Home birth (part two)

Home birth (part two)

Welcome back!  Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions for this home birth series by way of Facebook and Instagram.  Part two shares my response to those questions and includes a few tips to help make home birth a great experience.  If you are joining us for the first time, you may find it helpful to start by reading Jude’s birth story and then part one of this home birth series.

Q: What do you need for a home (water) birth?

img_7965A: I was so impressed by how little we needed for a home birth.  I didn’t have to buy anything!  We had also decided on a water birth and were really fortunate to borrow a birthing tub from a friend.  We did spend $50 to buy the liner required for the tub (our only expense).  Most midwife clinics have tubs for rent so be sure to put your name on the list early if you’re considering one to better your chances of it being available for you near your due date.

Our midwives sent us home with a list of things to put together from around the house – towels, a large bowl, a strainer and sheets.

For the water birth portion, we added our borrowed birthing tub, a tarp, a hose, a thermometer and a sump pump for clean up.

The midwives will set up one area for the baby after birth so we had receiving blankets, a diaper and a hat to add to what they had.

Water Birth Q: How do you keep the water warm?

img_5173-2A:  This was a tricky part of the process.  Ensure that your hot water tank is turned up and be ready to boil water from the stove as needed.  The water needs to be at body temperature when the baby arrives.  Adam used a hose from a tap upstairs directly into the tub and used the provided lid for the top to keep the heat in when not in use.  Towards the end of my labour, we needed to bring the water temperature back up so Adam was going back and forth from the sink with bowls of hot water.  It did the job for the temperature of the water but made it difficult for me to get my bearings because the tub was too full and I was very buoyant.  In hindsight, we should have taken some water out of the tub before adding in the final hot water.

Q: What’s involved in cleaning up after a home birth?

A:  This was something that I hadn’t even considered until it was asked at our home birth information night – at which time I went “oh yeah!  What does happen?”

The midwives are careful and incredibly proficient in cleaning up after a home birth.  They pack up all of the equipment that they brought and use two garbage bags – one for things to be washed and one for things to be thrown out.  They had our basement looking presentable within two hours of Jude being born.

For the birthing tub, Adam used a sump pump to pump the water outside.

The second midwife that came for the delivery left once the baby was stable.  Our midwife stayed until we were all comfortable and all but tucked us into bed on her way out the door.

Q: How do you manage with older siblings?

img_7983A:  We invited my Mom to be on “Clyde duty” no matter what time of day the baby arrived.  If it was a daytime delivery, we were open to the idea of him being there but I had an overnight bag packed for him in case he was uncomfortable and wanted to go to Nana’s house.  As it happened, Jude came after midnight so Adam was able to put Clyde to bed at his normal bedtime.  He slept through everything and then woke up two hours after Jude was born.  Adam brought him down to meet his brother and then went back up to bed until morning!  Seeing Clyde come down the stairs with Adam was one of the most memorable moments of this experience for me.  He knew right away who the baby was and was overjoyed to meet him – phew!

One of the midwives that hosted our home birth information night shared about having her small kids at home when she delivered her new baby.  She pointed out that young kids have a very fluid concept of what is “normal” and are seeing all kinds of things for the first time every day.  She also had a grandparent on site to help care for the kids but they enjoyed being near Mom and had fun mimicking her through labour.

I wasn’t sure that Clyde wouldn’t be upset to see that I was uncomfortable but it was a good reminder that it may be a non issue and to consider all options when planning for care of big siblings.  Having him come down to meet Jude after he was born was a really special time.

Q: How many people attended your birth?

A:  We felt very open about having people around during our birth so there was Adam, my Mom, my sister and our midwife.  The minimum number of people is two – your midwife for the duration of your labour and a second midwife to arrive for the delivery of baby.  I greatly enjoyed having the support of my Mom and sister throughout my labour.  It was nice for me to have three people taking turns help me through contractions and it was nice for Adam to have people to talk to and give him a break.

It was also a really special moment to have my Mom and my sister there to hold Jude just hours after he was born.

Q: What happens if something goes wrong?

A: This is without a doubt the biggest deterrent for a home birth – the “what ifs.”  While no one can guarantee that everything will go smoothly, there are a few things that helped to reassure us.  Firstly, you are only approved for a home birth if you are deemed to have a low risk pregnancy with zero concerns.  At that point, the risk of anything going wrong is as little as it can be.  Secondly, the midwives come with all of the equipment that can be found at a level one hospital and are highly trained including the ability to intubate and they hold an advanced resuscitation certification.  Thirdly, the most common reason for a transfer to hospital from a home birth is at the request of the Mom for pain management.  At that point, you get in your car, your midwife gets in her car and you meet at the hospital.

One of the couples that spoke at our home birth night was preparing for their second home birth.  They shared that during the delivery of their first baby at home, the baby got stuck and they had to call for an ambulance to transfer to the hospital.  They said that they were amazed by the strength and confidence of the midwives and always felt like things were under control – so much so that they were planning to do it again.

We also made a trip to the hospital a few hours after Jude was born.  I felt great after my delivery and had very little bleeding.  Two hours after our midwives left, I lost a generous amount of blood really quickly so we called for an ambulance.  They arrived in under 15 minutes and by then, my bleeding was under control.  We decided to go to the hospital just to be sure so I went in the ambulance and Adam followed behind in the car with Jude.  I was checked into observation and stayed only for a few hours to confirm that I was stable.  From what they could tell, I was bleeding but it was clotting and released at once.  It was scary and I was disappointed to have gone to the hospital in the end but we were grateful that there were no concerns.

