Among Silver Clouds and Sunbeams
by Karla ° Thursday, June 30, 2005
Sound Asleep In
Lullaby Dreams
Among Silver
Clouds and

This was the saying on the front of a baby card I purchased for Ava on top of Sulphur Mountain. We cheated and never actually physically climbed a mountain, but we did ride to the top of one via a Gondola (and even trotted part way up one when we went horseback riding). The view was breathtaking, the air was crisp, and there was THREE feet of snow! Imagine that in the middle of June.

It was a such a wonderful holiday, filled with every extreme of weather and emotion. The mountains truly are amazing and the trip did wonders for our spirits.

We arrived home a few days ago, but it has been a bit hectic traveling back up North to get the cats, unpack and unwind, adjust to our new time zone and recover from the overnight red eye flight home.

Although still in vacation mode and venturing out with my hubby everyday for new adventures, here are a few pictures I wanted to share with you. I’ve truly missed blogging and everyone who I share this experience with and amazing friendships that have blossemed from it. I’ll be back soon! God knows I have a billion stories and photos to share from our holiday (we ONLY took 500 of them). Don’t forget me!

Until then…

Hugs and a squeeze

This is Moraine Lake, or better known to most as "Valley of the Ten Peaks". The scene you see here used to adorn the $20 Canadian bill.

Here we are at Moraine Lake.

Here is the view from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Absolutely Stunning!

Here is me on top of Sulphur Mountain. My feet are covered in snow!

Mark threating to throw a snowball at me! Brrrr doesn't get much better than a fine bottle of red vino, Lindt chocolates (my favorite), a view of the mountains, a fireplace across the room and enough bubbles for hours of frolicking in our private jacuzzi.

Whale watching in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia was a close second to the mountains (we actually located the whales close to Washington near the US coast). Two pods were in the area, totalling almost 60 whales, many of which swam right up under our boat and "breached" for us (the classic out of water jump). I was so fascinated, I forgot to take pictures most of the time. Mark took some great video however, which I'll be sure to share.

And this photo is specially dedicated to AC and Cuppa! Tim Hortons coffee in Canmore! Yummy goodness is what is in that cup right there. We met a woman from Croatia who couldn't get enough of our coffee and stocked up on the tins of it for sale. In light of the fact that tomorrow is Canada Day, this is my patriotic salute to a true Canadian marvel! Thanks Tim Hortons!

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One last thing before we go…
by Karla ° Thursday, June 16, 2005
I’ll leave you with this…a precious memory of our baby girl that is absolutely worth smiling over.

Ava's first bath.

"We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey"

And it is for that reason Ava, that we know you are with us.

You are such a special gift. Your short time with us has graced our lives in the most powerful way. You are all things peaceful and lovely. Your mommy and daddy hold that very close to our hearts, where you will forever remain.

Happier times are ahead, and the happy memories of you are shining through.

Thank you for the precious memories you have given us.


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The Geology of Karla
by Karla ° Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Geology has always been a passion of mine. I can’t help but feel awestruck at the uncompromising power and endurance the forces of nature possess to carve, shape, metamorphosize, renew, crystallize, fossilize, and magnetize the earth.

The Rocky Mountains are particularly fascinating. It took them hundreds of millions of years to form and their story is a true testament of the ability to find brilliant beauty and strength through adversity. I can’t help but find irony behind the natural forces and upheaval that took place to create such an amazing and awe inspiring landscape. It reminds me of my own internal geological forces at work, frantically scouring away at the landscape of my spirit and soul, willing it to move forward after the loss of my baby girl.

Before there were even mountains, the Pacific Ocean covered most of the western provinces. As the ocean advanced and receded time and time again, the waters slowly began leaving behind thin layers of silts and sands in its wake. A few million years later, the first instances of invertebrates and crustaceans breathed life into the ocean, and as these life forms died, their remains sank to the ocean floor creating layers of sediment on top of the fine silts and sands already covering the ground. Over a great deal of time, the load of the sediments compressed the underlying layers into rocky sandstones and shales.

As the world continued to change and evolve, the earths crust along the west coast began to waver. The extraordinary power of plate tectonics caused the layers of sediment on the ocean floor to squeeze, fold and twist relentlessly. The land began to crumpled and buckled and was eventually thrust upward from all of the force being exerted during the great collision. The magnificence and splendor of the Rocky Mountains was born.

Like the advancement and retreating of the Pacific Ocean, my own personal life ocean has advanced and receded often, leaving behind various layers of knowledge, memories, personality and character building strength each time it did. Occasionally, a turbulent storm hit shore and forced the protective shell that harshly defined the boundaries and limits of my being to soften. As I navigated every storm, a metamorphosis took place and the experiences washed ashore have helped shape and form who I am today. Weathering the tides has brought a boundless energy to my spirit, and a longing for life.

