At Home Pedicures

As wonderful as professional salon services are, it’s hard to justify the cost. It’s even harder to justify the risk of affecting your family’s health. Therefore, my Mom and I have starting taking self-care into our own hands during this new normal, including at home pedicures!

Now, my mom is the guru when it comes to salon style beauty, so I grabbed some tips from her. We also took some hints from her magazine collection (which also came in handy as our relaxation reading material). So if you want a fun girl’s afternoon, but are really into saving some money and keeping your family safe, try these out for size!

Materials

  1. One basin per person, large enough for both feet
  2. Nail polish remover
  3. Cotton pads or Q-tips
  4. Pumice stone
  5. Foot file
  6. Nail trimmer (scissors or clippers)
  7. Nail file or buffer
  8. Cuticle pusher or orange stick
  9. Cuticle cutters
  10. Moisturizer
  11. Toe Separators
  12. Base polish
  13. Nail polish
  14. Top coat
  15. Magazines/Romance Comedy Movie/Spa Music

Before getting off on the wrong foot, I know this list looks a little exhaustive – but have no fear! You can improvise or skip steps and you will still have a good time and good-looking toes! Now that we know that, let’s just jump right in!

Step 1. Prep your tools and work station. We put on a romantic comedy movie and busted out some chips and dip. If I were to do a pedicure alone, I likely would have put on spa music but to each there own! Also fill your basins with hot water. Add any desired perfumes or salts for added pampering.

Step 2. Remove old nail polish with your nail polish remover and cotton pads. Put the pad over the bottle top and invert it for a brief second to allow the pad to soak up some of the liquid. Then use the wet cotton pad to clean your nails. It’s definitely easier to remove the polish if you let the pad sit on your nail for roughly 10 seconds, letting the nail polish absorb the acetone. Then wipe all the access away. If you aren’t wearing any nail polish, it’s still a good idea to clean your nails this way as it removes dirt and grease too!

Step 3. Next, soak your feet in the basin. Every ten minutes or so, you can pull them out to scrub the dry spots with a pumice stone or other callous remover tool. Never use anything sharp or attempt to cut off dry spots as this can be potentially dangerous. Soaking your feet before scrubbing the areas will drastically help remove any dead skin, and will eventually make your feet baby smooth again, even if it takes multiple tries. Just keep soaking and scrubbing! If you find the pumice stone or other scrubbing tool is not working for you, I actually preferred using my own nails. Worked just as well!

Step 4. After soaking and scrubbing, if your skin still needs a little extra love, dry them and use a foot file. This works best if your feet are dry as the skin comes off in a powder-like form, making your skin softer.

Step 5. Clip your nails with a pair of nail scissors or clippers. Personally, I prefer ordinary finger nail clippers. I find toe nail clippers or scissors too hard to maneuver and regular nail clippers allow me to get a straight cut across the nail. I also prefer to keep my nails short to prevent them from getting caught on anything. I also wear an odd variety of shoes and having short nails allows my feet to be comfortable in any toe shape. When cutting your nails, be sure not to too far back on the corners as this can lead to ingrown toenails – super painful!

Step 6. File the new cuts with a nail file. I used a nail buffer to do this, brushing the nail in a downward motion rather than from side to side. This made the cuts very soft to the touch and not at all sharp. I also buffed the rest of the nail a smidge, which I was told would help the nail polish stick on better!

Step 7. Use a cuticle pusher to gently push your cuticles and expose the new nail growth. This was always my least favourite part of getting a professional pedicure because it was always kind of painful! Now that I’m in the driver seat, I can gently perform this task, making it a lot more pleasant and just as nice looking! Afterwards, you may notice the extra skin built up around your nails and may want to remove it. If it makes you more comfortable, you can use a pair of cuticle cutters to remove it but go slow to avoid any tears to your skin. Feel free to buff again with your nail buffer!

Step 8. After all the scrubbing, cutting, filing, and buffing, your feet may look a little caked in powder. Go ahead and remove as much excess as possible with a cloth or paper towel. You can then use your moisturizer to soften and pamper your feet! If you’re avid reader of my blogs, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I used coconut oil. As well as the many health properties coconuts have, they are also known to be a great anti-aging moisturizer as well as being better for the planet than traditional lotions.

Step 9. At this stage, your feet may look and feel amazing and you may feel good enough to just walk away. I almost did until my Mom pulled out a shiny, clear nail gloss. So we busted out the toe separators! Before putting these bad boys on, I was told to give my toes and feet a little stretch to help with the awkward feeling of the separators.

Step 10. Once separated, run another acetone soaked cotton ball over the nails again to remove the oil from the previous steps. If putting on coloured nail polish, I was advised that a base coat would keep the polish from chipping. We also read that a quick buff from a nail buffer would do the trick so it’s personal preference (or availability)!

Step 11. Next apply your polish! I went with a clear shine but I find any lighter colours look great in summer, especially with your summertime tan! Use your brush and always go from the left-most toe to the right-most toe if right-handed and vice versa if left-handed. This prevents unconsciously smearing the previously painted toe! Also, if you have small nails and often flood the base with polish, an orange stick or Q-tip can help clean it up. If you don’t have either, you can always use your fingernail or paper towel. Paint your toes with two coats, letting dry between coats, to get an even colour and prevent chips.

Step 12. Before adding your top coat, clean up the skin with an acetone soaked Q-tip or paper towel. You’re then free to add that top coat and finish your rom-com as you let them dry!

Last Foot

I hope you were able to get your foot in the door with these pedicure tips! If you have a cool self-pampering tip, sweep me off my feet with it! Until next time, stay safe and sane!

Growing an Herb Garden

Growing an indoor or outdoor herb garden can be just as useful as it is fun! My boys and I have been working on a few projects since the beginning of 2020 and growing a successful little herb garden has been one of them. Of course it always helps if you have or know of someone with a green thumb. For me, that’s my sister! She taught me a lot of valuable insights when it came to taming chives, splitting parsley pods, and fluffing up basil bushes. If it wasn’t for her, my indoor creations would have been a flop. So now that I’ve mastered a few of these tricks, I’m going to share them with my KARA family! But first, let’s check out the benefits!

Herbaceous Benefits

Herbs have a wide variety of health benefits, including fighting infections (basil), reducing nasal congestion from allergies (rosemary), and relieving nausea and IBS symptoms (peppermint). They are also known to keep teeth healthy and freshen breath! Check out more benefits here.

Michigan State University also advocates that gardening has plenty of developmental benefits for children! Zipping around the lawn with tools and bags of seeds provides practice for gross motor skills. Pinching little seeds and grasping hand tools help develop fine motor skills. Playing with water and soil helps provide children with sensory play. Children are also able to develop reading skills when looking at garden tags, math skills when counting seeds, and a love of nature through nutritional education. And let’s not forget all the fresh air and exercise that are good for every family member! Check it out here.

