Gilbert John: A Birth Story

by Nadine on December 7, 2017

Our newest addition turned 2 months old this week. Let’s take a walk down recent-memory lane, shall we?

Day One.

The Summary:

My birth plan: To have a home birth. At night. And Ursula would sleep through the whole thing.

The reality: Yep.

The Story:

On the evening of October 4th, eight days after my due date, I went into labour. As the contractions strengthened, I joked to Matthew that we should name our son Roger in honour of the day: Ten-four.

I gave birth after midnight on the 5th, making the joke-name irrelevant. You’re welcome, kiddo.

We were at home, putting away groceries, when it became clear he was on his way. So we sped up Ursula’s dinner and bedtime routine, hoping to have her in bed before it was noticeable that Mommy was in pain. She obliged with no protest.

Matthew put a plastic drop cloth over our bedsheets, then topped that cloth with old sheets. We had a stack of old towels and blankets by the bed. A couple bowls. A flashlight. A hot water bottle. Blue pads. Wipes. Advil. We were ready.

The midwives arrived shortly after, joking that they were missing Survivor for me.

Apparently people still watch Survivor. I know nothing.

Because my labour with Ursula was very short for a firstborn, we anticipated that this one would be even faster. It wasn’t — but was still a reasonably quick five hours. (“Always be prepared” is my life motto even though I have no Scout experience whatsoever. I’m more of an indoor cat than outdoorswoman.) So the midwives came immediately, rather than wait for labour to intensify.

Matthew called Bethany, my second cousin’s wife — let’s just call her my cousin, ‘cause family is family — to let her know what was going on, in case Ursula woke up and/or we had to go to the hospital. She lives just a few minutes away and was graciously willing to provide childcare if we needed it.

Important Aside:

The home birth was my insistence, not a recommendation from my midwives. On my due date, I received a call from my primary midwife, informing me that because baby boy was measuring large, her professional recommendation was that I give birth at the hospital.

I knew he was going to be large, I told her. Ursula was almost 9 pounds. I wasn’t concerned. My family makes big, healthy babies.

She warned me of shoulder dystocia — a rare-but-potentially-serious complication in which the baby’s shoulder gets stuck during labour — and how the risk increases with larger babies. And then she told me something NO HEALTHCARE PROVIDER SHOULD EVER SAY:

“Google it.”

I cried. Not because I was scared of the stuck shoulder, but because she was putting me in a position where I would have to go against medical advice or choose an option based on fear. I was 40 weeks pregnant, and I felt like my healthy pregnancy was suddenly being threatened with birth complications.

In the end, I held my ground.

Even after she asked, “Could you live with yourself if something goes wrong?”


I do not take risk lightly. I loved (and still love) my baby dearly. I would do anything for him. And I honestly believed that a home birth was the right decision for our family. Complications happen in hospitals, too. And doctors are not necessarily more equipped to deal with shoulder dystocia than midwives. (Where’s Ina May when you need her?) Besides, the hospital was just minutes away if we needed it.

My medical file has a note in it that states my choice was not the recommended one. I didn’t let them induce me or break my water, either.

It turns out that I can be a pretty stubborn mama bear when I need to be.

So I had a home birth.*

The pain seemed more intense this time. I told Matthew I was scared, something I didn’t say during labour the first time.

He gripped my hand and said, “It feels intense because IT IS intense” — something my midwife told me when I was labouring with Ursula two years earlier. He knew I needed those words. I needed that first midwife. Someone who empowered me, championed my choices, and took charge when I started to feel weak.

(Jill, if you’re out there, THANK YOU. You were my backup midwife in spirit.)

After five hours of labouring in the shower and on our bed, it was time to meet our little guy. He came out in three pushes — all 9 pounds, 9 ounces (and 22.5”) of him. His shoulder was a nonissue. He was perfect.

Gilbert John.

L’il Gil.

I nursed him while the midwives cleaned him off with our old towels. (Fun fact: a home birth is a great way to purge your old towels and sheets.) Then I hobbled off to have a shower while they examined him and filled out paperwork — and put the placenta in our freezer.

(No, I wasn’t going to eat it. But I wasn’t going to toss it in the trash a full six days before garbage day. I didn’t want to know what happens when raccoons get their grubby rodent-hands on one.)

When I was done showering, our bed was made and ready for me. I climbed in, ate some toast and a banana, and cuddled with my newborn.

(Apparently I eat bananas after having babies. It’s my thing. It’s also my thing to go into labour after dinner and have the baby before breakfast. It’s very important to not skip meals.)

