i shall not fear // i will not fear

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Just a head’s up this is a bit long. And a bit honest. If you’re into that sort of thing, here’s my heart.

A little while ago we were sitting around the table with some friends, and our conversation starting turning towards current events and how the world is (for lack of a better way to say it) going to hell in a handbasket. Someone brought up the fact that apparently 2015 was the best year in history for the average human being, though anybody who reads the news regularly would probably have a hard time accepting that statement. Maybe reading the news regularly is part of the problem? I often struggle with finding a balance between being knowledgable and informed while regulating what I should and shouldn’t read/watch/discuss in order to keep my attitude positive and to avoid living in a state of crippling fear.

I’ve had to recently tell myself, as bluntly as possible, that fear is sin. Not trying to smooth the edges or justify my fear is the only way I can see it for what it is, something I need to get rid of – immediately. The bible sounds like a bit of a broken record for all the times we’re told, ‘do not fear’ yet I still struggle almost every day to follow through.

The conversation continued as a friend said, (they don’t yet have kids) “Maybe having kids would help? I mean that you’d be so busy that you’d have less time to read about these things or dwell on them.” No. That is, unfortunately, the very opposite of true. Sure, I have less time to read the news as my attention is pulled back and forth between the other 5 living creatures in our home who need something of me all the time, but it doesn’t make me worry less. Because since having children I’ve developed the ability to worry far more over far less. I worry for me. I worry for Henry. I worry for Hadley and Aslan. Actually, it usually happens in the reverse order.

In all honesty, while 2015 may have been the best year in history for the average human, it was the scariest year of my life. Every time a shooting or act of terrorism happened I’d spend the entire night awake running through ‘what ifs’ and nursing my worries into full blown fears. It got worse and worse with every tragedy.

In the summer of 2014 we went to Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day. People had warned me that it was going to be crazy busy, but I really wanted to experience Canada Day on Parliament Hill so Henry, Hadley and I drove up for the day. I remember looking over the day’s program online a few days earlier to see what all was going on, but I mentally discarded the information that wasn’t a part of our own plan for the day. In particular, the part where the program listed the firing of the cannons. So there we were, packed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of strangers on the street in front of parliament, my 5 month old baby girl strapped to my husband’s chest, pretty much right between east block and the war memorial statue. And the cannons fired. I kid you not I had never been so afraid in my entire life. The sound was so loud, and in the 30 seconds from the time they went off to the moment I realised everything was okay, my mind raced wildly with the possible horrors that could be happening. I wanted to run for my life, but it was so crowded I couldn’t possibly do so. I have never been so anxious and afraid, and  I can remember that feeling like it was 5 minutes ago.

After calming myself down I was able to talk some reason into myself. This was Canada. Canada is a safe country. We were only visiting, but even still we live in Finland, which I would say is even more safe. Don’t worry Ashley, this won’t happen here.

And then came October 22, when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot while guarding the war memorial that I had stood meters away from that previous summer, before the gunman stormed centre block and opened fire. I cried so many tears that night as I watched the news. Tears for Cirillo, tears for Canada, tears for myself as I was forced to understand that this could happen anywhere.

Since that day, the headlines that flooded my social media feeds have pushed that point further and further every time. Sydney. Nigeria. Beirut. Paris. Colorado Springs. San bernardino. Istanbul. This could happen anywhere. My fear got so bad that I would avoid large crowds whenever possible. Going downtown was act of faith. I’d pray for safety every time I used public transit. I was looking for places to hide whenever I was not at home. I didn’t know how I could possibly conquer this.

It became clear to me that I needed to address this when my fear started to infringe on my humanity. When whispers of prejudice or racism entered my thoughts, I knew that fear was to blame. And if I was going to choose to love the people around me, even if they were different from me and I didn’t understand them, I was going to have to learn how not to fear.

I started to pray in earnest for God to take my fear from me. I knew that I was not meant to live under the weight of fear, and my fear had gotten unbearably heavy. God started to reveal verses that I could use to battle my fear from all around me. In sermons I’d watch online, though the main subject was never specifically fear. In a devotional about praying for husbands. In wise words from incredible friends. It has, in complete honesty, been a painful journey. I want my surroundings to be safe and secure in a predictable, visible way. God wants me to trust that he will keep me safe and secure within the storm of this world. I’m learning.

