I turned 30 today. That’s kinda of a big number. I remember freaking out about turning 25, and to think that was five years ago is insane. I know 30 isn’t old. It’s not. I hopefully haven’t even lived half of my life yet. But saying bye to your 20’s is what’s kinda throwing me off. Whatever. My boobs aren’t hitting the floor yet, and that’s nothing a push up bra can’t fix. Cheers to 30, push up bras, and saying goodbye to the girl in her 20’s. *CLINK* Here are some things I’ve learned in 30 years of living, and some things about me you might not know.
Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1). I’m a homebody. I may have a passport with a few stamps here and there… but my favourite place to be is at home.
2). I hate crowds, busy places, parties, bars, pubs, social events. You know… where there’s people. Ariel had it all wrong. Sebastian knew what was up. (ps- if you don’t get my Little Mermaid reference…. you are younger than 30).
3). I’ve never been to a bar. Which I suppose would make #2 wrong. Because technically I can’ hate somewhere i’ve never been. But I’m pretty sure I would still hate it. And this is my list so bugger off.
4). I can imitate people pretty good. I can’t do accents (I literally can’t even do a Mexican accent. No joke). But I can imitate you. Do not ask me to imitate you.
5). I love weddings. I love the details. The dress. The decorations. Heck, I even like the speeches. My dream job would be for you to pay me lots of money and I plan your wedding. And then you tip me. A very generous tip.
6). I love old people. I really do. I could talk to them all day. Listen to their stories, their life, their opinions. I love old people. However, I do not want to be old quite yet.
Things I Have Learned In 30 Years:
7). People want to be validated. They want to feel useful, needed. They want to feel like they helped you and you’re thankful for what they did. So remember that. Tell someone that you appreciate them.
8). People also want to be offended by something. It’s 2017. If you wanna transform yourself into a unicorn, or a flamingo, or flip, even a beaver (if you’re thinking about it- go for the unicorn), have at er. Just don’t shove it down my throat or get offended because I don’t agree with it. Last time I checked, you didn’t need my approval to feel validated did you?
9). Click bait. If you came from Instagram, I needed you to come read my blog. I get more traffic that way. Thanks for the support and coming to read my blog. Also, sorry you thought you were getting something juicy.
10). Admitting you’re wrong is one of the hardest things to do. It like…. very RARELY happens to me, but when I am wrong, I hate to admit it. We should work on that together. *Fist bump*
11). Your hairdresser will NEVER, I repeat NEVER get your hair to look like the picture your bring her. When I was 21, I took a picture of Jessica Simpson (she’s the “dumb” blonde with a couple mil in the bank who thought tuna, AKA “chicken of the sea” was chicken that…. lived in the ocean? She was a singer in the early 2000’s… you know, if you’re younger than 30). I came out looking like Dora the Explorer. Wanna know how I know I looked like her? A). I’m brown and speak Spanish, and B). because when Dane saw me he literally said “You look like Dora the explorer.” Literally his exact words.
12). Here’s the last thing I’m going to share. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years. Ready? You can’t change and you will not change someone who doesn’t want to change. That person can be a millimetre away from the edge of a 100 ft cliff. You can be telling them they’re going to fall if they don’t move. You can be screaming, kicking, crying, they will not move. Unless you start making the move away from that cliff yourself, that person will not budge. Be the change you want to see, the rest will follow. You don’t tell people they need to change. That will just piss them off. They need to see you make the first move. So make that first move.
If you take anything from this, it is this. Don’t set the standard to Jessica Tuna Simpson. Set the bar to Dora. That way you won’t come out disappointed.
I’m 30 today. My heart has not stopped beating in 30 years. I hope that when I die, someone will say “that girl was happy. She lived a happy life.” (Notice how I said someone? Can’t say “people”, as in plural. Can’t set the bar too high). I’m happy. Not everyday. But most days. Last night, at 11:00 pm my whole family decided to go for an almost midnight swim. So we did. We swam outside in a 30 degree pool underneath stormy skies and patio lights. We raced, we laughed, and we were happy. My heart was happy. I am a happy 30 year old. I hope you are too. And if you aren’t, I truly hope you can find it. That is my birthday wish. For you to be truly happy. That, and the dyson hand held vacuum. Happy Birthday to me, happy day to you.
