Family Resiliency








Like many bloggers before me, I have been on a bit of a hiatus.  I hate to do this “since the last time I wrote…” business, but seriously since the last time I wrote…

About a month after the passing of our beloved GG, my husband was in an accident at work.  Without getting into too many details he had a serious fall that could have left him paralyzed or worse, but instead he amazingly landed on his feet and left hand after falling from over 17 feet.  While the last three months have consisted of Physio Therapy and Doctor Appointments, I am very aware that things could have looked much differently and not a day goes by that I don’t know it.  While having my partner home has been difficult at times, it has indeed made us stronger.  He has healed up quite nicely and has recently returned to work.  He would credit his cat like reflexes or skateboarding skills for landing on his feet, but we both know that things could have turned out much worse!

As the famous Dr. Seuss has written, “that is not all. Oh, no.  That is not all…”

We took advantage of my husband’s time off over Christmas and drove out to visit my dad’s side of the family.  It was great to see my grandmother, my aunt, uncles, many cousins, and cousin’s children!  While out there, the kids caught some crazy super cold that was filled with puking and coughing.   Since our youngest son’s bout with Pertussis (whooping cough) he has become a germ magnet and gets sick very easily.  So while on our 14 hour journey home, his crazy super cold got much worse.  By the time we got home, he had a really bad fever and was coughing up junk.  We took him to the hospital and chest x-rays confirmed that he had developed pneumonia.  Now the kicker in all this was that it was right over our oldest son’s 5th birthday.  Thankfully he didn’t notice this fact until only a couple weeks ago, after he went to another child’s birthday party.  Our youngest has since recovered (though he has another cold and an ear infection right now) and our oldest has been spoiled enough to make up for the lack of presents or party on his birthday.

Two weeks following our oldest son’s birthday, our youngest son turned 1!  Lately we have kept all birthday’s low key and I have been able to let go of my guilt and replace it with appreciation for my family’s existence!  Looking back at our youngest son’s life I amazed that while being sick with all the many illnesses he’s experienced, he has been able to hit all his milestones!  He was walking (and I mean WALKING!) shortly prior to 8 months, he was climbing weeks later and has been a happy little boy that doesn’t let much interfere with his play time.  I have been inspired by his resiliency and tried embracing it in my own life.  This is the boy that I would wake with many, many times a night pounding on his back as he stopped breathing due to pertussis, this is the boy that would cough and choke on his own phlegm several times a night because of pneumonia; I remember holding my breath in until I would hear him take his first breath in. It is amazing that such a little person can have so much strength; his illnesses have made teething seem like a mosquito bite.

While we have had some of the less then helpful opinions on the causes of our challenges, we have also been very fortunate to have such awesome people in our lives that have helped make our year a good one.  I believe that when you live in a supportive community, it becomes easier to be resilient; and our family has had to be resilient.  I will abstain from listing all of our struggles of the year, because I’m set on moving forward.  I love our family’s capacity to deal with challenges and our resiliency when it comes to struggles.  We have not always been able to hold it all together, but we have definitely managed to stay and grow together; which is the best possible outcome in the face of adversity.

So, I will end with this,

To my family: I love you to the moon and back and I am proud of you and proud to be a mom, wife and daughter!

To my friends and community: I have so much appreciation for the way you have supported us in both simple and large ways.

P.S. It’s hard to make supper in the dark; So to make it easier, if you are able, turn on the lights.

Children, Death and Remembrances

We recently said goodbye to Great Grandma (GG) as she left us very suddenly a couple weeks ago.  Our oldest son (almost 5 years old) had the opportunity to visit GG in the hospital before she passed away, and her illness gave us opportunity to prepare him for the inevitable loss of our beloved.  He had many questions and thoughts on the idea of GG dying.  Upon her passing, everyone had their own input to offer him about where GG went and what happens next.  At one point my son and I had a long lasting disagreement in the grocery store about whether or not GG was a zombie.

My husband and I struggled with whether or not to include him in the funeral, at one point we were going to bring him until my mom made a really good point.  Her thoughts were that instead of trying to fit Ajax into an adult way of saying goodbye at a funeral, we create our own way of helping him say goodbye.  What a brilliant idea.  So over the next few days we encouraged him to draw some pictures and write some notes of what he would like to say to GG on our Goodbye GG Day.  We answered his questions about what will happen to GG’s body now that she was dead and allowed him to express his sadness.

