The Getaway

As the therapist soundlessly slips tiny hot pebbles between my toes, I feel my body slip deeper into a state of total relaxation. The ‘wet noodle’ kind of true bliss. A configuration of smooth stones aligned atop the vertebrae of my back disperse their warmth and remind me to slow my breath. In. And out. In. And out. Eucalyptus-scented air fills my lungs. My mind, so used to racing through my never-ending to-do list and being constantly interrupted by ceaseless requests, is quiet. I am on cloud-nine.

It’s been almost a month since Claire’s birth and my two close girlfriends have kidnapped me for a girls weekend – an unconventional baby shower so to speak, post birthing a baby which wasn’t even mine. It’s difficult to explain to strangers, so I don’t even bother anymore. I just let people wonder what I’ve done with my newborn as I sip my wine enthusiastically.

I had been looking forward to this getaway for months. As many working parents of small children (especially Moms) can attest, having time to oneself occurs so seldomly that it has become a recurrent fantasy of mine.

At home, requests for my attention happen at minute-to-minute intervals. “Mommmmm, I need you RIGHT NOW”, “Mommmmm, the wheels of my Lego creation keep falling off!”, “Mommmm, I want you to come play with me”, “Mommmmmm, I need to poop!”. Even if Blake is around, willing and able, the Mom requests keep rolling in. Sound familiar? I hope so, because I can’t be in this boat alone!

No one ever follows Blake around the house in the same way that Henry, Alice and Ada constantly trail behind me. If I try to slip into the shower, it takes mere seconds before the Lego party has moved to the bathmat or a quiet face is pressed against the glass of the shower stall. If I try to have a moment of peace to go to the bathroom, Alice will inevitably settle herself onto the stool right in front of my feet, always accompanied by Ada who sits beside her, exclaiming, “You poopin’ Mom? Are you?” I just cannot get away. Even Ada, our beloved but anxious Labradoodle constantly follows so closely at my heels that I often need to go to our bedroom and close the doors to have a moment alone.

So, when my besties, Meghan and Megan, proposed a kid-free, girls weekend in Winnipeg, I was beyond excited. A day at the spa, coffee in bed, waking up slowly, sleeping in a bed alone, eating unhurriedly at hipster restaurants – all of the elements of my fantasies became a reality. It was a much needed reprieve from the constant go, go, go environment of home and a small break to allow reflection on the changes that have transpired over the past few weeks of my life.

Heading off for our girls weekend with a bottle of wine in my purse!
Sleeping ALL ALONE in the most comfortable bed ever at the iconic Fort Garry hotel in Winnipeg.
Enjoying delicious coffee in bed delivered to our room every morning with biscotti.
Although I don’t have pictures of our spa day as cell phones were prohibited, we spent a whopping ten hours at this amazing Nordic spa in Winnipeg.
This is where I sat, drinking herbal tea and listening to birds and harps for hours ๐Ÿ™‚
There was even a NAP ROOM that we most definitely took advantage of.
Breakfast at an amazing spot called Clementine.
Of course there will be booze at breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚
Braving the -32degree weather to skate on the Assiniboine River.
Urban art along the river.
Having hipster coffee at the Forks in Winnipeg.
Drinking wine, eating macaroons, getting our hair done by Meghan and watching TLC and HGTV before going out for diner!
I spent AS MUCH time as I could in my hotel bath robe ๐Ÿ™‚
A quiet solo afternoon of skate skiing on the beautiful trails of Falcon Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park on the way home from Winnipeg.

Having the space and time to reflect on my experience as a surrogate has made me realize that there have been many expected and very unexpected emotions, joys and challenges.

