My water broke on May 22nd, at 7:45 am. Dane had literally come home from BC at 3:30 am that morning. I was laying in bed and I knew that I was gonna go into labour that day, I dunno know how or why I knew, but I had gone to bed the night before with a weird feeling in my stomach. I had blamed my supper (Boston Pizza, why do you keep me coming back?! Oh ya, perogy pizza). Turns out it was Olive getting ready to make her grand entrance. So ya, back to my water breaking. I stood up out of bed and it was like a mini waterfall, so much water on the floor that I slipped (that’s not a lie. Like for real though). Here’s a fun little fact that I didn’t know. Once your water breaks… you keep leaking. ALL. DAY. And you don’t really stop leaking till like two weeks after you have your baby. So I sent Dane put to buy the really cool super jumbo, “I’m an old lady and pee myself” pads, and almost went through the whole bag.
I texted my midwife who just told me to stay at home and relax until my contractions were 3-5 mins apart. You know how in movies the woman’s water breaks and she instantly starts screaming and the baby is about to fall out between her legs? Ya, that’s not what happens at all. Which is weird, cuz Hollywood is so realistic (Rachel Green anyone? When she’s in labour with Emma? I like how they made her forehead look sweaty to make her look “relatable.” Lady, I get a sweaty forehead walking to the fridge to get my håagan-dazs, PUH-LEEZ). So I spend Sunday pretending I’m not silently freaking out in my head with a giant diaper between my legs. She wasn’t due until June 7, so I had my diaper bag at the cabin, over an hour away. So off to the cabin we went. I started to get tiny contractions on the way back to the city, but only tiny ones that didn’t really hurt at all. I ate Thai food for supper and called it a night. Around 3:00 am my contractions started to get more painful. Like they would wake me up and I would have to crouch over and hold my stomach, but they were still 45 mins apart. I didn’t really get much sleep that night.
Monday morning rolls around and I ask my midwife if she can check me, so we go to her house. It’s 10:00 am. Do you know how you get checked to see how far dilated you are? NOT with a ruler. Think latex glove and a hand. “Please don’t leak on her white couch, please don’t leak on her white couch, please don’t leak in her white couch” kept running through my head. “You’re 4 cm dilated! You’ll have this baby by the end of today” she says. This sense of excitement and absolute fear comes over me. She sends us home and says that until my contractions are 3-5 mins apart, there’s no need to go the hospital. So we go home. And wait. And do nothing. It’s the strangest thing… you literally have to wait for one of the most life changing experiences, fully knowing it’s going to happen in the next few hours. The things that go through your head are crazy, and your nerves are shot, and you’re uncomfortable. Basically, labour sucks.
At 1:00 pm my contractions are getting stronger and closer together. So I text my midwife that I want to go to the hospital. So she tells us to meet her there at 2:45. We grab our stuff and go. Here’s the weird part, I didn’t cry ever. Not even during labour or after I had her. But you know when I ALMOST did cry? Leaving my house. It was this weird realization that the next time I would walk through these doors again, I would have a little babe with me.
2:45- Get to the Lois Hole Hospital for women and go up to our room. So because I went with a midwife, there was not doctors, no nurses, no commotion in the room. Like my midwife literally brought her knitting stuff to knit. THAT’S how chill it was. She tell us to do whatever we need to do to pass the time. So we go downstairs and Dane gets a snack from Tim Hortons, my mom gets a drink, I just walk and try not to freak out. On the way back up to our room my contractions start to get a bit more intense. I have to stop walking and take breaks and crouch over.
4:00- My contractions had slowed down, so they were getting further apart, which is no bueno. So my midwife suggests that I jump into the hot shower to help myself relax. I go in there for about 40 mins and it works, cuz they’re coming back and they’re mad. They are INTENSE. She checks me and I’m 7 cm dilated. I decide it’s time to go into the pool, because I only have 3 more cm to go until I can start pushing, and I really want to have her in the water. Here’s the thing about a birthing pool. It’s the best thing ever. My contractions felt way less intense in the warm water, and they were way more manageable. I labour in there from about 4:00 to 9:00 pm. And in that time, my contractions were intense, on a scale of 1-10 pain wise, they’re at a 10. All 1-3 mins apart. I think the adrenaline makes you sick, cuz I puked. A lot. My mom would come over and hold a bucket for me while I barfed, and then I pee’d in the pool and started freaking out cuz I didn’t want my baby to swim in my pee. My midwife just laughed and said it wasn’t a big deal. So then I just kept peeing after that. Haha, I kid, I kid.
The thing about having a baby is that it’s really boring. You’re literally just waiting for hours and hours for a human to pop out of your vajayjay. At 9:00 I called my midwife over and I whispered “Tara, I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I am in a lot of pain. Is there anything else other than an epidural that I can have for pain?” And this is why I will never bring a baby into this world other than with a midwife. She knelt by the pool, put her had on my wet arm that probably had pee and barf on it and she smiled and said “I know. You are doing amazing. Your breathing techniques are perfect, you’re working through contractions perfectly, you’re staying calm. But no, there isn’t really anything I can give you for pain.” Her reassurance actually helped so much. It sounds so cheesy, but you need to hear those words. Did it help my pain? Not one bit. But it helped me mentally. You think you’re pretty BA when you realize how tough you are. She decided that because I had laboured for 5 hours with contraction so close together, I could probably even be ready to start pushing soon.
