Friday, 23 October 2015

Go Buy Now - Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone: Illustrated Edition

Nothing is more beautiful than a bookshelf full of books. I've even done that thing where you colour-coordinate all of the books for Instagram-worthy shelfies. My newest addition is the Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

I'm fairly certain that part of the reason I wanted to have children is so that I can read them Harry Potter in bed at night. This book is going to make that dream even more wonderful.

This book is unbelievably stunning. It's a hardcover copy of the complete first book in the Harry Potter series. There is a red ribbon attached to the binding to use as a bookmark. Every inch of this book has some kind of charming, colourful illustration or detailing. There are no plain white pages of text. The scope and detail of the drawings actually gave me goosebumps. I just can't even imagine the time it took the illustrator, Jim Kay, to complete this work. (If Jim Kay sounds familiar, he also did A Monster Calls by Siobhan Dawd).

Whether you just want a copy for yourself, or you know someone for whom it would make the most perfect holiday gift, you will not regret picking up a copy. Also, buying the illustrated edition online is $10 cheaper than in the store. (American friends - here's the link on Amazon)

Seb may not be old enough to understand the whole story yet, but I'm one step closer to introducing him to this magical world.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

My Year in Pregnancy Loss Purgatory

After we got married, questions started to arise, as they always do, about when we were going to have a baby. We told people that we were "pulling the goalie" so to speak and starting to try and get pregnant that summer. Getting pregnant for us was easy. Staying pregnant was not.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant the first time. It was in August. We were so excited, and Rob even told the guy who delivered our groceries that morning. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and when she cautioned me against sharing my news too early, that was the first time it even crossed my mind that I might miscarry.

That same week I felt some odd twinges in my side. The Internet told me I may have an ectopic pregnancy, but I just held firm to my belief that pregnancy was sure to feel weird, and that this was just a weird pregnancy feeling. We had a weekend out of the city planned with friends, and I was more concerned about how I'd explain to them why I wasn't drinking.

While we were away in Ottawa, the bleeding started. I was about 5 and a half weeks pregnant. We were at a bar. I remember Rob asking a waitress where the closest hospital was. I remember standing in the corner of the bar crying while Rob went to explain to his friends sitting on the patio that we had to leave. I remember that same waitress, bless her, who came up to me and told me she knew first aid if I needed anything. Bless her.

After a long night at the hospital, I was diagnosed with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I needed immediate surgery. I also wasn't allowed to go back home to Toronto for the surgery. It had to happen now in case the embryo ruptured and resulted in unrepairable damage. I was devastated.

I screamed. I cried. They brought a social worker in to try and get me to calm down. I called my mom, who didn't even know I was pregnant at the time, and told her what was happening. It was early evening, and my mother did what moms do. She got in her car and drove 7 hours to Ottawa to be with me when I woke up from my surgery.

The surgery carried serious risks including loss of a fallopian tube. Rob saw me off to surgery and waited alone in a hospital hours away from family and friends, with a nearly dead cell phone, trying to keep it together while updating our parents.

Thankfully it turned out that my pregnancy wasn't ectopic, but it was just at a place in the uterus very close to my right fallopian tube that was difficult to see among all of the blood cells on the ultrasound. It was still a miscarriage. My pregnancy was still over. It had only been a few weeks but, in my heart, that baby was so real.

My second miscarriage was much less dramatic. It was January by the time we were seriously ready to try getting pregnant again. I took a pregnancy test at home, and it came back with the faintest positive line possible. A few days later I started to miscarry. I went to my doctor to just let her know, but no real medical intervention was necessary. There was less screaming. There was more crying.

My family doctor referred me to a recurrent loss clinic in Toronto. Normally, recurrent loss is defined as three miscarriages, but I pleaded with my doctor for help, and she got me into the clinic.

I was at a standoff against my own uterus. I clung to stories of women who had miscarried but went on to have healthy babies. But, in the back of my mind, I always feared that I was going to be the one. The one story that wouldn't have a happy ending.

At the clinic we did, what felt like, an extraordinary amount of testing. Vials and vials of blood. Weeks and weeks of waiting. Meanwhile, it seemed like every single person around me was pregnant. During this testing phase I knew ten pregnant friends or co-workers. Ten!!! And some of these people didn't even want to be pregnant. It had been an accident. I felt paralyzed. I was standing still and watching everyone carry on with their lives in front of me. I was at the bottom of a mountain I had no idea how to climb watching everyone pass me with ease. Only a handful of people knew what we were going through, and it was very challenging to put on a smiling face for our friends who had no idea we were torn up inside.