Green Goodness

So now that we are familiar with the goodness of these greens, let’s start making our own from scratch!

What we need is:

  1. A medium to large pot with holes in the base
  2. Gardening soil (or a glass jar for sprouts)
  3. Seeds of desired herbs

Seeds that we planted included basil, garlic greens, sunflower greens, alfalfa sprouts, and a very cool little plant called burgundy oxalis. We also inherited a pot of chives that we have been mothering diligently.

I chose these plants because they are very easy to grow and work for a variety of dishes. I did try my hand at favourites like cilantro and parsley but found these extraordinarily temperamental. The cilantro came up all spindly and the parsley didn’t even germinate. Oh well – I’ll just have to keep practicing!

So let’s get down to the whys and hows of the plants that were successful! Oxalis burgundy shamrock grows wild in Alberta. Purple basil – nutmeg and basil. Lemon basil. Garlic greens! Alfalfa sprouts 5 days. Sunflower greens. Pea sprout 3 inches

Chives

Chives are the only plant I haven’t kept in my kitchen herbarium. That’s because they do so well outdoors! Chives are a perennial plant (they come back year after year) and can easily be grown indoors and out. Be careful with them though because their beautiful flowers spread seeds like crazy as they try to invade and take over your entire garden. Very edible and delicious, they are an onion that can be used in any pasta dish and can even be enjoyed raw from the garden.

I was lucky to inherit my already well established chives from a friend who planted them in their own large pot. This prevents them from getting out hand. However, as I understand it, chives are best planted and grown in cooler seasons like spring. In early May, my outdoor chives are already starting to bloom! They also prefer sunny spots and to be planted in well-draining, well-composted soil. Ensure that they are planted in the ground or a pot with holes in the base to prevent drowning. Sow seeds 2 inches apart and no more than ¼ inch deep (quite shallow with a sprinkling of soil on top). Harvesting them actually produces more chives if done properly as you can take one third of them by thinning them every couple of weeks. Just pick one stock for every three and you will always have happy chives!

Basil

Basil thrives in a sunny window in well-drained soil. It is super sensitive to cool weather so it sits in my south facing window right next to my kitchen sink. I find some herbs smell even when not cooking and basil is certainly one of them! Its powerful aroma is very pleasant though and really makes doing dishes more delightful.

Sowing seeds is very easy but must be done 10 to 12 inches apart. I only planted one as space was a commodity in my little herbarium, but that didn’t stop the basil from becoming one of the main attractions! It grew into a little tufty plant and if I kept taking leaves from the top, the basil got bushier and bushier on the bottom! Another super cool thing about basil is that you can take a cutting and germinate a new plant! Select a 4 inch section of basil that has not yet flowered and place it in water. Roots should form within a week and you can gift it to a close friend or make a second thriving plant. Totally awesome!

Another note – if you decide to plant purple basil instead of the regular kind, it tastes like nutmeg!

Garlic and Sunflower Greens

This was one plant that resulted from trial and error. My husband decided to grow his own garlic from a clove bought from the store. He brought home some garlic, ate almost all of it, but saved the last clove and buried it in a corner of the herbarium. Within a couple of days it had sprouted into what looked like a green onion stalk, and it didn’t stop there… My husband and I even started measuring its growth day by day, it was growing that fast! We placed a few bets too to see when it would outshine my other plants.  I called my sister to see what her thoughts were. She said that although it would never produce new cloves, the garlic green that was growing, at a surprisingly fast rate, was deliciously edible and very much worth the short amount of time it took to grow. We would chop off the green top little by little to munch on as a snack – absolutely scrumptious!

We later found out we can also do this with sunflower seeds (not roasted ones) harvested from our sunflowers. They make nice little greens that taste great in a salad!

Alphalpha Sprouts

These quick to germinate little sprouts are very easy to grow – and you don’t even need dirt! Just a glass jar and paper towel will work! Place about 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seeds in a glass jar and let them soak in 1½ cups of water overnight (6+ hours). Drain them through the paper towel (or cheese cloth or dish cloth). Put them back in the jar and add ½ cup of fresh water. Swill them around to wash them and drain again. Then leave the jar on its side with paper towel over the opening to allow them to spread out and the moisture to be partially trapped. Repeat the rinsing and draining process every morning and evening for 4 days, always leaving the jar on its side. The sprouts will be roughly 3 to 4 cm in length with green tips when ready to eat. You can then put them in a sealed container in the fried until needed. I also noticed that they lasted longer when wrapped in paper towel then in a baggie. Add to sandwiches and salads for a delectable treat!

Burgundy Oxalis

By far the coolest thing I’ve ever grown, this bushy plant grows easily and tastes exactly like a crisp green apple! For someone who is allergic to apples, this was a very welcome treat. Also known as purple shamrock, this plant is a type of clover. And with that said, it does contain a small amount of acid which can be toxic in high doses. Used in many foods found in the supermarket, the US National Institute of Health notes that it is safe for people who eat a variety of foods.

This plant tends to prefer shade but I’ve left two in my indoor herbarium facing a south facing window and they seem to love it! Both plants have grown into bushy clusters that overtake a few others. If planted in the garden, beware as it likes to get out of control.

Plant burgundy oxalis in well-drained soils and keep it well watered. Plant it in a shadier spot. If you want to keep it growing big but control it from spreading, pluck the little yellow flowers before they bloom. All the leaves, stems and flowers are edible on this plant – but refrain from eating too much!

Our Blossoming Best

So, there you have it. With minimal supplies, you can easily start your own growing adventure. While we’ve discussed several plants, there really are endless possibilities. I recommend that you plant what you most often use in your own cooking. This can be heavily influenced by your favourite cuisines, so if you love Italian food, perhaps basil and thyme might be good choices. If you enjoy Mexican, perhaps cilantro and oregano. Just remember that it’s always nice to try new things! I hope this has been helpful and has inspired you to start down the incredibly rewarding path of beginning your own small garden!

Coping During a Pandemic

Naturally, in the current medical climate, there is a lot of room for worry. Our families are at the front of our minds and we are finding ourselves in a different situation than we’ve been used to, and likely one we’ve never faced before.

The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is a global outbreak, occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of people. The last pandemic to occur was the H1N1 Influenza outbreak, which was declared in 2009. I was in college practicing to be a nurse when it was declared, but even still, now that I have a family, I’m more engrossed with the COVID-19 situation and ever-watching as it unfolds. I’m sure many of the parents out there feel similarly, and are thinking of their loved ones as they make family decisions. Therefore, to help my family and yours, I’ve sourced and summarized some coping methods specific to pandemics in the hope that they help empower everyone and make family management easier.

