I Just Had An Endometrial Ablation. Now, Let’s Talk Periods.

I had an ablation last week and I’m here to talk about how I got to this point. I’m going to share quasi-graphic details regarding my menstrual history so if this is not your cup of tea (fair enough!), come back tomorrow for much different fare.

I felt compelled to write this post because, for over 20 years, I’ve been struggling with an issue that impacts so many parts of my day-to-day life and I was always looking for – but rarely finding – real details from real people (not generalized statistics on the side of a tampon box or a case study profile from a doctor).

So, with the hope that this may be of some value to someone (someday), here is my story.

early periods

I had my first period at some point between my 11th and 12th birthdays. It started in the late afternoon; I was wearing light blue-jean overalls, ready to head out the door to a baseball game at a weekly youth group.

My periods were heavy from Day One. I wasn’t surprised or upset (I had older sisters and knew what to expect) but, looking back, I can’t believe I dealt with such difficult periods solo.

I had a lot of issues with “leaking” when I was a teenager. Despite using Super Plus/Ultra Flow tampons + overnight pads, I would still leak through almost every night of heavy flow. I eventually started cutting the bottoms out of black garbage bags and would sleep inside these makeshift plastic sacks. Current Me wants to go back and hug Teenager Me. I would wake up drenched in sweat and the whole experience was truly awful, but I hated the thought of leaking through onto my bed and it seemed like a necessary – and bearable – evil. I also always, always slept on top of a giant towel.

I eventually ditched the garbage bag habit (thank goodness), but continued sleeping on top of a thick towel well into my 20s. Eventually, my body learned to compensate. Without trying, I started to wake up prior to leaking and, over time, my whole body would instinctively (subconsciously, in my sleep) go rigid, with my legs locked together. Miserable, but surprisingly effective.

pads, tampons & the diva cup

For years I used a combination of tampons and a pad. Even with that combo, I still felt vulnerable to leaks.

During my final year of university, a friend told me about her Diva Cup and I ordered one that very night (I don’t think you could get them in local stores at the time). This product was life-changing and I’ve used it for over a decade (except when I had an IUD, more on that below). If you’re not familiar with menstrual cups, I would strongly recommend you read the instructions before using one, as I learned several “tricks” for easier insertion and removal that were not necessarily intuitive.

I know some people hate using a menstrual cup but, for me, they made a hugely positive impact on how I managed my periods.

For every day of heavy flow (4-6 depending on my period cycle), I still had to wear a pad (3-4 days this would be an overnight pad) along with the Diva Cup. Only for the last 1-2 days could I safely get away without a pad, and even then I still used a panty liner.

But the Diva Cup has a much better “capacity” for heavy flow versus a tampon and, equally critical for me, allowed me to track blood loss.


And now I’ll cross the line into the she’s-holding-nothing-back level of sharing, but this is the type of information I could never find from “real” people.

The estimated average blood loss for women is 30-40 mL. Anything over 80 mL is considered menorrhagia, which is recognized as a bleeding disorder. At this point, doctors will label a period “heavy”.

While my levels varied from month to month (quite typical), I usually lost between 140 – 160 mL (so, double the volume needed to fall into the “bleeding disorder” category). In addition to the quantity being measured with a Diva Cup, I was also leaking into pads so, conceivably, there could have been months where I lost close to 200 mL.

ANEMIA + Other impacts

One of the most common issues associated with heavy periods is anemia and I was on my first iron supplement by the age of 14.

Heavy periods have also impacted my quality of life. For over two decades, I have had to plan around my period, prioritizing being close to home. We planned our wedding and almost every family vacation since around my cycle. It’s not just an annoyance, it’s disruptive.

I also struggle with PMS – usually for at least a week before my period. Then my actual period is exhausting because of constant vigilance and hands-on responsibilities. Then the week after my period I’m exhausted from the blood loss and all the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of the situation.

Over the years I have tried various iron supplements (a range of pills; Floradix liquid) but the only supplement that has worked for me – sufficiently raising my levels without causing major stomach issues – was Feramax. It is kept behind the counter at pharmacies (all iron is; it’s toxic in high doses), but does not require a prescription. Compared to other forms of iron it is expensive (~ $1/pill vs the cheaper iron salts formulations like ferrous sulfate). There are cheaper generic forms but I strongly preferred the Feramax brand; my best trick is to ask the pharmacist for coupons, which they almost always have on hand. Family doctors and OB/GYNs also often have full-sized sample boxes of Feramax.

My hemoglobin numbers were always okay, but if we drilled deeper, my ferritin levels were well below normal. Several times I got my ferritin back up to reasonable levels with Feramax, but in the summer of 2021 I ended up having a series of iron infusions. These were ordered by my doctor and are covered by Medicare in Canada, but infusions are very expensive if paid out of pocket (I was told ~$2,000-4,000/infusion). While these did help my iron/ferritin levels, they didn’t end up boosting my energy levels and, over time, my heavy periods were slowly going to counteract the positive impacts of any infusions.

hormonal birth control

This is the most frustrating part of my story. So many women respond successfully to hormonal birth control as a management tool for heavy periods.

I am not one of them.