I never noticed the calm before the storm that would forever change the filter through which I understood the fragility and preciousness of life. Without warning the most devastating and crippling storm of all was unleashed. It washed my baby girl up on shore, gasping for air, holding on for a life that wasn’t meant to be. The tragedy was ruthless and uncompromising, shattering my life into a million little pieces, each one jagged at the edge, upside down, and scattered in every which direction.

As quickly as the storm arrived, it was gone, and my ocean solemnly returned to a state of retreat, dark clouds looming heavily above. My entire reality was left unsteady and quavering, my soul broken and crushed and my arms empty.

Surviving the aftermath of the storm left me with two choices. I could surrender and crumble from the pressure pushing and gouging at the landscape of my soul, forcing it to a bottomless and heartless depth, or I could embrace and meet the pandemonium staring me in my face head on, push up against it, and build my own mountain to climb and stand upon to rise above the turmoil.

I chose to rise up. I chose to rise above the storm. I chose to beckon my ocean to advance once again, I chose not to drown in sadness and most of all I chose to build my own mountain to climb and stand tall and proud on, above the calamity that will forever linger below.

I know these choices have shaped and strengthened me.

Some days I stand in awe at how I’ve managed to endure through these desperately heart wrenching time and how I have managed to build the resilience and inner strength necessary to withstand the unexpected stormy upheavals in my life as a more compassionate and stronger person.

Some days, I marvel in admiration at the forces I have had to overcome to build and climb that mountain, one slow step at a time.

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Run Karla....Run!
by Karla ° Monday, June 13, 2005
My husband and I have decided to enter the Stephen McClatchey 10th Anniversary Memorial Run being organized by the Perinatal Bereavement Services of Ontario. It takes place on my birthday this coming September.

I have been training for a couple of weeks now. It’s taking me a while to get going after the surgery, and sometimes I get sore, but I will do it!

There is a 5 or 10km (3 or 6 miles) run. We are going for the 10km run and our goal is to do it in an hour.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 26th birthday than honouring the beautiful memory of our baby girl as well as helping other bereaved parents.

I just might show up on your doorstep looking for a pledge.


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Angel Ava Tattoo
by Karla °

My Henna Tattoo. Ava with angel wings.


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Living in fear behind my white picket fence
by Karla ° Sunday, June 12, 2005
How does one overcome the constant anxiety that “something bad is looming around every corner” after experiencing the painful death of their baby?

Once upon a time I used to think I had life by the reigns. I was living my life confidently and purposefully. I had goals and I knew how to obtain them. I lived a blessed and fulfilling life. I was fortunate and lucky. Life didn’t get any better than a wonderful and caring husband, a quaint little house that we could finally call “home”, and financial security to raise a family on one income because that is what we wanted, and was core to our family philosophy.

I had it all; the perfect husband, the perfect home, financial security, and the hopes and dreams of a beautiful little baby to build our life upon…you may as well throw in the white picket fence too. Life was just too perfect. I absolutely did walk around on a cloud believing my life was too good to be true.

Yes, I was a happy, go lucky woman who had it all….until my baby died…

My fairy tale life has since been turned upside down.

My knight in shining armor now cries with me and there is nothing he can say or do to whisk away my pain.

I now fear that reality of my fragility.

My beautiful home now haunts me every time I walk by Ava’s nursery and think of all that could have been. I cannot enter a room without reliving a daydream or fantasy about Ava. I cannot escape a particulary compelling daydream of us walking down the street holding hands on her first day of school. She has the cutest little brown pigtail braids, a nervous smile and a tiny sack drapped across her little shoulder filled with a nutritious lunch and a picture of mommy and daddy that she can look at if she misses us, as we stroll down the street excited and nervous about her first day of school.

I fear all of the fantasy daydreams I still have that torment me of Ava growing up in this house. The non-reality memories and dreams haunt me everyday and I cannot find a way to move past them. My home and its lack of hopes and dreams preoccupy me. It feels so empty. I don’t know how to reestablish a sense of tranquility and peacefulness behind the brick exterior I reluctantly call home.

My financial security and investments now feel frivolous and sardonic, a constant reminder of the years of saving and penny pinching. Years of me attempting to tolerate a hateful corporation that sucked away at my soul to be able to one day be a stay at home mom free of financial woes or money related problems. Years of sadness and anger now wasted. Why did I not understand that life is too short to not pursue a passion rather than a paycheck?
I fear the mindset and mentality I have learned from corporate life. I fear that I cannot accept the things I have learned about business, banks and our government as life lessons, but only see corrupt people and intolerance behind the phony smiles and fancy suits.

My friends have mostly dissipated throughout the turmoil, most not knowing what to say, and surely feel that saying nothing and avoidance is easier than being there for us to help navigate the path to recovery.