The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta has developed a Psychological Coping During a Pandemic Fact Sheet to help everyone understand normal responses to abnormal events. Such normal responses include anxiety, unrealistic fears, and strong defensive actions. They’ve given recommendations to help improve psychological responses and advice on when to seek help. Let’s walk through the recommendations together.

Staying informed but not overloaded – This is easy to understand but hard to accomplish. With the pandemic currently affecting all of us around the globe, and Alberta just recently joining the fight, the news highlights little else. On top of that, we are living in a time sure to be known as the social media era. It’s hard not to get sucked into conversations regarding the current situation and the current political decisions regarding it. However, I’ve found a little path that I’ve managed to walk regarding social media distancing: I check government websites (Alberta Health Services, the World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, & the US Center for Disease Control are all reliable information sources) and join the conversation with a few select colleagues whom I find calming in nature. Government websites provides relevant, prompt facts that are not inundated with gossip, and naturally calming people provide social support, as well as points of view that are not anxiety producing. It’s been a few days since I’ve distanced myself from the exceptionally wide world of information and I do already feel less stressed and more able to make sound decisions regarding precautions.

Staying physically healthy – I truly believe the sudden stresses (as well as the time of year) associated with the pandemic declaration are causing some of those around me to come down with the common cold or other common illness. Stress reduces the body’s ability to ward off any illness; therefore, keeping a healthy lifestyle, even in the middle of winter with recreation facility closures, is important. How can we do this? My son and I have found a way. Youtube! Earlier this year, I had planned for us to take a yoga class together down the street at the local recreation centre. Unfortunately, we never got our chance. Therefore, I Amazon’d ourselves a couple of yoga mats and we’ve started working out to Youtube yoga videos every night before bed. It’s been such a hit that I know we will keep it up even after facilities open again. It’s easier on the pocket book and he loves the variety we can get!

Maintaining perspective – “Our government needs to prepare for possible worst-case scenarios in order to protect the public. The public, however, does not need to expect the worst.” Reading this really opened my eyes as to the direction local media was going – perhaps they were blowing things out of proportion a bit, emphasizing every story and repeating tragic news. Yes, our government is making changes that really impact us citizens, but that does not mean the worst case is going to transpire. All of the measures being taken are preventative and are made to prepare, not panic.

Build your and your family’s resilience – Resilience is a profound mental tool that can help in any situation. Building mental resilience takes effort and time, but it’s incredibly beneficial. How to do it? There are many ways, and here are some of the ways that have helped me: practicing thought awareness by preventing negative thoughts from derailing your mental track; practicing cognitive restructuring, such as building positive thoughts and changing the way you perceive new thoughts; choosing positive responses to mistakes, such as letting things go and learning from them; and building your social network to include people that make you a better person. For resilience building exercises, check this resource out.

Communicate with your family – Discuss the news honestly with your family, keeping topics age-appropriate. Many of them may be too young to understand the effects of the current situation, but topics such as hand-washing and covering your cough with your elbow, may help them understand certain aspects and preventative measures. With most children at home now, keeping up with routines is also very important in reducing anxiety in children. Try maintaining a schedule that does not conflict with social distancing policies, like arts and crafts time or outdoor walks. Remember that children will watch your behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings. You may want to limit your family’s media consumption to help reduce collective anxiety.

Making a plan – Developing a plan for a possible outcome, such as prolonged isolation, job loss, or diagnosis, could really help lessen anxiety. Know the correct way to monitor for illness, manage symptoms, and report a suspected case. These details can be found here. Keeping up-to-date on emergency financial assistance (to be available for applications next week at alberta.ca) can also help alleviate stress. Those with mortgages and who qualify can also request to defer mortgage payments for up to six months to help cope financially. Lastly, ensure your household, close friends, and neighbours are aware of plans so that everyone feels supported and strengthened together. You can make a buddy system for checking on each other or helping with errands in the event support is needed. Visit the Federal government’s website on emergency preparedness for more great info.

Seek additional help – Those that feel overwhelmed or have prolonged reactions that negatively affect their daily activities can seek professional help by calling Edmonton’s Mental Health Crisis Services Distress Line. It’s a confidential service provided seven days a week to those requiring additional mental help. Find more info here.

Working Together

All of us at KARA do miss our KARA families and hope these tips on managing stress will empower all of our families during this time. We hope to see you all again when it’s safe to resume programs and look forward to working together again! Stay safe and take care!

The Importance of Sleep

Have you ever wondered why all living things need sleep? You might have pondered this question while yawning, and likely after a night spent bouncing your baby or coaxing your child back to his own bed. As new parents, it’s hard to get an adequate amount of sleep at night, but we have to in order to give our bodies and brains a boost. That’s right! Not a rest, but a boost.

What Happens During Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is an active period in which we complete information processing, restoration, and strengthening. The exact mechanics of how our bodies and brains do this is unknown and why we are programmed for such long hours of sleep is still a mystery, but some of the vital roles of sleep have been determined through research.

During sleep, we process and store memories. Memories, shockingly, are not directly logged or recorded as our day goes on, they are stored in our tentative, short-term memory for the time being. Once asleep, our brains process the information and transfer it to long-term memory, a catalogue of important information.

Sleep also rejuvenates and restores our bodies. During our lengthy hours of sleep, we grow muscle and repair tissue. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to new parents as our first years with our child shows an excessive amount of growth paired with extraordinary amounts of sleep!

Lastly, researchers have also shown that sleep allows our bodies to create hormones and improve the immune system.  This certainly holds true if you get a cold and need the extra hours of sleep to help your body fight the fight. It also indicates why teenagers often can’t get out of bed before noon…

For more from the National Sleep Foundation – Click here

For other theories currently being researched – Click here

These activities that occur during sleep have amazing benefits for us – fixing our bodies when we are injured or sick, helping our digestive and circulatory systems function through synthesizing the correct hormones, and processing thoughts, ideas, and memories. Littler ones even sleep to grow. Arguably, sleep, although still mysterious, is more beneficial than most other daily activities. So it’s important to get enough!

How Much Sleep is Needed

What a great question! The amount of sleep that’s needed per person all depends on their age. Kids require more sleep than adults because their bodies are continually growing, making more muscle mass and synthesizing more hormones. Adults can get away with less sleep, but nonetheless, sleep is very important for everyone.

The recommended amount of sleep per age group is as follows (click here):

  1. Newborns require 14 to 17 hours a day. I bet that seems like a lot, but when you’re napping all day, it really doesn’t take long to accumulate.
  2. One year olds require approximately 10 hours a night plus 4 hours of nap during the day. The naps can be split up in the morning and afternoon but it’s important they get a total of 14 hours of sleep a day.
  3. Two year olds should get approximately 11 to 12 at night with a 1 to 2 hour nap during the day, totalling 13 hours a day.
  4. Three to five years and they require 10 to 13 hours a day. They may not take a nap, and just sleep the entire night.
  5. Six to thirteen years and you’re looking at 9 to 11 hours a night.
  6. Fourteen to seventeen and 8 to 10 hours are required.
  7. Hit your eighteenth birthday and celebrate with 7 to 9 hours a night for the rest of adulthood!

