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I don’t know what to say; beyondthelymelife nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I don’t really have any followers yet, so I really appreciate the support.

Thank you beyondthelymelife for your nomination (you are my favourite person today) and please check out the blogs below.

 The Rules:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you and include link to their blog.
  2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers. When nominating bloggers–please keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter, and the level of love they display virtually.
  3. Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
  4. Share seven facts about yourself.

My facts:

  1. Everything you need to know about me is in my blog. For real. (Sorry family!)
  2. My childhood nickname was Frog. It started out as Throckmorton (apparently a conspirator against Queen Elizabeth I…gee, thanks Grandpa), and was shortened to Frog over time, which may explain some of my insecurity issues.
  3. I’ve pretty much stopped reading since I left university (except for the below-mentioned blogs).
  4. I still want to have another baby. No, I don’t. Yes, I do. No, I don’t.
  5. I’m really not that interesting, so 7 facts about me is difficult.
  6. I need a drink.
  7. My husband is the most amazing man that ever existed and I count my lucky stars every day. ( I would have put this as #1, but I don’t want to inflate his ego.)

My Nominations (in no particular order):

Beyond the Lyme Life
Beauty Beyond Bones
Can anybody hear me
the love story project
Spirit Meets Bone
girl in the hat
e.v. de cleyre
Must Be This Tall to Ride
My Least Favourite Child Today
Hugzilla
The Ninth Life
brickhousechick
I Am Begging My Mother Not to Read This Blog
Crohns & the Real Girl
love.life.eat

 

 

 

 

December 13, 2005

It had finally arrived. As we drove to McMaster University Medical Centre early on a cold winter’s morning, Steve and I were pretty upbeat. I had the X-Files episode fresh in my mind, reminding me that bad things only happened when incestuous men rape their quadruple amputee mother.

As an added bonus, it was Steve’s birthday. There was no way were going to get bad news on his birthday.

When we arrived, I was told that I had to have an ultrasound before the 3D ultrasound. I didn’t really understand that, but…hey…what’s one more ultrasound. Really. Apparently, this ultrasound would focus on the flow of blood into and out of Seamus’ heart. Once again, in my ongoing pursuit to find signs from the universe that all would be well, I had determined that this was a good sign too. If he had some sort of fatal malformation, why would they even care about his heart? They clearly needed to make sure he was in good working order for a reason. dreamstime_m_50699590

I remember lying on the ultrasound bed, talking to the technician. I told her about the X-Files episode, and we discussed how odd it was for me to find comfort in that. Everything was going smoothly. Until she stopped, rather abruptly, and said she had to step out for a minute. Steve hadn’t been allowed to go into the room with me for this ultrasound. So, I lay there. I thought about what it would be like when he was no longer just a bunch of sound waves on a screen. I wanted to reach into the screen and pull him out, into my arms.

When the technician came back in, she had a doctor with her. He introduced himself. They didn’t speak to each other at all. He had taken control of the process and was looking very intently at the images in front of him. And then they left the room. As I lay there alone, every minute that passed allowed one more particle of doubt to enter my system and filter through my veins and start to take over. Once again.

Soon after, we were taken to another ultrasound room. Steve was allowed in for the 3D ultrasound. I wanted so much for this to be over. I wanted this doctor to look at the screen and say, “Ah, there it is.” I watched his face. Looked for changes in expression. But he was a pro. He’d probably never seen anything like it before, but you would never have known. At one point, it looked like Seamus was waving at us. And we all laughed. But there was that tension in the air. A tension I was getting more used to with each ultrasound.

Not at any point did he say, “Ah, there it is.”

We were escorted back to a waiting room. And we waited. Hours. Months. Years. There wasn’t much to say. We just waited until someone else came and got us and brought us to a big meeting room, boardroom table and all. It didn’t take long to realize it would require an entire team of people to explain my situation to me. Dr. Khan, Dr. Mohide and Dr. Brennan. Dr. Khan, who would ultimately try to solve this intriguing mystery with me. Dr. Brennan, who would, one year later, deliver my third son safely into the world. But before they would help me rebuild my life, they would first take it down to its foundation. Slowly.

Maybe they thought it was easier to describe my son’s heart condition first. He had a hole in his heart and a double-outlet right ventricle (DORV), which meant that both the pulmonary artery and the aorta arose from the right ventricle. These conditions could be operated on after birth.

After birth? There will be an after birth? Was this going to be it? Just a heart condition or two? Yes, there she was. That tiny, meek optimistic voice in my heart that was continuously tamped down by the big, booming pessimistic bellow in my brain.