In my first or second year of university, I started passing enormous blood clots. I was worried about the extreme blood loss and a campus nurse encouraged me to seek medical help immediately. I was put on a birth control pill (Alesse) and proceeded to bleed non-stop for 28 days. At the time, I had no desire to wait it out (I didn’t realize breakthrough bleeding was very common) and went off the pill.

Before getting married I went back on the pill for birth control. Within 6 months, I was a wreck. My mood plummeted, I was exhausted all the time, I started getting migraines, my lower back was killing me (I started sleeping with a giant book under my lower back for lumbar support). I was in and out of doctors’ offices constantly. One day, almost in tears, I happened to be reading a magazine in the waiting room and saw an ad for a birth control pill. When I got to the fine print with side effects, my jaw nearly hit the floor – every single one of my symptoms, including lower back pain, was listed. Could it really be the birth control pills making me feel so lousy? It had never crossed my mind.

The doctor I spoke with suggested I try a different type of birth control (this would have been my third or fourth brand of birth control, each one with a unique combination of hormones). I remember going home, hopping into the shower, and sobbing to John: I just can’t do it. I cannot try another pill.

Somehow or other, I ended up on the NuvaRing. This was the birth control that worked best for me. My moods weren’t impacted dramatically and it helped lessen blood loss. Still, I didn’t like how I felt, went off it and…9 months later Abby was born!

When I had my 6-week checkup after delivery, the attending OB/GYN recommended an IUD. I knew we wanted to have another baby at some point, so opting for a quasi-permanent 5-year birth control method didn’t seem wise. I went back on the Nuva Ring and things leveled out.

My periods between Abby and Levi were the best of my life. Still heavy, but completely manageable and so much lighter and shorter than at any other point. Eventually, I went off the NuvaRing to try for another baby, Levi came along…and then things nosedived.

My periods post-Levi were even worse.

I decided to try an IUD. I was told it wouldn’t hurt. It was excruciating. I was told to wait it out for at least 6 months and the breakthrough bleeding would stop. It didn’t. I waited for 1.5 years and almost every day was horrible.

By the end, I was bleeding non-stop for at least 3 out of every 4 weeks. I felt horrible physically and mentally. While my blood loss was light (heavy spotting), now I was bleeding almost constantly and had to wear a pantyliner every single day. It was hellish. I had an ultrasound to make sure the IUD was still placed correctly – IUDs can migrate, requiring surgery – but everything looked perfect.

About a month after that ultrasound, I woke up one day with excruciating abdominal pain and proceeded to lose 100 mL of blood in about an hour. I was, as one might imagine, quite worried. I got in for an emergency appointment with a doctor who checked for my IUD strings. I wanted it OUT. They couldn’t find it. I got sent in for an emergency consult with an OB/GYN. She spent 20 minutes desperately poking at my cervix trying to find those strings only to conclude they weren’t there. (In addition to the stress of the situation, it was one of the most painful experiences of my life!) I ended up having an X-ray which revealed that my IUD was missing; eventually, it was determined my body must have expelled the wretched thing. Both my family doctor and my OB/GYN said I was the first patient they knew of that had spontaneously expelled an IUD.

Since that experience, every single doctor I’ve talked with has tried to convince me to try another IUD.


I have tried several other forms of hormonal birth control (Lolo and…something else) in the last two years – both were a disaster, with mood changes and regular breakthrough bleeding. Finally, I wound up back on the NuvaRing, this time encouraged to leave it in for consecutive months to try to stop my periods completely to allow my body a chance to recuperate. After 2 months on the NuvaRing I started having major spotting. I kept on with it for another 4 months but, eventually, on January 9th 2022, I was standing in the shower crying one night (deja vu) and decided I was done. I got out, told John my decision, and wrote in my One Line A Day Journal: Going to call Dr. X about hyster[ectomy]. It’s time.


Over the years, doctors have been relatively hesitant to talk about surgery because:

  • I’m young.
  • I might still want to have more children (though once you have at least 2 and are over 35, they don’t fixate on this as much).

Then they were hesitant because I had 2 C-sections, a thin uterine lining, and a lot of scar tissue, including significant bladder adhesion (making it more complicated for a laparoscopic hysterectomy).

After years – literally years – of debating pros and cons and everyone trying to get some form of hormonal birth control to regulate things properly, I decided surgery was the only option. I was originally scheduled for a hysterectomy in October 2022 but tested positive for COVID the day of surgery. Over the last few months, and in consult with another OB/GYN, I opted to go ahead with an ablation. I had that last Wednesday at a local hospital. I am so thankful I made this decision and feel at peace with having tried this much less invasive procedure first. Time will tell; I have a family member who had an ablation and then two years later ended up with a hysterectomy. But the risks – especially given my scar tissue – were significantly lower and the recovery time much, much faster with an ablation.

takeaways if you’re struggling

If you’re reading this today and have a similar gynecological history – I’m so, so sorry. It is a huge burden that you are bearing. It is isolating and exhausting and messy – emotionally, physically, and practically. I have been there and I wish I could wave a magic wand and take it all away.

Every situation is unique and I am not a doctor and am not trying to make any direct suggestions about how to manage your symptoms. That said, if you think you would benefit from some form of intervention, I encourage you to seek out a caring, informed medical team!

