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Life Through Claire’s Eyes: Month 2 – 3

Around the time I turned two months old, Mom found out about “diaper-free baby” or “elimination communication”. It means Mom and Dad give me an opportunity to do my “business” on the toilet, rather than in my diaper. I like it. Who wants to poo (or pee) in the diaper if you don’t have to? I don’t like all of Mom and Dad’s ideas, but this one is good.

In the ever-popular eating department, Mom is getting very tired of my frequent and long feeding sessions. So, while my Grand-Maman and Grand-Papa were in town visiting, Mom and Dad began an eat-play-sleep routine with feeds every three hours. A lot of babies do well with it, but I must tell you, I was not buying it. I want to eat every one to two hours. End of discussion. They managed to get me used to the soother, but it’s no replacement for my milk fix. Still, I think my parents appreciate another option for soothing other than either the breastaurant, rocking, shushing, or swaying.

I’ve started to enjoy pulling apart my swaddling blanket, so Mom and Dad have switched to using the sleep sack. I can tolerate it, but it’s not very soothing. So my parents gave in, and now let me sleep on my tummy. The doctor says it’s not “recommended” but they are exhausted, and they know I’m going to be fine. I have pretty good neck strength, and I much prefer sleeping like this. I’m glad they finally figured out what I want. I’ll still sleep for two hour stretches at most, but it’s an improvement. They also put a fan in my room…apparently it makes sleeping less risky too (as long as you don’t believe in “fan death.”)

In the entertainment department, there are a few things I’ve really started to enjoy. Although there’s no sign of any incoming teeth, I have been drooling a lot. I drool so much that Mom puts a bib on me so I don’t soak my clothes. Drooling is quite satisfying. I also love to look in the mirror. There is always a cute baby looking back at me!  A few days before I turned three months old I started laughing. The world is pretty humorous and I enjoy being able to laugh about it.

Video:

First Swim at the Pool   

Some First Laughs    

Pictures:

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No, my eyes are not too big for my head.

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With Grand-Maman & Grand-Papa visiting, I get unending attention.

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That sounds very disturbing. Thank you for covering my ears.

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First swim at the pool; not sure about this yet…

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Thanks for the sweet ride Dad.

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You think you can drool? Check this out!

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Playtime is great…

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…but when I get tired, Mom & Dad grab the soother.

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What are you up to? What is this patty cake you speak of?

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I don’t want to miss a thing…but I’m SO tired!

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You were right Grand-Maman, this story is pretty interesting.

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Like my new duck fuzz hair? I’ve been growing it myself.

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Hey, as long as I’m fed, Mom can be pretty fun.

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Who wouldn’t love the bath with all this attention?

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Grand-Maman and Grand-Papa gave us a visit we’ll never forget.

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Sun hat, why?

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It’s for my own good? OK, good point. I’ll stop complaining.

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Happy Father’s Day! Mom wrapped me up with a bow just for you.

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Who knew? I am pretty cute.

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Diaper-free playtime…can be dangerous.

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After one of my epic nights. I think Mom’s a little tired.

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Auntie Joce, how did you get inside this computer? Blows my mind.

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Learning to grab toys is serious business!

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My first mugshot – for my passport.

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Grandpa’s amazed at my old-man hairline.

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I’m all for sun protection but Dad, I think your hat’s a little big.

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For once I’m sleeping and Mom’s ready to party.

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I’m on the edge of my seat – I hope Boston didn’t win the Stanley Cup!

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Hey good lookin’!

SCBP Babies

With some old friends I’ve known since the womb…I have my eye on two potential boys here.

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Just chillin’ on the bumbo.

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Eating my carrier strap & exploring on the bus…so much to do!

With Grandpa on my first plane ride. This is really exciting...

With Grandpa on my first plane ride (going to Bella Coola). This is really exciting…

...but as we start to land, my ears hurt and I need the soother and some snuggles.

…but as we start to land, my ears hurt. I need the soother and some snuggles.

Life through Claire’s Eyes: Month 1 – 2

The highlight this month, probably for Mom more than me, is that I got a break from the breastaurant,  and had what I’ll call “take out” instead (pumped breastmilk from a bottle, that Dad gave me). It’s different than the breastaurant, but I still like it. Milk is milk and they call me a milkaholic, so how can I be picky? I think Mom likes it because she gets a break once a day to go throw the frisbee or run errands. Otherwise my feeding is still pretty steady, every one to two hours. I enjoy consistency.

In sleeping news, my schedule is still more eating than sleeping. Mom and Dad have found a way to get me to sleep during the day. It’s not the traditional stroller, it’s almost never the swing, and it’s definitely not the car seat; that thing makes me scream. It’s the Beco carrier. That thing is irresistible. I can sometimes sleep for two hours or more in there!