No, no. That wasn’t going to be it. It was going to be that thing that I was so sure it couldn’t be.

Your son has no mandible.” There it was. Confirmed. And there was no way to treat it. This was a condition that was “incompatible with life.” It was incompatible with life because when there is no jaw to push the ears into their position at the side of the head, the ears and auditory canals remain in the middle of the neck. Where the esophagus and trachea should be. “If your baby survives labour, he will suffocate at birth.”

At that moment, a fourth person in the room began to speak. A grief counsellor. She explained to me that I could carry to term. As long as he was in my womb, he would likely continue to thrive. In fact, the longer he lived in my belly, the stronger he might become and the more likely it would be that he would survive labour. But there would be comfort measures to help ease his suffocation.

I looked over at Steve. He had his head down. He was holding my hand. And all I could think was, “I did this to you. This happy-go-lucky, easy-going guy. I am ruining your life. I am ruining your mother’s life. And somehow, I ruined our baby’s life.”

Then, Dr. Brennan spoke. She told me I also had the option to “interrupt” the pregnancy. Interrupt the pregnancy. A polite way to say abort your six month-old fetus. She explained that if I were to deliver now, he would likely be stillborn. She told me that they may not be able to deliver here in Canada, due to the late stage of the pregnancy, but they would arrange for me to deliver in the US.

At that point, the room became a blur of white coats and voices that I had tuned out. I was in that moment. The nightmare you just need to wake up from. So, it was true. They couldn’t take him away from me. But I could take him away from myself. My options were to deliver now, in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to see him suffer when he passed. Or wait four months to watch him die. And even in my haze of disbelief, I didn’t wonder what I would do. I didn’t think about what was right or wrong. Honestly, I thought, “I’m not strong enough to do this anymore.” I knew what I was going to do before I got up out of my chair to leave.

Wednesday, December 7th to Monday, December 12th

Part of me wanted to crawl into bed and hide until December 13th (the date set for my 700th ultrasound). Actually, almost all of me wanted to do that. Except for that annoying part of me that needed to get the research underway.

Immediately following my temporary breakdown, I had decided that Seamus and I weren’t going down without a fight. Either it was all a mistake, just a horrible human error on someone’s part, and everything was going to be fine. Or I was going to be prepared for whatever health condition my son had. I was going to go against everything my defeatist heart typically held so dear. I was going to think positively. They couldn’t take him away from me unless I let them, and I wasn’t going to let them.dreamstime_m_27686757

So, with those words from the ultrasound report swimming around in the fishbowl that my mind had become, I set to work. Initially, I focused on the word Micrognathia. A jaw that was smaller than normal. I could live with that. More importantly, he could live with that. The list of syndromes associated with the condition was somewhat lengthy. Some were fatal. But I would hope for the syndromes that weren’t fatal. I would research the entire list. One by one. Maybe he would have unusual facial features. Maybe developmental delays. Big deal. Maybe it wouldn’t be easy. But he would be with us and all I needed was the hope that he would be with us.

At some point, I came across a condition called Otocephaly. Complete lack of the mandible.

The ultrasound report. “No mandible detected…”

You know that feeling you get when you have a terrible realization and a wave of electricity travels throughout your body? Not the good kind of electricity. Not like first-kiss electricity. More like sticking-your-finger-in-a-light-socket electricity. Nauseating. Gnawing.

Ten years ago, a Google search on Otocephaly didn’t produce much in the way of scientific information. As I recall, the first link that I clicked on took me to a website about “sideshow freaks.” Awesome. The site described the various types of sideshow freaks and each example was accompanied by an illustrated picture. I immediately discounted it. I had never seen anyone who was without a jaw. Clearly, this was some sort of mythological condition.

I didn’t search on the term again. Maybe out of fear.

However, in the days before my 3D ultrasound, I began to look at everyone that I passed. I examined every face that entered my field of vision. I looked for scars or signs of any sort that could indicate that the person may have had a mandible implant or prosthetic jaw bone. I also looked for people with unusually small jaws. This mentally exhausting, though mostly subconscious search yielded no results, and it reassured me further. It just didn’t happen. And if it did, it wasn’t evident.

I also found comfort in the anecdotes of close friends and family members who knew about our situation and who shared their experiences with poor ultrasound results that ended positively. I had almost convinced myself that this was just one more thing that I would waste time worrying about…and it would be for nothing.

