27 April 2015

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My husband and I are from two separate cultural and religious traditions.  He’s of Indian Sikh extraction, and I’m of Irish-Canadian Christian background.  While all that culminated in two kickass weddings that took place about five years ago, now that we’re having a baby there’s some interesting things to consider.

I love my faith.  I don’t love dogma, because I don’t think that anything can be incontrovertibly true, nor should anything be so blindly followed as to prevent questioning or challenging over millenia.  Never have, never will.  I actually love the idea behind all faiths, because I’m fond of the idea that each one is essentially seeking the same thing – to make our human experience more understandable in the greater scheme of the universe. 

My husband is probably more culturally Sikh than religiously so.  He keeps his kesh and his turban, but his leanings are more scientific than spiritual.  He, too, abhors dogma and the ignorance that results from blind adherence to codified sets of rules that don’t adapt to changing times or attitudes. 

We’ve been asked how we’re going to raise our kid, probably because people see us, don’t see an obvious outward match, and then get curious about the myriad possibilities for our plans for our progeny.  It’s an interesting question to a lot of people, and every single person who’s asked has an opinion of their own.  They’re sometimes far less interested in our response than in the opinion that they already hold.

This child of ours will grow up knowing a little bit about every faith, and a fair bit about two in particular.  He or she will say grace before dinner, and will be able to greet older Indian family members with “Sat Sri Akal”.  Baby will know the stories of Jesus and the apostles and prophets, and those of the Gurus and brave sardars and sardarnis who fought for their place in the world, because baby’s Dad and I will tell him about all of them.  I’ll probably sing hymns to the baby, and maybe my husband will sing shabads.  No choices regarding religion will be made for this child, because we believe that being born in a family like ours provides the ultimate in faith learning environments.

We will ensure that our baby grows up equipped with enough knowledge to be able to find a path.  I’m pretty sure that’s all that parents can ever really do. 

22 April 2015

All the comforts of home

If you’ve been pregnant before, you’ll know that what was previously a perfectly serviceable, even comfortable and pleasant home becomes the Source of All Discontent at some point during the 40 weeks of gestation.  I’m there at the moment, and can barely stand the sight of anything in our condo.  It all infuriates me, from the bed to the stove to the shower. 

What’s funny is I’m not entirely sure why I feel this way about a place that I heretofore considered to be a solid representation of whatever home means to me.  The world of pregnancy websites tells me that I’m “nesting”, a term that of course brings to mind all sorts of birdy imagery.  It just seems as though the magnitude of the clear up and clean out that we need to do before the baby’s arrival is perhaps a bit too much.  Instead of lining a nest carefully and diligently with feathers, I want to rent a dumpster and throw all of our belongings into it. 

Of course we won’t be doing that, and have taken a more selective approach to making sure that we have the right stuff in the right places.  The baby’s crib has arrived, but we won’t be setting it up for real until after my parents have gone home (about two weeks after the baby has made its world debut).  I’ve used the image below as my inspiration for what I’d like the baby’s room to look like eventually – it’s about as non-baby as you can get, but the colours and general sense of room zen are what I’m really going for:

We’re being really choosy about what we buy for the baby, as we don’t have any extra space at all in our 875 square feet of beautiful downtown Toronto.  We’ve agreed that the only necessary home items are this crib, bassinet, bouncy seat, and change pad.  No toys, no random accoutrements – we just don’t have the space.

We’ve cleared out our closets and made room for baby clothes, went through stuff in storage boxes and separated out stuff we think the baby will enjoy, and hidden stuff that we’d rather never be broken or misplaced.  We’ll clean our soft furnishings, move a 1930s dresser in from my parents’ place, find actual bookshelves instead of the makeshift stuff we’ve been using, and maybe then my nesting instincts will be satisfied.  Maybe.  A few extra feathers here and there won’t hurt I guess.  

15 April 2015

Apprehending apprehension

One of the strangest things that I've noticed about being an expectant mother is that a formerly perfectly rational mind can suddenly, and without warning, become the opposite of perfectly rational.  

Don't get me wrong - I've always had my moments of utter ridiculousness, but I've noticed that they come far faster now.  Take, for example, the events of last week:

1. Eat more frequently, but still very healthily, all day at work.
2. Have another snack at home.
3. Start casually looking at a couple of pregnancy-and-baby-related websites.
4. Find articles about food-borne pathogens.
5. Read articles with increasing terror, especially lists of symptoms.
6. Become convinced that at least one of the aforementioned food-borne pathogens is circulating in my bloodstream.
9. Start reading about other things that can happen during pregnancy.
10. Decide it is neither LISTERIA or TOXOPLASMOSIS but instead PRE-PRE-ECLAMPSIA, and I'd better wake my husband up to tell him the prognosis.

Of course, I have none of those things, but the high jumps my mind can take are medal-worthy. I'm lucky to have so many friends, including my mother, who have been through this process before and can, at the bing of a text message, put my mind at rest.  I haven't had to call on them as of yet, but just having them there is a significant comfort.

