A miscarriage debrief Part II


 

I wrote the first part of this debrief about 6 weeks after my miscarriage last September. Now that my due date has come and gone, I find myself dealing with a new range of emotions as I move past the shock of the miscarriage itself and into the realization of the broader ramifications of recovering from a significant health crisis.

 

I started showing signs of peri-menopause after the twins were born when I was 37. Low progesterone, erratic cycles, just the usual. When my husband and I decided to have another child in 2015, we knew that I was walking into a growing chance of miscarriage. I had never miscarried before but I knew enough women who had been through this ordeal not to expect to be spared forever. Through the years, pregnancy after pregnancy, I had always been acutely aware of my luck and of the increasing likelihood that it would eventually run out.

 

We conceived in May of 2015. I took a pregnancy test as soon as my periods were late and it came back negative. As my periods got later and later and pregnancy tests kept showing a negative result, I knew that this pregnancy was probably precarious. I took a third test, this one positive and my periods started the next day. It was a non-event. We celebrated the tiny flicker of life that had dwelled in me privately, without informing our children or our families. We were thankful that we had “tried” for this one. That we had known from day 1 that it was a possibility. The next cycle, I got pregnant again. This time, a strong positive test informed us of the existence of our baby number 10. We told our families right away and started informing friends and acquaintances as we saw them in person. It was an ideal pregnancy. For once I didn’t have any nausea. I started wearing maternity clothes in August and I met with my new midwife in early September. When I met my midwife, she offered to listen to the baby’s heartbeat adding: “I don’t like searching for a heartbeat at 10 weeks because we often don’t hear it and it really makes parents nervous.” I assured her that I knew what was in the realm of possibilities and we searched, in vain, for a heartbeat. I kept a brave face because I knew that 10 weeks was too early but in previous pregnancies I had always been able to hear a heartbeat at my first appointment. In other words, “normal” wasn’t normal for me.

 

The next day, I started seeing some spotting. “Bleeding is not normal but it’s common” my midwife told me, “you don’t need to do anything unless the bleeding becomes a concern.” And so I waited. I relied on the encouraging words of friends who had gone through episodes of bleeding and visualized myself at an ultrasound being showed a healthy beating heart and a pesky hematoma.

 

Two days shy of completing my 12th week of pregnancy, I was in the basement with my husband sorting through all the newborn clothes when I started bleeding heavily. I was not feeling any cramping or contractions, it was like my body was trying to flush the fetus by opening the faucet. I headed for the hospital wearing three menstrual pads and sitting on a towel.

 

I soaked through everything during the 20-minute drive to the hospital. I immediately went to the bathroom as I felt a giant blood clot coming through. It was so big that it fell in the toilet with a splash and splattered blood all over the walls and the floor. I called the nurse for help and she casually walked-in, flushed the toilet and helped me back to my gurney. Was it my fetus? I will never know. A few hours later when the gynecologist was able to remove the retained tissue causing the hemorrhage there was only parts of a tiny placenta, a tiny cord and a tiny, ripped-up, sac left. I told my husband to take pictures of whatever came out. That’s all I have, along with my unshakable belief in my fetus’ unique, eternal soul.

 

I eventually passed out from the blood loss a few minutes after joking: “I can bleed like this for *days* with no side effect!!” — loosely quoting Meet the Robinsons because what else are you going to do while everyone is watching you miscarry but quote Disney movies? I fought it hard until a nurse told me: “You’re in a hospital, we’re here, you’re lying down, you can go.” Suddenly, there was no more pain and no more worry. I was completely comfortable even as I felt and heard people rushing around me, insert an IV into each of my arm and push a bolus of saltwater into my body. I knew that there was nothing I could do but pray and let people do their work. I remembered a friend who was in labor and thought that I could offer-up my loss for her son’s healthy birth. So I prayed and I floated. There was nothing else I could do but rest in the arms of God and trust. I still remember the supernatural calm and clarity of the time I spent “under” with a smile.