The Stages of Sleep

As you may have known, there are different stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and the rapid eye movement (R.E.M) Stage (click here). And your brain runs the show!

Stage 1

In this stage, you’re in the lightest form of sleep. You can be woken easily but your body and brain are drowsy. Many people, such as myself, experience the sensation of falling during this stage, waking themselves up. This stage usually lasts less than 10 minutes.

Stage 2

A deeper sleep, your brain gives direction for your muscles to relax, including your heart, which will beat a little slower. You also breathe a little slower and your body temperature drops a smidge. This stage lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

Stage 3

Now you’re in a deep sleep known as slow-wave sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep. Your brain signals again and your blood pressure drops a bit. It’s very difficult to be woken from this stage of sleep. Both sleepwalking and sleeptalking occur during this stage. Your body also won’t respond to temperature changes in this stage, meaning your spouse can now steal all the blankets and you won’t notice. This stage lasts 20 to 40 minutes.

R.E.M.

The muscles everywhere else in your body are relaxed, but the eye muscles are in action. They move back and forth very quickly beneath your eyelids. This stage is known as the dream stage, where you have very realistic dreams. Your heart may beat faster and your breathing may be irregular to accommodate those lifelike dreams, but your brain paralyses your muscles so you don’t act out what you’re dreaming. You can be woken easier in this stage than in Stages 2 or 3.

These stages of sleep allow your brain to complete the tasks that are needed. Your brain repeats these stages every one to two hours or so until you wake up. For adults, the cycle is repeated three to four times a night. For children, about four or five sleep cycles can occur in a night because they spend more time in R.E.M. sleep than adults. Now you can see why sleep is not exactly resting!

How to Get Your Sleep

Now that we know the importance of sleep, here are a few tips on how to get those much desired ZZZs. These tips are great for both parents and children!

Go to bed at the same time every night. The circadian rhythm, developed by the 24 hour clock that is the rotation of the Earth, is programmed in to all living things. The human clock (our brains) signal drowsiness during the afternoon (napping is normal, even for adults!) and in the evening. For many of us with work schedules or school, napping isn’t feasible, so setting our own programs to the same time every day is the next best thing.

Follow a bedtime routine that is relaxing. Watching TV, playing video games, or staring at a computer is false light and can trick our bodies into thinking it’s the wrong time of day. As well, playing energetic games boosts our blood pressure and hormones into gear, not helping our brain motion towards its sleep signals. Complete a calming, nightly routine, such as having a bath or reading a book to assist your brain in running the program.

Remove or limit caffeine. Coffee, soda, and even iced tea contain caffeine, which is a stimulant affecting your brain’s ability to synthesize the correct hormones for sleep and even normal function.

Speak with your doctor if stress is affecting your sleep. Stress can have negative effects on all daily functions. It can double the negative effects if you are also losing stress-reducing sleep as well.

For more sleeping tips, especially ones for children, click here.

Have a Wonderful Sleep

Although some of the mysteries of sleep still elude us, I hope you won’t lose any sleep over them! Check out the links I’ve included within the text to learn more. As we saw, sleep is deeply important, so I hope you and your family are able to sleep deeply tonight!

Vaccines

Vaccinations are one of the most important defenses against dangerous diseases. They protect our bodies by giving our immune systems a glimpse at the diseases that are really out there. And this little sneak peek makes all the difference!

My son loves to play “fight-to-the-death” imaginary games. He will take his little foam sword and hide behind a curtain, under a desk, or behind a couch and pop out when I’m least expecting it – or so he thinks! I know what my son looks like and his favourite hiding spots. It’s not that hard to find him and anticipate those little jabs. Now, imagine that my son was disguised as furniture, and I was searching for him but couldn’t distinguish him from the other furniture. It would be so much harder to find him because he looks like everything else! Kapow! That little foam sword is sharper when you didn’t see it coming! This is what our immune systems deal with every day.

Vaccinations come into the mix. Vaccinations are literally made up of pieces of viruses so our immune systems can learn to recognize the virus without getting sick. Yes, our bodies are tricked into thinking it’s the real deal, so we get immune response symptoms like fevers, but not the symptoms associated with the disease – like vomiting! Vaccinations peel back the disguises so our immune systems are that much more prepared because they are given the power of recognition. We fight off diseases much more effectively, experience less symptoms, and don’t carry diseases to other people.

Once our immune systems are given this glimpse of the potential disease, it carries the memory forward, enabling us to build up a resistance to the actual disease, which could be very dangerous otherwise (click here).

Herd Immunity

There are some folks out there that can’t get vaccinated. I know one of them! She is a nurse (no joke!) and she is unable to be vaccinated because she has a certain allergy to the metal in the needle. Now, thanks to the vast majority of the population that is vaccinated, the chances that she will run in to someone carrying a very dangerous disease is slim (but not impossible!). She is lucky, thus far, and also has the power of being the right age and having a healthy body. If she does contract something, she is likely able to fight it off with a few days in hospital. Others, like babies or the elderly, are susceptible to more detrimental effects, so it is that much more important that everyone who can, get vaccinated to protect others (click here)!

Where to Get Vaccinations

Now that you know the benefits of vaccinations, you’re probably wondering where to go! The Immunization Program in Alberta is free to those with Alberta Health Care cards. To find the location nearest to you, call Health Link at 811. Likewise, your doctor will give you the location information of the one that applies to you and your children. When you have a new baby, it’s likely that there will be a location designated to you based on where you live.

Routine Immunization Schedule

When I had my first child, I ensured he was immunized right on schedule, practically to the day that was recommended. With my second, being a busier Mom, we ended up doubling up on appointments after missing some scheduled days. We were very fortunate that we did not cross paths with a virus during this time of catch-up. This is because the vaccination schedule has been adapted from years of research by hundreds of doctors and virologists. The range of dates given to have a child vaccinated is based on the child’s likeliness to contract a virus as well as their ability to combat the vaccine (the immune systems response). If you’d like to read more on the prescribed vaccination routines for children, there is a very long book called The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety. Not shockingly, a very long synopsis is also available, and can be found here.

Immunizing on schedule ensures your child gets the maximum possible protection from vaccine-preventable diseases and gives your child the best immunity possible.

The schedule outlined below has been in effect in Alberta since January 1, 2019 (click here).