I now fear how lonely this planet really is. It is truly heart wrenching to watch the world whiz on by when your own life is in shambles. It is hard to accept that other people can move on, when you aren’t ready. It is hard to accept that not everyone cares to understand or listen.

And now, my husband, my love, is on an airplane without me, and scheduled to land in the same US State as the tragic 9-11 Pittsburgh crash.

I fear his safety and wonder what would happen if he died today. I don’t even know where I would even start to pick up the pieces if he was whisked out of my life too. I fear life and its harsh realities. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear and horror of my second biggest nightmare coming true. My worst nightmare has come true for godsake! How can I not wonder if more sadness and wretchedness awaits me around the next corner.

How can I not live in fear of my nightmares when the blackness and dreadfulness of the worst reality possible has crossed the boundary from "what if" into my reality?

My perfect little life isn’t so perfect after all, and sometimes, living in the shadow of fear behind my white picket fence is all I can muster.


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Love and Letters
by Karla ° Friday, June 10, 2005

My man has lived up to every fantasy a little girl daydreaming about her future husband could wish for.

Thanks you darling, for loving me and being the gentle and caring husband that you are. We truly do walk through life hand in hand, knowing our love is ever growing and ever true.

While digging through our memorabilia box (what a cheeseball I was and still am), I dug up my first love letter to you. I was 16, without a care in the world, except for you and our future together. I know it’s pretty freaky that I still coloured when I was 16, but that’s beside the point. Finding my first love letter has moved me to tears. How did we know so young? I’m so proud how we’ve managed to endure and thrive.

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Let Him Eat Cake - A Smart Ass Revolution
by Karla °
Either I have married the biggest smart ass on the planet, or the smartest man. I haven’t quite determined which.

The other day while driving through the city in search of ice cream, Mark asked me when the last time the car had an oil change was.

I reminded him it was only a few weeks ago and how I had nagged him for a month to get the oil changed (along with a million other chores) before Ava was born.

His response:

My dear, you don’t nag! Listening to you is like eating cake. Sometimes I like lots of cake, so I don’t do stuff on purpose so I can savor all your glorious cake.

I wasn’t sure if I should call him a smart assed bastard or kiss him.

Damn! I hate when he wins!

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Ava's Memory Locket
by Karla ° Wednesday, June 8, 2005
In hopes of keeping Ava close to my heart and her memory with me at all times, I bought a locket. Inside, it holds a lock of her hair and her picture.

Knowing she will be with me in heart, soul, body and mind while we journey through the Rocky Mountains next week comforts me, but physically carrying a small reminder of her while we experience the splendor and magnificence of such a geological wonder adds yet another mending stitch to my broken heart and healing soul.

For you baby girl, we're escaping to a small corner of the earth to seek strength from the brilliance of a mountain range.

For you baby girl, we're going to climb a mountain and sit in the clouds next to you, where you now rest peacefully, and seek harmony and serenity from the beauty and glory of our surroundings.

For you baby girl, I carry a peice of your hair and your photo, so I never forget your precious life, and always keep you close to my heart.

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The Neanderthal
by Karla ° Tuesday, June 7, 2005
A week after my crash c-section, I was still in a lot of pain and couldn’t tolerate it any longer. I don’t think there is a way to put this delicately, but I was constipated like a son of a bitch. Your bowels just don’t feel the least bit compelled to get moving after a surgery like that, and truthfully, the constipation pain was far worse than labour. After waiting three hours at the walk in clinic for some relief, I was sent to emergency at the hospital for x-rays to check for an obstructed bowel (nasty).

Before being x-rayed, I attempted to communicate with “the Neanderthal” as I have so fondly named him, about the risks associated with x-raying over my reproductive organs. It was eight days since Ava had passed away, but the fear of not being able to have children again was very real. If having an x-ray over my uterus and exposing it to any sort of radiation posed any potential risks, I wanted (and needed) to know. I knew from my Geophysics background the horrible things that radiation (especially from an x-ray) can do to your body.

I was sitting in a wheel chair because I could barely walk. I could walk and stand through labour contractions, but not this pain. I was left out in the hallway twiddling my thumbs in my little wheelchair for what felt like forever before “the Neanderthal” emerged from his x-ray lair, peered over me and asked “is there any chance you are pregnant?”. I looked at him with so much disdain and hate for asking that question and spat out “No, my baby just died”.

Without even altering his cold expression or batting an eye lash he responded “So you are sure you aren’t pregnant”. I repeated my answer. “No, my baby just died”. “Ok”, he said. “as long as you aren’t pregnant”.

I looked quizzically at my husband, brows furrowed and stunned at “the Neanderthals” lack of sensitivity.