Gilbert was large, but not large enough to need glucose monitoring at the hospital. We could stay home. And sleep. And so we did.

Ursula slept through the entire thing. According to plan. When she woke up that morning, she immediately wanted to “hold it” and smother her brother with kisses.

I spent the next day or two dozing in our room with Gil while family rotated in and out. My recovery was easier this time. My confidence level as a new parent higher. My exhaustion greater.

We’re still adjusting to life as a family of four. But in some ways, it feels like he’s always been here.

Welcome, Gilbert.

We love you. Thanks for making our new home an even more special one. This is where you started.

Read Ursula’s birth story here.


*Please don’t read this as ungrateful or bitter. Or an endorsement to ignore medical advice. I was SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL to find a midwife in Hamilton, considering I was already seven months pregnant when we got here and midwives typically have waiting lists. After a couple teary conversations, my midwives and I were a team again. And all follow-up appointments were encouraging and supportive.



by Nadine on June 22, 2017

Dearest Ursula,

Today you are two.

“I don’t smile on demand.”

You are growing up so quickly. And while it’s thrilling to watch you explore the world around you, it’s also bittersweet: you’re my baby girl. I don’t know if I’m ready for a big kid.

But ready or not, here you are. Walking to the park with your backpack on. Choosing your own clothes. Ditching the diapers. (THANK YOU for that one, babe. One week into potty-training, and you’re already a pro.) Saying “cool beans” when you put on your sunglasses. Demanding particular snacks, YouTube videos, outings and visitors. (You want your entire extended family to visit you every day. I admire your commitment to family — but most of them have day jobs, hun.)

You love Emma the yellow Wiggle (and, subsequently, all things yellow-, bow-, glasses-, drum-, dance- and bike-related). You love Elmo. You love baby sharks, particularly this song and dance. When quizzed, you can identify most of the letters of the alphabet — and know that N becomes Z when tipped on its side, and M is a W that’s just upside-down. You can count to ten, but only when we’re walking up the stairs. Otherwise, you skip a few numbers then get stuck on 13.

“I do it” and “I see it” are your most-used sentences.

You love wearing sunscreen. Any kind of lotion, really.

You wish you could wear earrings and mascara. You’ll have to settle for a blush brush and the occasional swipe of lip balm for now.

You think you have a “cute bum.” Never change. (Although you might not want to always announce it.)

You love stickers and want Mommy and Daddy to fix the ones you’ve torn in half.

You expect daily dance parties.

Strangers stop to compliment your giant blue eyes. Your dad and I often feel like we’re a minor celebrity’s bodyguards when we go for walks with you. People gawk at you — and ignore us.

Last week at the market, you stole my green smoothie and drank it all. Next time I’ll order two.

Your favourite songs (as of this week): “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Apples and Bananas,” “Baby Shark,” “Little Sir Echo,” and “Peanut Butter (and Jelly).”

You devour pancakes and scones and waffles and fruit salad and yogurt and granola and “purple cert” (Raisin Bran, the cereal in the purple box). You’re the best brunch date.

Your “truck” sounds like “f*ck” and we try so hard not to laugh when you yell this in public.

After lunch and dinner, you announce it’s time for “potty, books and bed.” When you say “books ground,” you mean that you want Daddy to read to you on the floor — so you can jump all over him.

You often bring books, toys, sunglasses, a water bottle, and a comb to bed with you. Always be prepared.

You’re still book-obsessed. I promise to always support this.

When I ask you if you need to use the potty while you’re playing with friends, you roll your eyes in exasperation like I’m bothering you. It’s because I am, child. It’s my job to bother you for the rest of your life.

You frequently use “please” and “thank you” and “sorry” — and usually at appropriate times. (You didn’t need to apologize to the door last week. But I’m sure it appreciated it.)

You love your baby brother already. At the end of the day, you rest your head on my round belly so we can sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to him. You hug my belly and yell, “Hi, baby! Hi, baby!” You love visits to the midwife and want to be a “baby help” and a “baby doctor.” I can’t wait to introduce you two in September.

We celebrated your birthday on Sunday with family: another indoor picnic because the weather never likes to cooperate. This year’s theme: U2-meets-twoti-frutti. You spent the hours before the party pacing the house, hyper-anxious for cake, balloons, presents and “party!” And donuts. (Thank you for bringing the Dutchie back, Tim Hortons! And thank you, Matthew, for the amazing cake — and buttercream frosting.)

