Familiar Ground.

Thursday was my first day back in Parkdale at work in about a year. I didn’t feel the urge to cry until I sat in the car with Ian and watched as Charlotte waved to me from our front door in my moms capable and loving arms. I was grateful to many people on Thursday, but especially to a friend and one of our community partners who dropped in to what is now The Dale HQ and asked how I was doing. When I told her I was teary all morning she said she’s not sure when it ever ends (she has three kiddos herself) and said she wanted to hold that space for me. I am grateful for friends who see and know.

A lot has changed about the way we do programming these days. As we handed out breakfast meals that morning I got to chat with people in line from under my mask and was so aware that half my face was missing from the equation. I already miss seeing people smile, and was trying to practice keeping my eyes smiling on the bus ride home.

I met a man that day whose name already escapes me. He has started coming to The Dale since my departure, and his words struck me. After our introduction from Joanna, he said it was nice to meet me and then, “Welcome Home” as he shrugged. I was taken aback after writing something very similar in a blog last week before my return to work. He shrugged as if that was naturally the only thing he could say to someone in this situation – welcome home. I’m not sure, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend since and I think God put those words on his tongue for me to receive that day.

Home. I looked up the definition of home last night as I couldn’t get this out of my head. Upon searching I found what I knew to be true in the basic sense. That home is a place of residence, a place of origin, where one lives… etc. It’s actually funny that someone may describe The Dale as home in THAT sense since we tend to move around so much. Our stuff basically moves from one place to the other on constant rotation and us along with it. Nomads with a schedule, that’s what we are.

I think to get to the root of the feeling I had, I had to search for something else. Not just home, but AT HOME. To be at home. Relaxed and comfortable, at ease, in harmony with the surroundings, and this – on familiar ground. Our feet have walked up and down Parkdale countless times. We know the streets, and each other. To be at home is not just to be at a certain place. It means to FEEL at home – to feel comfortable and at ease. As a community we can move around each other with a certain familiarity. We know each other by name, we have inside jokes, we know what people like and don’t and we are always learning and growing as a unit. We feel like we are on familiar ground. And that is what I think of when I come back to The Dale.

Welcome Home. I know when I show up to work our stuff may be here and there. I know we are always on the move. I know we don’t have a place to call our own, but many places indeed that carry pieces of our hearts. Lots of buildings and rooms have held our tears and our laughter. But more so my community is home. A place of familiarity. A place I can be myself. A place I can come and show up and give and receive. A place that I am seen and known. A place that is always and forever changing but somehow still remains familiar ground.

Welcome Home.

Peace to you this week in an ever changing world. May you find your familiar ground.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com

Coming Home to The Dale.

October is a very reminiscent month for me. It is the month, almost four years ago now, that Ian and I started dating. We are always taken back to that time in the month of October, and remember fondly falling in love. It is now also the month before my sweet girl was born. This year, I find myself thinking, “Last year this time I was pretty huge! Last year this time I was walking around the park trying to get a baby out! Last year this time I was just going off work….”

Next week Tuesday will be my first day back to work at The Dale since “this time last year.” Time sure has a way of doing that – moving along faster than you can imagine. So many things are different now. For starters, I did walk around the park enough to walk a baby out! Our sweet Charlotte will be a year on November 6th. She’s standing, eating lots, becoming more vocal, and growing so much. Ian and I also moved when Charlotte was just two months old. Finally… COVID – the thing no one could have anticipated.

This mat leave turned out to be really different than I thought it would be. As I have alluded to in previous blogs, I spent a lot of this year alone. Where I would have thought I would be hanging out with my friends who had kids, I walked alone. Where I thought I would have been sharing in Charlie’s milestones with family, we saw each other a lot over FaceTime. Where I thought I would be visiting The Dale and showing off my kid, I ate alone at home only dreaming of the struggle my community was going through trying to stay open and connected.

Now I prepare to head back to work and COVID still isn’t letting up, and who knows what the future holds. I feel fearful of getting on transit and being more exposed to so many people. I worry that new people in the community won’t know me. I feel anxiety over going back to work and having to learn a new routine, a new set of safety rules, and a new world essentially. I thought my return would involve hugs, handshakes, pictures, and eating meals around a table catching up – not face shields and hand sanitizer. Maybe this all sounds selfish… I know people are fighting for their lives during COVID times in many ways, but this is my reality right now.