I piped up “Actually sir, I am hoping we can discuss this x-ray. I did just loose my baby and I am hoping to have more children sometime in the future. I need to understand the risks associated with an x-ray that passes over my uterus and reproductive organs before proceeding.”

His very political and democratic response was, “we perform x-rays on woman of childbearing age all the time. You can choose not to have the x-ray and leave if you want”. I thought of the state of pain I was in and the alternative of receiving no relief unless the doctors had the information they needed to proceed from this x-ray. I looked at Mark for some form of reassurance. Obviously this guy wasn’t out to help us understand anything, but we didn’t see any alternative. We had tried everything else, and this was the last resort. We agreed to proceed.

Mark had to leave the room while they did the x-ray. For the first x-ray, I was to lay flat on my back. I had a hard time getting out of the wheel chair and an even harder time trying to lay down on my own. I started to cry. I was so embarrassed to even be at the hospital for something like this, and was just devastated that I had to endure so much pain and now fear of exposing my reproductive organs to radiation while the raw emotions of my daughter’s death were still so fresh and painful in their own right.

While preparing the x-ray machine hanging from the ceiling above me, “the Neanderthal” saw that I was crying. I thought the look on his face revealed a hint of sympathy before he blurted out, “so you have no kids right?” Jesus Mother F*ing H. Christ! Was this asshole for real? Of course I have a child! Obviously he had no social skills or compassion. I spat back and challenged, “If you think the fact that my child just died means I don’t have a child, then no, I have no children”. He shrugged and left to cower behind his protective lead barrier while I exposed my uterus to the hateful radiation.

The second x-ray required me to be standing. Trying to rise from laying flat on my back was quite difficult. First, my abdominal muscles had been sliced open and it hurt to even sneeze. Second, I had BAD CONSTIPATION PAIN. I was essential immobile (no pun indented). I needed assistance walking for Christ’s sake, getting out of bed unassisted was next to impossible. I asked “the Neanderthal” to help me get up. He looked down on me with an obvious disgust and asked me what I wanted him to do. What a heartless bastard I thought to myself. I didn’t respond to his question and just grabbed his arm and helped myself up.

I was relieved to get out of that room. I’m sure I was asked the question “Do you have any children?” 1001 times before I became pregnant without even giving it a second thought. Now, the question is a double edged sword. No matter how I answer it, either I’m lying to the person about my answer, or my answer only leads to more painful questions or, in the case of "the Neanderthal", painful assumptions and hurtful comments.

I’m still not sure how to handle this sort of situation. I suppose it will depend on the person and the circumstance. The thought of just answering that I have no children to keep it simple and painless seems so unjust and wrong. I do have a beautiful baby girl, why should I feel compelled to hide that fact just to keep an awkward situation platonic? But on the same hand, I don’t want to cause unnecessary tension for a well meaning stranger or acquaintance.

Perhaps I will need to put on my emotionless face like “the Neanderthol” and provide the “politically correct” response. A response that will please the masses, avoid awkward silences and not reveal the actual truth. Sometimes it is just easier that way. The people that sent me a Mother’s Day card or wished me a Happy Mother’s Day understand that I am a mommy and I do have a child. At least the people that matter most to me in my life understand and I guess that is all I can ask for.

In case you’re wondering (cause I know it's such a burning question), yes, I received an enema. In fact, I made Mark sit right there beside me while the nurse administered it so he could be a part of my misery and embarrassment. What a swell guy he is!

At least I kept my sense of humour about my humiliating experience. While leaving the hospital we had to purchase a token to exit the parking lot. I told the attendant who we purchased our token from that it just cost me $7.00 to come here and poo!


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Airplane Adventure Story Four: Experiencing a sunrise above the clouds
by Karla ° Monday, June 6, 2005

This is one of the most magical and moving moments in my life.

We caught “the red eye” flight home from Vegas last year. The midnight flight out of Las Vegas meant we would be landing at 6:00 am Toronto time once the three hour time zone change was factored in.

After a good nights rest of two and half hours sleep(!!), I awoke to the most blaring and intense light in my face.

What I saw brought a tear to my eye. We were flying above the clouds as the sun started to rise. I’ve seen plenty of sun rises in my short life, but nothing could compare to this. There was a feeling of weightlessness and exhilaration as we soared above the clouds and were privvy to most beautiful sunrise as it started to breathe life onto the world below.

Something as simple and routinely predictable as a sunrise was so incredibly powerful to experience flying about the clouds.

There was a moment of clarity, like in the movie Contact when Jodie Foster found God in space.

The intensity and passion of the moment left me speechless.


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Airplane Adventure Story Three: Would you like some feathers with your lace sir?
by Karla °
We were about to leave the airport in Jamaica to return home. We had made it through all the security checks just fine. Feeling relieved to be away from all the accusatory eyes of the airport security staff, we bid our farewells to the beautiful country and entered through the last set of doors before boarding the plane.

