Ten Year Gone


Volume #271

So it’s been ten years since you left us so I thought it was high time I got you caught up. It really doesn’t​ matter how old I am when I write to you, I always feel like the little boy in the photo holding a fish standing next to you. The other day on the 12th JoAnn and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Well, you totally lost that bet. I think your comment was “I give it ten years, five if she cooks”. As it turns out I kind of like Dutch food, yeah she’s still Dutch and there is nothing I can do about that. The one thing JoAnn seems to be very good at is being a mom so I just stand back and try not to get in the way. Our girls are so lucky, they just won’t know it for a few decades till they start to reflect on heir childhood.


Not sure if you heard about Mom. Back in late 2016, she had a pretty bad fall that landed her in hospital. That spelt the end of her time alone in the house in Smithville. Last year Mike and Ann got her into a great facility close to them in the Falls. It was a bit surreal to help pack up the house as it was the last time many of those things would ever be together under the same roof. On the downside why on earth did you keep some of that crap for so long?

Kate turned 15 two days ago. Only 15, it feels like she’s been a teenager for about a decade rather than just two years. On the upside, we only have 5 more teen years with her, but on the downside, we have her three sisters still yet to crack the teen mark. Kate reminds me of me on so many levels and not the sort of traits I’m all that proud of. Moody, angry, argumentative for no reason, bull-headed, stubborn. She also has a sensitive side she likes to keep locked up and out of reach from everyone which I also understand. Clearly, we did give her the name that suites her as just like her namesake she’s quite good at creating art. She’s not a traditional painter but rather a digital artist. She’s always drawing on her i-pad which we tell her to not spend so much time on but it’s hard to be annoyed when you see the end result. She’s in Europe with her guide troop so this is our first time ever not seeing her on her birthday. Not sure who’s suffering from the separation​ more, mom or child.


Emilia is 12 and finally becomes the second teenager in the house this December. Her age, however, has not stopped her growing as she’s as tall if not a hair taller than her older sister. She also shares a few of my less desirable traits in that she’s a bit OCD. She collects things and arranges them constantly and changes her rooms furniture on regular bases. Things I did all the time as a teen. You can actually see the colour of her walls under the photos she has taped to them but I credit that to her mother as I think given her way she’d have blocked it all out like I did. She has a few passions I don’t share like her love of horror films. I’m still having nightmares about “the Amityville Horror” from 1979 and refuse to set my alarm for 3:15 on nights I need that wake-up call opting instead for 3:16. Better safe than sorry.


Samantha is the first granddaughter you never had the opportunity to meet, but you did know about her. Born less than 24 hours after you departed this world if your spirit landed anywhere, Sam has it. This granddaughter of yours is so sweet and innocent some days but on the other hand, she can be violently stubborn. She takes tantrums to the next level like I’ve never seen before. She refuses to give in once she’s taken her stand and drawn a line in the sand. Who does that remind you of? If she ever becomes a union organizer like yourself I think she’ll fit right in. She’s incredibly smart and turns 10 tomorrow but I don’t think it’s too early to draft her now.

Danielle is my little girl, she came along a few years after you left us so like Sam she’s never had the first-hand experience to meet you. That may be a good thing for them, who knows. Really I wish you were around to experience them because I know all four of my girls would have changed your life. You were one of three boys born into a family with stoic parents. You and mom had three boys yourself so you’ve never ever known the joys of being around girls. Nor had I till now. I know you had one granddaughter but taking on a personality like yours was probably a pretty tall order for Sarah on her own. She needed allies. I recently uncovered an old video I created back in 2005 when we flew east for your mom’s funeral. Kate was not yet 2 and she clearly had you wrapped around her finger watching the two of you in the yard. Had you been given the full Ellis girl experience my four daughters would have broken you for certain, they certainly broke me in all the best possible ways.


To mark the occasion of your tenth year gone Emma created an amazing rock marker with your name on it. It’s red, your favourite colour. We placed this on the rock outcropping in Tofino where we spread some of your ashes in 2010.


It’s under a bush with an amazing view of the ocean and beach. A place that I know if you had ever climbed up to see for yourself you’d have sat there for hours. We had a small tea party in your honour on the rocks and Dani even held a cup up to the rock thinking you might want a drink. She’s so cute and I’m not really sure she totally understands what it is we’re doing. I think she really thinks you’re in that rock. We’ll explain it all to her in a few years.


For me personally, I’ve always loved coming to Tofino ever since the first time you brought JoAnn and me here 24 years ago. You always threatened you’d move here one day so spreading your ashes in this spot only seemed appropriate. Now, whenever I’m here I feel closer to you, more so than visiting a gravestone back in Grimsby. I know that’s where you spent the bulk of your life but it was the west coast you always ran too when you wanted to escape. When you brought us here I was apparently instantly bitten by the same bug that got you years earlier on your first trip. I had the chance to take a couple of long walks on my own this past trip. I like to get up early in the morning because the house is quiet when the girls are still asleep but I took my coffee out for a walk on the beach.


I wasn’t alone however, I knew you were there with me the second I hit the beach. I could hear your voice in my head, your laugh and we enjoyed the crashing surf for an hour or so as we walked from one end of the beach to the other. Not even sure why I’m writing this down since I told you all about the girls on our walks. I can’t imagine what you were thinking when you first saw our current Prime Minister on your beach bare-chested surfing that week but I could certainly hear you muttering and cursing under your breath. That’s the stuff I miss more than anything. Just hearing your voice. You always had an opinion on anything I asked you about and right or wrong, whether I agreed or not. I respected the point of view you took, maybe because it was usually 180 degrees opposite of mine. I miss that in my life, someone to always challenge my point of view. It was never an argument, just a different point of view. Now at least you have one of the best views in all of Canada, one that we can both agree on and I’ll be back real soon with the girls to go for a walk on the beach with you. I am and forever will be your little boy.



Mobility that Bites


Volume #16

One of the more interesting aspects of this new life JoAnn and I have chosen to undertake is the transformation of our everyday life. For so many years we both worked all day rarely ate together during the day and had only moments when we were both awake and in the house at the same time. Weekends were strictly business as it was mostly chewed up with household chores we’d neglected all week, couldn’t someone have taken out the garbage? My first clue that things would change with a baby should have come a year ago when JoAnn stopped working and stayed home working on the nest. She’d call me more and make dinners that I rarely got home to eat and weekends we shopped for baby gear she’d spent all week picking out and was dying to show me.


Flash-forward a year and the JoAnn I married has transformed herself like a superhero into a first-rate stay at home mom. She puts the same energy and enthusiasm she used when working into taking care of Katie and the house and subsequently me. My own mom was the stay at home variety and in this day and age when so many people are quick to head out the door back into the workforce it’s so refreshing to see. Financially I guess a lot of people need two incomes and let’s be serious it wouldn’t hurt us to have some extra cash. Since I imposed a weekly budget it has changed the way I used to waste money for the better but oh how I miss being able to buy that new DVD without a thought or care now I do without, I’m guessing it’s like quitting anything spending was my habit so now I’m on the wagon.


More importantly, I couldn’t imagine someone else spending most of Katie’s waking hours with her and reporting to us when we picked her up what she’d done that day just so we could have a nicer car in the driveway or the newest electronic toy. I love that JoAnn is there all day every day and every time something does happen that I miss while working I get called right away. It wouldn’t mean as much sharing that moment with Mrs. Jones the sitter as it does share it with the other person responsible for Katie’s being.

So JoAnn has thrown herself into the role of full-time mommy with “Baby Talk” class one day “Mother goose nursery Rhymes” the next and “story time” at the library after that. A week full of networking with other new mommy’s and their kids, all comparing notes on early childhood development and where their child sits on that scale. This creates a little competition with some women and JoAnn and her closest ally in these classes trade calls whenever one kid or the other does something new. We actually meet this couple at the hospital during the birth as they shared a room and the two of them have stayed friends ever since. It’s good because you have two girls born under twenty-four hours apart so charting progress from one to the other is neat and they both are advancing at their own rate. Each excelling at one thing or another first before the other and sometimes it’s days or weeks before the other does the same thing. Of course, I’m partial my little girl is superior in every way even if that another little girl has some of her own tricks she was a full term baby and Katie was a month premature so of course, she’s ahead. Of course with that logic why does Katie outweigh her? All I can say is thank god it’s women at these classes and not men or you know there would be betting on who’s going to crawl or sit up first.


