The First Year

Last year on New Year’s Eve Andrew and I went to the hospital in the afternoon so that I could be induced. We stuck around for an hour, but not much was happening so they sent us home. I made pasta for dinner. We watched Treme. I paced around the house in circles because walking was supposed to speed things up and it was too cold to go outside. We were quiet. I paid close attention to my body, but it was quiet too. Either way, we had been instructed to return to the hospital at nine, around the time most people were heading out for New Year’s Eve parties. We got a birthing room, and we saw my OB who gave me another dose of inducing gel, but between then and midnight still nothing changed. It was the most boring and most memorable New Year’s Eve, and I will always remember being in a bed in that hospital room, drinking ice water, and trying to sleep. All that waiting. And then Clara was born late the next day, the first day of the year, and finally the waiting was over.

I can write an entire paragraph about the night before Clara was born, but I can only approximate the entire first year she was here in fragments. There was too much! So much happened! It was good, and sometimes bad, and sometimes harder than expected, but sometimes easier than expected too. It was so, so much in one short year.

When I was pregnant, I wrote a lot. I had an endless Word document that I used to record what pregnancy felt like, how I spent my days, how I was feeling. I thought I would continue once Clara was born, but it turns out that I barely wrote anything about her first year, didn’t record the dates of any milestones, hardly recorded my feelings about anything. I’m not sure why — it wasn’t necessarily for lack of time. It was lack of words, maybe. Even today, a year later, I still feel like I’m formulating my thoughts about the whole thing, like I still don’t have the right words. I took so many pictures on my phone, though. The funny thing is that when I look at the pictures now, especially from the very, very beginning, they aren’t the Clara I remember. She looks different from the baby I have in my head. Which memory is more accurate? I guess the photograph. Still.

But I want to remember everything about this year. I want to remember the earliest days in January, the snow outside, and being warm in our house with Clara wrapped in blankets, the days broken up by two hour feedings rather than by daylight or darkness. I want to remember the feeling of her curled up in my arms while I nursed her or how she stretched out across my lap sleeping. How we bundled her in the carseat and brought her out into the world, and how, before we got one of those mirrors for the car, whenever we stopped at a red light I would race out of the car and quickly check that she was still breathing.

I want to remember the feeling of returning to normal, of not being so irrationally afraid, of embracing the new routines and how nice it felt. Going to the café and writing while she slept. I want to remember the spring, and taking long walks with her in the stroller. Our picnics outside when it got warmer. Our trips. Watching Andrew carry her through the small winding streets of Hydra. Holding her close on an airplane during takeoffs and landings. Seeing her learn how to sit, how to clap, how to eat, how to drink from a cup.

The feeling of seeing her personality emerge, and her smiles and her laughs.

I’m grateful for a lot of things in 2015: that I was able to spend the entire year at home knowing my job was protected, that I went into the year knowing very few mothers and came out the other end with a group of women I could reach out to. I’m grateful for friends who offered help, who just wanted to hang out, who loved Clara like family, who incessantly texted back and forth with me. I’m grateful to our families and everything they have done for us. I’m grateful for Andrew, and of course I am so grateful for Clara.

The thing that’s hard about writing this is that I can’t convey the joy I’ve felt this year because of Clara. How she’s made us laugh so often over the silliest things. It’s almost embarrassing, and it’s kind of simple too, but what a lovely happiness, one that comes so naturally, so easily! We waited for it, and it was worth the wait. I feel so lucky for 2015.

That’s really all I have to say about it.

May 2015

Writing Elsewhere

Let’s start with this! Nomfiction, a nonfiction anthology about food, is out now. My essay, Messy, is about pregnancy cravings (or rather, the lack thereof) and eating a crab boil on Tybee Beach last September. I can’t speak highly enough of this collection: the other essays are wonderful and moving. Working with Amanda and Troy was a pleasure too.


In related news, Little Fiction/Big Truths is taking some of their writing to print: NOMFICTION (!), a fiction and nonfiction MUSIC anthology that’s currently under development, and a nonfiction TECHNOLOGY-themed collection that they’re seeking submissions for. You can pre-order your copy of the anthologies, and if you do it now, you can save 50% off the list price. I recommend that you do.