In other news, by around five weeks, I started holding my head up pretty consistently. At around the same time, I realized that smiling is another exciting thing to do, though you may be surprised at what amuses me. The blinds, the warning label in my stroller, the fish on my swing… I find many things amusing, but rarely Mom or Dad, much to their disappointment. I guess it’s because I’m looking at them constantly, and there’s nothing new to see. Oh, and I’ve started losing a lot of my hair. Now my hairline resembles my Dad’s. I hope that changes in time. We’ll see.

Video:

Burping Time

Pictures:

You call THAT music?!

You call THAT music?!

Who needs toys? This is a really interesting warning label.

Who needs toys? This is a really interesting warning label.

No need for a watch dog...

No need for a watch dog…

…when you have a baby security guard like me at home :)

…when you have a baby security guard like me at home 🙂

Hmmm, this is annoying, I can't visit the breastaurant facing this way!

Hmmm, this is annoying, I can’t visit the breastaurant facing this way!

I'm getting worried Daddy has too much screen time. What do you think?

I’m getting worried Daddy has too much screen time. What do you think?

Sleeping on Grandpa at one of my first professional Ultimate games. Not so exciting for me yet...

Sleeping on Grandpa at one of my first professional Ultimate games. Not so exciting for me yet…

Sumo wrestling? Ya, I can do that.

Sumo wrestling? Ya, I can do that.

The only time in the day I'll give in and sleep: in the Beco carrier.

The only time during the day I’ll give in and sleep: in the Beco carrier.

This new book makes tummy time so much more interesting.

This new book makes tummy time so much more interesting.

Mommy gets out to visit with friends. I think it helps keep her sane with my marathon feedings.

Mommy gets out to visit friends. I think it keep her sane during my marathon feedings.

Daddy is very interesting...

Daddy is very interesting…

…but the restaurant's ceiling is even more interesting.

…but the restaurant’s ceiling is even more interesting.

No, I haven't heard the results of the BC election yet. Do tell.

No, I haven’t heard the results of the BC election yet. Do tell.

Really?! That's very disappointing. But aren't you impressed I can hold my own head up at 6 weeks?

Really?! That’s very disappointing. But aren’t you impressed I can hold my own head up at 6 weeks?

First time on a ferry; it's quite overwhelming!

First time on a ferry; it’s quite overwhelming!

My first trip to Grandpa's in Lantzville.

My first trip to Grandpa’s in Lantzville.

Oh is that the sun rising outside? All of a sudden I'm getting quite sleepy...

Oh is that the sun rising outside? All of a sudden I’m getting quite sleepy…

Giving Grandpa some nice smiles.

Giving Grandpa some nice smiles.

Sure, I can talk now. I'm just getting my nails done, you? Yeah, it's definitely a tough life.

Sure, I can talk now. I’m just getting my nails done, you? Yeah, it’s definitely a tough life.

I'm not so sure about this "car seat".

I’m not so sure about this “car seat”.

Monkeying around for the camera already!

Monkeying around for the camera already!

Oma, you're nearly 100 years older than me? OK, maybe you could teach me a thing or two.

Oma, you’re nearly 100 years older? Maybe you can teach me a thing or two.

I don't want to miss a thing so I sleep with one eye open. Either that, or my eyeballs are too big for my eyelids.

I don’t want to miss a thing so I sleep with one eye open. Either that, or my eyeballs are too big for my eyelids.

Mommy & Daddy want me to smile for them but the ceiling, the blinds, starfish & seahorse are my best friends.

Mommy & Daddy want me to smile for them but the ceiling, the blinds, starfish & seahorse are my best friends.

Why am I the only one with ears on my hood? And what's so great about this "Ultimate" I see Mommy and Daddy playing?

Why am I the only one with ears on my hood? And what’s so great about this “Ultimate” I see Mommy and Daddy playing?

"Super baby" at tummy time!

“Super baby” at tummy time!

Visiting at Mommy's work is terribly exciting. We stopped coming here when I made my move on April 1st.

Visiting Mommy’s work is terribly exciting; it’s my first trip outside the belly!

My second ferry ride; old hat now.

My second ferry ride; old hat now.

Sometimes I get tired of looking cute.

Sometimes I get tired of looking cute.

Life Through Claire’s Eyes: Birth – Month 1

As you may have read in my birth story, I entered the world a little unconventionally, bum first. Since then, I decided to continue being a little unconventional, at least in the digestive department. I only have a poo in my diaper once or twice a week. Apparently most newborns do this kind of business multiple times a day. I don’t know why that is. It’s way too messy. Anyway, this worried my parents and, get this: they even photographed it to show a nurse to see if it was normal! I think they were also worried about the poo deficit because I didn’t gain weight as rapidly as some. But come on, I insist on eating every one to two hours, and for thirty to ninety minutes at a time. I know I’m a slow eater, but surely no one should be concerned about whether I was well fed!