This month like every other my little girl has shown remarkable ability to follow along with the weekly development book like clockwork and had many huge firsts. The biggest would have to be the breakthrough of her first tooth followed quickly by her second on her lower gum. Now when she grabs a finger to chew on she has the ability to do damage and every time I see JoAnn breastfeed her I cringe just a little at the thought of the danger she’s putting herself in. There have been incidents but so far so good.

I got a frantic call one afternoon while at work with the proclamation she spoke her first word and it was “mama”. True to her word over the phone I was hearing something that resembled mama if you listened really hard and disregarded all articulation, yeah you could hear it. Really it was more “ma ma ma ma ma ma” and when I saw her do it in person she said it to everything and everyone including the dog so it may have been a leap of faith on JoAnn’s part but I’m willing to overlook it. For the sake of her childhood development and JoAnn’s ego and the fact it puts her one up on the other kids in baby class, my daughter can speak. Her next word is more puzzling as it sounds like “bab bab bab” and we don’t actually know a Bob. I guess I could stretch things and say she’s trying for “dad” but I have a hard time selling it to myself so I doubt I could sell it to anyone else, it will come when it’s ready.


The next big time accomplishment call was to inform me that Katie has pulled herself to her feet from a sitting position. This is something we’ve been expecting and waiting for as she’s been so close for quite a while. She sits on her own playing very well though the ability to lay down gracefully still escapes her, it’s more of a thump followed by the obligatory crying. Once she discovered quite by accident the joys of rolling onto her tummy from her back and visa versus there has been no stopping her. This has lead to creeping and was it not for our hardwood floors where traction is hard to get in a sleeper I’m sure she’d be crawling. Her version of crawling combined with rolling has everything on the floor within reach and now that she knows how to pull herself up, her discovery range just got that much bigger. She’s always had strong legs and liked to stand only she needed help, she still does but something tells me not for long. I curse the exercise saucer we got her last month as one of the side benefits of this thing is she likes to bounce up and down. If you’re holding her on your lap or worse on your stomach while lying down yourself you’re in pain because she gets air and at twenty pounds that’s a heck of a weight using your groin as a trampoline.

It really is quite funny when you see her holding herself up against the coffee table and she starts to slide to one side. She doesn’t take the precautions to protect herself she just starts falling and the look on her face when her balance has let her down is precious, gravity is not something she’s mastered yet. Of course, JoAnn and I are always there to catch her but I fear as she perfects this standing thing and puts the motions in place to start crawling the opportunity for getting out of sight and into trouble rising considerably. It is now officially time to start childproofing the house and fast.

In only seven months I’ve gone from complete baby fear to embracing this wonderful little mini me in ways I never imagined. I look at her first photo’s and video and can hardly believe they are one in the same little girls. I have so much fun playing with her on the floor experimenting with all her noise making toys and building blocks I can’t remember a time I wasn’t doing this. The smile I get from hearing her laugh and knowing I made it happen gives me a charge every time. Whether I’m swinging her upside down or flying her like a plane or just teaching her the finer points of a perfect tummy fart she gives JoAnn and me endless joy. But even more is coming home to find the two of them happy to see me and tell me about their day. The first smile on Katie’s face when she sees Daddy blows me away. Every morning I look in on her while she sleeps before I leave and I can’t wait to get home to see her smile. Yes, our lives have all changed dramatically in the last year and for the first time in my life, there is a real focus of what I have to do and who I have to do it for and that’s my family.


Here we grow again


Volume #15

Six months is a landmark date in any babies development and oh how far we’ve come in such a short time. She’s still reliant on us for everything but she’s so much more durable and mobile than she ever was. The first thing that hit was another growth spurt like we saw around her third month and at first we were mystified at what was going on. I mean come on it was only three months ago so you’d think we’d recognize the signs but we were for a couple of days wondering why her schedule was off and she was so grumpy. Nothing seemed to please her and she did nearly everything contrary to the way she’d always done things. Here I thought I had at least ten years before her first rebellion against us. All the signs were there we just didn’t see them for what they were. She was restless and cranky, wanted to eat non-stop and didn’t want to go to sleep at night. No she’s not a teenager but she’s acting like one.


When JoAnn took her to be weighed and realized she’d gained 14 ounces in a week we knew something was happening. As recommended JoAnn was taking the solid food one step at a time first trying one grain cereal than another always monitoring her to see if there was any allergic reaction. After that first week of solids when she hadn’t filled her diaper in over a week she struck back with a vengeance. I was never so glad we’d just moved her up to the next size of diaper because there was no way the old ones could have contained her new solid output. The shriek from her room when JoAnn first discovered our little girls first adult looking poopy mess got my attention and I came to see what was the problem. The situation was made worse with the fact Katie and her newly discovered opposable thumbs were really good at undoing diapers. We both knew it was coming but here it was staring at us the fullest diaper we’d ever seen. My years of cleaning up after the dog were finally going to be put to use. Never before had so many wipes been required to clean her up but on the up side this stuff wasn’t so runny that it leaked out forcing a full wardrobe change. So you’ve got to look at all the positive aspects of this new reality no matter how ghastly they may seem at the moment. She’s so good at teaching us. Now that we know what’s happening when we see her make the strange concentration grimace face followed by a happy smile we know its time for a change.


The feeding frenzy finally leveled off but her intake sways from morning to lunch to dinner and we never know how much she’ll want. On the doctor’s recommendation we just keep shoveling till she says enough. Her repertoire of baby food products increases from day-to-day as we keep introducing her to new flavors more based on what we like but so far there’s very little she doesn’t like. I think beef stew is the first real dud but when she’s hungry anything will due.


As this second major growth spurt tailed off we were also left with the first inkling of things to come when we found two nubs on her lower gum, teeth were on the way. We had no way to gauge when they might break through but we prepared ourselves with any supplies we thought we might need for this next hurdle. We got the Ambasol cream and freezer bound teething rings and waited and watched.

Meanwhile our doctor thought an exercise saucer would be a good idea for Katie, as she always wants to stand. I was wondering if our doctor was getting kick backs from Toys R us because every time she recommends something it means a hundred bucks out of our pocket. But this is for my little girl so anything she needs she’ll have even though our living room was beginning to look like a proving ground for new child corralling apparatus. This exo saucer was truly amazing I must admit and Katie took to it right away getting her spit on every toy around her in record time testing each one to see how they fit in her mouth. The being able to turn 360 degrees was not lost on her and she goes around and around chewing on everything even changing direction to see us if we call her name. This is very cool as either she knows her name or she just wonders why were yapping behind her back no matter her hearing is working fine. She gets this saucer really bouncing using her feet to get some serious air and she can entertain herself quite nicely giving JoAnn a needed break that is provided she doesn’t leave the room.

No matter how much fun she might be having with daddy playing with her toys if Mommy leaves the room her alarm goes off. Sometimes I can distract her but more often than not she wants to know where her mommy is.


I know she is the milk machine but honestly little girl she’s just gone to pee, we don’t all go in our shorts now do we? The power of the Mommy was never so apparent when one evening while Katie and I were having such a good time playing that JoAnn for a change took the dog out for her nightly walk. Daddy and daughter were left alone to bond on the floor but no sooner had the front door closed that a realization came on to Katie’s face “Where’s my Mommy?” She tried a pensive call out cry to get her attention. She waited to appropriate amount of time but when mommy did not show herself it was time to ramp things up. Me I’m just Daddy and it took me a minute or two to realize I wasn’t going to be able to appease her. I went through the normal steps I would to calm her but everything I tried seemed to make her madder as what she wanted was her mommy not some psycho babble from her father designed to chill her out. I thought walking her around would help and I patted myself on the back as a good parent as it did not realizing that this was what she wanted. I was suckered and as I thought to return to the living room to play she’d make a little wail and force me to move onto another room. Upon her careful inspection as I moved from room to room she soon realized her mother wasn’t not in the house and then she got serious about the crying. I’d never experienced this sort of outburst and at first I laughed a little at her drama and did what I always do to calm her only everything I did made her worse. We now had real tears streaming down her now turning red face. She was having trouble with her breathing as her wailing and I mean wailing made it hard for her to take in deep breaths and she gasped for breath between screams. This was a full-out code red defcon 5 alert and something was going to blow and I just hoped it wasn’t going to be her. I had a true feeling of ineptness and despair, as I was just as anxious for JoAnn to return as Katie was. There was nothing I could do or say and my own emotional level was peaking as I was now afraid for my daughter’s life worried that her irregular breathing was going to adversary affect her, worried I’d damaged her and just wanting her to calm down. When JoAnn finally came back after being away almost ten minutes we attacked her at the front door not letting her get her coat off before I handed Katie to her. Joann’s reaction was one of surprise and inconvenience barely getting in the front door, Katie’s was one of joy and satisfaction mommy came back and mine was of anger at her taking so long on the walk. I was yelling at her but I was upset at myself unable to console my daughter and no doubt jealous at the bond the two of them share. At this point we both needed a cookie and a good hug.