This year was not all heavy. I did get to spend a lot of quality time with Charlotte. It was such a joy watching her grow and learn new things. It was hard too. But I feel proud of our accomplishments. Ian got to spend five amazing weeks with us on his own paternity leave in September. We took trips to the beach in the early mornings to walk, went to the farm, got some apple picking in, and spent many normal quiet days just together as a family. I also got to see my mom finally when COVID slowed this summer and watch her find great joy in being with Charlotte.

Next week as I return to work, things will be different I know. We are battling with a few things here in the Knight house, including two parents returning to work, a baby turning one, and a whole lot of in between stuff because Life never stops. I am grateful for a team that understands and loves deeply, who embraces me with open arms (and all my emotions!). I am grateful for the flexibility to work the hours I can to be able to work and be at home with Charlotte. I am grateful that people in the community are already checking in, encouraging me in this transition. And I am grateful for a God who always provides in ways that I least expect it – but that’s a blog for another day.

I guess this is a small way to say, hi! I’m coming home to The Dale, and I am nervously excited (a phrase Ian and I often use). Thank you for waiting on the other side for me. I must admit it was harder to write here than I hoped. I look forward to meeting you here more often in the coming weeks.

Peace to you this week.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this type of work means fundraising to earn my salary. If you follow along on this journey with me and would like to support me in my work, please send me an email at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. I would love to chat with you!

Memories of Parkdale.

Hi friends.

It’s been a while. I regret not visiting you in this space more often… as all of you are keenly aware, life was swept away with Covid-19 infecting every space possible. For me this meant hunkering down at home with Charlie and spending way more time with my family over FaceTime than I thought was possible and keeping distance, especially with Ian’s work being as frontline and essential as it is. It meant being alone – a lot. It meant feeling more isolated than usual, feeling more overwhelmed, and feeling more unrest. I know I am not alone.

My life these days involves a lot of wiping, a lot of mouth checking as baby teeth come in, a lot of responding to dadadadada and constant babble, a lot of changing and quickly growing baby. Today as I was walking with Charlotte quickly around the block (as I often do to keep my sanity) I was brought back into Parkdale as I received a call from Erinn that our friend John had passed away.

John was a beloved member of The Dale. He was a fixture in Parkdale, often seen with many dogs and a bike. His dreads reached the floor which was quite a feat considering how tall he was. And his smile was large and bright. I will miss John, truly. He was often the last face I saw as I walked out of Parkdale to my bus. I was surprised to hear of John’s sudden passing but honestly it quickly left my mind in the heat of the day and in the ever hectic routine our nights have become. It wasn’t until I sat down after Charlie was asleep and read Erinn’s blog about John that I was reminded that my friend was gone and many memories came flooding back to me. As someone commented on Erinn’s blog about John, “Parkdale is less now.” It is true, I think.

My heart has become heavy this night. Memories of John come and go, and with it come memories of Parkdale, The Dale, and life before Covid and Charlotte. My mind is full of Queen Street reaching from Dufferin to Roncesvalles. I think of our friends along the way and I feel like I am there, walking for hours up and down. I remember walking by Coffee Time and waving to Sandra* in the window. She calls us her Padre-ess’s…and Pete! I remember seeing John outside the Health Centre and his ornament tree. I remember finding Cindy* in the hot summer heat and walking her home, her arm linked with Joanna’s, me walking backward and laughing in the breeze. I think of Matt* playing guitar outside the LCBO… you can hear him talking from two blocks down. They are all there, and I know they remain in their own way although much has changed. People like John are now gone, no goodbye to be said. Businesses such as the Coffee Time have closed. We can no longer walk arm in arm.

I wonder what my return to The Dale will look like in October. Will we still be greeting our friends and community outside, unable to gather together and eat around a table? What will Coffee Time become? Will I look for John at the health centre on my way home, hoping for a final wave at the end of the day? Tears fill my eyes. These are things I cannot think of now. I know by the time that I am there my baby Charlotte will be nearing One. My, how time flies…

Thanks for sitting with my in my thoughts this evening. Thanks for your patience as I try to enter this space more and again.

As always, may you find peace tonight.

Love, Meg.

Far from the Front Lines.

I’ve tried to write this blog a handful of times and the words just aren’t coming so easily. What do you say at a time like this? At a time that none of us have been through before? At a time when so much is unknown. It wasn’t until I was in the shower tonight that I let my emotions start to fall like the water around me and I thought – just go back to the basics. Just tell them how you feel. So here it is.