But the other day while I was reading a devotional (Day 4 from the ‘Hymns’ series from She Reads Truth) God spoke to me through the words of the hymn, ‘How Firm A Foundation’ and Deuteronomy 31:6.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:6

How Firm A Foundation
(I love this version)

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

I felt like it was time to share this struggle. Because I am finding freedom. Because I know in the wake of all the horror that has happened over the past few years  I cannot be the only one with this struggle. Because maybe you’re like me, choosing to show love even when it may not be easy. Choosing to fight fear, because fear is not a legacy I want to pass on to my children.

hadley’s 2nd birthday

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Yesterday afternoon we had some friends over to celebrate two whole years of our beautiful, joyful little Hadley. It still feels a bit strange to me, watching Hadley run around the house, speaking in small sentences and blowing us away with how much she knows and what she is capable of. There’s times when I still think of her as my baby, and then there she is brushing her teeth by herself, putting on her own clothes, counting to ten and proving me wrong. She’s no baby. Time has slipped through the cracks.

Some of my favourite things about Hadley right now are the way she greets me in the morning, “Hi babe!”. How she knows all the moves to Coldplay’s ‘Life of Adventure’ video and begs to watch the monkeys dance over and over. How she gallops around the house pretending she’s a horse while she watches ‘Spirit’. How she mispronounces ‘berries’ and uses the word to describe all fruit. How she pets Aslan’s head while I’m feeding him. How she dives headfirst off the arms of the couch onto the cushions. How she giggles uncontrollably when she’s playing with Henry. How she smiles and waves to everyone she sees when we’re outside, like a true Canadian.

This year for Hadley’s party I knew I would have to come up with something less time consuming than last year. And while that incredible balloon arch may look hard, it was actually a lot easier than even I expected. Throw in an abundance of greenery (I used mostly baby eucalyptus, silver dollar eucalyptus and leather leaf) We also had greenery displayed throughout the rest of apartment, including adding a branch of the baby eucalyptus to the goodie bags we gave to Hadley’s friends as we said our good-byes.

I made her cake from layers and layers of crepes and vanilla + mocha whipped cream. We also had pancakes, mokkapalat (Henry’s favourite), homemade pizza, popcorn, chips, and slices of navel + blood oranges. I tried to plan food that was either super quick to prepare (popcorn, oranges, chips) or could be prepared a day or two in advance and still taste good (crepe cake, mokkapalat, pancakes). The pizza was the only thing we needed to make the same day as consumed, but even for that we prepared the ingredients the day before.

wooden utensils are from Prisma // the bear on the cake is a Schleich toy // wood patterned cups are from H&M home // dress is from Zara’s girls AW2015 collection

aslan // 2 months old

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This little man is two months old. Whaaaaat!? When Hadley was a newborn, I definitely thought that the time flew by. But this time around, I was completely unprepared that time would go even faster. Before he was born we had way too much on the go, and while we made the conscious effort to drop some of our responsibilities to give us time to properly focus on having 2 kids, if definitely wasn’t enough. Between Henry working and studying, and my mothering and working, and all the other commitments we have, not to mention friendships we want to maintain, we are… stretched.

But in the moments when we feel we are stretched far too thin, here is this incredible little smile machine, being our own little sunshine and making everything perfect. I can’t recall off-hand how old Hadley was when she started smiling, but Aslan started really early. I think around 5 weeks I could tell that some of his smirks were not just gas. Within a week or so he had mastered a big gummy grin, and it just melts my heart. Once while he was sleeping in my arms he full out giggled, and I would have given anything to know what he was dreaming about.

He loves to be awake and is very focused when he is. He loves black and white, just like Hadley did, so the gallery wall behind our couch is a favourite awake-time activity. We give him tummy-time every now and then and he’s generally pretty happy to be there, until his head gets too heavy and he no longer thinks staring at the floor is interesting.

