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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ready for baby

I bought a carton of cream with the expiry date of January 9, 2016. As I read the date I realized by the time this cream expires, my granddaughter will be born. Baby season is ramping up around here on the Fisher farm.
Saturday was Anastasia’s surprise baby shower. I am truly amazed that we managed to keep it secret all this time. We had a little help, because she was a bit preoccupied.
Earlier in the week, Annie got a call from one of her husband’s friends. They were planning to kidnap him for a Baby Bachelor Party. Apparently this is a thing.
Around 1:30 in the afternoon on the 21st, the Wiggins were sitting in front of the TV, watching an old Anthony Hopkins movie. They were just getting to the scene of a bear attack when four men, their faces covered, entered the house from four different doors. It was a bit of a shock, but not all that terrifying, because although they were wearing hockey masks, they were also carrying cheerleader pompoms. And one of them was in a Scooby Doo costume. Anastasia, who was in on the whole thing, concentrated on keeping their four hunting dogs from attacking the intruders.
Andrew was manhandled out of the house and into the driveway. Then the men revealed themselves to be his hunting buddies, and his heart rate went back to normal. I was just happy to hear the whole thing hadn’t gone horribly wrong – the last guy who was kidnapped for his bachelor party was taken naked from the shower. One of his abductors ended up with a broken nose. I think if you’re going to plan this sort of thing, it’s a good idea to have the subject’s partner in on it so they can run interference. Anastasia made sure Andrew was out of the shower and dressed before zero hour when the kidnappers arrived. And if the partner is pregnant, as in the case of Anastasia, it is more reason to ensure she is in on the game. Otherwise she might panic and go into early labour, and no one wants that to happen.
So Annie had plenty to talk about when I picked her up to take her “boot shopping”. That’s what I told her, anyway. She said she was suspicious about the plan, and wondered if it might be a ruse to get her to her surprise baby shower. But when I suggested I would make lasagna for dinner and invited her to join us, she was scratching her head again. She didn’t consider lasagna a typical offering for a baby shower. But she didn’t realize I had about thirty people coming late afternoon, and they would be coming and going to and from work, so I planned a potluck dinner. Everyone was bringing something. I made lasagna.
People started arriving at the farm at 2:00pm. I took off to get Annie at 2:20. As per the plan, I left my cell phone at home. She was so excited about The Abduction of Andrew, she just kept chattering away and I doubt she even heard me when I said I had to go back home to get my phone before we could go “boot shopping”.
She was still re-enacting the events of her afternoon when we pulled into the driveway and she saw the pink balloons the Farmer had tied there. “Oh, Mom!” she said, finally cluing in. There were so many cars, we had to park in the hay field up the drive. She was crying before we even got in the door.
We played a couple of games with our guests, while the little mama sat in her decorated chair of honour and opened her gifts, for two hours straight. It’s a good thing she grabbed a plate of sandwiches and a glass of punch before she sat down. Many of the things she received were hand made, and some barely-used items were handed down. The Wiggins family is pretty well equipped now, and that baby can come today if she has to (although we hope she doesn’t).
Anastasia was very pleased to discover that there actually was a pan of lasagna at her baby shower. And I ran out last week to get her a pair of Ugg-style boots for her swollen mama feet, so she had that surprise as well.
Just over a month to go until the due date. Christmas will be the second most important thing happening around here this holiday season.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The womanly art of having babies has changed