She turns 1 today. Am I emotional? No. I’m happy. I literally kept a human alive for a year, and thats a huge deal because I could barely keep my nano baby alive (does anyone remember those?) I’m not that mom that will cry and say “she’s not my baby anymore” or “she’ll always be my baby.” Either one. No. I know what the passing of time entails, and it entails your newborn becoming a month old, and then a 4 month old, and then pretty soon you have a 1 year old. And before I know it I’ll have a toddler. I’m not sad because if I’m being totally honest, which I tend to be, it’s that the baby phase was tough and I did not enjoy it as much as maybe most moms. I got mastitis twice, which then resulted in needing antibiotics, which then resulted in thrush twice. Second round lasting a solid three months. My milk flow sucked, so breastfeeding was torture (again, thrush with that was even worse). Olive was a tough baby. She only wanted me, she woke up every 2 hours though the night, and she was loud. Like, REALLY loud. But now she’s at the age where her giggle is the best sound I hear, her toothy grin is the cutest, and her personality is the funniest. She is a little turd, and everyone agrees. She has more personality than I thought a baby could have. She’s got attitude, spunk, she’s funny and she knows it. She can charm any watch off your wrist and slobber on it like nobody’s business. Enough about Olive, lets talk about me. Here’s a few things, tips and tricks I’ve learned in the past year as a new mom. A new less “ish” selfish human being.
I can take a stain out of almost anything. Poop stains are my specialty.
I have more patience I knew I had. Except with Dane. I think I have less patience with him now.
I am totally fine with going to Costco with greasy hair, no make up, and socks I took out of the dirty clothes pile. (It was ONE time, and in my defence, my feet never stink…. so basically they were clean).
I have learned to not longingly stare at people eating before me because I have to eat last due to a child that is whining and crying and is attached to me like an octopus (octopus sounded better than leech in my head).
3 minute showers, including shaving. Just buy bandaids. You’ll be fine.
Take extra clothes everywhere you go. Even if you’re just going out for 20 mins. That’s when nature (nature is a poop explosion in case you’re wondering. Just thought I’d help you out) will decide is an opportune time to yell “TOLD YOU SO.” Just take the extra clothes.
Take a plastic bag with you. For poop clothes. I once had to walk around the mall with poop clothes in the bottom of the stroller basket. People probably though I had crapped my pants. Also, shout out to GAP who refused to give me a bag because I hadn’t bought something. Clearly the $100,000,000,000 I have spent there on baby clothes doesn’t count as “something.”
You can never have too many diapers.
Baby food is disgusting.
If you put something in your basket online and do the whole checkout process, but then don’t actually checkout, the company will email you within a few days with a coupon code. (This isn’t really baby related, but a very good life tip. You’re welcome.
Baby Gap usually has a “One Day Only sale” every day. Just wait for the 40% off coupon codes. And its free shipping when you spend over $50.
Buy sleepers for the first 3-6 months. So many sleepers. Your baby doesn’t wanna look fashionable. It wants to be warm and cosy.
Buy yourself comfy clothes. You don’t wanna be fashionable. You want to be warm and cosy.
NEVER underestimate how many wipes you will need. take wipes everywhere you go. Lot’s.
Go with the flow. Roll with the punches. “You do you boo.” Flipping SURVIVE. That’s my last piece of advice. If that means crying until snot is rolling down your face, do it. If it means getting up before your baby to get stuff done, do it. If it means having a messy house because you are held prisoner by a baby, do it. No one should judge you. Unless they’ve walked a mile in your shoes… which why would they? That would be weird if a stranger just asked to borrow your shoes and walk a mile and then return them.
Story of the day: today we went to Calgary with my friend. I wore a white shirt with a white lace kimono. Olive wore her baby jeans with white lace and the cutest white lace top. We were adorbs. I got hoison sauce on my right boob at lunch from my lettuce wraps. Just under that was a black tire stain from trying to fold out the most possessed stroller of all time. My left side had something green on it. She then decided to hurl her glass bottle in the middle of the mall, have the bottle shatter and have milk go everywhere. Right smack in the middle of where people walk. Olive then decided to have “nature” (refer to #6) happen on the QE2, which resulted in having “nature” up her back, in her arms (like HOWWWW??) in her hair, all over her car seat. Afton was of wonderful help. You know, with the gagging and commentary: “that is foul.” “Oh man, that is rank.” Thank goodness for wipes and extra clothes (not this day nature, NOT this day). When washing her clothes in the sink in a dingy bathroom on the side of the road, I got my left side of my shirt soaking wet. SO I had a disgusting dirty, white shirt with a soaking wet left boob. Attached to my hip was a child that was not wearing the same clothes she left with, along with a slight smell of “nature.” Just go with the flow. Roll with the punches.