Tips for success

  • Feed the army!  In the weeks leading up to our birth, I made one giant lasagne for the freezer.  As soon as my labour started, I took it out to thaw and delegated the task of getting it in the oven to my Mom.  From what we all remember, that happened sometime around midnight and was ready to eat shortly after Jude arrived at 1:19am.  I remember feeling so hungry and very grateful to have a hot meal.  I also remember feeling glad to provide food for our midwives and our family after a long evening of hard work!  We continued to eat the lasagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the first two days.
  • Organize post-baby support!  Adam and I agreed to invite my Mom to our birth very early on in my pregnancy.  Not knowing what time of day the baby would come, we knew that we would appreciate an extra set of hands to help set up, support me and look after Clyde.  What we didn’t consider, was organizing for people to come help after the baby was born.  Everyone that was part of his birth was exhausted and needed to rest.  We had lots of friends and family come to meet Jude but it would have been a great help to have a new set of extra hands come and stay for a few days to help us settle in with our newest addition.
  • Share your “why” and educate!  Sharing about our plans for a home birth was often met with resistance from friends and family.  Most commonly, people responded with “Wow!  Why?”  The more we talked to people about why it was important to us and the more we educated people about what was involved and the training and education required for midwives, we could see that our friends and family were more receptive to the idea.  Once you are confident in your decision to have a home birth, share your “why” and educate your close friends and family as early in your pregnancy as possible to avoid any questions and concerns coming up towards the end.

In 2009, Adam built this home on family land with the help of family and friends.
In 2013, this home was the venue for our backyard wedding.
In 2016, we welcomed our second child in this home.

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Home birth (part one)

Home birth (part one)

img_0458As a follow up to Jude’s birth story, I am spending the weekend sharing about our experience with midwifery care, a home birth and a water birth.  Please keep in mind that this was our experience and I’m not setting out to say what is the right choice for you and your family.  We have two beautiful, healthy boys – one born in hospital and one born at home.  If ever we decided to have a third baby, we would without question register for midwifery care but there would be lots to consider again before deciding on a home birth.

One question that I often got in response to sharing our plans for a home birth was “why?”  In response to that, in “part one” of this home birth series, I will share about why we chose a home birth and about the incredible care we received from our midwives.  In “part two” I will answer questions, address some of the “hard points” and share about the logistics of a home birth – what’s required with respect to supplies, set up and clean up as well as some things that made our experience a great one!

I was first exposed to the idea of having a home birth through a long time friend.  I had the privilege of visiting her and her husband in their home after having just had a successful home water birth to welcome their first son.  Just the idea of never having to leave the comfort of your own home piqued my curiosity but it was hearing them share their birth story that really caught my attention.  They were both so calm as they recounted the details of what sounded like a beautiful experience.  They talked about having their midwives and family there and feasting on delicious food after the baby was born.  I was in no position to be having babies of my own at this time but I remember leaving that afternoon thinking “huh, I think I might like that for myself someday…”

I started reading birth stories of other home births and even got to hear a few second hand accounts of local home birth experiences from friends of friends.  With everything I read and heard, the same two words kept coming up over and over again – calm and comfortable.  These certainly wouldn’t have been words that I would have associated with child birth prior to learning about home birth but the more I learned, the more the idea grew in my heart.

The morning that I found out I was pregnant with Clyde, I submitted an application for a midwife.  Adam and I weren’t completely convinced that a home birth was the right choice for us but having a midwife was the first step in making that a possibility.  Weeks passed without hearing anything and in the end, our July due date fell in a busy time for the clinic and we were placed on the waiting list.  As I shared in Clyde’s birth story, we ended up seeing a local ob gyn throughout my pregnancy and having a successful delivery in hospital.

18 months later, I submitted the same application for a midwife on the morning that I found out I was pregnant with Jude and very quickly got a call to say they had a spot for us.  I was thrilled with the good news and the opportunity to consider having a home birth.  This phone call marked the beginning of a very fulfilling journey.

Right from our first midwife appointment, Adam and I left knowing that we were in for a great experience.  We would be seeing a team of three midwives throughout my pregnancy and one of the three would be there for Jude’s birth.  Our appointments would be anywhere from 30-60 minutes in length each time and included a “topic of conversation” to make sure that we were able to make informed decisions along the way.  These topics included our plans for pain management, whether we wanted to breastfeed, the options to circumcise or not and so much more.  This was a welcomed change from the 5-10 minute appointments to “discuss any concerns I might have” with my doctor while pregnant with Clyde.

The standard of care with our midwives continued to exceed our expectations.  We greatly appreciated being welcomed as a familiar face with each appointment and not having to share our details again and again.  We were encouraged to bring Clyde anytime we needed and never felt rushed while balancing a conversation and a toddler.

Midwives are educated in their field having to complete a university program and many hours of hands-on experience.  In Canada, there is no additional cost to having a midwife.  You can submit an application and transfer to midwifery care at any point in your pregnancy – it all depends on the availability of midwives around the time of your due date.  You can choose to have a hospital birth or home birth with a midwife.  Either way, the post-natal care includes home visits for you and baby in the first few days after their arrival.