He is a snuggle machine. He wants to be held as much as possible and many days after I put Hadley for her nap I eat lunch and then Aslan and I fall asleep on the couch, me holding him as tightly as possible. Sometimes it’s frustrating when I need to use my hands to get stuff done around the house and he just wants to be in them, asleep or awake. But I know now, as I beg for hugs and cuddles from Hadley, that the time when he will want to be in my arms around the clock will pass faster than imaginable and I will long for the days when he’d be happy if I never ever put him down.

christmas 2015

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Christmas this year was fun. Hadley is now at an age where she’s starting to understand gifts, and she’s old enough to participate in some of the activities and traditions that make Christmas so special.

Our Christmas celebrations were spread over three days. On the 23rd we visited Henry’s mom, then on the 24th we were at his dad’s. We drove home to Tampere late on the 24th so we could wake up on Christmas morning at home, the way I like it best. Henry’s brother Toni was home visiting from Norway and he was with us over all three days, which I loved. We all miss having him around more.

These photos are from the 24th – I didn’t take my camera out on the 25th. Though I would have loved to have had pictures from that day, when I went to grab my camera in the morning I had the feeling like I just wanted to be 100% present. I had taken photos the past two days, which would be enough. I wanted to be the one helping Hadley open her gifts, not in the corner taking pictures. I wanted to enjoy my dinner while it was still warm, not up on a chair taking a shot from above. I love photos, obviously, but I know I need to make decisions like this more often. And I should probably teach Henry how to use my camera.

Hadley got a baby doll from Santa (Toni) on Christmas eve and my heart just about exploded watching her take care of it. She’s a bit… rambunctious most of the time, so being able to see this tender, caring side of her was such a gift to me. The next day at home she got a play kitchen which was a gift from her godparents, and we got her some toys to go with it. She also got ballet slippers and a leotard, a Frozen purse, and a few other small things in her stocking.

Aslan also got a stocking this year, even though he’s a newborn and that’s a bit ridiculous. But we’re a family of four now, so he needed to be included. It had a couple teething toys and a hat in it. It was mostly for me, to see it hanging up in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and smile to myself as I dreamed of future Christmases and what they’ll be like when the kids are older. I have so many memories of my older brother and I from our Christmases growing up. I can’t really picture what Christmas would be like without a sibling, actually. Who else would you go present snooping with?

One of the amazing things about having a newborn son during the Christmas season was how much more relatable the gospel felt. Jesus came in all the frailty and vulnerability of a baby. Looking down at Aslan and seeing how perfectly helpless he is brought so much impact to the fact that the King of the cosmos humbled himself to this state, and that one day that little baby would save the world. I can’t even imagine how Mary felt, having all the emotions of a new mother totally in awe of her son, but worshiping him as the Son of God. Crazy.

Anyway, it was a wonderful holiday. I hope it was for you too.

aslan // arrival story

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Aslan Matias Schulman. Tuesday, November 17. 17:08. 3665g / 8lbs. 49cm.

It seems crazy to me that Aslan has already been with us for over 3 weeks. His presence in our lives still feels so very new, yet the addition of him in our family feels so perfect, some complete. As our friends and family already know, Aslan was not planned. I think we assumed we’d eventually have another child, but not so soon. But throughout the pregnancy our hearts warmed to the idea of a new baby, and after finding out it was a boy we felt lucky that we would know what it was like to have both a daughter and a son. We grew excited. We grew to love him and wait for him with just as much joyful anticipation as we did with Hadley. And now that he’s here, I will never in my life need any more proof that God’s plan and timing are far better than ours could ever possibly be.

If you’ve read any of my recent posts you probably know that I was expecting to have a planned cesarian. With Hadley I attempted a breech birth, to find out as I started pushing that her foot was coming first and the cord was wrapped around it. I was told I’d be having a rushed cesarian. Her delivery was a bit of a train wreck in comparison to what I had hoped for. But I got my girl, healthy and strong, and that is of course the the most important thing. However, this time around I was nervous about the possibility of having another rushed cesarian. The chain of events that happened between the time they said “stop pushing” to the time I finally got her in my arms was blurry and and scary and I felt like I was somehow left out of the birth of my daughter. I really disliked labour, but I also really disliked the cesarian and the rushed nature of it. That left me in a really bad place when I found out I was pregnant again and was eventually going to have to make some decisions about my next birthing experience.