The night before my ultrasound, I found myself watching an old episode of The X-Files. The plot focused on a farm that was occupied by a hermetic family of brothers. Mulder and Scully were brought to the farm through the discovery of a baby’s body. A severely malformed baby that was apparently the result of the brothers’ incestuous involvement with their mother. The entire episode was incredibly dark and disturbing. The sort of thing I usually can’t sit through. But I couldn’t stop watching. I wanted to believe it was a sign. Yet another reassuring sign. Steve and I were not related. I had taken proper care of my health and my baby’s health throughout the pregnancy. I did not smoke, drop acid, snort coke or consume alcohol. I had an excellent working knowledge of the environments, activities and communicable diseases that could have teratogenic effects on a developing fetus, and I avoided them all. Would you believe me if I told you that I didn’t kiss my young son on the lips for months for fear that I would contract Fifth Disease?

Malformations did not occur for no reason. “Sideshow freaks,” outside of the bearded lady and tall man, were the stuff of folklore or novels by Katherine Dunn.

This chapter will be a difficult one for me to publish. You have to know where this is going. You may even start Googling certain things yourself. Publishing this chapter will be akin to peeling back a long-existing and deeply rooted scab. Will you look at me differently? Will you think of me differently? Will you feel uncomfortable when we run into each other? These questions in my mind make me want to stop the ride and get off. Delete all of these posts. Pretend I never started. And this is only the beginning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

So, this is where things start to get dicey. This is where you might start to think, “Why is she telling us this story? Why is she being so public about this? Crazy!” In some ways, I agree. In other ways, I’m angry with myself for taking so long to tell it. I know, in the end, I will be judged. I know there will be people who will think I am a horrible person. Maybe I am a horrible person. And maybe I’ve been afraid to confirm that. Just know, I only did what I could do. I only did what I was strong enough to do.

My next ultrasound was scheduled for November 30th and it was fairly uneventful. There was no unusual request for me to stay and wait for results. There was no need to see my doctor afterwards. I began to feel settled again. I started to enjoy the post-lunch baby kicks again. Steve and I started to talk about names again. Seamus William. That would be his name.

I actually remember being quite chipper (and I’m NEVER chipper) as Steve and I arrived at my obstetrician’s for my regular prenatal appointment. We sat happily in the waiting room. We talked and laughed, completely oblivious to what was awaiting us in the examination room. We had no way of knowing that we would walk in happy and walk out…changed. Probably forever. So, in we walked. Lambs to the slaughter.

The appointment started like any other appointment, which only served to increase my newfound confidence in the pregnancy. But I could sense a tension in the air. A tension I couldn’t really understand. It was like the doctor was avoiding something or putting something off. So, I asked.FullSizeRender.jpg

“How was my last ultrasound? Is the fluid okay now? Is everything ok?”

“Well, I’m not sure,” he said, while avoiding eye contact with me.

And with that, the knot retuned to my stomach. Instantly. Heavier than before.

“Try not to worry too much, but it seems as though his face is smaller than it should be at this point in his development.”

Try not to worry? Have you met me??!!

“What do you mean ‘smaller’?”

“Sometimes, the head can grow at a different rate than the rest of the body and then it evens out later.”

“So, what does this mean? I don’t understand.”

“To be honest, I’m not sure I understand. I have never seen this before.”

“Seen what?”

And with that, he handed me the ultrasound report. For the most part, these reports are highly technical and difficult to understand for a layperson. Why would he show it to me? I can only assume that he was having trouble finding his own words. As I looked at the piece of paper in my hand, text started to leap off of the page at me. Like bullets being fired. One after another.

Highly abnormal. No mandible detected. Severe micrognathia suspected.

To this day, those words are burned into my brain. I couldn’t forget them if I tried.

“I still don’t understand what this means. He has no jaw bone?” Don’t cry, Heather. Not here. Not now.

“I don’t know. Like I said, I have never seen this before. I have delivered hundreds of babies and I have never seen this before. It could just be an error.”

Was that meant to reassure me?

“I’m going to arrange for you to have a 3D ultrasound at McMaster University Medical Centre.”

Another goddam ultrasound. Another period of waiting and not knowing.

“So, is this a high-risk pregnancy now?” Still not fully grasping the severity of the situation. Or not wanting to grasp it.

“If that ultrasound is correct, I’m afraid it would be high-risk.”

I left his office with an appointment scheduled for the following week at McMaster. It was the last time I would see that doctor for a very long time. There would be no follow-up from him. No checking in on me to see how I was. Nothing. In fact, the next time I would see him would be four years later when he just happened to be the doctor on-call to deliver my youngest son. And he would claim that he didn’t remember me.

