Family History: a map for the adventure of life

larch-forest-358059_640Last month I had an incredible experience. I was present for the birth of my nephew. It’s not the first birth I’ve been present for, I have three sons of my own, but it is the first where I was fully overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation. I wasn’t listening for my cue to push or holding my breath and bearing down. I was just there, committed to the moment, and as trite as it sounds, witnessing the miracle life. And what a miracle it is.

When my nephew took his first breath I was unprepared for the flood of emotions. Unlike the birth of my own children, at a time when my adrenaline was pumping and my heart exploding with love and gratitude, I was enveloped by a fury of anxiety and devotion. This perfect little person came into the world more loved than most with years of life to live.

And life can be messy. Life can hurt.

But knowing family that will always support him and stand by him through the valleys and peaks of life, will give him the courage to get messy. To get hurt.

When we’re born, we’re born into a family with complexities, eccentricities and deep-rooted psychologies. We’re not simply a mash-up of genetic material. We’re a complicated, mash-up of generations upon generations.

And if for nothing else, preserving my family’s history serves as a map for the adventure of life.


Building a Maternity Wardrobe from Scratch by guest blogger, Aly Tsourounis

Our guest today is Aly Tsourounis of the blog The Newlywed Life, a lifestyle blog for the healthy living. Aly is a soon-to-be mom and she opens up about the surprises (shocks!?) of being pregnant, the information overload and the food cravings. Today Aly shares her favourite fashion finds for the expectant mom. Be sure to follow Aly on her blog as she chronicles life as a first-time mom.


Building a maternity wardrobe from scratch:

When I first got pregnant I was thrilled with idea of getting bigger and I planned on always showing off my perfect basketball bump in designer denim and fitted shirts. Spoiler alert, bumps aren’t adorable until at least month five and pregnancy boobs need their own postal code, plus maternity clothes are darn expensive. After some trial and error, a few unfortunate outfits and some credit card “discussions” with my husband, I have created a focused yet cute maternity wardrobe (see selfie photo evidence below). Here are my steps on how to create a maternity wardrobe from scratch.  2Q==-4

Step one – Identify your maternity wardrobe needs: On a weekly basis, I need four different “outfit types” – work, weekend lounge wear, workout wear and date night / night out. There is certainly some cross over but highlighting the different occasions that I needed clothes for helped me focus and discouraged me from buying too many striped long sleeve t-shirts when I only need one.

Step two – Assess your current wardrobe: I spent a weekend afternoon going through my entire closet and determined what would last me through my pregnancy and what needed to be put into storage. Things that stayed: blazers, cardigans, long tank tops, a couple stretchy tops / dresses and most of my workout gear. Be harsh, now is not the time to keep your skinny jeans or fitted LBD.

Step three – Create a list and a budget: This step involves numbers and is a bit boring but it is key, especially since you will be wearing this clothing for such a short period of time. My biggest money-saving tip is to consider sizing up in certain items, especially basics. For example, I bought a number of plain black and white size large tank tops from Forever 21 for $5 / a piece and I wear them daily. Why spend $50 when the $5 one can do the trick? This also allowed me to splurge on a pair of dark denim designer jeans that I wear three times a week. Do your research and don’t get sucked into the everything must be maternity mindset.  2Q==-3

Step four – Go shopping!: The last step is obviously the most fun! There are tons of options out there when it comes to maternity clothes, from the traditional to the trendy so be sure to take your time shopping and don’t spend all your money in one place! I have found great pieces from a number of stores including Target (Liz Lange), H + M (regular), Motherhood Maternity, ASOS Maternity, Forever 21 and Ani & Wren.

Step five – Own it: Experiencing pregnancy is a beautiful thing but it can also be really hard to see your body go through so many changes. Having clothes that make you feel good can make a huge difference but remember, you wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear you. So to all the pregnant mamas out there, hold your head up high and push those bellies out!  2Q==-5

Blogosphere Round-Up!

