My Traumatic Start To Motherhood And How It Changed Me As A Parent

collage 9Grab your tissues, this one’s a tear jerker.

Parenting is a journey.  You can plan all you want and think you have it all, but life will always throw you curve balls.  What you do with those unexpected turns in your journey is up to you.  But if you can walk through the fire and come out the other side with extra arsenal including real life experiences you can draw from in teaching moments, knowing your own strength, having perspective and having your relationship with your significant other not only survive but grow, you will learn to embrace those difficult experiences.

Rewind seven years.  Mike and I had been married for one year and were ready to start a family.   No, we were not quite ready to have a baby, but we had puppy fever.  We had dated for many years before getting married and had always dreamed about getting a big, black, fluffy Newfoundland.  We had done tons of research and knew we wanted a giant breed that was low energy and great with kids, (think Nana from Peter Pan).

The time had finally arrived.  We had settled into our home, created a routine and were ready to add a new member to our family.  After lots of research we found a reputable breeder and drove six hours away to pick out our puppy… actually he picked us.  We drove up to a picturesque country home and were guided to a fenced in area where ten black balls of fur were either sleeping or clumsily waddling around.  collage 2We crouched down and a confident male pup strutted towards us, looked right into our eyes and plopped himself right down into my lap.  That was our puppy, who we named Kane.collage 3Kane was our world and we spoiled him rotten.  He was like our son and truly was a member of our family.  Sure, he drove us crazy because true to male Newfs, he took forever to potty train.  But we adored him anyways.  He was a sweet and sensitive, rapidly growing pup and had almost human-like personality traits.  While all of the other puppies were being wild and crazy at his puppy school he would stay back and watch feeling slightly overwhelmed (despite being the largest puppy).  He would glance up at us as if to say “I don’t want to break the rules like those crazy dogs.”  collage 5

A few months after welcoming Kane into our family we got the baby bug… big time.  After barely trying we were thrilled to find out I was pregnant.  We were over the moon that our perfect little family that we had been dreaming about for so many years was becoming a reality.  We had it all.

Kane even started to sit beside the couch I would lay on every night and stand guard.  He too was waiting for his sibling to arrive.

One day, when Kane six months old and tipping the scale at 95 lbs I noticed him wobble when he walked out of his crate.  Hmmm…. that was odd, I thought to myself.  I shook it off, finished my morning routine and headed off to work.  The entire day that image of Kane’s hips wobbling haunted me.  In my gut I knew something was off.  In the days that followed that wobble turned into falling multiple times a day.  Mike was working long hours back then and I was the main person home with Kane.

One quiet Saturday morning while Mike was working a weekend shift and Kane and I were enjoying a lazy day, my world changed forever.  I was lounging on the couch and Kane was fast asleep in his favourite spot near our kitchen table.  Suddenly there was this loud thumping.  I ran over to Kane and quickly realized his was having a grand mal seizure.  He was violently convulsing and biting the air.  It was horrible to witness and I felt helpless.  I frantically called Mike sobbing.  The seizure eventually slowed and morphed into a dazed and frightened over-sized puppy.

The days that followed, Kane suffered one grand mal seizure after another.  We carted him to multiple vets trying to get answers, find a remedy and spending whatever money it took to fix our boy.  I was witness to so many seizures that I actually go used to administering his medication after, but the one seizure Mike was present for traumatized him beyond what he expected.  I was exhausted, but my pregnancy was the furthest thing from my mind.

We eventually were able to control Kane’s grand mal seizures with medication but then came the focal seizures… every 2 minutes.  When Kane would have a focal or absent seizure he would just click out momentarily completely spacing out often taking a nose dive into his toy basket.  I was starting to lose hope.  We were told that Kane probably had an inoperable brain tumour but it was going to take thousands of dollars to confirm.  Regardless, there was nothing we could do.  We had spent the better half of our savings at that point on Kane.  Then one day Mike came home from work and Kane didn’t recognize him at all.  He ran away from Mike and hid behind me in fear.  The soon-to-be mama in me knew that this was a recipe for disaster.  It was at that point that we had to make one of the hardest decisions of our lives.  To euthanize Kane.  We called the breeder and the vet to see if there was any other options, but each agreed that this was the right and most humane decision.

