Give me a second while I readjust my crown

I’ve written a lot about trauma, especially the trauma that accompanies a premature birth. I think a lot of the post secondary trauma I’ve experienced in the girls’ lifetime is related to their birth; more so than the NICU stay. Maybe it was the suddenness of the delivery versus the time I had to adjust to the NICU life, or maybe it was the feeling of loneliness involved with the delivery, the feeling of being stuck in a tunnel and just having to wait and see when and where you would exit.

For the last two and a half years, I’ve had a hernia. Not really a super big deal, it just kind of became like my annoying pet that would sometimes get obnoxious before simmering down again. I didn’t think too much of it until it was my time for surgery. Then, it wasn’t just routine day surgery, but more of a return to the same hospital, the same hallways, the same loneliness that accompanied the girls’ delivery, and truth be told, it was those things that made me anxious, that filled me with a coldness and a dread that was so hard to explain to others. The responses of oh but it’s routine and you’ll be fine and won’t it be nice to have it dealt with made me feel more anxious, and slightly crazy. Of course it’s routine. Of course I’ll be fine. Of course it’ll be nice to get rid of that nagging pet. But you’re speaking logic to a woman whose heart is trapped in a moment three and a half years ago and who can’t catch a breath.

The morning of the surgery I went alone to the hospital, checked in and changed into my oh so fashionable gown. I was asked at least seven times who was there with me. The nurses couldn’t understand how I could be alone, their looks of pity almost rendering me to tears. The seconds dragged and then I was being wheeled through the hospital, peeking out over my feet, just like when I was moved to the operating room to birth the girls. The porter talking to me and me tying to catch my breath to answer him, to not be rude. And then after a years of this annoying little pest, it was as if time zoomed forward and I was in an operating room again. The coldness the same as last time, chilling to the bone. Laying on the table, then the arm rest, the same as my c section. I was given oxygen except it felt like I was suffocating, the ceiling and walls closing in on me, a tear streaming down my left cheek as I tried to remember to breathe, a reflex touch to my belly, except, no that isn’t now, that was then, and instead of waiting to see two tiny dark haired girls appear above me on a screen, my eyes fixed on the surgical lights. Then, nothing.

That moment, the moment when the walls were closing in on me, the ceiling feeling inches away, was the loneliest I have ever felt. With no hand to hold or comforting voice and a room full of people unaware of how major this was-I felt utterly alone, not just physically, but in my soul. I awoke, dizzy, feeling that there should be a face I would see, but instead just the time blazing at me in red.

I’m not sure that the physical healing has been as hard as the emotional. I have wallowed this week in that sadness, and forgot about my suit of armour, my warrior queen status. How easy I find it is to forget that I walk through life every day with a god damn crown on. How we have survived as a family through the ugliest and darkest of days because I’m leading us forward. How sometimes wearing that crown is lonely and the weight is hard to manage, yet I still remain the queen; a queen with all her faults. And so, as a reminder to always put on my crown and armour, I got the simplest of tattoos in a place I will always see, a place to always remember my warrior queen status.

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One-on-one parenting for the busy mama

Through a series of random and unforeseen events, I found myself with the ability to spend some one-on-one time with Braeden this past weekend. With three little kids, a full-time job, and only one me, it feels almost impossible sometimes to have individual time with each of the kids. Unfortunately, most of my one-on-one time is spent with Ella at appointments.

So, being able to spend time with my number one man was pretty exciting. It gave me time to do a bunch of special stuff with him, but also allowed us to chat without the distraction of two little sisters around.

We hit the baseball game and I explained the rules to Buds, much to the delight of those around us. He asked countless questions and made connections easily. I'm always blown away by how smart they all are.

After the game, we waited patiently to run the bases and selfie at the dugout. We were both pretty exhausted from so much fun, but not too tired to hit the pool before bed, and then again in the morning. I helped him with his kicking and he soaked me with a water gun. It actually felt like a fun, relaxing weekend for once when too often our weekends are just spent getting groceries and doing errand after errand in between breaking up fights between the kids and feeding them snacks.

The best part was just hanging with my buddy, the kid that made me a mum. Listening to him tell me his hilarious stories and him waiting as I explained things to him. He excitedly told anyone and everyone who would listen about his day, and I realized how important those solo times are, even if they can only be a rare occurrence. The weekend reminded me to try and carve out time with each of the kids soon and that fun may look slightly different now but rewarding nonetheless. Buds, so exhausted Saturday night asked if it was time for bed, and that is always alright with this mama.

Adventures in Cerebral Palsy

I’ve written a lot about letting go of some parenting dreams and expectations when you’re parenting a child with special needs or different abilities. The milestones shift. The path diverts. It really is like heading off on an adventure through the fog; sometimes, the fog engulfs you, stings you, leaves you battered, and other times, the fog clears and you see something for the first time, something you could have never seen on that cleared and sunny path.

