True Love Strong And Free

I love Canada Day. I’ve always loved it, since I was a little girl who understood nothing more than we get to light pretty fireworks because it’s my country’s birthday today! I’ve always been fiercely patriotic—finding myself singing O Canada to myself while I wash the dishes, finding myself in a tattoo parlour at the age of 18, figuring that of all things, a maple leaf is something I’d never be ashamed of. It’s only fitting, then, that Don and I chose to get married on Canada Day, to piggyback on the love we already feel for our country, and to capitalize on the guarantee of fireworks and a day off on our anniversary.

Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary, three years on top of the almost eight years we spent as best friends before becoming man and wife. Through our decade together, we’ve often daydreamed about what our lives would look like once we become parents. We looked forward to laughing and playing and watching our kids grow, just as we looked forward to grounding them and enforcing rules and imposing chores. We knew that we were going to be awesome parents, and when we found out we were pregnant, we were so excited for Christmas to meet our little Banana.

This time a year ago, I was just coming into my second trimester, just barely starting to finally look like I was pregnant and not like I’d had too many cream puffs for breakfast. As an anniversary gift last year, Don bought me two maternity t-shirts—one that read bun in the oven, the other, baby on board—to help clarify that I was not fat, I was with child. Last year we made our way down to the waterfront to take in the Canada Day festivities, and the two of us had a deliciously gluttonous meal at The Keg (despite my steak being cooked well and my mojito being mixed virgin) before taking in the fireworks. Much of our conversation on our second anniversary was our imaginations running wild about the baby I was carrying and what our lives would look like this time next year. Little did we know at that time of the plans Nyana had for us, or the places the next year would take us.

Canada Day 2010

Four months pregnant, celebrating Canada Day 2010.

Yesterday morning Don and I woke excited about our 3rd wedding anniversary, excited about Nyana’s first Canada Day. We had a slow start to the day, letting Nyana have her morning nap and her noon feed before we headed out to the festivities. While she napped, the Sunshine Brigade decked itself out in Canadiana; when we finally left the house shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon, I counted six fabric flags mounted to her stroller, two Canadian flag pins pinned to the canopy of her stroller, three red Team Canada hockey jerseys (Don and I each wearing one plus Nyana’s in the diaper bag ‘just in case’), one “My First Canada Day” onesie, one “‘Lil Canuck” bib, two fake maple leaf tattoos and one real maple leaf tattoo. It was Canada’s birthday, and the Sunshine Brigade was representing.

My First Canada Day!

Nyana models her My First Canada Day! onesie.

Nyana's Canadian chariot.

Three fabric flags on each side, two Canadian pins on the front canopy, and a decked out baby riding inside. Like I said, the Sunshine Brigade was representing.

It took us 45 minutes but we were finally out the door; Nyana and all the Misters—BiPAP and Oxygen, Foodpump and Sat Probe. We proudly strolled up the side streets towards Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver’s newest outdoor pavilion adjacent to the cruise ship port, where there is space enough for nearly 250,000 people to celebrate around the Olympic Cauldron. The place was packed: hundreds of mums and dads and strollers were vying for space, food carts lined the narrow street, local businesses had displays set up and were doing presentations and handing out samples. Don and I wove our way through the crowd towards the indoor Canada Place, where some 100 portraits were on display in an exhibit titled Face Of Canada. The ultimate collection of Canadian faces—everyone from John Candy to Justin Bieber to John A. MacDonald and Michael J. Fox—all beautifully captured in bigger-than-life images on the canvas. Interestingly, one of the most frequent comments I overheard was, I didn’t know Matthew Perry was Canadian!

About to walk into a shoulder-to-shoulder mob.

Don and Nyana, about to walk into a shoulder-to-shoulder mob of people and other strollers.

After strolling through the exhibit, Don and I wheeled Nyana outside and pushed back through the crowd towards the Olympic Cauldron, which had been lit for the occasion. We stopped for a moment to take off her bipap and put on her prongs, then Don carried her on his hip while I pushed the stroller alongside. We snapped some photos of the three of us by the cauldron in our red and white, and decided we’d about seen everything we needed to. Nyana’s morning nap had been a paltry half hour, and with so much to see and hear in the hustle of the crowd, she’d not slept in her stroller at all, either. We hoped she’d nap once we left the excitement of the festivities, and made the decision to grab a late lunch/early dinner, our first attempt at a sit-down restaurant meal with a child in tow. We pointed her stroller towards the White Spot four blocks away.

Mum and Ny at the Olympic Cauldron.

Mum and Ny at the Olympic Cauldron.

Dad and Ny at the Olympic Cauldron.

Dad and Ny at the Olympic Cauldron.

Happy family.

Happy Canada Day from Nyanaland!