If you are considering a home birth, you’re invited to attend an information night whereby a couple that has had a home birth comes to the clinic one evening to share about their experience.  The evening is hosted by a midwife who is there to answer questions, talks about the logistics and shows the equipment they bring to your home.  It was after attending this session that Adam and I got in the car and knew with absolute certainty that a home birth was the right choice for us.  We felt confident that all of our questions had been answered – questions like “how do you manage with an older sibling?” “what things do we need to buy?” and “what happens if something goes wrong?”  We felt satisfied with the answers that we received and I will share in detail on tomorrow’s post.

If you have questions that you would like to see answered with “part two”, there is still time!  Please comment below and check back for a response.

A Birth Story: Jude

A Birth Story: Jude

IMG_8047.jpgJude Joseph Robert O’Rourke was born at our home in rural Ottawa on Saturday, September 5 at 1:19am weighing 7lbs, 8oz.  While he was our second baby and we felt slightly more prepared for what was happening, he was our first home birth so there were still lots of unknowns ahead.

Jude was destined to be a Labour Day baby due on September 4.  Once again I had gone off work a few weeks early but this time I had a toddler getting up through the night so I img_7929was savouring every day that I had to rest prior to the arrival of little brother.  On the morning of his due date, we set off to continue what would be a “due date tradition” of hiking Luskville falls.  It was a beautiful day and we so enjoyed completing this hike with Clyde in tow.  Our plan was to head home for an afternoon nap and then join our family for dinner at my Dad’s.  Little did we know, Jude had a plan of his own.

We no sooner sat in the car to go home after the hike and I felt my first contraction.  Adam was talking to me all the way home but I couldn’t tell you one word he said because I was stunned by the regularity of my contractions.  As we pulled in the driveway I broke the news to him that I didn’t think we would be going for dinner that evening.  It was shortly after 2pm when we got home.  Clyde had fallen asleep in the car so Adam stayed outside while he slept and I img_7960went in to try and rest – still not totally convinced that these contractions were here to stay.

By 4pm, there was no doubt this baby was on his way so we notified the troops!  We cancelled dinner at my Dad’s, called for my Mom to come look after Clyde and notified our midwife.  From this point on, I tried my best to stay rested, fed, hydrated and comfortable.  Having run out of steam during my labour with Clyde, I wanted to give myself the best chance of having a successful unmedicated delivery.

We planned on a water birth so Adam setup the tub in the basement and put together all the odds and ends we wanted around for Jude’s arrival.  At 7pm, we called the midwife again to let her know my contractions were coming every 4 minutes and it was time for her to come.  Adam put Clyde to bed and I got in IMG_5173.JPGthe tub to continue labouring while watching “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (perks of a homebirth!).  Our midwife arrived at 8pm, got set up and checked my progress – 5cm.  Woo hoo!  I remember feeling great and so relieved that I didn’t have to be thinking about when to leave the house.

Unfortunately, I was feeling a little too relaxed in the birthing tub and my contractions slowed to 6-7minutes apart.  This is what happened with Clyde’s labour – I got to 5cms and then stalled for hours.  My midwife had me get out of the tub and start walking around.  The frequency and intensity multiplied almost as soon as I stood up so I laboured out of the tub for the next few hours.

My sister was in town from Montreal for the long weekend.  She had asked me earlier if she could attend our birth if baby decided to come on his due date.  She was at my Dad’s for the family dinner so after her kids were put to bed, she came up to the house with my Dad and my step Mom.  A true family affair! Haha!  We had decided to camp out in the basement for a few days with our newborn so my Dad helped Adam bring our mattress down and then he and my Step Mom gave us their best wishes and headed for home.

It was coming up on 10pm now and things were going very smoothly.  My Mom, my sister, Adam and I would chat and then pause for a contraction.  My midwife was observing, taking notes and would occasionally come over with the doppler to monitor the heart rate.  I laboured while resting on the birthing ball with one person squeezing my hips together during a contraction and another holding my hands.  My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and I felt strong and in control.  I actually remember saying to Adam “I don’t know what all the fuss is about a natural birth.  I feel amazing.”

Before long, it felt as if the baby was very low and I started to feel pressure during a contraction.  My midwife checked my progress during a contraction (effective but not comfortable) and agreed that the baby was pushing quite low.  I was ~8cm and nearing the home stretch so I got back in the tub for the delivery.  Our midwife then called the on-call midwife to have her come for the delivery, which is standard procedure.

Remember what I said about ‘what’s all the fuss of a natural labour’?  I get it now.  The last part was hard.  Really hard.  I was labouring on my knees in the tub and had everyone around me for support.  It’s important that the water be around body temperature for the delivery so Adam was coming back and forth dumping pots of hot water into the tub.  The contractions were almost one on top of the other and it was after midnight so I was tired.  The baby felt so low and I kept asking my midwife if I could push but she said I would know when it was time.  Sure enough, just after 1am during the next contraction my body pushed all on its own.  I couldn’t believe the difference and how naturally it happened.

The midwives came around the tub and still while on my knees, my body pushed with each contraction.  I know the saying goes that childbirth is a gift but let’s be honest…the gift is that we instantly forget the level of pain that we endured.  Pushing this child out was an out of body experience for me.  I remember trying to climb out of the tub and reassuring everyone that this wasn’t actually going to happen.