The rest of the evening my nerves were shot and I was afraid to hold Katie till hours later when I finally calmed down. She got over the whole episode rather quickly as soon as her mother came home but I took a lot more consoling. It was a traumatic moment for us both and it just taught me such a valuable lesson that I really know very little about what makes my little girl tick and I have such a long way to go. It also gave me a huge appreciation for the job JoAnn is doing as a stay at home mom. I knew she was good at this whole mommy thing but this really opened my eyes as to just how far she’s come as a mother. She was made for this and I stand in awe of her ability and power as our child’s true caregiver. Dad can be fun and entertaining but mom is it right now in Katie’s life. I wonder if she’ll ever like me in the future?

Built to Last


Volume #14

Maybe the reason I was so afraid of having kids was that I was really afraid of babies. Well afraid isn’t the correct word but I had very little experience with them; they intimidated me because I had no point of reference with how to deal with them. I saw two nephews and one niece as babies but I rarely was left in charge or even held them for that matter. I was so afraid I might break them they were just so helpless. Of course my experience didn’t go past a weekend visit so I didn’t have the 24/7 exposure that a parent is subjected to.


So now after over five months my eyes are truly open to the wonders of babies and I’m not really sure what it was I was afraid of. Sure the first month is pretty tough with a learning curve that is basically straight up but it levels off over time and these babies are far better designed than I ever expected. As long as you don’t take to poking the soft spot on their heads with a Bic pen they can put up with a lot more than any adult can. Once they can hold up their own melon these little marvels are really quite amazing.


My little girl loves, I mean loves having her feet in her mouth and when she’s naked on the change table that’s the first thing on her agenda. She can do it dressed but I guess the fabric from her sleepers or her socks doesn’t quite taste the same. A sure-fire way to get her laughing is to sing her a song and while following the rhythm put her feet to her face. What adult other than a gymnast or contortionist can do this? These little marvels are just that and have abilities and powers way beyond grown ups. There is nothing I mean nothing that can top the feeling you get when your daughter smiles at you because she’s happy to see you. There is nothing in nature that can elicit that feeling other than your own child. JoAnn recently said to me she guessed she was now number two in my life but as I pointed out to her I was also number two in her life also. I’m ok with that and I accept the fact that this little girl is the most important responsibility our lives for the next couple decades. This five and half month nearly sixteen pound pink food processor that demands constant attention and drools a lot had taken full custody of our hearts. It really doesn’t matter how much I love my wife or how beautiful I think she might be this little girl had moved in and taken over big time.

Kate @ 6 months


What I think really gets me is I can’t remember a time where Katie wasn’t in our lives and yet JoAnn and I have been together over thirteen years now. Is there regret we didn’t do this sooner, maybe a little now but I wouldn’t trade the pre baby years we spent together for anything different now.

Every week Katie discovers something new. Be it finally realizing the power of opposable thumbs to undo her diaper as fast as her mother puts it on her or trying to master motorboat sounds with her tongue (this is a work still in progress but it’s not from lack of trying). And now she’s onto solid food so I get the chance to feed her. Of course this has so far had the positive side effect to slow down the hot potato game, as she doesn’t have as many poppy diapers. In fact she’s gone over a week between full shorts but it hasn’t hurt her ability to pass gas and now they have all the benefits of any good fart, they smell. No more little cutesy baby farts for my little girl she can clear a room like no one. I’m afraid this looks like it’s only going to get worse so I’m shopping for a full-face gas mask to help make diaper changes a little less painful.


She took to solid food so fast you can’t load up a spoon fast enough she’s already waiting and snapping at the spoon as it approaches. Better yet using her opposable thumbs to grab your hand and ram the spoon down her throat. That is a problem there are simple things you take for granted that kids have to learn and it seems it’s usually painful. Painful as a parent to watch and painful for the baby as they learn limits like how far a spoon can go into your mouth before it gets uncomfortable. The great thing is again they are so resilient that a few consoling words and a little hug and were right back to shoveling more food. They really aren’t as delicate as I ever thought they were and now that Katie is sitting and able to grab I take great pleasure in holding her in the air over me as I lie on the couch or hanging her upside down which makes her laugh while she tries to reach out to you. I know JoAnn cringes when she see’s me rough housing with her and that’s not going to get any better as she gets older. I’m sure she’s just waiting for us to break something so she can tell us to cool it.

One thing Katie still won’t do with me is fall asleep. She can be so tired rubbing her eyes lying on me but she will fuss and whine till she’s handed off to her mother where she promptly falls asleep. I think we are getting close and I’m sure we’ll have a break through soon enough. When JoAnn hands her off to me already asleep and I hold her it’s such a gorgeous feeling I couldn’t hope to describe it here. She will wake ever so slightly see it’s me holding her and she’ll drop her head and close her eyes and that just sends me knowing she approves. It’s pretty sad a five-month-old babies approval means that much to a grown man but it really does. It’s magical knowing she trusts me and feels she’s safe and secure, of course she may be just to tired to give a crap but I tell myself it’s the former and we both feel good.


I’m not sure what’s next on the development front as I leave the book reading to JoAnn I just take it as it comes but I know she wants to walk. If you hold her by her hands she immediately puts one foot in front of the other and starts walking of course she has to perfect this whole standing thing first. I guess you have to learn to crawl before you run but I feel she’ll be tearing up the hardwood in no time. She is taking interest in anything new and now if you have her on your lap drinking anything it can be a challenge as little hands try to grab your glass or hot mug. This is when you start to look around and realize what a death trap for children we really live in. I know before I write another word here in the future I’ll have had to go to town child proofing the house not only to protect her but to guard personal property from emanate destruction. It’s something I always thought was a little silly but now I see how little curious fingers have no boundaries and it’s up to us to build them.

Nap time


Everyday as she grows and learns we as parents grow and learn how to react to her both to further stimulate her but also to protect her. This is my life long commitment to her to look after her and I fear that day when I have to let her go forth on her own. We can equip her with knowledge best we can but sometimes you can’t control outside influences. Now when I see distraught parents on TV news pleading for the return of their child I can relate with the feeling of loss as I know I’d be frantic if I was in their position. For now I’m not ready to cut that cord.

A New Vocabulary and the Musical Child


Volume #11

As human beings in the world we take communication on a daily basis for granted. With the advent of pocket universal translators and the help of advanced charades a person can travel almost anywhere and can be understood. To date no one has invented a translator in any language that will assist a new parent in understanding their new child’s cries. I think they did invent one once on the “Simpson’s” and I didn’t really see the usefulness of such a tool till now. I think to any man this would be a useful aid because to me it’s just a baby crying but to a woman it means something totally different. Maybe it’s because JoAnn has spent a lot more time with Katie she recognizes the different cries in her limited arsenal of a vocabulary but to me it all means the same thing, “Help she’s broken again” as I hold her out to JoAnn. Of course this instantly stops her crying which at first was cute the power of the mommy but after a while it starts to dawn on you, “what the heck is the matter with me? What am I doing wrong?” If she keeps this up I’m bound to develop a complex, all I want to do is cuddle her but I’m told I’m getting to close I need to give her space. She’s six weeks old and I need to give her space, are you kidding me? I didn’t expect this speech till she was fifteen.