Steve and I drove home. I don’t recall if we even said anything to each other. I walked in the front door of our house, took off my coat and boots, went up to our room and closed the door. I stood in front of the mirror, looking at myself, looking at my beautiful baby belly. Then I fell to my knees and let go of the tears that I had held back in the doctor’s office. I felt completely out of control. They (and I don’t know who they were exactly) were going to try and take my baby away from me. That’s all I could think. How do I stop this from happening? I sat on the floor, sobbing, saying over and over to myself or to God or to thin air, “Please, please don’t take my baby away. Please.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The eight days between that phone call and my next ultrasound felt like the longest eight days of my life. But only because I had no idea what the subsequent 27 days would hold.

Steve dropped me off at the hospital in the afternoon. As I walked down numerous halls and took multiple elevators to get to the ultrasound department, I felt like I was in a fog. For eight days, my work had suffered, my family had suffered, and my sanity had suffered. The only thing that didn’t suffer was my knowledge of medical terminology. As you can imagine, I was spending the bulk of my days researching the types of birth defects that might prevent my baby from swallowing amniotic fluid.

I sat in the waiting room, surrounded by pregnant women. In my mind, they were all happy and carefree. I tried to listen in on conversations between some of the women and their husbands/partners/mothers. I truly wanted to hear that someone else was as worried about their baby as I was. I do realize how horrible that sounds. Much to my dismay (also horrible…I know), this questionable eavesdropping behaviour only managed to confirm that I was the only person on the planet who was going through this feeling of pregnancy limbo.

I started walking towards the ultrasound technician who had finally called my name and as she led me to the room, all I could hear was Chopin’s Funeral March. Yes, that is how morbid I was. And yes, it was rather early in the process for me to be that morbid. But that’s just how I roll.IMG_1534

As I lay there, my belly exposed, I began to mentally prepare for the cold shock of the ultrasound gel and the poking and prodding of an area that I was trying so hard to protect. I turned my attention to the screen to distract myself from the prodding. I watched closely as she took all the usual measurements and then measured the amniotic fluid. There still seemed to be a lot of fluid…in my unprofessional opinion. I tried to decipher every line, every shadow, every illumination. He seemed to be in an unusual position, but I could clearly see his head and his spine. And of course his heartbeat, which made me smile and filled me with a sense of calm. Whatever was wrong with him, at least his heart was beating. In my naiveté, that was all that mattered. That his heart kept beating.

Then I noticed a change in the technician’s approach. The prodding had become pushing. It was actually quite painful.

“Is something wrong?”

“I don’t think so. But he seems to have his face buried and I can’t get all the images that I need.”

“But you really only need to measure the fluid, right? So, does it really matter if we can’t see his face?”

“Maybe. But let’s see if we can’t get him to turn.”

The forceful pushing on my belly continued and I was thisclose to asking her if she was even qualified to do what she was doing. She finally gave up and asked me to roll onto my side to see if that would work. It didn’t.

“Wow! What a stubborn little one you have there!”

“He takes after his father then.” I tried to smile as I said it, but I was feeling a bit of animosity towards her at that point. If there wasn’t something wrong with my baby before, there sure would be now!

The technician left the room and was gone for some time. When she came back, she told me that my doctor wanted me to wait for the results and that I shouldn’t leave until I had spoken to him. She then took me to another waiting area. I sat there on the verge of tears. I had never been asked to wait around for results on the day of the ultrasound. It couldn’t be good.

When my doctor did show up, he told me that my fluid levels were normal. I was surprised as much as I was relieved. Was this all over? Could I just go back to being a semi-normal (slightly crazy) pregnant woman?

“However…”

“However?”

“I want you to come back in two weeks so that we can get the facial views that we couldn’t get today.”

“Is that necessary? Everything is fine now. Why do you need facial views? What are you even looking for with the facial views?”

“Two weeks, Heather. I think we need to do this.”

For crying out loud! Why did he have to put it like that? We need to do this? We weren’t doing anything. I was the one who would spend the next two weeks Googling facial views and worrying my ass off.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I sat, staring out my window. Daydreaming. Enjoying the feeling of post-lunch baby kicks. Watching the people down below. From my office, I could see the corner of King Street and James Street. The heart of the downtown core. Hamilton. The city where you can see all that is wrong with the world and then turn a corner and feel like you are entirely somewhere else. But maybe that is true for every city.

Overall, I had experienced a pretty sheltered childhood. Seemingly normal, middle-class family. Complete stability. No significant trauma. As far as travelling, we had driven south to Florida and east to Nova Scotia. The first time I travelled on a plane, I was almost 30. I was 40 before I ever travelled outside of North America – and that was just to Central America. But growing up in Hamilton, I still felt like I had seen a lot. I was exposed to different cultures; I saw equal amounts of poverty and wealth; I hung out with the good kids and the bad kids. (I think I might have been a bad kid, actually.) I didn’t have to get on a plane to find adventure. It was all here in this little microcosm of the world.