Eventually, my midwife had me sit down, leaning back and I felt much stronger.  With one big push, the baby’s head was out and I could reach down to feel him.  Two more big pushes and he was here!  He came up on my chest right away and after a few minutes, Adam cut the cord.  Another beautiful, healthy baby boy had arrived and we were instantly in love.  Hallelujah and welcome, Jude Joseph Robert O’Rourke!

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Note: Over the weekend, I will share about our experience with home birth.  Please comment below if you have any questions you would like answered!

A birth story: Clyde

A birth story: Clyde

IMG_0010.JPGClyde Martin O’Rourke was born on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10:09am weighing 8lbs 5oz and measuring 21″ long.  Despite all of the birth stories and books we read, people we talked to and planning we did, he was our first and we had no clue what was in store for us.

Clyde was due on July 5. I went off work two weeks early in preparation for his arrival only to have him come one week late.  As you can imagine, by the time July 12 came along, I was feeling good and ready to get this show on the road.

Without realizing it at the time, things were set in motion after eating a spicy dinner at a friend’s house the Thursday before his birth.  I felt some cramping throughout the evening but had come to terms with the fact that I was destined to be pregnant forever so I didn’t let my mind wander to the possibility of it being early labour.

I slept fine that night and woke up as usual the next day.  We had breakfast not knowing it would be our last before becoming parents, then Adam took off for a run and I set out on my daily walk.  By the time we made it back to the house, I was feeling some contractions and was finally ready to accept that this might be the early stages of labour. We watched a movie and rested on the couch and then decided we shouldn’t just sit around waiting for this baby but instead we should head to Costco and do some shopping…yes, I realize it sounds ridiculous now and how I would savour that final day of sitting on the couch if given the chance again!

We made it home in the late afternoon and I called the hospital to see if we should make our way in.  The nurse and I had a lovely chat about how (in)frequent my contractions were and what we were having for dinner.  She graciously informed me that if I was able to carry on a conversation like I did, I was still hours away from getting in the car.  She was right.  But still, like all first time parents, we hummed and hawed throughout the evening about when it was time to go.  We are a 40 minute drive from the hospital and we didn’t want to get stuck having a baby in the car.  We called friends to ask their opinion and my Dad and Stepmom popped by to pick up the dog and weigh in.  Finally around 9pm we decided to make our way towards the hospital.

It was a toss up between going to my Mom’s for some sleep or going to the hospital to see how far I had progressed.  Of course the eager first time Mama bear voted for the hospital so away we went.  I was 4cm dilated when we got there which is the minimum for them to keep you so we got the green light and were shown to our labour room.  Adam will tell you that we should have gone to my Mom’s for some sleep and while I don’t often utter the words “you’re right,” this is one that I can’t deny.  All I wanted to do was sleep but once you’re checked in to the hospital, they like to keep things moving so we walked and walked the halls.

I slowly progressed to 5cm and then stalled for hours.  My contractions were regular but not very intense.  My doctor came in at 3am to break my water in the hopes of moving things along and shortly after that I tried the labour tub.  By now, my contractions were coming much closer together and were much more intense.  I remember laying in the tub dreading the start of the next contraction and overwhelmed by the thought of it getting harder.

I set out to have an unmedicated birth but by this point I had been awake for almost 24 hours and to say I was tired would be a major understatement.  I decided to have an epidural and slept through the remaining 5cm.

When the nurse came to check me at 10cm, they listened for the heart beat and it seemed that baby was in a bit of distress.  They helped me flip from one side to the other and decided that baby needed to come out quickly.  Poor Adam had gone to the bathroom and came out to find a room full of nurses and doctors and the bed transformed for delivery.

For the first time, I remember feeling very nervous all of the sudden that something was wrong and that I wouldn’t be able to do this.  Adam was by my side and the doctor that came in for the delivery looked me in the eye and said sternly “Alright Kelly, everything is OK but we need to get this baby out.”  That was all I needed to get my mind back in the game and in less than 10 minutes [with the help of a vaccuum] our little bundle was here.  Clyde was whisked away instantly to get a once over but was back on my chest within minutes with a bill of clean health.  Hallelujah!

[I must add that while he was on the table being looked over, one of the nurses asked if Dad wanted to take a picture.  Adam, white as a ghost, stumbled (literally) over and managed to snap a picture on the diagonal catching half of our new addition.  It’s a picture that reminds us of the intensity of his delivery and is still good for a laugh today.]

We were officially a Mom and a Dad!
Suffice it to say we were proud, exhausted and exhilarated.

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IMG_0015.jpgOne of the most memorable moments for me of Clyde’s birthday was when my Dad came in to meet him.  Adam and I knew the gender of the baby but decided to keep it to ourselves so coming to meet their grandson was a fun surprise for the grandparents.  Even more so for my Dad to learn that his grandson was named after his Dad who passed away before I had the chance to meet him.  Clyde O’Neal (my grandpa) is described as a great friend, a loving husband, a volunteer firefighter, an athlete and always the life of the party.  We were honoured to bring this name to life again in our family and sharing the news with my Dad was an unforgettable experience for me.  So far, our little Clyde is living up to his namesake!