So she tells me to get out of the pool and lay on the bed, she’s gonna check me. Getting out of the water sucked. You’re wet, cold, and in pain. But I somehow manage to get out and get checked. I’m laying on my back, she checks me. Her hand comes up and her face says it all. And I already knew what she’s gonna say. “I’m so sorry Claudia. You’re still at 7 cm. I’m not sure what’s happening.”
Oh I’ll flipping tell you what’s happening. I’m being punished for stealing glitter pens from my desk buddy in grade 7. I’m being punished for that time I snuck out of the house at 16. I’m being punished for flipping my dad the bird at 15. I’m being punished for grabbing that stupid alley cat by the tail and swinging it in a circle cuz it wouldn’t leave me alone when I was 9. I’m being punished for telling my 4 year old brother that a ghost named Martha lived in our attic for years. Know what else is happening? I’m getting that bloody epidural shoved into my spine, because I’ve had enough.
Here’s the funny thing about pride though. It makes you do stupid things. I still had too much pride to admit that I wanted the stupid needle that would grant me oh such sweet relief. Tara (my midwife) looks at me because she knows she just crushed my dreams and everything good in the world when she told me I hadn’t progressed. Dream crusher. That’s what she is. She says “Claudia, I know you didn’t want an epidural. And you’ve done amazing so far. You have gone 12 hours with your contractions less than 5 mins apart. But I need you to save your energy for pushing the baby out. Because the doctor that’s on call right now, if we end up needing him, he’s gonna do a c-section. I know him, and that’s always what he chooses to do. And you don’t want a c-section if you can help it. So I’m suggesting to you, as your midwife… to get the epidural.” Music to my ears. Hit me up with the drugs then Tara! So Tara, my dream crusher midwife whom I love, goes to the front desk and tells the nurses that I’m gonna get the epidural. And I am R-E-A-D-Y. She comes back, and I’m laying on my back with a contraction happening, and I look up and see her face. “Where is the anesthesiologist?” “Um… he had to go into an emergency c-section… so they aren’t sure when he’s gonna be free. And he’s the only one on call tonight.” See what I mean by dream crusher? “wait…. so I have to keep labouring, with these contractions for who knows HOW long?” OK. So when I was 14 I stole $14 in change from someone. That’s what this is really about. Because this definitely feels like payback…..
So I’m going to tell you a story. Mostly because this post would be boring if I didn’t. It’s about this time I picked peppers. Before I begin to tell you this story, I’m gonna start by telling you a different story. I’ve been known to be….. loud. I’m loud. I dunno why, maybe its the Latin in me, or maybe it’s just my personality. Nonetheless, I’m heard wherever I go.
I used to work for these chiropractors, and one in particular really liked me. I was terrified of him for the longest time, he was “the boss,” and I was completely intimidated by him. So in normal Claudia fashion, I never showed he intimidated me. How? By being loud. I would tell him jokes, stories, I’d tease him, ask him about golf (borinnnngggg), basically used my voice. It worked. He thought I was hilarious (that would be really awkward if he ever reads this and thinks “she actually wasn’t that funny.”) Anyways, we went to another chiropractor’s wedding once. I had done my hair all pretty, my makeup was on fleek (just to clarify, I don’t normally use the term ‘fleek’), my dress was the bomb.com (again, I normally don’t use the term bomb.com), and I was wearing my friends super expensive $400 leather heels (they were $300, but $400 sounded better). It was an outdoor ceremony. With gopher holes everywhere. See where I’m going with this? So here I am looking all fly (Again. ‘fly’ isn’t in my day to day vocabulary), and I’ve got this super hot guy as my date (Dane), and I’m all flipping my hair, doing my celebrity wave and walking toward this boss of mine. I’m a foot away about to go in for a hug when BAM! Frigging gopher ruins my game. My boss had to catch me. Yup. Fell straight into him, and not in a cute “oh I’m so tiny my boss caught me and gave me a raise cuz I’m so cute.” No, more like shamu the orca falls on her boss and pulls his back. Good thing he’s a chiropractor. His exact words were “trust Claudia to make a grand entrance. Like always.” At my going away party after I quit (no, I didn’t quit because I was so embarrassed), his speech to me said, and I quote “I’ll miss Claudia’s work ethic, blah blah blah, but mostly I’ll miss how Claudia never just showed up. She never just walked into a room, she made an entrance. There was always something that had a story.”
Awwwww…. so cute right? Naaaat. Basically he called me a drama queen. Meh, if the shoe fits. Point of this story is to show that I don’t just “pick” peppers. There will always be a story to go along with it. Even if it is calling myself out.
I wanted to make my friends mom’s peppers (Hi Joan!!) They are delicious. You will never buy store bought peppers after you make these. Joan’s peppers are red, orange, and yellow. So those are the colours I wanted. Why? Because. That’s why. So we’re in Osoyoos and we are about to buy peppers at a fruit stand on the side of the road, when I get this bright idea to PICK my own peppers! Like OMG, “how cute would it be to pick our own peppers Dane??” Dane is thrilled. CLEARLY. So I drag him into the field in +35 heat mid afternoon to pick hot peppers. Only thing is, there are only yellow peppers. Apparently, all of these peppers are supposed to be yellow, and when they get too ripe they turn red and orange. So the pickers chuck those out (the pickers names are Peter, obvs). But they have left a few behind, and it is my mission, my life’s goal if you will, to have orange, red, and yellow peppers. So I instruct Dane to look through this whole field with me, looking for the orange and red peppers. Just Like Joan’s. Dane is not impressed. I’m hot and I’m probably hangry, so me over heating and hungry + a hot, sweaty husband who has a nutty wife = husband and wife fight in a pepper field in Osoyoos, BC. Like a full on fight where we yell and walk away from each other. The best part? Dane was recording it on his goPro the entire time. So somewhere in our files, there is a silent video of me CHUCKING peppers into my basket and glaring at my husband. At least they were red and orange peppers;) I win.
