Saturday, January 23, 2010

Born in the Bathtub

At the beginning of our first pregnancy someone gave us the well-known guide: "What to Expect When You Are Expecting." We consulted the book on a weekly basis (along with to understand what was happening and to prepare ourselves for what might happen next. The book had life-size sketches of the baby to illustrate the level of development. It was particularly useful to have explanations of various symptoms like aches, pains and nausea. There was also good advice about preparation -- both practical and psychological.

Every week I wrote at least one blog posting to summarize this guidance, usually adding my own observations about how R's experience matched or differed. The result was that we had our own comprehensive reference manual on how R handles pregnancy. This could be titled: "What R Should Expect When Expecting."

For example, she experienced significant discomfort at one point, and started to wonder if something might be wrong. She checked the blog and found that she had experienced very similar symptoms at approximately the same point in her pregnancy. In that instance, we had gone to the hospital and had learned that everything was fine with the baby, and the discomfort was likely broad ligament pain. The funny thing is that neither of us remembered this particular visit until re-reading the blog entry jogged our memory.

The blog promised to be quite useful for weeks 1-38, but we didn't have any pregnancy information on the blog for weeks 39-40 because Scott came 12 days early. It looked like we might be on our own for those weeks. However, we didn't get there this time either, with Katie born 13 days early (compared to Scott's 12 days). If we find ourselves expecting again, I guess we should expect the have the baby 2 weeks early.

...Two weeks early and lightning quick.

The morning of Scott's birth was all about speed -- there was no time for an epidural and there was no time to stop for traffic lights on the way to the hospital. Although R had some early pains that were later identified as contractions, it was really just a matter of a few hours from the time contractions started until the baby was ready to come out -- about 3 hours.

This time was not much different -- except maybe a bit faster, and minus one hospital visit. Sure, this time it all started after lunch (rather than after midnight), but it was all over long before dinner. R had been preparing a double-batch of gluten-free lasagna so we could eat one and freeze the other for after the birth -- something she had already done with a few other meals (gluten intolerance was was diagnosed in week 26). Her mom dropped by in the afternoon to pick something up, and found that R was cooking kind of slowly because of an occasional cramp that forced her to take breaks. After some discussion with her mom, R decided to consult with the midwife team.

The lady who took the call agreed that R was feeling contractions, but she could not immediately assess whether the contractions meant that labour had started, so she told R to get into the bathtub. Apparently, a warm bath will quell false labour and accelerate the real thing. R called me on the phone and then slipped into the bath.

My office phone rang at about 3:20pm, and I listed to R tell me in a tired voice that things were starting. I was all ears. I asked how fast I should come back -- train (35 min) or taxi (20 min)? She figured I had some time, so she recommended the train. I emerged onto the street a few minutes later, breaking into a run with an anthology of Roald Dahl short stories tucked under my arm, and my watch still lying on my desk upstairs.

While I quickly covered the distance to the north-bound platform, the warmth of the bathwater rushed R's contractions closer together. I had barely changed my Facebook status to "Contractions" when I received a call from R's mom that they planned to leave for the hospital because contractions were coming 2.5 minutes apart.

Instead of riding the train out to our area, I would get off a few blocks from the hospital and make my way there if they didn't have time to pick me up. I was about to get off the train when I got another phone call update.

The midwife had contacted the Foothills Hospital to let them know we were coming and had learned that there were no delivery rooms available, so the next closest hospital was Peter Lougheed, way out in the NE part of town. Both the midwife and R had agreed that there was no time to travel so far, so they decided to deliver the baby at home. You see, the midwives are allowed to make use of the hospital facilities, but they sometimes get bumped if there's no room. During a recent visit they warned us that this might happen, but they said the probability was quite low. It rarely happens.

I had been standing at the door of the train, ready to get off when I received the call. Instead of disembarking, I sat back down and arranged for a friend of ours to pick me up at the station and bring me home. As we were pulling up to the house, I saw the midwife lugging an enormous equipment bag up the driveway, and a close neighbour standing on the front step. The midwife had been in the north suburb of Airdrie and had managed to shorten a 40-minute drive down to about 25 minutes with some "aggressive" driving.