Olive Rose, today you are one. Olive Rose, today I celebrate you. I celebrate your 5 teeth, your perfect fingers and toes. I celebrate your grin and your dark eyes and dark eyelashes. I celebrate your tiny ears, chubby cheeks, your infectious scent. I celebrate your round belly, pouty lips, your dark hair. I celebrate your dimply bum, your stork bite on your lower back. I celebrate your laughter, your sweet kisses, your eyes that smile at me with love, your arms that always are held open for mine. I celebrate the way your breath still smells of sweetness and of innocence. I celebrate how you only see me as your protector, not as the flawed human that I am. I celebrate the gift I was given one year ago today, the gift I take for granted, the gift that changed the course of my life. The gift that will never let me be the same as I once was. I celebrate you little one, my little love, my little bug. I love you. I love you. And I love you. I will love you until I can no longer. Happiest of birthdays Olive Rose. You literally have no clue what today is, but I will still celebrate you and your first year of life on this earth.
I dunno what to do. I wanna cry, I wanna yell at Dane for telling me having a baby was good idea, I wanna tell Tara to stop being so nice because it’s making it hard to be a cow, which is all I wanna do. I wanna tell the nurse that came to hang out that she should have been an anesthesiologist instead of a nurse, I wanna tell my mom to stop rubbing my leg, I wanna scream and tell Olive that she’s being a real brat and she needs to come out NOW. I wanna be doing anything but feeling pain. Which is crazy right? Cuz who doesn’t like feeling pain?
Tara suggests maybe jumping into the shower while we wait for Mr. “emergency C-section” to get his little behind in with the drugs. So I waddle over to the shower. I can’t stand anymore because the contractions are too strong and I wanna puke. So I lay down in the tub. Tara sits on the edge of the tub and with the shower handle pouring hot water over my belly, and It kinda helps. KINDA. Like a really big KINDA. But it helps. Then I get this brilliant idea that I’m gonna start pushing, but I know Tara won’t let me and tell me it’s a bad idea. So I tell her that I really want Dane in here for support. He comes in all not sure of what to do, and he sits where Tara was. Then I start pushing down and making who knows what kind of face. He looks at me like I’m insane and says “what are you doing?! I don’t think you’re supposed to be pushing until you’re completely dilated….” I give him my wife look, which basically every wife has (you know the look!) Basically means do NOT tell me what to do right now. I’m getting this baby outta me. So I try that for awhile, but no baby comes flying out. Tara comes into the bathroom around 11:30 pm and tells me that the anesthesiologist is going to be here soon, so I need to be ready, on the bed with my sports bra off. Having to get up and out of the tub, honestly, was one of the hardest things I had to do that day. And that’s not really an exaggeration. I have been in labour for almost 2 days, I’m exhausted, I’m scared, and I just want to sleep. But I get up. I go to the bed, and trying to take off a soaking wet sports bra, well flip, I might as well be having twins. Dane has to help me wiggle out of that thing, and if I wasn’t exhausted, and in pain, I might have almost cared. Because a 9 month old woman wiggling out of a wet sports bra very well could be the most unattractive thing you might ever see. Picture a hippo trying to do up a belt with only his teeth. Thats about as graceful as one can look.
The anesthesiologist waltzes in at 11:45 pm, all chill and I wanna punch him in the face. I’m sarcastic, I know I am. But my sarcasm got to a whole new level that night. He asks how I’m doing and I look at him and go “buddy, how does it look like I’m doing? What the heck took you so long?” He thought I was funny cuz he chuckled. My mom was horrified, because young, polite ladies don’t talk like that. I ain’t no lady today Momma. (Did she not see the hippo trying to do up the belt?) He tells me that I have to be extremely still while getting the epidural. Because if I move and he hits somewhere else I could be paralyzed, die, my husband would divorce me, my dog would probably get run over, and I could possibly lose all my possessions, blah blah blah, with some other side effects. So I tell him he better know what he’s doing, and he laughs at me again and says he’s done at least a couple before (Mr. emergency c- section is trying to be funny now). So I sit as still as possible, and then I feel the needle go in, and of course that’s when I get a contraction. So he pulls the needle out and tells me I need to be still. Dude, my contractions are less that 90 seconds apart, and you’re being slower than a turtle trekking through molasses, what the flip do you want me to do? He goes in again and it works. But then I see Dane’s face and I get scared. Because he looks like he’s about to pass out. (He told me afterwards that the guys hands were covered in my blood).