The date was set, ironically for the evening before my 12 week ultrasound.  The circle of life.  Here is a letter I wrote to our baby:

Pregnancy Week 11,  December 3, 2008

Dear Baby,   Your father and I are having to make a very hard decision this week.  We are going to be putting our 7 month old Newfoundland puppy to sleep.  It pains us to do this but he is very sick.  We need to put you first.  One day we will tell you all about him, how he was so sensitive and sweet, curious and protective.  We got this specific dog because they are known to be the best around children and babies.  We had a lot of plans for him which we won’t see realized.  But we truly believe everything happens for a reason.  I thank God everyday that you are on your way.  You are what keeps me going right now.  Anytime I start to despair or panic, I picture you.  Even though we haven’t met yet I already have so much love for you.  One day we will get another puppy, but right now you are our focus.  We want to be able to devote ourselves 100% to you.  We can’t wait to meet you.

Love Mommy

Mike was incredibly brave and took Kane and was with him every second.  I couldn’t.  I stayed at my parent’s house sobbing while my mom held me.  Mike laid on the ground with Kane, petting him, while he departed from this world.  He later told me that he listened to Over The Rainbow by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole on repeat the whole drive to the vet with Kane.  I still can’t listen to that song without choking up.

collage 1Our last evening with Kane.  Note our puffy eyes from crying.

The next day we went to our ultrasound feeling extremely fragile and vulnerable.  We had a lot of healing to do but at least we could switch our focus to our baby.  Thankfully we had a trip to Florida already planned for the few weeks following Kane’s passing.  It was refreshing to get away and take our minds off of our loss.

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Once we arrived home from our trip we were still wrestling with a mix of emotions.  I was able to now feel our little bundle kicking inside of me which was a great constant reminder, but Mike was really struggling.  My 18 week ultrasound finally came and we found out we were having a little boy.  We were ecstatic!

Then, one Sunday morning during my 24th week of pregnancy, the phone rang.  It was my family doctor.  My heart immediately dropped.  Why was my family doctor phoning me on a Sunday?  She started to explain that she wanted to discuss something about my pregnancy before I switched from her to my OB that week (which was protocol).  She told me that our baby had a two vessel cord (a single umbilical artery).

Typically the umbilical cord has three vessels; two arteries and one vein.  Occasionally the umbilical cord develops malformed, with only one artery and one vein.  On its own a two vessel cord does not pose a threat.  But it can sometimes signal that other birth defects have occurred in organs that develop at the same time as the umbilical cord, such as the heart.  She reassured me that although I would have to have extra ultrasounds and tests along the ways to check our son’s organs, it probably would turn out fine and not affect him.

When I got off the phone I was as white as a ghost and sobbed for hours.  Mike and I were both already so fragile and on high alert that we could not rationally process this information.  We felt like we were standing in an ocean with waves that kept crashing into us and pulling us down.  We were basket cases for the rest of my pregnancy only relaxing a little each time we had an additional ultrasound done confirming everything else was fine.

IMG_3745We did our best to enjoy decorating our son’s nursery, celebrating at my baby showers and preparing as my due date approached.  But we each knew how quickly someone who you love so much could just slip away leaving you feeling helpless.c 7The day finally arrived and we welcomed our beautiful and healthy son Holden into our lives.  I had relaxed at that point and started to become a very easy going parent knowing to make the best of every second and to not sweat the small stuff.  It’s put things into perspective for me and helped me not obsess over every parenting decision, injury and little mistake I might make along the way.  I know now that I can’t control the future.  I can only do my best and be okay when things might not always go as planned.  Mike on the other hand has had an opposite reaction to Kane’s death.  At times he’s found himself having an irrational fear that Holden might become gravely ill, and he’d be rendered helpless (something he has never experienced with our daughters).  Over time Mike and I have been able to heal and come to terms with losing the first member of our family.  But it has impacted our parenting styles.  This unfortunately hasn’t been the hardest journey we have been though, but I believe that this hurdle helped prepare us for what was ahead.  Giving us the strength in ourselves and in our marriage to be able to cope.

I have sometimes wondered if Kane really did choose us.  To love him like crazy for his short life and help him depart with minimal suffering and immeasurable devotion.  I don’t believe in reincarnation but our little Holden is such a sweet, sensitive, compassionate soul that loves to follow the rules.  It’s hard not to compare him to Kane.  We have never regretted our decision and know that it was the right one.  But I think if you looked closely at our hearts you would see this jagged, thick, strong scar where a hole once resided.  collage 7

Don’t forget to LIKE Nesting Story on Facebook, and FOLLOW Nesting Story on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  I will be writing soon about our most difficult parenting journey so far… Holden’s language delay and sensory processing difficulties.