I jumped out of my chair (as much as a lethargic, pregnant woman can jump) when I heard the phone ring. As soon as I saw my obstetrician’s number on the call display, I felt my chest tighten. Felt the lump work its way from my stomach to my throat. There is never a good reason for an obstetrician to call in between prenatal visits. I knew that.

This would be a good time to mention, I am a worrier. The worrier. The worst kind of worrier. The worst-case scenario kind of worrier. When I was pregnant with Josh in 1998, I had no internet. My one source of pregnancy-related information was What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And I read it from cover to cover. And by the time I gave birth, I was sure I had experienced every condition mentioned in the section titled, “When Something Goes Wrong.” Even before I had experienced any kind of pregnancy loss, I had difficulty believing – what with everything that could possibly go wrong – that my baby would be fine. It went against logic that my baby would be fine. As such, from my first pregnancy through to my last, I never allowed anyone to throw a baby shower for me before the baby was born.

So, when the doctor called to let me know that my ultrasound for this pregnancy showed excess amniotic fluid – well, he couldn’t have known that he would set in motion eight days of intense research, resulting in a list of possible diagnoses and prognoses. I was better off with the aforementioned book. It had only one medical opinion to ponder. With the dawn of the internet, my list of things to worry about had grown, exponentially.

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And this is what I learned:

  • Excess amniotic fluid – or polyhydramnios – often has no known cause and more than half of the time it resolves itself without further complications. (Phew!)
  • Severe polyhydramnios can lead to preterm labour. (Oh lord…add to list of worries)
  • Known causes of polyhydramnios include maternal diabetes, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (where one baby in a set of twins steals all the nutrients from the other baby – not on purpose, of course), fetal anemia, blood incompatibilities between mother and baby, or the baby has a birth defect that prevents them from swallowing (and recycling) amniotic fluid.

I wasn’t having twins. I didn’t have diabetes. And there weren’t any blood incompatibilities. So my options for mindset going forward were limited to, “Hey Heather, don’t worry. The odds are totally in your favour and everything will be fine…” OR “Hey Heather, your baby probably has a birth defect that is preventing him from swallowing amniotic fluid and now he is going to die.”

Guess which option I went with?

 

Preface

All I’ve ever wanted to do was write. All my life. It’s all I’ve wanted. I dreamed I would write a book. Or many books. I would be the Judy Blume of my generation. But finding a story was always a challenge. Finding something original to write about seemed like an impossible feat. Everything had been imagined already. But it’s true – what they say. Be careful what you wish for. All I wanted was a story no one had heard before. And then one day, I was blessed…but mostly cursed…with a story all my own.

For more than a decade, I have struggled with the best way to tell my story. To share what I have learned. There was a time when my story was going to be perfect for a woman’s health magazine. “What not to do when you’re pregnant.” Or something like that. A cautionary tale, if you will. And then I thought bigger. A book. This was my chance to write a book. Forget about the poems, which were the only thing my ADHD would allow me to produce up to that point. I would sit down and write a book. No matter how long it took.

I just wanted to be a writer. But what is a writer? I get paid to write business proposals. Does that make me a writer? I don’t think it does. I mean, anyone can write a book. Hell, the entire Kardashian family have written books. So, are they writers? God, I hope not.

The other day, I suffered an existential moment. Everyone around me is suddenly publishing, or wanting to publish, children’s books. Suddenly, everyone is a writer! Granted, I have never wanted to write children’s books. But when I suddenly see a whole whack of people that have never even thought about writing for a living deciding that they are just going to magically become writers – well, I was a little incensed, to say the least. And so I have decided to give it up. Writing. Dreams of writing. Dreams of publishing a classic. Blah. I can’t stand the idea of being unoriginal.

But I still have my story. And it needs to be told. And I don’t care that it won’t be published by Random House or on the Best Seller’s list or even Heather’s Pick at Chapters. I did want to be someone’s “pick.” But now I know that anyone can be those things. And my literary heart is broken.

So, this is just my story. And it may not be well written. But I don’t think it needs to be anymore. Am I right?

And the best part about this blog format is that I don’t have to pack up my typewriter, throw my worldly belongings into some oddly cool car, like Claire’s hearse on Six Feet Under, drive off to the seashore and isolate myself in some beautiful surroundings in order to write this. I can just send my kids off to school, throw open my laptop, sip my coffee and “write.” I can even “publish” a bunch of stuff about my life that totally sucked and then leave you hanging for days, even weeks, before I decide to write more. It’s perfect for someone with an attention deficit disorder.