We were stopped dead in our tracks. There was ANOTHER security stop, but this time, instead of just scanning and x-raying the baggage, all carryon luggage was subject to open searches (they really think everyone is out to smuggle their drugs).

It occurred to me that Mark was pulling my carryon (mine had the red identifying tags) and I wondered if I should switch bags with him knowing what the contents of my bag contained.

Let me paint the picture for you.

If it was frilly, hot pink, see through, lacey or covered in red feathers it was in that bag.

Deciding to see how many more shades of red Mark’s cheeks could get (on top of his sunburn), we continued on.

Let’s just say his cheeks did in fact, turn a deep shade of crimson red when the bag was opened and all the lingerie, make up and feminine stuff inside was revealed.

To this day he refuses to even hold my purse if I need to tie a shoelace. Fear of being caught with feminine stuff has scarred the poor boy for life! I’m sure no one really pictured him in a hot pink thong and red feathered slippers, but I guess the connotation was always there seeing that he WAS the one carrying the bag after all.

Tee Hee!


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Airplane Adventure Story Two: The Rubber Glove Shows No Love
by Karla ° Friday, June 3, 2005
On our way home from our honeymoon in Jamaica, we happened to be the unfortunate couple in the crowd that was held back for further investigation. Apparently, leaving the country and not declaring anything seemed highly suspicious. When asked if we were sure we had nothing to declare, we put on our most innocent looking faces, smiled and said we were just returning from our honeymoon (wink wink, nudge nudge), so of course we didn’t spend any time shopping if you catch my drift.

Apparently, a cocky attitude and trying to be funny with a customs officer is not a good idea. The officer, looking very annoyed at our attempt at humour gazed down on us with contempt and condescension, repeating the question. “Are you absolutely sure you have nothing to declare?” At that point I didn’t think it was a wise idea to change the story and declare the t-shirt I was wearing. Truthfully, I was too lazy to fill out my little yellow declaration card on the airplane. I tried to nonchalantly zip up my jacket to hide the palm trees plastered across my chest (they just screamed “smuggle alert”). We all know the consequences for smuggling a t-shirt into Canada!

After a few minutes of getting grilled with questions about our stay and what we did, they decided to pull us aside for “further investigation”. I don’t know how two young people, obviously just returning from their honeymoon looked so suspicious. I mean I know we don’t tan well, but we really had just spent the week in Jamaica. Honest!

I still remember the moment so clearly in my mind. The officer who wanted to see us for “further investigation” signaled us over and proceeded to slip on a white rubber glove. Mark froze in his tracks at the echo of the rubber glove snapping against the officer’s wrist. I could almost hear the gears in his brain working in overdrive trying to figure out a way to get out of the situation.

I can still see the smirk on the officer’s face as he eyed Mark up and down, challenging him to run away from “the glove”.

We reluctantly approached the officer and surrendered our luggage. Again, we were asked if we had any drugs or alcohol. (Why is it that everyone who leaves Jamaica is expected to have Jamaican rum anyways?) For the last time, WE HAVE NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL. Hands shaking, Mark stumbled to find the key to unlock our luggage and in the process, dropped it on the floor. Poor guy, under so much stress from the situation I think he thought he was dropping a bar of soap in a prison shower. He bent down to pick up the key in the most contorted way so as to not expose his bum in the air too much, as if he was expecting the gloved finger to poke him right then and there in his compromised bent over position.

He finally retrieved the key and opened up the suitcase. The officer rummaged around in our belongings for a little while. Luckily, he didn’t feel that our luggage consisting of lingerie and granola bars was so suspicious after, (you just never know what foreign food will be like) and sent us on our merry way, bum holes left unscathed.

I’m positive that Mark’s ass muscles still haven’t recovered from the extreme clenching he was doing praying for a miracle to save him from surrendering his bum hole to a stranger. Poor guy. No wonder he hates flying so much!

Next time I’ll be sure to buy a bottle of rum to declare. Apparently, carrying around alcohol makes you look less suspicious!


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Airplane Adventure Story One: No Problem Mon!
by Karla ° Thursday, June 2, 2005

This morning my mind started drifting to our upcoming holiday in the mountains and it suddenly occurred to me that we’re going to be boarding a plane again soon. We have certainly had our fair share of funny and foolish airport and airplane adventures. Although we haven’t joined the mile high club (yet), we’ve managed to have almost as much fun and adventure in an airport or airplane as we have while actually vacationing.

Four stories come to mind:
-- The story of being an accessory to a drug run.
-- An embarrassing baggage search
-- The (almost) cavity search
-- Experiencing a sunrise above the clouds.

Here is the first installment of this four part mini series of our airplane adventures: Please faster your seatbelts!