 

I’m telling you all this because before my miscarriage I thought that I would handle miscarriage with sadness but also an understanding that pregnancy loss was an integral part of the experience of motherhood. When I lost the first pregnancy in May, I knew that my low progesterone would make it difficult to carry a pregnancy past the first few weeks and I thought that I would keep trying. Now, I must come to terms with the fact that even trying to conceive in the current circumstances would be unhealthy. Walking into repeated miscarriages is more than an exercise in accepting God’s will, as I have read in some forums, it’s a gamble with your health. A miscarriage can be as straightforward as a heavy period or it may cause a hemorrhage, require surgery, a blood transfusion or even a hysterectomy. We simply don’t know how and when our bodies will pull the plug on a pregnancy and this has been, for me, a very painful realization. Can I sacrifice my health — a health that is not only my own but that of the family who depends on me — to have the child that I so painfully desire?

 

Lately, I have been struggling with the notion of sacrificial love. The Catholic Church — to which I belong — is all about sacrificial love. In the Catholic Church, nothing should be held back from God. Our lives are not our own. We know that Heaven is opened to those who are “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” This self-sacrificing perfection is acquired in this world or in the next through purgatory — but it must be acquired before we can rise to eternal life. Saints’ stories are rife with men and women who have sacrificed their health and even their lives in the pursuit of holiness. But it is equally rife with stories of ordinary people seeking holiness through quiet, ordinary lives, in their work, their families and their communities. Is the desire for another child a sign that I am called to offer-up my health in the pursuit of self-sacrificial love? Or, if we believe as the Evangelist Matthew tells us, that where our treasure is, there our heart is also, is the desire for another child the earthly attachment that needs to be offered-up, sacrificed?

 

This is the discernment that has been gripping my heart and my soul since the due date that wasn’t. While I was still supposed to be pregnant, I was struggling with the loss of what should have been. But when the friends and acquaintances who were due at the same time I was started welcoming their babies earthside, the bellies lost their anonymity and their babies were obviously not mine. I shed the feeling of present loss like a snakeskin and moved into foreboding, a realization that the future would look very different from what I thought it would be. In discerning whether I am called to sacrifice my health or my desire for another child, this fear is telling. Fear is never from God. When I start comparing myself to others and feeling like I “only” have 9 children, when I start feeling inadequate because I didn’t have a certain number of children, when the desire for another child overshadows my gratitude for my existing 9 amazing children, when I start feeling less, when I see a mother of 10, 11, 12 as more worthy than I am, I know that I am idolizing a larger family, that I am beholding a golden calf. Sacrifices should not be easy. When getting pregnant despite the health implications appears easier than accepting the end of my reproductive years as it is, I know where I need to direct my spiritual gaze.

 

And thus I will give until it hurts, a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, as I know that it will be returned to me in eternity where I will finally meet the children I never had.

Canada Parachute edit

Requiem for a blog


I killed my blog. It happened without me noticing, a direct result of being a near computer illiterate. I mentioned in my last blog post that I could no longer upload pictures to WordPress. I had recently reached the storage limit of my media library so I started deleting pictures. The error message changed from “You have reached the limit of your storage capacity” to the cryptic “HTTP Error”. A quick search on support forums revealed that an overgrown media library could bring this message about so I set out to delete even more pictures.

Before I started deleting pictures, I checked to see if deleting pictures from the library would also delete them from the blog itself. That’s where I made a mistake, wasn’t sufficiently thorough, or maybe just didn’t have a clue. When I checked my blog, the deleted pictures still appeared on the page. I went ahead and deleted my entire media library. Today I found out that the pictures I saw on my blog pages were probably a “cached” version, or some mystery to that effect. In reality, the pictures are gone. Gone from the library, gone from the blog, my posts eviscerated, some of them no longer making any sense.

I poured a lot of my blood, sweat and tears on these pages since July 2011. I shared the early months of my twins, the birth of my ninth baby, our moves, homeschooling and my recent miscarriage. Some posts were wildly popular, others just touched a few hearts but touched them deeply, some were like a tree fell in the forest. Some readers shared their stories back with me and as my community of readers grew, I felt less isolated, more connected. This blog, the writing and the friendships that were born from it, has kept me firmly grounded as I sailed through some of the most intense and beautiful moments of my life.

After coming to the realization that my blog was irreversibly damaged, I spent some time exploring my options. I came to the conclusion that Vie de cirque had outgrown the basic WordPress platform I was using and it was time to ditch the training wheels and to move this wonderful community to a platform better suited for its growing potential.

