August 17th, 2016
We arrived at the six month mark in May. Our confidence in parenting and routine had increased ten fold. Our months included regular visits to the blood lab to obtain results for Isla’s liver treatments as well as GI clinic visits. The lovely staff at the blood lab started to anticipate Isla's visits with great joy to which I always said: "Thank you, nothing personal, but I wish she was beloved by a different group of people.”
Beauty Quotient, by Evan Marshall et al
I'm not surprised though. Complete strangers will literally stop mid-walk, pull a 180, stop traffic, roll down a mountain side, and swim across a body of water just to tell us how beautiful our little girl is (exaggerated a little, but very close to reality). Now if only we could start getting them to pronounce her name correctly. I guess it's our own damn fault that we named her an uncommon and pretty name (it's tough being beautiful). We even had someone argue with us once that there was an "s" in her name so she would pronounce it is-la instead of eye-la to which I said in my mind: "pick up a damn book lady, I hope the damn silent "s" in island doesn't knock you over the head." The stupidity definitely did not stop there, but I will give more examples later in this post. Now I know parents are always biased so I had set off on a quest to determine Isla's beauty quotient. This quest started during our time in the maternity ward when each nurse went out of their way to tell us that our baby was beautiful during the "alien-phase" right after birth. The mis-shaped, cone-like head with the beady eyes, and robotic-like movements. The cherry flavoured Jelly Belly colour and constant screechy cry, but people still thought this freak of nature was “beautiful.” My scientific mind could not take it any longer and I immediately setup a research project to study this creature we had created. The project started with the ruling out of friends and family. Sorry folks, I really appreciate all of the nice things you have said about our little lady, but you can’t be trusted. In true scientific fashion, I needed to eliminate any erroneous data by studying only people who have no emotional ties to our girl (complete strangers). I also had to protect Isla’s security so strange fidgety men with moustaches, ice cream trucks, and odd women with a trunk full of Jolly Ranchers were also ruled out (sorry, I watch way too many crime dramas on TV, which creates my wild imagination). Next, I needed to train my ears to the faint comments such as “awwwwwwwwww,” “gee-golly-gosh,” and “oooh look baby! Frank why won’t you have a damn baby with me you waste of space?” I also had to train my peripheral vision, because a lot of comments would occur when we already passed the person. They would stop mid-step, pull a “back handspring” to “aerial cartwheel” to gain a better vantage point of our baby, and make one of the aforementioned comments. Sometimes I didn’t even need to train my eyes/ears, because people would shamelessly slam their shopping carts into ours, put up a roadblock of toilet paper rolls in the aisle, and say: “I just have to take a look at that baby!” These actions were alarming at first, but after a while I would reluctantly oblige to their demands while cocking my fist; just in case (babies make people go cray cray fo sheez). The next step was to alter my movements whilst pushing her in a shopping cart, stroller, or carrying her in her car seat. I had to transition from my fight or flight response towards crazy people to ignoring my innate reflexes altogether. I needed to switch from awkwardly smiling, pretending not to hear their baby fever comments, or bitch slapping people; to slowly stopping, turning around, and engaging in nonversation with these people (the things I do for the good of science). I had to measure these extreme comments and actions compared to the token ones. For example: a quick glance and smile, a “how cute” while still walking, or a gasp. Essentially the people who just weren’t putting their heart into it. Please see the following graph for my findings...
Isla’s Beauty Quotient et al. The data in the chart was gathered during a one month period in Isla’s life. It was a single blind test sampling of a random group of 100 strangers from Nova Scotia and Toronto. Crazies indicate a higher quotient whereas half-assers indicate a lower quotient. There were no subjects who claimed that the tested subject was clearly ugly, but we will allow for a 1% error due to this possibility. Findings indicate a 75% beauty quotient supporting the hypothesis that Isla’s beauty was well above average.
At the end of the day, who the hell really knows if their baby is beautiful or just a shit filled pile of snot bubbles. It really doesn’t matter. What is it they lamely say? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” All I know is that my sweet little girl is the prettiest baby in the land and if anyone says other-wise, I’ll start naming names on this blog! P.S. I embarrassingly performed this study, no joke, just because...
As Isla’s condition worsened her skin and eye colour became more and more yellow to the point of almost glowing in certain lights. There was no more avoiding it; we had a yellow baby. For the most part people usually avoided the subject out of respect for our privacy, but there are always a few gems who ruin it for everyone else. Trust me, I don’t mind talking about our little girl’s story. I write a damn public blog and share it with the world for shit sakes, but it is all about the approach. Some people let their own blatant curiosity (or nosiness) cloud their judgement of social cues and being in retail for as long as I have been, you would think I have seen it all. I should know by now that some people’s children will always pop up and surprise me.