Exciting, no?

Now, looking back on the past month: in May we traveled!

We spent a week in Cape Breton, with its big skies and ocean and lakes and lobster. Clara was spoiled by her grandparents and I took time to finish another round of edits on my novel (so close!). Traveling is a kind of test when you’re with a baby, and Clara’s first flights went well enough. We swaddled her as if it was bedtime and she mostly slept, and when she didn’t sleep, the din of the airplane masked some of the fussy noises, and when that didn’t work, at least she made sure to give her neighbors gummy smiles so that they wouldn’t get too annoyed.








A week and a half after we returned from the east coast, I loaded up the car so that Clara and I could take our first roadtrip to Montreal. I’ve done that drive along the 401 more times than I can count, and the only difference was that this time we stopped for wiggle breaks so that one of us could flail their limbs around and stare at strangers and get their diaper changed before falling back asleep in the car. Montreal was perfect, not just for the chance to catch up with best friends, but to meet the glut of new creatures that arrived since I moved away – babies, puppies! I also ate many foods I missed, and returned to Toronto with the spoils from visits to both the Atwater and Jean-Talon markets. We’ve been eating our way through them ever since, except for the dozen Fairmount bagels that are tucked away safely in the freezer.




In Toronto the weather seems to have skipped straight from winter to summer, and we love it. Clara is now rolling like a champ – all that practice paid off – and her constant drooling yielded two tiny teeth poking up from her bottom gums. At first I could only feel their serrated edges with my finger, but now you can see them when she smiles or cries. Teeth! How do these things happen?




April 2015


April! April was a nice month, a light month. The newborn baby phase is so heady, so emotionally intense, and while I’m a sucker for intense emotional feelings, I was ready for some levity. It helped that the winter weather cleared – the snow melted and the temperature increased, so much so that there were a few walks along the boardwalk, some afternoons sitting in the sand, a few outdoor meals, a patio drink or two. Clara cries whenever I put her sunhat on, but I’m forcing it on her because, well, sun. She even sometimes tolerates her sunglasses.


I like April because my birthday is in April, which usually means there are a few good meals. I ate lots of cheese with some friends and we were able to sit outside because the weather was so warm. I went to a Spanish tapas restaurant with Andrew and had things like thin slices of Iberico ham, razor clams, long chewy strands of wild onions, bread dipped in the best olive oil. I’ve been cooking from a cookbook I’m going to review, modern twists on Greek classics, so everything at home has been spiced with cinnamon, thyme, oregano. When I’ve had little energy to cook, Marcela Hazan’s tomato sauce has done the trick – a can of tomatoes, an onion, some butter.



We’re settling into a more summer routine of walks and outdoor dinners, and I like it.


Writing elsewhere

My Bookslut column about Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. It is a lovely, cozy book that I highly recommend. It also briefly touches on my foray into Marie Kondo-ing our home, and how it didn’t quite work out.

An aside: It’s funny that I have this section here. “Writing, elsewhere” is more aspirational than realistic. While writing with a baby hasn’t been impossible, it is hard. Sometimes I’ll look wistfully at my laptop and count down the hours until Andrew gets home from work, but often when he does get home, I’m too tired to get anything done anyway. The day I got Fika in the mail, for instance, had been a tough one, all inexplicable baby meltdowns, no coffee in the house, and then this adorable book about coffee breaks that I wanted to read staring at me from across the room.

But, meltdowns pass, naptimes come, I find time to write or read. It helps to set little, manageable goals. Words on paper is often the only goal. Publishable writing is more daunting. The reason why this entry was only posted now, almost mid-May, is because I’ve been working on another round of edits of my novel and there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I’ve had my own adult versions of meltdowns about it, but it will get done. Things just take more time; it’s okay.

Clara has been teaching herself to roll over. It’s interesting seeing these skills develop gradually, how she works and works and sometimes gets frustrated and sometimes enjoys it. Sometimes she needs a push so that her muscles understand what they need to do. Sometimes she gets tired halfway through and rests her forehead on the ground and cries (poor baby!). And then every so often it all comes together fluidly, easily: she flips over, just like that. Her face when it works is so happy, and she is so proud of herself. There’s a metaphor in there about writing, right? About the work required, the practice, the muscle memory, the frustration, the crying, the happiness, the pride?