One of our more humorous adventures took place on a small little private charter plane in Jamaica. To set the stage for this little story, I think it’s important to point out the obvious about Jamaica. It is a country known for its cannabis (better known to most as pot). No Problem Mon! I smoked cigarettes at the time, not weed.

Our honeymoon destination was a resort in Negril, Jamaica (not Hedonism II as per Mark’s wishes, we compromised for the couples only resort next door).

Upon arrival at Montego Bay we decided to ditch the free Air Canada bus transportation to the resort and take a private charter plane instead. The bus ride was an hour and a half to Negril from Montego Bay and we were anxious to get our pale asses on the beach for some fun in the sun.

Feeling totally exhilarated to be in Jamaica, we depart the group and head over to Air Jamaica Mon! While journeying over to this section of the airport, a nice man drives up in an airport passenger bus and offers a ride over to the charter plane area. He also offered us all the drugs in the world. No thanks, but
No Problem Mon!

We arrive; buy our tickets and someone offered to take our bags for us. They begin to prep the plane for take off, but we were “held up” while they waited for authorization. They inform us that it's No Problem Mon...just a few technicalities. There was a flurry of activity for a little while, until finally, we’re good to go.

The charter planes share the same runway as all the planes flying into Montego Bay. We were about to take off when the pilot looks to his left and there was a giant US Airways plane heading straight for us. It was then that I realized there was no sophisticated radio communication system to determine when to take off. It was essentially, look both ways before you cross the street, say a prayer, hope there are no oncoming planes and if you’re a passenger, try and ignore the alcoholic beverage in the pilots drink holder, close your eyes and hope for the best.

Once we were finally in the air, the charter plane ride to Negril was breathtaking as we flew over the most crystal clear blue water I have ever seen. The landing however, was the craziest I have ever seen. We landed on a local road! I’m glad there were no cars coming from the opposite direction!

Once we landed, two very big men ran up the plane. Silly girl that I am, I thought they were there to assist us off the plane. Was I ever wrong. They didn’t even acknowledge my husband or me as the pilot handed him a large brown envelope and yelled GO GO GO. The big burly men ran back to their vehicle and sped away.

We had just funded a drug run! GOOD!

Excellent way to start your honeymoon! Become an accessory in crime!

We celebrated our new criminal records by indulging in a flaming Bob Marley, the official "initiation" drink of the island, as soon as we arrived at the resort.

Meet Derek. The ULTIMATE bartender. He took care of us MON!

As an aside, if you ever visit Jamaica and someone offers to take you to the “Plantation” don’t be a naïve schmuck like me and assume they are talking about cotton fields. You’ll look like a real idiot! But really...its Not a Problem Mon!


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The Moment of Truth
by Karla ° Wednesday, June 1, 2005
I woke up Monday morning, eyes still puffy and sore from the night before, to get ready for our fateful appointment to learn more about why Ava died.

My husband and I drove to the train station in Pickering. I started to feel panicky at the thought of seeing people I recognized (because that would mean they might recognize me). It’s funny what a small little contained society a car on the Go Train is. People have a habit of getting on the same car and sitting in the same spot, day in and day out. After years of commuting on the train, you get to recognize and know a lot about the people around you, even if you never speak a word to them. I wasn’t ready to be around anyone who remembered me and my pregnant belly (especially the ones who ask my husband now how we are doing).

Since avoiding the train wasn’t an option, we decided to board on the far east side of the track, rather than our regular west end car. While waiting for the train, I recognized three people and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. They recognized me too, because they made obviously glances to my belly. I stood next to a man on the train who takes the 5:33 all stops train to Pickering every night. He nodded a familiar hello to me signaling he recognized me, but didn’t speak. I don’t know him, but we often sat in the same seat area on the train and on one occasion when I sat across from him he commented that the carrots I was eating was a healthy snack for the baby. As that thought entered my mind, my eyes quickly began to well up with tears and I turned my back to him.

After departing the train at Union station my husband I made our way to the subways. As the subway approached my husband walked closer to the “yellow line” in an effort to get near the doors and get a seat. I stood far back and cowered near the wall suddenly feeling an intense fear of someone pushing me or losing my balance and falling onto the tracks of the oncoming train. Mark signaled for me to follow him, but I couldn’t. I was frozen with fear. I feel that way a lot now. I fear that something terrible is going to happen to Mark or myself. I waited until the subway came to a complete stop before stepping away from the wall.

The subway ride was uneventful, but I was growing more and more anxious at the thought of being surrounded by pregnant bellies in the next few minutes. Surprisingly, I walked into the office building, eyes forward, and made a beeline right to the reception desk. I asked them if they had a room I could wait in because I was here to discuss a neonatal death and did not want to sit amongst pregnant woman.