The laughing gas that arrived too late

That was about 4:15 pm. I found R lying on the bed wearing a pair of maternity jeans, one of my t-shirts and a look of agonized desperation. Our neighbour (who goes to our church) assisted me in a prayer to bless R while the midwife dumped medical equipment into strategic locations and R's mom worked to prepare the bathroom. The neighbours whisked Scotty away to their house to play for a while and R eased into the tub. I vaguely remember doing a circuit along the midwife's trail of supplies, clearing away more room for her to work.

It could not have been more than 15 minutes from the time the midwife and I arrived and the time that Katie was born, making it about 1.5 hours of labour -- if you don't count the sporadic contractions that hampered R's lasagna preparations during the afternoon. It was so short that it caught R completely by surprise. She was bracing herself for at least an hour of pushing at the end, but that part was over before she knew it and she had our new daughter bobbing peacefully in the tub.

Normally, when you see movie or tv footage of a baby entering the world, the child comes screeching and wailing. Our little girl had none of that. She simply squinted a lot and pretended not to know what all the fuss was about.

All the fuss was about Katie. All 6 pounds and 4 ounces of her.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baby Katie

6 pounds - 4 ounces
Born 13 days early

Mom is relieved to have the ordeal over.
Baby is sleeping deeply.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Baby is Sweeping

Scott is fairly well-spoken. By that I mean that he has plenty to say and you can usually understand what he's talking about -- but maybe it's just that he speaks so loudly that you can't help but catch every word. Although his vocabulary is coming along quite well, he has a few aspects of the language that still elude him. For example, his [L] often comes out as a [W], as you can hear at the beginning of this video clip ("the baby's going to sweep in here").

(You may have noticed that he dodged the question about whether there was a baby in his mom's tummy. I think he worried about making an official statement on camera, but I can confirm to you that there is, in fact, a baby in his mommy's tummy. That baby is likely doing plenty of sleeping and very little sweeping.)

Some interesting words that come out of Scott's l/w shift are:

Sweep = sleep
Wacey = Lacey (his cousin)
Wub = love
Weed = lead (as in "The red car is in the lead!" announcer voice from Shake n' Go Speedway toy)

In addition to some of these speech challenges, he also has some words that gets a little mixed up. They slowly sort themselves out and disappear, so here's a glimpse at some of the things that we've observed lately:

Wuse = use
Gotfor = forgot
Breakish = breakfast
Pellow = pillow
Freach = reach
Wizzers = scissors
Dem = them
Hayna = Hayden (cousin)
Aowy = Alli (cousin)
Dabin = David (cousin)
Brad = Brett (cousin)

Some words are easier to identify than others, especially for us. I doubt anyone but his parents would understand a phrase like:

"I gotfor my wizzers and I can't freach dem."
Of course, he's come along way from this Oct 2008 video of Scott saying "frog and bunny" -- found in the archives just today:

The young man in the video is a good friend who was visiting from Ottawa at the time, and whose last name matches Scotty's middle name exactly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ready or Not ... Here I am!

Playing Hide & Seek with Scott cracks me up.

Not only does he provide a running commentary on his location, he has a real tendency to hide in the open -- usually in a familiar place:

On his bed.

On the couch.

(Note the "baby sister" doll that he has been learning to hold "gently" for the last little while.)

Monday, January 11, 2010


My Gramma W is first class all the way. In addition to having impeccable taste in literature and cinema (she is credited with introducing us to the Marx Brothers), she is a top-notch chef. Everything she makes in her magical kitchen in Aberdeen, Idaho, defines the term "homemade." So when that box arrives in the mail each Christmas with the Idaho postmark, I just go crazy.

Inside are Peppernuts!

True to the name, these little cookies have a hint of spice in them (perhaps anise?) and they are just the right size to pop in your mouth. I had never heard of them anywhere else, but after we were married R got to try them and said that they taste a lot like a cookie recipe that has come down through her family several generations on her dad's side. Apparently, the name 'peppernuts' is a literal translation from the German Pfeffernusse, and they are traditionally Christmas cookies in Germany and Denmark. That makes some sense, since that side of the family is from that part of the world if you go way back. I don't know the lineage of the peppernuts on my side of the family.

Really, it doesn't matter to me whether they originally came from Germany, Denmark, or whatever -- what matters is that these little wonders keep landing in my mailbox.