2 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus)

4 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Meningococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, Rotavirus)

6 months and older (annual Influenza 2)

12 months (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox), Meningococcal conjugate, Pneumococcal conjugate)

18 months (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b)

4 years  (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox))

Grade 6                (Hepatitis B, Human papillomavirus)

Grade 9                (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Meningococcal conjugate)

When listed out like that, it certainly does seem like a lot! However, usually only one needle is given at each appointment – lucky for those wee babes and the heartbroken parents!

Immunization Records and Statistics

If you are reading this and can’t recall your child’s last vaccine – don’t fret! Immunization records are kept by Alberta Health Services (AHS) at the health zone level. However, this has only been recently done and records for us older generations are unlikely to be found. If it has been more than 7 to 10 years since your last immunization, AHS may not have a copy of the record. But the records will be available for your child or children! If you have questions about your immunization records, contact Health Link at 811.

A Moment to Consider

“And when I knew that that’s what they had, and I knew that there was a fairly recent vaccine for rotavirus, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Maybe we didn’t have to just suffer through this.’” – Kirsten O’Meara, Mother of three

Hope you and your family benefit from this info! Please share your comments below!

Parenting Failures

Two days before I was due, still looking like I swallowed a beach ball, my midwife gave me a piece of advice. She started off a friendly chat themed around my readiness to be a parent.

“How are you feeling emotionally,”

“When will you stop working,”

“Do you have everything you need for the baby,”

That sort of thing.

What she was leading up to was how I was going to handle the giant life curveball that is parenthood and what my expectations were. I was so excited and ready to be a mom, and was so certain I had everything under control, that I didn’t take much away from the conversation other than, “Babies don’t know when you haven’t showered.”

 

What Baby Books Don’t Let On

What my midwife was getting at were some of the realities that the mom-to-be books don’t cover. Plenty of parenting books I read were how to do all of the parenting things – and how to do them perfectly. They didn’t embellish on how I was supposed to find time, money, or energy to do them.

I’ll be honest, one baby wasn’t as much of a time vacuum in the hygiene department as my midwife let on, but adding his little brother forced me to come up with alternatives to some things I had taken for granted. Furthermore, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with a third that I actually researched how children changed my life (I certainly felt the change, but didn’t read material on it).

 

What to Expect After Expecting

Here are a few topics that I took notice of after the whirlwind that are the few months (and few years) after having a child: lack of sleep (so much so that my doctor thought I was anemic!); declining personal hygiene (it caught up with me and I eventually had to start wash-training my hair); irrational outbursts (probably due to the lack of sleep and not helped by the crazy Game of Thrones hair); trouble articulating (a no‑brainer with a pun intended!), a loud and messy household (especially if you have older children that are really into helping you “cook”); a car to be embarrassed about (old baby snacks have actually melted to my clothes without me noticing more than once); never-ending laundry (hooray for potty training?); gourmet chef to frozen dinner surprise (sometimes still partly frozen); parents turning from parents into grandparents overnight (green veggies are history at my parents’ house and my kids get presents every other week); and my social life started resembling Cast Away (without Tom Hanks so it was a real bummer).

With all of this going on, only Captain Marvel would be able to replicate the perfect parenting strategies I’ve read so many times in parenting books.

FYI – If you don’t know who Captain Marvel is, I was in the same boat until I had to exchange my son’s birthday gift after he told me it was for girls! I must have missed Parenting Failure 101 class the day they lectured on female superheroes!

 

Parenting Failures Can Benefit Kids

At the end of the day (even if it’s an extremely long and exhausting day), parenting failures like forgetting to buy something your child needed or dropping them off late to a play date, will not affect your children. In fact, according to some parenting experts, some flaws can actually benefit children.

A fixed-mindset empowered by constant praise doesn’t foster room for growth (click here). While it seems logical to protect a child from failure, because it is an unpleasant experience, by doing this, you may be hindering a child’s ability to cope and learn from consequences (click here).

When you have a small outburst or make a terrible meal, you’re sending the message that you aren’t perfect, but that you are still trying and resilient. Seeing this, a child knows that mistakes aren’t the end of the world and, by watching you, will know what the correct steps are after making a mistake.

 

Bouncing Back from Parenting Failures

I once stumbled across a parenting failure on social media. It was titled Toddler Discovers Flour Power.

You probably don’t need to see the photos to envision how dearly that parent paid for their hilarious mistake. Bouncing back from minor, relatable parenting failures is easy though, and it can help your child learn how to cope and be resilient. Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge the Mistake – even if you are just saying “oops” to yourself in your own head, be sure to admit and accept it was a mistake.
  2. Think Positive – don’t beat yourself up, pick yourself up! Remember, you’re only human (not Captain Marvel that looks remarkably like Captain America – ugh). Everyone makes mistakes and, encouragingly, you can use your mistake to benefit your child.
  3. A Teachable Moment – use the mistake to teach your child. Tell them what the mistake was and how you’re going to sharpen your parenting skills to avoid it in the future. If your child is too young to talk to, say it anyway; it will likely make you feel better.
  4. Apologize – especially if it was an outburst. There have been a few moments in my house where the noise volume got out of hand or mommy didn’t want to share her phone and the result was an apology. Letting the kids know I lost my cool and didn’t mean to have an outburst really helped my kids learn the importance of apologies.
  5. Get Support – seek and find the support you need if you need someone to talk to. Social media and the stranger behind you in the grocery store can be quite cruel to your emotional well-being. Talk to a good friend or relative. Also, KARA’s newest program, Kids Have Stress Too!, can be the place to find a good confidant and learn a thing or two about how to help kids manage mistakes and stress!
  6. Create a Plan – learn from your mistakes and develop a plan to become the parent you want to be! Prep for outings the night before, use child locks on the flour container, put the camera down and catch your child, research superhero attire before purchasing it, and above all, maintain a sense of humour!

 

In Conclusion

“Everyone knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” – P.J. O’Rourke

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that being the perfect parent is impossible and isn’t beneficial. It’s being the perfect role model that is attainable and valuable. We’re going to mess up, everyone does, and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing our children any favours. Learning to grow from failures is an important life skill, and learning to take responsibility and rise up afterwards, well they learn that from us!

Risky Play

Have you ever found yourself enjoying a nice cup of tea and watching the morning news in peace when suddenly a pint-sized person jumps from the arm of the couch into your unsuspecting face?

Children love risky play, especially my children. They are constantly looking for ways to increase the thrill of the game, even if it means sacrificing safety. The purpose (other than to give me a heart attack) is to increase the fun and explore the rules of their environment.

 

A Learning Technique

Risky play is a learning technique – what I mean by this is that when children are engaging in risky play, they are conducting a science experiment (without knowing it). They are using reasoning and chance, as scary as it is, to determine what they are comfortable with, and what their bodies and environment will allow.

 

Benefits of Risk

Risk management skills, along with self-confidence, resilience, and reducing the chance of injury, are all learnings a child gains from engaging in risky play.