I also recommend:

  • Measuring your flow. If you’re comfortable using tampons, a DivaCup isn’t dramatically different and allows for concrete measurements of blood loss. This is so helpful when discussing treatment plans with any medical professional.
  • Recording relevant dates. Keep track of period start and end dates. Doctors care about the duration of cycles. Also, practically speaking, it’s much easier to plan fun life events if you know when your period is going to strike.
  • Advocate based on your experience. I have literally spent dozens of hours talking about menstruation and birth control with doctors. And every single time I’d hear statistics about how well IUDs work or how most women don’t have any problem with X, Y, or Z. If it works for someone else, this is great. But if it doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to throw in the towel. It took me a long time to reach the point of saying: Enough! I couldn’t listen to what worked for other people, I had to listen to what my body was telling me. In my case it was saying: We hate hormonal birth control.
  • Ask to have your FERRITIN levels checked. Ferritin is not always included in routine blood screening. My hemoglobin levels were fine when my ferritin levels were well below normal. Ferritin is far more sensitive and indicative of anemia. If you are anemic, I’d encourage you to speak with your doctor about Feramax or some other highly tolerable form of iron.
  • Acknowledge that it sucks. Heavy periods suck. Clenching your legs together so you don’t leak all over your sheets sucks. Changing a Diva Cup in a public bathroom while vacationing sucks. Regulating things with hormone replacement can really suck. Enduring the status quo sucks. It’s okay to name your hard.

Maybe (hopefully) no one reading here today can relate to this health complication. But if you can, I sincerely hope you find relief and I hope this makes you feel a little less alone in your suffering. I also realize that a number of readers have struggled – or continue to struggle – with very complicated chronic conditions. I’m sorry, friends. It’s hard and yet you show up to work and life and fun, often bearing invisible burdens. I hope whatever physical or emotional challenges you’re facing today, you find some relief.


Header photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Surgery Update

Happy Friday! Another week that seems to have just gone…poof.

So…last Friday did not go to plan. Despite clear skies, school was canceled due to the projected forecast. This was the fifth consecutive Friday the kids had a disrupted schedule – four Fridays of no school, and one delayed start. I was actually rather pleased; it was bitterly cold and I appreciated the buffer for Levi. He was a trooper all week at school, but I knew that extra downtime would be good for him mentally and physically. Mid-morning we learned, much to Abby’s dismay, that her much-anticipated overnight Snocamp was canceled. Whomp, whomp.

Levi spent the day happily playing with his best friend between the two houses. I crossed off lots of work to-dos and enjoyed a great meetup with local friend and author Jan Coates (who just published a gorgeous new picture book). Abby spent time baking with my Mom, we finished another puzzle, friends stopped by with Valentine’s treats for the kids, and my parents came over for a supper of waffles. The kids capped off their evening with an at-home movie night with John. Life was good.

And then came Saturday. Nothing bad happened, but we were all restless and grumpy.

Although canceling Snocamp was 100% the right decision, it was also extremely disappointing for our girl. The reality of this missed opportunity hit hard on Saturday. We were also completely homebound. It was -40C with windchill and the wind was so strong every window got covered by a thin film of snow; it literally felt like we were being buried alive.

I tried to be productive, but everything just seemed heavy and tedious. Jobs that should have taken an hour took three. We all spent way too much time on screens and, well, it just wasn’t a great day.

Sunday provided a fresh start – we had church and then impromptu company for lunch which made the day zoom by in the best possible way.

Other notes from the week:

Our hospital has just started using a new pre-op warming technique; it’s called a Bair Hugger and it’s basically like attaching a giant blowdryer to circulate warm air through plastic tubes inside a special hospital gown to raise core body temp before heading into the OR. If only I could add this to my Christmas wish list for 2023…

HEALTH | I didn’t blog about this in advance (I learned my lesson the hard way last time), but on Wednesday I had an endometrial ablation. Stay tuned for more on this next week. I’m recovering well and hoping for a good long-term result!

Yesterday, a sweet friend (Hi Elaine!) dropped off a delicious array of food from a (much-raved about) local restaurant. Aside from the lovely gesture, I am beyond excited to sample all these tasty options.

Tuesday night and my oh-so-temporary Inbox Zero (across 5 accounts). It lasted less than 10 minutes, but it felt great. I’ll admit I cheated a bit. There were some e-mails related to ongoing tasks that I couldn’t archive and will need to reference in the weeks ahead, so I created a subfolder for these communications because I was tired of them bouncing around in my inbox.

WORK | It was an intense – albeit short – week. I got through a lot of tasks, but there are some really big to-dos that are overwhelming and have a lot of moving parts. I hate feeling like I’m not making traction and moving a project forward. In reality, I did take concrete steps, but I have to remember that those first tiny bites don’t necessarily make the elephant look any smaller.

I wasn’t planning to set an OOO message (technically I could be working), but my boss encouraged me to take the rest of the week off and it feels AMAZING to be focussed on rest and recovery until Monday.

EXERCISE | On Tuesday I finished a 30-day exercise challenge (more details on that soon), and fit in a few outside walks before my surgery.

WATCHING | We watched Wakanda Forever for our at-home date night on Saturday. It was…okay. I didn’t love it, which was too bad because the Black Panther movies have been my favourite of the Marvel selections.