Nyana was excited and playful and happy in her stroller, and Don and I ordered burgers and split a pitcher of beer, just like it had all begun on our very first date nearly eleven years ago. Her playful coos turned into slightly whiny grunts about halfway through our meal, and shortly afterwards Don looked at me and remarked that we were living on borrowed time. Sure enough, we paid our tab and made it out to the parking lot just in time for a full-on meltdown. Prongs came off, bipap went back on, soother was inserted and spat out and reinserted. For about half a block we walked, Don pushing the stroller, me holding Suck-A-Duck in her mouth until she finally succumbed to sleep and napped the 15 minute walk home. Along the way, Don and I—wearing matching jersyes and pushing a stroller with no fewer than nine flags on it, remember—were stopped by a German tourist wanting a photo of us and our patriotism. Please someone do let me know if you see us posted on or something.

Tuckered right out.

Celebrating is exhausting! After not napping all day, she stayed in exactly this position for a little more than two hours.

The rest of the evening passed fairly uneventfully; Nyana napped and played and went down for the night at her usual 9pm. Once she was settled in bed, Don and I enjoyed some late-night breakfast for dinner, cracked a bottle of wine and marvelled at how lucky we were to have such an awesomely amazing daughter and such a wonderful life. We toasted our marriage and congratulated each other for not only surviving the NICU, but for thriving and for coming out of it better for it. We know we’re not perfect—far from it—but we’re perfectly happy being imperfect, and perfectly happy is all we need. Don and I have always have always been insistent that when the time comes, we will be role models to our kids, ensuring they learn from us that love is a constant compromise; a continuous up-and-down of good times and bad times. That a marriage doesn’t need to be complicated or conniving; that a healthy partnership takes time and effort but is the most amazing thing to have and completely worth the effort.

Today is Day One of our third wedded year, and we’re happily lazing away the rest of the weekend—I’m puttering in the kitchen making sticky buns for our NICU reunion tomorrow; Don is happily being a Dad to Nyana, taking her out into the sunshine to run errands. I had so hoped that by Canada Day I would have been able to finish telling the story of The Karen & Donners Wedding, but life always gets in the way and Part III will be along when I get to it. As an interesting side note, I would be remiss if I did not stop and say happy birthday to my Grandma, who would have turned 99 years old yesterday. It was a surprise inheritance from her estate that allowed Don and me to have the wedding of our dreams, on her birthday on the beaches of Belize.

Hope you all enjoy a long weekend, whether you’re celebrating Canada Day or the Fourth of July. Play safe out there, and don’t forget to plan a safe ride home.


Coming Soon:

It's official!

Happy Canada Day!

Mmm cake.


About Mrs. B

Wife, mother, marketer--not always in that order. Lover of fine food, good company, and exceptional grammar. Mother of one former micro-preemie and one full-term monster baby. Building childhood memories in Vancouver's suburbs.
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10 Responses to True Love Strong And Free

  1. Tom Wiebe says:

    Happy Anniversary Guys! Our apartment smells like Malta right now, Lisa’s just finishing off the Timpana for tomorrow. See you then!

  2. Linda says:

    The fact that Nyana is able to celebrate the birth of her country is nothing short of miraculous, the fact that she is able to celebrate Canada’s birthday is a huge blessing. If she had been born anywhere else her incredible journey may not have had the happy ending that is now unfolding. It was because of Canada’s health care system, a right for every single Canadian, that Nyana was able to flourish and grow healthy without putting her Mum and Dad into financial ruin. Yes, I may grumble and complain about our politicians and be-moan the fact that Canada Post went on strike and I still haven’t received my pay in the mail, but when I stop and look at what Canada has done for my family, for Nyana and for all of the other Nyanas throughout Canada, I know that we are truly the luckiest people on earth. I love you, Canada and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

  3. Carmen says:

    Great pics! Sounds like a lovely day 🙂

  4. Duncan & Dorothy Gillies says:

    Hi Nyana, Karen & Don – sounds like you had a wonderful anniversary and celebration of Canada Day.- sounds like you had a great day. Looking forward to the next installment of your wedding story – great photos as a teaser.
    Here in SW Ontario – we are having great weather, when it is not raining or storming – we are camping and had quite a storm last night – the tenters had to tie everything down, but they are still here this morning!!
    Take care. Duncan & Dorothy

  5. Twiggy says:

    Happy Anniversary! Happy Canada Day! I hope you have a restful weekend. Loved the pictures of Ny and you all!

  6. Maggie & Liam says:

    What a kick-ass day! Hope your brinner had some True North, Strong and Free maple syrup! xoxo

  7. Jennifer says:

    I am glad that the three of you had such a wonderful day. Congratulations on your third year anniversary and I hope you have another great year!

  8. This whole entry just made me smile!

    I did learn to sing O Canada as a kid in Detroit.. I guess because we were north of that little bit of Canada? But it is a lovely anthem.

    Nyana looks smashing in red 🙂

  9. Congrats! and may I say “Wow!, how brave of you to go out with so much going on”. I really admire your courage to not only surviving the day to day living of all the stuff needing with baby, but going outside with the big crowds, stroller and the whole enchilada around the stroller, just admirable. I have a hard time avoiding the rush hour in the skytrain so I find it hard to think beyond that. kuddos.

    congrats again for your anniversary.

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