This is a toxoplasma cyst in a mouse brain.  Not particularly comforting, this.

09 March 2015

Now, Ain't That Love?

Here's a funny thing - in about 5.5 months, my husband and I will be parents.  I'm currently in the throes of the second trimester, and things so far have gone extraordinarily well.  No nausea, very little pain, no impending sense of doom.  I've been very, very fortunate and I hope that continues.

Of course there's lots to do, places to go and stuff to see, but mostly I just want to chill out and enjoy the next few months with my husband.  To me, this is our time in which we can wander around and plan and dream and do the things we may not have as much time for when our baby arrives.  

We've told most people now - we chose to announce to our friends and some select family by a card, because I'm not big on telling people in person.  It's superstitious of me, but I have a tendency to feel that the more people know, the more chance there is for bad feelings and bad wishes to percolate.  We have been lucky to receive lots of good wishes, excitement and happiness for us from others.  

Announcing this has been a bit bittersweet for me, mostly because of who isn't here to hear our news.  Over the last few months I've missed my brother in a really fundamental way - I can't call him to tell him about hearing the baby's heartbeat, or send him emails to let him know what's up, and I certainly can't just call round and see him.  Even though it's been nearly five years since Brent died, sometimes it's been hard even to see my husband with his sister, because I don't have that kind of relationship with anyone anymore.  My baby will have only great uncles and aunts on my side, which is a challenging thing to try to wrap my head around sometimes.  I'm not interested in creating "honourary" uncles, because it seems extremely disrespectful to Brent, who, along with my brother-in-law, my own uncles and my husband's uncles, are the only people whom my kid should call by that honorific.  

But despite the bittersweet nature of this particular announcement, and despite all of the warnings of upcoming changes, my husband and I are very, very excited to meet our new daughter or son later this year.  We understand that this week it is the size of an onion - a whole onion, just hanging out inside of me - and next week it will be the size of a sweet potato.  We hope and pray that baby will continue to grow and develop into a healthy, well-adjusted tiny person and adult, because really hoping for anything else seems pretty greedy at this point.  We have, and are, all we need.


21 February 2015

Leaving London

My husband and I traveled to London over the holidays this year - left on December 26th and returned (sadly) on January 7th.  We were there long enough to do some wandering, visit some of his family, and, at least in my case, actively wish that we lived there full-time.

It's funny when you have to leave a place that you really love - even arriving there is bittersweet, because that's when you start the countdown for the day that you will, inevitably, return to your point of origin.  

During this visit, we found the whole place to be extraordinarily full.  Full of people, mostly, but also full of events and happenings and ideas, including our expectations.  We hadn't realized that it would be as busy as it was, so we periodically found ourselves disappointed that we wouldn't be able to do whatever it was we had imagined doing, at least not without 10,000 other people who wanted to do the very same thing. The thing about London, though, is that we know our way around sufficiently well that we can change our mind and our plans in a minute, and wind up somewhere even better than we had planned to be originally.

Our goal in being there over New Years Eve was to see the fireworks in person - to see what we see every other year on TV in real life.  That mission was accomplished, and I'm so happy that we were able to be there.  A family member had to buy our tickets for the event, which said we had to be through the gates by 10:00.  It was a freezing night, so the two hours between 10:00 and midnight were spent trying to stay warm.  The fireworks were incredible though, and hearing 100,000 people singing "Auld Lang Syne" beside the Thames was very cool.

We stayed in an attic flat in Bloomsbury, which was perfect and made our lives very easy, even with the 85 steps up to the flat itself.  If you're looking for London short term apartment rentals, try Acorn London, a letting agency.  The view was gorgeous too, right beside an old, seldomly-used church.

Staying in Bloomsbury means that you don't have very far to walk to anything, but there's enough distance between you and the intensely touristy places that you can relax a bit more.  Lots of buildings with English Heritage blue plaques on them, as well as good pubs and shops.  You're very close to several Underground stations there, and also to the British Museum if that's something you're interested in exploring.  You're also really close to  ICCO, a great and inexpensive pizza place on Goodge Street.

We actually ate in the flat a fair bit, given that the busy-ness meant long waits or (understandable) snorts of derision when you said that you didn't have a reservation.  We did however have a nice shared plates lunch at Elk in the Woods in Islington (Angel underground station) - in particular, the beet and horseradish hummus was very tasty.  The restaurant is located on Camden Passage, which is a great little street filled with shops offering both vintage/antique items and modern fashion.  

We were there in time to see the Christmas lights - the first photo in this post are those of Carnaby Street, and below is Piccadilly.

While London at Christmas and the New Year proved to be exceptionally busy, far busier than I had anticipated, I think we'll likely head back another year to see a bit more.  The lights and the crush of people were incredible (and that's coming from someone who lives in the largest city in her country of origin), and I'm not sure that I'll be able to stay away over the holidays for too many years.