I know what you are about to ask; how can risky play reduce the chance of injury? The science tells us that those children who engage is risky play have a much greater understanding of what is likely to cause injury. A child that has continually experimented with tree climbing knows the best routes to take, which trees are safe to climb, and how to go back the way they came.

If you had never climbed a tree as a small child and then are asked to climb one as an adult, your body, being longer and stronger, would allow you to climb to the top without difficulty. But now you’re in a pickle because you’re at the top of a tree and don’t know how to get down. A child can only climb as high as his or her body and environment allows, not to the top. They take small steps as they mature, pushing themselves just as much as is allowable.

 

A Young Life Without Risk

Risky play certainly seems dangerous and it can result in injury, so why hasn’t natural selection weeded it out?

Experiments have been done on rats to deprive them of risky play and the outcome was less than appealing. The researchers did not deprive them of other types of socializing, just risky play, and they found that the rats grew up emotionally crippled. When faced with the unknown, instead of showing curiosity and adaptability like their risky play counterparts, the emotionally crippled rats would seize up in fear or lash out with aggression (click here). Not a rat-ical way to grow up.

On the flipside, the science has shown that risky play has quite the evolutionary advantage. I’m sure everyone can recall their puppy or kitten play wrestling with them or another animal. Perhaps to wolf cubs, this is practice for later squabbles over meals. Monkeys will leap for branches that are just within reach, pushing themselves further and further each time. This experience will certainly come in handy when leaping away from challengers. Certainly one of the most perilous types of risky play can be seen in mountain goats (kids) that frolic on incredibly steep, rocky slopes. Undoubtedly this will make them hard prey to catch. All animals engage in risky play and it benefits them tremendously.

Freedom + Fear = Thrill (Danger)

So now that we are all aware that risky play is a benefitting activity to engage in, should we just let our youngsters have at it – absolutely not. There are still real dangers in hazardous play (which often accompanies risky play), so parents have to be vigilant in identifying and removing the hazards.

Risk – The possibility of something happening

Hazard – A potential source of danger

Hazards are often beyond a child’s ability to recognize. Risks are uncertainties that a child often recognizes and challenges (click here).

Back to our lovely tree example, the child sees a challenge and is uncertain about what will happen if they climb to a certain branch. What the child does not recognize is that the branch they’ve chosen to climb to has rotted out – a hazard the parent needs to control. Removing the hazard can be done by removing the branch, or, even better, teaching the child how to recognize rotted branches. By controlling the hazards, the child is still able to engage in risky play without an increase in the chance of injury.

Risk now equals hazards divided by parental safeguards.

 

Risky Play in Your Community

I love the tree examples I’ve shared with you but when I look around the current area where I’ve chosen to raise my family, not many trees pop out to say “climb me.”

Living in a city rather than countryside can seem a little challenging when it comes to engaging in risky play, but it’s important to note that risky play hotspots can be found anywhere! Your local park, your backyard, your living room – anywhere! When it was too cold and slippery outside for hazardless risky play, my family and I set up an obstacle course throughout the house. My preschooler would run and jump from chair to chair and my toddler would bound into piles of pillows. When we play in the backyard, my kids love to use the short beam surrounding my yard to perfect their gymnastic skills. The chance of a small drop to the grassy lawn below certainly livens up the game! And local parks encourage plenty of risky play activities with its monkey bars, twisty slides, and swings. All you have to do to be a vigilant parent in these scenarios is to remove debris, check for the correct signage for safety standards, and be a helping hand when your child needs it!

To find out more on how Canada is improving your child’s access to independent and unstructured outdoor play, click here.

 

Last Note on Inspiring Yourself

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

 

Please feel free to leave a comment or story about the risks you and your child take together!

Sports for Kids

Coming out of the winter coma are the bright and fresh faces that perk up in the new light of spring! If your kids are like mine, just coming to terms that Mom was right, that the world really does have seasons, you would also laugh at their astonished faces as you push them into the year’s first muddy puddle!

And now that my spring babies are another year older, what does it mean for new activities this year? Of course I had this planned since they started walking – sports!

Every parent loves watching their child grow and master new skills. For preschoolers playing sports, these skills can include better coordination, increased stamina, healthier lungs and hearts, stress reduction and improved sportsmanship. For the family as a whole, it promotes bonding and healthy living! A home run for everyone!

What’s Holding You Back?

For our family, sports can be a huge undertaking. They can be pretty expensive as they usually require gear in addition to registration fees. They are usually held on weeknights, which can be exhausting. Plus, there are so many kinds to choose from – a hurdle on its own! But these red flags shouldn’t hold you back! After all, raising children is a lot like building a recreation centre. The first five years can be likened to laying the foundation, the most crucial part as it sets the pretense for the rest of the structure. A strong foundation with core morals and values will enable your child to grow into a beautiful building, I mean person.

And sports have the power to help build that strong foundation because they teach leadership, trust, patience, discipline, respect, and sportsmanship!

 

Just Do It

The Frontrunners of Funding

There are a few organizations out there that can help low income families pay registration fees and/or provide funding for equipment. One of these programs is called KidSport, a local non-profit whose mission is to allow any kid to benefit from sports and to remove the financial barrier that could be preventing them. To check out their website, click here.

Likewise, Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program is very similar. The criteria to qualify are similar and they are happy to help families fill out application forms. Find them here.

Also, your local YMCA has funding options for low income families and they host a huge variety of programs! For qualification, check them out here.

Lastly, this hidden gem is not so hidden. AllSports Replay is a used sports store where you can buy and sell secondhand sports gear! This is a great way to save a buck and also give your old sports equipment a new home. Find them here.

 

Out of Left Field

As for knowing which sports your child is ready for… Were you or have you ever been like me – new to the world of sports but wanted to drive that soccer-mom minivan with an air of expertise? I’m happy to say I’ve now lived through an entire season of kids in sports and know a thing or two! Check out these sports and their corresponding benefits!

Soccer – One of the more popular sports for kids. It’s easy to learn, with young stars starting out at the tender age of two, and one of the more reasonably priced ones (I recently paid $115 per child for the spring season and no gear was required). Soccer is fast-paced, adrenaline pumping, and promotes teamwork and discipline. As children age, they will also have the benefit of learning to control and juggle the ball, improving coordination and flexibility (click here).

Badminton – Racket ball sports like badminton have additional benefits because they encompass a large variety of athletic movements, including running, lunging, swerving, and diving. Small children can easily hold and handle small badminton rackets and learn to handle the birdie with practice and patience. When older, sports like badminton encourage kids to become nimble and strategize their moves. To learn from the experts on gear and game, click here.

