A cow and a codfish walked into a bar…

When I was pregnant with Sylvia, it was nice to have someone around who knew a thing or two about pregnancy and birth. Fortunately, Travis was that someone. Unfortunately, the only births he had tended to were bovine in nature. He had hauled dozens of slimy newborn calves, feet-first, into the world. He had timed a whole herd of cow menstrual cycles, and he was intimately familiar with the nine-month gestation period of cattle. Of course, his cows didn’t demand foot rubs or have crying fits in bookstore parking lots, but at least he knew something about the process.

Good thing I was aware of this from the start. Otherwise I may have been offended when my father-in-law, upon learning his first grandchild was due in April, nodded knowingly and said “calving time.”

The pregnant-cow comparison continued throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t care. I was truly thankful to have a partner as knowledgeable as he was. That is, until the delivery itself.

The first few minutes after Sylvia was born were full of laughter and tears and life-changing moments, no different than in any other case room on any other day. That is, until Travis made this observation. Then vocalized it.

“It smells just like a cow giving birth.”

Now if that’s not the first thing you want to hear after you deliver your first baby, I don’t know what is. You know how OB nurses claim nothing shocks them? Well both of mine were speechless.


That’s a story I’ve been trying to put into words for a while. I tell it a lot at dinner parties and to pregnant acquaintances, but it’s more than a funny anecdote.

It sums up how Travis and I have such different sets of experiences that brought us each here to this tiny house, mere meters from the Atlantic ocean.

When I left Newfoundland at 17, I was going to travel the world and compete at the Olympics. While I have an impressive number of stamps in my passport and degrees in both journalism and French, my speed skates haven’t been sharpened in years.

Travis is a long, long way from cattle ranching, having traded his branding irons for Newfoundland residency. Seven years ago, he bucked the trend of Atlantic Canadians going west to work by moving TO Newfoundland.

How ironic we’ve now joined the ranks of families separated by a long-distance paycheque. Yet how fitting. I’m only following a long line of female relatives who’ve watched their husbands leave on schooners, oil tankers and airplanes.

In this wireless world, our rural home is not so isolated as it might have been just 15 years ago. We’re lucky to have this digital connection to each other and the global parenting community, but the Internet doesn’t carry in wood or fix the well when the water lines freeze. These are the realities of rural life that we still contend with every day, alongside diapers and naps and toddler playtime.

For every hour I spend online, I spend an equal amount of time on housekeeping chores that wouldn’t exist if we lived in Paris, St. John’s, or Calgary. Parenting might be different in other locals, but I’m sure it’s not any easier. It’s difficult to explain why we choose – choose! – to make our life here when so many are leaving, but when all you want are good food, a warm house and a happy family, you can make a life anywhere.

I’ve been trying to define the parameters of this blog for a while. The original intentions of The Sheds Project don’t quite cut it anymore, but I’m sticking with The Sheds handle because our woodshed is our lifeline, and an integral part of rural-Newfoundland living. This particular post is an application for a freelance writing gig with Today’s Parent magazine. I’d like to add my voice to the broader Canadian parenting experience as I live it here in our tiny house by the vast, vast sea.

I’d like to direct you to three of my favourite posts:

A paddle on Indian Arm is the account of a somewhat idyllic day in the life…

I have an oil lamp and I’m not afraid to use it sums up a few things you need to know before buying that century-old home in outport Newfoundland. No really, take it from me.

From the trenches. What happens when all the lifelines that connect you to the outside world are cut off in one fell swoop. Or at least one really, really bad rainstorm.


7 responses to “A cow and a codfish walked into a bar…

  1. Laura, what a gorgeous post! And the pictures are stunning. I will be reading you in Today’s Parent soon! Well actually, perhaps what I should say is that parents will be reading you in Today’s Parent very soon! Good luck!

  2. Okay, I have to say it: I’m going for this gig too, but you sound really interesting. I’d read you 🙂

  3. Beautiful post… I love your writing style! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Oh, Toulouse. | Laura Bee Dot

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