In sleeping-related news, Mom and Dad usually swaddle me to help me sleep, but I don’t know why they make all that effort. I don’t like it unless they wrap me loosely. And really then, what’s the point?! I think they did it because they wanted me to forget they weren’t cuddling me anymore, but I’m much smarter than that. I like my one to two-hour cat naps (especially at night), followed by a good nurse and snuggle. I get nice and drunk on milk after my breastaurant visits, but don’t let that sight fool you. It may seem like I’m ready for a long rest, but it’s all an illusion. My parents were advised I shouldn’t sleep on their stomach (while on the couch) because I could slip off and get squished, but that’s the cosiest place to be. I was persistent enough with my short napping that they gave in. If they really want me to sleep for more than one or two hours, that’s the only way it will happen!

Videos:

Claire’s breech legs (day 2)

Calling the “Breastaurant” (week 2)

Dancing & up all night (week 3)

Alert at night & sneezing (week 4)

Photos:

Minutes after being born, Claire's already playing around!

Minutes after being born, Claire’s already playing around!

Her little "breech legs"

Her little “breech legs”

It's comfy in Dad's arms.

It’s comfy in Dad’s arms.

Mom & Dad are so excited to meet me!

Mom & Dad are so excited to meet me!

Thank you so much to everyone involved in our care. You were all amazing!

Out of the hospital and at home with Mom & Dad.

Hellloooo world!

Hellloooo world!

I know I'm cute, that's why Mom & Dad don't mind the sleep deprivation.

I know I’m cute, that’s why Mom & Dad don’t mind the sleep deprivation.

First bath!

First bath!

Dad & I have the same hairline ;)

Dad & I have the same hairline 😉

They call me a milkaholic; I can't imagine why.

They call me a milkaholic; I can’t imagine why.

I'm definitely most awake at night...not so great for Mom & Dad...

I’m definitely most awake at night…not so great for Mom & Dad…

Serious tummy time with Daddy.

Serious tummy time with Daddy.

The milk is coming soon, I know it!

The milk is coming soon, I know it!

Thanks for the fix Mom!

Thanks for the fix Mom!

Sleeping on Dad is one of my favourite things to do!

Sleeping on Dad is one of my favourite things to do!

Ahh, the swing- Mom & Dad's saving grace when I won't settle.

Ahh, the swing- Mom & Dad’s saving grace when I won’t settle.

Daddy trying to help me get rid of my gas. I think it helps Mom & Dad more than me because I get pretty cranky when I'm gassy!

Daddy trying to help me get rid of my gas. I think it helps Mom & Dad more than me because I get pretty cranky when I’m gassy!

Dad reading me my first book in French. I find it a little dull but that's probably because I'm only 2 weeks old!

Dad reading me my first book in French. I find it a little dull but that’s probably because I’m only 2 weeks old!

I love tummy time (but sometimes I fall asleep...which kind of defeats the purpose.)

I love tummy time (but sometimes I fall asleep…which kind of defeats the purpose.)

Daddy taking me for a walk down our blossom-lined street to try and settle me...

Daddy taking me for a walk down our blossom-lined street to try and settle me…

…but as you can see here, it didn't work this time. Good try though Dad!

…but as you can see here, it didn’t work this time. Good try though Dad!

My first time in a restaurant; ironically (& thankfully) I slept through the whole dinner & didn't cry until we were on the bus home.

My first time in a restaurant; ironically (& thankfully) I slept through the whole dinner & didn’t cry until we were on the bus home.

Mmm, fingers are delicious!

Mmm, fingers are delicious!

My favourite sleeping position: satisfied and drunk on milk...for at least 20 minutes anyway!

My favourite sleeping position: satisfied and drunk on milk…for at least 20 minutes anyway!

Family shot on our street.

Family shot on our street.

Hey Dad, where's my beer?

Hey Dad, where’s my beer?

First trip to our neighbourhood park. I'm not ready for the monkey bars just yet. Although Mom & Dad often think I'm being a monkey!

First trip to our neighbourhood park. I’m not ready for the monkey bars just yet. Although Mom & Dad often think I’m being a monkey!

I wonder if there's breastmilk in Daddy's ear? I'm going to check and find out.

I wonder if there’s breastmilk in Daddy’s ear? I’m going to check and find out.

So peaceful…so rare these days!

So peaceful…so rare these days!

I love the new carrier!

I love the new carrier!

Going for a walk with Dad.

Going for a walk with Dad.

The blossoms on our street are awesome!

The blossoms on our street are awesome!

Party time in the vibrating chair; keeps me entertained while Mommy's in the shower.

Party time in the vibrating chair; keeps me entertained while Mommy’s in the shower.

The hairdrier: making diaper changing a "breeze" instead of a fight!