JoAnn has in her time with Katie developed the skill in reading her cries so as she knows exactly what it is she wants or needs and is able to satisfy her in a way I have not been able to do. She knows a hungry cry, from a change position cry, wet diaper cry, to a “I’m tired” cry, it’s amazing really. Of course JoAnn has been living with me for over a decade so she’s had lot of practice at reading the cries of others. My breasts don’t start to ache when Katie cries so I don’t have that going for me, she’s really got all the advantages and I just have to accept she knows what Katie’s telling her and hope I’m not being lied too. I’ve got to learn this new baby language or I’ll be an inferior father unable to satisfy my little girl’s smallest whims. When she’s older and speaks my language I’ll be able to buy off her loyalty by spoiling her rotten…not that I condone that sort of fathering by wallet style but come on it’s got to be easier than this. All I want to be able to do is hold her and have her smile at me and know I love her and all I get is crying. Am I trying to hard? Does she not like me? It’s so hard for me to read but I keep trying.


JoAnn seems to have figured it out and instinctively knows what Kathleen wants with a mere whimper, is this that whole mothers intuition? Or is it just some sort of black magic? No matter at least one of us is able to look after her needs although I am starting to feel a little helpless or useless I’m not sure which just yet. I look forward to when she’s able to vocalize what she wants but then of course she’ll get whatever she wants if she comes to daddy, I already know I won’t be able to say NO.


It is neat now that she’s able to hold her head up on her own she will hold a conversation of sorts while sitting in your lap. She’ll chirp and grin and make noises that I think surprise herself when she hears them and I just mimic everything she says right back at her which she loves and she shoots right back at me. If I make a noise that impresses her she looks at me with wonder than will smile and make a cute noise back at me. There is a dangerous line you cross if you make a sound that scares her more than amuse her as once she processes what she heard her eyes start to look concerned and her smile disappears into a quivering lip, which is followed by a loud cry. Sometimes I can pacify her but more often than not it’s something only mommy can fix and she’s whisked away from me till she’s calm again. Just hearing her cry fascinates me as I’ve spent so little time around crying babies other than myself so it’s interesting to watch. Of course if JoAnn is out of the room she comes in to see what I’ve done and why her daughter is crying. These are the moments you think about before she’s born and I savor them as long as they’ll last which is usually about ten to twenty minutes.


Something JoAnn and I both wanted for her was an early introduction to music. I took lessons all through school and was mediocre at best; JoAnn never learned to play anything and still has regrets so she was hot to get Katie involved early. Imagine our surprise when our little girl has beat us both and started singing already. Well it’s a form of singing isn’t it the way my little girl lets loose with an earth shattering belch once she’s finished eating, it’s music to me. This is a talent I’ve had as long as I can remember, the ability to belch on command or recite anything in belch form. JoAnn is fond of reminding me of a time when I was rather drunk in a bar out with buddies having wings and pizza on a Friday night as was our tradition. I leaned over to her in a tender way to whisper in her ear and belched “I love you”. Now to a group of drunken guys this was killer stuff and I did mean it, I loved her as we were still in that honeymoon first year of our relationship stage. I guess that was her first clue as to what I’d be like later in life. Thou I’ve grown up I can still belch on command and wouldn’t you know it my little girl inherited her Daddy’s ability to do the same. This couldn’t have surprised JoAnn but who knew it would manifest itself at such a young age, that’s my girl. She seems very proud of herself but it could just be the relief of passing the gas bubble.


Katie does have other musical ability I had no idea about. In the one baby book that I did read, it didn’t say anything about the fact babies like all humans get gas and fart. I think what shocked me was the sound this cute little girl could pump out of her diapers. Who knew babies could fart like a trucker on a steady diet of baked beans and light beer. It’s almost refreshing someone not concerned with what someone might say, she just lets it blow it’s really quite cute even if it doesn’t smell like a rose garden.


Thankfully her gas doesn’t always signify a full diaper or we’d never leave the change table. Sometimes you just need to fart to keep from exploding. Something else we never read anywhere is that she can go quite a period without filling a diaper. The first time she went a week JoAnn was worried there was some sort of blockage but the doctor assured us she was fine and this was completely normal. For Katie this started after her first growth spurt about three or four weeks old then we settled into long gaps between full diapers. In fact we were counting ourselves lucky as when she did finally go there was nary enough room in her diaper for all she had to put out, she was full right up to her belly button. The first time you open one of these surprises it freaks you out, like where was she storing all this? You just resolve yourself your washing her cloths the change table cover any anything else that came within range of her butt as to perform a normal diaper change and keep her out of it you’d need three hands minimum.

I think what were both looking forward to most in the next few months is the opportunity to just watch Kathleen grow and develop now that the drama of the birth is done. We’ve also finished with the parade of family and friends wanting to meet Katie for the first time and give us all the advice that worked so well for them when they had kids. So now we can get down to the job of being parents and finding our way through the obstacle course and hurdles of early childhood development. It’s a challenge that now that I’m here doesn’t seem so bad at all; I’m not sure what I was so afraid of. I always thought I was way too immature to have the responsibility of a child in my life but now that Katie is here I can’t imagine not having her around. It just doesn’t seem a big deal at all and I’m loving my new role as a Dad even if Kate still isn’t to sure about me yet, I know she will soon enough and we’ll wish she was still a baby. I can see why people say kids keep you young as I feel more like a kid than I ever did and watching her takes me back and I feel as I’ve finally found what it is I’ve always wanted out of life. We’ll see if I’m so optimistic in a couple of years.

(I found a bunch of old DVD’s with videos I made of Kate as a Baby. Funny how I found the time to do this for our first daughter but not with the daughters that were to follow. I just never seemed to have the spare time to edit let alone film as much once we had more than just one child to deal with. Here are a couple from that first year I found amusing)

Katie Chronicles Baby Love

Katie Chronicles- I’m Only Sleeping

The Worst Birthday Party Ever


Volume #224

For nearly twelve months I’ve been hearing this statement, “for Halloween I’m going out as (insert costume choice of the week here)” and I’ve been hearing that times four. It changes more frequently then they brush their hair it seems sometimes. Thankfully their mother doesn’t jump up and buy every thing they think they want to be because we’d have quite a collection by now. Of course some of those early choices based on movies that were popular that week didn’t last long. When it comes right down to it they will go out for Halloween in the best most affordable costumes their mother comes home with and that will be that. Sure we sometimes have to sell it a bit but in the end is it the costume that matters or the fact that you get to dress up and every door they knock on that night will give them candy. One year not so long ago Samantha was so unhappy with the outfit that was selected for her that she refused to wear it. So she went out as a little girl who was just so stubbornly fierce and scary that looking at her would make you scream, (no costume required for that). After a few houses I didn’t even have to explain her outfit any longer, she was getting candy by looking cute regardless. No one really wants to ask if they can’t identify it right off like a princess or a witch.

This year Kate went a bit spooky as a zombie but Emma was a Bobby sox girl from the fifties and Sam and Dan went out as a kitty and a unicorn respectively. I told the older girls to choose one of their younger sisters to stick with and they’d be sure to feel the cute factor in their candy bags. The smaller they are the more candy they seem to get and I guess I’m no different when kids come to our door. I always give the little kids the most (like they need it) but it’s better than rewarding teenagers for trying to score free candy at their age. I guess it’s better then doing drugs, maybe I better rethink my strategy for the older kids.  Since we always kid that Dani is basically fueled by candy this was her night. True to form she was the last one to throw in the towel. Her older sisters were done first with Emma no longer even going up to the doors we passed, but Dani was not about to pass any closed-door that might give her more candy. Occasionally as we marched around the neighborhood we’d find some candy on the ground and Dani would try to pick it up. She didn’t tell me it was hers and it wasn’t till we were probably ¾ of the way through the night that I realized she had a fist size hole in the bottom of her candy bag. She’s been bleeding candy since the first house. I did what I could to set her up with plastic bags to line her candy bag but she still lost the odd piece as we headed towards home. Since Halloween fell on a Saturday night we stayed out a bit longer then if it were a school night. It had been raining for three days straight so going into the evening I was concerned it would be a very short night but almost like it was planning all along, as the sun went down the rain stopped. I looked up and saw nothing but stars as I waited for the girls at each house. This was the second straight year of solid weather for trick or treating. It seems only fair since we had about three years of downpours before that.