Our European honeymoon

Our European honeymoon

IMG_0240.jpgFor some, the perfect honeymoon is two lounge chairs on a beach with bottomless margaritas.  For others, it’s a cozy cottage over a long weekend with books and bonfires.  For a couple of newlywed reckies, it was two backpacks, a plane ticket and 3 weeks to explore as much of Europe as we could experience.

Planning and packing for this style trip while also planning a DIY wedding in your own backyard is quite a feat, let me tell you.  Our flights were booked for the Monday following our Saturday night wedding so we organized all of the essentials ahead of time and figured we would let the rest fall into place as we went along.

We flew into London, England and spent the first few days at a bed and breakfast that we booked through AirBNB.  We figured that staying with a local couple would be helpful to get ourselves oriented but as it happened, we spent the first 24 hours sleeping to catch up from all that was a DIY backyard wedding and to acclimatize to the time change.  When we finally felt rested enough to leave the house, we didn’t want to waste any more time inside and let wanderlust lead the way.  It was perfect.  We had cider at a local pub alongside chicken pot pie and fish ’n chips – both served with green peas, of course.  We mastered the subway system, rented bicycles and walked the streets to see all the sights – Hyde Park, Trafalgar square, Buckingham palace, Big Ben, Westminster Bridge and so much more.

IMG_0631.jpgNext on our itinerary was Paris, France but our method of transportation was not booked ahead of time.  We were banking on booking cheap last minute train tickets but it turns out the farther out you book, the cheaper they are so we were looking at some high priced seats.  We settled on an 8-hour bus trip across the Chunnel and into Paris.  Not ideal to give up a full day driving but it was cost effective and we used the time to organize our pictures and rest up for more full days ahead.

IMG_0801.jpgWe made it safely to Paris and walked to the nearest Starbucks for free wi-fi so that we could get our bearings and find the public transportation.  Before leaving London, we had used AirBNB again to book our accommodations.  The bus system in Paris was fairly user friendly and before long we were in the neighbourhood and searching the streets for our newest home away from home.  What we love most about travelling with AirBNB is gaining an authentic experience of living somewhere new.  While in Paris, our one-room accommodations boasted a toilet in a closet!  How’s that for space well used?

We settled in quickly and set off to indulge in some of the best wine and cheese.  It turns out we were two doors down from an adorable winery and finished our evening by describing what type of wine we liked and having bottles brought to our table for us to try.  Paris was making a great first impression and the next few days did not disappoint.  We toured the Louvre, saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, shopped on Champs D’Elysees, stood at the Arc de Triomphe and of course,  marvelled at the Eiffel tower.  Before long we were saying farewell to the beautiful Paris and travelled south to Bordeaux, France.

We hadn’t planned to stay in France after Paris but we so enjoyed ourselves that we decided to travel south for the wine and beaches of Bordeaux – a place that came highly recommended by a close friend.  This is another reason we love to travel with AirBNB is that you can book accommodations as you go and leave lots of opportunity for changed plans.

Filled with cobblestone streets, patios and live outdoor entertainment, this magical city ended up being the highlight of our honeymoon.  Bordeaux has a very well established bike rental system that we used to get around.  There are docking stations throughout the city so you rent a bike from one place and park it at the nearest docking station to your destination.  It was very inexpensive and a nice change of pace from all the walking.

We decided on two excursions while in Bordeaux; the first,  touring wineries. We very rarely pay for organized tours when we travel – in part because we would rather spend our money on food and drinks but also because they are often boring and leave you tied to someone else’s schedule.  It was nice to tour and sample surrounding wineries but we both agreed this would be our one and only guided tour.  The second excursion was to Europe’s largest sand dunes.  We were a little unsure about this because it would take up a full day and involved two hours each way of public transit but it was well worth the trip!  Next stop: Rome, Italy!

This time we flew to our next destination booking cheap tickets with Ryan Air.  It was a nice change from bus ride after bus ride.  We ran into a minor hiccup because the airline required printed tickets but fortunately we noticed that before leaving for the airport and the friendly people at the Apple store saved the day!

Also new for this leg of the trip was staying in a hotel instead of booking with AirBNB. I don’t entirely remember why we made the change but I do remember that the hotel was the same cost and included breakfast so that’s likely what drew us in.

Our time in Rome was spent eating.  Occasionally we would take our food to go so that we could see some sites while we ate but otherwise we could be found searching out authentic gelato, hand made pasta or hand made pizza.  If there’s ever a place to watch your waist line, Rome is not it.  The food was incredible and just looking at the pictures makes me want to hop on a plane and go back.

In an attempt to not roll out of Italy like a pair of blimps, we saw all the sites on foot and walked upwards of 15-20km/day.  With the exception of the Vatican, we were able to see everything for free and stumbled on some great markets along the way!  If you ever get the chance to go and are debating whether or not to pay and wait to see the Vatican – do it!  Being in the Sistine Chapel is breathtaking.

One more “mini-flight” to our final destination, Barcelona Spain!  I’m not sure if it’s because this was our last stop or because Barcelona really isn’t my jam but this was my least favourite of everywhere we went.  It didn’t have quite the same magic as all of the other cities that we visited.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves!  We spent much of our time in Barcelona on the beach relaxing before heading for home.  We attempted to tour one fancy church but were denied because my shorts didn’t cover my knees.  We took it as a sign that we should probably make our way back to the beach.

