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.

Baby Massage

Baby Massage

Giving your infant or older child regular massages has been proven to benefit the emotional wellbeing of everyone involved. Massages stimulate and increase the release of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in relaxation, happiness, and social bonding. When you massage your child, not only does your child produce oxytocin, but you, as the massager, and anyone watching (other caregivers) produce it too. In this way, massages can be a very effective way to promote social bonding with your family.

Side note: oxytocin also decreases the effects and length of postnatal depression!

Another benefit of baby massage, as a form of skin-to-skin contact, is the health effects to the baby. Skin‑to-skin contact (also known as kangaroo care) is a widely practiced care technique where the caregiver places their naked baby on their bare chest, increasing the surface area of bare skin contact. This form of contact has been shown to have remarkable benefits to new babies, particularly premature babies, as the effects help the newborn to gain weight while reducing infections and breathing problems.

Side note: baby massage is a fantastic way for dads to get skin-to-skin contact, particularly if the baby is breastfed!

If that wasn’t enough, baby massage has also been shown to reduce fussiness in babies and increase the length of time they sleep for. Massage improves the parts of the nervous system that regulates organs, such as the heart. A steadier heartrate improves calmer responses to stress and a healthier sleep.

Massaging Your Baby

The Best Time to Start

When choosing when to give your baby a massage, it’s best to think about their usual feeding and sleeping routines. Try to choose a time that is between feeds and naps so they won’t be too tired, too hungry, or too full. Babies don’t have a lot of variety going on in their lives but their schedules always seem to be jam-packed. I always found that the massage fit in just perfectly before the time when they normally sleep the longest (usually around 9 pm for my newborns and 8 pm for my babies).

Also, if you haven’t already developed a bedtime routine for your young one (or older one), try introducing baby massage into the mix. In this way, you are providing a relaxing environment for them to start drifting off without allowing them to fall asleep in your arms, increasing their ability to self-soothe.

What You’ll Need

Be sure to have a soft, open surface ready, like your bed or sofa. Remember not to walk away from your baby on these high surfaces. If you think you will need to walk away for any moment, choose a carpet on the floor or bring your baby with you.

Use an oil or lotion that is developed for babies. Lotions with perfumes or sodium lauryl sulphate (a harsh detergent) can be irritating to the skin. I choose coconut oil every time because it has additional health benefits such as natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lauric acid, a fatty chain acid which makes up 85% of what’s in coconut oil, has antibacterial properties. The only other natural substance high in lauric acid is breastmilk.

Additionally, have all of your diapering needs and clothing/pajamas ready. As a massage is very relaxing, your baby may want to jump right into bed afterwards.

Side note: I also like to have the lights low and play gentle baby or yoga music to increase the calmness in the space. My favourite song to play for baby massage time is Mother Divine by Craig Pruess and Ananda.

Where to Start

If your child is new to massages, it is recommended that you start with their legs as they are used to having them touched during diaper changes. Warm up the lotion or oil between your hands and work your way up his or her legs in gentle movements with your fingertips or with light squeezes on the calves or thighs.

Once massaging the chest or tummy, gently place both hands flat on his or her stomach and make large clockwise movements. Be careful not to go counter-clockwise as this is moving against his or her normal digestion movements. Our large intestines start on the bottom right of our bodies, move up, left, and down. By going clockwise during a massage, you will be promoting healthy digestion.

When massaging their chest or back, place your hands flat again but in the centre of the body and move outwards, as if you are flattening the pages of a book.

Move onwards to their arms and gently squeeze their shoulders down to their hands. If doing massages other than gentle squeezes on the arms or legs (such as strokes), be certain to move upwards (from their hands to their shoulders or from their feet to their thighs). This promotes circulation as blood returning to the heart isn’t impeded by your massage.

Continue with the massage as long as your child appears to be enjoying it. Remember, crying is the only way young babies can communicate with others so if they appear to be fussy or start to cry, it may not mean they don’t enjoy massages, it may just be time to go to bed or eat.

Massages for Older Children

As your child ages, as mine have, you may choose to keep baby massage in your lives. We incorporate them in our bath time routine. Our baths are not every day (to prevent drying out the skin), so our massages aren’t every day, but they do still enjoy them. And now that they are older, they can tell me where they prefer to be massaged too!

Side note: one other very special benefit of baby massage in our lives is that massages have somehow made it into our moments of apologies. When one of my children acts out, they apologize and either ask for or try to give a massage. I believe this to be a wonderful part of their personalities that has been instilled in them since sharing these social moments with me at a very young age.

More Information

Please browse the following pages to learn more about baby massages and the health benefits of coconut oil:

https://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/the-benefits-of-baby-massage/

https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1042915/massaging-your-baby

Please also feel free to visit KARA’s Grow With Me Program to discuss baby massage!

Unassisted Home Birth

“Why are we not in a hospital, why are we not in a hospital, oh why are we not in a hospital.”

My husband told me that these same words went through his mind a second time during the birth of our second son. Again, we decided to have a home birth. We planned the birth to take place at the same house, in the same bathtub, as our first born, having it been so successful the first time.