The piles of candy on the floor when we got home were staggering, I just kept trying to put a dollar value to it. What’s more surprising is that even with Dani’s leaky bag she still accumulated more candy then any of her sisters. Like I said the cute factor pays off. Again for the third year running JoAnn had an open invitation to trade candy for cash. After you’ve enjoyed a few select pieces and pulled aside about a dozen for later enjoyment she would give them $20 to spend at Toys R Us. This year all but Emma took the deal. She decided to be the master of her own candy bag. I think what she doesn’t realize is that her mother would not be destroying the candy or giving it away. This candy would be coming back to the girls in the form of treats for months to come. So really three of the girls got the addition of $20 and to have their candy in moderation. Emma got no cash but did hold onto the right to be able to self govern her own candy intake. I’m not sure who won here in the end. As a kid I’m not sure I would have made that deal with my mom. I find it easy to side with Emma’s choice but knowing that you’re getting it all back in the end it does make the cash seem pretty attractive. Sometimes the bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush and I respect that she stuck to her guns no matter how hard her mother pushed her to accept the deal.

As if Halloween on a Saturday night wasn’t enough sugar for the girls, the very next day Dani was having her fifth birthday party and for the first time ever, on her actual birthday. In recent years we’ve staged parties at indoor play zones, movie theaters and even an indoor rock-climbing place. Last year Dani wanted her birthday at the rock wall so bad after Samantha had her party there. She was nearly the only little girl who made it to the top of the rope and rang the bell every turn she had, twenty-five feet in the air. However they don’t generally do parties for kids under the age of six and last year all her friends would have been four. The people who ran the place were a bit shocked to find out she was so young because she showed no fear at all. Last year she had her party at the gymnasium where she took gymnastics classes for fun even though her instructor was an Olympic golf medalist.




This year she wanted to have her party at home. I think she just wanted to have her school friends to the house. She gets so annoyed all her sisters have play dates or “Hang outs” as her older sisters refer to them these days and I think she just wanted to have her friends here in her house. The only prerequisite she demanded was a piñata, (as she did last year also) so as long as she could have one of those then a party at home would be fine. The theme was to be “Frozen” and she wanted a Elsa Frozen cake but other than that everything else was open. We hadn’t had a party at the house like this for quite a few years. Maybe it was Samantha’s fifth I’m not sure but we used to have them at the house all the time till we had so many parties to deal with a year. There is a certain satisfaction being able to show up at a location, let the kids party their little brains out, eat pizza, cake and some one else does the clean up. Even better with set start and finish times there is no loitering. You have to be there to pick up your kid on time.

When I was a kid we only ever had a party at home. Places like Chuck-E-Cheese or indoor play zones just didn’t exist. Mom got a movie projector from the library since this was before the advent of the video store. (Yes I am just that old). We’d watch a couple of Laurel and Hardy shorts, play a few games, eat some cake, open a couple presents and that was your party, see you next year. It was always co-ed too. My mom always had me invite 2 boys and three girls, like it was a set up and we were all going to pair off. When I went to other kids parties it was the same thing except sometimes they’d have the entire class show up. When I was a little older than we went to a pizza joint and I just got to bring the two boys. It was never a really big deal. JoAnn has proclaimed this to be the last big party for any of the girls. Big in terms of the amount of friends invited. Kate and Emma have been enjoying smaller gatherings for a few years and even Sam had a lunch and movie party so it was a smaller affair. I’m not sure I’m really ready to give up on the crazy big birthday party yet because they can be fun, certainly memorable. There are moments from parties past that really stand out in my mind, like Kate’s first birthday because it was the first for us as parents. Dani’s fifth party however may have given us the sound bite we’ll never forget.

IMG_4403 (1)

As you do with house parties we had games lined up and JoAnn had a table of prizes all laid out. Win lose or draw everyone was going home with a prize. We started the day with a couple of rounds of musical chairs, before we moved onto hot potato and pin the nose on the Olaf (formerly pin the tail the donkey when I was a kid). We didn’t have Disney commercialization to help set new trends and I think my mom used the same Pin the tail on the Donkey game for all my brothers so it was about twenty when it was finally retired. There was one little girl who cried when she was eliminated from the very first game of musical chairs. She refused to play the second round. She was angry when she was left holding the hot potato and was cut from that game. Even after being spun she managed to get Olaf’s nose to the EXACT spot because she was pulling the blindfold down with her free hand and cheating. She was that determined to win a game because whoever won got first pick at the prize table. She was not happy when her nose pinning attempt was not deemed the winner because she had cheated.

After some cake we set up the piñata and gave everyone a bag to collect the candy when it finally broke open. We’ve seen WAY too many episodes of AFV where some parent gets nailed with a bat in the balls to play that game so JoAnn always gets the kind of piñata you have to pull one of a few dozen hanging strings. Last year the first kid actually pulled the right one and the game was over quick. This year it was the third string that did the trick. What I found funny was that all the girls were lined up waiting to take their turn and when it opened up and the candy hit the ground they were all still standing waiting in line. I had to tell them to “Get the candy!” before any of them realized they needed to pounce. We all have such polite kids it seems. The last game of the party was pass the present. This was a double whammy because if you took off the last layer of wrapping to reveal the present you got to keep it plus pick from the prize table of dollar store crap. When our little cheating princess did not get to remove the last layer of paper to win the round she spun around on the floor where they were all sitting and loudly proclaimed “THIS IS THE WORST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER”! The other girls didn’t seem to notice since I’m guessing they are all used to this sort of drama from her at school. I think I even saw a five-year old roll her eyes at her classmate. All the other parents that were within earshot could not contain their laughter. This wasn’t just this little girls statement, she really believed it. I know Dani was at this girls birthday party only the week before so I’m guessing any party that did not have her as the centre of attention was going to pale in comparison. I don’t believe in rewarding bad behaviour but I had asked this precious little drama princess earlier in the day what it was she had her eye on from the prize table. At the end of the party when anyone who had not won a game lined up to claim their prize I made sure she got exactly what it was she wanted. No one goes away from one of my daughter’s birthday parties upset. Maybe it wasn’t the worst birthday party ever after all.


Welcome Home at Last


Volume #10

Finally at long last a full four days after after being delivered into the world a full month premature we bring our new little baby girl home. It’s a bit strange we’ve been waiting for this moment nearly eight months now and once she’s in the door what is there really to do. She doesn’t care about the view from any window or the masterwork that has become her room it’s all irrelevant to her and that’s when it hits me this is a different kind of houseguest. Of course this houseguest won’t be leaving for another eighteen years but unlike when friends or family visit your home Kathleen has no concern how nice her new home is as long as it’s warm and her mommy the food supply is close at hand.


Having been held up all day at the hospital awaiting Kate’s Billy Rubin test we don’t come through the front door till after nine PM with neither JoAnn nor I having eaten and just really overwhelmed by the experience of the past eight days. I know that no matter how many times we’re interrupted from sleeping tonight JoAnn will have the first real rest she’s had in a week and as for me this is night one with a new born in the room so I’m set for no rest at all. In my quest to finish the last minute shopping we thought we had another month to achieve I came to a vast realization, why do we need a bassinet? This was one of the items on my baby-shopping list, a bassinet or a Moses basket for our bedroom but after spending over four hundred dollars on a stroller/carriage/car seat combo I figured why can’t the baby sleep in this. After all she’ll only be a month or so in our room till we move her to her own crib and it’s not like she can really go anywhere, JoAnn agreed so we set the stroller into it’s flat sleeper mode and lined it with warm fuzzy fleece blankets and put her down for the night.


Unlike JoAnn I was unaccustomed to being woken at all hours by the cries of a hungry baby so sleep was sporadic the first couple nights while we slowly learned what to expect from our little girl, or rather while I learned. JoAnn was far more in tune with Katie already and on the first grumbling before she even really began to cry she was up to tend to her. I always suspected she would make a great mom but even now at this early stage I was amazed at how well she was adapting. Me on the other hand, I’d never baby sat kids before other than my niece and nephew and they weren’t babies at the time. I had no experience with babies in fact I’d shied away from them my entire life so I wondered if I was at all qualified to be called a father, surely this was going to be a much steeper learning curve for me.


Katie seemed to us to be suckling well and sleeping lots not fussing much and we patted ourselves on the back for having a wonderfully easy going baby, that was until the public health nurse made her first home visit a week later. Her first comment was Kathleen was still very jaundiced looking which we had noticed but thought would pass in time, she’d also lost nearly 10% of her birth weight which is the maximum they will let it go before they think there is a problem. Another Billy Rubin was ordered and the test result was higher than when she was still in hospital and her pediatrician wanted her readmitted right away. Of course I found out about all this on the phone as I’d gone back to work. What worried me was the emotional JoAnn was calling not the comfortable at home mommy I was getting to know the past week. I’m not sure if she thought she’d done something wrong but it just came across that way she felt she’d broken our daughter and failed as a mother to notice her child was sick. Neither of us did and that’s why there is a public health nurse to look in on newborns and their incompetent overwhelmed new parents.