This is a story I have waited to tell. Ten years ago almost to the day, I became aware of how badly one’s life can go. No matter how much thought, planning, care you put into the things you love, it isn’t always possible to control the outcomes. And from the absolute, utter darkness of those days a decade ago, to the less difficult days of the present, there will always be things that make you want to die and then subsequently make you stronger. So unoriginal. I know.

This is also an intensely personal story. But please feel free to share. I know there are more like me. No matter how unique the situation is, the feelings of shame, guilt, profound loss…they are universal.

Chapter 1 – Friday, November 4, 2005

The ultrasound room was dark. Unusually dark. Maybe the technician liked it better that way. She wanted to get this over with. I could tell. She told me it was a boy. I don’t even remember asking. But maybe I did. I had wanted a girl this time. Maybe a girl would be easier, I thought. More like me. But maybe Joshua, who was seven at the time, is like me. More than I want to admit. He wasn’t easy. But nothing good ever is. Right?

I wouldn’t focus on the gender. I would focus on the technician’s words. He is perfect.

We walked back to the car. The sun was floating, heating up the sky, and the day almost felt good to me. Not a lot of days felt good to me then. Actually, that day and that sun were amazingly analogous to how I felt I was positioned in the world at that time. Despite this pulsing ball of fire, so big and so present, the air around me was cold and grey in contrast. What I saw and what I felt were two different things. Surrounded, but alone. Throughout my twenties and thirties, this would be the overriding theme. And the goal was to find someone who made me feel the sun more than the air.

I needed to be needed. Josh needed me. Actually, he would be lost without me. I knew that. And this baby would need me. But those are a different kind of need. And I wanted the other kind.

Looking back, I would say the goal was family. My own family. One that I would build with my own hands, because the one that I was born into couldn’t hold itself together. And I had to keep my eye on the prize. Okay, so it was another boy. But he would get me one step closer. He would tie me to someone else. Someone who might end up needing me in the other kind of way.

Josh’s dad never needed me. He never needed anyone. So we didn’t stand a chance. We had been divorced for several years when I met Steve.

It was actually the second time I had met Steve. The first time was in university. He would share his notes from the American Literature class we were in together, whenever I didn’t show up. He shared his notes often. Ten years later, we ran into each other at a bar. We fell into the relationship easily and had only been dating for about five months when I discovered that I was pregnant.

After that ultrasound appointment, we went home and shared the news with his family. I was 19 weeks along and we were having a healthy baby boy. His mother was overjoyed. This would be her first grandchild. I was helping her achieve her own goals just by being in her son’s life. I felt powerful. I was the source of her greatest happiness at that time. This was a feeling I would become addicted to. Like emotional crack.

Let me start by telling you that I am a bit of a slut. When it comes to hair salons and spas, I have never really settled into a committed relationship. Personally, I believe that spas and salons are much like restaurants, and I prefer to have a variety of experiences. Varying techniques and skill levels, brand new smells, etc. And while there are some pros to this spa-bed/salon chair-hopping that I do, there are also some definite drawbacks.

One might think that one of the pros of constantly changing up your service provider(s) is that there is always stuff to talk about. I’m there, in a somewhat intimate capacity, with a stranger, for anywhere from one to three hours. Most times, I would rather not talk at all (and now I’m really starting to sound like a slut), but there’s nothing worse than awkward silence for any length of time. I’ve never met this nice lady who is going to slough dead skin off of the bottoms of my feet. But we can tell each other our stories. It’s perfect.

And therein lies the problem.

My story is not cut and dry, and to traditionalists, it might even be a little sordid. So what if it took me longer than most to figure my shit out when it comes to men. So what if I’ve been married twice, and technically thrice. So what if I married someone who has three kids and one of them has a biological father as well?

I know. This can get confusing. I created an organizational chart (occupational hazard) to help you sort it through.

RomitoBadgerKeithKalluk Org

This is what my nucleus looks like. According to my husband, this is the simplified version. And while things might now be clearer for you, I have not yet started to print these off and take them to my hair and nail appointments.

And so what you are about to read is my side of the conversation in a hair/massage/facial/nail situation. This particular conversation is likely more applicable to a spa. Hair people (because I’m sure I don’t know the politically correct term anymore) are generally colourful people themselves. More artistic. More accepting of things outside the norm. Of course, this is just a personal observation, but hair people (what is the right term?) usually get my unabridged story.

Hi there. Nice to meet you too.

Oh, you know. Just in need of some “me time.”

