buy a gift for Lila Dad, that’s why.”

Smells like a heady blend of pre-school, toddler and new born spirit to me. Their spontaneity swirls about in unique and unpredictable ways. Their mindfulness is compelling for its generosity, tenderness and absence of guile. There is plenty of learning here if I look and listen carefully. This stepping out of an adult centric world and falling into imagining play is a gift of gargantuan proportions. I want to be the turtle – slow, steady and in the race. Winning is not important.

I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before. My previous parental leave started when Nellie-Rose was six months old – a whole different dynamic than getting in on the ground floor so to speak. There is no vacuum in the absence of the paid job. The day is pretty much filled the entire time my head is not on the pillow.

For now it’s like Christmas, New Year and vacation all wrapped up in one, a kind of holiday mash up. There is loads of anticipation and excitement watching Lila-Jeanne day by day. She is the gift, like all my other children, that just keeps on giving. There is the relaxation and freedom to embark on mental walkabouts that’s associated with the temporary release from the 9 to 5 world. Then there is the planning, the resolutions of how best to make use of this gift of time. No matter how many times I cut the deck, I come up aces.

I want to spend scads of time with the kids learning together, teaching where I can, laughing, trying to see what they see. I want to write, to tell our story, to remember these moments before they fly away.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got shitty diapers and runny noses here too. From time to time I might attempt to wax eloquently about the earthiness of domestic bliss, that banged head on the cupboard door, or dishpan hands that can still be restored à la Madge.

Seems Madge even made it to Australia – no end of degradation in that hot water environment.

The dishes, parenting, cleaning house – this is the kind of work that’s been undervalued for years. Parental leave puts a monetary value on the table for this kind of work for a short period of time. It’s a great beginning. The enhanced leave that came into effect on December 31, 2000 is having a positive impact on Canadian families according to a summative evaluation carried out by Human Resources Development Canada in 2005.

More about babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and domestic bliss in upcoming installments.


New kid on the block

Lila-Jeanne is here now on the sunshine side of the womb. She is beautiful beyond the singing of it. Just before dawn she surfaces from her heroic struggle. Breaking through, she lets loose with an impassioned caterwauling filling her lungs with air for the first time. Under her membranous wrapping she is our rosy pink gift – warm, spluttering movement, uncertain and authentically surprised.

Mélanie sweats, grinds, bears down, pushes, struggling through the pain. Bands of steely muscle contract and loosen. Her body marches inexorably to a final unwinding. She is courageous beyond the telling of it. A last determined push helps propel Lila out to our side. Her serpentine cord, that inimitable bond, unravels like a lazy spring. In an instant, nine long months of anticipation become a joyous eternity. Her presence overwhelms us. Lila is laid on Mélanie’s breast – mother and daughter heartbeat to racing heartbeat.

I am buoyant, awash in a warm sea inhaling life’s elemental scent. This is pure joy. I am a lucky man to experience this miraculous moment one more time. I cradle Lila in my arms, our first skin-to-skin touch, and look into her small, awakened face. She stops crying as I gently rock her while walking back and forth. I’m pleased the tears pause. Just maybe I’m emitting some subliminal positive vibes that are helping her in some small way.

Did I mention that maman shows her champion mettle throughout this crescendo of breathe, push, pain – breathe, cry, birth – baby, sigh, smile?

It wasn’t always a sure thing though. Mélanie was convinced we would be returning home to The Passage with her big belly intact. Three hours after checking in dilation was still only at 2 cm. We walked around and around and around the small maze garden to stir things up after the early labour nurse gave it a go too. It didn’t appear that the stirring was going to take.

It was a relatively calm evening so we got checked into a birthing room. Mé took a long warm bath and soon afterward the contractions picked up intensity and frequency. After several waves, Mé decided it was time to call on the purveyor of the epidural – the magic man. As well as diminishing the pain, the anesthetic provided an energy jolt.

Mé was in her groove initiating conversations with the nurses about family and children, reaching out to learn about their lives. One of the nurses works regularly in remote communities in northern Manitoba. Mélanie was able to share her Poplar River experiences from many years ago. It was one of the few communities the nurse had not yet visited.

Our main nurse was with us right through to the birth. She is the same age as my oldest daughter and has two young children of her own – one pre-schooler, one school age. She was a sweet heart helping Mé throughout the night. She is a member of the Salvation Army and one of her pastors was a close friend of mine during high school. The world can be so small and beautiful.

Our doctor had been alerted earlier in the evening and received a second call to haul her out of bed and get her to the hospital. On arrival she told us she had already delivered this baby once in a dream. There had been only one snag, she couldn’t find a clamp she needed, nor could any of the nurses. There were massive amounts of blood spurting from the baby getting on everyone and everything and then she woke up. Happily, there were no lost clamp issues in the real life delivery. However, I did have to pull the doctor’s ringing blackberry our of her back pocket, tell her daughter to get ready for hockey and let her know that her mom was busy and would call her back. Life goes on even as new life bursts on the scene.

The kids are waking up back in The Passage. Lila-Jeanne and Mé get a kiss as I float out the door, dazed and euphoric. Back home, Raymond and the children are waiting wide-eyed. Noah’s exuberant, impromptu dance while rapid fire chanting his new sister’s name is a welling up of primal joy, unbridled, uncut. Nellie is right there by his side spinning, weaving, smiling, laughing still a pixie babe herself. Raymond is beatific tout court.

I make the calls to immediate family with the good news and contact my office. Even though I didn’t do any of the hard work, it’s been a long night. Raymond lets me crash to get a little rest. I drift off with the new baby smell and thoughts of Lila-Jeanne in my mind.

Thank you Mélanie for being a loving maman and a fearless championne.