To keep me from going completely off the deep-end, I made an appointment with the infertility social worker at the clinic we were using. (As an aside, this is when I first learned that recurrent loss falls under the umbrella of infertility.) I was in a much better place to listen to this social worker and talk to her about what we were going through. Talking to her gave me specific tools and language to use with family and friends. Most importantly, she gave permission to not attend events where there would be babies or pregnant women. I was allowed to politely decline invitations to baby showers and housewarming parties. I was allowed to send a gift and not go. I was allowed to leave these events early. And, instead of feeling like a jerk about it, she helped me craft an email to my friends telling them to please continue to invite us but know that we may not be able to attend. This was the day I began to talk more openly about pregnancy loss. To pull strength from it and keep going for no other reason than I had to.

After all the testing, we were told that they didn't really know what was going on. It could be microclots, so I was told to take a daily low dose of asprin moving forward. My progesterone was "a little bit low", so I started taking supplements. We were given a 72-76% chance to have a baby. It was June, and we were given the go ahead to try again.

I clung to stories of women who miscarried and quickly went on to have a healthy baby. - See more at:
Pregnancy is never the same for someone who has suffered a miscarriage. In August I found out I was pregnant with Sebastian via a telephone call. Almost 1 year to the day from my first miscarriage. I don't even really remember being happy. I called Rob at work. We didn't say much. We both just kind of felt like, "OK. Let's see what happens." Early on in my pregnancy with Sebastian, I often felt that this was a backup baby. That my connection with this baby wasn't going to be as strong. I felt that my first baby was supposed to be my "real baby," and I had forever lost my one, legitimate chance at being a mom.

I still had lots of spotting throughout my first trimester. Each time was scary. But every time I started freaking out the recurrent loss clinic would do an ultrasound and tell us everything was still ok. I had wicked morning sickness and vomited all day long, and I refused to take anything for it for weeks because it reminded me that I was still pregnant. (Eventually, my doctor gave me the "they don't give out awards for this stuff" speech, and I started taking diclectin to ease the nausea.) Later on in my pregnancy, my fertility doctor at the clinic proudly declared me "boring." He told me to go home and continue being "boring."

And now we have Sebastian. He's 3 and a half. I look at him and can't imagine him not being here. I can't even picture what life would be like if I hadn't had these miscarriages, and I had carried a healthy baby to term the first time around. I wouldn't wish Sebastian away for anything. He is worth the tears we cried. He absolutely is our "real baby".

If I got pregnant again, I wouldn't be instagramming the ultrasound immediately, but I think I would tell some of my family and a few very close friends early on. Because if shit hit the fan, again, I'd need these people beside me.

It's hard to talk about sad things. But the reality is that they happen often. Doctors suspect about 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That's so many. That's a lot of sad mamas who need their loved ones to sit with them while they cry. To hold their hands. To make them a cup of tea. To tell them that they are wonderful. To encourage them to not give up hope.

Another important lesson I learned is that just because you found out you miscarried at 5 or 6 weeks, it doesn't mean you didn't lose your baby. Do not believe it should be any less painful. It is still a loss. That feeling is still grief.

I used to think that miscarriage was only something that happened in made for tv movies. That it couldn't possibly happen to me. I don't think by any means you should have to talk about your miscarriage if you've had one, but I do believe that the more we share our stories if we are able, the less we feel alone. Mark Zukerberg, Pink, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltro, and Beyoncé have all openly shared that they were the 1 in 4.

I had barely even heard of the word miscarriage before I had one. It's a club no one wants to join. But yet here we are. And maybe even a little stronger for it.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Family Photo Shoot - Urban Edition

We recently had another amazing family photo session with the talented Joanna Galant. We met at the beautiful University of Toronto campus for an urban family photo shoot. Enjoy!
(Toronto photo tip - you do not need to get a permit to shoot at U of T.)

By the end of our photos, it was nearly 7:30 so we had a pretty tired little man on our hands.

Thanks again, Joanna, for the lovely photos! This is one expense I'm so glad we do every year. It's absolutely worth not going out for dinner 2 or 3 times to get these photos that will mean so much to us for years to come.

To check out more of Joanna's work, here's the fall family photo shoot we did last year in High Park.