So, I’ll leave this section up because I would like to have more links to “writing elsewhere” in the future. I’ll get there, slowly, but eventually.

March 2015

This month has been a blur. I thought the earliest days would feel similarly blurry, but they were distinct in their newness, their strangeness. Now, just over 12 weeks in, the day-to-day fuses together. The first half of March was different from the second half, though, since I was editing my book. I alternated between either working on it or looking after Clara, and there wasn’t much time for anything else. Luckily Clara was still in her newborn hardcore napping phase because I don’t think I would’ve been able to get it done otherwise. (Thank you, baby! And also thank you Andrew for also making sure I had plenty of time to work.)

Week 8

The thing that I found interesting about editing was how much of the work was shifting sections around to fit the right way – it wasn’t really a matter of adding new sentences, but changing the order of the existing ones, like a puzzle. The answer was there, but I couldn’t see it until I looked at it from a few different angles. I also realized that the best way for me to edit was to read the words out loud, so for better or for worse, the book that Clara has had read to her most has been my own. It put her to sleep more than a few times; I won’t be asking her for a blurb.

There’s still work to do, but I think the heavy lifting is done, and I’m happy with the manuscript. I still can’t believe that after all these years of working on it and fussing and revising, it will be available for others to read. It freaks me out a lot as well, but I have a few more months to psych myself up.


The other half of the month, the non-book half, was more quotidian. I took Clara for long stroller walks when the weather warmed up. I cooked dinner more often and tidied up a bit. When she napped and I was too tired to do anything useful, I watched many episodes of The Mindy Project, Togetherness or Better Call Saul. We went to mom and baby yoga classes and I met up with my mom group a few times. I spent a lot of time trying to make Clara laugh with my animal impressions, which are much less impressive than Andrew’s. It’s so fun that we can actually make her laugh and smile now! You can’t take for granted the heart eruptions caused by gummy baby smiles – they’re the best.


I also read Elissa Albert’s After Birth, a messy and passionate book I sometimes related to completely and sometimes… didn’t at all? Either way, they were very strong reactions in both directions. I can’t quite get my thoughts together coherently about it, and I think I should read it again when I’m beyond these first few months. Maybe the subject is too close to me right now, especially if you consider that I read most of it on my phone, scrolling through the text as I was nursing the baby, often in the middle of the night. For a much better rundown, read the always insightful Kerry Clare’s review of it over here.

Despite my flip-flopping feelings, I highlighted many parts of the book as I read it. Unfortunately I must have done it wrong on my phone because I can’t find them now; I blame reading too late at night. There was one highlight that worked, though, from a part where the narrator is pondering the dissertation she’s been working on while she drops her son off with a babysitter:

So the dissertation thing is pretty much a lie. But you need an identity, some interest and occupation outside of having a kid, you just do. Otherwise the kid has to be your sole interest and occupation, and we all know how that works out for everyone.

It’s funny that this is the one excerpt that worked because I often thought of it during the second half of March, the idea that all-encompassing mothering is dangerous. I do know that having a writing project grounded me, helped me feel more like myself, so when I didn’t have anything formal to work on, I felt a little aimless. But sometimes it also felt good to have no other obligations, to just focus solely on being a mother, especially as Clara becomes a fascinating little human (her latest trick is sticking her tongue out; it kills me.) It’s a double-edged sword and I’m not sure if I’ll ever figure out the right balance, but I’ll keep trying.

Week 9

 Writing, elsewhere

  • This month’s Bookslut column about Well Fed, Flat Broke: Recipes for Modest Budgets and Messy Kitchens by Emily Wight and My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz.
  • Not coming out until June, but I’m excited to be a part of Big Truth’s upcoming food anthology!

February 2015

At our prenatal class back in November, we were told not to worry about anything other than simply surviving the first six weeks with the baby. Things would get better after that, the nurse said. We passed six weeks in mid-February, and I guess things are “better” in that we’re now more accustomed to having another little person in the house. It feels more normal than discombobulating, except for those times when it still is more discombobulating than normal.