Yes, I work.

For an accounting firm. But I’m not an accountant. I’m a proposal writer.

No, no. I’m not good with numbers at all. That’s why I’m NOT an accountant. I’m a proposal writer.

Yes. I am married.

Almost two years now.

Do I have children? Well, that’s kind of a loaded question.

I have 6 children. In total.

Yes, I did say that I have only been married for two years.

We’ve known each other for three years.

We met online.

No. Not that one. Match.com.

No, no. This is technically my third marriage.

I say “technically” because I didn’t marry my little boys’ father.

Yes. It’s true. The third time is the charm.

Yep. I’m sure he’s “a keeper.”

So, yeah. He has three girls and I have three boys.

(Depending on the age of the hair or spa technician, there might be a few chuckles about the Brady Bunch at this point.)

Oh, it’s not too crazy. The two older ones don’t live at home anymore. (And this is where I start to squirm. Because my 17 year-old son has been living with his father for the past three years. And my husband’s 20 year-old daughter has never lived with me.)

So, let’s see. His other daughters are 14 and 11 and my other sons are 9 and 6. (But one daughter is in the Arctic with her mom and my sons spend every other week with their father. Sometimes, I barely feel like a mother.)

Oh, absolutely! So many activities. So much driving around. I know exactly what you mean. (Not really though. There are a couple of activities and a little bit of driving.)

I like when all the kids are home. I feel like, the more of them there are, the easier it is. (This is totally true.)

Exactly. Built-in babysitters. (As if. I mean, I suppose I could leave the younger ones to babysit the older ones…?)

Yes, my 14-year-old daughter is great with the little boys. She would be a perfect babysitter. (If she were ever home for more than 10 minutes.)

Sooooo…how about you? Any kids?

(And, relax. And wonder if it’s all worth it. Ohhh…wait…that’s the right spot/perfect colour/warmest honey I have ever had applied to my legs. Yep. It’s worth it.)

 

 

We’ve all experienced love-hate relationships. You know, that irritating phenomenon where diametrically opposed feelings of love and hate occur simultaneously.dreamstime_m_5416707

According to Eckhart Tolle, if you are capable of hating that which you proclaim to love, it isn’t true love. Well, Eckhart, that might be true of romantic relationships. But my research (i.e. my day-to-day life) indicates that it is very possible to both truly love and hate inanimate objects, situations and certain personality traits.

And surely, it isn’t just me. Haven’t we all been there? Don’t we all have something that we wanted to get rid of? Forever. Except that we don’t want to. Ever.

Personally, I have several. For example:

  1. My daughter’s hair. Have you seen it? So beautiful. All flowing and thick and wavy. It’s like living with a Pantene commercial. As she stands there staring into the bathroom mirror, talking about how much she hates her hair and how annoying it is, it’s all I can do not to grab her by her thick mane and wrap it around her…ahem…no, no, I don’t want to do that. However, it would be nice to stop finding masses of her mile-long mop stuck to the walls of the shower, clogging the drain, forming a hair moat around the base of the tub. I could probably craft myself a fairly voluminous wig with what I find clinging to the felt pads on the bottom of every chair in our house. I love her hair. It should be mine. But it’s hers and it’s everywhere. So, I also hate it. See how that works Eckhart?
  2. My husband’s sense of humour. I’ve always said a sense of humour is the most important character trait a man can have. And my husband has it in spades. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t make me pee my pants at least once. (Although, that could just be a physiological problem.) I truly love the quality of my husband’s humour. There’s no one like him. It’s the quantity that I have an issue with. I would say that about 95 percent of what exits his mouth on any given day is pure ridiculousness. The other 5 per cent is just what I overhear on his work-related conference calls.
  3. Vodka and vino. I love wine. It makes the cheeks on my face feel warm and fuzzy. But I’m pretty sure it makes the cheeks on my ass fat and flabby. I also love vodka. It’s a great way to dilute Clamato juice (ewww clams in liquid form). But vodka also makes me think of my mother. And I’ll just leave it at that.
  4. Justin Bieber, Drake and In Touch magazine. These all fall into the same category. That category being, “Seriously, Heather?” I swear, I don’t wanna know when that Hotline Bling!! But it turns out that I do! A lot! And Justin. Well, he’s come a long way baby…baby, baby, oh. Like baby, baby, baby, no. See, I can’t even help myself. I just want to put him in my pocket. But after seeing his ad for Calvin Klein underwear, I’m thinking he won’t fit. As far as the trashy magazine, it doesn’t have to be In Touch. I’m happy with Star, Us Weekly and Life & Style. To be completely truthful, I’m happy with all four of these magazines. On a weekly basis. Why do I need to see the same photos and read the same stories four times a week? I should just get People magazine once a week, but it’s just too fact-based. I love these things. They are my guilty pleasures. Best enjoyed with a glass of wine or a Caesar. Or maybe both. But I hate them because they give my husband justifiable excuses to make fun of me. And making fun of one’s spouse is supposed to be my job.
  5. My career. Please note that I am not in any way referring to my current employer. I love my current employer and all of my teammates (particularly those who read my blog). For the past 100 years, I’ve been writing business proposals. That’s it. Pretty much, just writing proposals. Day in, day out. I love writing proposals. A new RFP (Request for Proposal) is like a bowl full of chocolate covered strawberries. But if I have to write one more (which I do, tomorrow), I might just shoot myself.