On the day of the Funeral, my parents watched both the boys, so that we could be there for my husband’s family.  The funeral was a traditional French Catholic ceremony, at the end I didn’t feel I had the closure I needed in saying goodbye to GG, so I’m not sure why I thought our oldest son would.

The next day we proceeded with plan Goodbye GG Day.  Our oldest son asked if he could bring his camera and we agreed.  We gathered the pictures that our son had drawn and the messages he had written and loaded the four of us into the van.  The destination was the graveyard where GG’s ashes were buried.  We made two stops on our way; one to purchase some flowers and another to pick up some balloons in GG’s favorite colour.

At the graveyard we walked around talking about the headstones and why you shouldn’t step or climb on them.  He played in the leaves and took some pictures; finally we walked over to where GG was buried.  At GG’s headstone we pointed out that Great Grandpa was buried there a long time ago and now GG was too.  We talked about how GG’s body turned into dust and would eventually become part of the earth and help plants to grow.  We laid the flowers we brought and our oldest left his pictures and “GoodBi GG” note in a plastic bag with some rocks in it.  We walked around some more, and visited with a lady and her Theo Dog (daschund) whose property bordered the graveyard; while our oldest played in the thousands of leaves that had collected at the edge of the fence.

Just before it was time to go we took the balloons we had gotten and attached one of our son’s notes that read, “Sorry GG that you died.”  Our son let them go and we said good bye as the balloons floated away.  On our way home we had some hot chocolate to warm our insides, as it was a chilly day.  On the drive home I asked our son if it was good to say goodbye to GG, “Yes Mom,” he said in his sad voice, and then he proceeded to ask if he could watch a movie when we got home.

Everyone grieves differently and children are no different.  Early lessons in death are sometimes the hardest ones for children to grasp, but I feel we did right by GG and our family.  When it comes to death, it is easy to take ourselves very seriously, but I am grateful for children who have a wonderful way of lightening even the darkest moments with laughter.  Whether it’s questions of zombies, why robots are helping Grandma breath, or them wondering why you can’t see someone at their grave site; their innocence can keep us from getting to caught up in the traditions of saying goodbye while forgetting to actually say goodbye.

So with that I say goodbye and au revoir GG, we love you and are missing you!

Vaccinations and the September Write Off

I understand this post is going to be somewhat controversial.

When we had our first child, we struggled with whether or no to get him vaccinated.  It wasn’t that we believed that vaccinations caused autism or other learning or behavior problems, but rather that we were not satisfied with the amount of research that had gone into vaccinations.  We struggled with the idea of adding something into our son’s system that could potentially mess with his tiny little body.  We struggled with the idea of giving our son something that may change him before we even got to know him.  We never judged other parents for deciding to vaccinate their children, however we always encouraged parents to do their research and know about what they were getting their child vaccinated for.

One of our beliefs was that with better access to clean water, health care, and careful hygiene practices we could take on many of these diseases if our children were ever so unlucky.

As our first son got older it became apparent that he faced some serious illnesses that directly impacted his immune system; Anaphylaxis, Asthma and the much less serious eczema became constants in our lives.  Not to mention the occurrence of a seizure, and the chronic diarrhea our son had dealt with from day one.  With his emerging hyperactive immune system we believed it better to wait until we had figured out and dealt with some of his health concerns before adding something new and foreign into his body.  With our doctor, we decided that we would put him on a delayed schedule for some of the highly encouraged vaccinations, but there were a few we were definitely still uncomfortable with.  A few months after his fourth birthday, he received his first set of vaccinations.

When our second son was born, we had the same dialogue, but determined we would not wait as long to get him vaccinated.  We could tell right from the beginning that his little body was the different from his brother’s.  We still had our major reservations about vaccinations but, we knew that we would be getting his much earlier than we did for his brother.

Now one thing to keep in mind is that children under one, whether vaccinated or not, are at risk of contracting the diseases that vaccinations cover.  A child following a regular schedule for vaccinations is not considered fully immune before the age of one and there is still at risk of contracting certain illnesses.  For children not vaccinated the risk increases.

If you regularly read my blog you would have noticed that there are no entries for the month of September, this is because of one awful word: PERTUSSIS.  Last month our seven months old son contracted Pertussis.  Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious before being treated with a full course of antibiotics.  Most of the time infants who contract the disease get it from an adult.  Most adults who have received the DTaP vaccinations in childhood are no longer immune to Pertussis as it requires a booster shot in adulthood.  As a child, I was vaccinated for Pertussis, but in spite of this I contracted the illness.  Pertussis was our first run in with a disease covered by vaccinations.