  • Run Towards the Danger by Sarah Polley. Reading this memoir reminded me a lot of my experience reading Bright Lights, Prairie Dust by Karen Grassle (Grassle was “Ma” from the Little House on the Prairie TV series). Sarah Polley was a child actress on Road to Avonlea, a hugely popular Canadian show based on L.M. Montgomery’s books. I LOVED this series growing up. It’s always disorienting to pull back the curtain and hear that a much-beloved show wasn’t all that it purported to be. Polley has had a life of extremes; she lost her mother when she was young, had some horrific acting experiences, was sexually assaulted as a teen, has had a string of serious health complications, and lived in squalor with her (at times) mentally unstable widowed father. While this wasn’t a light and fluffy read, I found it gripping (finished in two sittings). Here are a few quotes
    • My father, after my mother died, had fallen apart. It’s possible that he was always apart, and my mother had just, for many years and with great effort, held him together.
    • I’m nostalgic for the present, mourning its passing even as it happens. [Yes! I feel this way, too, sometimes.]
    • Mrs. Beverley Panikkar let me write stories all day every day in Grade 2 and told me I would be a writer one day. I told her years later that if I ever wrote a book, I would dedicate it to the space, presence, and attunement she gave to the children she taught. So here you go, Bev. And thank you. [I am ALWAYS here for a good acknowledgment/dedication.]
  • The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. I’ll admit that some of the longer essays I skipped entirely, but this is a light read that is easy to pick up on a whim. Some of my favourites:
    • Waking up and realizing it’s Saturday.
    • When you push the button for the elevator and it’s already there.
    • His discussion of old (unsafe!) play equipment: “There were fire poles two stories high – just cheap, simple poles planted deep in the ground that were popular and educational, quietly introducing children to concepts like gravity, friction, and badly sprained ankles.” [Anyone else relate to this sort of playground from childhood – I sure do?]
    • The smell of freshly cut grass. [One of my favourite smells ever.]
    • The shampoo head massage at the hairdresser.
    • When you know all the buttons to speed through the automated telephone system.
  • The Portrait by Iain Pears. I picked up a copy of this book from a Little Lending Library months ago and, since it’s a short read, decided to take it with me to the hospital. I read the entire book in one sitting while hooked up to the Bair Hugger! The front cover sold this as an epic thriller, which is not how I would summarize it. The book is written, essentially, as one long monologue. The premise/themes reminded me a lot of The Picture of Dorian Gray…it just wasn’t as good. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming, but reading started to feel like a slog (and it was a short book). Also, the “twists” came in quick succession in the last 10 pages. This was definitely a slow-burn style of writing, and I kept waiting for an explosion. In the end, it just fizzled.
  • A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay. Funny story. A few days ago I read Gigi’s review of this book. It sounded like an intriguing murder mystery/thriller, and her description gave me just enough information to want to know how it all turned out. It’s not uncommon for me to hear about a great book and be perfectly content to read a synopsis – especially for thrillers. So I spent the next hour trying to track down spoilers. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. But there was radio silence about any major plot reveals on the interwebs. By this point, I HAD TO KNOW HOW THINGS TURNED OUT, so I looked it up on my library system and discovered it was available for immediate download as an e-book. I read this in a single sitting after I got home from surgery. There were plenty of twists and turns – some expected, some surprising. Highly readable, it reminded me of a tame Stephen King novel (Barclay actually mentions King in his acknowledgments). The premise: a university professor stumbles upon a horrific crime scene and nearly loses his life. The rest of the book focuses on the aftermath – the professor dealing with PTSD, his relationships with friends/his wife/his therapist and involves a number of unsettling characters and events. I will warn that there is a fair amount of swearing in this book and various depictions – though not overly graphic – of murders + there is a stalker involved. A literary masterpiece? Not really, but extremely readable and a solid thriller that I enjoyed.

FUN | Our 2022 photobook arrived. We all piled onto the couch and flipped through the pages. Before we knew it an hour had gone by. So. much. fun!

I am still loving the Valentine’s tree in our family room. The twinkle lights are very cheery.

We haven’t done Wordle consistently in almost a year, but I pulled out my phone at the breakfast table on Tuesday and we decided to try our luck. Some backstory: Meatball is a fancy bear hamster, which means he has a lot of hair, a huge “tuffet” of which is concentrated around his derriere. It is very cute (and ridiculous); we have taken to calling them his butt bangs and have even come up with a family dance based on how it looks when he runs on his wheel with those giant puffs of hair flying behind him (which we call his buffets – [buh-fits] short for butt tuffets). To say we spend a lot of time thinking about the hair on Meatball’s behind is an understatement. With that in mind, Abby wanted to come up with a Meatball-themed word and settled on bangs. This meant Levi got the second word. When he said apple, I groaned inwardly because of the huge risk of using a double letter. AND THE ANSWER WAS APPLE. Such a great way to start the day.