How Being Cyber Bullied After Going Viral Will Make Me A Better Parent

Sarah Martin Photography018What a week it has been!  I am beyond blessed and humbled after my What Having Four Kids (Including Twins) Has Done To My Body And My Confidence post has gone viral.  I have enjoyed every comment, email and message from mothers telling me they have “parallel stories”, “been inspired by my story” and “needed that honesty”.  I truly feel a bond to mothers across the world and know that me sharing my story is helping others who have been struggling with body image.  I partially wrote this piece for my three daughters.  I hope that one day they can read this and be inspired as well.

When I sat down one evening to write this piece it just flowed out of me within an hour.  I had been thinking about my own body image quite a bit throughout the previous week and decided last minute while going through my photos for another post to put it out there.  I never in a million years thought it would be shared thousands of times, read millions of times and be interpreted in countless articles across the world.  I thought I was writing an honest, from the heart piece that would be read by my few hundred wonderful followers.  I sat down at my desk after my kids were in bed while enjoying a glass of wine, chomping on Mentos and listening to Yo-yo Ma thinking “wow, I haven’t enjoyed writing a piece like this for a while, I must do this type of personal piece more often”.

Along with the incredible stories and thank-yous has come criticism and some pretty hateful words.  I learned quickly to stop reading comments on other sites when the bullies felt the most anonymous and address one that got to me a bit.Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1Of course there will be people who disagree and want to challenge what I have to say.  That is not only expected but is good to create conversation.  But, I have learned that there are adult bullies out there and am learning how to take a breath, let it go and move on.

I grew up without social media.  Being born in 1983 I had a Walkman and then a Discman and finally at the end of high school ICQ became popular.  Remember the exciting “uh oh” noise alerting you to a message?  I can even credit ICQ for solidifying Mike and my relationship as official boyfriend and girlfriend.  But I never experienced cyber bullying.

We have a strict zero bullying tolerance in our home.  Our son Holden has been praised by many teachers as a sweet soul who has been known on more than one occasion to make deals to get a toy to another child who wanted to play with it.  He has also been the victim of bullying. I was able to help him in that situation by giving advice and relating as I too experienced bullying as a child and as much as it pains me to say so, was the bully from time to time.

In today’s society, so much, if not most of our social life takes place on social media and that has scared me for when my children reach the age where they use social media.  I had never experienced what going to school with social media being available was like.  The anonymity.  The cliques.  The judgement.Sarah Martin Photography025

Although I don’t have any pearls of wisdom or tricks on how to deal with cyber bullying, I can honestly look at my children and tell them that I have experienced it.  I have had to process hateful anonymous words and be able to let them go.  It’s okay to feel it, address it and defend yourself when necessary and find a way to move on.

I will continue to pour my heart out on my blog and from time to time (like now) use it as therapy or my own personal diary.  Even to just help sort out the thoughts and feelings in my head, get them out of me and move on.  It is so worth it when I stay up (too late lately) at night reading all of your amazing stories and comments and feeling such a connection with all of you!

Photography by Sarah Martin Photography

5 Signs Growing Up With Older Brothers Has Affected Your Parenting

Nesting Story Older Brothers Photo1. After dinner wrestling matches are not just fun, they are mandatory. After dinner while growing up, my two older brothers, my younger sister and I (my sister and I were usually only wearing diapers) would race down to our basement with our dad and have a massive brawl. I am pretty sure this was my mom’s favourite time of the day. These days I turn to my husband after dinner with a knowing look and herd our rowdy kids into another room with him while I clean the dishes in peace and quiet.

2. Your casual use of potty words. I’m not talking swear words, I’m talking actual potty words. For example: the everyday use of the words puke, fart or taking a dump. You think this is the norm until your kid tells you in front of another parent “I need to use the bathroom, but I can’t because someone’s is in there taking a dump”. That parent then gives you a look that’s cross between puzzled and disgusted. You realize you may not be teaching your kids proper kiddie etiquette. Woops!

3. You hear yourself saying, “let them fight it out”. I would definitely consider myself a relaxed “free-range” parent. Nothing drives me crazier than when I am at a play date and another parent is constantly scolding little bobby because they think he may not be playing nice. Relax mama, let’s let nature take its course while we sit for five minutes or at least until blood is drawn. Which takes me to number four…

4. The game is over when someone is crying or bleeding. The only way to get anything done when you have four kids is to banish them to another room, cross your fingers and hope for the best!

5. Your taste in music. As a child my friends were all listening to New Kids On The Block and Madonna while I was rocking my grunge look listening to Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. Kids, can we please turn off Taylor Swift?