It took one visit to our family doctor and two visits to children’s emergency before we received a confirmed diagnosis and by then the illness had progressed so far that the only thing antibiotics did was make the Pertussis not contagious.  Infants under one year old are most at risk of complications leading to serious implications.   If you ever have an infant that contracts Pertussis you will learn the words “spontaneous recovery,” in reference to your baby continually stopping and starting breathing.   The fact is that it’s been over 5 weeks and he still has many fits of coughing a day followed by short periods of time when he cannot breath.   I wish I could say that things have gotten better, but the fact remains that our son is still quite sick, though his disposition has improved greatly.

With the Pertussis everyone in our family and our neighbors’ family was treated for it with antibiotics, but the complications have been Mike getting Bronchitis, myself getting pneumonia and our entire family getting a virus.  It has been a long, expensive and exhausting journey.  The reality is that we now have both boys on a schedule for the full course of vaccinations.  Our youngest will have to wait until his health has improved, but I am less comfortable with our son stopping breathing than I am the unknowns of vaccinations.

We have received a lot of criticism around not vaccinating our children, I understand the concerns but as a parent you need to be comfortable with what goes into your child and if you’re not you need to understand why.  It is not good enough to simply trust your Doctor or the advice of other people.  Our first visit to children’s emergency I asked the Doctor if it could be Pertussis, the Doctor told us it was definitely NOT Pertussis.  Doctors are well educated, but they are humans just like you and I and it pays to do extra research.   However, be aware that in doing this research you may move from being indifferent to becoming more or less comfortable with what you are researching.

With this I will sign off and hope that my time this month is filled with less illness and more writing.

P.S.   I wonder what would happen if all people regularly washed their hands, coughed into their elbows and didn’t go out when they were sick.

The Price of Community

Anyone who knows me well, will attest to the fact that I’m a bit of a germaphobe.  I’m the mom who makes sure her kids don’t touch anything in a public washroom except toilet paper, tap water and paper towel.   I wipe down handles, light switches, railings and toys more than often.  I switch my dish rags and hand towels regularly.  I do not like paying for food with coin or touching the buttons of an interac machine and then eating without washing my hands.  If one of us is sick my already vigilant hand washing regiment kicks into overdrive with continual reminders to cough or sneeze into your elbow.

However, despite all of my precautions, our family still gets sick; colds, flu’s, pink eye- you name it we get it.  So why is my family so susceptible to illness.  Well, despite the fact that we have wonderful cases of immune deficiencies such as asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis in our family, we are also a highly social family.  School, neighbours and friends fill up so much of our time that we are bound to cross paths with some unwanted bugs along the way.

Right now I’m experiencing increased neuroticism towards contracting viruses as we have a fairly new baby in our household.  We’ve already gone through two flu’s, one cold, and a single case of pneumonia since his introduction to the world, but we’ve survived.  As much as I hate my family being sick, I know that many times it the price we pay for community.  I can take my precautions, but I can’t stop our family from building relationships and interacting with those around us.

My hands may be raw from hand washing, but I refuse to let go of our community for the sake of reduced illnesses.

Everything has it’s price, lol.

P.S. Don’t forget to sneeze into your elbow.

In The Beginning

Parenthood has changed me.  When I first envisioned being a mom, I had this picture in my head of what I would be like and how I would parent.  I would share my love for creating things with my children in a light filled studio while listing to Nine Inch Nails or Johnny Cash.  I would have the patience of a Kindergarten teacher and my children and I would have an amazing relationship free from discipline.  HA!    I neglected to take into account that once my first son was born I would loose myself in a sea of anxiety, worried every night that someone was breaking into our house to kidnap my son.  I neglected to take into account that I would be the mom of a child who less than perfect, or factor in that I was less than perfect.

In the beginning, I was naive and idealistic, but life happened and I changed.

When most people become parents there is a natural adjustment to taking care of a little life, and as they become more independent we continue to adjust.  For every milestone we celebrate, we pack five more into our mental archives until ages one, two and three become distant memories.  I have begun this blog to chart some of our family’s moments, excitements, discoveries, struggles, and milestones that I feel are worth sharing.  So here is where I begin.