Some things will change along with the hosting service. Most importantly, the name will change to “Fearless Family Life”. I know that many of you like “Vie de cirque” but it doesn’t lend itself well to search engines. I get many hits and messages from people looking for a French language blog on life in a circus. I need a title that is more evocative and easier to communicate.

Our family is at a juncture where it needs to diversify its sources of income: you know what they say about eggs and baskets. My husband, our only support, has a lot of very precious eggs in a basket-line that is expected to take a beating under the new Canadian government. My blogging is the most likely way to juggle my vocation and our need for diversification. As a result, I decided to take my focus off my writing for the next little while as I work on launching Fearless Family. I will find a way to archive my Vie de Cirque posts so that they are still easily accessible, I’m also planning to re-publish the most popular ones. I will still keep in touch via my YouTube Channel, my personal Facebook page and Instagram.

This is not an “Adieu!’ but an “au revoir” until we launch something that has the ability to grow with our family. In the mean time, please indulge me as I share one of my favorite musical pieces of all time, from Mozart’s Requiem. But don’t cry: we’ll be back soon.

 

 

 

Discipline sans menaces 


Lorsque j’ai commencé à éduquer mes enfants à la maison, la première chose que j’ai remarquée fut l’omniprésence de mes enfants. Soudainement, nous étions ensemble toute la journée. Et la soirée. Et la fin de semaine aussi. Il nous fallait apprendre à vivre ensemble et à respecter l’espace vital de chacun. Pas une tâche facile dans une famille grand format.

 Le respect de l’espace vital de chacun ne se fait pas qu’au plan physique, il faut aussi apprendre à se traiter avec respect minute après minute, heure après heure. Je dis souvent à la cantonade qu’il est impossible d’élever des enfants sans pots-de-vin — et je ne parle pas d’un verre de rouge après l’heure du coucher — mais pour plusieurs d’entre nous, les menaces plutôt que les promesses sont la pierre angulaire de notre approche disciplinaire. Sur les forums Internet que je fréquente, les approches basées sur les menaces ou le retrait de privilèges foisonnent. Pendant longtemps, j’ai souscrit à ces approches, préférant faire référence aux “conséquences” d’une action plutôt qu’à une punition.

J’ai rapidement appris que nos jeunes enfants (et même nos adolescents!) n’avaient pas assez de contrôle sur leur environnent pour que notre approche disciplinaire puisse reposer sur les conséquences naturelles d’une action. Pensez-y. Un enfant joue près du four, un enfant désobéi et va jouer dans la rue, un enfant mord un autre enfant. Les conséquences naturelles de ces actions sont physiquement ou emotivement inatteignables. Qui va laisser son enfant se brûler sévèrement ou se faire frapper par une voiture par acquis de discipline? Et pour la morsure, les remords et la perte d’un ami sont à plusieurs années de faire une différence. Il arrive souvent aussi que les conséquences naturelles soient trop onéreuses pour la famille ou se résument à punir toute la famille pour les actions d’une petite personne. C’est le cas lorsque nous promettons à bout de nerf d’annuler Noël, un voyage à Disney ou de quitter le resto sur le champ. Nous devons tous nous rabattre sur des conséquences inventées pour faire une impression: retrait de privilèges, isolation, confiscation de jouets, privation de dessert.


Cette approche a plus ou moins de succès selon le tempérament de nos enfants et le notre évidemment. Certain enfants choisiront toujours la “conséquence” histoire de garder le contrôle sur une situation qui leur échappe. Certains parents passeront rarement aux actes histoire d’éviter un face-à-face explosif. L’appel aux conséquences est d’une utilité limitée, surtout lorsque celles-ci sont inventées et doivent être mises-en-œuvre par les parents. L’utilité des conséquences naturelles est leur renforcement naturel, sans avoir recours aux discours, à la répétition et à la punition. La conséquence inventée (par exemple, range ta vaisselle sale ou perd ton tour de PS3) doit être imposée par le parent tout comme les mesures punitives. C’est donc une punition déguisée en conséquence.