Cerebral palsy is like this wild adventure that, really, I know nothing about. I can talk to my kids about school, making friends, and even, God forbid, dating, but CP? CP I know nothing about except what other people have told me, and they don’t know that adventure either. 

And, really, Ella is her own adventure. All of my kids are their own unique, wild ride that changes constantly, just Ella’s has way more loops and crazy turns. And just when I think the coaster is going left, we plummet suddenly, only to climb a hill next.

I have been so awed by my daughter lately; her sitting, her crawling, her hilarious storytelling. Today, though, I was gobsmacked by her. In front of doctors and therapists, Ella cruised. She cruised! My God, the girl moved and tears stung my eyes as the coaster dipped and my body felt as if it were floating for two seconds. And to  them, nothing; to me, the world. The fog left and the sun was so bright, and all I could see was her strength and her perseverance and her determination and the fact that this three year old kid can amaze me more than most adults.

Cerebral Palsy can often be a bitch- just a downright God damn bitch that consumes your heart and soul and fills your life with appointments and therapies and equipment and can’ts and won’ts and needles and surgeries and worry and loneliness and then, just like that, she opens  up a crack, and you’re not sure what’s what anymore. Because Ella cruising? Taking steps, looking so happy; that didn’t seem possible not that long ago. And that shit she did, that is HARD. Like, warrior status hard. 

And I guess that’s the adventure; raising warriors in a fog, not always able to see the beauty around us, stuck in that fog, until our warriors gently remind us to get out of it, to look beyond, to see the adventure that no one chose, that just became, and really, the unknown is always the best adventure, because anything really can happen. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Warrior Mamas

This weekend marks Mother’s Day, a day for cards and flowers, usually. For some, though, this yearly celebration doesn’t do enough to highlight all the ways mums love, all the things mums have seen, and all the ways mums keep it going. 

We can never know another’s story, struggle. For some, Mother’s Day is a day of pampered relaxation, for others, it is a reminder of what may never be, and for many, it is forgotten, replaced by caring for others.

To all you Warrior Mamas, sitting next to your baby learning to breathe in an incubator, to all who have watched their child being wheeled away for surgery or a procedure, to all who have held a hand tightly during stitches or therapy, to all the Mamas who have sat and listened to doctors and specialists, who have googled and researched, who have pumped at 3 AM, who have birthed in tubs, in cars, in surgical suites, Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums who do it on their own, those who have divorced or lost, to all mums with partners who feel alone, to all the mums who have yet to hold their baby, to the mums who wipe away their tears in private, the mums who get out of bed every day, to the mums who sit in hospital cafeterias, who keep track of every appointment, every medication, to the mums who cook special meals, who beg their kids to eat. 

To all the Warrior Mamas who face the world, head held high, no matter how hard it is, no matter how different life seems from what was expected. To the mums who battle cancer, illness, anxiety, disability, fear, and loneliness every day. To the mums who raise their swords so their children don’t have to, the ones whose armour is nothing more than skin. To the mums who doubt themselves, who think they are not strong, they are not warriors, I see you, I feel your battle, and you are a Warrior Mama. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the badass Warrior Mamas, may we raise our swords together, knowing we fight in solidarity. May we be brave, strong, thoughtful, and may we recognize our battles, honour our scars, and love hard and deeply so that our kids will also learn to recognize battles in others and will grow to be their own Warriors.

Happy Mother’s Day, Warrior Mamas.

On top of the hill 

Last week, I ran 5K in preparation for my upcoming 10K in support of the Women and Babies Program at the hospital the girls were born in. Admittedly, I was kinda slow and heading up a hill in the cemetery down the street from me. Breathless, I arrived at the top of the hill.

Slowing my pace, I looked up at my surroundings, which apparently is not something I do very much and I startled at the view. There, on top of the hill, I saw headstones covering rolling hills and behind that, the city; buildings and cranes and trees. Seemingly a world away given how quiet the cemetery was. But, when I turned, from my viewpoint I could then see the girls’ NICU and Ella’s rehab hospital. The irony of standing in a cemetery looking at these two significant locations was not lost on me. How easily the outcome could have differed, how standing in a cemetery could have meant visiting one or both of my girls.

Standing in the cemetery, desperately trying to catch my breath, I remembered how lucky we are, how trivial it all seems sometimes. Yes, there are shitty days, but those are outnumbered by the good ones. And I cannot tell our future; where we will be able to live, if Ella will walk, whether the kids will be happy, but I do know our past, and I know that our present took us on a different path, not the easiest, not the shortest, but one that lead us on top of the hill. 

Thanks for the reminder, asshole.