We here at 4mothers1blog like blogs. We like other people’s blogs just about as much as we like our own, which is to say, a whole lot. Here are five posts we think you should be reading:

“God, I love it when your breath smells like Gaviscon” — Porn for Pregnant Ladies (from Pregnant Chicken)

“I get to wear those?!” C.J. said smiling.
“ALL OF THEM?!” he squealed looking at the tub of about 100 pink lost and found ballet shoes.
“No, silly, just two, you only have two feet.” – “My Son, the Dancer” (from Raising My Rainbow)

This post is a couple of years old now, but it about sums it up. Ten Things I Hate About Motherhood (And One That I Love) (from Her Bad Mother)

The Hidden Mother — a practice in photography of old. To ensure that a young child didn’t move during the long exposure, the mother held the child tightly; all the while, she was hidden by a blanket, not being the obvious subject of the photo. Worth a look ( via A Cup of Jo and Retronaut)

And because it’s a new year: well, hello!

Hello from ant1mat3rie on Vimeo.

Relatives and Late Night Television


Despite having no evidence either way, while I was pregnant I somehow convinced myself that our first child was a girl.

Our first child was affectionately nicknamed “Bean” in utero. Having decided not to find out whether Bean was, as we put it, “A Lima, or a Garbanzo”, we worked hard to come up  with a short list of male and female names. Our criteria were simple: the name had to be compatible with Peter’s last name, and preferably, the name couldn’t be shortened in some unattractive or off-colour fashion. Whatever name we chose also needed to be common enough, but not so common that they’d be one of five in their kindergarten classroom. Whether we were hedging our bets, or just giving in to some mistaken belief that we thought we knew what was going on, we ended up with a list of girls’ names long enough to be wrapped around my expansive belly, and only two names for a boy.

The length of the girls’ list caused me some anxiety, for I was sure we were going to have to make a choice from it.  I take now the fact that we never did agree on a girl’s name as a sign that my body knew something that my brain refused to recognize.  Once we knew that Bean was, in fact, a Garbanzo, his name was obvious.

The name we chose is so perfect for him that I can barely believe there were ever other names on the list at any point. He was named for for my grandfather, who was 92 when Daniel was born and who passed short months later. His middle name is Peter father’s,  who passed away in 1995. Even though he was named for his ancestors, he now owns that name; it is him, in its entirety, and I can’t imagine having given him any other.


When it came time to find out whether I was carrying a boy or a girl the second time around, practicality (and my will) prevailed, and “Chip” showed himself to be all boy. This time, I was not surprised. But what to call him? We went back to our old list, now with one name on it, mulled it about, rolled it around, and put it back on the shelf. It was….all right. It would do. Maybe.  In jest, I threatened to make Chip pick his own name using a naming ritual that I’d read about in some attachment parenting book.  We debated names. We perused the baby name books. We were stuck.

At around the 29th week of pregnancy, I was admitted to hospital. The woman in the bed across from me was lovely – ebullient and generous. She also snored like an elephant with a head cold: long, sonorous, raspy inhalations and exhalations that made it impossible for me to sleep, and left me sobbing with exhaustion.

Desperate, I got a TV. For the next few nights, I stuffed the TV’s earplugs deeply into my ears, hoping to at least muffle her snores. Muffled they were, but not enough to actually allow me any decent restorative sleep. So, I passed the time with late night movies, including this one. I can barely remember now what the movie was about, but I was taken by the main character, and the character’s name stuck. Luckily, Peter liked the name, too, and the previous contender for a name was pushed aside in favour of the name Sebastian, with a middle name honouring my father. Like his brother, he now embodies that name, and I can’t imagine what we’d have called him had I not watched TV that night.


Both boys share a second middle name: my last name. This was not part of the original plan, but minutes after Daniel’s birth by forceps, Peter suggested that we also make my last name a middle name. I wasn’t in a position to argue.

On this night…


six years ago, I lay in a narrow bed in a room with three other pregnant women. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and being induced. My son had been diagnosed as intra-uterine growth restricted in my 22nd week. I’d been on bedrest for four weeks for signs of pre-term labour and to conserve my energy. As we understood, the placenta, that vital organ connecting him to me, was no longer working as it should. It was old before its time. Blood was no longer flowing freely between it and him, and it was time for him to arrive. To complicate matters, the hospital’s neonatal intensive care ward has been closed to new patients because of a Norwalk virus outbreak. If he is born too small, or if he requires intensive care, we have no idea where he will be sent. Out of town, certainly; out of country, quite possibly.

We try not to think about that, he and I. His father and I send him entreaties of love and plumpness. Mere ounces matter, now.