After some thought I decided that I wanted to go for a planned cesarian and went throughout my pregnancy expecting that. However, when I arrived at my appointment to talk about how Aslan would (likely) be born, the doctor wanted me to try for a normal delivery. Being a strong willed person who had taken time to research VBACs, weight the pros and cons in light of my circumstances and feelings, and formed a well thought through decision, I was not super pleased about trying to be otherwise persuaded. But I wanted to be open minded and properly hear the doctors’ recommendation as they obviously know more than I do.

My main concern was help. Who would help me take care of my children? Who would help me in the early days where either way I would be in a lot of pain and in over my head? When Hadley was born Henry was working and had paternity leave, so he was around for full days at the beginning. Now he’s studying and has to make decisions about which classes he can skip in order to be home with us. We knew that my mom was coming to Finland, and we purchased her plane tickets so that she would arrive just before a scheduled cesarian would take place. So when the doctor wanted me to wait and go into labour on my own and then try for a regular delivery, all I could think was what if I’m not able to delivery Aslan and my mom (who was only in Finland for two weeks) is only here to help for a few days, or possibly already gone? That was the scariest thought for me. Having no extra help in the earliest, hardest days.

In light of the circumstances and my own feelings, I agreed with the doctor that I would get induced 1 week before my due date, the same time that a scheduled cesarian would otherwise have happened. If everything went well, everything went well. But if I was not able to deliver him normally, I would get the cesarian and my mom would still be in Finland for more than a week and a half. I felt quite at peace with the compromise and hoped for the best.

On Monday, November 16th 2015 at 8:30 in the morning we arrived at the hospital. After the first induction procedure I spent the day in the hospital waiting to see if labour would start. While there was notable progress, it was not enough to indicate that he’d be arriving that day. It was such a long and, truthfully, very boring day. I wanted to be at home with my mom and Hadley. I wanted him to just get here already. I wanted to do something other than wait. Patience has always been a struggle for me.

That night was long and didn’t include very much sleep. I had been having contractions since the afternoon. Bearable but noticeable. But by the time night came they were just strong enough to keep me from sleeping. A little after 3 in the morning I could not stay in my bed anymore and paced up and down the hallway of the ward for about 4 hours. The midwives likely thought I was crazy.

Henry arrived at the hospital the next morning a bit before 9 and shortly afterwards a midwife and doctor came to check how things were progressing and then made the decision that I’d move to the labour ward to continue with other induction procedures. I’d have my water broken and receive oxytocin through an IV.

The morning passed by so quickly and I completely lost track of time. But after the oxytocin started to kick in and the strong contractions started every second felt like a minute and I began to realise that this was real. He was coming. We found out that I am very sensitive to oxytocin and so the contractions started coming fast and I found it difficult to think clearly when the “rest” time in-between contractions was so short. I tried laughing gas but it made me nauseous and dizzy and almost made me pass out.

After monitoring my contractions for long enough to see that the oxytocin was doing it’s job and steadily moving me closer to bringing Aslan into the world, I was permitted to get an epidural which I accepted happily. The oxytocin was kicking my butt and I just wanted a moment to relax. The 15 minutes that it takes the epidural to kick in felt like a lifetime, but once it did I realised that I had been flexing just about every muscle in my body.

After an hour and a half the epidural started to wear off and the contractions were coming back fast. The dose of oxytocin had been increased and so I very quickly asked for another dose of the epidural. I was close. Aslan was coming soon, but I still had a bit more waiting to do. I had a made a playlist on my phone of songs that I wanted to listen to while in labour. These are some of the words that were playing in the room, on the day Aslan was born.