The hairdrier: making diaper changing a “breeze” instead of a fight!

Seriously, the hairdrier is amazing!

Seriously, the hairdrier is amazing!

Already hitting on the boys!

Already hitting on the boys!

Claire seems to be giving someone the finger in our perinatal group class.

Claire seems to be giving someone the finger in our perinatal group class.

Time for bed? I don't think so!

Time for bed? I don’t think so!

All my milk drinking and now I can fit into the cloth diapers...not sure if that's a reward or not!

Thanks to all my milk drinking, now I can fit into the cloth diapers…not sure if that’s a reward or not!

I'm one month old and I can read already...well sort of ;)

Look at me, one month old & I’m reading…sort of 😉

Claire’s Birth Story

It Begins

2:00AM, Sunday March 31, 2013

It was the middle of the night, and Nicole woke me up to tell me that she had just had her third bowel movement in 20 minutes. Something was moving. I asked Nicole if she was having any “pressure waves” – our word for contractions. She replied that she was now feeling Braxton Hicks contractions coupled with cramping, but they didn’t feel like pressure waves. (Braxton Hicks contractions are normal, sporadic uterine contractions that are also known as “practice contractions.” Nic had been feeling them for months.) In my sleepy haze, I wanted to believe that the birthing time had not yet begun, but I decided to start timing these “Braxton Hicks cramps” nonetheless. The Braxton Hicks cramps (BHCs) were about 7 and 15 minutes apart. Nicole pooped three more times, making six within an hour. All of these were solid, real poops, she assured me. By 4:00AM, the bowel movements had stopped, and the BHCs were coming less frequently. I didn’t think it was worth calling the hospital, so we went back to sleep.

7:15AM, Sunday

Our alarm jolted us awake only a few hours later. We had planned a day trip to Nanaimo for Easter. Although Nicole was almost 39 weeks (8 and ¾ months) pregnant, we had felt that a trip to Nanaimo via seaplane was feasible. It was also sentimentally important. Kathryn (Marty’s partner) had been in palliative care at Nanaimo Hospital for several weeks, Justine (Nicole’s youngest sister) would be back home, celebrating her 25th birthday, and Marty (Nicole’s dad) would be cooking an Easter turkey for lunch. The seaplane would fly only a few hundred feet in the air, the trip would take 15 minutes, and it was a safe and efficient way for Nicole to travel. As we walked to the Skytrain station at 7:30, Nicole phoned the midwives at South Community Birth Program (SCBP) to check in. Our doctor had already approved our trip, and the midwife on call cleared us for the short flight, despite the recent BHCs. She understood the importance of this trip to the family, and reassured us that the baby could be born at Nanaimo hospital, if necessary.

Little baby seemed to like the flight…no contractions in the air!

Nanaimo-venture! We landed at 9:00AM, and began our whistle-stop tour. We picked up Justine’s birthday cake and visited Kathryn at the hospital. Marty and I played Goaltimate while Nicole and Justine tossed the frisbee.  The girls headed home early to finish the last minute lunch prep. We had a terrific Easter/birthday meal at Marty’s. I picked stinging nettles to make into pesto. Finally, we headed back to the hospital and had an Easter egg hunt in Kathryn’s room, before catching the 5:30 seaplane back to Vancouver. All the while, Nicole quietly weathered the Braxton-Hicks cramping.

Who says you have to be a kid to have an easter egg hunt? This one was in Kathryn's hospital room!

Who says you have to be a kid to have an easter egg hunt?

Back in Vancouver

It was a beautiful, sunny day full of blossoms during our adventures!

It was a beautiful, sunny day full of blossoms during our adventures!

By the time we arrived home, it was 6:00PM and Nicole’s BHCs were becoming more frequent. We had dinner plans at a friends’ place, so we headed out on our bikes for the 15 minute ride. Nicole reported that her BHCs were getting stronger, but they didn’t prevent her from riding. At the BBQ, our friend Lindsay suggested that Nicole should consider timing these “BHCs”, or whatever they were,  which I did, for the first time since 4:00AM. They were coming five to fifteen minutes apart, and we remained uncertain as to what this implied. Should we go home and start getting ready for the hospital, or stay for one more beer? The reader will probably guess where each one of us stood on the question. Eventually, I accepted that this baby was probably on its way, and we should head home. Our friends Jonny and Larissa offered many times to drive us, but the ride back would be downhill and easy. I think we were both also in denial, not believing that our lil’ Hermit was coming already, and fearful that we were not yet prepared. Back home, I unaccountably decided to make pesto. Lots of pesto. All of it from stinging nettles I had picked the weekend before, and in Nanaimo that same day.

Making nettle pesto...

Making nettle pesto…

Nicole supported the idea as a quick task, but after an hour and a half, she had lost patience. Finally around 11:30, with the cooking and packing complete, and our midwife confirming we should come to the hospital, I called a cab. It was 11:37PM.