Fast forward to pickling them. You have to remove the core and seeds from each pepper by hand. I had a good 100 peppers. It took me 3 hours to do all of them. My hands were on fire by the end. Each finger was swollen and beet red and itchy and hot. I thought I was gonna have to go the hospital. No, seriously, I LEGIT thought I was gonna have to go and get my hands drained somehow. I had to sleep with ice packs on my hands. Karma’s a………
This all happened about four years ago. I’ve been making these peppers every summer since then. Everyone who has them, loves them. You should try making them. My only advice? Wear latex gloves, Oh, and don’t stress too much about the red and orange peppers:)
I've been making these every summer for the last 4 years.... they are the best peppers you'll ever eat!
Author: Martha Stewart
Serves: 8-12 half quart mason jars
12 lbs Hungarian peppers
2 cups water
6 cups white vinegar
8 tbsp pickling salt
6 peppercorns (per jar)
2 whole garlic cloves (per jar)
1 sprig of fresh thyme (per jar)
Boiling water to "cook" the peppers
12 500 ml mason jars
Have all of your jars sanitized, and keep them warm when packing. Thinly slice and seed all of your peppers. Pack each jar tightly with your peppers.
Once you have them all packed, pour boiling water in each jar, making sure all the peppers are covered. Let sit for 3 minutes.
Add your garlic, thyme, and peppercorns to each jar.
In another large stockpot, make your brine. Bring your 2 cups of water with the vinegar and salt to a roiling boil. Carefully pour into each jar, making sure to leave about ½" of room up top. Seal with lids.
Thanks to Joan for never being selfish and letting Afton and me devour these, even when she was down to her last jar. And also, thanks for the passing along the recipe:) You can put these peppers on almost anything. We put them in burgers, sandwiches, quinoa salad, eggs, with cheese and crackers. Use your imagination. And latex gloves.
Welcome to Olive Juice- basically where I’ll be sharing my adventures about being a new mom. Or the truth. I promise not to sugar coat anything- which will be hard because I like sugar a lot. Especially refined sugar. I named it Olive juice cuz Dane and me used to say “Olive juice” instead of I love you, because if you mouth the words it looks like you’re saying “I love you.” Also, because my daughter’s name is Olive:) Anyways, don’t go getting your panties in a knot because of the title. Let’s face it, you probably sucked at being a mom at some point in your life. Olive is only 7 weeks old and I already sucked as a mom a bunch of times, so for over the next 18 years…. imagine how many more times I’m gonna suck? A lot. So ready for story time and how I suck at being a mom? OK.
1). I dropped nail clippers on Olive’s forehead. No joke, she was barely a week old. I was trying to cut her fingernails because she kept scratching her face, and cutting a newborn’s fingernails alone is one of the most stressful things I’ve done. (I know, I’ve had a pretty stress free life. Sue me). Anyways, here I am, saggy boobed, greasy hair and no makeup Claudia, just finished breast feeding, so Olive is in milk drunk heaven, all dozy. Perfect time to give her a manicure. So I cut one finger nail with beads of sweat on my already greasy face, and maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or maybe it’s the nail clippers that were slippery, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m the biggest klutz around. But I dropped metal nail clippers on a week old baby’s forehead. And from like from neck level when she was boob level. So that’s high up for a baby:( She screamed and went into that cry where no noise comes out and she can’t breath, you know, the fun kind that makes you feel really good about yourself. “What happened? Is everything OK?” “Uhhh… ya. She’s just trying to get a turd out or something. Must be a big one!” Fail whale mom exhibit 1. Sorry Olive, mommy’s sorry she dropped something on your head. And also that I lied and said you were probably constipated or something. We both know that wasn’t true based on your poop explosion prior.
2). I was starving her. Have you heard of cluster feeding? Ya, me either. Basically it’s this really awesome thing that babies do when going through a growth spurt. They basically wanna be attached to your boob 24/7. They don’t let you go pee, have a shower, eat… you’re basically their milk slave. Lucky for me, Olive decided cluster feeding wasn’t just for growth spurts. She came out and was like “Ha! Wouldn’t it be like, so totally funny if I was cluster feeding baby ALL the time? Let’s do that and see how long it takes for this lady to go crazy.” Not very long, ps. Anyways, it was a Monday night. She was feeding, feeding, feeding, and I finally said enough. I put the boobs away, she was starting to get sleepy anyways. WRONG. She was just getting started. But lucky me, I was empty. Like there was nothing coming out. Nada, Niente, capish? Nuh-thing. I tried self expressing. I tried pumping. I tried massaging. I chugged water. I ate lactation cookies. Milk gods were not smiling on me this night. Oh, and by the way, I live in the sticks. Forty-five minutes from Stony Plain, the nearest city. So at like 11:30, after 30 mins of her screaming, and I’m not lying, SCREAMING, Dane was like “let’s go, we’re going to buy formula.” AH, formula. The dreaded word. So we put our screaming, starving child in her car seat, and we drive to Stony Plain and found a 24 hour supermarket. I run in and buy formula, and we drive back. It’s 1:30 in the morning and neither of us are really saying much. We’re exhausted. We get home and she chugs 5 oz without coming up for air. And then I ball my eyes out. Like literally. Haha, just kidding, I still have my eyes! But in all seriousness, that was hard for me. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t provide my baby with what she needed. And the fact that she was so hungry made me sad. She’s a chunk butt. (“Oh wow, she’s a solid newborn!” Yes, my child is getting fat. but thanks for using the word solid instead of fat:) She slept for four hours that night, which was the longest she had up to that point. Fail whale mom exhibit 2. Sorry Olive, for starving you. Maybe you shouldn’t be such a fat lard like Tina. Just kidding, I love you. We can be fat lards like Tina together.