Strong Enough // Matthew West
I know I’m not strong enough to be / Everything that I’m supposed to be / I give up / I’m not strong enough / Hands of mercy won’t you cover me / Lord right now I’m asking you to be / Strong enough

Everything Changes // Sara Bareilles
Today’s a day like any other / But I am changed / I am a mother / Oh in an instant / And who I was has disappeared / It doesn’t matter, now you’re here / So innocent / I was lost for you to find / And now I’m yours and you are mine

What a Wonderful World // Louis Armstrong
I hear baby’s cry, and I watched them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know / And I think to myself what a wonderful world

Even When It Hurts // Hillsong United
Even when my strength is lost / I’ll praise You / Even when I have no song / I’ll praise You / Even when it’s hard to find the words / Louder then I’ll sing Your praise

Safe and Sound // Matthew West
Can’t believe you’re here now / Tiny dream come true / The answer to a prayer now / I’m so in love with you

This Woman’s Work // Greg Laswell
Pray God you can cope / I’ll stand outside / This woman’s work / This woman’s world / Ooo…it’s hard on the man / Now his part is over / Now starts the craft of the Father

I know you have a little life in you yet / I know you have a lot of strength left / I know you have a little life in you yet / I know you have a lot of strength left

Everything I Need // Kutless
You are strength in my weakness / You are the refuge I seek / You are everything in my time of need / You are everything, You are everything I need

These songs, these words are precious to me. They helped me focus. On what a beautiful gift I would be given when I made it through. On what beauty God had created and His promise to stay with me and be my strength. There were more songs than just these on the playlist, but it still wasn’t long and they kept repeating over and over. I was reminded through the whole day how great a God we have and what an incredible thing he was doing through me.

A short time after I got the second dose of epidural I was told that when I felt the need I could try to start pushing. Hearing these words made me start to shake. The reality of meeting my son was right in front of me and I was beyond excited. But the pushing phase of labour was the only thing I didn’t experience with Hadley’s birth, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve always been anxious of the unknown, and so it took a lot of effort to focus on his arrival instead of my fear of what was about to happen. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that it was not nearly as painful or as difficult as I had feared. It was work, for sure. But it was not beyond what I could handle and in truth I was expecting it to be so much worse. I remember I kept saying to Henry, “That was so much easier than I expected.” I thank God for that. For the strength he provided.

I immediately got to hold him on my chest, an experience I missed with Hadley and it felt a little bit surreal to me at the time. He was so calm and so alert. He was finally here. I tried to study his face to see what he looked like but knew his smushed post-birth face would be changing so much over the next few days. He had ten very long fingers and ten very long toes, which I immediately knew he got from me. I was shocked by how much hair he had (Hadley had been working almost 2 years to grow a similar amount) and how dark blue his eyes were, like the ocean. He stared at me for several minutes and I felt like I may have melted.

I took a minute to thank God for your health and safety and continued to stare at him, probably for hours. My little lion man.

tallipihan joulu

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This past Saturday was our last day with Mom here. Henry’s parents joined us for an early Christmas and in the afternoon we took the littles out to Tallipihan Joulu. Aslan slept the whole time but Hadley got to have her first pony ride, go on the merry-go-round, and play hide and seek with Henry and I in a hedge maze.

I’ve really been enjoying getting out of the house, even though the days have been dark and grey here recently. But I think now that my mom has left and I need to begin to learn what being a stay at home mom of two is really all about, I may just go into hibernation for the rest of the winter.

aslan // he’s here

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This post is a bit late as I’ve been busy snuggling and loving this new little man, as well as adjusting to my new job as a mama of  two under two. But our little guy is here – Aslan Matias Schulman. He’s healthy and handsome and absolutely perfect. I’m going to sit down and write out his birth story soon, but for now, here’s two quick shots from his first week of life.

christmas came early

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Friday night after we put Hadley to bed we pulled out the Christmas decorations and I put up the tree while watching Elf, as I do every year. I put up a few more decorations around the house, but I think I actually kept it kind of under control this year and I didn’t even put out all the decorations we have. Henry was a bit shocked, to say the least.

Saturday morning when Hadley woke up she got to see the beautiful tree and was so interested to look at the different ornaments and lights. It was so adorable to watch. I don’t know how long the bottom half of the tree will be decorated for, but right now it looks pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. We then put on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and snuggled on the couch eating breakfast, followed by making dough for gingerbread cookies and Hadley eating handfuls of flour… weirdo. Hadley had a nap, mama got some work done, and when she woke we rolled out the dough and baked the cookies, possibly eating more dough than what actually ended up as cookies.