Un autre problème avec le recours aux menaces et à la perte de privilèges, particulièrement dans le contexte de l’instruction en famille, c’est que la plupart de nos enfants mènent une vie dans laquelle le privilège est partie intégrante, c’est-à-dire qu’il est difficile d’isoler le privilège pour pouvoir l’enlever. Au jour le jour, une fois que nous avons retiré le privilège d’écran ou le dessert, peut-être une sortie chez un ami ou une fête d’anniversaire, on arrive à bout de munitions. Mes enfants perdent souvent leur privilège de télévision ou leur iPod avant 9:00 du matin. Lorsqu’on manque de “conséquences”, on doit se rabattre sur notre autorité toute simple. Et c’est ainsi que je me suis rendu compte que mon autorité, sans menaces, était plutôt mince.


C’est ainsi que je me suis embraquée dans un défi de discipline sans menaces.

J’imagine que vous attendez que je vous admette que tout marche à merveille ou que tout a foiré? Ni l’un ni l’autre. C’est une aventure à long terme. Mais je peux vous dire que nous avons beaucoup de chemin à faire avant d’arriver à un résultat tangible. La discipline interne est le travail d’une vie, si j’en crois mon expérience.

Le rodage ne s’est pas fait sans frictions. Libérés du contrôle artificiel qu’imposaient les “conséquences”, la fratrie est graduellement tombée dans le chaos le plus total. Le travail d’école est tombé en friche et le niveau de criage, d’insultes et de chamaillage ont atteints un nouveau record (ce qui n’est pas peu dire). Mon autorité ne tenant qu’à un fil, je suis devenue irascible, impatiente et généralement irrationnelle. La conclusion de mon expérience de discipline sans menaces était déprimante d’une manière ou d’une autre: soit je devais remettre les menaces au menu, soit je devais me déclarer vaincue et à la merci de mes enfants.

Avec un peu de recul et de réflexion, j’ai réalisé que le recours aux menaces me permettais de ne pas imposer de limites strictes, d’encadrement ferme. Une fois au bout du rouleau, je n’avais qu’à brandir  le retrait de privilèges pour que les choses se placent. J’ai appris que sans menaces, je devais être beaucoup plus claire et prévisible quand il en venait aux attentes et aux limites. Éliminer les menaces me forçait à être à la fois plus tendre et plus ferme. J’ai du établir des règles de conduite dans la maison — autant au niveau du comportement que de l’espace physique — que je dois faire respecter sans exception sous peine de me perdre dans l’anarchie. D’une certaine manière, c’est un style de vie plus restrictif qu’avant mais j’ai espoir qu’avec un peu de temps et beaucoup de pratique nous allons arriver à un point d’équilibre. En somme, j’essaie d’être moins “réactive”, c’est-à-dire que je n’attends pas d’être en face d’une situation critique avant de réagir. J’essaie de ne pas me rendre au bout du rouleau. J’y arrive en ayant recours aux routines et aux séquences, en baissant le volume pour garder le calme et en n’ayant pas les yeux plus gros que la panse au niveau de la discipline. Je prends un bouchée à la fois, un changement à la fois, et je mâche et remâche jusqu’à ce que le morceau soit passé.

Heureusement, j’ai l’occasion de pratiquer souvent!

 

 

 

Some stats for you


I had a look at my blog’s stats today and I am happy to announce that the  most viewed page is… drumroll… the Home page. That makes sense. Followed by… The About page! If you are like me, the first thing you do when landing on a new blog is to check the About page. But where it gets in equal part interesting, amusing and slightly disturbing, is the third most viewed page. The third highest hit page? This one.

It didn’t come as a surprise (and in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t rank higher) since the search engine themes that most often lead people to my blog are a variation on “Keep the toilet clean messages”… Which is a sad commentary on the world we live in at several level. Like, we need to remind people that we’d rather not sit in their pee or flush their number-2s. Like we need to consult Google to figure out how to write “Please clean-up after yer-selves, thank you.” Like, some parenting blogs are really boring, inane and not all that well written and have a gazillion more subscribers than I do, meanwhile, I’m reaching notoriety for my approach to telling people that they are slobs. And by  notoriety I mean that I have half-a-dozen subscribers including my parents and my husband and daily hits in the range of 50-100. *Sigh*

Sweet.