3). I almost had to have her leg amputated. Slight exaggeration? Maybe. But it still felt like that. I’m sure all of you have seen those baby slings. They’re all over instagram. Anyways, I found this one company and their instagram is quite pretty. All these hot moms with perfect looking children in their slings. There was one particular picture of a blogger mom who I also follow. She’s on the beach at sunset, with her adorbs two year old on her back, and cutie patootie six month old in a sling. She has the most perfect, whitest teeth, and she’s legit wearing cat eye chanel sunglasses (I made the chanel part up- I don’t know what brand they are, they look fancy though). Very glamorous. So I’m looking at this picture, and thinking ” I want to be a glamorous mom. I want to have cat eye shaped chanel sunglasses, and have the whitest most perfect teeth.” But because I have a fat shaped face, I can’t wear cat eye sunglasses. And because I can’t afford veneers, I don’t have the whitest most perfect teeth. But I can have a sling! So that’s close enough. Dane’s aunt buys me one as a gift and I’m pumped. It’s so pretty, and I feel like a glamorous, fat shaped face mom with far from perfect teeth. So I finally decide to use it last week. It’s kinda tricky, but I shove her in there. I look in the mirror. Definitely won’t be featured on their instagram anytime soon, but whatever. She’s in there for about an hour and half, and when I take her out…. Oh man. She starts screaming bloody murder. A painful cry, I know she’s in pain and I can’t figure out why. Then I see her leg. It’s literally almost double in size and her tiny foot is so swollen and purple. I had been cutting off her circulation for an hour and a half. Yup, that’s me! Mom of the year. I start to panic because she won’t stop screaming and I can’t believe how swollen her leg and foot are. So I text Dane and tell him to come and he does. He stays a lot more calm than I do, but I can tell he’s kinda weirded out too. Eventually, the swelling goes down and she calms down. Her leg did not have to be amputated. I am not the hot blogger mom. I’m a mom, ya. I have a blog, ya. I’m hot, ya. But not the hot you wanna be. I’m hot tempered, and I’m always hot now because I sweat more, lol. So I suppose I am a hot blogger mom!
To the moms out there, to the new moms, to the almost moms… we got this. Sometime we BARELY “got” this, but at the end of the day- Olive didn’t get a bruise from nail clippers falling on her head, and she didn’t starve, and she didn’t have her leg amputated. So it’s a successful day when you can avoid those things. I will never be the mom that has it together. Nor will I pretend to be. I will never be the mom on the beach at sunset with chanel sunglasses and perfect teeth. I’m slowly realizing that I’m almost OK with that.
I’m Claudia, I have purple stretch marks on my jiggly stomach (I’m working on it!) I still have no clue what I’m doing, and I LITERALLY fell down a flight of stairs on Thursday morning, top stair alllllll the way to the floor. I’m Claudia, I couldn’t sit on the toilet normally all last week from ONE workout that I did with Dane, and bless his little heart, but if he ever does triple the amount of lunges than me next time we workout together, I WILL hit him. I’m Claudia, I put my cell phone in the fridge last week and couldn’t find it, and I ate way too much ice cream yesterday. I’m Claudia, I crave McDOnalds and drink way too much coke. I’m Claudia, and I’m Olive Rose’s mom, and she loves me with all her stomach, mostly because I’m the only one whose got the goods;) You survive. You do what you need to do to survive and get those two hours of sleep. I’m reminded almost daily by my ever so patient, darling, handsome husband (Dane, just a heads up- I might be going to Calgary next week to go to the mall, hence the adjectives), that I’m doing fine. And I think what he mostly means is “Claud, Olive is still alive- that’s awesome!” But I still have my moments where I’ve thrown her soother across the bed, I’ve yelled “Shut up” to her, and I’ve held her while she cried… all the while I cried too. That’s being a mom. I love Olive, but here’s a dirty little secret- I also loved being Claudia, without Olive.
So cheers to finding out what it means to being Claudia with the cutest little chunk butt named Olive Rose as my side kick. I look forward to the day where your eyes search for me, your mama in a crowd of people darling girl. I look forward to the day where you run into my arms and know that I would do anything to protect you, and have you know that. I look forward to the day sweet girl, that you are able to understand that my life has been turned upside down because of you, but you’ve made it all worth it. All the tears and sleepless nights, all the panic attacks, and all the confusion you’ve brought with you… I know they’ll be something I look back on and I will whisper in your ear, “you were worth it little Olive, you were worth it all.”