  • Our power went out randomly one night at 9:30 AS I WAS WALKING DOWN THE HALL TO WARM UP MAGIC BAGS. This was such a bitter disappointment. I had been working in the office all evening and my feet were cold and the #1 thing that helped me power through was the knowledge Magic Bags were coming my way and then…no electricity. John selflessly let me thaw my ice-block feet on him which helped, but I am a high-maintenance sleeper; without white noise, I cannot sleep. I turned on the white noise app on my phone, but still had a restless night since then the power kept coming off and on, so things would beep and flash and…then go quiet. Thankfully, this didn’t happen when it was -40C.
  • One of my brothers-in-law sent Levi a package full of Pokemon cards and related paraphernalia which beautifully filled several hours of post-school time.

And that’s a wrap!

Your turn. Do you ever read book synopses instead of the actual book? What was the highlight of your week? Is anyone still doing Wordle daily?

Thanks + A Quick Update

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement on Friday. Each comment and e-mail felt like a warm hug.

We had a very long (almost 2 hours!) and thorough appointment with a wonderful gastroenterologist. Test results remain reassuring; based on some relevant markers it appears to be a virally induced response (probably his 48-hour flu bug back in November). The solution?


It could take weeks – or months – for his body to fully heal.

That said, we walked out of the appointment with a game plan (including some at-home supports aimed specifically at children with chronic abdominal pain/nausea). We’ve also been brainstorming how to best support each other as a family, and have lots of great ideas – many coming from the kids!

I’m not going to lie. Nights are still very bleak. But we’re working on those, too. As Nicole so wisely said: There will be a time after this.

Indeed there will be a time after this; in the meantime, while I’m in this time – with its worry and frustration and lack of sleep – thanks for coming alongside and offering support.

Header photo by Manuel Cosentino on Unsplash

Reflections on 365 Days of Walking

On 1 January 2022, I went for a walk. Between 8:57 – 9:44 am, I walked 2.41 km. We were out together as a family, meandering through our downtown, stopping to appreciate the remnants of holiday decor. Later, from 11:57 am – 12:38 pm, I walked another 3.27 km.

On 2 January 2022, I went for another walk. Judging by the time (41 minutes) and distance (2.04 km), this was another leisurely family walk.

And then I walked on January 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. At some point I thought: I could do this every day in January. So I did. And then I did it every day in February and March until, somewhere along the way, I decided to do it every day for the whole year.

I completed my final 1 km a little after 10:00 am on 31 December 2022. It was fitting Abby was with me for both the first – and final – walks of the year.

I did it! I walked a minimum of 1 km for 365 days! It’s true that on two of those days, I didn’t tick off the outside box – travel days going to/from South Carolina. On those occasions, I completed my walks inside airports instead.

I don’t think I have ever done an activity (other than brushing my teeth or things of that ilk; even with my One Line A Day Journal, I sometimes miss a day or two and then record things retroactively) for 365 days in a row, and I have a few thoughts:

  1. I am so glad to be finished. A year is a long time, and while I thrive on routine and structure, it can also feel cumbersome after a while. December was the hardest month for me – with Levi home sick, a daily outside walk often felt like an annoying box to check off. When we’re all healthy and walk to school five days a week, it’s easy to fit in daily walks; not so much when we’re convalescing at home or shuttling a child to doctor appointments.
  2. I should have implemented more flexibility from the start. Aside from my two indoor airport walks, I did my walks outside every single day. When Levi was sick, it would have been SO much easier to fit in 1 km (or 5!) on the treadmill. By this point in the year, I really wanted to stick with the outside “requirement” but I wish I hadn’t arbitrarily included this parameter. I also didn’t count outdoor runs; it had to be a walk. These nuances were part of what made the experience feel special and unique so I appreciate what they added to the experience, but these “rules” were a nuisance/burden sometimes.
  3. A daily walk outside…is a great way to get outside. The biggest hurdle to getting outside in inclement weather is the simple act of getting dressed. Once I was bundled up, it no longer felt onerous and I often went much further than my 1 km minimum.

While there were plenty of short walks and other stints of exercise (skiing, swimming, to/from the bus stop) that I don’t track on my Apple Watch, here is what I officially recorded as workouts for 2022:

Total mileage (combined) = 1,781 km (1,107 miles)

Average daily mileage = 4.88 km/day (3 miles)

Total workouts = 531

Average workout distance = 3.35 km (2.1 miles)

Total walks = 484

Total runs = 46

Some memorable walks

  • A “freezing rain/ice pellet” snow day where the kids and I bundled up, grabbed umbrellas and spent hours (SLOWLY) trekking through the woods. But, hey, I got my 1 km.
  • Another snow day when we packed up a bookbag with a thermos of hot chocolate (I remembered marshmallows!) and hiked through deep snow.
  • Our March Break trip to the lake (including many walks through the woods to collect maple sap).
  • Walks on PEI, especially the ones completed at the Haunted Woods at Green Gables and Greenwich Dunes.
  • The Ravenell Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
  • 25 km+ of walking in a single (very hot) day in Toronto.
  • Hiking out to the Medford Beach formations.
  • The day I was scheduled to have a hysterectomy I wanted to fit in my 1 km walk before heading to the hospital; it was 5:30 am, and Levi asked to come with me. We went the minimum 1 km and the experience was charged with so much emotion for me (I assumed this would be the end of outside walks for a few days/weeks, and was walking with my youngest mere hours before waving goodbye to my uterus = lots of feelings). Long-time readers know the punch-line to this story: I tested positive for Covid while gowned and waiting to head into the operating room. But my walk with Levi early in the day definitely stands out as both memorable and bittersweet.