I followed the same birth plan, attended prenatal yoga, and practiced meditation techniques. I relaxed and rested the days leading up to it and prepared the essentials we would need. The one difference was packing a second diaper bag for our oldest son, who would be camping with his grandparents while I had the baby at their home.

I was seven days past my due date. I recall having very mild contractions throughout the day. My husband kept pestering me, asking if these meant the baby was coming. He kept reiterating that he needed an answer so that he could alert his parents. Of course I wasn’t sure but eventually said yes, the baby was coming. We packed the family up and made our way into the city. It was an identical journey to the one we made almost two years previously. I had two contractions on the road. He asked if we could stop at McDonald’s, which we did. And we waited in line forever, while my husband cursed and anxiously wiped at his face.

We arrived at the house at the same time as my husband’s Mom. She took our son with a wish of good luck to us. The day had lingered on but by this time, it was getting late. And the baby was coming. We called our midwife and she informed us that, the same as last time, the barometric pressure had dropped (it was raining) and that many women were going into labour. In fact, both she and the backup midwife were attending other births, and that she would have to send another midwife who was sick with a cold but would make it there in time.

My husband slept on the couch while I watched my favourite funny show and ate all the McDonalds by myself. My water broke around 2 o’clock in the morning. I woke my husband, asking him to pour the bath. He helped me up the stairs as I was under quite a bit of pressure now. He helped me to get into the tub and left to call the midwife again. She was on her way. In the tub, I had one painful contraction and was shocked when I felt the urge to push.

I shouted for my husband to come back, saying the baby was coming. He passed the phone to me so that I could talk to the midwife. She was wonderful, sick as a dog, but still on her way to see me. She told me that if I had the baby in the tub, he would be blue in colour and it would be harder to tell if he was okay. She said it would be best to move to the bed, especially if she didn’t make it in time. She also told me that if we were worried, we could call an ambulance. She estimated that they would arrive the same time as she would. She also told me that if I laid on my side, it would slow the progress of the birth a little, allowing her to make it there on time.

We hung up and my husband transported me to the bed. I recall him asking me if we should call an ambulance. I was tired but still in good spirits, especially since this birth already seemed to be much faster and less painful than last time. I laid on my side as I was told, and let my body keep pushing the baby, without assisting the progress. Five contractions occurred in this position, and  I kept from birthing our son. It was difficult but not impossible. I knew I couldn’t keep it up forever though; it wasn’t painful and I wasn’t too tired, but I was worried it wouldn’t be healthy for my son. My husband watched as I struggled. I could see the torment and shock on his face as he kept straining to hear the sound of a vehicle outside.

Finally, we heard a car pull up. Car doors opened and closed. And opened and closed. We heard the front door open and my husband started to yell that we were on the second floor and that the baby was coming. He was in the doorway, halfway between the stairs to where the midwife was and the room to where I was. Not wanting (or able) to delay my baby’s healthy birth anymore, I flipped onto all fours and let my baby be born. Seeing this progression, in slow motion I imagine, my husband lunged into the room and stretched his arms out to catch the baby as if he were a football in the air.

A successful catch, he laid the baby on the bed, allowing me to pick him up and gingerly uncoil the cord from his body. He gave a mighty cry and I hugged him. Our midwife stood there in the doorway giving instructions. I was grateful to her for not coming in to do things herself for fear my new baby would catch her cold. It was also very nice to complete the tasks ourselves, being able to really welcome and bond with our baby. He was chubby and splotchy. Not as pimply and wrinkly as his brother, but he had a squashed nose and humongous cheeks. He was quite happy to nurse and loved to be held.

Before long, a second midwife arrived. I was patched up while my son nursed, not needing as much work as the previous occasion. My husband called our families to greet our newest addition. When they arrived, my husband took him downstairs, greeting everyone by telling them he had a new profession as a doctor.

The Baby Proceedings took place in front of everyone. Our son was carefully weighed and measured, and his body and joints checked over. He was 7 lbs 14 oz and 20 ½ inches in length. He was very sturdy and still is to this day.
Finally, our first born son entered the room. He wanted to sit on my lap and watch the baby. He didn’t smile or ask what it was that was resting on my chest. My husband said he had a look that plainly said “I don’t like him” written on his face.

After all the congratulations and moments documented into memories, we realized that both our boys were born on Sundays and on the seventh day of the month, almost to within the hour, to a Mom with a belly full of McDonalds hamburgers. It was another lovely day.

Home Water Birth

“Why are we not in a hospital, why are we not in a hospital, oh why are we not in a hospital.” My husband told me he kept thinking these words over and over as I was in the depths of labour. It all started about nine months beforehand when we found out we were going to have our first child. I am an avid researcher, so even then, I was planning on how I was going to deliver our baby. It took a lot of dedication, including continual mental and physical exercise, and even more research. I would spent about two hours a day completing a meditation routine combined with walking, attended weekly prenatal classes, and read every positive home birth story I could get my hands on.