Swimming – A must-learn survival skill and wonderful pastime, swimming is a sport that is learned through competition with no one but the water. Once learned, swimming will never be forgotten, and strangely enough, no one is a newbie as swimming is actually learned in the womb. My babies and I did Mommy muscle toning swim classes together when they were only four months old! Classes were $75 and only required swim diapers! See here.

Lacrosse – Another sport that is knocking it out of the park is lacrosse! A great starter game for hockey enthusiastic parents that cherish their children’s front teeth, lacrosse is a strategic game that requires dexterity and quick-footedness. Starting at four years, my older son has just come out of his first season of lacrosse and has learned quite a bit about teamwork. The season wasn’t too expensive ($120 for three months) but the gear was quite pricey. Still, if you dream of cheering on your little star, check out the specs on proper hockey helmets as I believe this is the most important part of this sport (here).

Bicycling – This is one sport I love to do with my kids and it is terrific for cardiovascular exercise! It promotes balance, coordination, and love for the outdoors! You can pick up fairly inexpensive balance bikes or training wheel bikes at Sportchek ($60) or buy secondhand, or likewise, baby ride-along seats that fit on your bicycle ($100)! For the experts in bicycle and helmet reviews for kids, check out two wheeling tots here!

 

Child Too Young for Sports?

Is your child too young to pass a ball but you’re itching to get back into the active world of sports? Were you previously an active person and find it hard to get back into the swing of things after being dubbed the parent title? I recall a time when I could go running or swimming any time I wanted – Now I have to get creative!

The jogging stroller – try picking up one of these! They can run fairly prices but if you have Kijiji at your fingertips, you can usually score a good deal as many parents love them and they usually last through more than one child. Likewise, Once Upon a Child usually has discounted secondhand ones that you can testdrive in the store. Jogging strollers are very useful and maneuverable. They double as a mode of transportation and as running equipment (especially if you find one with snow runners). Plus, running is a free sport!

If running isn’t your thing and you crave the atmosphere of the gym or class, check out the City of Edmonton’s Kids Dens located in these rec centres: Clareview, The Meadows, Commonwealth, Terwillegar, and Kinsmen. They have childminding staff that will watch your little one while you work on your bod for one to two hours. If you’re interested, click here.

 

The Ball is in Your Court

Now that you have the knowledge, it’s time to get active! Remember, building a strong foundation with your child now will help them out in years to come! They need a strong foundation to rely on for their entire lives – let sports help you impart knowledge and values to your kids now – you won’t regret the effort!

Exercises for Kids

With the New Year now in full swing, my Dad (Grandpa) approached me to engage in a strange conversation.

Dad: “What will your New Year’s resolution be this year?”
Daughter: “I’m not sure, perhaps try to save money. What about yours?”
Dad: “I’m going to start an exercise routine with your kids.”
Daughter: “?????”

That’s right. My Dad was looking to get into shape this year and he was counting on my high-spirited, active children to keep it fun and motivating!
Kudos to him for coming up with this brilliant scheme, one that rivals the methods used by many gyms to get you into shape (and get your money). Surely this is going to benefit him, but would it have a positive impact on my kids?

Why Organized Exercise is Good for Kids

When I was young, we had a TV but exposure to it was limited by parental rules. If I wanted something to do, the number one go to for fun was activity (particularly outdoor activity).

With our kids having more than just a TV to stare at now (my dayhome lady owns more than just one tablet – yikes), it can get a little hard to encourage exercise in little ones…

But you should and here’s why:

Exercise, organized or not, helps children gain and develop gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are one of the five areas of development to determine if your child is on track (see Blog 14). Gross motor skills allow kids to run until
they’re exhausted, score the perfect goal when playing soccer, and jump on parents while they are sleeping. Gross motor skills are fantastic, right?
And gross motor skills gained now last a lifetime, as does a healthy exercise routine.

You may think that your kids get plenty of exercise right now by running, jumping, and just generally gallivanting around, which they do. But just like brushing their teeth, exercise will live with them if you start laying the foundation when they are small children.

When you’re teaching a child to brush their teeth, what you’re really doing is protecting their teeth for many years to come. If they pick up on exercise now, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of exercise. This is fantastic
because we all know exercise:

Promotes Heart Health: A heart is a muscle that works very hard during exercise. By doing your workout routine, especially cardio workouts, you are strengthening it.

Clears Arteries: Keeping arteries clear and “teaching” them to expand and constrict lowers blood pressure.

Increases Lung Capacity: By increasing the capacity for new air and enabling your lungs to efficiently move air in and out of your body, you are helping all of your cells get the oxygen they need to stay healthy.

Strengthens Bones: Just like muscles, bones strengthen and increase in density when you work out (I actually did not know
this one).

Increases Emotional Well-being: Exercise releases hormones that are associated with calmness and feelings of well-being while simultaneously reducing depression.

To see more benefits of exercise, click here.

So exercise helps kids develop skills now and promotes a healthy routine that could last with them through life – Sign me up, right?

But how do you start exercising with munchkins that can barely keep pace with you in the grocery store? Well we aren’t talking about lifting weights just yet. Start with these easy and fun exercises that are sure to increase the well-being of the entire family!

Exercises for Kids (and You!)

My go-to exercises have always been ballet barre and yoga. Both are exceptional for strength building, improving posture, meditating, breathing control, and even relaxation. Additionally, the poses incorporated are both feasible and fun for kids and adults alike. Check them out, but be wary! Exercising correctly is more important than exercising at all.

So, stretch first and don’t push yourself!

Planking: In this yoga pose, lay down on your tummy, place your elbows on the floor, and raise your body up, straight as a board from your head to your heels. Hold the position for 10 seconds or more depending on your and your child’s ability. I like to do this one with my children five to ten times.

Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then bend your knees as if you are about to sit on a chair – don’t fool yourself too much because there won’t be one there to catch you! Holding this position is a bit tough the first few times but it really is a good one for strength building and balance! I like to do this one five to seven times with the kids.

Rond de Jambe: This ballet move may be a hit with little girls (my boys like it too!). If you haven’t done this before, it’s nice to start with a chair to hold on to. Stand with your toes pointed out and both knees bent slightly. Raise one leg straight in front of you and your arm up in a curve over your head.

For parents, be sure to rotate your foot so your inner ankle is engaged– this is what actually tones your leg muscles. Bring your leg back and then out to the side. Only go as high with your leg as is comfortable. This one is a bit too easy for my soccer stars so we go until they get bored.

Plie Bend: Another ballet move that’s sure to be fun is the plie. Stand against a wall with your toes pointed out and slowly bend your legs so that you are sliding down the wall. Once you feel the stretch, hold for 5 seconds (or longer). Then slowly raise up to a demi pointe (not on the tips of the toes like true ballet, but on the forefoot). Like squats, I like to do this one five to seven times with my munchkins.

