For the Birds

Last summer we had to cut down our beautiful birch tree. The foliage had been eaten by asian beetles and we just couldn’t save it. With birch branches still quite trendy in outdoor arrangements, I kept the larger pieces, hoping to somehow incorporate the branches back into our garden.

It took me a while to figure out what to do with them but it finally hit me when I was searching for bird baths on Pinterest. We’d been looking for one for years, but we hadn’t been able to find one with the right combination of tasteful (for Jeremy) and kitsch (for me). I was thinking of something that featured a ornate fountain with a statue of an animal or cherub relieving itself, but you know, classy like.

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For the stand, I attached the branches with jute twine (leftover from the stool project) using this tutorial. The bath is a big bowl I found in a thrift shop.

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This won’t be a permanent fixture – the branches and twine will surely rot over a couple of years. In the meantime though, I was happy to find a use for the branches.

I still have a few smaller pieces left over, so I’m thinking about a centerpiece like the one
I made for Christmas a few years ago. I’m open to suggestions though. Have you seen any cute or clever craft ideas using birch lately?

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The 1000 Islands (or at least a few of them…)

Jeremy took the tarp off the camper last weekend in anticipation of another season of camping. Although we won’t be going anywhere for at least a month, it reminded me of all the places we went last year that I never got around to writing about.

While we wait for camping season to start, I thought I’d pick up where I left off with my accounts of our summer adventures in the tiny camper.

A few weeks after our trip to Pennsylvania we headed northeast to the 1000 Islands. This is an area we’ve driven though in the past on the way to other places but never stopped there although we’d always meant too.

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The great thing about camping with a trailer is that weather is no longer a big concern. For this reason, we weren’t worried about this dark, looming cloud that chased us for hours on the 401.

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The storm finally caught up with us around dusk.

Since we’d crossed the border, we needed to pick up food and supplies (the US is really weird about bringing perishables into the country), so we unhitched the trailer at Wellesley State Park and drove to Watertown, NY to buy groceries. We decided to wait out the storm there. By the time we’d sat down to dinner in a restaurant in town, a torrential downpour, along with thunder and lightning, was in full swing.

We eventually returned to our campsite and the storm continued overnight and well into the wee morning hours. The only issue with being in a trailer while it rains, is the fact that it’s noisy. It’s basically like sleeping in a tin can and the precipitation that night was not a gentle pitter patter. It was coming down in buckets – and it was loud. At least we were dry though and that was it for the crummy weather; the rest of the weekend was gorgeous.

We spent the next day driving around stopping in some of the small communities in the area, including Clayton and Alexandria Bay. My favourite Thousand Island Park Historic District with its pavillion on the water.

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After touring the Newport Mansions we in June , we decided earlier in the day that we would not be taking the ferry to Bodlt Castle – a major attraction in the area. We both agreed we were completely mansioned out. I suggested we check out the adjacent boat museum though. However, when we got there, we saw that the castle was only a few minutes away by ferry and admission was cheap, so the next thing we knew, we were on the damn boat.

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Boldt Castle has a sad history. It was never lived in, or even finished. Construction began in 1900 by George Boldt, an east coast hotelier, as a summer home for his wife. She died suddenly in 1904 and construction came to a halt. It sat empty for over 70 years, when it was turned over to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The organization has been restoring the property since the late 1970s.

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While the exterior and gardens are impressive, the inside is not so much. Since it was never completed, it lacks the detail and ostentatiousness that the once inhabited homes of the gilded age usually have. Boldt Castle’s interior only displays a modern, budget conscience interpretation of the era.

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When it was time to head home, we couldn’t bear the thought our going the way we came, which was across Toronto. Spending an afternoon sitting in the GTA gridlock with the cottagers didn’t appeal to us at all. Instead, we took the long way around on the American side of Lake Ontario, stopping in Syracuse, where we visited the Erie Canal Museum because I’m a huge history nerd. If you find yourself in the area, and are into that sort of thing, it’s definitely worth checking out.

We returned home to find out our neighbourhood had been hit pretty hard by the storm we’d been driving away from. There’d even been some speculation that something tornado-like had touched down in our area. Our property had minimal damage though – some fallen tree branches, over turned potted plants and according to our cat sitter, a pair of traumatized kitties. They quickly recovered, our neighbourhood was cleaned up, and all’s well that ends well.