At the beginning when it was all new, I was convinced I would remember every single thing because it was so radically different from the days before, but even those first days are slipping between my fingers. I realize now how dazed I was then. My body felt more foreign than it did when I was hugely pregnant. The c-section incision, breastfeeding. Something about labour made my vision temporarily blurry and my ankles, which had stayed their normal size during pregnancy, swelled up for a week or two afterwards. I was also afraid I would walk past the stairs and somehow tumble down them while holding Clara. How was I so sure that I wouldn’t trip and drop her? Those fears seem strange now; she’s sturdier and bigger and I’m sturdier too, I suppose.

This month we started giving her bottles so that Andrew could feed her and I could leave the house alone for longer than two hour stretches. I went out to dinner, I went grocery shopping, I saw Roxane Gay read and speak. Before all of this I wondered what it would be like to go out in the world without the baby. I would miss her, wouldn’t I? The truth is that I wasn’t sad to be away from her. I was happy, actually, almost giddy. Not because I was away from her, although the breaks did feel good, but because I knew she was there, at home and waiting for me to return. How amazing that was, this knowledge that my baby was now a part of the real world, that she was no longer theoretical, something that lived only in my head, but a separate creature who existed even without my presence. My body, though, recognizes the absence differently. If I’m away from her for more than two hours, my breasts start feeling full – my body knows its obligations.

I spent one of my solo afternoons meeting my editor for my book, and it was such a great meeting. Overwhelming because I have changes to make, but it’s satisfying to talk to someone who has read your writing with such precision and care. Since then I’ve been working on edits. It’s slower because obviously there’s a baby to take care of, but Clara’s daytime napping schedule has been (mostly) working in my favour. The car seat seems to have a narcotic effect on her too, so sometimes I’ll cocoon her in it, snap the seat to the stroller and go to the cafe down the street where I work until the laptop batteries run out or she wakes up.

We’ve been bringing her out more too, mostly around our neighbourhood, but we also went to Buffalo overnight, a modified version of previous weekends before she was born. She was a good little traveler and when she cried during dinner at Dinosaur BBQ, it was muted by the din of the large restaurant. (I’m pretty sure it was, anyway; we didn’t get any dirty looks, and I looked for them.) She made up for it at a diner the next morning, sleeping nicely while we ate our breakfast.

The biggest change this month, though, is the sense that she has woken up, that while she still sleeps for long stretches like a newborn, when she’s awake she is with us. She smiles, sometimes big and open mouthed. She likes her mobile, she likes it when we play with her feet or blow air on her face. Her limbs flail madly when she’s excited. Welcome again, baby girl.

Writing, elsewhere

January 2015

My resolution for 2015 is to update this blog once a month. So here is update #1.

The baby had a few almost-birthdays (mid-December, Christmas Eve), but in the end she didn’t come that early. Either way, because of the uncertainty, Andrew and I both left work early and then had unexpected child-free time on our hands. I was third trimester sleepy for large stretches of this pre-baby time and my stomach somehow managed to get bigger and bigger.


I happily took advantage of the extra days to revise the manuscript of my novel, Escape Plans, before sending it to my editor. I hadn’t looked at the book for a long time – I needed some distance – but cozied up to it again quickly. The novel is going to be published by Invisible Publishing in the fall and I’m so excited about it. I’ll write more about it over the next few months.

Andrew and I rung in the New Year from a delivery room at Mount Sinai Hospital. When we arrived that evening, we naively thought there was a chance that our baby might be the first of 2015. You’ll get a gift basket, the woman admitting us to triage told us. But when my OB came by to check my progression, we realized that we were going to be stuck in the delivery room for a long time, way past midnight anyway. Andrew got us paper cups of ice water and we listened to the nurses and doctors gather down the hall and count down to January 1, 2015. At midnight we clinked our paper cups and then dimmed the lights in the room and tried to sleep, which is difficult when you’re waiting for the birth of your first child and, in my case, also hooked up to an IV and a monitor.