Burpees: My sons’ favourite exercise because it is a lot of movement and gets your heart going! This sequence of movements starts you off in the squatting position. Then put your hands to the ground and kick your legs straight behind you so that you land on your toes. Now that you are in a push-up position, why not do one (ugh) and then jump back so that your feet land by your hands and finish by standing up. My kids think these are so fun that they never really stop doing them (I crash after 10).

Try these exercises at home or come up with some of your own! I bet your kids will love them more than brushing their teeth (but please do still brush their teeth!).

Miscarriage

A few months ago I had a miscarriage. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy and I wasn’t far along so my husband and I weren’t too upset by it. I still wanted to write about it though because I thought it would be helpful to others. If you are going through a miscarriage, perhaps having an idea of what to expect may make you feel a bit better. If you have already gone through a miscarriage, perhaps you may feel comforted by knowing others have gone through the same unfortunate event.

I found out I was pregnant very early on. I kept the secret to myself for quite some time. Like I said, we weren’t trying and didn’t exactly have the funds for another baby at that moment. But I was happy and excited. A few weeks with the secret (six weeks pregnant now) my husband told me he would be getting a better paying job within a month according to his employer. It was this moment that I told him the news. He was a little anxious at first but within a week he had warmed to the idea and kept calling this new baby his sweetie.

Within a couple of days, he and I both told our immediate families. That evening, I started to bleed. It was very light spotting that I wasn’t too concerned about. I had been taken into the care of a midwife only days beforehand, so I texted and told her. She indicated that since I was very early in my pregnancy, nothing could be done but waiting or going for blood tests. It was unlikely that an ultrasound would show us anything. I decided to wait. I knew that blood tests would only tell me what my body was doing, not prevent what was happening. I felt my body knew what it was doing, even if it was a sad outcome.

The bleeding continued and did become heavy over the next few days. I told my midwife and she agreed it was likely a miscarriage. She wanted me to go to a hospital to confirm the pregnancy had passed out of concern for my health. Pregnancies that don’t completely pass naturally require a small surgical procedure or, in rare cases, can be life threatening due to infection from remaining tissue or an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy. I went to the hospital and told them about my bleeding. I was admitted fairly quickly, as most pregnant women are. As many hospital patients would probably agree, you never want to be the one admitted quickly for fear it means that you are likely in peril. Even though this was a natural miscarriage that had no complications, the hospital staff did their due diligence to ensure that I was safe.

I went through the usual family history questions and vital sign checks with a nurse before I was greeted by two doctors, a physician and a resident. I bled all over their nice hospital bed and sheets, apologizing profusely before being assured it was normal. They were all extremely kind and even joked with me a bit. They increasingly asked me more relatable questions pertaining mostly to
previous pregnancies and this one. They asked about labours, births, and procedures. As I’d had two healthy births at home before this, my answers didn’t seem to give them any clues on what to expect. They drew blood and did an ultrasound on what looked like a laptop (no joke). No heartbeat or gestational sac could be seen but they told me that their equipment wasn’t high tech enough to see a baby this early on anyway. They asked if I had passed anything the size of a fingertip or bigger. I hadn’t. The results of the blood test came back and my HCG levels were 66,000 mIU/ml.

The pregnancy hormone HCG can tell you if you are/were pregnant with two or more blood tests taken over the span of a few days. If your HCG levels rise, the baby is likely to be healthy, if they fall, the baby is likely not viable (cannot live without being within Mom). One HCG level could not tell them anything other than I was pregnant, healthy or not was unknown.

By the way, the nurse with me was kind enough to explain that the phrase “she lost the baby” wasn’t used by most hospital staff anymore because of the negative connotation. It is more appropriate to say the baby wasn’t viable rather than imply it was a fault of the parent. I couldn’t have agreed more with her as I sat in my hospital gown, feeling particularly vulnerable. I agreed I should feel no shame and know that the loss, as unfortunate as it was, was not my own.

Afterwards, I was told that I should come back to the hospital the following day to complete a “real” ultrasound with an ultrasonographer. I did return and I’m glad I did. Unfortunately, she did not see a baby either but she did make me feel better. She was a lovely lady in her 50’s. She had a soft, delicate voice and an even softer bedside manner. She told me all about the women she had seen coming and going from her room where she usually gave them bad news. She told me that I was not alone, that miscarriages were something she had been witnessing throughout her life. She also emphasized that miscarriages were through no fault of the parents, that they were how our body cared for us in a way.

Of course it is much less sad to say goodbye to a seventh week pregnancy than a new baby, so I agreed with her. From the gentle conversation we shared, I knew that I did not have to feel shame and it was okay to be sad. There were other parents like me and my body was taking care of me. It was comforting.
Her ultrasound confirmed that the gestational sac was now located above my cervix and would pass soon. I was not in any danger and my body was healthy. It was a sad day and it was okay to feel sad but I did appreciate my family as I returned home that day.

Two days later, I was requested to come in for the second blood test. This was the last piece to confirm the miscarriage. I knew I had miscarried but doctors are doctors and they have to do their due diligence. Once again, I returned to the hospital. A very high strung doctor talked with me this time. She was adamant on performing another blood test and ultrasound. I assured her I didn’t need another ultrasound but would do the blood test to confirm the miscarriage.

Since I had already missed two half days of work now, I asked if there was any way I could get the results over the phone rather than coming in to see her. She said no but after speaking with her secretary, I learned that I could get the results sent to my family doctor and he could give me the results over the phone. As he was currently on vacation, I would get the results when he got back in two days. This suited me so I was poked one more time and left.

Two days later, my phone rang. It was my family doctor’s secretary. She asked for me and then said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” I knew I wasn’t pregnant so, regrettably and with sympathy for her, I said she had made a mistake and that I had miscarried. I asked what my HCG levels had been during the second blood test. I could tell she was reading them off the doctor’s notes, “HCG 24,000 mIU/ml, call her to congratulate her on her pregnancy.”

I told her about the first blood test’s results. She apologized and said there must have been a mistake and that she would call me back. A couple of hours later, I received another phone call. This time, a lady with more bite than remorse in her voice (I assumed she was the one who made the mistake) told me I had indeed miscarried and hung up. I actually laughed this time. Knowing I’ve made some terrible work-related errors in my career, none of them could compare to mistaking someone for being pregnant. It was a little like being in a comedy movie.

Over the next few days, we slowly told our families the news about the miscarriage. It was kind of pleasant to let everything escape slowly and let the memories pass and rest. Of course, it’s always sad knowing what “could have been” and that we don’t have our “sweetie” but it’s also comforting to know that a third child would make us happy. We cherish our first and second children all the more now as well.

From this experience, I’d like to share with you these messages that I now know: this type of loss is not your own, you are not alone, and your body can protect you from worse pain.
And it’s okay to be sad.