11 Moms You MUST Befriend


We all know them and we have seen many types of moms portrayed on TV and in clever ad campaigns. I thought I’d take it a step further. Do you know these mamas? If you can try to snag some mommy friends with these methods, beliefs, situations, thought processes and personalities I can assure you, you will be a better mom for for befriending them!

1.  The Veteran Mama.  This is probably a family member or an old friend that you may have drifted away from when she started having kids while you were still enjoying the freedom of a kidless life.  You probably rolled your eyes at some of her parenting methods while promising yourself you’d do things differently when you have your own kids.  The Veteran mama quickly becomes your hero, lifeline and role model when you have kids of your own.  You admire her clever little tricks to help make everyday life easier and you don’t know where she gets her energy and how she does it all!  Keep this mama close and let her know what a great job she is doing!

2.  The Vegan Mama.  For us carnivores, being vegan is ludicrous.  Why pass up on that juicy steak?  But reality is, there is this whole plant based smorgishborg of deliciousness out there that you don’t even know about.  Vegan mamas are typically creative wizards in the kitchen and can teach you a thing or two about creating some healthier meals for your family.

3. The Dictionary Mama. You want to know something about anything?  She’s your mama.  She’s constantly researching and up to date on new trends whether they are parenting methods or how each school rates in your area.  She probably already knows more about something specific to what you are going through than you do because she has googled it as soon as you have vented or confided in her.  This is because she’s not only there for you, but she can truly understand exactly what you are going through.

4.  The Hippy Mama.  While you are sweating under your nursing cover she’s enjoying the breeze because she wouldn’t dare cover up while nursing.  You look at her confidence and freedom with envy.  The hippy mama is incredibly patient as she wears her baby, cloth diapers, co-sleeps and wouldn’t dare sleep train.  She exudes freedom and while you may not be ready to jump on the crunchy train just yet you may find yourself taking a deep breath and whipping out a boob to nurse in a crowded room on occasion.

5. The New(er) Mama. This is a special friendship. Not only are you paying it forward by answering her texts at 3am with questions about teething but you are also reminding yourself how far you have come, how much you know and how awesome a mama you truly are! Even on those days when you feel you have failed because your kids had crackers and cheese for dinner, you couldn’t possibly face baths and you might have used T.V. to get a few minutes of peace, the guidance you are giving her is a constant reminder that you are doing a damn good job!

6. The Cool Mama. Why bother buying fashion or celebrity gossip magazines when you know the cool mama? She is always sporting the newest trend and is the one who settles the who’s dating who in hollywood debate. She has fantastic fashion advice and is your first choice when you are in the mood to walk the mall while pushing your strollers having a much needed gab!

7. The Holistic Mama. She loves her essential oils and she is a huge natural birth advocate. She can soothe pain, boost an immune system and create cleaning products all from her essential oils and her vast knowledge of natural remedies. This is a very smart and adventurous mama. Even if you may not be a fan of these natural methods, her vast knowledge may come in handy when you least expect it.

8. The Education Guru Mama.  This mama has an incredible relationship with her kid’s teachers, she probably has her kids in some extra tutoring and has set up a semi classroom in her kitchen. This involvement in her children’s education may have stemmed from her child’s previous struggle with learning. But not only did this mama meet this challenge head on, she has made it a priority to help her child not only catchup but enjoy learning. This mama is determined and can be a fantastic resource and example when you encounter your own educational road block.

9. The Laid Back Mama. This is the mama that leads by example. You want to have playdates with her because although she is strict with her kids when necessary, she chooses her battles and there tends to be this non-competative vibe when she’s around. Being around her is like taking a trip to the spa. You leave re-energized and refreshed… if that is even possible after a playdate! Not only is she great for your blood pressure but you will find she’s rubbing off on you when you realize you didn’t get mad when your little one threw the whole roll of toilet paper into the toilet.

10. The Out-going Mama. She’s up for anything, whether it’s a night out for drinks or organizing a Bachelorette betting pool. The out-going mama is typically the glue to your group and is great at forcing you to get out of those sweats, slap on some makeup and break out of your little nest you have created at home. Just when you are on the verge of becoming an agoraphobic she comes to the rescue with a bottle of wine in hand!

11. The Warrior Mama. This mama is incredibly strong, patient, loving, brave and genuine. She has multiple children and one of them has special needs. Although she rarely complains or asks for help she incredibly thankful when she gets a helping hand. This is the mama you want to aspire to be like. If you can have a shred of the patience she has each day, you are doing a great job!

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