The three of us were out shopping for a new pair of sandals for myself. Katie would agree, but this trip was looooooong overdue. Much to my lovely wife’s dismay, I had been wearing a pair of yellow and black thong Crocs for about a decade now. Now don't worry, I never wore them with socks, I have more self respect than that. They were just so damn comfortable and squishy under my feet. I wouldn't have even attended this sandal purchasing outing if I was not forced into the inevitable. One of the happiest moments for Katie, in our 12 year relationship, was in the summer of 2015. We were heading back home from a local waterfall (Hells Gate or Three Pools). For those of you who have been, you know it is quite the little jaunt up and down the hillside on your way out. On this particular occasion I was wearing my trusty bumble bee Crocs. On the way down the final hillside I stepped just a little too hard to gather my balance and “snap!” In that moment Katie, who was walking ahead of me, whipped back around with a look of pure horror. I had made it seem like the snap sound was the sound of my femur breaking as I rolled around on the gravel hillside clenching my foot (I am tearing up just writing this section). After a decade of holding up my extremely powerful masculine body, my poor left Croc finally threw in the towel and snapped under the pressure. I even held a ceremony for them beside the SUV, took pictures and stared back at them longingly in the rearview mirror as we drove away (Katie with a look of pure glee the whole time). Either way, it was finally time to buy a new pair. I will not say the word “replace” as nothing could ever replace those glorious yellow rubbery bundles of joy. That long story was just the lead up and actually has no relation to the reaction the store clerk had towards Isla.
We arrived at a shoe store in New Minas which Katie recommended due to their availability of Birkenstocks (you would think she was commissioned by that company due to her pushiness for the brand). I am sure they are wonderful sandals, but I did not get any because they look like a pair of corks strapped to your feet. As we entered the store we were greeted by two older ladies working at the time. One obviously mentioned how beautiful Isla was and said she would be with us in a moment. I made the mistake of walking towards the other saleslady in the back of the store. She quickly pointed out that she noticed our baby was a little yellow. Just a note to all of you out their who haven’t had a jaundice baby: this is not the way you want to start a conversation with a parent of a yellow baby. Usually the socially adept people at this moment notice my annoyed look on my ginger face or avoidant speak, but this lady clearly did not. She continued questioning me, like I was under arrest, in regards to our apparently unbelievably yellow baby. The conversation went as follows:
Me: “Yes, I noticed that as well. It must be due to this rare liver disease which she has been inflicted with.”
Floofy Saleslady: “Oh dear, that’s horrible, was she born with it?”
sidenote: Everytime I hear someone say “is she born with it?” I can’t help but sing in my head “maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s MAYBELLINE!”
Floof: “Is she going to need surgery?”
Me: “Hey Isla, whaddaya say, should Daddy head over to the wall now and look at some sandals?” While I edged away from the nosey lady looking for a topic for her next tea party with her “well-to-do” lady friends.
Floof: muttering more incoherent questions behind me as I walked away.
I was in the middle of trying on some sandals and I turned to notice the lady had now cornered Katie and was quizzing her on Isla’s disease. I began wondering if she had been recently accepted into medical school and had many questions for an upcoming exam. That had to be the only explanation for her relentlessness, but it turns out there are just “silly” people out there in the world (Katie made me censor the actual adjective I used for the sales lady). Needless to say, I actually found a pair of moderately comfy thong sandals made of suede and rubber (not quite my old bumble bees, but they look nice and they’ll do).
Katie and I have heard a few horror stories now of parents trying to coax their children into swimming. It seems like for some children it is like you are asking them to eat a handful of liver covered broccoli while giving them a noogie. Clearly we did not want to experience this so Katie took right to Dr. Googlé and figured out how early we could put Isla into swimming lessons. Who knows if it’ll work or not, but it should be fun at the very least. Turns out as soon as your child hits two months Acadia Athletics department will teach them how to swim (the most expensive University in Nova Scotia must be desperate).