In between pressure waves, James wanted one last photo of the belly!

In between pressure waves, James wanted one last photo of the belly!

Driving to BC Womens, we found Vancouver’s streets empty.  The cabbie had known as soon as Nicole sat in the back seat that a baby was coming, and to our surprise, this wasn’t new to him.  So much for our assumption that while Nicole put on headphones and turned her mental “lightswitch” off during pressure waves, we would be incognito. At the Hospital While I paid the cabbie and grabbed our stuff, Nicole pressed the hospital after hours buzzer to be let in. Unfortunately, this was followed immediately by a pressure wave, so she was doubled over and unable to respond when the security guard answered the call.  The pressure wave passed and she was able to communicate to the confused guard that she was in labour, and we were finally admitted. After we finished the hospital paperwork, our fabulous SCBP midwife-on-call (Lena) checked Nicole’s progress. She was already at 4-5 cm – halfway to pushing! This confirmed that our progress on the Boulevard of Breech Delivery was under way.

Our baby's breech position.

Our baby’s breech position.

If we wanted to achieve a vaginal birth, Nic had to meet many time-sensitive milestones. She had to dilate about 1 cm per hour, and once she reached 10 cm, she only had one hour to push. We would also be forced to move to the delivery operating room before pushing, in case an emergency caesarean was necessary. Nicole knew what she was getting herself into, and, thanks to months of natural birth preparation (Hypnobabies), she was ready. During her appointment three days earlier at the Best Birth Clinic, Dr. Whitehill told her she was a candidate for a vaginal breech delivery, so we were hopeful for a natural birth. When Nic had asked about delivering without an epidural, the clinicians told her this would be cruel and unusual punishment, but Nicole hoped to prove them wrong. Around midnight, our doula Yvette arrived on a wave of energy and enthusiasm. As a Hypnobabies instructor herself, she knew all the birth-management tools we had spent weeks practising. As the next pressure wave built up, Nicole turned her “lightswitch” off, swayed her hips to focus, and Yvetted jumped into action. Her support proved crucial during our adventure.

James supporting my belly during a pressure wave as I swayed my hips.

James supporting my belly during a pressure wave as I swayed my hips.

The waves were coming more quickly now, and were lasting longer. All around Nicole, health care workers were buzzing. One nurse connected Nicole to an IV and the anesthesiologist inserted a needle in her spine for the epidural, if she needed it. Throughout the poking and prodding, Nic tried to stay focused on the pressure waves. She would stand and hold onto my shoulders during each one. Between waves, she swayed her hips, and we danced to our bachata and salsa music. Eventually, the obstetrician-on-call arrived. OB: “So you want to have a vaginal breech delivery?” Nicole: “Yes.” “You’re sure you want to go through with this? You don’t want to have a caesarean?” “Yes, I’m sure. “Ok, if that’s what you want to do, here is how it’s going to work: you’ll be pushing and delivering in the operating room, in case we need to do an emergency c-section. You will have to lie on your back, and hold your breath for each push. You’ll also be in stirrups.” Nicole had never heard these last three conditions before, and her mood changed. We showed him our Hypnobabies birth techniques sheet, and he replied indignantly that these would not be possible if he was to deliver our baby. Nicole began to have doubts about a natural birth. It was now about 1:00AM.

Awaiting the tap for the epidural.

Awaiting the tap for the epidural.

Nicole kept laboring until about 3:30, but she had only dilated to 5-6 cm. In order to speed things up, her delivery team decided to break her waters. The effect was immediate: the pressure waves started coming fast and furious, and much stronger than before. So strong that she could no longer hold herself up during a wave, and had to lean on me for support. By 7:00AM, Nic was at 10 cm, and the pushing waves were starting.  The doctors asked her not to push, and instead focus on breathing to bring the baby lower into the pelvis. Time to Push! By 7:45, the nurse finally gave us the green light to move to the OR, and Nicole practically started running, her IV pole in tow. As I gathered our things, I heard the nurse plead with Nic to slow down and let her catch up! Over a dozen doctors, residents, and nurses poured into the OR. All met the same sight: Nicole on her hands and knees, on the floor next to the bed, letting her pushing waves ease the baby out.

In the OR: the only time Nicole was grateful to have an IV, because it was something to hold onto during the pressure waves.

In the OR: the only time Nicole was grateful to have an IV; it was something to hold onto during the pressure waves.