One thing that made Barcelona extra special was meeting up with friends from back home!  They were touring Portugal and Spain so we arranged to meet in Barcelona and share a place for a few nights.  Together, we saw a Flamenco dance show, drank some pretty terrible sangria and helped to spot a pick pocketer on the beach!  It was nice to spend our last few days with familiar faces and we felt very ready to head home.

That’s a wrap on our European honeymoon circa 2013.  It was on this trip that we reached out to a friend living in Hong Kong to quench the never ending thirst for travel.  Stay tuned for details of our trip to Hong Kong and tips for international travel at 20 weeks pregnant!

Valentine’s Day Craft

Valentine’s Day Craft

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Featured today is a simple, no prep, 5-minute, toddler friendly craft for Valentine’s Day.  Does it get any better than that?  Well, it does actually because despite all of that, the end result is pretty cute!

What you need:

  • A piece of white paper
  • A piece of red or pink paper
  • Something to write with
  • A glue stick

Step 1: Draw the outline of a heart on your white paper and write “I love you to pieces”

Step 2: Have your toddler tear up the coloured paper.
Note: I thought this would be second nature to my destructive toddler but it turns out ripping paper is a little challenging.  I ended up starting little tears every two inches around the outside and he was able to take it from there.

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Step 3: Have your toddler “colour” inside the heart with the glue stick.

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Step 4: Have your toddler place the pieces of coloured paper in the heart.
Note: I was adding more glue throughout this process and then did one coat of glue over top of all the pieces when he was finished to hold them in place.

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Step 5: Deliver your adorable craft to the Valentine of your toddler’s choosing and soak up the compliments for nailing it as a Mom today!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  I hope that you get to spend a few extra minutes with the people that you love today. xo

Our wedding story

Our wedding story

Me: It’s Valentine’s week!
Adam:
No.  Tuesday is Valentine’s DAY.
Me:
Yes!  So Monday marks the start of Valentine’s week <3

This week is all about love on the blog, sharing about the people that are nearest to my heart and how things started with all three of my Valentine’s: weddings, honeymoons and birth stories.

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Our wedding day: August 17, 2013

If you were a member of Pinterest in 2013, you probably saw a few pictures similar to ours spelling out “L-O-V-E.”  That’s because my DIY backyard wedding was straight out of a Pinterest album and it was nothing short of the best day of my life!  We had mason jars and taco bars and a homemade dance floor.  Barn board chalk boards, wood pallet signs and hay bale seating.  Just the thought of it all brings me back to that summer and oh how I wish I could do it all over again.  It thrills me to say that I wouldn’t change a single detail – except maybe prepare my wedding speech.

Adam proposed in July of 2012.  We were camping in Prince Edward County with friends and spent the day on Saturday touring wineries.  At our last stop, we were all sharing a glass of wine on the deck at the Sandbanks Vineyard when Adam stood up on his chair to say “well guys, I love you but I love her more.”  He came over, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him with a family ring that we had inherited from my grandma in the spring.  I’m pretty sure amongst the flood of tears, I managed to say “yes.”  The rest of the night was a blur – in part from the tears but largely due to the fact that we had spent the day touring wineries.  Adam and I are socialites and love having our friends around so it was all the more special to have them there when he asked and to celebrate that night.

We live in the rural west end of Ottawa and are fortunate to back onto the most beautiful family farm land.  While sitting on our back deck later that summer watching the sun go down, we settled on the idea of hosting a backyard wedding and set a date for the following August.

Insert Pinterest account here.

We got to work almost immediately planning and crafting and building.  With the help of friends and family we built picnic tables, benches, chalkboards and life-size Jenga.    We worked hard and had so much fun bringing this wedding to life.

We have an amazing network of friends and family and made it a priority to keep things as “in house” as possible.  We had family friends as our photographer, live band and makeup artists, a colleague as our bartender, friends to act as our wedding coordinators for the day,  people we knew through recreation to do childcare and food service and a close friend to officiate our ceremony.  From the minute things got started with the rehearsal dinner, there wasn’t an unfamiliar face to be seen until after the wedding.

IMG_0135.jpgHaving asked a close friend to officiate our ceremony, we decided to formally get married at City hall the month prior.  I left work on a Friday afternoon in a little white dress and met my soon to be husband downtown.  My sister (maid of honour) lives out of town so I invited one of my bridesmaids to stand with me and Adam had his best man stand for him.  The ceremony was short and sweet but more sentimental than I was expecting.  We walked in the rain to a restaurant nearby to celebrate with a round of food and drinks.  Rain on my wedding day – check!

Before we knew it, our wedding weekend was upon us.  The house was bustling with people helping with all of the last minute details and everywhere we went there was a buzz of excitement.  The rehearsal went beautifully and I got a chance to sneak off to the barn with our photographer, my niece and my dress for some early pictures.  Close friends of ours hosted the rehearsal dinner at their home nearby and then agreed to house me and the rest of the bridesmaids for a sleepover and wedding day prep the next morning.

Us gals spent our morning enjoying a catered breakfast that was delivered to the house followed by hair, makeup and pictures all on-site.  One of the perks of hiring people you know is that they can come to you 🙂

Adam and his gang spent the night at one of his groomsmen’s houses.  They spent the morning shooting skeet and then made their way to our house to set things up, get dressed and take a few pictures.