The truth is, I haven’t felt this far from the front line, ever. I have been walking alongside people in community work and social care since my school days at Ryerson – about 7 years. During this time, I have walked alongside folks experiencing homelessness, addictions, and mental health issues. I have been a food preparer, dish washer, pet sitter, patient visitor, fight breaker-upper, talk someone down-er, prayer, listener, lesson learner, court day supporter, and much more. Now I spend a lot of my days at home with Charlotte, my baby girl. While this is an important job too, that of being a mom (which tasks I won’t list because they involve butt-wiper, etc), this is not the work I am accustomed to. I mean in some ways it is… and in a lot of ways I just miss my job, my team, my people, my work.

I think there is a lot to say in all of this that I am still processing and thinking about and trying to feel. Every time I talk to my people about this I get the same response over and over: It’s complicated, messy, hard. There is no right way to go about all this motherhood/work life balance thing. Right now, I just miss my life. Plain as that. And I feel really weird saying that right now to be honest, because I think it is made all the more messy knowing that some of my friends and colleagues, and even my husband, are still out there in this pandemic fighting. They’re fighting for justice and safety and community and connection for my friends on, or close to the street who are continually pushed aside and ignored. And it’s hard to be here while they are there. Because I wish it could be both ways.

There are moments that came to be in the shower tonight like my life was flashing before my eyes or something. All are moments from my work at The Dale that I hold really close to my heart. That time that Cindy* invited us into her new apartment to pray over it (and meet her cat that she tells me every. single. time I see her that she named Meghan Markle). That time I was pregnant and every time Toby* saw me he rubbed his belly and said, “Did you have a big breakfast too” even though he knew full well I was pregnant and was mostly making fun of himself. That time that my brother sat with Tim* in the grass on outreach and talked about classic books. That time that we pet-sat Samantha’s* dog and 8 cats for months while she was in the hospital. There are a hundred more.

These are the moments I miss so dearly being away from my work and my friends and my people. And these are the moments that we MUST not lose to this virus. We need to keep going, in any way we can, so that our friends can hold onto hope and connection and community and love and joy. And so that we can hold onto these things as well. Where do you isolate when you live outside? How do you panic buy when you live less then cheque to cheque? How do you hold onto community when drop-in after drop-in and coffee shop after coffee shop are shutting down? How do you stay healthy when you live head to head in a shelter? I really don’t have all the answers.

What I do know is that my colleagues at The Dale are trying so hard right now. They are trying so hard to stay visible in Parkdale while people retreat inside, in a way that is safe, intentional, thoughtful and loving. Working without our own building has taught us a lot about resilience and staying quick on our feet, but I don’t know what this ultimate test is supposed to teach us right now. Buildings that we used to parter with are shutting their doors. We are losing space and being pushed further and further outside. We need your help.

The Dale is going to continue to meet for as long as possible in whatever way is possible and safe. We have a lot of vulnerable people in our community and in our lives and their safety is most important. The Dale is meeting outside our usual “spots” right now and staying a safe distance apart physically while trying to remain close in heart. I say “we” but I really need to hand it to Erinn, Jo, Pete and Olivia. They are heroes to me.

I am asking for your help. This is what I can do from home with a baby in one hand and a lot of hope in the other. Can you pray for my team and my community? Can you pray for safety and strength in this unknown time? I know they could really use it. I know this is a time of scarcity for a lot of people so if you have extra to give, would you consider donating to The Dale? There are a lot of things they could use, but as with the times, I’m sure that list is changing by the day. You can read some of what is needed in Erinn’s blog post here (the list of needed items can be found at the bottom of the post if you are short on time, although I encourage you to read the whole thing!). Money is such a support at a time like this – a time where our donations of food are far between since we don’t have a place to receive them, where our kitchens are closing and we aren’t sure what is next… money would help obtain whatever supplies are needed to keep food, sanitary items, and any necessities coming. Any help would be so appreciated. Please visit https://www.thedale.org/donate/.

Peace to you in these times of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I know I always say it but I really do mean it. May you find a peace that passes all understanding.

Love, Meg.

Lessons from Mom Life, Pt. 2

Last time I wrote a blog inspired by a video I watched on YouTube called, “I don’t like being a mom.” If you haven’t read that blog yet, you can find it here. We chat about the often hard realities that come with motherhood, how I miss my “old life” but love my kid, and how both of those things can be true at the same time. This week, as promised, I am back with my own list of Ten Reasons Why Motherhood Is Great. This one is a little long. I hope you have the time to grab a snack and sit with me for a minute. As always, thanks for walking this journey with me and holding this space with me where I can be honest with you. It means a great deal to me. Here we go!