Expectedly, the biggest challenge for me has been working through the physical changes in my post-partum body. Immediately after Claire’s birth, I had felt great and so excited to be able to move again. I was on the snowshoeing trails on post-partum day 2 and back at the gym within 72 hours! Then, the moment that inevitably comes for many post-partum mothers unmercifully hit me like a Mack truck on day 4. That moment, when standing in front of the mirror, with engorged and painful breasts, a jiggly, spongy belly protruding over my granny underwear while sporting a menstrual pad an inch-think, I could not wrap my head around the fact that the reflection staring back at me was truly me. Of course I had known that my body would not be the same after growing Claire for nine months, but confronting the new version of myself was a hard reality to ignore. I have to say, it was downright devastating.

I struggled through the next several days of that first week coping by having quiet sob-fests in my walk-in closet as I burned through painkillers and many heads of cabbage to ease the engorgement. When this phase eventually abated, I hit another roadblock in my recovery as my very reluctant placenta continued to give me grief with a small piece of the after-birth stubbornly refusing to let go of my womb causing ongoing bleeding and eventually another trip back to the hospital for a procedure under sedation in the OR to remove it.

Back to the hospital for another ultrasound with Magdi, our neighbour and ultrasound tech extraordinare.
Alice was so stoked to see Uncle Johnny (who is one of our amazing nurses) at the Prenatal Clinic where he spoiled her with many stickers ๐Ÿ™‚
Awaiting in the pre-op area to go into the OR to get that last bit of stubborn placenta OUT!

Despite these set-backs, I immediately got back into my gym routine, anxious to feel ‘normal’ again. This too proved to be more challenging than I ever had imagined. I was completely out of shape, of course, but I had also hadn’t expected to feel quite so humbled in the process of rebuilding my body again from scratch. Before the pregnancy, the gym had been a sanctuary for me. A time for self-care, to feel strong and confident in my abilities. Now, surrounded by mirrors that continued to remind me of my physical changes, I felt dismayed and daunted by the mountain I now had to climb to get back to my pre-pregnancy body. My friends and Blake urged me to keep perspective and practice self-compassion. It had only been mere weeks since Claire’s birth, but without a newborn to remind myself of how little time had passed and what an amazing thing my body had done, it was easy to slip into thinking in unrealistic terms.

Having gained about 38lbs in the pregnancy, I still had almost 20lbs left to lose after the dust settled.
Ten days post-partum and feeling pretty daunted at the gym.

The struggle coming to grips with this new version of my physical self has been a constant challenge to reconcile. Reminders occurring daily of the almost 20lbs I still need to shed – the inability to do up my ski pants, the ongoing necessity of maternity jeans, the shocking number on the scale… I know that I am not alone in these post-partum challenges and that it will just take some time to get back to my pre-pregnancy self, but again, without toting around a newborn, I continue to feel almost embarrassed to be out in public without an obvious ‘excuse’ for that extra layer around my belly.

Unexpectedly, however, the emotional transition from pregnancy, through Claire’s birth and in the weeks that have followed have been so much smoother than I had ever expected. In the immediate post-partum days, I had an immense amount of support from numerous Sioux Lookout ‘sisters’. Women who all banded together to feed our family, to ensure I was getting rest and most importantly, who lent their listening ears to support me through that first week. What had worried me the most prior to Claire’s arrival, was a fear that somehow I would feel an immense sense of loss and would experience significant loneliness after the excitement of her birth had abated. Thankfully, this never transpired. While Amy, Adam and Claire spent their first week as a new family in Sioux Lookout, we visited daily, but we generally fell right back into our own family’s rhythm as if nothing had really happened. The kids barely blinked when we had introduced them to Claire at the hospital and explained that there was no longer a baby inside my tummy. Even more shockingly to me was that when I held and cuddled Claire, I knew that I cared for her, but there was no part of me that made me feel that she was mine. She didn’t look like me nor Blake and oddly, she didn’t smell like my baby. Weird, right?! It’s hard to explain, but I just knew that she wasn’t mine and I was happy to hand her back to Amy for feeds and diaper changes!