She was still on all fours when a nurse announced that the obstetrician’s shift had just ended, and our new OB would now be Dr. Rosengarten.  Nic was in the middle of a pressure wave, and let out a scream of relief. We had met Dr. Rosengarten at an appointment a few weeks earlier, and adored him immediately. Mark Rosengarten was the best there was; we later found out his secret nickname was “birth ninja”, because of his incredible skills. In this one moment, all the doubt and fear that had built up with our previous obstetrician was replaced by the realization that Nicole could do this. To make the point, when Rosengarten arrived in the OR a few minutes later, he held up a surgical mask and asked his team: “Are we going to need these? Nah, I didn’t think so.” He threw the mask to the floor, effectively announcing that this delivery would not require surgery. Rosengarten gently coaxed Nicole onto the operating table, and onto her back. He showed Nicole how to hold her legs to her chest, with nurses supporting her. The baby’s bum was just about to appear. Then, the anesthesiologist arrived It turns out that the top doc in an OR is the anesthesiologist. He turned to Rosengarten, and told him that although Nicole might not want an epidural, he needed to connect it immediately, just in case. Rosengarten responded that the epidural would not be necessary. Surprised, the anesthesiologist shot back that if he did not connect it now, it would be too late to use it later. Rosengarten replied that the baby was coming now, and Nicole (who didn’t want an epidural anyway) would not need it. With that, the anesthesiologist left the room.

Time to push!

Time to push!

The bum started to appear. Deep purplish-red, it would emerge briefly, only to retreat after each contraction. Slowly, over the course of several pushing waves, Nicole eased the bum out. Then, the legs, folded in a pike position against the chest, came out one by one. Two more big pushes brought out the mid-section, up to the shoulders. Rosengarten turned the baby clockwise to get the first shoulder out, then counter clockwise for the other. Only the head remained when suddenly, the pushing waves stopped. This is the greatest concern with breech deliveries. In a normal delivery, the largest body part (the head) exits first, and the rest of the body slips easily out. When the baby is upside down, the cervix senses that the birth is finished after the body is out, and it begins to contract while the head is still inside. Nic could no longer feel anything below her waist, and accused the doctors of giving her an epidural! They assured her that the epidural tube was not connected, and told her she had to trigger another pushing wave. They told me to kiss Nicole, to try and help the process, because kissing can promote the release of oxytocin, which stimulates uterine contractions.  And so, with about a dozen people around the operating table, I started making out with my wife. I told her it reminded me of our wedding ceremony. The kissing helped, but it wasn’t enough, so the doctors told me to start massaging Nicole’s nipples. I obliged, but Nicole quickly interrupted our smooching session. “Don’t massage on top of the gown”, she insisted, “put your hand under it!” A few moments later, a slow pushing wave began. Nicole buckled down, held her breath, hollered, and pushed harder than ever before. She pushed so hard that we later noticed burst capillaries around her neck and face, and a minor hemorrhage in her eyes. The nurses held her legs down, while the doctor used forceps and a hand to get around the baby’s head. In the final moments, a small episiotomy allowed the head to move, and it made a popping sound as it emerged with the cord and a lot of water. The doctors cut the cord and rushed the baby to the pediatrics table to administer oxygen, a normal procedure for a breech vaginal delivery. A few moments later, we heard the first cry, and, soon after, found out our little hermit was a she. With his hands now free, Dr. Rosengarten grabbed our camera and starting taking pictures.

It's a girl!

It’s a girl!

After about 5 minutes, the pediatricians gave the green light that her breathing, heartbeat, and blood oxygen levels were normal. Our SCBP doctor Kiran brought our little baby girl back to Nicole, and we named her Claire.

Claire's little breech legs

Claire’s little breech legs.

Comfy in Dad's arms.

Comfy in Dad’s arms.

One happy family!

One happy family!

Indonesia: Lombok- Surfing Kuta

Catching waves in the waters around Kuta was wonderful. The friendly traveller culture shared with us a fierce and inclusive love of surfing. Nearly every day, we’d fill our stomachs with heaping portions of gado gado or mie goreng at the local warung (closest Canadian equivalent is your local Ma and Pa greasy spoon), before heading out into the consistent and perfect waves. We were worried, as were others, that development of this sleepy and stunning area, is on the brink. Whispers of resorts and golf course developments were everywhere. I am perhaps naïvely hoping that the local people, along with responsible foreigners, can prevent this from coming to fruition. Fingers crossed.

In between days of visiting serene beaches and experiencing world-class surfing breaks, we encountered other rewarding experiences. Several times we got lost on our scooter (which is the only way to hop from beach to beach down there) and found happiness amidst this hot (well over 30 degree temperatures) and relationship-testing exercise. The happiness was discovered from the interactions we could experience with some of the locals who are less swarmed by tourists. These were people who have no vested interest in selling you anything or asking for money, but purely want the privilege of encountering a new experience (connecting with us). One day, we had gotten lost on the scooter and had stopped to check the map, when a swarm of gorgeous young female students on recess break came rushing over to talk to us. They were cautiously extending a hand to point or gently touch our wedding rings, our camera, and our sunglasses. One young girl borrowed James’ sunglasses and was modeling them around for us. It was precious. With our broken Indonesian and their broken English, along with many hand gestures, we managed to have a meaningful interaction with them, and no longer cared that we had no idea where we were.