They tell me to lay down and relax, I’m hooked up to an IV now pushing fluids through me, and I can almost handle the pain. My contractions slow down and get further apart. It’s close to 1:00 in the morning now. Tara tells my mom and dad and brother to go home, get some rest, because I’m not having this baby till the morning, at least 7:00 am she tells them. So they say their goodbyes and leave. As soon as they go, my contractions start to feel super strong again, basically just like before. And I start to FREAK. OUT. “Tara, this feels just like before. I don’t think the epidural did anything.” She tells me I need another dosage because the first one wasn’t enough. She goes to the front desk to see if Mr. emergency c-section can come back. He comes back pretty quick- probably because he doesn’t anymore lip from me. He tops me up and leaves, and I start to relax in like 15 mins. And then in like 20 mins I tell her I’m ready to push. My parents have literally just left maybe half an hour before, and Dane is trying to get sleep because “I’m not having this baby till the morning…” At least we thought. Tara is knitting, and she doesn’t really think I could have dilated to the full 10 cm in that short of time. So she tells me to relax and get some sleep. So I grab the hand rails of the bed and start pushing like I have never pushed before. Not really the sleeping Tara had suggested. She rushes over and checks me, and her eyes go big. “Your mother is going to KILL me. I sent her home. You’re ready to push. Holy crap. Dane, call her mom, tell her to come fast.” Dane calls my family, they were just getting home. He tells them I’m ready to have this kid and they better come fast. They all jump in the bugatti (we’re loaded like that), and drive all the way back. My brother and my dad wait in the waiting room (for obvious reasons), and my mom comes stands at the end of the bed. Not even Dane ventures that way.
I feel every contraction. I knew when I had to push, I knew when the contraction was over. It was brutal. I swear that that epidural wore off, even though I’m sure it eased the pain. Tara coaches me on how hard I need to be pushing, when to ease off, when to go hard, all to prevent from tearing. It takes everything I have to not just bear down and give it all I have. I keep yelling at her that I feel like I’m taking the biggest poop, and she tells me I kinda am. It’s just a baby this time. Now is not the time for jokes Tara. I remember my mom saying she can see the babies head, and in my mind that means her head is out. I ask how much of her head they can see and Tara says “like the size of a toonie!” I wanna cry. A TOONIE?? I thought her head was out! I almost lose it there. I feel like crying, and I hear myself ask “can’t you guys just like…. pull her out??” The nurse, Tara, my mom, and Dane all laugh at me. I wasn’t trying to be funny. I legit was asking if they could pull her out.
I can go on about the pain, and the pushing, and I can get graphic, but here is the short, pretty version. I closed my eyes, put a damp cloth over my face because I knew my face about to do things that might possibly give Dane nightmares. I felt this strange wave of strength come over me. I knew that this was it. I knew that this next push was going to make me a mother. No more Dane and me. No more of just him and me doing whatever we pleased. This next push was going to be the most life changing push, and I closed my eyes and asked for a little help from above and I pushed. I pushed when I could feel myself getting light headed. I kept pushing when I wanted to stop. I kept pushing, and I kept pushing. I could hear Tara “she’s almost here. c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, you can do it, she’s almost out! You got this.” I pushed until I felt relief and I knew it was my baby, my daughter whose head I had just brought into this world. Tara tells me to reach down and touch her head, and I do. It’s soft an squishy, and slimy and warm. I close my eyes once more and I bear down and there it is. This swoosh of relief, of warmth, of adrenaline. I just brought a life into this world. I fall back and I wanna sleep. You thought I was gonna say I cried didn’t you? No. I closed my eyes, and the exhaustion is like not other feeling I’ve ever felt. They put her on my chest and she cries. Her first gasp of air that this child has ever taken, and it was on my body. That is something that sticks with you for a long time.
I don’t feel much of anything, other than relief and tiredness. Olive is sleeping on my chest, and she feels slimy and warm and like a baby bird that’s all skinny and dangly. I ask Dane for juice box after juice box. I chug 3 juice boxes in less than 2 minutes. They leave her on me for about an hour and half, and it still hasn’t hit me yet, that this life is my child. We lay there, Olive and me, and she starts to root looking for milk. How is it possible that this baby, only and hour and some old, already knows where she will get her nourishment from? I suppose the same way I know when I see them golden arches.
My labour plans didn’t go according to plan. I should’t be surprised, my plans usually suck. But she’s here, and she’s eight months old, and she’s the cutest kid I’ve ever had. If you’re expecting, do yourself a favour? Don’t be too hard on yourself if your plan doesn’t work out. And thank you for reading this if you read the whole thing. That’s pretty crazy. I conclude this very long post with “On May 24, 2016, after forty-four hours of labour, Miss Olive Rose Redel came into my life.”
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…..
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.”