Little Miss Olive Rose came into this world on May 24th, 2016 at 2:55 am, two weeks early, to the day. 7 lbs 5 oz and 20” long. I think I’m supposed to say something like “She is the missing piece to our family” or “I didn’t know I could love like this,” “our lives are complete now.” That’s what I’m supposed to write underneath the perfect whited out intsagram picture with beautiful pink peonies “oh so casually” placed strategically in the picture, me wearing an anthropologie dress with my hair looking perfect and my winged liner so sharp it could cut you. That would be a lie though. Trust me, I want that as much as the next person. I envy all the instagram accounts that know how to edit their pictures to look bright and white, and sunny. I’m not making fun of them. I’m just telling you the truth. At least my truth.
My truth is that that doesn’t exist, at least not in my world. In my world, I don’t sleep until about 4:30 am, I haven’t done my hair in almost 3 weeks, and my showers last about 2 minutes, and I’ve only shaved my legs twice since she was born. My boobs hurt. A lot. I hurt a lot in places I didn’t think I could hurt. My truth is that I don’t actually know what I’m doing, I’m playing grown up. I’m just waiting on the day where it doesn’t feel like I’m just “playing” this role. I don’t know why she cries sometimes, and that’s OK. I didn’t know about meconium until it happened. Look it up, it’s awesome. I didn’t know about her choking the first few days and how fluid and guck comes out her nose and mouth and it’s just her cleaning out her lungs. I didn’t know how hard breastfeeding was until I had to do it. Or how sore you were gonna get. Or how exhausted I would feel. Or how overwhelming it is. Even people offering you help is overwhelming. Or how you ACTUALLY forget to eat. Trust me. This mamma does not forget to eat… until 3 weeks ago. It would be 4:00 in the afternoon and I would remember I hadn’t eaten. My truth is that it sucks. Let’s all take a minute to let all the gasping and horrified mothers judge me for a bit, and then I’ll finish. *****moment of silence for judging me***** OK. Ya. I said it. It friggin sucks. Who ACTUALLY wants to look like poo, literally HAVE poo on them, have a jiggly stomach, be so tired you want to cry, not know what the hell you’re doing, and have a million people plus their dog give you advice on what worked for them? I don’t. Babies are beautiful (kind of- another lie people say. They actually aren’t THAT beautiful. They have swollen little beady eyes and weird shaped heads). But they are cute and make cute little billy goat noises and when they fart they smile and it’s super cute. But if we’re speaking honestly here, it’s hard. It’s really hard.
But then one day, you’re watching them sleep, and their tiny little breaths are the only thing you can hear, and their tiny little chest is all you see, and its moving up and down, up and down, and you have a silent prayer and hope to God that he never stops that little beating heart. You hope like hell that this little human that counts and depends on you for everything…. that this little human grows up to know that while everyday is hard, and everyday has struggles and battles, you hope they know how you want the best for them. And you hope that it’s you. I want to be the best for you Miss Olive. So on that day, wether it’s the moment she is born, or 10 days old… on the day your motherly instinct kicks in and you go from just feeling “protective” of her to absolute love, treasure it. I would be lying to you if I said I felt an overwhelming sense of love for my daughter the second I saw her. I felt like I had to protect her, yes. I had to feed her. I had to keep her alive, I had to make sure she was always OK. But then it happened. I was watching her sleep and I cried. For the first time since she was born. I didn’t even cry at her delivery. I cried days later. She chose me. To love her. To protect her. To keep her warm. To keep her full. To love her.
She is half of me, and I really hope it’s the good half.
I actually don’t know why I’m writing this. I hate talking about it. I know even right now, only 19 words in, that it’s going to be a long post. Even if no one reads it, I will still write it, and I will still leave it it up. I want to remember the details, so that when the day comes that none of us remember the small details of the last almost three years, I can come back to this post and remember. I thought that I would never want to remember, that I could be 35 with my kids running around and have no recollection of this part of our lives. But I think it’s important that I remember, that I never forget what it meant to be truly vulnerable, what it meant to be truly afraid, and what it meant to truly know what love was.
December 19, 2013. I remember going to my parents house around 5:00, after I had left my wallet at a clients house and had gone to pick it up. I thought I’d just pop in and say hi, seeing as how they only lived a few streets away. I found my brother on the couch, with this look on his face. It was extreme pain. I asked if he was OK, and he just said “no” and tears started rolling down from his eyes. That was the first time I had seen him cry in what seemed since we were kids and I told him a ghost lived in our attic. He said he could’t handle the pain in his stomach anymore. I asked him if he needed me to take him to the hospital, and he just said he wanted to wait for mom and dad. My mom and dad came home from work, and so I left. I didn’t think it was THAT big of a deal. Oh, little did I know. I got a text around 11:00 that night that they had taken him to emergency because the pain had gotten even worse. I didn’t hear anything until the next day, late in the evening. He was in emerge all night, and didn’t really have any answers. He did however, get morphine for the pain. I was supposed to be going to a Christmas party that night, it was a Friday. I called my mom anxious to hear what was going on. When she answered I could tell something was wrong, and she kept saying “hold on” until I heard her leave the room. She said “Sorry, I just didn’t want Gabriel to hear. But we just talked to the doctor…” And the next four words she said have stayed with me and haunted me for the last two and a half years. She said “It doesn’t look good,” while she fought back tears. I never, and to this day, still have never asked her what she meant. I hung up, puked my brains out, and waited for Dane to get home to take me to the grey nuns hospital. When we got there, he was still in emergency on a bed- there still wasn’t a room available. He was eating butterscotch pudding, and he just looked up at me and said “hey.” I turned away from him and just cried. I cried because his “hey” was so normal, and the fact that only HE would be eating pudding in emerge. Dane came over and hugged me and he just said “he looks fine, everything is fine.” I guess from the time I had called my mom to the time I showed up his vitals had come back to normal and they had stabilized him. But before that, things were sketchy. He got a room that night, and my dad stayed with him the entire 5 days he stayed at the hospital. We found out he had severe crohn’s and that his bacteria level was stupid high. Like if a normal persons levels are at a 10, he was at 140. If that makes any sense. they didn’t know how long he would be there for, and to be honest, I don’t remember much else about that week. Just that he had a lot of IV’s and pain meds, and other meds, and prednisone, and no fibre. I remember his doctor came in on day 4 and said “you’re out of the woods now.” I guess I didn’t fully understand that he had actually “been in the woods.” He was discharged with a nice cocktail of meds and strict dietary instructions. He came home Christmas day.