Mount Sinai, New Year's Eve

The labour started off slowly. I was induced, so I was acutely aware of each step of the process and excited whenever there was a minor change in my body.  I’d always been curious about contractions, what they really felt like. When they kicked into high gear I got the confirmation that, yup, they hurt, like someone slowly, cruelly, tightening a vice around my lower abdomen. Because I was still hooked up to the monitors, dealing with contractions flat on my back wasn’t the most pleasant experience.  After the anesthesiologist gave me an epidural, I was giddy with relief.  The absence of pain gave me a burst of energy and I was able to talk on the phone, to joke and laugh again. Andrew left to get coffee and came back with a copy of the New Yorker for me to pass the time. As much as the epidural made me feel wonderful, when you’re recovering from increasing contractions, have been on an IV for over 12 hours and have just been told that you still have another 8-16 hours of labour ahead of you, reading the New Yorker isn’t at the top of your priority list. But it was a cute gesture.

After the epidural things continued to chug along slowly. We called everyone and told them to stay at home — the baby wouldn’t come until the next day. But then during a routine check by a resident, the baby had a heart deceleration that didn’t stabilize quickly enough, and our previously calm, dim room was suddenly swarmed with doctors and nurses and the lights were jacked up and someone was putting an oxygen mask on my face. In that instant, everything was terrifying. The heartbeat stabilized, but then it happened again and the OB decided I was next in line for a c-section. Andrew had to recant the last phone call and say, uh, come here now because Teri’s giving birth in the next hour.

 I managed to see our family and friends before being wheeled into the OR, and just seeing the group of them walk into our delivery room made me burst into happy tears. They all looked so excited, nervous but happy-nervous. And then it was just Andrew and I again, and the doctors. The c-section itself is a bit of a blur. I remember how bright the lights were. I shivered violently on the stretcher and kept apologizing for it until the anesthesiologist leaned in close and told me gently that I didn’t have to apologize; it was a normal reaction to the drugs. Andrew, dressed in scrubs next to me, held my hand. They started the c-section and we didn’t really realize it until we suddenly heard a baby crying. Our baby! I couldn’t believe it, and started crying again. Andrew saw her first since I still had to be stitched up. “What does she look like?” I asked and he said, “She has so much hair.”

By Chris

So our baby, Clara Angelita, was born on January 1, 2015, and I don’t know if we will ever have such perfect start to a new year.


January has been foggy. Adrenaline, sleep deprivation, adjusting hormones, that weird intense bloom of love, etc.  Time has gone by slowly and quickly. I haven’t slept for more than 3 hour stretches since Clara was born, but our family and friends have done everything they can to ease the transition. Some days are hard, but some days are easy too. I’d expected the hard days, which doesn’t make them any less hard, but I hadn’t really expected or allowed myself to hope for the easy ones. Maybe “easy” isn’t the right word. Peaceful? Content? The cat is adjusting too.


I love studying Clara’s face. It changes all the time and l have no idea what she’s going to look like when she’s bigger. Her face after she’s fed, all milky and peaceful, is the sweetest. Usually when she’s done her eyes will droop and as she’s dozing off she’ll give a little smile, which I know isn’t supposed to count as a real smile yet, but it still looks real. When she sleeps, she makes noises and grunts and my favourite sound is a little whoop, like a wolf pup, a baby animal. When she cries her face scrunches up hard like an apple doll – it’s the most intense, angry face. I’m still surprised at the volume of her cries since I’d naively assumed that something so tiny would only make tiny noises.


I can’t imagine her not tiny – she is smaller than a ukelele, than the cat. I can’t imagine her not here. We knew nothing about babies before having her, had never held a newborn or even changed a diaper. But we’re all learning here. Slowly, maybe not always gracefully, but eagerly. Happily.


Writing, elsewhere:

  • I have an essay in the latest issue of Ricepaper Magazine. It’s called Between Representations: Filipinos in Canadian Literature, and is about exactly that, using Angie Abdou’s latest novel, Between, as a starting point. You can order a print or digital copy of it here:
  • Over at the The Toast, How to Turn a Breech Baby. I wrote this back in the fall when Clara was briefly in the transverse and then breech position in my belly and I researched the ridiculous things you can do to encourage a baby to flip. She flipped on her own, but I ended up having a c-section, so it didn’t really matter. Babies.