I also have a love-hate relationship with the little sample packets of shampoo and conditioner that come in the mail. I love getting something other than bills in the mail. But I’m also pretty sure the stuff that is in those packets is a better formulation than what is for sale in the stores. Maybe, I can convince In Touch magazine to do an exposé.

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lot of grandiloquence and pomposity making its way across the interwebs lately. I have decided to add to it…but only with that one sentence.

Frankly, I am tired. Confused. Exhausted even. All of the information and viewpoints and news articles and blogs and posts and superiority complexes and oh my god…With all of these voices making themselves heard, I can no longer hear anything at all. It’s just noise. Nothing sounds authentic. Almost everything I have read is a lecture from someone who believes they have all the answers, insights and altruism to speak with authority on the topics of the day – politics, terrorism, refugees and, of course, racism. dreamstime_m_25395986.jpg

I have seen people make racist statements and share racist posts without even realizing that the context is racist. And I have read lengthy, weighty posts and blogs admonishing people for their intolerance and ignorance. Regardless of my own viewpoints (which should probably be obvious, but I’m quickly learning that you never really know anyone until they post something asinine on Facebook and then you’re like, “Oh my god. I’ve known that person for 20 years. How did I not know that they were so <INSERT ADJECTIVE HERE>?”), and despite the fire that often burns in my belly to voice my own opinions, all I hear in my brain when reading today’s internet fodder is the teacher’s voice in Charlie Brown cartoons. In fact, just reading over what I have written here so far, my own voice has been replaced by his/her “wah wahs.”

But I will muddle through this post, because I have some shocking and unpleasant news for you. We are all racist. We all naturally prefer our own culture. We all misunderstand the cultures that we are not immersed in. We are all biased towards things that make us most comfortable and that we understand best. Don’t get me wrong – we also want to travel and explore other cultures, but only to visit. So by today’s standards, we are all racist. Because thanks to the internet and its database of four billion voices trying to be heard all at once, there is now a fairly expansive grey area when defining racism.

For example, ever since the terror attack in Paris, I have caught myself going out of my way to smile at people who could be of Palestinian or Middle Eastern descent. I believe I do this to let them know that I don’t suspect them of being terrorists simply because of the colour of their skin. My intention is to show love. But even that gesture, with that intention, is probably considered racist, because I am making an assumption about someone’s ethnicity based on their appearance and I am inadvertently implying that all terrorists look like they are Palestinian or Middle Eastern. It’s like a double whammy of racism. What the hell is my problem?

Back when things were black and white (no pun intended), racism was about hatred. Pure, unadulterated, impossible-to-understand hatred, which could be mistaken for nothing else. Today, those of us who have committed unintentional acts of racism, aren’t hateful. Perhaps just ignorant. And due to an ever-increasing level of sensitivity to absolutely everything, it is almost impossible to avoid being racist at some point. It will happen to you. Maybe it already has. Maybe you wore a sombrero and a pencil-thin, curly moustache for Halloween. And it will happen to me. Probably after posting this blog, because someone will tell me that it is racist for me to condone racism in any sense.

But I’m not condoning it…at least, I don’t believe that I am. But who really knows anymore? I want to understand other cultures and religions, and one would assume that the desire to understand eliminates the possibility that I am racist. Unfortunately, that very lack of knowledge and understanding is now grounds to be accused of racism. In fact, this is the second version of this blog that I have written. It seems the first version contained unintentional acts of racism, even despite my belief that I was writing a piece about letting love and compassion win out over our natural tendency to fear or distrust things that we don’t understand or have first-hand knowledge of.

So, how is it possible that I, having never judged, disliked or avoided anyone based on race or culture, could be labelled as racist? Because it’s no longer black and white. Because there are now 50 shades of racist grey.

Because if I am racist, then we all are.