Here’s the thing about strollers; they can hide a lot of truths, especially if you had no idea that a child had a special need or different ability just by looking at them. Of course, we live in a society where a lot of assumptions are made based on how a person looks.

Recently, the four of us were walking down the street, Ella in her stroller, Braeden and Raegan walking beside me. Raegan tripped and bumped her knee on the sidewalk. No biggie, that girl is CLUMSY. Really nothing remarkable about the situation until afterwards. The guy walking behind us offered her a high five for being so brave then chatted with the kids a bit before turning towards Ella.

“And what’s the matter with you? Do you have two broken legs in there?”

Now, I know he couldn’t know. And I know that he’s lucky that I can stay pretty calm in these situations because there’s a good chance he’d be walking away nursing a broken nose otherwise.

But, in that split second where my breath was sucked in, Braeden and Raegan jumped in;

“No! She can’t walk because she has cerebral palsy.”

So there, asshole. A five and three year old have more tact that you do. The interaction was a reminder for me, but also an eye opener for the kids; people will say hurtful things and make assumptions, especially when someone seems to stand out or be different. I hope, too, that it serves as a reminder to him, to stop and think before saying potentially hurtful things to other humans. We never know what burden others carry with them, what pain they know. And, so, instead of offering high fives with a side of asshole, hopefully in the future, those high fives are met with slightly more understanding and kindness, in the same way that they are accepted. 

Home is where the heart is

Three years ago today, something wonderful happened. Two healthy newborns came home for the first time. Of course, technically they were already 80 days old and had fought battles most children never have to, but home they went to meet their big brother and furball sister, to sleep in a room decorated with stars and a pleasant quietness that can never exist in a NICU.

Today is certainly very special, but life since then has been complicated and busy, and even I forgot the meaning behind today until I placed my hand on my office door and the realization hit me.

So strange how then time stood still. Feeling as though the world outside kept moving, but us inside the NICU were in a time and place where seconds seemed like hours and days felt like months, but now that time is like a memory that seems faded, like a melted snowflake that sits in your hand as a small drop of water. That time exists in me, in my heart and in my bones, etched deeper than imaginable, but it does not for the kids. The girls live as sunnily as possible, almost unaware of their status as warrior princesses.

I do wish the doors of the NICU had closed and only the brightest days laid ahead; however, we have seen many a clinic, hospital, doctor, specialist, therapist since. We have fitted for equipment and I have filled out countless paperwork. I have told our story so many times to so many people that you would think it was written across my body for the world to see.

Today, I look at three years with my girls, three years as a mum of three all at home, all learning through watchful eyes. Today, my children seemed giant; my son towering over kids a year older than him, my daughters with their curly hair and long limbs. They don’t know how special today is or really, how special life is, how quickly it can slip from us.

Today, I am so proud of all three of my hilarious monkeys and honoured to be their mum. Today, I am thankful to so many who have allowed this moment to happen, but mostly, today I think of those doors closing to the NICU, the first breath my children took outside of a hospital room, the first thing they saw after being alive for 80 days, that first hint of sunshine on their skin. I am simply thankful for today. 

13,000 steps for 80 days

I ran my first ever 5K in September, raising money for Sick Kids Hospital here in Toronto, where all of my kids have found themselves at one time, but where Ella in particular has spent many, many hours. I was proud of myself for finishing and for helping out a hospital that has not only helped my own children, but children from all over the world.

After the girls’ time in the NICU, I wanted to do so much. I had all these ideas of how the NICU experience could be improved for families who find themselves there, but in today’s reality, nothing’s getting done without some big bucks behind it. Sadly, I’m not independently wealthy, and I don’t see myself being able to leave millions to the hospital that literally saved my daughters’ lives. But, I do have my voice, and I have my body.

So, in May, I will run 10k, or roughly 13,000 steps, in hopes of raising money for Sunnybrook’s Women and Babies Program where we spent the majority of my second pregnancy, and 80 days after its abrupt end.

And every step will be meaningful, important, cathartic. With every step, I will run for every ultrasound, for every non-stress test, for every doctor looking at me with sad eyes, for every inch of those tangled umbilical cords, for every second spent living in the hospital, for every tear shed during my C-Section, for every time I had to ask if I could hold my babies, for every phone call thinking the worst, for every pin prick into the girls’ heels, for every head scan, for every time Ella might have been sent to Sick Kids, for every damn time I pumped, for every goodnight to my daughters in the NICU and every have a good day to my son in daycare, for every parent in their rooms, for every cookie that sustained me, for every nurse who took the time, for every first moment, for every friend who didn’t know what to say, for every day spent going through those doors, but most importantly, with every step, I will run for every day since, for every day possible because of Sunnybrook, for every day with my wacky, curly haired, singing children. With every step that I run, I will run for them.