He was so quiet, curled inside me. So much quieter than his brother, the nocturnal acrobat. I gave my belly an occasional nudge. Occasionally, I got a nudge back: gentle, noncommittal. From the bed across from me, a colossal snore. From beside me, the hushed voices of a woman on the phone. I remember her, remember that her water had broken around her 26th week. Somehow, impossibly, she kept leaking fluid, but stayed pregnant, 27, 28, 29 weeks and onward.

The night trickles by. In a room with three other women, someone is always there — nurses checking blood pressure, fetal tones. One woman wears flip-flops; her cadence is distinctive: flipFLIPflop…flipFLIPflop. She is pregnant with twins and too weary to lift her feet so late at night. Be quiet, all of you. I want to scold. I have important work to do tomorrow. But arguing seems to require all the energy I’m trying to horde. I stay silent.

Morning arrives with the news we’ve dreaded. The NICU is still not open. My contractions are ramping up. He’ll be arriving today. My husband and I walk endless loops of the halls, down one side, out the other, until I proclaim that there is nothing I need more than to just lie down. Now. I ask for drugs; the uncertainty of the situation takes away my confidence. But the one bolus gives me all I need, and I settle into the rhythm of the contractions, feeling him slide down, descend. I hear the doctor ask me to reach down and touch my baby, find his head, but I’m concentrating on moving him out of me and my hands miss the mark, to much laughter. It is only then I realize that I’ve been joined by a cast of thousands: doctors, neonatologists, nurses. I welcome them to the party.

And then..another push, and he is born. He is yelling already. The doctor lays him on my chest momentarily, and I commit him to memory. He has his great-grandfather’s feet and my hands. And then, to be assessed and weighed. Possibly to be whisked away, but he is weighed again: someone had read the scale incorrectly. Someone has converted grams to ounces incorrectly, and my boy gains in stature at the stroke of a pen. Ounces matter.

Happy birthday, Sebastian, our little big guy.

The Mommy Chronicles

“And that is why I wish that you lived closer to me.  One day we will meet halfway in Hawaii and let the kids meet each other . . . their future husband/wife….  Miss you lots.  From one sleep deprived mother to another, BA”

Shortly after I became pregnant with Jack a friend told me that she was also expecting.  I was overjoyed both for her and her wonderful husband but also for me.  I had someone to share the woes of pregnancy with: ballooning breasts, queasy stomach and the endless struggle to stay awake after the lunch break.  We both worked as teachers in the same school and each recess we would sneak away and discuss what remedies we had discovered, be a shoulder for a hormonal breakdown and discuss the differences between the Bugaboo and the Perego.  Our friendship blossomed as our tummies expanded.

One night after we had returned from a neighbourhood restaurant, she and her husband sat in our living room and told us that they had some exciting news.  They were moving to New Zealand, in a few weeks.   I sat, stunned into silence.  Of course I was happy for them that they were about to pursue their dream of living a more simplified life abroad but I couldn’t help feeling abandoned.  Selfishly, I thought how this impending move was going to dash all of my maternity-leave daydreams.  We wouldn’t be pushing our matching red strollers along the pathways of Riverdale Farm.  We wouldn’t be meeting up once a week for our babies to play together upon a fuzzy blanket while we chatted happily about how wonderful life as a mother was.  (Give me a break . . . looking back I see what a naive fantasy this was).

I was crushed.  I was losing my buddy.

Amid tears and hugs goodbye, we made promises to email and Skype at every opportunity.  These promises were not empty.  In the months leading up to the births of our children and for nearly four years since, a flurry of emails has criss-crossed the globe.

Reading my friend’s written words has moved me to tears, encouraged me, and comforted me.  Together we find ourselves thick in the mire of motherhood but the wonders of technology has bridged the geographical gap between us.

I was given a copy of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood from my mom who knew all about the lengthy emails that passed between me and my friend.

Sara Ellington and Stephanie Triplett, the authors, are good friends who were separated by distance when they were experiencing their first pregnancies.  Their book is a chronicle of emails that were exchanged between them.  They gripe about the physical changes of their pregnant bodies, share their emotional breakdowns, offer each other post-partum support, debate issues such as returning to work versus staying home and of course, the changing relationships with their husbands is a regular subject.

The women are candid in their exchanges.  They are neither whiney nor sarcastic and they don’t paint an unattainable ideal of pregnancy and motherhood.  However they do share the beautiful intimacies about being a mother that only another mother fully appreciates.  Sara and Stephanie would make the perfect companion for any new mom.

Do you have a favourite “mom” book that you gift to your newly expecting friends?