Here’s our favourite recipe for gingerbread cookies. We like ’em spicy, so you may want to cut back if you like a milder flavoured cookie, but for us they are the best.

1/2 cup butter // voi
1/2 cup sugar // sokeri
1/2 cup molasses // tumma siirappi
1 egg yolk // munan keltuainen
2 cups all-purpose flour // vehnäjauho
1/2 teaspoon salt // suola
1/2 teaspoon baking powder // leivinjauhe
1/2 teaspoon baking soda // ruokasooda
1 teaspoon cinnamon // kaneli
1 teaspoon cloves // neilikka
1 teaspoon ginger // inkivääri
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg // muskottipähkinä
1/2 teaspoon allspice // maustepippuri

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a separate bowl; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges just begin to brown. Let them sit on the hot tray for a few minutes before transferring to another surface to cool completely. When cooled, decorate and eat.

packing my hospital bag // c section hospital bag

In the last bit of pregnancy our hormones kick into overdrive and we do this thing called “nesting” where doing stuff that we usually hate (cleaning, laundry, organising, etc.) suddenly become the most enjoyable tasks in the world because we are doing them to make a place for the baby. The crown jewel of nesting activities has got to be packing your hospital bag. Here you get to show off how smart and prepared you are for your new little bundle of joy, how you know exactly what you need to bring to make you, the baby, and your partner as comfortable as you can possibly be in the most life-changing, earth-rattling experience of your life. I may be poking fun at the whole thing, but in all truth it is actually a really enjoyable thing to do. And having done this once already, I’ve got a better idea of what was actually useful and what wasn’t, and also what I wished I would have brought with me.

Note: Some of these items may be specific to Finnish hospitals. I also know that I will be having a c-section, so that may be reflected in some of the things I do or don’t bring.