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Grief and Gratitude

Jeremy and I just wanted to express our gratitude to everyone who has offered us condolences this week. We’ve appreciated all the kind words, offers of help, flowers, food, advice and thoughts. We understand that many of you don’t know what to say. We don’t either. Losing a baby at almost 40 weeks brings with it an unexplainable kind of sorrow. There really are no words.

We do know that our friends and family are tiptoeing around us, and are afraid to ask questions about what happened. Nobody wants to pry, and we appreciate that. We’re ok to talk about it though, so we thought we’d write this to address the some of the things we been asked already.

How did you know something was wrong?

On Sunday morning I noticed the baby wasn’t kicking. This was unusual, as she was a very active baby.

At first, I didn’t give it much thought, as with only a few days to go, things were getting tight in there, and I’d read that fetal movement slows as the due date gets closer. Still, it was gnawing at me, so I decided to drop by the hospital just in case.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been to the hospital for a minor abnormality while I’d been pregnant. As it was my first, there had been unfamiliar twinges and pains that I’d had checked out, but I’d always walked away with piece of mind. That’s what I was expecting this time.

Of course, what happened next was unimaginable. I was admitted to the hospital immediately but it was too late. She was already gone. We can only assume her heart stopped sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. From here, everything happened like an out-of-body experience. My brain stopped functioning and I just started following instructions.

Right away, they began the process of inducing labour and sent us home for a few hours to rest. We returned later in the evening for the next step, which included the epidural. They’d predicted I would be ready to deliver by noon the following day, but when they came to check on me at 7 AM, the head was already visible. The staff sprung into action. They told me to push and I did. Within minutes it was all over.

The labour was uncomplicated and physically, it looks like I came though unscathed, aside from the usual post-partum discomfort. Also, if there was a silver lining to this horrible experience, it’s that my OBGYN was on the floor at the time and was available to be with me until the end. I am grateful that she was there and not a stranger.

What happened?

It appeared to be a placenta abruption. We were given the option of an autopsy but apparently they usually come up inconclusive, so we choose not to.

Regardless, there was nothing we could have done differently, or no way we could have known ahead of time.

Did you see her? Hold her?

No.

We decided this wasn’t something we could bear. The hospital took pictures that we can look at when we’re ready. We’re not sure if this was the right decision but we felt it was the best choice for us at that time.

Will you have a funeral?

No.

While we realize this is something people in our situation sometimes do, we decided that it’s not something that would bring us much comfort or closure. We chose cremation and we’ll decide what to do with her ashes later on. We’re considering a memorial garden, a tree, or something along those lines, but we’re not really in a state to make any decisions that don’t have to be made right away.

What was her name?

We don’t know. We’re not sure about that yet, and it falls into the category of decisions that don’t have to be made right away. This is something we will revisit in the future.

What are you going to do now?

I’m still going to be on maternity leave until summer. The next few months are going to be hard though. We’re trying to prepare for them the best we can. We’re joining a support group, looking into counseling, and planning a vacation. We’ve also made a list of projects to do around the house. Then it will be camping season and we can get our little trailer back on the road. Staying busy and making plans for the future – we hope this will be the key to self-preservation.

Will you try again?

I’m hesitant to talk about this because I think baby making is such a personal subject, but the short answer is: yes. The prospect is terrifying to me at the moment though. The idea of another nine months of fatigue, morning sickness, heartburn and sleeplessness is daunting, especially since I’m still in the early stages of post partum recovery. Plus, there’s the possibility of having trouble conceiving. I’ve seen other couples struggle though this and I understand how stressful that can be.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of having to go though this again (although my OBGYN feels it would be highly unlikely). We’ve decided it’s worth the risk. There had been a time when we saw two paths: parenting and not parenting as equally satisfying lifestyles (we still do). If the last nine months have taught us anything though, it’s that we do really do want a child. Now that we’ve come this far, we can’t imagine giving up now.

Sadly, I know the next time we will be a less celebrated pregnancy and will be approached with so much more caution. I worry about spending nine months in constant fear, or even worse – apathetic. I’m hoping this is where counseling will be helpful.

In the meantime, I need time to recover physically, and together we need to process and heal emotionally, but we’re optimistic about the future. We hope that while we work though this, our friends, especially those with kids, don’t feel weird around us. We’re not bitter and we don’t begrudge. We are raw, but not fragile. We just want to move forward as we grieve.

Again, thank you all for your love and support.

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