Ten Reasons Why Motherhood is Great:

  1. Her cutie baby laughs and how hard you have to work for them. Charlotte learned to smile at Christmas. Most recently she has been practicing the art of laughing. I could sit all day and try a hundred ways to make Charlie laugh and it won’t come… but then it will! After 8 hours of acting like a complete dork trying to make her laugh, one stupid thing finally pushes her over the edge. And it keeps me humble. It reminds me that sometimes, happiness doesn’t come easily. Sometimes you gotta work really hard at it, and when you do it can truly begin to feel like a gift.
  2. Family cuddles in bed. Ian and I love waking Charlie up on weekends from a long nap, and bringing her into bed with us for a family cuddle. We take turns tickling her, making her smile, watching her stare at the marks on our ceiling, and chatting about how cool she is. I love this bonding time we have together as a family.
  3. Being a team with Ian. One thing I found about motherhood is that it is really hard for me to do alone. Props to all the single parents out there doing motherhood alone, whether you’re a mom or dad. I feel like I can truly be my best mom self when I have Ian there to tag team with and it helps me appreciate how great of a dad he is. After all, I wouldn’t be a mom without him being a dad right alongside me.
  4. Mom Friends. I don’t know if I will ever be the type to go to a “mom group” with Charlotte, but I am slowly coming to appreciate how great it is to have friends who are also moms, especially of young babies. Whether we see each other or just interact online, I love being able to relate and feel seen. “My hair just started to fall out and it’s really hard. I love my long hair,” I said to my mom friend the other day. “Oh me too! That happened to me too!” That’s all it took. I was seen. And it was really nice.
  5. Having a village. Did you ever hear that phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it’s true. From people offering to watch Charlie to people bringing dinner to us, to people asking how we are… these are the things that help raise a baby and I am so grateful for these people who have become my village. Motherhood wouldn’t be the same without the many hands reaching in to help me and us. I don’t think I would be a good mom without these hands!
  6. The satisfaction of putting your baby to sleep. Charlotte is just starting to get the hang of falling asleep independently. All those long hours of rocking, putting down and picking back up, scheduling naps, and finding routines that work are all starting to pay off. And while I know she isn’t perfect and there will still be bumps in the road, it is really satisfying to walk slowly out of her room, close the door, and see her fall asleep on the monitor. One small step for Charlotte, and one giant step for mom-kind.
  7. Physical pain doesn’t seem as bad. I pushed a baby out of me. And it hurt. A lot! And I had an epidural! That was just my experience. There are so many ways to bring a baby into this world, and so many ways that can be painful. So now when I sit in the doctors office and they have to do a little procedure and they say, this may hurt – I saw, “Nah! I’m good!” And for that I am really grateful. Pain reminds us how strong we really are. Well let me say I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.
  8. Leaving parties early. Most of those who know me know that I am an introvert. I can appreciate a good outing, but I also love to go home, get in bed, and relax in my happy place. It can be hard to keep coming up with excuses for why you have to bounce early when you’re single or when you’re married and your husband is veeeeery extroverted. Now? “Sorry! Gotta get home to the kid! You know how it is…” Maybe you don’t know how it is, but I do! And I am happy to have an introvert pass for life!
  9. Small talk subject. Part of being an introvert for me is being not great at small talk. “Oh man, the weather lately eh?” “Oh yeah… totally.” That’s pretty much as far as I can get before I slowly back away. Now ask me about my kid and I can go on and on. Yes I am one of those people! And I don’t mind if it saves me from talking about the weather for 30 minutes.
  10. Permanent company. Now this is a love/hate thing from my perspective. Remember that introvert thing I was talking about? Loving my alone time? Yeah, some days I really look forward to nap time. But motherhood can also be really isolating. Going from working, even being on public transit, engaging in a city that’s so full of people to being in a baby bubble at home can be a tricky thing to navigate. I think these days I am trying to learn to embrace the balance of things that life offers to me. On those days where I feel lonely, I am so grateful for my best bud Charlotte, and soon she will be able to talk back to me and I won’t feel so odd about talking to a baby who says nothing (although that gets easier with practice, as do most things motherhood throws your way).

