the two week mark.

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Ça y est. A. is two weeks old today.

So far, having a second baby feels a great deal more manageable than having a  first. It’s encouraging to know that, even though you don’t necessarily feel yourself becoming more competent as you get through it all, living through the ordeal anew, you realize that you’ve been gathering know-how and resilience all along. (Take that, parenting!)

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There’s been good coziness through this healing time it too.

I had the foresight, when this babe didn’t make an early arrival (as I had anticipated), to visit a pottery studio I’d been meaning to explore for some time, LOAM clay studio, to get a new mug (I like to punctuate life changes with new local mugs but hadn’t indulged in some time). And my sis stayed with us for a glorious time to (so patiently) read endless picture books with F., construct duplo villages, and to make fresh fancy loaves of bread for us, entre autres.

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With P. taking two weeks off (thanks to our very competent and flexible farm help), it became clear that leaving the farm was a must (in all fairness, I can’t imagine taking two weeks off from an office gig but having to live in said office throughout the « break »). So off to the lake we went. The three able-bodied of our crew swam and boated and splashed about, and the two of us who were healing from birth, sat around nursing, reading and sipping coffee.

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Nothing like russian roulette cottage breakfast, thanks to toddler child.

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Back home, the overgrown, weedy garden is looming still, right outside the living room window. Luckily, it’s been fairly easy to convince myself that a neglected infant is way worse than a neglected garden. (All the kind folks who’ve offered to lend a hand with this garden-beast, I will take you up on it just as soon as I get a real handle on things. Et merci.)

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Yesterday, the yearlings were moved to our side pasture. It’s somehow easy (for some of us) to forget that this is a cattle farm at times, since the pastures stretch back quite a ways from the house, so it’s always quite novel to have a herd right outside our bedroom windows and next to the clotheslines.

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And now to settle into this parenting of two.

Publicités

what’s in a name?

I came across this article, « Le nom composé en voie de disparition au Québec, » in La Presse a few days back, as we were just coming down the high of having named our second child. The article essentially says that the practice of giving children both their mother’s and father’s last names, in hyphenated form, is a dying practice in Québec (which, to my knowledge, is the only province where it’s been a relatively common and accepted one). Whereas 22% of children born in 1992 were given a hyphenated last name, this number has fallen to a mere 10% today.

(In the interest of not writing a rant, I will ignore that some of the respondents say that giving children both their parents’ names signals that they’re not committed to one another, or that it’s really quite pompous to do so.)

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. (from Nikki McClure’s ‘The first 1000 days. a baby journal.’)

As a sidenote, I had meant to write about CBC radio’s C’est la vie episode of May 24th, A maid in name again, where the host Bernard St-Laurent talks to a number of QuébécoisES new and old about the Québec law that says that women must retain their maiden names when they marry. This is contentious to some but it struck me that the equality benefits of this law, lauded by both the older interviewed women and the researchers, are incomplete if both names aren’t also automatically passed on to their children. Sociologically interesting stuff, for sure.

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I totally appreciate that this naming thing isn’t everyone’s feminist battle, that there are a number of factors that influence decision making around which names children are given, and that there are many ways for children to be rooted in both their matrilineal and patrilineal family lines. I don’t at all mean for this to be a judgement of other families’ choices and practices.

For me though, last names matter a lot.

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I started using (a slightly modified version of) my middle name, which is my grandmother’s given name, as my (non-legal) last name about a decade ago. I felt quite a bond with my maternal grandmother and I yearned to wear my matrilineage, to declare myself (first and foremost) of my mother’s line. The only downside to this was that this name — Madéia — sounds quite Portuguese, which I’m not. This, of course, isn’t a problem per se, but I had a real cultural aha! moment when I presented a membership card with my old legal patronym, — which sounds as French-Canadian as my accent (no doubt) — at our independent video store about 4 years ago. The man who was serving me read my name on the card and spoke to me en français right away, which really never happens in Ottawa — a city that might feel like a very bilingual place to some, but you certainly can’t (easily) get by with just French, nor do people assume francophonie/bilingualism in their exchanges with strangers.

I appreciated the culturo-linguistic recognition that the name afforded me and when I got pregnant, the quest for a French-Canadian legal name I liked, and would pass down, began.