We were having an evening ceremony so the bulk of pictures needed to be done ahead of time.  We used a hay bale to set up a “first look” photo shoot and then spent the afternoon taking pictures with our bridal party.

274 2.JPGGuests started to arrive at 6pm for an hour of cocktails and appetizers before our 7pm ceremony.  Everything went off without a hitch and we truly enjoyed every second of the evening.  My uncle was our MC and guided us through a handful of speeches, cupcakes, first dances and then onwards to the taco and margarita bar and dancing.  Soon after the party started, our bridal party surprised us with fireworks!

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We danced the night away with our nearest and dearest until the wee hours of the morning.  One by one, people made their way to their tents, trailers or sleeping bags in our basement and we eventually called it a night.

This week marks our 3.5 year wedding anniversary.  While we have continued to grow and accomplish so much as a couple since that day, I remember every detail like it happened just last week.  August 17 2013 was, without question, one of my most favourite days!

Hello from Montebello

Hello from Montebello

Remember a few posts back when I confessed that I invited myself and Clyde to Mexico? … I did it again.  Except this time it was for an overnight at the Fairmont Chateau Montebello with my whole family.  Thanks Mom!

If you are in the mood for a weekend getaway in the winter, the Fairmont Chateau Montebello is the perfect destination.  This was my second time staying for an overnight and I still don’t feel like I have scratched the surface of all that this beautiful place has to offer.
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First up is the stunning lobby with a five-sided wood burning fireplace and the most gorgeous collection of mis-matched couches and chairs.  Curled up on one of these couches or chairs makes you feel like you are in the most beautiful cozy cottage.  My mom treated me to a coffee with baileys while I worked on a post last weekend and it felt very decadent – although the real treat was watching her and Clyde in deep discussion by the fire.  So cute!

Mom was at the hotel to attend a wedding that evening which Jude and I were fortunate to attend as her dates so we spent the afternoon relaxing, checking out the hotel and getting ready.  Meanwhile, Adam took Clyde outside for some fun in the snow.  They played at the park and looked for snowmobiles before coming in with rosy cheeks.  While Mom and I took off in our fancy clothes, Adam and Clyde walked the halls in their Fairmont robes looking very dapper.  Clyde was clearly loving the “hotel life!”

Of all the things that I love about Adam, I am especially grateful that he is a “hands IMG_9877.jpg
on” Dad.  He thoroughly enjoys his one-on-one time with the boys and doesn’t hesitate to be outnumbered if I’m not around.  The plan was for Jude to stay with Mom and I throughout the ceremony and dinner but I was in denial about him not being a sleepy, portable newborn when I made that plan and by 7pm he was ready for bed.  Also part of the original plan was for just Jude and I to spend the night at the hotel with Mom so I was especially glad to have Adam there as I was handing him off after the ceremony.  Once again, it felt very decadent to enjoy a four-course meal at the Fairmont sans kids and some alone time with my Mom!

Our plan for the next day was to ski and swim before hitting the road in the late afternoon.  Unfortunately, sleeping three adults + two kids in one room is not a recipe for restful sleep with my family as Adam and the boys are all extremely light sleepers. We spent most of the night up with one kid or the other.

Nevertheless, we started out with the breakfast buffet and then made the trek to the parking lot to set up for skiing.  The plan was for Jude to sleep in a wrap and for Clyde to nod off in the Thule and then everyone would be ready to go for a swim when we got back to the hotel.  Reality had other plans and we barely made it five minutes down the trail before having to whisk Clyde (and his tears) out of the Thule and haul the boys back to the car.  Mom and I raced up to the hotel room to feed Jude and pack while Adam loaded the car and tried to keep Clyde from legitimately losing his mind due to an overtired meltdown.

I was pretty disappointed on the drive home that the day hadn’t gone as planned.  I probably should have adjusted my expectations after a terrible night’s sleep but I just kept thinking “they’ll be fine once we get going!”  Sometimes having to change my plans because my kids aren’t having a good time is a challenge for me.  Anyone else in that boat?  By the time we got home, Clyde had a full-blown fever and spent the afternoon resting on the couch…as if I didn’t already feel badly about pushing him to go skiing.

All in all we had such a nice time and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to sneak in a weekend at the Fairmont.  Adam and I spent the evening talking about what a perfect day trip this would be and will be marking a date on the calendar as soon as Jude decides a bottle will suffice…until next time, Montebello!

Product Reviews (Why): Newest additions

Product Reviews (Why): Newest additions

In continuation of the “What is that and where did you get it?” post, today marks the last of a four-part series of product reviews sharing the “why” behind our newest additions: the KidCo Go Pod and the 7AM Enfant Pookie Poncho.  Both of these products came to us second hand after Jude was born and I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t snap them up when Clyde was little because they’re really great!

img_0488-2KidCo Go Pod: Made by the same company as the PeaPod, the Go Pod is a folding exersaucer with a fabric top and seat on a metal collapsible frame.  When collapsed, it fits in a nylon bag with a shoulder strap like a folding camping chair.  Jude is just 5 months old in this picture and with such a nice deep seat, he is supported enough to start standing in it – yay!  Around the seat are toy loops so you can hook on a variety of new toys all the time.  In front of baby is a mesh cup holder and a fabric cup holder for drinks and snacks.