I hope this list provides some encouragement to you, especially if you are mom (new, experienced, about to be…). In writing this list, I was pleased in taking time to reflect on how this season has been for me. I know that I can forget to do this, especially in the daily grind of being a parent. What season of life are you walking through? Whether it be easy or hard, can you take some time to reflect on how it has been for you? I found that it was nice to reflect and think about the good things that have come from motherhood. It can be hard, yes. And it can be good. In doing this exercise, I didn’t want to let the hard things go. Pain is apart of life. I am learning that all emotions fall on a spectrum and it is okay to feel all the things you feel. Let us learn to hold both good and hard lightly and learn as we go. That’s what I will be practicing this week. Hope you join me.

Peace to you.

Charlotte, wearing a reminder to me of all that I am as a Mother.

Lessons from Mom Life, Pt. 1

Can we talk about “guilty pleasures” for a second? I don’t really like that term but for the sake of this blog, let’s just go with it. I’m talking about things that you do that bring you joy that maybe not many people know about you. I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I would say one of my “guilty pleasures” is watching YouTube videos. I love sitting down with my breakfast or lunch while Charlotte is having a nap, and watching a video or two. A few of my favourites are mom related content, recipe videos, or “vlogs” where people film bits of their daily lives and upload it online, kind of like a more relatable mini reality show. Weird? Maybe! But I’ve been watching YouTube videos since my high school days and I love the little communities online that I get to be apart of.

Becoming a mom opened up a whole new door of YouTube content to me. Little did I know that the online world was filled with videos about labour, baby essentials, motherly advice, and so on. Now this is where I needed to give my head a little shake. Start watching some of these videos and you may begin to get a little overwhelmed with all the products, advice, and theories out there about how to be the “perfect” mom. That can lead you down a road of comparison that I sure didn’t want to walk down. Therefore, I’ve really started to be more selective about what I was watching, especially when it came to mom related content.

When Charlotte first was born, I was sat on the couch one day while she slept watching YouTube. I came across a video called, “I don’t like being a mom.” by a woman named Jessica Hover. To be honest, I was a little perplexed at the title, but decided to click through anyways, maybe looking for a hint of honesty in a world too often polished when it comes to the realities of mom life. Jess goes on to talk about how as moms we need each other. We need moms that aren’t too keen on the heavy realities of motherhood and we need moms that feel like they were born to do “this”. She says that she loves her children so much, and still there are many times where she doesn’t like being a mom. She remembers her old life, and her old self, and how things were pre-children. She was honest. And I sighed a breath of relief.

Finally, someone was able to say it. To say what so many of us may be thinking, but what can be hard to admit. Of course I love Charlotte with all of my heart and soul. But can I imagine my life without her? Do I even remember what life was like before? Um yes. I remember it well because it was practically a blink ago. I remember the 26 years I walked the earth before Charlotte and I miss those days. I miss the freedom of my “old” life. Do I take it back? No. Do I accept that I chose this? Yes. Will I have more kids? Hopefully! But that doesn’t mean that everyday of my life I am overwhelmed by my love of motherhood, even though I AM overwhelmed with my love for my kid. And I hope as moms we can accept that this is true for some of us, and not true for others. And that’s okay. Everyone’s experience of motherhood is so unique, and is valid.

Jessica goes on to tell about 10 Reasons Why Motherhood is Great, and the lessons she’s learned while being a mom – the reasons why being a mom is so awesome, even though it can be really hard sometimes. I actually took notes the first time I watched this video and still have them on my phone. And on the days that Charlotte is really grumpy (or I’m grumpy) and I’m really tired, or the days where my mental health isn’t great and I wonder what the heck I got myself into, I look at this list. And it totally helps.

Because this blog is already pretty long, I want to write another blog next time inspired by Jess’s video, and make my own list of reasons why motherhood is great. Because sometimes I need a reminder! It can be hard, and tiring, and isolating. And it can also be a miracle, and lovely, and joyful. Something can be two things at once, and that’s something I love about this world. Things can be good… and hard. We can not love motherhood…. and love our kids more than anything. We can be really sad….. and still find joy in little moments. I feel like I’m already trying to talk myself out of the shame of saying I don’t like motherhood sometimes, but HEY. It’s okay to say you don’t like something. And it’s okay to say you love it. Let’s all be gentle with each other okay? And let’s continue to work on being honest. I know it’s really hard. But I think its worth it.

Peace to you.

PS: Heres a link to Jess’s video. If you have 20 minutes, give it a watch. She is an honest, funny, sweet lady who makes honest videos about motherhood and faith and being a human, and she has some other videos on her channel if you’re interested.