For Mama

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  • Flip flops and/or slippers, depending on your usual temperature. I was advised to bring slippers last time, but my feel got way too hot and I was super uncomfortable every time I had to put them on. I’m definitely just bringing a pair of flip flops this time around.
  • Disposable nursing pads. I was hoping to use reusable nursing pads with Hadley, but I just hated the cold wet feeling they got when they had even a little bit of milk in them, and I found I had to be changing them so frequently I just got really annoyed. Regardless of what you’re going to use long-term, unless you’re planning to bring a wet bag or something to store your wet reusable pads in and wash them once you’re home (waaaay too much work for me after just having a baby) disposables are the way to go when at the hospital.
  • A nursing bra. I brought two last time thinking that if one got wet it would be nice to have another, but really your milk supply is just building those first few days, so as long as you have nursing pads, you should be just fine with one.
  • Belly Bandit. I bought one this time around after regretting not having one for after Hadley’s delivery. For one, I’m all for losing the belly as quickly as possible, but also I’ve heard from many people that belly binders offer great abdominal support after having a c-section, which is what I’ll be having. I know there’s a chance I may not be able to fit into it while still in the hospital, but I’d like to have it with my in case it does fit.
  • Robe(s). I bought a nice hospital gown from Etsy for my delivery with Hadley. But in the end I found it was quite long and difficult to manage. It had buttons that went quite low for easy breastfeeding, but the buttons themselves were quite a pain when I really just needed to get quick and easy access to my boobs. I looked around to buy a robe to bring with me but came up short, everything in lighter weight fabrics seemed too short to be walking around in the hospital with (especially since I’m tall, so things seem even shorter) and any that I found at appropriate lengths were made of warm fuzzy material that I know would make me way too hot and uncomfortable. So I made myself a robe from a pattern I bought from Etsy and I think that it will be a much more comfortable alternative. If I have time and find more fabric I think is suitable I may even make another.
  • Black maxi nursing dress. One of the best purchases I’ve made during this pregnancy was this maxi dress from asos that is also a nursing dress. I wore it all summer long and it was the most comfortable thing, but it’s really just a flowy maxi that can totally remain a part of your wardrobe once you lose your belly. The fabric is not sheer at all like I’ve found other maxi dresses I’ve bought to be, and the quick access to your boobs is a major plus. I wouldn’t really think about bringing a dress that wasn’t black as blood could leak onto it, but I know that it wouldn’t show with the fabric of this dress and then I can have something other than a robe to wear. If I was having Aslan in a warmer month I would totally make this my going home outfit. But I think I’m going to need some pants and my big winter coat.
  • Going home outfit. I’ll be bringing my mother tucker leggings and a stretchy, comfy shirt. That’s it. And socks. Note to self, remember socks.
  • Makeup and travel sized toiletries. I did do my makeup when I was in the hospital with Hadley. I really wanted to be in photos but felt like I looked like a train wreck. It may be petty, but I felt happier to be in photos with even a little makeup on, so I’m bringing it with me again. I’m not going to go crazy with the toiletries – this ain’t a spa trip. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, moisturiser and toothpaste. Oh, maybe some dry shampoo. Yeah, definitely some dry shampoo. Oh, and do yourself a favour and pack a new toothbrush in your bag. If you forget yours when your rushing out the door you’re going to be suuuper disappointed when you realise you don’t have it with you.
  • A handheld mirror. I guess this one is kind of c section specific. The morning after my section with Hadley I wanted to put some makeup on but was still completely bed-bound. The only mirror I had in my makeup bad was about 2 inches in diameter and made it really difficult to get my makeup on with any degree of accuracy. I like this one that I found because it can change from being a handheld mirror to a small tabletop mirror, and it has magnification on the reverse side. And it was 3€.
  • Water bottle. The best way to get that milk coming is to drink like a mad woman.
  • Camera, computer, phone, and ipad. The camera is (especially for me) the most important one. I’m only bringing my computer so that I can edit a couple photos and send them out, but I think most people wouldn’t need to bring their computer with them. The phone so I can send and answer messages. The ipad for the off-chance that I have time to kill and I’m not using it staring at my baby or sleeping.
  • Hair elastics and clips.
  • Snacks. Granola bars, protein bars, nuts, dried fruit. Grab some fresh fruit on your way out the door if you can remember, or send your guy out for it later.
  • Vitamins/Supplements. I’ll bring my multi vitamins, fenugreek seed supplement and iron capsules. I have a tendency for low iron levels and have needed to take supplements in the last weeks of pregnancy for Hadley and now again for Aslan. Since I already know this, plus I will obviously have blood loss from the surgery, I will continue to take my iron supplement after Aslan is here so I don’t become anaemic.
  • Mother milk tea. Gotta get that milk going.
  • Peppermint tea. Really good for relieving gas, which can be quite painful when recovering from a c section.
  • Lanolin. I do remember them supplying lanolin samples that were enough to get me through my hospital stay, but just incase that’s changed I’ve bought my own tube and I’ll bring that with me. Cracked nipples are the worst.
  • Baby wipes. These are actually for me since I use them to take off my makeup. Also to clean up after my toddler who will surely be at the hospital at least intermittently. However, they don’t supply wipes at the hospitals in Finland so if you want to use wipes instead of washing your baby’s bum in the sink you should bring your own.
  • Nursing pillow. I didn’t bring mine last time and wished I had. You’re likely going to be doing a lot of nursing while in the hospital, so you may as well be comfortable doing it.
  • Arnica Montana. This homeopathic remedy is well known for it’s treatment of trauma and bruising, so it’s really a must for c-section mamas. But it’s not just for c-section mama’s, regular delivery is just as traumatic on your body as surgery is and taking Arnica throughout labour can be very beneficial.
  • Phytolacca. This homeopathic remedy is great for breastfeeding issues. It is known to be used for treating mastitis and sore, swollen, and/or cracked nipples. All of which I remember vividly from breastfeeding Hadley.
  • Staphysagria. This is possibly the most recommended homeopathic remedy after a c-section. It helps healing of deep wounds especially to the abdomen and female reproductive system.
  • Bellis Perennis. This homeopathic remedy is useful when bruising and trauma occur to deep internal tissues after surgery involving the abdomen, breasts, or trunk.