I drove the two of them back to the hospital, as JoAnn would be staying the night on a cot next to Katie to feed her and watch her bake under the blue lights again while I went home alone again after only a week with the two of them. As it turned out the doctors were able to figure out JoAnn wasn’t producing enough milk yet to satisfy Katie and even though she suckled well and long she wasn’t getting enough nourishment. It’s a vicious cycle really Katie doesn’t get enough food she’ll develop jaundice but you don’t know how much food she’s getting on the breast you just assume she’s getting enough as long as she’s suckling. So it was formula for Katie and pills to help ramp up JoAnn’s production and after one night and day away basking under the blue lights they were released home again. All indications had her Billy Rubin numbers falling and on the bottle they knew she was getting plenty of food so they took a chance on letting us be parents again.


I personally was never really that worried, I never had a real fear of doom that she wouldn’t get through this early hiccup in her development but I was less sure about JoAnn. She was more worried than I’d ever seen her less sure of herself and when she asked me if I’d call my mom to see if she’d be interested in flying west for a visit I knew she needed some reassurance. She was doing everything she could and doing it right she just wanted someone to tell her she was doing it right and what better person than a retired pediatric nurse. I think in a perfect world if didn’t have to work to put food on the table I might have been able to help shoulder more of the burden JoAnn felt but the reality of the situation meant one of us had to work.


Imagine my surprise when I drop the invite on my mom expecting her in a week or two she flies in the next day. Kathleen was not her first grandchild rather her forth but it was however the first new one she’d had in over twelve years and she was as excited as anyone to see her plus she’d be the first in the family. There are both good and bad aspects to having family live far away and I guess over the next month we were about to find out as we were booked up with back to back family visits. My mother is the only one requested by JoAnn and it seemed to do the trick to settle her down, she didn’t do anything different than she was already doing but with my mother not critizing her she knew she was doing fine. That’s the good thing about my mom she never forces her views on you, only giving careful advice where she see’s fit, the next month would not prove as simple as everyone else seemed to have advice on how to raise Katie and were less discriminating in sharing their views.


Once my mother flew home we finally had a week to get used to this whole being a parent thing and seemed to get into a grove but with Katie’s demanding feeding schedule of every three hours JoAnn was not getting much sleep. I picked up the slack on the weekends trying to let her sleep and getting up to service the baby and sometimes I even pulled it off but on other occasions JoAnn would come to the rescue of an inept dad floundering way over his head. I found it quite frustrating not being able to quell Katie’s cries the way JoAnn could just by picking her up. They did spend a lot more time together and she was mom. Really who was this hairy guy she didn’t know changing her diaper in the middle of the night and trying to feed her a bottle without burping her. I mean really what do you think? of course she’s going to throw it all up on you. I think the oddest thing was I didn’t mind hearing her cry and I loved just walking around holding her as she cried but this always brought JoAnn out after a minute or two as her mothering instinct to sooth her child would not let her sleep while her idiot husband tortured her child letting her cry. To me it was like music, just hearing this little voice I had a small part in helping create still floored me. I was just overwhelmed by the love I felt for this small very vocal package and still found it hard to believe I was a father.


I may not know anything at all about how to raise her but it didn’t matter I’d learn. The important thing was she was here. It seemed like not that long ago we found out we were pregnant and now here she is, my little girl in my arms crying for her mother. It’s been a long journey to get here, thirteen years with JoAnn and me not really sure I ever wanted to be a father really but now so glad we made the decision to do this. It’s truly the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. She’s healthy and I’m determined to make her happy and if she’ll be patient with me I’ll even learn how to be a competent father as long as her mom doesn’t kill me first. Standing in the darkness of our living room with her in my arms as the sun rises I pledge to her to be the best Dad I can be and I give her a little kiss I am truly humbled and proud she’s my little girl and she’s what I’ve always wanted in this life. It took me a while to get to this moment but now that it’s here I won’t trade it for anything, welcome home Kathleen.

Blue Light Special and the Yellow Baby


(Written as a post script to the events that happened just after our first daughters birth in 2003. It’s hard for me to even recall the events and emotions I felt at that time so I’m glad I kept this record)

Volume #9

So now I’m a father with all the responsibilities and rewards that go along with that title and right out of the gate we have problems. Our brand new daughter has shoulder dystocia, which happened during the difficult last couple minutes of birth when Kathleen’s heart rate was dropping and the doctor did what he had to do to save her life and get her out into the world. The end result is a left arm that has no mobility as the nerves too it were damaged or in a worst case scenario severed but she is able to grip things in her hand so there is hope she may recover some if not all function in her arm. Were greeted by a physiotherapist that gives us a series of exercises to perform on her once a day, the reason being to keep her young muscles working while the nerves work on developing and regenerating.

Just in case that wasn’t enough they give our little girl a blood test called a Billy Rubin which indicates to them the presence of jaundice which would also explain the yellowish color in her eyes and mouth. I’ve heard the word jaundice before and know it’s some sort of liver aliment that turns the patient yellow but short of that I know nothing, it can’t kill her can it? Again the doctors give us the worst-case scenario of liver failure due to her premature arrival but assure us that with preemies this is normal. Her young liver may or may not be ready for full-time processing duty but given a little time she’ll probably come around. I wanted to ask what happens if it doesn’t but was more afraid of the blunt answer I’d hear so I kept quite. Here we think we have this perfect little girl she sleeps lots doesn’t cry a lot is pretty lethargic while awake which we find out is all bad. Already we’re having problems and we haven’t even left the building yet, are we really ready for this?

In order to remedy the jaundice the pediatrician has ordered light therapies, which were told, is painless and can happen in JoAnn’s room so she can stay close by and still breast feed her as needed. It’s just a rolling stand with a light unit holding four blue fluorescent lights that is positioned directly over her crib, Katie is given time on her back and tummy at regular intervals like cooking a roast in an oven. They cover her eyes with gauze than place a headband on her head to hold the gauze in place, they also take off her diaper and fashion a sterile mask on her bottom like a string bikini. They place a clear plastic lid on the clear plastic crib she’s in and ta -da you’ve got the blue light special “shake and bake baby”. She only cries a little and before you know it she’s fast asleep in the warmth of her little cocoon her arms over her head enjoying the rays as if she were laying on a beach in Hawaii.


Kathleen is two days old and she’s got a seemingly endless staff of doctors and nurses looking in on her and two overwhelmed concerned new parents that were not prepared for this sort of start to her life. I think JoAnn and I both saw us having a healthy child and in two days heading home to our new life together much like the couple in the next bed did earlier that day but fate had something else on it’s mind for us. Our first test as parents was upon us and neither of us studied this chapter “your newborn with health problems”.

On top of this I have nurses casually asking me about JoAnn’s mental state as they notice she’s pretty emotional which I agree she is. Is she freaked out? “Yes”, is she emotional? “Yes”, is she upset? “Yes”, by all accounts the staff was just doing their job but after thirteen years I think I know my wife. After four days in the hospital leading up to the birth with an IV every four hours day or night plus stuck on the same ward unable to leave she was already going a little stir crazy. She just needed to be at home where she was in control of her own life. Being as JoAnn is usually the one organizing other’s lives when she’s at work she was not wholly used to the idea of having little to no say in what she could do or where she could do it. It bothered me to see her this wound up and I set out to try to relive her tension. If they wouldn’t let her go home I’d bring our home to her.

Hospital food being what it is we’d been bringing in take out every night and after six days of this we both needed a change so I went out picked up some supplies and went home and made her some of our favorite foods, BBQ chops and grilled veggies and packed them up with our own cutlery and dishes and brought the whole works to the hospital for a picnic. My somewhat romantic gesture had it’s intended effect and it brought JoAnn’s mood up to a point where through all the stress of the situation we faced I could see she was still the same happy girl I married eight years earlier and I knew once we were home she’d be fine. Apparently my gesture did not go un-noticed as it was all the talk around the nurse’s station and I think I inadvertently put a lot of pressure on all the other husbands visiting their wives.