Well, I don’t think the essential art of having babies has changed much. But the culture around it certainly has. I walked into a baby-supply store yesterday and was completely overwhelmed by all the stuff the world says we need. I feel sorry for today’s expecting mom, trying to equip her layette and household with everything she will need when junior arrives. Where do you begin?
We have two babies in our family due on exactly the same date. Anastasia, our daughter, and Glorianna, our niece, are due December 31st. Gloria isn’t too concerned about the coming child. She has had a baby shower or two but she will likely give birth with just a bassinet for the baby to sleep in, a package of diapers and a car seat for the baby to come home in. She will get the rest of the items as she needs them. Daily trips to Babies R Us will keep the new daddy busy. Her baby registry is only about a dozen items long.
Anastasia’s gift registry is five pages long. She has worked as a nanny, and she used to run the infant program at the local Montessori school. She knows what she needs and what she wants. She is organized.
Both mamas-to-be have items on their registry lists that I have never heard of before. For example, what is a wiper warmer?? Gloria said she went into the baby store and just stood and stared at the wall of baby bottles. Then she turned around and walked back out. Gloria has a consultant advising her on what she will need. She also has a lactation consultant, a pre-natal consultant, and a doula. Anastasia doesn’t want to do any of that training-for-childbirth stuff. As with everything in life, she prefers to learn on her own. Thank goodness her doctor doesn’t seem concerned. She says she will teach Annie everything she needs to know when the time comes, about when to breathe deep, when to breathe shallow, when to hold her breath, and when to push.
When Gloria opened her gifts at her baby shower on Sunday, she got a little weepy. It’s part hormones, part anxiety about this whole new world she is entering. As an elementary school teacher, Gloria is very familiar with little kids. It’s the whole baby thing she has to get used to. She held up each little outfit, and imagined it filled up with fat baby boy. Her eyes welled up with tears. The little mamas have just over a month to go. The doctors tell them their babies are already four pounds.
I like that these young mothers have so many choices open to them. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, modern women were told they should bottle feed their babies formula. Certainly there were the earth mothers and the hippies who breastfed but most suburban moms felt the bottle was a sign of progress and independence. 
I was twenty-one years old with my first and I was determined I was going to breastfeed my baby. I had La Leche League on speed dial, and I called their experts day and night. I soon learned that making milk wasn’t going to be a problem if I learned to sit still long enough, drink enough water, and stop worrying so much. In just a few days I got the hang of it. And baby got enough milk. I fed her for a year, her sister for about eighteen months, and her other sister for nine months. I made their baby food by blending up unseasoned cooked meats and veggies, and I used cloth diapers unless we were going out of the house. Neither Gloria nor Anastasia have cloth diapers on their list.
I think I bought maybe one bottle of formula in the entire time I had babies in the house. I never bought a jar of baby food. I was proud of my ability to provide for my children, and to keep costs down while ensuring I was providing the most natural care and feeding possible.

But would I have used a Diaper Genie if offered one? You bet your buns I would.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

A love story's final chapter

The Farmer meets me for lunch nearly every weekday. He wants a simple meal, like you can cook at home, so we usually meet at one of the local diners. I tell him I can make us soup and a sandwich to take to work and save him the twenty bucks. He says he likes the break in the middle of the day, where you get out of the office, and have someone else make your tea. I think it’s an old habit from his bachelor days but perhaps he is on to something.
Many times we would see the same couple dining at a nearby table. He was broad-shouldered with a ready grin. She was petite and often had her eyes turned to the newspaper. They both had white hair.
If the Farmer caught me watching them he would sometimes give me a little nudge with his foot under the table. I tried not to eavesdrop but I couldn’t help it. The gentleman had a voice that was soft, but it carried. He called his wife sweetheart in every second sentence.
Their conversations were mostly him asking questions, her answering. He would say, “Where are you from, again?” or “Why did we never move to British Columbia? I always wanted to live out West.” She would answer, patiently, in a manner that revealed she had provided the same responses to the same questions, many times before.
Sometimes we exchanged smiles and waves as we went our separate ways after lunch.
Then one day, perhaps a year ago, I saw the woman sitting alone. I realized I hadn’t seen the pair for a few weeks, and now it was just her, on her own, reading her paper. I ventured over.
“Hi there. Where’s your sweetheart?” I asked her.
“Oh, he’s in the home,” she responded, soft and sad.
“He’s at home?” I was confused, and a bit daft.
“No, he’s in the home sometimes, and he also has to go to the hospital sometimes, but now he’s back in the home.”
“Oh.” And then, “You must miss him.”
“I visit him, but he keeps asking me when he can come home,” she says, and I can tell she is getting upset. I tell her I’m sure they are taking very good care of him and I’m sure he loves her visits.
I make a point of going over and saying hi every time I see her sitting there on her own. Sometimes her daughter is with her. We talked about how difficult it is to make life-changing decisions, about getting rid of most of the contents of the home you’ve lived in for decades. About leaving town and simplifying your lifestyle to accommodate your new requirements.
“Well you don’t have to decide to move right now, do you?” I ask.
“They took away my license,” she reveals. “I sit there in that house and my daughter has to come from Ottawa to drive me out to see my husband in the home.”
Plans are made for a garage sale, so that a lifetime of model airplanes and other unique collectibles will go to appreciative new owners. I think of how hard it must be for her to part with the things that her husband made with his own hands. But there is no room for these things in her new home, and perhaps she is looking forward to her own little space without them.
She moves into her new home, beside her daughter, in Ottawa. She will have help for the yard and the driveway. Her living quarters will be small enough for her to manage on her own. And her family will be close by in case she needs them for anything. I tell her I think she is making a very good decision for herself.
And then, like a confirmation, her sweetheart dies. There is nothing tying her to the home they lived in for so long. She is free to go, to enjoy her life, in its new shape.
She may be in a completely different environment now, but I’m sure she often feels the presence of a broad-shouldered man with a ready grin, sitting across the table from her, his big hands reaching for hers. Rest in Peace, George.