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I met with a genealogist at the public library to trace back the mothers and grandmothers, women-way, of my line. It struck me how challenging this was, even for a professional. At the end of an afternoon, with a missing birth and marriage notice, we could only dig four generations back and the furthest family name we found was « Malo » — a name I hadn’t heard before and that didn’t mean anything to me or mine.

I had hoped to come out on the other side of this search with a name that felt very powerful, very rooted and rooting. I ended up with a sad feeling that the herstory of my family was lost because of patriarchal traditions and that even though it was important to both my partner and I, I could not pass this lineage down in name to our children.

I opted to legally change my family name by adding my mother’s maiden name to the mix, hyphenating the two. It was a peace offering to my family, because this name search of mine had lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. This way, there was some ‘mother line’ to my name, and I could pass on a French-Canadian matronym, however imperfect, to my offspring.

When I read articles like this one in La Presse, I am struck by how little regard the lines of women are given. These children of mine are certainly « of me » as I’ve grown them, shared my body with them, birthed them, nursed them to plumpness and loved them to bits. But why would that preclude my passing on a name? Why would this impossibly rich tie of the body negate the importance of a tying of our names? Why would the weight of my biological role as their mother need to be offset by the absence of my name in theirs? And their father, my life partner, why would he need for his name to be the only one passed on to feel confirmed in his role as a father, as a parent? If it can be deemed unimportant for a matronym to be passed on, why would fatherhood require full last naming rights? Regardless of how clunky the resulting name might be. Regardless of how important my family name is to me.

It pains me that this is still the norm.

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I am quite pleased that my children, both male, carry my name and that their two very distinct cultural backgrounds are spelled out in them. They may not be the smoothest sounding out there, but they are unique and, I hope, they will be a source of rootedness for them. And for me.

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infants and supports.

A few days before I gave birth to my second child, there was a story in our local paper about a father who was being detained. The police had been called to the family’s home and a six week old infant had been found unconscious. They suspected the baby had been shaken.

These stories break my heart any day, but maybe especially so when I’m nine months pregnant and am gearing up for sleepless marathons, feeding challenges, and everything else that comes with caring for an adorable ball of truly endless needs. I felt for those first time parents, for the frustrations and for how hard it is to ask for the support you need. I’m not really a praying type but I sent warm thoughts and wishes to the skies that this babe would be okay and that this father wouldn’t have to live with his child not making it.

After coming home from the birth centre with our perfect day old creature, I checked the news, thinking that there might be a way to help the family, given our solid supply of diapers and breast milk. I learned that the child had died the day before, as I was birthing mine. I can’t fathom what that father and that mother are going through.

I made the mistake of reading the comments section of the article that named the father and said he was out on bail. They were vindictive and lacked all compassion. A lot of the comments seemed to be written by parents which made me wonder if they either were all blessed with remarkable support networks or if they were being totally dishonest about how overwhelmed and despairing our screaming infants can make us feel.

If we’re going to find ways to support young parents, new parents, all parents, I suspect we need to start by admitting that children can make us lose our cool, that no one is immune to this. Otherwise, we’re shaming people instead of providing supports, which makes vulnerable families (which we all are at some point) all the more isolated.

I’m more confident the second time around (and thus ironically, more likely to ask for help) but there’s such pressure when you bring these little people into the world to do it all yourself, to try to prove that you have your shit together. This really doesn’t serve parents or children.

I was pleased to see that there were documents about the anger that hours of infant crying can cause in the stack of forms and pamphlets that we received from our midwives. One was a form to be filled out by both parents with the names and numbers of people they could/should call if they needed a breather. Given the isolation I often feel living far away from my old urban hub, I appreciate the need for this. For that conversation, those safeguards.

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I am reminded of how overwhelmed I felt when I was alone with our first for over a week in the early days. For some reason I had to bathe him (probably just to prove to myself that I could do it alone), but my wee ones hate baths and infants in water are very slippery and I just cried. Luckily I had a very friendly upstairs neighbour at the time. I didn’t know her very well but her smiling presence was always a joy to me and knowing that she was from the Maritimes made me insta-trust her all the more. I am heartened now knowing that I did ask for help. And that after washing my infant with another woman who had never washed an infant — the two of us getting just as wet as the child — I felt lighter and safer.

So here’s to knocking on a neighbour’s door, or to being the one who opens that door.

And wishing solace to those who didn’t or couldn’t.

on eggs and gardens.