Family camping hits and misses: DIY Laundry


My oldest daughter demonstrating the art of washing your own clothes while wearing two camping un-dryables: the hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

When my husband and I planned our summer holidays we decided to make them more than just fun and include a bit of life skills. Since we have 5 daughters — including, to be honest, an infant who still wears whatever the heck I say — frugality in their change of clothes was a survival skill that was sorely lacking. And by survival, I mean mostly my own as the Chief Laundry Matron.

To teach the girls frugality in their change of clothes, we decided to skip the laundromat altogether and make the children wash their own clothes. We purchased a large yellow janitor’s bucket-on-wheel with a mop wringer. We hoped to use it as a laundry-washer-and-wringer. We also went shopping for a proper hand-washing laundry detergent. My first lesson in DIY laundry was to learn that not all gentle detergents are created equal. In other words, there is gentle machine detergent and there is hand-washing detergent. For longer-term use, you cannot get away with repeatedly (read daily) washing clothes by hand in machine detergent. I learned this at the last minute and left with a jug of grocery-store bought Ivory Snow. It did the job but in the future I will shop for something meant to be dumped back into the ground.

The laundry routine got off to a bad start when we realized that the yellow janitor bucket would not fit in the camping trailer. Well, not with our current rate of packing. Fitting 10 in a trailer meant for 7 doesn’t only mean that you will be cozy — read “cramped”– it also means that you are storing more stuff than the trailer was meant to store. Leaving the wringer at home meant hand-wringing and putting-up very wet clothes to dry.

The drying time was a problematic issue. When camping in PEI, where the weather was dry and windy, our clothes took half a day to dry. But in Quebec where the weather was hot, humid and the campsites shaded, drying took at least two days. I say “at least” because we left Quebec City with a basket full of wet clothes that finished drying in the St-Lawrence River wind in Riviere-du-Loup.

The drying issues didn’t stop with the weather. Another challenge came, what’s new, from the size of our family. Even with washing small loads daily, I didn’t have enough clothesline to hang 10-people’s clothes. I relied on a folding drying rack but stacking clothes side-by-side also lengthens drying time. Add the daily load of beach towels and bathing suits and the drying real estate comes at a premium. Last winter as we were planning our trip, I made a list of camping clothes I wanted to find for the children. It included a lot of active wear from MEC in synthetic fibers and nylon blends for quicker drying. I was hoping to find most of it in consignment stores but didn’t follow-through with as much enthusiasm as clothing 8 kids on a budget warrants. We left with our usual canvas and t-shirts. And those take a long time to dry, especially when they sport fancy add-on such as cargo pockets and shelf bras. To top it off, some children — who shall remain anonymous — tossed the carefully crafted list of “Things to Bring” and packed their own duffel bags with enough clothes to bypass the entire laundry exercise. Not only didn’t they learn anything about laundry frugality but we tripped on their humongous kit bags for two weeks, shedding bits and pieces of sanity with every hit.

Laundry logistics was also a concern in the planning of our daily activities. To be kept under control, the laundry monster had to be fought a little daily. But planning daily laundry without interfering with the hot water needs of mealtimes and personal hygiene made it difficult to leave the trailer. I had to face the fact that regardless of the value of the learning experience, 6 people doing a handful of laundry daily was seriously inefficient. In the interest of having a family holiday, I ended-up doing most of everybody’s laundry. Overall, I washed half of our total laundry burden by hand and took advantage of laundromats for the other half.

I’m not giving-up on DIY laundry and the teaching of clothes frugality. Next time, we will bring the wringer bucket even if I have to toss a few overstocked items (like the playpen and my guitar: really, we c0-sleep… in a 26X8 ft camper trailer… why did I think that (a) I would use the playpen, and (b) I would play a musical instrument after bedtime. Why?). I will also carefully oversee my children’s packing to make sure that they don’t bring their entire wardrobe and that their clothes are easy to wash and dry. And I will buy a washboard. That will be the best part.

Tout a commencé avec un biscuit


For my English readers: this post is about how differences in temperaments and personalities are obvious at a very young age. Yet, most baby books gloss over this when they offer solutions to common struggles of infancy.