My daily walks in 2022 involved a lot of fun adventures and I’ll treasure this experience for years to come. I can see myself repeating a similar daily activity challenge another time – but not in 2023. It’s nice to reach the finish line of something and feel 100% satisfied + ready to be finished.

Your turn. Have you ever done something 365 (or more!) days in a row? Do you like the structure of a daily activity, or do you find it overwhelming and restrictive?

When My Kids Are Sick, I Act Like The Mother I Thought I’d Always Be

On my very first date with now-husband John, I leaned across the table and confidently proclaimed that what I really wanted to do with my life was to be a stay-at-home mother. I didn’t want a career. I didn’t want to pursue more education.

I also told him I wanted four children.

Oh, honey. You sweet, young thing.

I have been a stay-at-home mother (sort of). I have had a career (sort of). I did pursue more education.

I most definitely have not had four children.

But I think what I didn’t whisper on that date, but what I felt with every ounce of my being was: I’m going to be such an amazing mom.

Because before I became a mother I thought…actually, I don’t know what I thought? Motherhood was this broad vision for my future; in reality, I was a kid (23!) having a kid. What did I know?

Just a few weeks ago I practically wailed to a friend: If I could just rewind time – armed with what I know now – I’d have been a much better parent.

But life doesn’t work like that. There is no rewind button. I’ve done the best I could with what I knew and understood at the time, and my methods continue to evolve, hopefully for the better. Deep down, I just have to pray the kids are patient with me – and me with them – and that when they look back on their childhood they believe I really did try my best.

I’m not as patient or as fun as I thought I would be. I spend more time with my head buried in a device than I could have anticipated (considering smartphones weren’t a “thing” when I first became a mother. Imagine! All those newborn photos were taken with a little point-and-shoot camera whose sole purpose was to capture pictures, not to manage phone calls or digital calendars or playlists).

But, sometimes, I get glimpses of what I thought I would be like as a mother, and these almost always emerge when my children are sick.

Weeks ago, one of the kids was sick. Like, sick, sick. If you’re a parent you know there are distinct degrees of sickness.

The worst sick – for me – is when the kids are sick enough they need to stay isolated at home, but are not sick enough to rest in their beds. This sick is a form of parental purgatory. They want attention and I know the situation warrants it, but they have so much energy and enthusiasm I spend most of the time doubting whether they are actually sick after all. Without at least a little bit of vomit or a hint of fever, well, my inner Florence Nightengale finds it hard to make an appearance.

But then there is real sick. It’s sad and I immediately wish it away. But, there is beauty in this sick, too. I spend nights beside them on their bed, rubbing backs and running to the bathroom at 2 am to re-wet a cloth for their forehead. My fingers can find the right buttons on the thermometer in the dark; I’m constantly poking my head into the room to offer little dishes of dry Cheerios. I heat up Magic Bags or dig ice packs from the freezer, depending on the ailment. Do they want heat and cold? Sure thing. Mom is on it.

Real Sick Mom is patient and kind and attentive. I close their doors softly and stroke foreheads and they lay there and receive it all with a weak appreciation that melts my heart.

And in those moments I think: This is how I thought it would be all the time. This endless patience, soft voices, quiet afternoons of rest in bed.

It’s not. And Praise the Lord. I am so grateful that, generally, my kids are healthy and vibrant and fever-free. In healthy moments I can send them to the kitchen to heat their own Magic Bags or locate their own ice packs. But I’m also grateful for those moments of connection in sickness. I hope they remember these experiences – not the vomit or the fevers or the rashes – but a soft hand rubbing their back in the night.

We can’t control how our kids recall their childhood; I hope they’re gracious and round out any of the hard edges. And maybe, someday, they’ll be tossing and turning all night beside their own feverish offspring and whisper: You know, little buddy, when I was little, Grandma used to sleep beside me when I was sick too! It always made me feel better. Would you like to hear a few stories about that while you try to fall asleep?

Header photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash

Your turn. Do you remember being sick as a child? Are any aspects of those memories pleasant with regard to how your parents related with/tended to you? If you’re currently raising kiddos – share your best suggestions for helping little ones cope with illnesses without losing your own mind!

Turning My Frown Upside Down…

Often, it’s the littlest of things that help lift me out of a sour mood. Sometimes I don’t even realize I have a furrowed brow and tense shoulders. But then I’ll do one of the items from the list below and – Wow! I feel so much better!

I’m not above wallowingat all! – and I try to give myself lots of space to feel whatever emotions are relevant and necessary in the moment. But, it can also feel empowering to take tiny steps toward boosting my mood. Especially as I’m coming off a week where everything felt slightly off-kilter and I was a bit… irritable.