They quickly found a room for my husband and me to wait in. They left my medical records on the table and I quickly snatched them and began reading. Inside was the preliminary autopsy results, the pathology report on my placenta and the internal audit report. My husband and I started scanning the documents. A lot of the words didn’t make any sense (medical terminology), but it was easy to get the gist of what it read. Nothing seemed to state a cause of death however. A nurse came in to see us. Seeing us reading my medical charts she tactfully pulled them away and asked how we were doing. I knew she didn’t want us reading the reports until the doctor had a chance to review them.

The nurse performed all the standard checks on me. She poked and prodded, checked my wound from the incision of the c-section, blood pressure and a bunch of boring stuff that I couldn’t have cared less about because I was anxious to get to the details of the reports.

My OB’s name is Dr. Maxwell. She arrived in the waiting room and before getting down to business (which I was fully prepared to do) she surprised me by asking how we were doing. She wanted to hear how Mark and I were coping and navigating through everything. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at her compassion, she did, after all, come to visit us in the hospital after Ava passed away and shed many tears with us.

I was just so raring to go and get to the facts, I forgot about the human side that doctors have too.

We learned that the official autopsy results were not complete yet. We had a preliminary report, but they were still searching for answers.

The results obtained from my placenta were unremarkable. Normal normal normal.

We reviewed the internal audit for timing. I was relieved that everything documented was exactly as I had remembered. I carried a Mount Sinai hospital card that had to be swiped everywhere I went, so I guess it would have been hard to alter the facts, but I was expecting them to be different, if nothing than to shorten the timing on everything to make the hospital look good. There was none of that. All the timings jived with our cell phone records and memories exactly.

Finally, we discussed the results of the autopsy. Be warned. If you are faint at heart this is not the section to read. I know I had to remove myself from all motherly attachment for a few moments to be able to listen to what I was about to hear. I will try and explain this gently.

The full report is not in yet because not all the testing has been completed. The preliminary results posed more questions for the medical staff. The results of her autopsy were as follows:

The provisional pathological diagnosis:
38 week gestation female(neonatal death)
· Hypertolerism
· Skin tag anterior right ear
· Some excess nuchal skin
· Meconium staining of the skin
· Heart (Prominent endocardial blood vessels region of limbus of foramen ovale, SVC opening, AV node area)

In reference to the heart, in a nutshell, as the doctor explained, the theory to date is thus:

The “pacemaker” of Ava’s heart had a small structural abnormality. This sort of abnormality is nothing that one would normally concern themselves with, but that, combined with precipitous labour, caused Ava to become very distressed.

Distressed babies, although not uncommon, can usually handle the journey down the birth canal, and the squeezing and squishing of a contraction. Going from womb to real world is a stressful event for any baby, but normally, babies cope just fine. The theory is that the stress of such an intensely fast labour combined with the weakness in the pacemaker of her heart was just too much for her to handle. Becoming distressed, she passed meconium (or her anal muscles loosened and she had a bowel movement). All of these factors on their own don’t usually become too much of an issue. Combine them all together, and it’s just too much for a baby to cope with. Therefore, her poor little heart couldn’t handle contractions with the intensity and ferocity of my quick labour. She became distressed…very distressed and couldn’t cope.

I asked how come this sort of thing wasn’t picked up at any of my weekly ultrasounds or the ECHO that was completed back in February. The doctor explained that an ultrasound cannot see tissue and cell structure. This was not something they could have detected or have known about.

That is the theory for now. Ava’s heart has been sent to the The Hospital for Sick Children to be examined further by their experts to dig deeper for answers. For those who aren’t familiar with “Sick Kids”, this is where my ECHO was performed back in February on Ava’s heart. It is also one of the largest paediatric academic health science centres in the world. The hospital has an international reputation for excellence in health care and research. Although I would have requested a second opinion from the results provided by Mount Sinai, I would feel absurd seeking a second opinion from the results that come back from Sick Kids. The best of the best work here. There aren’t many other places in Canada that compare. I am happy this is where they are doing their research.

The skin tag on the ear is actually quite endearing. Mark was also born with a “spock” ear (as in Spock from star treck). No one else in the Cadeau family has ever exhibited this bizarre ear characteristic, only Mark and Ava, which makes it quite special and endearing. He remembers holding her for the first time thinking that she too would have to have her ear operated on like him to remove the excess skin, then realizing she wouldn’t live long enough to ever get teased about it.

When discussion started to focus on the Hypertolerism and excess nuchal skin, our overly sensitive minds were put to the ultimate test. Both of these characteristics are associated with genetic disorders, or Downs Syndrome.

The doctor tried to make it clear that she didn’t believe this was in any way what caused Ava to die, but I’m sure you can imagine that Mark and I were severely devastated. I remembered back when all the genetic testing was offered to me and I refused them. I refused them because for one, I didn’t believe there was any risk of genetic abnormalities because there was no history of it in either of our families, and second, no matter what the outcome, I would never EVER terminate a pregnancy based on that, and didn’t want to know my 16 week old baby’s genetic make up. It didn’t matter to me then.