S’il y a une chose qui m’embête avec les livres destinés aux parents de bébés, c’est la tendance à assigner aux bébés un tempérament universel. C’est pourtant étonnant venant d’adultes qui se décriraient comme ayant un tempérament unique et particulier, né à la fois de leur bagage génétique et de leur expérience vécue. Un amalgame de neurones, d’hormones et de circonstances qu’il est presque impossible à décrire. Et pourtant, il suffit de lire quelques ouvrages sur le comportement des bébés pour que tout d’un coup, les petits humains deviennent une espèce unique. Les bébés qui ne dorment pas “préfèrent jouer” ou encore “manipulent”, pour certains ils ont “des mauvaises habitudes”, pour d’autres ils “manquent d’autonomie”. À chaque auteur sa théorie mais de manière générale, une fois la théorie adoptée, peu en démordent.

Tout cela est bien ridicule. Les petits humains naissent avec autant de variation de personnalités et de tempérament que leur version mature. Il suffit d’avoir une paire de jumeaux pour vraiment s’en rendre compte. Voici une petite expérience en photo pour mieux l’illustrer:

1. Prenez deux jumeaux. Appelons-les Princesse impériale et Fils à Maman. Mettez-les jumeaux en question dans leur chaise haute.

2. Donnez-leur un biscuit. Pour que l’expérience adhère aux plus rigoureux standards académiques, il est important de leur donner le même biscuit au même moment. (en plus, c’est plus simple).

3. Mettez votre chronomètre à zéro.

4. Tournez le dos pour 30 secondes et retournez voir les jumeaux. Voici ce que vous trouverez: Fils à Maman grignote prudemment son biscuit. Princesse Impériale a déjà terminé son biscuit et passe immédiatement à la prochaine étape: la mort de faim.

Fils à Maman
Princesse Impériale

5. Elle attaque un morceau de melon sans autre forme de procès (et sans se poser quelques questions évidentes comme “C’est lequel le côté comestible?” Le même sors attend la patate douce.

Fils à Maman pour sa part, continue de grignoter son biscuit prudemment (et proprement). Les bébés, tout comme leur version mature, ont un tempérament bien à eux. Il suffit d’avoir une paire de jumeaux pour le voir avec une appréciation renouvelée.

Ben quoi?

Day trip (Or why good baby carriers and large families rock)


As you may have noticed, the move and consecutive adaptation-reorganization have punched a significant hole in my ability to blog. Not only time is at a premium but I am mentally and physically exhausted and  unable to string two coherent ideas together. I have posts started on attachment parenting twins, the twins’ 9 month update, the twins’ birth story, an update on the running diaries about setbacks (ha!) but I’m unable to finish them. So until my brain returns, here is another lazy picture post.

3 carriers: Ergo, BabyHawk Mei Tai and Boba 3G

This month we are experimenting with different infant/child carriers. With 3 under 3 at home during the day (and with me to run errands), I am definitely short a few hands. Pushing a bulky double stroller just adds to my misery and I started carrying the twins in two baby carriers, one at the front and one at the back. We went on a countryside stroll this Father’s Day and left the stroller in the van. In this picture (above), Clara is carrying Lucas in an Ergo baby carrier, Eloise is carrying Eve in a BabyHawk Mai Tei and I have Sarah in a Boba 3G.

Boba up and down

The Boba 3G was a loaner from a local breastfeeding and babywearing store. Go give Milkface some love: they are awesome. The carrier goes on and off easily and is the best I found for carrying a squirmy preschooler. My daughter is 35 lbs and fits in the Boba like a dream thanks to a high back, wide body and handy foot stirrups.

Carrying a 35 lbs preschooler in a back carrier may seem like overkill…

… but bear with me: it makes my life a lot easier. She is near me, under control, and will stay in the carrier a lot longer than the stroller. When it’s time to walk, she goes up and down easily. I thought it would also be a good workout but the excellent design and weight distribution in the Boba 3G makes it feel like a whimpy daypack…

BabyHawk Mei Tai: best for my petite 12-year-old. She comfortably carried her 18 lbs sister for 30 minutes before she got too heavy.

The children love carrying their baby siblings in carriers. And I love the help!

Adventurers in the pine forest
For younger babies in a back carry, I prefer the smaller-bodied Ergo.

Everyone agrees with me yet that big families and good carriers rock?

Fathers Day shot: that’s some heavy lifting!
We had lunch in the beautiful village of Almonte
And topped it all off with ice cream