We love you Gramma W!!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Igloo vs Igloo vs Quinzee

Almost every winter since I was 12 I have been winter camping. Strangely, I have never slept the night in a snow shelter, although I've come pretty close. As a young Scout I slept in a refrigerator box, half-buried in the snow (I'm too big to do that now). As a Venture, I was buried while digging out a quinzee (snow cave) and dragged out by my heels. Every other time I have slept in a tent -- except for one night when the whole troop sought refuge from -35C temperatures in the heated bathrooms. One other night started out with me in a tent alone and finished with me in the driver's seat of a car (I blame my leaky air mattress for soaking my sleeping bag. Since that unfortunate night behind the wheel I have been interested in finding a better way.

I think igloos are the answer. In my opinion, igloos are better than quinzees.

If you did not come up through the Scout program in a four-season zone like Canada, you may not know much about igloos or quinzees. This is from Wikipedia:

A quinzhee or quinzee (pronounced /ˈkwɪnzi/) is a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of settled snow. This is in contrast to an igloo, which is made from blocks of snow.
Differences between a quinzhee and an igloo
Quinzhees are not usually meant as a form of permanent shelter, while igloos can be used for seasonal and year round habitation. The construction of a quinzhee is slightly easier than the construction of an igloo, although the overall result is somewhat less sturdy and more prone to collapsing in harsh weather conditions. Quinzhees are normally constructed in times of necessity, usually as an instrument of survival, so aesthetic and long-term dwelling considerations are normally exchanged for economy of time and materials.

I did some research and procured two different types of igloo-building kits in the fall, which we tested last night on the church lawn -- along with some quinzees dug out of the snowbank. Here are the results:

1. Classic Quinzee (dugout cave)

The boys were pretty enthusiastic about digging out these caves, and pretty soon they had bored 4 sizable holes into the snow bank. In fact, some of them kept digging for a good 40 minutes after the activity was over -- foregoing their hot chocolate and donuts to keep at it. They were completely covered in snow by the end.
Verdict: Quinzees are pretty quick and simple to build, but you pretty much get soaked doing it.

2. Eskimold Igloo Kit (interlocking blocks)

We used these 2 plastic bucket-like forms to make interlocking blocks for the igloo wall. Unfortunately, the snow was dry and not very sticky, so it was pretty tough going. The boys had to stand on the snow in the molds to pack them tightly enough that they would stay. I think if we had better snow or if we had more molds, this method would have been more successful.
Verdict: Not a bad way to build an igloo if the conditions are good.

3. Ice Box Igloo Kit (continuous form)

This next one had me really excited. There are some igloo enthusiasts out in Colorado (including one guy with a big shaggy beard) that have been building these things for years and they developed their own equipment to make an igloo, combining elements of true Inuit technique with modern technology. The result is that you can build a decent igloo with nearly any quality of snow in a matter of a few hours. Of course, we only had about 75 minutes to work with, so our first crack at it only got into the second row. You make continuous blocks with this 3-side cube, which rotates around the center of the igloo at the end of a rod that is staked into the ground.
Verdict: Awesome.

From what I've read, the interior of a tent will be about 10 degree warmer than the outside air on a winter camp -- so if you've got to cope with -25C inside if it's -35C outside (ouch). On the other hand, the interior of an igloo can be at about the freezing mark, regardless what the outside temperature is.

And although you work longer building an igloo compared to a quinzee, building the quinzee is a whole lot wetter.

Igloo wins.

[Note: We camped in an Ice Box igloo in Kananaskis in February: Link]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

This Train is Heading to February

Our new 2010 calendar has pictures of CP Rail trains for each month. The January image is a fairly non-descript passenger car, so Scott is fairly anxious about getting on to the next page, where he has seen a picture of a gleaming red diesel locomotive -- much like the one that we rode last year on that fortunate morning. We have had to explain to him that each box represents a day, and that there are a lot of boxes between today and the last line of the page, when we can finally turn the page to February and the red train. I think he still struggles with the notion of months and years. For example, his way of saying "in the future" is "next week".
I think we are also anxious about turning the page to February, but not because of the shiny red engine. We can already see it down there, on the bottom row of the calendar, where the boxes turn gray. The second gray box says, "Baby Due Date". We can count the boxes without having to turn the page.
Next stop, Family of Four.