Not every day is easy. You’re a stubborn firstborn, just like your mom and dad. You’re testing and learning limits. You’re not afraid to fight for what you want. You’ve mastered instant-tears and the dramatic collapse. And…you’re a morning person. (PLEASE SLEEP IN.)

But, as Drew Holcomb sings, “You’re like a piece of heaven in a hurricane.”* We wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s an honour to celebrate you, little one. We’re so happy God entrusted us with you.

Happy birthday, Ursula.

We love you.

*Song of the day:


Toddler Translation

by Nadine on June 1, 2017

Look who’s talking (and is almost) 2!*

She asked to be buried in pillows. Her wish is my command.

Translating toddler-speak is no easy task, even when it’s your own kid.

Yesterday morning, I heard her talking to herself in her crib: “Cookie tar diamond, cookie tar diamond.”

Me (assuming she was talking about this book): Is the diamond in the cookie jar?


Matthew: I think she’s singing “Twinkle, twinkle little star.”

Me: “…like a diamond in the sky?”

Ursula: Yeah.


Last summer, if Ursula cried when we started to leave the market, we would assume she was either tired or overheated or hungry, give her a few words/kisses of encouragement, and go home.

Now, if Ursula cries when we start leaving the market, she tells us why.

This week, as we approached our car after a market picnic, Ursula burst into tears. At first, I thought she had been stung by a wasp — that’s how sudden the tears were.

Though her sobs, I was able to translate the following:

Ursula was crying because she was sad. She didn’t want to go home. She wanted to watch the kids on bikes. And she wanted her own bike. And she wanted Mommy to have a bike. And she wanted Daddy to have a bike. And when she gets her own bike, she wants it to be a yellow bike. Emma has a yellow bike. And Emma dances. And has a bow in her hair.

Makes me wonder if we really didn’t get her last summer. Maybe she wasn’t tired or hungry after all.


I was walking past a condo construction site with Ursula.

Me: Mommy and Daddy almost bought one of those condos. But they were too small.

Ursula (nodding knowingly): Daddy big.


We were running late for Working Ensemble.

Me: Ursula, we’re gonna leave here in 10 minutes. I just need to put on some makeup.

Ursula (pointing to her eyelashes): Eyes.

Me: Yeah, I get it. My eyes need help this morning.

She just smiled. And then she clapped for me when I finished blowdrying my hair. Positive reenforcement results in a more presentable mother.


Note to all the young moms out there: While parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier — with every age and stage comes a new set of challenges and level of exhaustion — talking is such a game-changer. Your little babies will soon tell you why they’re crying. It might be because you won’t let them sleep with a knife (as was the case in our house yesterday). You’ll say no to the knife, the kid will still cry, but at least everyone knows why.


*Look Who’s Talking did not need a sequel.


Celine Dion with Anne Shirley’s sleeves.* Two national treasures in one.

It’s been a while since I posted a reading roundup. Got a minute? Here’s how to spend your kid’s nap time:

Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools. I’m an indoor cat. And I’m not 5. “Forest kindergarten” is not for me. But I would send my kids to one. (The New York Times)

Dwayne Johnson For President! You do not have to be a fan of The Rock to adore this article. Caity Weaver is a fantastic writer. And, yeah, she might convince you to vote for Johnson. Or at least consider him your new best friend. (GQ)

Mo Willems’s Funny Failures. We all love Mo — and his pigeon — at our house. Related: There’s a Knuffle Bunny shoutout in the final season of How I Met Your Mother. Something only a parent would notice. (The New Yorker)

Why the 1980s Anne of Green Gables Is Such a Hard Act to Follow. The title says it all. (Vanity Fair)

Free tampons in school bathrooms? A 14-year-old girl made it happen. A modern-day hero. (Seattle Times)

The Oral History of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’: Controversies, Doubts & ‘Belly Pains’ In the Studio. Guys, it’s been TWENTY YEARS. We are all so old. Also, Celine is the best. She recorded the vocals for movie-version of the song IN ONE TAKE — WITH CRAMPS. Even her PMS is way better than everyone else’s. (Billboard)

Okay, your turn. Read anything good (online) lately? 


(Image source: Ethan Miller/Getty)


Constant Craving*

by Nadine on April 26, 2017

*Not really. I’m pretty low-maintenance on the cravings meter.


A couple weeks ago, I wanted a Dutchie. I might have used the word “need.”

Dutchies no longer exist. Not even in Timbit form.

MATTHEW: So essentially you’re craving a memory.

NADINE: Does this mean I can never be happy again?!