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For the last week, my farm mornings have been slightly ruined by my being a ‘road rage’ sort of mess because of the barn cats. The (misguided? paralysing) compassion that has kept me from doing something about this terrible year-long ethical dilemma is running low. (Long story short : when we bought the farm, we inherited 8+ unsterilised feral barn cats to whom I’ve been feeding kibble but who are inbred, and predictably, procreating. Most of the kittens don’t make it, but they’ve been looking worse for wear, the lot of them, and we’re/I’m getting tired of all the cat faeces in the garden/barn/etc., amongst other woes. We’re allowing the breeding of cat misery : wrong. I don’t know how to euthanize or sterilize cats we can’t catch : problematic.) So with the hens free rangeing, and in the barn’s coop at night (as opposed to the chicken tractor I used last year), the cats have taken to hanging out in the coop — which I’m not down with, in part because I suspect they’re the culprits for some eaten eggs, and because, heck, they can’t own this whole place (plus I refuse to clean cat faeces out of a chicken coop, it’s too much and I’m too pregnant).

This morning, I opened the coop later in the day and I found one eaten egg (the hens have been doing this?! est-ce possible? why would they start doing this now, when they have such a luscious varied summer diet?!) and a white egg! These hens have been laying only brown eggs since they arrived over a year ago. Je n’en croyais pas mes oreilles. I need to solve this though — we only have 3 hens at this point, so already not a big egg surplus, and it seems like a poor use of limited funds to pay for organic layers mash (hen food) if we’re not going to get eggs this summer.

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Cela dit, the hens are well. They’re happy seeming, great company when I’m working in the garden and still missing feathers from their run-in with the neighbours dog last summer.

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P. harvested our garlic scapes tonight. (It would seem that I’m eager to plant, but not so to harvest.. the joy of seeing a bountiful garden trumps good eats, strangely). I felt like a real ‘foodie cool kid’ seeing our very own scapes in the kitchen.

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The beans are climbing !

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The beautiful Vermont Cranberry dry beans from la Ferme Tourne-Sol are looking like they’ll be plentiful encore this year. Cracking open those shells to find purplish-pink dry beans might be one of my fave Autumn garden activities.

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Some favourite leaved plants. I’m especially hopeful about the brussels sprouts (the second). I hear they don’t love the heat, but they’re one of my very favourite vegetables and I somehow managed to not eat a one last year. Plus those giant cones they grow on look pretty awesome.

The spinach u-pick idea is no more (to seed you go! down with blanching!) but replaced with a bok choi and lettuce mix u-pick. We sure know how to overdo it.

the beloved hens, greenery and the rains.

The hens are finally free rangeing! It took them a while to leave the barn, maybe because of the presence of our new dog friend Harvey, but they’ve made it to the compost heap and the garden and have been eating bugs and dust bathing just like in the old days. After seeing Harvey « play » with the tiny kittens and leave them quite unscathed, it occured to me that these hens would be able to hold their own. And they have. The hens and dog even share the space under the porch when the rains come.

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For some reason, it really does warm my heart to see the barn cats, the survivor kittens, Harvey and the hens share the yard and barn so well. If they can find a way to peacefully co-exist, to share kibble and compost, there might be hope yet for us humans. En tout cas, je l’espère.

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Our first glorious strawberry harvest !  A nice break from all the spinach and lettuces.

Speaking of spinach, I’m very tempted to put a « u-pick spinach » sign at the road. On the bright side, as of today, I have 33 pounds (and counting) of blanched spinach in our freezer.

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The beans now have some poles to climb and the snap peas have a net — which feels like the farm’s way of saying hats off to the FIFA women’s world cup soccer stars.

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They’ll be a while yet, but the sunflowers will grace the garden again this year.

To say that it’s been quite wet would be an understatement. And we’re all wearing sweaters again tonight. Not sure how this garden will fare this season. Hopefully better than the hay.

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After getting stuck in some hefty mud, P. finishes seeding grasses into the ‘old road’.

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And this discbine, parked close to the garden, totally smells like sileage (to my still-urban nose) and has been bringing a whole lot of memory lane my way as I’ve been weeding and harvesting this week. When I was in my seventh month of pregnancy with F., P and I went cycle-touring across his terre mère, the Netherlands. We pedalled our way across cities and through lovely rural landscapes and the smell of sileage was pretty salient, as it was so new to me. So here’s to farms and pregnancies and to the moving of bodies in ways that feel nourishing, albeit exhausting at times.