When I was drafting this post, I jotted everything down in a stream of consciousness; while there are many more that would likely be relevant, in reviewing the list it does seem highly reflective of what (currently) works for me.

mood boosters

  • A trip to my favourite cafe. This never fails. It feels like a luxury. And I love people-watching in this space. It’s predominantly a senior-citizen clientele and I can’t get enough of watching the ladies come in with their fresh perms and canes, sipping lattes and having a “chin-wag with the girls”. #LifeGoals
  • Filling my water bottle. I don’t even have to take a drink; just the act of self-love of having a full water bottle gives me a jolt of pleasure and energy.
  • LOUD music. It needs to have a great beat and it really does need to be loud.
  • Freshly mopped floors.
  • Tidying a space.
  • Preparing and consuming a cup of tea. The whole process acts as a reset. Putting on the water to boil, picking out my tea, waiting for it to brew and bustling around the kitchen while I wait. And then – drinking it of course! My favourite for this time of year is Stash brand Decaf Chai.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Writing.
  • Laughing.
  • Driving. Traffic issues aside, I find there to be something inherently relaxing about sitting in the car and driving. The kids are contained and (mostly) don’t fight. I can listen to loud music on the radio (see above).
  • An empty laundry basket.
  • Opening curtains in the morning; closing curtains at night and turning on our outside house lights + lamps in the bedrooms/living room.
  • Brushing my teeth. This doesn’t necessarily spark “joy” in a conventional sense, but it really does boost my confidence and, maybe it’s the mint, but I swear it also gives me a little energy boost as well.
  • When the kids are both asleep early enough that I can sneak in and watch them.
  • Taking a hot shower.
  • Putting on basic makeup/getting dressed in “normal” clothes. Sometimes it’s nice to lounge around in exercise gear all day, but if I’m feeling a bit low, taking 10 minutes to put on some mascara, brush my teeth, and put on slightly less stretchy pants can really reframe my outlook.

Also, a huge thanks to Katie over at Law and Creative (Hi, Katie!) who inspired me to write this post.

Your turn. What things are guaranteed mood boosters for you? Maybe lighting a candle, snuggling a pet, 30 minutes with a good book, or going for a long run?

Header photo by Kyle Hinkson on Unsplash

Temporary Hearing Loss, Hospital Stories + Gratitude

Let’s chat about my hearing loss for a bit, shall we?

The last two weeks have been quite a roller coaster. I woke with excruciating ear pain late Thursday night (13 October). I took an extra-strength anti-inflammatory, wrapped a warm Magic bag around my ears and, thankfully, the pain dissipated by morning.

If you’ve been reading along, you know the punchline to this story. I tested positive for COVID at the hospital and headed home for a long cry and 24 hours of wallowing. At some point – and I was a bit distracted by the chaos of the whole situation – the hearing in my left ear dropped precipitously, though I didn’t think much of it at the time. I no longer had pain and I was basically isolated at home for a week because of my positive COVID test.

Eventually (thanks in part to comments from insightful readers), I started paying closer attention to this lingering issue.

Saturday morning, I booked an appointment to see my family doctor on Monday afternoon. John was gone on a hike until 3:30 pm, and I spent hours dithering about whether I should go to outpatient emergency care at the hospital. I knew the wait time could be long and it felt silly to go when I had an appointment Monday, but I also knew that time could be of the essence and I hadn’t seen any improvement over the 7-8 days with regard to my hearing loss.

I ended up leaving the moment John walked in the door!

hospital stories

*I promise I wasn’t sitting there gawking at people in their distress, these were just the things that happened directly in front of me.

  • When I came out of the triage room with an intake nurse, there were two police officers towering outside in the waiting room keeping close watch over a patient. This was both slightly jarring, and also – since I was reading a murder mystery – a major spark for my imagination. Is this absolutely horrible of me?
  • There was a woman who had gotten a major scrape on her left eye. No fun! Her husband brought her ice chips in a Tim Horton’s coffee cup to help with swelling. How Canadian! She was seen very quickly and emerged with a giant eye patch, gushing about some magic eye drops that had immediately alleviated her pain.
  • There was a Dad who came in with an elementary-school-aged daughter who presented with a huge gash on her forehead. It looked like some very impressive Halloween face painting. She was calm about it all (I suspect there were lots of tears earlier?) and contentedly munched on her Teddy Grahams.
  • There was a heavily pregnant woman with her husband who didn’t even get triaged but was sent straight through to Labour and Delivery; she had clearly been crying and I prayed everything was okay for her and for her unborn baby; how my heart ached for that couple.
  • There was an adorable little toddler with what I can only assume was a horrible case of croup (#BeenThereDoneThat). He had a distinctive barking cough and, like our child who suffered from this, he was coughing so much he would vomit up phlegm. It was heartbreaking BUT his mother – from my subjective vantage point – was an absolute rockstar. She was calm and collected even though he was coughing loudly and nonstop. When he threw up, she cleaned him without any sign of distress, talking him through the process and never hesitated to pull him up into her lap. She never reacted with disgust or fear when something went awry. Eventually, between a cough sucker and some chewable meds, his coughing got better. Thankfully they were also triaged ahead of me and I didn’t hear any more coughing! I wanted to walk over and hug them both (that would have been weird and I would never do such a thing, but I really was in awe of her response).
  • There was another family with an infant (6 months?) and toddler (2.5?). And BOTH kids needed to be seen about different things. We’ve done that! The pictures below were RIGHT before Christmas in 2014 and both kids were sick. Thankfully hospital visits have been almost non-existent as they’ve gotten older. Also: what happened to my babies? Abby no longer decorates herself with stickers. And Levi can’t nap on our shoulders quite so easily. In that picture, he’s less than a month old. Look at those wrinkled little hands and teeny ears. Bless.