A few months passed, he was still getting bad pains, but it was kinda all part of the package. We knew until they found the drug that put his crohn’s into remission, he would be having flare ups. It was April, and my parents went to Ontario to visit my grandma, and of course thats when he gets another flare up. So I take him to the grey nuns again, we’re there for hours, he gets a CT scan and gets sent home with T-3’s. They tell him they think his crohn’s is acting up and to make an appointment with his GI doctor. So he does. And I go with him. I remember his GI doctor going over the CT scan results and he says they found this mass. Like a ball of something. He thinks it’s this thing (I don’t remember the term), but its basically poop accumulated into a ball, that if it ruptures your stomach lining, its very dangerous. So that freaks me out, and my knees start to shake. The doctor smiles and just says to my brother “I can see your sister is starting to freak out.” Ha! Gee, thanks dude. He sends us home and says he’s going to send the results to another doctor just to make sure everything is OK. He’ll follow up. We call my parents in the way home cuz my mom is anxious to know the results too. I tell her everything is fine, just that this mass can potentially become dangerous, but right now he’s ok, and we wait. Fast forward to June. I was making pies with my friend and we were being complete idiots that day. Having pie making competitions to see who’s was nicer, dancing around the kitchen, and just being total knobs. I knew he had the results of the other doctor given to him that day, so I texted him to ask. He said “nothing, just a mass that they’re not really sure, its not bad though. It’s just there.” I remember even asking and saying these exact words “but its not cancer right?” “No, nothing like that.” They just referred him to ANOTHER doctor to see if it needed to be removed or not. OK. I can breathe again and go back to my really awesome dance skills and pie making.
It was July. I was home all by myself. It was a sunny day. It was a normal day. I think I was even watching a movie because I didn’t hear my phone ring. I finally checked it and saw I had a missed call from my mom and a voicemail. Have you ever gotten a voicemail and you JUST KNOW? Like you know something is wrong. My mom’s voice was off and the way she said “Claudia, please call me as soon as you get this” makes my skin go cold even as I type this. I called back. I call the house number and my brother answers. His voice is heavy, and I wanna puke again. I ask to talk to mom, she comes on the line. “Have you talked to Gabriel?” “No, what’s going on?” I hear her walk upstairs and shut the door. “Umm… maybe you should come over.” “Mom, tell me what they said, tell me now.” And here it is guys….. the words that changed our lives. “Well…. you know how they said it wasn’t cancer?” Her voice cracks, and I know what she’s about to say next. “Well, it is. It’s cancer.” In movies, this is the part the where they make the room go blurry and the actor’s eyes roll back or something dramatic. Or in a book, the chapter ends and the reader gasps. In real life, you just stay on the phone not saying anything. I distinctively remember saying “OK” after a few seconds though. That’a all I could really say at that point. I hang up and run to the bathroom, and I throw up. I’m so effing mad, I’m terrified, I’m confused, I’m sad, I’m physically sick. Your friends uncle that she doesn’t really see or talk to has cancer. Or the lady that works with your mom, her sister has cancer. Or some person that some other person you kinda know has cancer. But not your little brother. Not your twenty-two year old brother, no. Not him, No. No. NO. I drive from my house to my parents. It’s the longest 23 minute drive of my life. I call Dane about 26 times and he doesn’t answer. I call his friend that’s helping him out for the summer, hoping he’s near Dane so I can talk to him. No answer. I’m mad at Dane now. I’m mad at the highway, I’m mad at the fricking sun that is warm and making people think it’s a “beautiful” day out. Screw them, screw the sun, screw Dane for not answering my phone. He calls me back right as I’m entering sherwood park. “My brother has cancer” I blurt out. And I cry. I fricking cry you guys. Dane says he’ll come home in a bit. I’m angry at him, for no reason. I get to my parents house and I wanna run away. I don’t wanna open the door, I don’t wanna talk about it, I don’t wanna see my brother’s big brown eyes with lashes longer than mine. I don’t wanna be here. He’s sitting at the kitchen island, of all things, eating. He eats a lot. He doesn’t look up at me, he doesn’t say hi, it’s like if I didn’t just walk in. My dad smiles at me gently. My mom is in their room, probably laying down because she’s exhausted and drained. Now what? What the hell do I say? I don’t remember the rest of that day. And that’s the truth. I don’t remember if we talked about it, I don’t remember how late I stayed, I don’t remember if my brother even said anything. Looking back now, I really, truly believe I somehow forced my brain to block everything out. Because even as I type this, I am trying to remember that day, and I’m coming up empty. Which is ironic, because that’s how I felt. I felt empty.