Indonesia: Lombok- Climbing Rinjani

After our time on the Gili Islands, we travelled to the mainland of the province of Lombok for a waterfall hike, volcano trek, and a week on the beaches surfing and exploring in the south. A few photos are pictured in the blog but for more captioned photos, check out the facebook albums here:

Indonesia- Lombok: http://on.fb.me/tjm5ay

Indonesia- Bali: http://on.fb.me/trKHm9

The remaining posts on this blog are a few notes and ideas on the culture and experience of travelling in Indonesia.

The Rinjani trek was a spectacular three-day and two-night experience. From lush, rolling hills, to thick rainforest, bold rock faces, volcano views, hot springs, and mischievous monkeys, it was a memorable experience.

Outside of the physical beauty, one of the special parts of the trip was discussions and connections with the local people. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered a culture that seemed a lot more at peace and experiencing genuine happiness than the cultural environment I experience in Canada/Vancouver.

There were many people who found us tourists very odd. They didn’t understand why we work so hard every day and often live for our vacations. Most local people we met in Indonesia work long hours. They said they build holiday into their day. The pace is slow enough to allow for that. Doesn’t that make sense? To me, this really says something about living in the moment and not for future hopes and expectations of joy.

Something else I found interesting (although much sadder than their living in the moment) is that almost everyone smokes cigarettes. Many Muslims don’t touch alcohol because of religious beliefs, but they are addicted to smoking. Chatting with our Indonesian guide before hiking Rinjani, we talked about this issue. He said that he’s tried to quit, without success, and that people here smoke because they’re stupid. We were horrified that this is what he thought. James talked to him about the control that tobacco companies have in countries like Indonesia, causing unrelenting and subconscious promotion. Not only are cigarettes dirt cheap here (forget about taxes), the advertisement is incessant, and billboards are EVERYWHERE. They are on storefront signs, on sidewalk flags, and on banners tied to trees that are strung above roads. How can health promotion and tobacco cessation be fostered in these circumstances?

Indonesia: Lombok- Diving & Snorkeling in The Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan & Gili Air)

Upon arriving in the Gili islands, we traded in scooters, buses, and dogs for bicycles, horse-drawn taxis and cats. There are no motorized vehicles in the Gilis, but certain areas are bustling with rapidly growing popularity.

We headed north for our accommodation, past the most hectic area. It was a good choice, as we were only a few steps from the snorkeling beach full of turtles, vibrant blue coral, and vividly colored and patterned fish. The water was crystal blue and very buoyant; floating along with the underwater visual feast was idyllic. Our bungalow on Gili Air (for less than $20 a night) had an open-air bathroom, and the palm trees overhead made our afternoon showers glorious!

Aside from the diving and snorkeling, we also explored the shores with our rented bicycles, along the bumpy and sandy paths that bisect and circumnavigate the small island. Much of the islands are dotted with hotels and restaurants, but as we crossed inland, away from the beach, we saw the small villages where the locals lived. It was quite the juxtaposition with thatched huts, dirt floors, and small children running around naked, playing with balls and old bike tires. The villages were lined with coconut palms and trees seemingly falling over with mangoes, and brilliantly coloured rhododendron and hibiscus flowers climbing the fences of the wealthier homes. 

The experience was so enjoyable on the islands that this account is a reflection of two visits. We initially left after James completed his open water scuba diving certification and returned after our time on the main island of Lombok, to learn how to free dive and take in more paradise.

Indonesia: Bali First Impressions

Despite arriving quite late after a day of travel to the Denpasar airport, I felt excited within steps of walking off the plane. The man who checked us through customs was singing and smiling along with the radio that was playing in his cubicle. My positive  introduction to Indonesia continued from there; everyone we came across as we journeyed to Ubud greeted us with warmth and seemingly genuine interest, even though we arrived in the middle of the night.

Although we went to bed at 2am, we awoke fairly early to the birds singing in the trees. I’m not exactly sure of the temperature in Ubud, but it almost always feels perfect. It’s as though it’s regulated to be exactly what our bodies want. So much that I didn’t even mind when we got caught in a huge downpour of rain. 

After stepping into the city, within moments our senses were overloaded. There was somehow a tranquility amidst the chaos and jam-packed streets, but it was lost on us at first because  of our fatigue from our Korea travels. The logical thing to do was to go for one of Bali’s world-famous massages.  It took away all the stress of travel and rejuvenated us for this next chapter.