Falling Short and Remaining Faithful.

I was standing in the bathroom getting ready for bed when Ian walked in from outside. He had been out for maybe 30 seconds taking out our recycling. “We have to pray for our friends on the street tonight… it’s freezing.” he said to me as he took off his coat, his face red from the sting of the cold. “And what good is that going to do?” I snapped back – a mixture of many feelings swirling around in my head these days, some being anger, resentment, fatigue, and sadness.

He looked at me shocked, and I apologized. He responded in the only way Ian knows how to do – with deep encouragement. “Meg, we always pray.” He went on to list many of the ways that God has been so faithful. When we needed a car, our good friends had one that they were willing to let go and generously gave to us for our growing family. When we were short on money, people would e-transfer us grocery money without knowing what we were going through. And just last week when I really needed a friend, someone reached out who had no idea what I needed.

The truth is that I’ve been struggling. Mostly I am tired. Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte is amazing. She sleeps really well – but we are still up at night, taking care during the day, learning so much, walking through this season of being new parents. We have been through a lot of transitions in the last couple of months and it is wearing on me. When I’m tired, I don’t do well handling my emotions, and I think I can say the same for Ian. This leads to more arguments, more sleepless nights, less self worth, and more sadness. The past couple weeks have been rough, and I am almost ashamed to admit it. I don’t want to “fail” as a mother or wife, but it feels like I fall short many days. And you know what? I need to learn that this is where God comes in.

Of course a simple prayer for our friends on the street won’t “fix” homelessness. But it does give God the power and the glory which is what we need to do in this life, isn’t it? There are many people tirelessly advocating, walking alongside people, working hard day after day for our most vulnerable friends living outside. And maybe during this time off work where my hands are less busy shaking those I meet outside and more busy holding a baby, I can still pray. I can pray that someone finds my friends and is generous with their time or money. I can pray for my colleagues and husband who are still working hard on the field. I can pray for a miracle. And God works in many big and small ways as Ian reminded me that night.

In my sadness and fear of failure, it is easy to think that God is not with me. It is easy to remain angry, to continue to fight with Ian, to not tell people how I am doing, to give up on therapy. But that’s not the way things get better. I’m not sure where I wanted this blog to go, but I do want to encourage you that God is so faithful, even when it feels like you’re falling short – He never does. So we pray and give God all the glory. We pray and give Him space to do His work. And we remain faithful. I know it isn’t easy, but it is important.

Peace to you this week.

Charlotte Rae.

Charlotte was born on November 6th at 12:59pm. As much as I love the tidiness of whole numbers, there’s something I deeply love about the fact that she arrived one minute short of a whole number. She was anxiously awaited for, just like the ticking of a clock about to hit a new hour. The excitement we felt on that day was nothing short of magical. She is an amazing little human, and I am so glad to know her.

This is probably the blog I should have wrote first! But something about our story feels so big, and yet it feels like I can tell it a hundred times over. I hope you feel cozy when you read this, just as I feel when I sit and write it. I imagine us all in the comfort of my living room, telling the story of Charlotte. One that is as ordinary as any baby being born, and one that is so extraordinary in that she is mine – my baby. I’ll try not to make it too long, but it will be what it is! I more so just want to update you all – my support team – as I long to do in this space we have created together.

I was induced on November 5th, my due date, after a visit to my midwife. She discovered that I had high blood pressure and asked me to go to the hospital to get monitored just to be safe. It was the first and only complication I would have during my pregnancy. After meeting my midwife at the hospital and being monitored, it was decided that I would stay and have a baby. What a tremendous sentence to say so casually! I would have a baby! The idea still seemed so far off to me.

The next couple of hours were filled with walking, laughing, family, tears, and excitement. I wish there was another word that could describe the enormity of how I felt but I’m not sure there ever will be. I walked through contractions with Ian, visited with my family that stayed close to our side all night long, tossed and turned per nurses instructions due to Charlie’s fluctuating heart rate, and waited. Mostly waited.

The next morning, my midwife came back to check on me. I had progressed a lot and spent the next couple hours trying to rest as much as I could through my expanding belly working to get my baby out. I was visited by my family, prayed over, reassured, and loved. I will never forget the support that Ian and I received during those last hours. Finally, around midmorning, we decided to have a baby. I pushed for an hour, the hardest and longest hour of my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We had medical support near by since Charlotte’s heart rate continued to increase during delivery. And again, as simply as it sounds, she emerged and made the world a little brighter.