Nine months later, I was ready, or as ready as I could have been. My Midwife gave me one piece of critical information that I couldn’t have found in any book. When early contractions start, do not push it along, try to have a nap instead. She told me many women get up and walk around to help it progress, eager to meet their baby. Your body just isn’t ready at that moment, it’s prepping itself, and you will need the precious little energy your expending as you walk up and down stairs, trying to hurry things up, later. Most dearly, you will need it later.

I was ten days past my due date when it started. In those ten days, I went on two outings, a wedding and a trip to the farmers market. The rest of the time, I rested. Feelings of tightening had started happening
on the eighth day past due. For two days, I warded off labour with regular naps and gravol.

On the tenth day, I told my husband we needed to go into the city, to his Mom’s house, as I was now in labour. In the car on the way there, I had two contractions. They weren’t bad at all, totally manageable, so when my husband wanted to stop for McDonalds, I had no issues. He, on the other hand, regretted it entirely as we sat in a lengthy lineup. I recall him saying one thing to me that was just audible through the constant motion of wiping his face in anxiety, “God, I hope our baby isn’t ugly.” I burst out laughing.

At his Mom’s, which was vacant at the time, labour pressures increased. I recall crawling on my hands and knees and leaning on things during contractions. To those women I’d seen walking through contractions, I’ll never live up to you. These were hard. My husband kept bringing me ice creams and water. Ice cream, meditation, and breathing exercises were what I used, and they worked wonderfully. We called our Midwife twice. She talked on the phone with me and from my jokes and laughter, said it was still too early.

Apparently all love of the world is lost when you’re really in labour, and as far as she could tell, I wasn’t in enough pain to stop making jokes. So we waited. I asked my husband to pour the bath. It was pleasant being in there. I had a small tablet and watched my favourite funny show in the dark from the safety of the warm water. As contractions came, I would wake from my reverie, but otherwise, I was able to meditate myself into a shallow sleep between them. This went on for a few more hours. My husband came to check on me a few times and, when I was in enough pain to start crying, he called the midwife (with a little too much ferocity in his voice). She came rather quickly and once there, moved with lightning speed. She had never been to the house before but seemed to know her way around. I could hear her stripping the bed, laying down towels, preparing her equipment, and even moving small furniture.

She came to see me a few times between her prepping. She checked the baby’s heartbeat and happily told me that my baby didn’t even seem to know it was time to be born, that he was as comfortable to go through labour as I was uncomfortable with it. She told me I had to lay on my right side for a few contractions, so that I would be effaced on both sides (I had been labouring on my left side only). She told me I had to try to use the toilet. I tried twice with no success. The second time, I had the strongest, most painful contraction I’d ever experienced (both labours combined). It caused my water to break.

My husband quickly helped me back into the tub. He has a very good poker face as he looked at me with the utmost calming expression before telling me he would be right back. On the other side of the door, I heard him tell the Midwife that he could feel the baby’s head. She came back into the room hurriedly to check. Indeed, our baby was right there, and I felt like pushing. Every time I did though, I would instinctively slam my legs together to prevent the pain, pushing my baby back up. My Midwife would encourage me to try again, and each time, I forced my legs to slam shut, repeating the whole process that my baby and I were enduring together. After these failed attempts at willfully birthing my baby on my own, she eventually told my husband to hold my legs open. Out popped our baby’s head, under the water. I couldn’t see him, but my Midwife told me he was there. I recall greeting him, “Hello Baby.”

One more contraction and he was out and on my chest. He was quiet at first, so my Midwife kind of poked him with her finger, making sure his mouth was clear and he let out a wail. We all rejoiced!

The entire (and new) family moved to one of the bedrooms, the one that had been stripped and prepped. We called our families to announce the baby had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. My Midwife did a quick check of our son’s vitals, after which, she gave me no warning before she plopped the baby on to my chest to nurse. What an odd sensation. Our families arrived and my husband brought the baby to see them so I could have a bit of privacy to get fixed up. Yes indeed, labour takes a toll on the body and I felt a little like Frankenstein as I was patched up. I was a new woman, my Midwife told me. I didn’t feel very new, but was happy all the same. Our families then came to join me as we watched what I call the Baby Proceedings. The Midwife weighed and measured our baby, checked his muscles, joints, mouth, eyes, and tested his blood. He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz. and was 21 ¾” in length. I recall looking over to my Mom and seeing her eyes bulge at the news. She later told me that as far as she new, no woman in our family had ever birthed a baby that big.

The baby was laid to sleep in a crib beside my bed. My Midwife congratulated me and told me I was one of the fastest first timers she’d ever had. She also told me that in these next few hours, I would need to sleep. That many women feel the desire to watch their sleeping baby rather than sleep themselves. She left, promising to return in a few days to check us all again. As my husband laid down next to me, both of us trying to get some sleep, we both found ourselves turning towards our son, watching him snooze peacefully beside us. It was wonderful to fall in love so quickly. At the time, he was the most beautiful child we had ever seen. He was bald and wrinkled, with splotches of pink on his skin. Indeed, he was a little ugly.