The wait time was relatively long – over 4 hours – and I would have preferred to be home doing date-night with my hubby, but I couldn’t help but appreciate:

  • I had a partner at home taking care of the kids. No babysitter required, no bringing kids along.
  • I had a book to read.
  • I live in a country where (many) medical services are free of charge.
  • I have an emergency room 15 minutes from my house; there are many chinks in the free medicare system armour and while I still think it is the optimal situation, unfortunately many ERs in the country are shutting their doors due to nursing and doctor shortages. I am so, so thankful our local ER has stayed open.
  • Other people with more serious ailments were triaged ahead of me which means I wasn’t in acute medical distress. I hope each and every person I saw got the care and treatment they needed, but it did make me very thankful I wasn’t there with gaping wounds or a sick child.

When I got seen by the doctor on call, he told me there was no infection and because it wasn’t a complete hearing loss, steroids wouldn’t make sense (and I was out of the optimal 72-hour window for treatment). He told me to take an antihistamine and go home.

I canceled my appointment with my family doctor and decided to worry less.

Sunday morning at church I bumped into a friend who had a family member permanently lose their hearing because of an auditory nerve infection that wasn’t properly treated. Her husband, a GP, overheard our conversation and agreed that I should get a second opinion.

I dithered more, but Monday morning decided I should see my doctor and – thankfully – the same appointment I had canceled was still available!

And here’s where the gratitude started to run deeper:

  • I have a family doctor. There is a shortage of GPs in Nova Scotia and we are so fortunate to have a (young, only slightly older than me) family doctor.
  • She is very thorough, cares deeply about her patients, and really listens to what we all have to say. She gave me her cell phone number and told me to call with any questions.
  • Her office is a 2-minute drive from our house. I got in the car at 1:10, was parked by 1:13, was in her exam room by 1:14 and we were deep in conversation by 1:15 (my appointment time).

She was far more worried than the ER doc. She did a basic hearing test, said she would recommend a 7-day course of steroids (told me the side effects, but when she said if she was in the same position she’d take the medication, I believed her wholeheartedly), told me I needed an emergency audiogram, and made a referral for an emergency consult with an ENT.

More gratitude:

  • We have a hearing clinic in our town. Like 2 minutes from my doctor’s office, and a 30-second walk from a pharmacy. For a town of 4,000 people, I think this is pretty incredible.
  • At the hearing clinic they offered me an appointment on Tuesday; when I said my doctor wanted me seen right away, they had me in a soundproof box for the hearing test within 2 minutes.
  • The results of the audiogram were good. Some hearing loss, but relatively minor (it was starting to improve at this point). Ironically, my RIGHT ear was actually worse than my LEFT ear in terms of scoring. Apparently, we all have a dominant ear and generally, it is the right ear so hearing loss can be more pronounced/obvious in our dominant ear. I found this fascinating. The audiologist also told me that while my scores were pretty good (just below the normal range), I likely had above-average hearing prior to the viral impact, so could have lost 20-30 db.
  • I had called in my steroid prescription, but the audiologist questioned if that was necessary; I called back to the pharmacy and despite having already filled it but they were happy to cancel the order. I wanted to double-check with my doctor…
  • I went back to my doctor’s office (2 minutes away!), explained the situation to the secretary, and within 30 minutes I had an ENT appointment booked for the next morning and had fit in a follow-up phone call with my own doctor.
  • All this was happening so quickly and unexpectedly and I thought I was going to miss the afternoon bus pickup. Just that morning (John’s away for work this week) a friend in our neighbourhood had texted John to say: If Elisabeth needs anything while you’re away, please tell us. In the end, I made it on time, but it made me so, so thankful that I had the backup in place as needed.
  • I wasn’t expecting to pay for an emergency audiogram (private, so not covered by our universal health care) – but I could afford it. I am so grateful for this privilege. It breaks my heart to think of someone forgoing this sort of test, or having to make a hard choice about not being able to afford as many groceries because of an unexpected medical expenditure.
  • When I picked up my prescription the next day (spoiler alert: the ENT agreed with my family doctor that I should take a short course of steroids; this appointment was a breeze which also made me so thankful) a sweet friend happened to be the pharmacist who filled my prescription! It was a boost of sunshine in my day, especially when she also told me that if I need anything at all, please let her know. For the most part, I don’t need to rely too heavily on others, but it is a blessing to know this option exists.

So there you have it. A long post about my hearing loss which has consumed a big portion of my week, but brought many, many prompts for gratitude.

One last point. Part of me feels…guilty in my gratitude. For starters, I have what should be completely reversible hearing loss while others are suffering through an irreversible cancer diagnosis or other horrible realities. My life reeks of privilege – I’m white, have access to a family doctor, live in a county with a public healthcare system, etc. But sometimes the best thing I can do is focus on my reality – as privileged as it is – and be grateful for what I have.

Your turn. Do you people-watch while waiting for appointments? Is getting efficient medical care a gratitude prompt in your life?

Header photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash