Thursday, January 31, 2013

And Then We Became Four.

It's funny how fast your world can change. One night our bedroom was all colour-coordinated adult-sophistication, and now tonight here I sit surrounded by diapers, wipes, a tray of food, a bouquet of roses, a haphazardly placed glider, various healing remedies and ointments, far too many pillows, and - oh look - a sleeping baby.

I feel all groggy, hazy, not sure of the day or the time. My body is quite frankly a mess, with random and not so random soreness and plenty of parts that are, let's just say swelled to maternal perfection, and hormones that are starting to feel close to that turning point... you know, the one where I will swiftly become a weepy, clingy, "isn't-she-beautiful?" mess.

And it's all exactly where I want to be. I am now, after much longing, a mother of two. Two beautiful girls. A soft, fuzzy newborn and her big sister.

And how is big sister adjusting to her new role? Many have asked. I'll let Kaiya tell you herself, starting with this picture, taken when Kaiya and Isabelle first met:

I'd say she was at least as smitten as we were, wouldn't you?

And just to give you a fuller picture, here are a few of the other things she has said and done in just these first precious days...

On the way to visit us at the hospital...
Jeff: So the baby's name is Isabelle Ruth. But you can call her Izzy, for a nickname.
Kaiya: (thinking...) How about I call her Isa-bear? Just like Kaiya-bear. Then we can share the same nickname.

When Jeff and Kaiya arrived at the hospital, I had Isabelle in bed with me. Kaiya rushed to her side, already glowing, and gently kissed her hand. Then, bouncing in place, she immediately asked to hold her. The picture above is the sweet result.

On my first night home, Kaiya eagerly explained to me that Izzy can use her toddler bed, currently covered in stuffies, when she turns three. And then, when she gets older, she can share Kaiya's bed. Because really, her bed is too big for her. "And mom, when another baby comes, they can share my bed too." Um, ya... we'll talk about that another day, k?

Each morning she rushes in to find her little sister, usually eating or sleeping, and as I shush her or remind her to "be gentle" yet again, her five-year old energy bounces around the room, and she showers Isabelle with hugs, touches, and kisses. And when she gets off the bus in the afternoons, she zips in to find Izzy yet again. She likes rocking her in her little chair, giving us tips on how best to swaddle her, and diagnosing her crying fits... "Mom, I think she must be gassy again."

But the best thing Kaiya has said? At the hospital... "Having a sister is like having friends come play in your house every day!" Yes, honey, that's right. And that's what my momma heart has been longing for you all this time.

We're a family of four now. A family of four. Mom and Pop, big sister and baby. It really has happened. And we're settling in just fine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You're Five!

Hello darlin',

Each year I try to choose a picture that reflects you and where you're at. There was no question which picture I'd be choosing this time around.

Was I actually worried about you last year???

You, you, you. Spunky little girl with boundless amounts of energy. You, with no inside voice to speak of. So many times these past few months, your dad and I have laughed at you, your pep, your bounce, your endless questions. Life is good, isn't it little one?

You've settled in. You've named your friends. You love your day-to-day. And you've figured out your place in this big fat world. A part of your heart in Canada, and another good chunk here in Qatar.

I'm amazed at your contrasts. One minute you are sucking your thumb, quietly snuggling up to me while watching "Dino Dan," telling me you're feeling too shy or too tired to do anything else. But all it takes is seeing a neighbourhood friend fly by on a bicycle, and you're up, pumped, running to the door. "Can I go outside and play, mom?" And before I know it, you're on the street, yelling, dancing, commanding everyone's attention.

I love you hon, but your yell makes me wince. I regularly tell your dad I'm not sure I'm equipped to parent such an outgoing personality. Be patient with me; go easy on me, okay? I already cringe thinking of the teen years.

Your knowledge and your questions have astounded us this year. You know more about dinosaurs than I ever ever will. Corythosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Pteranodon. You tell us if they're from the Jurassic or Cretaceous or who-knows-what-other time period. You draw pictures of what they eat. And you talk about their frills, teeth, claws, spikes. And you correct us, of course.

Your questions are endless, and you never tire of your dad's stories. When we were listening to CBC the other night and you decided to ask about Lance Armstrong, I thought your head was going to explode, your focus was so great. For twenty minutes your dad talked about sports, cheating, winning, and using "medicine" to make you faster, stronger. The wheels were turning so fast in your head you could barely splutter out your many questions.