Due to the trauma that labor brings to a baby, she was a little purple upon her arrival. Those first few seconds are a blur… a rush of relief and fear. “She doesn’t have good form,” I heard the midwife say as she placed a limp baby onto my chest. And suddenly like it came all at once and was somehow always there, I was her mother. I started saying her name over and over, and in seconds she cried out to me. We spoke in that moment, and she was forever bonded to me. She was mine.

That is the long and short of it, really. There will never be enough words for her story. The days that followed were not what was expected. I injured my pelvis during delivery and discovered that I could not walk. For a week while I healed, I relied on the support of my husband and family. My independence went out the door the second I could not put on my own pants, and I discovered the importance of having support and humility. I needed help, and I am so grateful beyond words for my village of people that held me up that week, and continue to do so.

Charlotte is the light of our lives. Ian and I are blessed with an angel here on earth, and I can’t wait to continue to get to know this little soul that was given to me. It is real and surreal all in the same minute. We are tired, we fight, and we cry. Being a parent is really hard. I miss my independence, my solitude, my sleep, my friends, my work life, and many other things. However in this change, I have received so much more. Laughter, love bigger than life, a miracle of God, a deeper relationship with Ian, the support of my family. And such joy. I am learning new lessons every minute. And I am feeling both joy and sorrow that is watching your baby grow up and knowing that it won’t ever stop. I could say a hundred things about parenting Charlotte, but this blog would grow longer still than it already is.

She is joy. She is love. She is bravery and beauty and grace. She is my sweet baby. I love her. So here’s to Charlotte Rae, our saving grace. May she know peace, and may you as well.

Until next time.

Holding Hands With Grief and Joy.

I remember as a young person often having this feeling of not wanting to get too happy incase something bad happened. It was a feeling of not wanting to settle into joy, lest a wave of grief came crashing over me. This feeling didn’t lurk over me all the time, but I do have memories of this way of thinking. Somewhere along the way I lost that feeling but never really thought about why until the other night when I was scrolling through Instagram of all things.

I came across a post by a writer and artist I follow called Mari Andrew. In her post, she was basically describing how often grief and joy coincide, how it can feel silly to do simple things when parts of the world are literally crumbling and burning. It brought me back to those feelings of never wanting to let myself feel too high incase something came crashing down bringing me to a low. She describes washing her face while a whole country is on fire and how dumb it feels to wash her face, but how dumb it would be not to do something she’s always done. Mari quotes, “The fact that suffering, mundanity, and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable.” You can see her post directly below.

Unbearable, and remarkable. The word remarkable means worthy of attention. How do we live in the tension that is unbearable and remarkable? How do we go on doing simply mundane things that living often brings when there is pain and suffering? I think what made me shed my fear of living with too much joy lest it be grabbed from my reach has been working for places such as The Dale. If you’ve read any of my or my colleagues blogs you would be witness to this tension that we often find ourselves in. We are often holding the hands of grief and joy at the very same time, while living in the mundane – cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, writing.

I think I’ve learned that we are resilient. That my friends are so remarkable, that they could live in such unbearable pain and still be capable of showing unconditional love. That life really must go on. That there has to be more than getting stuck in the grief. That I could be painting alongside someone one day, and they could be dead the next. That my friend could be feeding her cats in her apartment one day and be homeless the next. That someone could show explosive and violent anger one day, and tell me they love me the next. Obviously “the next” often takes time. But my point being that I’ve seen what its like to hold joy with someone and have it be ripped away. I’ve also seen those same people get up and keep walking. How remarkable. How worthy of attention.

Today there was a homeless memorial outside the Eaton Centre at the Church of the Holy Trinity, as there is every second Tuesday of the month. Today marked the 1000th name being added to the list of people who have died from homelessness in Toronto. My friends names are on that list. There was a vigil for them while on the other side of a wall people did their shopping… living in the mundane between grief and joy.

My husband gathered with our communities, our co-workers, our city – to hold vigil and remember our friends who died. And I was at home feeding our sweet baby. This is such a prime example of living in the mundane between unbearable and remarkable. How I wish I could have been there. How I wish my friends didn’t die. How I wish I could hold my baby every day of my life, and somehow still be at work with my people doing what I know I was called to do. I miss it and I am cherishing this time at home. How do we learn to live in these tensions? This is a lesson I am learning every day.