Henry and Alice visiting me the next morning after Claire’s birth to bring me home. The kids were curious about Claire for a total of two minutes, then they were mostly excited about the snacks and juice on Amy’s breakfast tray!
Claire leaving the hospital!
I arrived home to this amazing gift basket from all of my Sioux Lookout ‘sisters’ who had carefully selected chocolate, wine, cookies, magazines, tea and pads among other perfectly curated items!
And also gorgeous flowers from my girlfriends.
Claire visiting us at our house for the first time.

Fighting the engorgement. I tried to pump as little as I could so that I wouldn’t produce more milk, but had to ‘take the edge off’ a few times a day during that first week and a half. Alice loved it and was mesmerized by the ‘pump pumps’.
Our physician and dear friend Lianne had hosted a Sioux Lookout baby shower for all of the incredible people in Sioux Lookout who made meals, lent baby items, and generally supported Amy and Adam while they were here in Sioux Lookout away from their family and friends. It was heartwarming to see such outpouring of love and support between strangers!
Baby Claire at her baby shower.
Our neighbours Iris and Magdi. Magid was the first person ever to ‘see’ Claire as our ultrasound tech at the hospital in Sioux Lookout. Iris is an amazing Lactation Consultant who helped Amy out with Claire’s feeds and helped take care of me at my prenatal visits.
The line up of adorable little girls wanting their turn to hold baby Claire ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that Amy, Adam and Claire have settled in at their home in Kingston, I have been enjoying a very unusual (but highly enjoyable!) pregnancy leave. Without a newborn to attend to, I have been savouring quiet days at home playing with Alice and Henry, cooking, baking, working out and spending time with friends. Aside from the two four-month long maternity leaves that I took following Alice and Henry’s deliveries, I have never taken any extended time away from full-time work. There has been something so special about the simplicity of just being a Mom over the past few weeks. I am incredibly grateful for this time with my family and recognize that this will likely never happen again as I am fairly certain that my ‘career’ as a gestational surrogate is over. This uterus is now closed for buisness ๐Ÿ™‚

Storytime with Alice at our local library. She’s dressed in shorts and a t-shirt despite the -30degree weather because a) she won’t let anyone help her pick out her clothes or dress her and b) because she is desperate for summer to arrive!
Aren’t we all!
Being off has meant that I actually get to attend daytime family events at Henry’s school! Here we are for family fort building.
Another novelty – being home to pick up Henry at the bus stop!
Training for our ski vacation in BC!
Jump building.
Snow fort building at home with Ada.
Sledding with Henry & Alice.
Single-parenting while Blake is in Thunder Bay for work. This was the only way for me to safely have a shower or cook dinner!
Catching a break during naptime to write my blog ๐Ÿ™‚
Baking with Alice
‘Mom fuel’ – a very appropriate gift from Amy!
Always trying to keep up with this crazy one! As Alice’s daycare teacher welcomed a baby girl to her family right at the same time that I delivered Claire, Alice has been home with me until we can secure her a spot in the town daycare. It’s been so much fun being at home with her!
Sometimes I wonder what goes on inside toddler brains. This was after Kindergym one day. Alice INSISTED on wearing her coat exactly like this all the way home with the hood up.
Sunday morning crafts.
Off to Kenora for Family Day Weekend for three days of skiing on their local hill.
Car rides are so much easier now that they will watch Paw Patrol for hours. Parenting win!
At Mount Evergreen in Kenora.
Skiing is hard work!
Back at home, Alice welcomed her two besties for a morning playdate which was hilarious and so much fun!
Natalie & Alice in the snow.
Happy 3rd birthday Alice!
Very carefully eating the icing first ๐Ÿ™‚

Now we are set to spend the next month in beautiful British Columbia – with three weeks in Nelson and a final week in Kelwona to ski as a family, enjoy a break from the minus-thirty temperatures of Northern Ontario, enjoy some refreshing and quirky Kootenay culture and hopefully be able to greet Spring upon our return home in April! To the ski slopes we go!

One Comment on “The Getaway

  1. What an amazing woman you are. So happy you are having some “you” time and enjoying your beautiful family. If anyone deserves it – YOU sure do. โคโคโค


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