We made it to two swimming lessons before the big trip to Toronto (stay tuned for this much anticipated story). During the second lesson we headed through the front doors of the athletic department, past the hungover girl at the front desk (who I am pretty sure we woke up), and to the family changing room. Again, people gawking at our pretty little lady along the way (or maybe they were wondering why she had such a golden tan, who knows now?!). It became clear that Isla was definitely the youngest and smallest child at the pool. Our class consisted of Isla, myself, the instructor, and two other ladies with their boys. I, being the jerk I am, immediately started stacking the two boys up against Isla. They were both much older and one, in particular, was actually held back a class because he cried when his face got wet. They were both cool little dudes though and did very well, but Isla showed them both up. I advised the instructor that Isla had been working on her backstroke and she had a solid butterfly, but they all started laughing like I was joking… On a serious note, the instructor did very well with the tools she was given. The lessons mainly consisted of the two mothers and I gliding our children on the surface of the pool water. We floated rubber balls and rubber duckies to the kids and watched them bounce off of their stupefied faces, thinking they would actually pick them up and start playing catch with them. I began to feel bad for the instructor, like she drew the short straw and was stuck with all of the floppy, bundles of flubby baby skin, which lacked proper head control. I do have to say though, I learned something from the instructor as she put an honourable effort into her lessons. She had mentioned to start early with splashing Isla with a modest amount of water on the face because that is usually what generates the fears later on in life. To this day, Isla gets face splashes from her sadistic parents anytime she comes into contact with water. Isla was a great sport about it during each lesson, though. She never once cried and essentially kept a straight faced death stare the whole time as she clung to me (obviously I didn’t mind my pride and joy clinging to her protector). She takes after her mother with this “look” though.
Gets it from her moma
She would have probably stayed in the pool all day, but I ended up calling it quits when she started shivering and acquiring some purple lips. I would thank the instructor and we would head back to the changing rooms.
On this particular day Katie was sitting on the side benches by the pool with the other parents. I was too busy to notice, but I guess during the lessons Katie experienced another aspiring medical professional (not really, it was an Acadia employee). She was heading from parent to parent to let them know that they were no longer allowed to sit on the sidelines because it was too distracting for the kids. They would have to sit up a floor behind some glass walls to watch. Before she got to Katie she had mentioned the rule to another parent. That parent had advised the employee that she would not be partaking in the seating arrangement due to her child having Cystic Fibrosis and would need her close by incase anything went wrong. The employees’ response to this was to ask the mother how their child was doing now, to which the mother politely answered: “she’s doing fine at this moment.” I can picture Katie’s anticipation now building after overhearing this conversation. After a few moments of tense conversation with the other mother, the overly bubbly employee advised Katie of the new seating arrangements. I guess at this time she asked which one (which child) belonged to Katie in the pool. I would have been a smart ass and pointed to me, but Katie is a much more decent person and pointed to Isla. You guessed it, the lady advised Katie that our baby was yellow like we were some colour blind morons. Again, I would have responded by saying:
“Well I’ll beef hooked, that is a yellow baby. Must be the tanning beds we have been bringing her to.”
but Katie being the lovely, but now annoyed person she is, responded by saying:
“Yes, she has a liver disease and will need a transplant.”
Hoping that her bluntness would turn the woman off from a full on diarrhea of judgements and questions. Oh no, she wasn’t done being nosey and eventually very rude. Have you ever experienced those people who realize what they are saying is not going to fly, but they keep flapping their gums and digging a bigger hole instead of just shutting up and moving on? Well she was one of them and ten-fold.
The ensuing conversation went as follows:
Gum Flapper: “Oh… What’s the prognosis of that?”
I imagine saying, in retrospect: “Not good, this will actually be the last swimming lesson for her, but it was setup by “Make a Wish.” (I know dick thing to say, but this lady was appalling and this story won’t even do it justice. She deserved to be shut down quickly even though saying even that probably would not have stopped her.
Much nicer Katie: “...” red-faced and visibly annoyed.
Gum Flapper: (while walking away): “Oh well if I could I’d give her my liver.” She said in a overly phoney tone.
Luckily, this instance, the goof wasn’t as relentless as the sandal saleslady. Needless to say, some people have no idea how to react to something out of the ordinary, which is fine and expected. The problem is those people need to be a little more courteous and just smile and pass by. It does give me good blog material though so thank you silly people. An example of proper handling was a kind lady at the Scott’s Bay beach. She walked up to us to tell us how beautiful our little girl was. She “asked” if she was a little yellow in contrast to putting out a public bulletin to us. We said yes, to which she simply said: “well it’s good she’s out getting some sun, I hear it’s good for that.” She paused a little bit to assess the conversation and quickly mentioned that she was getting a grandchild soon and wished us a good day. As my old grade nine math teacher so eloquently put it: “use the KISS principle people, you know, keep it simple stupid.”
On a side note: I wonder how the employee has fared, because that day WAS the last swimming lesson we attended. Thankfully not for the horrible reason to which I picked fun at, but because we were soon headed to Toronto to get Isla assessed for transplant.