We find out in the following weeks that they want to remove it. But that will leave him with a life changing result to his body, based on the location of the tumour. We’re devastated. We all cry. He cries, I cry, my parents cry. They decide to put him on chemo, even though they don’t believe it will shrink it enough to remove safely without damaging surrounding tissue and organs. SO he goes on chemo. CHEMO. And he’s twenty-two. He’s on it for almost a year I think. He has oncologist appointments at the cross cancer institute. I go with him once, because he needs to get his blood taken every month. I sat in the waiting room, looking at all these older people, and I hate them. It’s not fair. He’s the youngest one in the room. They call his name, and I walk aimlessly through the halls and look at all these rainbow paintings that people have painted as a form of therapy. I think that they’re really ugly and my brother would have a done a way better job. I start to cry because I realize how angry I am. I cry in the hallway staring at some ugly rainbow picture. I texted Dane and I said “I refuse to give up on my brother. I will never give up on him.” That’s what I wrote. Something clicked I guess, staring at the rainbow at the cross cancer institute with mascara tears running down my ugly face. I decided we would get through this. He started to see a naturopath doctor later that year. Vitamin C infusions weekly. He was taking every kind of herbal medicine, basically grass clipping and unicorn farts. I 100% believe in naturopaths. I do. I’m just being silly because I don’t actually know the names of all the supplements he was taking. Life almost felt normal, until you remembered the “C” word. It was a heavy year.
2015- His oncologist tells us that the tumour has shrunk, the tiniest amount. Not enough to make a difference. He still needs the surgery that will change his life. Early September, I find out that they have made him the appointment to have it removed for October 1st, 2015. How dare they. I’m back to being angry again. I keep wondering when he’s gonna call to cancel it. Two weeks before October, I go into his room and beg him to cancel. He doesn’t say anything. He just goes quiet. I cry. He finally says something that will stay with me forever. He says “For the first time in two and half years, I’m making a decision. It’s finally a black and white answer. I have surgery, tumour is gone, I don’t have surgery and keep hoping vitamin c works, I still run the risk of it spreading and then what?” He’s mad, and I can tell. I say OK, leave his room with my tail between my legs.
October 1st, 2015. Its 6:30 a.m. He knocks on my door to say goodbye, he has to be at the grey nuns hospital at 7:00 a.m. I tell him I’m coming to the hospital too, I’ll be there at 8:00. He hugs me anyways. They all leave and I’m left alone at my parents house. I get ready, my friend Afton is taking me. I throw up. I don’t think I can drive. She picks me up and we both don’t say much. She cares about my brother too, and I know she’s terrified as well. He’s in a waiting room when we get there, with a hospital gown and blue slippers on. There’s a TV with the breakfast television channel on. I want to scream at the the hosts and say no one cares it’s almost halloween!!! Nobody cares it’s gonna be a “chilly”day. Afton and me are blabbing about something, pretending it’s just a normal morning. My mom is pretending to be interested in what we’re saying, my dad is quiet, my aunt and uncle are just siting there, unsure of what to say. And my brother? Not one single word. He’s the staring at out the window. We fake it for about an hour. Then the nurse comes in and calls his name. She says they’re ready for him. My mom and dad can go with him down to the surgical ward, but we have to stay up on this floor. He stands up and hugs my uncle, he hugs my aunt, he hugs Afton. Then it’s my turn. I get dizzy, he gives me the best hug he’s ever given me. It’s a real hug. He holds on to me and we both cry. I can’t stop sobbing and he’s the one that looks at me and says ‘it’s gonna be OK.” I kiss his forehead, both his cheeks and I keep saying “I love you. I love you” over and over. He has to go now. And there he goes, his back is turned to me now. My little brother, my hero, the old soul, the quite one everyone says “is the nicest guy ever,” the soccer player, the sarcastic little turd, the best brother in the world, there he goes with blue disposable slippers on his feet, hospital gown on, down to the surgical ward to have his tumour removed. When I can’t see him anymore I can’t breathe. I full on have a panic attack. I go to the window and all I can think of is jumping out. Not because I wanna die, but because I need air. I need air. I need air now. I can’t breathe, Afton is freaking out. A nurse has to come in and ask if I need medical attention. I must of looked like a loony bin. I leave the room and walk down to the elevators. Afton and me stand there waiting for my parents to come back up. I have his sweater with me and I keep sniffing it. It smells like him. They’re gone for a good 45 minutes. They finally come up and say they’re prepping him. Prepping him? All I can think of is how terrified he must be. How do you prep someone for this kind of surgery? Is he cold? Is he scared? What’s he thinking?