PS - I'm having a special blog birthday giveaway this week. You can enter here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Motherhood. From Expectations to Reality

When I was pregnant with our son, Sebastian, I daydreamed about what motherhood would feel like. I made lists in my head of all the amazing and wonderful things we'd do together while I was on maternity leave and as a whole family. I loved stocking his room with books and onesies. I thought we'd go on long walks with Sebastian in the stroller. During the day while my husband was at work, I'd sit at a little cafe table with Seb sleeping in our stroller while I read my book and drank a latte or wrote out thank you cards from our baby shower. My girlfriends and I would still organize nights out to catch up and spend time together.

Motherhood would be something redolent of a Jane Austen or Little Women novel.

I expected that our road with baby Sebastian wouldn't be perfect. I knew there would be tricky days. Days where I had to call my mom multiple times for advice or support. Days where I didn't feel up for going to the park because we had a rough night. Days when Seb would cry. Days where I would feel sad. Days where I would cry. I knew these days would happen. 

What I didn't know was the frequency at which they would happen.

Sleep now while you can...Sleep while the baby sleeps....You'll never sleep again...
I absolutely heard all of these warnings and pieces of advice. However, none of them seemed at all to prepare me for the sleepless nights. I knew I'd be tired as a new mom. I never expected the overwhelming exhaustion that would become part of our lives. I completely underestimated the toll this would take on our family and on my mental health.

Now, three years into this parenting gig, my husband and I both seem to be finding our groove.

Seb's sleep still has tricky days for us. My husband gets up to help those nights. He has since our son was a newborn, and it saves our family in so many ways. I've met other moms and developed a community of friends with children for support and friendship. Parts of this community are also online. I had never read a blog in my life before Sebastian was born. Now I not only read them, but I write one!

Plus, Sebastian blows us away with his little (but really not so little) personality all of the time.

His sense of humour is my favourite. When he wants to tell a joke, it makes us genuinely laugh out loud. I really didn't expect at the age of 2 or 3, that he'd know enough about real vs pretend or things that are silly to tell us jokes. But he does it all of the time. And he always has this beautiful look of anticipation to see if we "get" his joke. It's pretty adorable.

All he wants to do is play, and laugh, and eat snacks. I am constantly thinking of the next game to play, or book to read, or snack to put together for the sole purpose of seeing Sebastian laugh and smile.

The moments I see him when he's sleeping peacefully pierce my heart. I just love him so much. I had no idea I'd feel such a physical pull towards our son.

I'm not always the mom I thought I'd be. The toddler craft and homemade meal situations are not what I had imagined pre-baby. Despite valiant efforts, "being late" is now part of our vocabulary. Many of my friendships are stronger than ever before; however, I've also had to let go of a couple of friends who struggled to understand my new priorities.

The reality of motherhood is that it is challenging. It is probably most challenging thing I've ever done. Or ever will do.
And I love it still.

Most of my expectations for motherhood were off. For better and for worse, things are different than I had imagined. If I could go back and tell my former mommy-self one thing, it would be reassure her that there is a learning curve to this motherhood journey, but we will get there in the end.


Maternity and newborn photos via Life Photography.
Family photo via Joanna Galant Photography.

This post first appeared on Positively Oakes in September 2015. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Our Favourite Fall Books for Kids

Fall has quickly become my favourite season in the past few years. I'm totally down with the tall boots, cozy sweaters, warm apple cider, and visits to the pumpkin patch. Bring it on.

Since October just screams for all things spooky and snuggly, we're starting to grow quite the collection of fall and Halloween themed books. Here are our favourites!

My son has always had a passion for I Spy and Look and Find books. These are three in high-rotation around this time of year.


I Spy Spooky Night by Walter Wick

If you feel you've read Goodnight Moon a thousand times this week, Goodnight Goon is a funny alternative to check out.

My Pumpkin and Spooky, Spooky, Spooky are two board books that are excellent for your littlest readers.


Franklin, Little Critter, and anything by Robert Munch are classics, so you could try any of these:


Franklin's Halloween by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
Boo! by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

And if your kid is like mine and thinks anyone getting in trouble is hilarious, Trick or Treat Marley will have them howling for sure!

You can also never go wrong with It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

The latest addition to our Halloween library is the graphic novel, Plants vs. Zombies Volume 8: Lawn of Doom.  It's perfect if your reader is also a gamer as it is based off the popular video game Plants vs Zombies. Sebastian loves it!

What are your favourite Halloween or fall books?