How unbearable it feels sometimes to be so close to grief. And how remarkable that we can still hold hands with joy. I challenge you to look for ways you live in tension this week, and be present to that. Peace to you.

These thoughts have been heavy on my heart that past couple days while I’ve tried to figure out how to write them down. I thought a lot about how I wanted to be back in this space for the first time since Charlotte was born sharing my thoughts with you all, and I’m not sure exactly how I wanted it to look. Maybe a little lighter? But this is life. We live in joy and in sorrow. I hope to share with you all soon a little more about our baby and how we are doing. Thank you for being patient with me while I learn how to Mom. I’ve missed you.

See You Soon…

Ian and I found out I was pregnant on the evening of February 20th this year. I remember that night very vividly, and probably always will. But I remember thinking then and for the first good chunk of my pregnancy that it would feel like forever before I got here, to this point. On Sunday I will be entering my 9th month. It will be just four(ish) weeks until we meet our girl. Now that I am here, it seems like it came so fast. Time is funny that way.

This week is my last official week of work before I start maternity leave. When I was about half way or more through being pregnant, I was starting to get anxious about what time away from work would look like. Erinn and I had a meeting and came up with a plan that very much eased my mind. The first week of October would be a regular work week, and the second week of October would be a sort of “phasing out”. This would be a time for me to come late and leave early, not attend any meetings, not bring my keys… just to take the time to sit and be with people without worrying about work duties. Again, it seemed like so far away, and yet here we are.

As I have written about a few times in this space before, I have been so cared for by my community. Especially in the last month or so when pregnancy has started to get the best of me, they hold me tight and make sure I am okay. I will be forever grateful for their loving care. This Monday I took some time after lunch to sit with a couple of my friends. The room had cleared out pretty fast this day, so it was just the four of us at a table. We were chatting about Rice Krispie squares of all things, and I was writing out a recipe for my friend Jane*. Suddenly, she said that she wanted to pray for me. Jane is wise and brave and sweet and knowing. She put her hand on my arm and the two others followed suit. Jane often prays in a quiet, calm voice. As she prayed over me and my baby, my other friend at the table prayed at the same time in tongues as he often does. I listened and was so moved by their sudden willingness to pray over me. This is my community. They know Jesus, and they know how to love really well. I am so grateful to learn from them everyday.

This whole week has felt pretty weird to be honest. I know each day is my “last” of this and “last” of that for a long while, but it feels like I will always remain in this time of just being pregnant and working the same as always (I know people say that near the end of pregnancy it feels like it just lasts forever even when you’re so ready to be done!). Even last week at our staff retreat, it was odd in some ways to be planning ahead, for things that I won’t necessarily be around for. I know I will be back eventually and that I will visit, etc. But a year is a long time. I know there will be conversations had without me, that my participation will be from afar, that people and things will ebb and flow and change as they do and should. I just hope and pray that I can remain both here and there – here at home with my baby soaking up time and learning how to be a parent, and there at the Dale with my community, my people, my team. I will miss them deeply.

This has been such a year. Being pregnant has been a journey… in confidence in my body and bonding with this being that is so close, yet so far. I have learned at work to be more confident in a variety of ways, in my role at the Dale and fundraising to name a few. Ian and I are still learning how to be together and what it means to love each other well as husband and wife – something that takes a lot of work and time and effort. And a lot of my friends have passed away… too many. Wally. Keith. Dallas. Paul. Sharky. James. Rondine. Dane. Robin. And sadly there have been so many that I’m looking at the list wondering if I missed anyone. They deserve to be named and remembered. I know a year is a long time and in the next one that I will be away from work there are more that could be added to this list. I pray for a break from the grief and for peace for my communities that have lost far too many.

What I am trying to say is that a year is a long time. In this year I have learned so much about myself and have grown in my capacity at work. And in the next year I will learn new things as a mother of a daughter who I cannot wait to meet. I will be taking a break from this space after this post for a while until the next time when I introduce you to our baby (!). I am grateful for all those who have tuned in week after week, who have read my words from the heart, who’ve shared my posts, who’ve commented and prayed and loved me. Thank you. This is not a goodbye! It’s just see you soon. I pray that you will be well.

As always, peace to you.

I will continue in my fundraising efforts in my leave from work, if you would like to join me financially on my ministry journey. I fundraise all of my salary in order to be able to work at The Dale. If you would like more information about this, please reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. Contributions can be made one time via cheque, cash or through CanadaHelps, or monthly through PAR.