While unable to conjure the donut of my dreams, Matthew DID, early in my pregnancy, return home from a night out with friends with a takeout container of garlic fries. At midnight. For his nauseous wife to eat in her pyjamas. It was glorious.



Image source: Wikimedia Commons.


And Baby Makes Four!

by Nadine on April 25, 2017

Someone’s getting a sidekick!

This pregnancy has been a doozy, energy-sapping-wise. More nausea, exhaustion, and general zombie-like behaviour than the first. And, unlike the first pregnancy, this one comes with a side of energetic toddler. She has no chill — and sometimes enjoys hurling herself off a side table onto the couch.

At 18 weeks, I’m just starting to feel human again.

(Shoutout to Matthew, who’s been doing the early-morning thing with Ursula every day so I can get a little extra rest. And shoutout to Ursula, who holds me accountable to taking a daily prenatal vitamin: “Baby eat!”)

We’re excited for Ursula to have a sibling. She really likes kids, and is already kissing my belly and talking about “baby.” Only occasionally — and usually after a tantrum in public or a snotty, sleepless night — do Matthew and I look at each other and ask, “WHAT ARE WE GETTING OURSELVES INTO?!

(We’ll survive. The kids will go off to summer camp in, like, 9 years. And we will sleep again.)


It’s Saturday! The kid’s napping! Let’s read.

Life motto. (Image: Lucy Vigrass for The New York Times)

Seven Work Goals for 2017: What I Learned From In The Company Of Women. I read this book over the holidays. Full of fantastic kick-in-the-pants inspiration. (Design*Sponge)

Festive Lights Should Remain Up Throughout The Wintertime. A polite demand. (The Hairpin.)

11 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2017. (New York Times)

Related: How to dress like an adult. P.S. I HATE ironing. (New York Times)

Viola Davis’s Call To Adventure. A downside to having a toddler: being totally out of the loop, movies-wise. This is a great read, whether or not you’ve seen Fences yet. (The New Yorker)

Kate Black’s Top Canadian Ethical Fashion Brands. I am down to two threadbare pairs of jeans and zero sneakers. Shopping well is a priority this year. (INLAND)

I Surrendered My Wardrobe. I don’t have a big wardrobe. But in (re)building one post-baby, I aspire to a simple, streamlined one. (GQ)

Washington Post Express Puts Male Symbol on Women’s Inauguration March Cover. Um, ALWAYS PROOFREAD. (The Hollywood Reporter.)


Picture Book Fashion: The Cat In The Hat

by Nadine on January 5, 2017

If you’re over at our house and Ursula starts yelling “Hat! Hat!” in your direction, she probably wants you to get out the Dr. Seuss.

A perk to having kids is the frequent delightful nostalgic high you get from rereading your childhood favourites. And this page in particular always made me very happy.

I still want that dress.

Here’s how to get it, sans retro collar. (Sadly. I guess scalloped collars aren’t in right now? Time to DIY one.)

Sources: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5

Fortunately for my wallet, this one’s sold out.

Or source a vintage pattern and make the dress. Out of this, maybe? (I want to sew in 2017. More on that later.)

Who needs Vogue when you’ve got Seuss?

P.S. Here’s how to dress like the girl from We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,  Mama BearLady TashaMadeline, and the mom from Love You Forever.


Merry Christmas!

by Nadine on December 25, 2016

When we were engaged, Matthew gave me a painting of a yeti on a sled for Christmas.

Six years later, he animated that painting.

Happy Holidays from Bellzon 2016 from Bellzon on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you in 2017.


When the weather outside is frightful, be thankful for your Internet connection.

[Source: Architectural Digest]

Things I read this week:

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Donald Glover, Issa Rae and Damien Chazelle in One Epic Conversation. I want to work with these people. (The Hollywood Reporter)

How Women Modernized The Disney Princess. There aren’t a lot of women in animation. They’re important. (Buzzfeed)

Here’s the Most Effective Way to Say No to Things You Don’t Want to Do. It all comes down to “don’t” vs. “can’t.” (NY Mag)

A Holiday Tea Party Filled with Festive Touches. This party is literally calling my name. See above photo. (Architectural Digest)

Also at Architectural Digest: Your Guide to All the 2017 Colors of the Year. I’m digging Greenery and Shadow. You?

White House Eggnog. I want to drink this. But I have a toddler. My wake-up call is 5:30. And this beverage appears to be about 50 PERCENT ALCOHOL. Party on, Obamas. (America’s Table)