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Swimming With the Stars

Hi All, Kelly here,

There are benchmarks when you arrive at something and the situation suddenly feels more significant than the literal interpretation. Ever since those hours in swimming lessons Ben has become a diving, fluttering machine. So when we head down to Regent Park Community pool its a real treat. The water slide doesn’t hurt either. However this was not just any old buoyant family outing.

Erin healed up from from the cesarean business (feeling so much sympathy for that) and she wanted to take Junior swimming. It was a painful ordeal for Erin to abstain from the lake in August during our cottage trip, so she was raring to go. I was sure Junior would love it as he has a laugh and a half at bath time, creating a small tsunami in the baby tub.

At first he was not convinced about the cold air and the the loud echoing room, but as soon as he hit the water he pretty much lost his mind with excitement. As Ben dove for rings floating up and down like a wounded fish and Junior was splashing and swooshing, that is when Erin thought she recognized someone in the pool. She couldn’t place them at first until she, The Walking Dead fan, knew where she was from. Just like that we were swimming with the stars!

The beautiful actress in question was ogling Junior in his cuteness and we chatted with her while her family swam around us. Under her gaze I felt even more like a family unit. It was a peaceful feeling and everyone’s joy just accentuated that.

As Erin went to throw rings for Ben, I got Junior and we puttered around the pool, swishing his little legs in my current. Making faces and over exaggerated moves my little star fish rewarded me with the quintessential wide smile and infectious giggle. That’s when I felt it, my heart melted.

I know it was our intention to “fashion” our own family but suddenly, emotionally it felt like we actually had. I love Junior, he feels like mine just as Erin feels like Ben is hers. They are ours and being there together cemented a beautiful feeling between us. This is what our boys will know, two parent figures who love and support them, a wide community of family and friends and a home that feels…like home.

Now it’s you turn: so you tell us, we love stories at Fashioning Families. What have been your most memorable family times?

Ep 5: Self-Care

Ep 5: Self-Care is here. Erin is pregnant and finally looking like it!! Erin and Kelly, with a HUGE dose of humour, chat about self-care when dealing with physical and mental limitations. Spoiler alert, we have some graphic detail and hang on ’till the end for Kelly’s description of “the sausage.” Check it out!

She had a baby!

Hello! Erin here, just coming out of the postpartum haze. Little Junior is just over four months old now and he’s pretty much the best baby ever. Smiling like crazy and generally sleeping… a bit…

Since we spent most of our time over the last year talking about my pregnancy, its only appropriate that I share the grande finale. After all efforts to have a natural birth in a local birthing centre, I didn’t go into labour… Yes you heard me, no labour. Crazy right?! I mean in some ways, awesome cuz I didn’t experience some of the horrible pain of contractions, just mild teasers. However it meant that after being a week overdue, Junior had to come out of my belly.

At my 41 week midwife appointment I mentioned there was some funny liquid just dripping slightly down my leg that morning. And if you don’t remember, I puked and peed my pants at one point, so this didn’t seem like a big deal. The midwives being the amazing health professionals that they are had to be thorough. They did a swab test for “ferning” which is literally looking for cells shaped like fern. These unique cells are only in amniotic fluid. Turns out that little dribble had some ferns… so off the hospital I went! We had a 24 hour window to deliver once there is a membrane rupture (aka water breaking).  So they did their best to chemically induce labour, the whole time monitoring Junior who was quite content.

Finally we had to throw in the towel cuz there was zero dilation of my cervix. The doctor gave me a choice, but it was pretty clear I needed to have a c section to avoid risk of infection. This was hands down the scariest moment of my life. Despite amazing doctors, midwives, and my awesome friend Kelly by my side, I still had to hold back the urge to bolt when they were sticking a needle into my spine while I was sitting up. Then they strapped me down on a table and put a sheet like a curtain right at my shoulders. Not the birth experience I’d dreamed of, but who gets that really. 

Since I was strapped down I couldn’t hold Junior right away or even see him when he came out of my abdomen. All I heard was the midwives say “is that red hair?” and Kelly poked her head over to tell me he was adorable. I love Kelly and my midwives, but all I could think was, give me my goddamn baby!

We shared a beautiful moment when a cleaned up little bundle was given to Kelly so she could stick him down her shirt and do “skin to skin” which is the recommended contact at birth. Kelly told me he had my ears haha. Finally when I could speak, I asked for him and the little guy whipped his head around to look for me. That hasn’t changed. Junior definitely knows his mom. He is a joy, most of the time, and has brought even more love into our house. Looking forward to sharing more of our antics soon!

Bittersweet Blessing

Queer single mom Kelly here. There so much to be grateful for in this world. So much love and care and compassion just waiting for someone to reach for it. I am grateful for this journey, I am so grateful that Erin and I found a place to create a new kind of family together. I am so grateful for the peace she felt with her decision to try and become a single mother, and I am absolutely at peace with my decision to sell the house that was literally falling down around me and make a new home with a second parent figure for my child.

These are the rewards that have come after surmounting a long period of struggle. I can remember the evening Ben and I were over for dinner at Erin’s basement apartment when the thought first occurred to us, we have lived together before, you have a kid, I want a kid and we both want some help. Wouldn’t it be great to share the cooking and the shopping and the bills with someone else?

The financial realities of living in Toronto make co-habitation a sure win. However it wasn’t until shortly before the move in date with our new situation imminent when Erin asked me how I was feeling about things, that I burst into tears and told her how relieved it was to not be alone anymore. Single parenting is hard work and it is a real challenge to see the beauty and joy of it when it’s not what I chose.

These are the good things life has yielded from that foundation of the shitty end of life. As we were getting ready to finish taping our last podcast I was feeling unsettled. Celebrating all the hard work we had done and the hours that we put in to this project (the most accrued during the editing of our very generous producer) was definitely fantastic aspect of the process. However there were some nagging emotions I had to unpack. It is true that I have embraced life as it is but along this particular ride I also have to acknowledge the pain of what I’ve lost.

I became a widow when I was 34 years old and my son was only 19 months. It was a very brief illness leading up to the death of my wife and none of us were prepared for that. I have struggled to try and talk to Ben about Kara and it is only now at the age of seven it is really starting to sink in how much he has lost as well. The joys of living with another adult do mostly make me feel supported and understood but there are nights where I just want to shut myself in my apartment with my pain and try and move through the weight losing a spouse.

Kara has become a hot button topic with Ben and it has gotten to the point where he knows he can pull the emotional strings of his mother who can become a puppet in the wake of his loss. Just the one phrase “I miss mama” creates an emotional collapse in me and he sees it. He really is coming to understand the significance of not ever having known or felt or heard his other mother, however he also uses it to stall going to bed or cleaning up his toys. Whether it is genuine or put on, as a parent I can show him that I am grieving but I am still the adult and must handle it as the situation requires.

The sanity preserving benefit of our living situation is, once he is in bed, I can go downstairs and tell Erin what happened and have a good cry with her arm around my shoulders. I did not choose to lose Kara, I did not choose to become a single mother but I did choose to put myself in a situation where I could receive more mental, emotional and physical support, and I am grateful because that is what family is all about.