This is a fit of my own strength, my own capabilities. I will have to push through the tireddness, the aches, much like my daughters had to struggle to learn to breathe, to eat. Yet, I cannot do it on my own. I ask that if possible, you consider supporting me in those 13,000 steps. That you give so that other babies can live, so that all babies have a chance. Your support will be with me every step of the way as I run for those babies, my babies, those 80 days.

To sponsor me in my 10K, please visit;

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3702567&langPref=en-CA

Mama, Ella, and Raegan in Sunnybrook’s NICU


The three musketeers, February 2017


For more information on Sunnybrook’s Women and Babies Program, please visit;

http://sunnybrook.ca/content/?page=women-babies-obstetrics-gynaecology

But, seriously, where did those years go?

Yesterday was a beautiful, whirlwind day. Bright and sunny in mid February, and the perfect day to celebrate my bright and sunny bear turning five. Five! It seems like only yesterday I was planning for his first birthday, and now in the blink of an eye, he’s a tall, curly haired kindergartener learning to read and write.

Number 5! February 19, 2017


Braeden has evolved into his own little man; loving all things superheroes and newly discovered Pokemon. His love of school sometimes giving way to his nerves of dealing with the other kids, who are not all sunshine and lollipops. His seemingly fearless attitude being challenged when learning to skate. 

Braeden and Mama and an Avengers cake!


But, throughout it all, he has always been easy going, quick to talk to almost anybody with a smile and flash of one adorable dimple. He always accepted big brother status and despite often scuffling with his sister, he is genuinely helpful and loving with the girls. He invents games and is desperate to become a Firefighter, with constant visits to the Station. 

Lego Batman!

I’m lucky to have such a hilarious, whacky, and kind kid who is empathetic and loving. Who is just as interested in books as trucks and arts and crafts as dinosaurs. I’m excited to see what’s in store for this kid, but, seriously time can slow down any time now.

What Disney Princesses have taught me about love 

The girls are starting to discover the magic of Disney, and in particular, the princesses. They are loving Belle and Rapunzel especially. Belle was always one of my favourites growing up and I’ve taken to watching it with the girls again, seemingly a lifetime ago the last time I saw Belle first lay eyes on that library.

But, now, I see the women and stories with a different lens, and our conversations about the Princesses delve much further than just how pretty their dresses are. In fact, I think they’ve taught me a couple things about love.

Always be true to yourself.

Let’s look at Rapunzel. That girl meets Flynn and literally runs around with no shoes, a frying pan, and a chameleon as her bestie, but she owns it. And you know what? Flynn falls for her, just as she is. Even when she starts rocking a new ‘do. And really, what guy wouldn’t want a lady who is just naturally her-flaws and all as opposed to someone who exhausts themselves putting on airs. There was a time I used to try and be what someone else wanted but was more of a character of myself. Now, I’m more like, here I am, sometimes I’m super awesome, sometimes I obsess over dumb shit, take it or leave it, but know that you’ll miss out on something fabulous if you can’t handle it.

Sometimes, the line between good and bad isn’t as clear as it seems. 

It would seem to some that the obvious bad guy in Beauty and the Beast would be the Beast, but let’s be real, Gaston is the biggest asshole ever. And those girls fawning all over him like him because, he’s supposedly good looking? Is that all that matters now? As I’ve explained to the kids, he’s mean to his friends, tries to control Belle, hurts the Beast, and all because he thinks some chick is hot? Like, grow up. At least the Beast owns his crazy until he’s a total baby after being attacked by wolves. He also shows us that love can come in the unlikeliest of places. When we’re looking left, someone comes from the right.

We all have baggage.

Dating in your thirties pretty much predicts that there’s some kind of back story there, and if there isn’t, how weird is THAT?! Flynn was pretty much a typical criminal jackass until he opens up. The Beast seems like a rageaholic until we realize he grew up feeling like a monster. Even Kristoff’s comments to Anna about her “true love” comes from being raised by actual love experts. If we’re coming into love with our own baggage then we have to give others a chance too. Even those seemingly unworthy, for who knows their story?

Sometimes we don’t know what love is until we know what love isn’t.

Let’s take Anna and Hans. He seems like everything she’s ever wanted, like true love. Except, in her time of need, he’s a giant douche and it takes a snowman to talk some sense into her. Pretty sure snowmen don’t even have brains, but once she realizes, she gets it. Love was there, but not the way she thought, and not with the person she thought. My kids always say how Hans is the bad guy, not because he tries to destroy Elsa and take over the kingdom like a real jerk face, but because he lies to Anna about loving her, the ultimate betrayal. 

I can’t protect the kids from having their hearts broken or making some poor dating choices, but I can talk to them about love and show them that the Princesses do more than just look pretty. They’re smart, resourceful, and refuse to be anyone but themselves, even in the face of adversity. And that’s a powerful message for anyone.