For Aslan

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  • 3 bodies, 3 pants, 3 sleepers, socks, hats + booties. I’m bringing a decent amount of clothing for Aslan with me since I’ll be having a c-section and don’t know how many days I will be in the hospital for. Of course, the hospital does provide clothing for baby, but I much prefer to bring items from home that I love.
  • Swaddle Pod
  • Receiving blankets. Babys puke, it’s just a fact.
  • Scratch mittens. Hadley nearly dug her eyeballs out when she was a newborn, so we’ve stocked up on scratch mittens and onesies with the fold over sleeves.
  • Soother/Pacifier. I don’t know if I will offer Aslan a soother right away or not, with Hadley I wanted to at least wait until I had breastfeeding well established before giving her a soother, but every child is different so I’m bringing one just in case.
  • Bear suit. Finland is cold in November, so we need to have something nice and warm to put on Aslan to bring him home. I went a little overkill on trying to keep Hadley warm when we brought her home from the hospital in the winter. My mom had to convince me she was going to overheat if I put that sheepskin on top of the 5 blankets she was already lost under.
  • Car seat. Obviously…

For Hadley (Big Sister)

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  • Big sister gift. We bought her a bunch of little people animals which I hope will put a huge smile on her face and keep her occupied for a little while.
  • Books. I took three of her favourites and have had them in my bag since the end of October, so she will be happy to see these again and have some quite moments reading with whoever is watching her.
  • Sticker Album. Stickers are a new concept for Hadley, but I think it could be a good way to keep her occupied while sitting.
  • Colouring book and pencils.
  • Pull-along toy. To get her moving and give her an activity were she can walk up and down the halls.
  • iPad, stocked with lots of episodes of Bubble Guppies and Paw Patrol.
  • Snacks. Endless snacks. And juice boxes.

For Henry (Dad)

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  • Whatever the heck he decides to pack for himself. He’s a big boy.  Underwear. At least make sure he has a change of underwear.
  • Snacks. He’ll appreciate having a few of his favourite munchies on hand.

Don’t Bring

  • Maxi Pads. The hospital supplies pads, along with those horrifying but really useful mesh panties. Steal as many of those things as you can. Also, don’t bring underwear, they’ll just get ruined. Again I say, mesh panties.
  • Diapers. Unless you’re super picky about the kind of diapers used from day 1, there will be diapers at the hospital. You don’t need to bring any. In Finland they supply Libero diapers, if you were wondering.
  • Razor. Really? This is something I’ve seen in many other ‘hospital bag’ blog posts. Are you really considering shaving your legs in the hospital?

So there you have it. The big long list of stuff I’ve got in my hospital bag. I know it seems like a lot but I’m an efficient packer and really I’d rather have anything that I think will be useful, instead of packing light just for the sake of not having a heavy bag. I did put Hadley’s stuff in a separate backpack that whoever is watching her will have with them. The little bit that I packed for Henry is in my bag with mine and Aslan’s stuff.

What are some things you put in your hospital bag? Is there something c section specific that you swear by? I’d love to know!

feeling thankful

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This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. In the past few years since we’ve been living in Finland we haven’t really done anything special to celebrate, but then every year I’d look through my facebook feed and see everyone gathering together with their families and feel like I was missing out, big time. So we decided to celebrate this year, made a big dinner and invite over some friends that we are thankful for. I am so so so glad we did.

As we went around the table during dinner talking about what we were thankful for, I realised that there was no way I could possibly cover all that I had to be grateful for in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve got this circus that we call family here around me. My husband who is an incredibly hard worker and the most amazing father. My baby girl who is less and less a baby every single day. This little guy who has not yet joined us but is making his presence known every day, especially when I’m trying to sleep. Our two snuggle pups who are such a wonderful part of our family and will turn into great friends for our children.

I’m thankful for our home, and all the unexpected ways it has been so perfect for us since moving to Tampere. I’m thankful for my job, which most days doesn’t even feel like a job. I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’m surrounded with, near and far. I’m thankful that my mama will be joining us here in Finland to welcome Aslan into the world. I’m thankful, I’m thankful, I’m thankful…

I don’t think I could really even cover here in a reasonable amount of time all of my gratitude for the blessings God has given me. Long story short, I’m a lucky girl. And I should take stock of these things on a much more regular basis.

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