So why did it matter to me now?

We asked the doctor if they had any blood tests to determine if there was a genetic abnormality, but apparently that isn’t a standard procedure. We authorized an autopsy, and genetic testing was something altogether different. I’m sure the doctor could sense we were about to fly through the roof with concern.

Excess Nuchal skin (skin on the back of the neck) has been linked to babies who are born with Downs Syndrome. In fact, they are now starting to perform ultrasounds that measure the “Nuchal Translucency” of the back of babies necks to check for such a thing. I was panicking. The doctor seemed to think the extra skin was simply due to edema in the baby, but of course, Mark and I were in a tizzy trying to fathom what we were being told.

Hypertolerims is a term that refers to an abnormally large spacing between the eyes, with a wider spacing indicating a genetic problem.

We requested genetic testing be performed as soon as possible. The doctor suggested that Mark and I be tested as well for our genetic makeup. She ordered Karyotype tests to rule out chromosomal problems.

This was the ultimate blow. All we wanted was an answer to why our baby had to die, and now we may have been part of the problem. Our DNA wasn’t compatible. I know I would love my baby no matter what, but how do you even begin to comprehend that your DNA, the genetic make up of who you are and the person you love, isn’t compatible for child bearing? How can a couple who so intensely want to have children survive that?

We finished up with the doctor and she handed us our blue forms to complete the blood work. She told us that we were the strongest couple she has ever seen and she was amazed at how we handled everything with so much grace. She is a high risk doctor, and I know she has seen her fair share of unfortunate outcomes. I really want to believe she meant that. I shared with her some photos of Ava before we left. It just didn’t feel right leaving on a note of medical theories and big medical words. This visit was about Ava afterall, a little baby girl that meant the world to my husband and me. I wanted to end it on a humanistic and compassionate note. Dr. Maxwell began to cry.

We bid our goodbyes and took our little blue forms (they may as well have plastered genetic defect on my forehead at that point), and went and took a number for our blood tests. I was pretty much numb and full of hate and despair at that point. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I wanted to just crawl in a hole and die.

We sat silently with our numbers for a little while before I turned to Mark and told him I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to suffer through this because no matter what, I still wanted more children and I still wouldn’t have an amniocentisis or Chorionic Villus Sampling done on any future pregnancies. The risks were too great, and I would love my children no matter what!

We walked out of the building, blue forms left behind in the trash, heads hanging lower than they have ever hung. Conversation wasn’t flowing easily. I don’t think either of us knew what to think.

Mark walked me to Union station and sat with me while we waited for a train before he returned to work. A little bird flew up to us as Mark was eating his banana muffin. She looked at us with the most intense curiosity and hopped around so close to our feet. Mark broke off a few crumbs of his muffin and fed them to her. She happily gobbled them up. I started to think about the muffin he held in his hand. Since I’ve been off work I try and make sure we have a bountiful supply of banana muffins because they are Mark’s favorite, especially when he can smell them baking when he arrives home from work. I thought of being at home with Ava and baking muffins together because the smell of fresh muffins made daddy happy and a tear trickled down my cheek.

I caught the train home and Mark went back to work. The rest of the afternoon was tough. So much to think about and so few answers were available. All we had to go on were theories and now, the curveball discovery of possible chromosome problems linked to Ava’s death. Life felt so unfair. I don’t think I can even find words to describe what a blow this news was for us.

At 5:30 my cell phone rang. The call display indicated it was the hospital calling. It was my OB, Dr. Maxwell. She had the results of the genetic testing on Ava already. I held my breath.

“Everything is absolutely normal!”

I breathed the biggest sigh of relief. I questioned her about the Hypertolerism and excess nuchal skin? She explained that some babies are on the extremes of “normal” and Ava just happens to fall on that side of the extreme (and what a beautiful extreme she is). I thanked her for following up with me so quickly. I wasn’t expecting such a quick response, but I think she saw how worked up Mark and I got about the possibility of a genetic problem and got the answers for us right away.

It’s funny how a piece of news like that can totally alter your mood. I think I was happier than I have ever been for the past seven weeks. Even though we still didn’t have any definitive answers, the fact that genetics were ruled out was hands down the best news they could have told me. Elated, I called Mark on his cell phone to tell him the good news.

What an emotionally draining day that was. I’m very anxious to learn the results of the research at Sick Kids, but it can take another 3 – 4 months. For now, I am satisfied that they have a theory at least, and although there are many factors involved that all had to come together to cause such a traumatic event to occur, I can live with that. At least they just didn’t say “sometimes these things happen”.

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