The next morning after a pretty good night with spirits up we had the wind knocked out of us again when the pediatrician visited Kathleen and told us her Billy Rubin number from that morning’s test was actually higher than when they first diagnosed the jaundice. He had one look at the light set up and told the nurse it was all wrong as the clear lid all but counter acts the effect of the light thus rendering the past twenty-four hours of treatment useless. The nurse that originally set up the light was there and our feelings were very easy to read, we were quite upset that our daughter had been getting worse right in front of us because someone didn’t know how to administer the light therapy properly. I made no bones about how mad I was and JoAnn tried to calm me down while she became very emotional, we were both out of control we just manifested it in different ways. It’s about now another nurse asks me about JoAnn’s emotional state and I tell her it’s not her but me you better worry about because I was ready to hurt someone.

It’s not to say I take postpartum depression lightly in fact Kathleen’s name sakes older brother, my great-uncle experienced it to the maximum degree in the 1940’s when his wife smothered their new-born then committed suicide but I didn’t feel we were anywhere close to this ourselves. I just needed to get JoAnn home where she could be surrounded by her own things and make plans for herself and where she could sleep in our own bed, if they didn’t release her today I didn’t know what she’d do but I knew she was at her breaking point, any reasonable person would be. The nurse who set up the light felt terrible and quite honestly she did what she thought was right, I just wish the doctor hadn’t waited a full day before checking that his orders were being carried out correctly.

After a few hours of moping around the room and counseling one another looking at our little girl again under the lights (correctly set up this time) I left for a walk to find a coffee. I took a long walk and tried to figure out what I could do to help JoAnn through another night in the hospital. I felt as if I let her down blowing up in the nursery in front of a group of nursing students and though I felt vindicated to do so I was ashamed. I wasn’t there to help her I forced her to try to calm me when truly she was the one under more stress having just given birth, a new mom with a sick child and stuck in the hospital herself. I came and went as I pleased, spent every night at home and truly failed in my role as support to her. It just proves to me that women are a lot stronger than men ever give them credit for.

When I finally return in a few hours still pretty down on myself I find the JoAnn of old happy and up beat packing her bag as Kathleen’s Billy Rubin numbers are headed down dramatically they decided to let them go home, maybe it was my threat that scared them but no matter they were both being released. That is provided Katie passes her child seat stress test, which my little girl does with out so much as a peep as she’s ready to go home to.

So now we find ourselves in new territory as we say goodbye to the nurses that took care of them the past eight days and the second roommate she’s had in a week and we walk off the ward as a family for the first time. I’ve come and gone so often out of the hospital I forget this is the first time in a week JoAnn has gone down this elevator and actually left the building. At long last we were all finally going home, a moment I’ve been waiting for but still can’t believe is finally here. We could hardly contain our joy as we left the hospital and strapped Katie into the car for the very first time for her first ever car ride. We knew the coming days, weeks, months and years were to be full of firsts but this was the first of all firsts us leaving as a family as we set out to begin this new chapter in our lives.

This is it…I think


Volume #8

(A quick note, I’ve skipped over Volume #7 which chronicles the four days of waiting which explains how this post begins)

I wake on Saturday morning and instead of springing from the bed I hit snooze…a couple of times, I have coffee and I walk the dog. What’s the real hurry anyway it’s been three days so far with nothing happening why would I believe yet again this is the day. This is something I’d never read or seen in any video the fact that once the membranes rupture and release the flood they are containing that it can be days before a baby is born. I was always under the impression as false as it may have been that once the water breaks your having a baby, oh how little I know.

I catch the train like I’m going to work and already knowing what they have on the menu I buy some breakfast for JoAnn and I at the hospital coffee shop and report to the third floor room 3338 where I find her resting after a bad night of cramps. They give her the anti biotic drip and their idea of breakfast then they load her into a wheelchair to take the familiar trip downstairs to labor and delivery. We’ve made this trip so often now with so many nurses it’s not daunting at all it’s more routine and our potential excitement is dampened by the disappointment this trip has brought us the past three days. We get bed two which is the first time we’ve had this cubicle in all our trips to the examination room and we set up playing cards and like the past couple days I can’t buy a winning hand. When Dr. Wong finally does come in to examine her there is no surprise till he announces she’s two and a half centimetres dilated and we are all smiles like we just won a free ice cream. We figure another dose of prostin gel and we’ll carry on playing cards upstairs when the doctor tells the nurse to put JoAnn in delivery room 7 and ready the oxytocin drip we’re going to have a baby today.

It’s taken four days to get here but finally we made it into a delivery room and today at some point were going to have a baby…or at least that’s what they’re telling us, I’ll believe it when I can hold it in my arms. They hook up all the baby monitors and pulse monitors to JoAnn and ready the oxytocin drip all the while we’re having fun playing cards (me losing) not really very nervous at all. The first three days of waiting have loosened us up to a point we may actually enjoy this at least neither of us is stressing about it anymore.

Our nurse starts the drip about eleven AM and in no time at all JoAnn is experiencing labor pains. We keep playing cards for a while till she can’t concentrate any longer then she just rocks back and forth in the rocker she’s in like a maniac. They give her nitrogen gas to suck on to help ease the pain but as it turns out it’s really just something to do to focus on because apparently it did nothing for the pain. Me I’ve got my foot on the rocker trying to keep her from flipping the chair she’s pushing back and forth so hard, she doesn’t really want me to hold her hand or touch her for that matter and the happy look she brought into this room is fast being replaced by one of real panic. The contractions can be seen as a spike on the monitor but I can tell when she’s having one by just how hard she’s pushing off in the chair.

Were only an hour and a half into this when she decides she’d like to have the blood work done to have her prepped for an epidural. Not long after that our nurse Maryanne helps get JoAnn onto the delivery bed and the marathon of sweat has begun we’re almost there, the finish line is in site. In all the years we’ve been together and all the activities we’ve done I’ve never seen JoAnn work up such a sweat she was burning up and I took it upon myself to keep getting cool wet washcloths to put on her forehead or the back of her neck. Down the hall from one of the other delivery rooms we can hear a blood-curdling scream and thou we just look at each other I know she’s thinking the same thing I am, is that where we’re headed? She wants that epidural when they check and see she’s over eight centimetres it’s too late she’s told; we’re going to do this commando style now.

There’s little for me to do now and no one has really prepped me for what to do, JoAnn bites down so hard on the nitrogen mask I think she’s going to chew through it and the only thing she thinks to say to me is that she stinks, in this situation her own body odour is what’s worrying her. The smells in the delivery room are very unusual to my nose between her and the fluid that’s pouring out of her with great regularity, I feel the humidity of the room rising and the coldness we noticed when we first got here seems to have been replaced by a humid sweet odour.

Just over three hours after the oxytocin was started we’re ready to start pushing and it strikes me as odd as I always thought there would be a doctor present during the delivery, it’s still just Maryanne and us. Soon enough Dr. Wong does join us but we keep pushing through the contractions taking two new breaths and holding till the contraction passes whether the doctor and nurse are paying attention or not. I know this is all real routine to them but we’re new at this and a little help would be welcomed, at least show a little interest in what’s going on at the bed and not at her chart. They position JoAnn on her side facing me and now it becomes my job to hold her one leg in the air out of the way while she pushes, she’s huffing on the nitrogen like a junkie when they tell her to stop using it as it won’t help now…no kidding.

It doesn’t seem like very long before Ziggy is crowning and I see my boy has a full head of dark hair like his dad, she pushes and pushing each time gaining ground but we seem to have hit a wall when Dr. Wong makes a decision…episiotomy. The E word is something JoAnn feared from the start she even asked about it in the class we took and she held out hope it would never happen to her but here we are and it was the only way, push and tear or the doctor makes a nice clean cut. I could tell she was worried and I reassured her as best I could but at this point she just wanted him out do it, do it now. There was an awful lot of blood, more than I ever imagined and even with the cut made he wouldn’t come out he was stuck, “Houston we have a problem”.

Everything happened so fast but after the last contraction when the baby didn’t come I knew something was happening and they weren’t telling us. The next contraction hits and she’s pushing like never before but he’s still stuck, I hear the nurse make a call on the phone “Code blue” or something like that as Dr. Wong’s face turns white and I think he’s trying to pull the babies head off. The baby’s heart rate is dropping while he’s pulling when the head doctor on duty and a couple more nurses run into the room and pull JoAnn’s legs dam near behind her ears while other nurses push on her stomach it’s an all out effort to get this kid out now and I just watch in awe not really sure what’s happening at all. Finally is a last gush that hits me in the face he’s out and the Pediatrician cuts the cord and steals him away to look over this premature kid who if I’m not mistaken did not come equipped with little boy hardware.