We have used this a handful of times outside this winter and otherwise have it set up in the basement so we have an exersaucer on both levels of the house.  I foresee this becoming a staple piece of gear for us outside when the weather gets nice.  One of the features I like best is the attached fabric at the bottom acting as a mat for their feet.  This is basically an invitation for me to put them in the dirt 🙂

7AM Enfant Pookie PonchoThis was recommended to me by my sister-in-law and it did not disappoint! The Pookie Poncho is a down-filled coat for the car seat, stroller or over a baby carrier.  I have had it set up on Jude’s infant car seat (Peg Perego 4-35) since November for the winter and it is amazing.  It looks sleek, is well made and extremely warm.  In any temperature, I put Jude in his car seat in plain clothes with a thin hat and he almost always comes up having broken a mild sweat.  That’s saying a lot for an Ottawa winter!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed not having to wrestle with extra layer on a little one this winter.

It has a very thin piece of fabric that sits inside the car seat making it is car seat safe.  The main part sits over the outside of the carseat and tightens with a drawstring at the feet.  It has a zipper down the middle and from side to side towards the top making it really easy to open for long car rides and to get baby in and out.

I haven’t yet used this on the stroller for my big boy but I am looking forward to the versatility it offers for the next few winters!  Stay tuned to see if it stays with us or if it will remain a car seat favourite and be passed along.

That bring us to the end of product reviews for our top favourites!  Comment below if there’s a product of gear that you love so I can check it out!

In closing, and a nod towards the growing minimalism trend, I will admit that I was mildly self conscious about the mid-size pile of gear I assembled for product reviews.  I briefly doubted the necessity of each item and then reminded myself that these years with small kids are short and they are hard.  Getting everyone dressed, eating a good meal and getting out the door (bonus for being on time) will eventually become mindless tasks for all involved but for now they are like being an ultra-marathoner accomplishing one major feat after another.  For this reason, if there is a product that exists to make any of these tasks a little easier, sign. me. up!

I will leave you with this.  Do your research, shop smart, shop second hand and, when you can, shop small.  Use what you buy and when you’re done with it, pass it along to another mama that’s walking just a few steps behind you.

Product Reviews (Why): Thule stroller

Product Reviews (Why): Thule stroller

In continuation of the “What is that and where did you get it?” post, today marks the third of a four-part series (almost there!) of product reviews sharing the “why” behind one of my all-time favourite purchases: the Thule stroller.

If you or your spouse is anything like my practical husband, you are likely telling yourself that you already have a stroller and don’t need a second one.  I’m here to tell you first hand that if you are someone that enjoys any or all of the following: running, cycling or skiing, the Thule stroller will change your life.  I know… “change your life” sounds a little extreme but it really was the case for both of us.  All of the sudden, rain or shine (or snow), I could keep up my active lifestyle effortlessly without having to wait for someone to watch Clyde so that I could go.

I realize that this stroller is a hefty investment up front but I guarantee it will deliver on enjoyment over many years.  We first bought the Thule Chariot Single new from Mountain Equipment Co-op with the running and biking attachment.  They did a “bundle” price for us with 10% off – not a lot but it helped!  For Christmas, we got the skiing/hiking attachment from Nana.  After Jude was born, I sold this stroller to a friend and bought the Thule CX2 on Kijiji complete with the infant sling and baby support.

These strollers are very well made and extremely versatile.  They are light weight which is particularly noticeable when pushing it on a run and when loading/unloading from the car by yourself. They assemble and collapse with ease and the accessories snap into place smoothly.  Both models have a place to hold the strolling wheels so you can change them at anytime and the CX2 also has a spot to hold the cycling attachment.  This will be particularly useful this summer when I bike to the park so I can lock my bike and continue to push the kids in the stroller.

These strollers are truly equipped for all types of weather – and for weather changes along the way.  Unlike a traditional stroller, the seat is fully enclosed. The top section zips over the kids and has a mesh layer for warm days with the option of a plastic overlay if it’s cold or wet.  When you don’t want the plastic layer, it just rolls up near the handlebars for easy storage.  There is also a flap on the inside that comes down to keep the sun out of their eyes.  The interior is roomy for blankets, snacks and toys and has small mesh pockets near their feet to store keys, phones etc.  The harness straps are easily adjustable for a t-shirt or a snowsuit.  Clyde has ridden with us for 10km runs and 20km bike rides with (minimal) complaints.  After all, he is a toddler 😉

When purchasing this stroller for the second time, there were two features that I wanted to upgrade:

  • Suspension!  We are on country roads so we would hear poor Clyde say “ow!” when cycling on some of the bumpy streets.  I don’t imagine this would be noticeable on City streets or sidewalks but if you’re in a bumpy area, I would consider upgrading for some suspension.
  • Storage!  Both models offer storage in the back of the stroller.  The Chariot (base model) has a sleeve style pocket along the back and shares the fabric panel of the seat.  I had to be careful when packing not to load it so that Clyde was leaning back on hard things.  The CX2 has a basket that’s unattached from the stroller and folds up when not in use.  This was not a deal breaker for me with the base model but a handy feature when upgrading.

I honestly can’t say enough how much joy this stroller brings me and how much it helped me break down some of the barriers that come with being an active Mom with babies.  If you are even considering getting back to some of your activities but feel like it’s not possible now that you’re a Mom, let me tell you that it’s possible and well worth the effort!  See you on the trails!

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