It’s supposed to be a 4 hour surgery. At 4 hours, 30 minutes I get anxious. At 5 hours, I get even more anxious. at 5 hours, 30 minutes I’m silently freaking out in my head. My mom goes to see if she can find anything out. They say he’s still in surgery. At 6 hours, his two surgeons come into the waiting room we’ve been in for the entire 6 hours. They literally just finished. One of surgeons still had his face mask on with his little cap. They’re both in their scrubs. I swear they take forever to say the patient is still alive for kicks, cuz that was the longest pause of my life. Afton even grabbed my hand and squeezed it because she even felt it took too long for them to say anything. “The surgery went good. Took longer than expected, but we’re fairly confident we got all of the tumour.” I don’t know if I can explain what I felt, but I felt like I could breathe for the first time in 6 hours. Or like 3 years. They obviously said a lot more, went into detail, my parents had questions, blah blah blah. I just wanted to see my baby brother. He took another hour and half to wake up from his anesthesia. Go figure. He’s not a morning person. Every hospital bed that got wheeled by, we would all jump up to see if it was him. It wasn’t. Finally, I hear my mom say “That’s him.” We all run to the hall and he’s barely awake, he’s hooked up to oxygen with IV’s and tubes and whatever else. He sees us, lifts his hand up and waves. And he make a silly face at us. (Excuse me, I’m bawling right now as I write this). The transporter tells us he has requested to just see my parents first, and then the rest of us can slowly come in.
The rest is kind of a blur. He’s in A LOT of pain the next few days. Walking is excruciating. On October 5th, day 5 of being in the hospital, we’ve left at 9:00 p.m when visiting hours end. We get home. We’re in out PJ’s now, it’s 10:30 p.m, we’re ready for bed cuz we’re going back to the hospital at 9:00 a.m the next morning, we get a call from him. My dad answers. “You need to come to the hospital right now.” Click. We know something is wrong. We jump back in the car and my dad finally speeds! We have to go through a different way because it’s after hours. The hallways are dark, everyone is sleeping, it’s an eery feeling. We get to his room. His lights are off, the only light is the moon shining through his window. He has a damp cloth over his eyes, and a nurse is holding his hand. His head is going back an forth, side to side, with these moans coming from him that I wish I could forget the sound of. He sees us, and this is what he says. All in Spanish, for whatever reason, I felt that was an important detail. Mostly because we barley ever speak in Spanish unless it’s to our grandma. “I’m sorry you guys, I love you guys, but I wanna die. Im gonna die. I need to die.” My mom can’t understand him and she asks me what he’s saying. I tell her. His nurse grabs his hand again and says “HEY! We talked about this. You need to be strong.” The moon hits his face and he’s a baby all over again. He has tears rolling down the sides of his face, his cheeks look chubby to me, and he’s the baby brother I wanted so badly for so long. “I can’t take this pain anymore, I want to die. I’m sorry, you’re the best parents I could have asked for, I love you Claudia, but I need to go now.” I don’t hate many people. Not even Donald Trump, and I’m basically Mexican. But even if I hated someone, never, ever, do I wish for them to hear those words coming from someone they love. Apparently, he had gas trapped all throughout his intestines. Which makes sense, he had just had major bowel surgery. Turns out, gas pain is the worst kind of pain to experience, and there is literally nothing doctors can do for it. They tell you to walk. He couldn’t even sit up on his own, let alone walk. That night, was the longest night of my life. We stayed the whole night, doing leg exercises, putting a cold cloth on his head, moving him side to side in hopes to get movement in his bowels. He finally felt some relief after a few hours of us being there, but we stayed the whole night. I fell asleep around 4:00 a.m in a chair, sitting upright. I would wake up every 20 minutes to see if he was still doing OK.
I could tell you guys so much more, but I doubt that most of you will get through this whole post anyways. Like I said, it’s kinda more for me to remember and somewhat therapeutic for me. He was there from October 1st to October 11th. The day he was discharged was the day I told my parents I was pregnant. It was a pretty good day. It’s been a looooooongggg recovery. He’s still in recovery, as he is still not completely healed. But i’ll end this novel in a good note. SO here it is:
April 9th of this year, my brother turned 24. On April 8th, he had his follow up with his oncologist, who had done and MRI on him the week before to check if the cancer was gone, if there was any tumour left, all the scary stuff. That whole week, so really, not too long ago, was again a stressful week for us. None of talked about the appointment. We just planned for his birthday the next day. I got to my parents and finally said “How did it go?” The MRI showed that his insides had healed perfectly, and while this whole time they thought he would have to go back on chemo for at least a year following his surgery, the MRI showed that that cancer was such a low grade for it reproducing or coming back, that they didn’t feel it was necessary. So they put him a “watch” program. where he goes every 6 months for an MRI for two years, and then once a year for 3 years. After 5 years, he can OFFICIALLY say he is cancer free. But as of right now, he has no cancer, only battle scars and a story that I know has shaped his life in a way we never thought possible.
Gabriel Exavi Campos. That’s my brother’s name. That’s the name of the person who has become someone I admire, someone who I have the upmost respect for, the person who has taught me strength, bravery and courage. He’s the most calm, cool and collected person I’ve ever met. He very rarely gets angry, he has a quiet strength about him. I am not lying to any of you, or writing this just to make him look better…. but my brother, since this has all started 3 years ago, not ONCE, I promise each of you, not ONCE has ever complained or asked for pity, or even sympathy. I’m privileged and honoured to be his sister. And I love him, more than I actually knew.
If you read all of this… WOW. Thank you. I just high fived you. Now I have to go blow my nose and redo my mascara, cuz this took a lot out of me. Tears and snot and all that fun stuff. I look gorgeous by the way.
Fuerza Exavi, forca My dad had shirts made while he was still in the hospital, and they all played game in my brothers name. His reaction to this picture will forever be in my memory. Strength Exavi, strength.
Some of the pictures he’s drawn. No big deal. This post is for my brother. These words are for him. Fuerza little brother, força.
“If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.”