You really are a sponge.

We've done a lot of navigating this year. We've learned about mean girls. We've heard the line "I'm not gonna be your friend anymore!" oh, a few too many times. And your dad and I have coached you in the fine art of kindness without pushoverness. At least we've tried. You always let it roll so much better than I do. I'm not so good at walking these fine lines. Protective mama bear roars up real good, and I get about ready to wring mean girl's little neck.

I digress.

Big changes are coming your way, Kaiya. In a matter of days, you're going to be a BIG SISTER! I love watching the pride welling up in you. You've already claimed the right to show off baby to all the neighbours. And I've noticed you using the word "gentle" a lot more, as you slowly wrap a baby doll in a pink blanket and then sweetly lay it in a Barbie pool. Your little momma is kicking in. I know there's going to be bumps and hiccups along the way, bursts of jealousy. But I want you to remember, always and forever... YOU are my first. You are the one who made me a mom. You are the one who has taught me everything I know about this whole gig. And for that, you'll always have a special place here in my heart.

Love you, spunky girl.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

This Road We're On

Something was in the air last night.

As I put Kaiya to bed, she mentioned a girl on her bus who hadn't been on her bus all week. I said, "Well, you know... it's only a week into school. Maybe her family hasn't come back from their Christmas holidays yet. Or, maybe her family has gone back to their home country." She paused on this, sucking her thumb, thinking it over. "Actually," she said, using one of her favourite words,  "Before the holidays we had an assembly and a lot of kids stood up and the teachers said those kids weren't coming back after the holidays. And she was one of the ones that stood up." And I said, "Well, there you go. So she's gone back to her home country." Kaiya continued to suck her thumb and mull it over. I said, "You know hon, one day we're going to go back to Canada too." She said, "I know. We'll go back for more holidays." And I said, "No, I mean, one day we'll go back to Canada forever."

I didn't expect what came next.

Kaiya crumpled into my arms, crying and crying. That pitiful, sad little girl wail. "No. I don't want to do that! I don't ever ever want to do that! I would miss my friends too much!!" And I hugged her, not quite knowing what to say. "It's okay, hon. We don't have to talk about it tonight." And she said, "But I don't ever ever want to do that... not ever!" I hugged her some more and said, "But I don't understand. When people ask you, you always say that you like Canada more than Qatar." And she answered, "Yes, but I like them both!"

A year ago, I was guilt-ridden for Kaiya, constantly wondering if we had made the wrong choice; wondering if she would adjust, if she could ever feel like Qatar was home. It seems she has made the shift, without me even noticing.

Mind you, it also seems she's been crying a lot more easily these past few days. Perhaps she sensing the other shift soon headed our way...

And then, as I slipped into bed last night, I realized I had hardly felt the baby move all day. The baby who usually wears me down with its many rapid movements, causing me sometimes to bend over or wince in pain. A panic swiftly descended, and I could hardly mask my worry as I asked Jeff to bring me a sugary drink. My usually cool husband didn't hesitate, running down the stairs and coming back with sweetened mango juice and even Oreos, just for good measure. I sucked back the juice, and we waited, Jeff's hand on my belly, waiting for a sign. Before the last gulp went down my throat, the baby was hiccupping, and hard. Jeff laughed. But I was still unnerved. Long after he fell asleep, I lay there, wondering why my usually night-active babe was so still, so quiet. All night it went like this, sleep eluding me once again. In the morning, after putting Kaiya on the bus, I slipped back into bed, exhausted but determined, armed with sugary tea and those uneaten Oreos. Within minutes, there she was, kicking and moving all over the place. I texted Jeff. He responded immediately, relieved, admitting he had still been feeling the worry this morning.

It was a reminder to both of us. The naivety we had when I was pregnant with Kaiya is long gone. We are fully aware of the fragility of pregnancy and of the miracle of life this time.

We just want to meet her, hold her, and know that she's okay.

A wide expanse is opening up before us. The road stretches ahead, and we don't know, none of us, what it's going to look like. We're all in full waiting mode, a little anxious, a little excited, a little unsure.

Godspeed, baby Epp. We look forward to meeting you.

(Photos by Jeff, taken from a bumpy trip we took to Zekreet with Robyn when she was visiting, and I was 35 weeks pregnant.)