After that I was able to appreciate my surroundings. The Hindu offerings laid out on almost every door step included everything from flowers, banana leaves, dried palm, fruit, crackers, and incense.   Every few steps, they reminded me of the creativity and spirituality of the Balinese. The streets were lined with paintings and carvings bursting out of store fronts, alternating with temples, bustling markets, and monuments.  All of this nestled within lush green rice fields and forests. This spiritual serenity was tempered by an incredible density of motorbikes, cars, buses, and people, all teetering amongst each other on the cracked and uneven sidewalks and roads. It was a sight and experience like no other. 

After feasting on some delicious local food (more on that later), we decided to to zip away further east to the gorgeous beaches of the tiny Gili islands for some diving and snorkeling. Don’t worry though, we’ll be sure to return to Bali at the end of our journey for the rice field hikes, cultural parades, shopping, diving, and temple  visits.

Humorous Korea Sights

Korea: Exploring Seoul

After another early night, we were awake and out the door by 8AM. It was time to explore the traditional market in Insadong. Our legs were worse for wear after our 24 km hike (likely from our jogging parts of the downhill journey) which made every metro stop transfer pretty painful, particularly going down the stairs. I was getting used to the elbow-shoving and lack of order on the trains. The mentality is really everyone for themselves. Perhaps it’s the coveted seated spots, in which 99% of people put earphones in and engage with their smart phone for the duration of the ride. Not that Vancouver is much different, minus most of the elbow-shoving.

The market was quite a juxtaposition. Gorgeous scarves, hand crafted hangings and fine Korean teas were in stark contrast to the colourful, plastic phone accessories and $2 socks adorned with random and colorful pictures and phrases. We capped off the market trip with a tasty lunch at a brown rice specialty restaurant. Despite the fact that the rice was, as always, white and not brown, it was still delicious.

The next step was to rush back to the hotel and plead ignorance as we missed our checkout time by ~ 25 min. No problem; excellent! Especially considering our hotel was a somewhat fancier version of the “love motels” across the street. Thse are places that often charge by the hour for obvious reasons. They can be identified by the “drapes” that hang in front of the parking lot, designed to hide the license plates of vehicles that wish to be “visiting” the love motel in anonymity. The ironic part is that the drapes don’t actually go down far enough to cover most of the licence plates so in actuality the vehicles are emphasized rather than hidden.

After a hot and heavy (backpack-wise) journey across town for a couple of hours, we arrived at James’ friend Jacob’s place. He confirmed that it was unseasonably hot here the past few days. You wouldn’t know it, judging by the sweaters, pants, and suits in the metro but we were still coated in sweat despite our t-shirt and tank top attire. Not that we can complain but our toques and mitts were definitely not needed.

After settling into Jacob’s, we headed out for dinner and a scavenger-hunt birthday party of a fellow ex-pat. It wasn’t uneventful though. We were late to the restaurant, partially due to the long walk, and partially due to a robbery that Jacob witnessed. A woman’s wallet, cash removed, was discarded on the road by the suspect. By the time the guys realized they should try to confront the thief, it was way too late. Going through her wallet, we tried to find a phone number to contact her. No such luck. We found credit cards and a variety of pink cards with cartoon animals on them. I’m still not sure what the cards were for because the writing was in Korean but wasn’t surprised, given the Hello Kitty theme that is prevalent in this country. We brought the wallet and story to the police and they proceeded to question Jacob, asking “How old was the suspect? Twenty?” Gotta love the leading questions! They subsequently piled into a cop car, with Jacob and his friend Clay in tow, to try and track down the thief.

About 30 min later, we met at the pre-determined restaurant without any success in capturing the thief and with a 30 min wait for a table… so we walked on with grumbling stomachs, to a nearby sikdang (restaurant). I had a gelatinous chestnut-based soup and the fresh cold broth was actually quite delicious.

The birthday party was next on the agenda. We started upstairs in a pub and it was pretty neat to see how excited everyone was to see James again. It’s definitely a tight-knit group in the Ulti-ESL teaching group in Korea.

The scavenger hunt was up next and quite a bit of fun. There were an array of activities; from push ups and handstands in the crosswalk, to disco dancing and singing on video in the corner store, to group birthday messages on recycled cardboard. A fun time was had by all. Our team’s pinnacle was when we put our clothes on backwards and re-entered the pub singing to Criss Cross’ “Jump Jump”. A feat that would have been much easier in baggy pants. Fitted jeans on backwards isn’t a flattering or comfortable look. Our efforts paid off though; we came 2nd and won a huge pumpkin pie from Costco.

We “rolled” ourselves home in a cab around 1AM. The 20 min cab ride cost about $5 CAD, Which, incidently, is much cheaper than anywhere I’ve seen. Gas is very expensive so who knows how this works. Other things (many food items etc) are very pricey so it doesn’t add up. Anyway, I welcomed another night’s sleep even though it was on the floor and my body was definitely still in rough shape from the hiking, walking and backpacking. Nonetheless, a free room is a great price.