From where they’re working on him I hear nothing, no cries no screaming, nothing at all, it’s the longest ten seconds of my life till I finally hear those lungs fill with air and cry a welcome to the world. To my astonishment and amazement I was correct in noticing my little boy was in fact a little girl Ziggy and with that Kathleen Annika was born weighing in at seven pounds and nineteen inches long with blue eyes and a full head of dark hair. I had a daughter and I was so thrilled and happy I couldn’t help but cry when telling JoAnn, I never really thought it was possible as I was always hoping for a girl and now my wish had come true. I did the ceremonial cutting of the cord or what was left of it, in the emergency of the moment they cut all but the last four inches already; no matter it was a thrill just the same.


The after math of birth they never show you in the video’s and I think the reason why is no one would ever procreate. I was already reeling from the birth and the fact my little boy was actually a girl and now there is the aftermath to contend with, the birth of the placenta went much easier than Kathleen’s entry. I was shocked at the amount of blood and fluid flowing out of JoAnn but a lot of that was a result of the episiotomies.

I brought the now neatly wrapped little Kathleen over to meet her mommy and we all shared a quite moment staring at one another, I was basically speechless as I always wanted a daughter but never ever felt it was in the cards with my families history of boys the past century so I never really verbalized it for fear of jinxing our chances. I’d read that a lot of men have a new found respect for their wives after seeing them give birth and I’d count myself in that group as at this point in my life I’ve never been more impressed with what she’s just gone through for us all. The overwhelming love I feel for her at this moment and for this new little girl cannot be described as I am humbled and in awe. I know there will be no arguments as to who’s doing the cooking or cleaning in the near future. Welcome to the world my new little girl you may now commence to steal my heart…second thought you already have. It’s finally happened, I’m a father.




What do you mean you’re in the hospital?


Volume #6


In this volume I planed to write about the last finishing touches to the nursery, stocking it with supplies and making last minute preparations while we watched the clock tick down to JoAnn’s due date. That’s what I was planning but that’s not what I’m going to write here, something funny happened on the way to typing this memory out, in a mini van running around town a phone rang. Actually it was my boss on a radio telling me to turn my cell phone on as JoAnn was going to call me. His voice was ramped up so I knew it was serious and since we had a paralyzed cat dying at home I feared the worst, through the tears and sobbing I deciphered “my water broke”, this was Wednesday morning. Now guys if your driving when you hear this all I can recommend is you pull over till your heart stops racing and figure out a clear course of action before you set off racing across town. “Where are you? You’re at the hospital good, how did you get there? You drove yourself…. You did what?” My wife never seizes to amaze me, her water breaks my cell is off so she calls her doctor who tells her to come in which she does driving herself in the frantic freaked out state she was in.


Now you have to remember we are still over four weeks from her due date we thought we had lots of time left and though all the lists and plans we made in preparation for Ziggy’s arrival not once did it ever cross our minds that this kid would show up early. It never occurred to me, we both make our livings in jobs where schedules and timetables are the basis for everyday life and we made the mistake of trying to put Ziggy on the same schedule too, well I guess we both forgot to fax him a copy that had her arriving in mid September because he was coming to dinner early.


Once I calmed down a bit I started to drive across town towards the hospital and wouldn’t you know it I got behind two little old ladies having a drag race to see who could get to the next red light last, I think I hit every red light on the way, lights I’d never seen red changed color and I felt my blood begin to boil. Relax I told myself remember the pre natal class we have hours before delivery after the water breaks. I was thinking of all the things we hadn’t done that were on the agenda for the weekend, all the major purchases were done but we had a couple big ticket items left still and we hadn’t even really considered packing a bag to have at the ready for when this moment finally did arrive. As I drove with my mind racing I figured I needed to make a plan so I called the hospital to ask how JoAnn was and what sort of time I had or if the baby was on it’s way now. As I suspected I had a little time so I carried on home after finally getting past the little old lady drag team and started to pack a bag for JoAnn and the baby.


I figured this should be easy we’ve traveled lots I know what she packs and I quickly stuffed some of her favorite things in her suitcase, I then went into the nursery to gather up some stuff for Ziggy already knowing what the hospital would provide from our tour I figured this would be easy. I grabbed diapers and receiving blankets and a bunch of cloths all of which were brand new on hangers with the tags still on them as washing them was a future plan, I left the tags on and stuffed them in, then I see a couple store bags on the floor. I inspect the contents to find post pregnancy nursing cloths; of course you idiot and I promptly dump the contents of the bag out on the floor and start loading in all these new cloths for JoAnn also with the tags still on them. In her bathroom I’m lost I don’t know what she’ll want so like a guy I take what I would pack a hair brush, tooth brush and a tube of toothpaste.


As the van I’m driving is a work vehicle I leave it on the street for my replacement to find and I make my way a half block to the skytrain station which only one stop later stops at the hospital. I’m excited and would love to yell out “MY WIFE’S HAVING A BABY” but I refrain and quietly board with the other passengers. I don’t sit, I can’t sit I’m too wound up I’m about to become a father and it really hits me what’s about to happen. I knew this day would come but even when you plan every last detail to still get blindsided like this was a shock. I’m just glad I set August 1st not September as the completion date for the nursery. Earlier in the week JoAnn started buying supplies for the room and she thought she’d budget herself to one store per week as she’d already found out the best places to buy everything she needed and had lists for all the stores but I said “the heck with it buy it all use the credit cards we’ll pay it at the end of the month, I’d rather have it in the house then have to scramble for it later” this was no time to be cheap, one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in years other wise it would be me out there doing the shopping and that just wouldn’t be pretty.


At the time I wasn’t all that keen on the hospital tour I just saw it as stealing a Monday evening at home away from me but truly it was great as when I walked through the front door I knew exactly where the elevator was which floor to stop at and how to snake my way through the hallway to the labor and delivery ward with out asking anyone, as if I’d stop to ask directions come on I’m a guy I’d just wander aimlessly till I found it but I knew where I was going and was thankful of that.


At Royal Columbian Hospital they have a room with four beds where they do there inspection and asses the patient as to how far along they are and set out a course of action, this was where I found JoAnn in bed number 1. She was freaked out scared and emotional and I knew I needed to be the rock to support her; we were in big trouble that was for sure. Once she’d updated me on what she knew was going on, her doctor at the clinic upstairs sent her here I was berated for having my cell phone off while she told me the tale of how she finally got a hold of me. She called her union hall to get the number for my shows production office then she got connected to my boss whom she knew would have some sort of radio contact with me who did just that and finally I got the call almost an hour after her water had broke but in my defense her due date was over a month away I shouldn’t be getting this call now but this was no time to argue.


The doctor did his inspection releasing another gush of water which freaked me out this time and his recommendation was we’d wait twenty four hours then reassess her condition to see if labour had begun on it’s own and just like that he was gone and JoAnn was sent upstairs to the maternity ward where she was like a couple other woman with out baby’s waiting to deliver. Or in her case waiting for her thirty-five week cervices to realize her membranes had ruptured and her premature baby was anxious to make his debut. We knew we weren’t going to be parents today which was good we got another night to collectively get ready for tomorrow and besides who wants to be born on the thirteenth? Sooner or later your birthday will land on a Friday not that we’re suppositious but the fourteenth had a nicer ring to it. Had this happened the day before it would have been on our eighth wedding anniversary. I also was driving the creator of the show I was working on to the airport the day before. It was JoAnn’s favorite writer Stephen King and when he found out my wife was due on Sept 19th (his birthday) he asked if I would name the child after him. Steve wasn’t that far of a stretch so I agreed. I guess I’ll have to get word to him I wouldn’t be fulfilling his request.


For now we were in a holding pattern, she wasn’t in labor but she couldn’t leave as they had her on a antibiotic drip every four hours so I set off to finish the shopping and get the last couple things we really needed before the baby arrived tomorrow. I was convinced we were having a boy not just because of the predominates of boys and lack of girls born in my family the past century but only a boy would show up early, I was always on time, it was my job and it was obvious Ziggy was a lot like his dad. I looked forward to meeting him tomorrow and I set off to find out where JoAnn parked the car and do some last minute shopping. It was going to be a long night for all of us.