River

River,

I met you on a Thursday.

I had woken up, like any other day, to the sounds of your brother in the room next to mine. We spent our morning the way we normally would. Breakfast in bed, playing. I had forgotten entirely about Wolf’s speech pathologist. I had missed a call from her, she’d left a voicemail to say she was outside and to ask whether it was alright to park in the driveway. I had yet to set up Wolf’s new bed, a double mattress that was still on its end, leaning against a crib April and I had struggled to set up for you. The room, our whole apartment, was in disarray. Toys everywhere. Always. I dragged the mattress into the hallway, quickly picked up the more obtrusive toys, and changed Wolf out of his pajamas. By then we were two days past your estimated due date and I was too pregnant to care very much about how the apartment looked or what somebody would think of it. I changed into jeans and went upstairs to let her in.

We spent the hour, our last session, talking about what the next steps in Wolf’s care would be, and then chatting about babies. Nearing the end of our visit I was starting to feel uncomfortable, but assumed it was from sitting on the floor. A few times I felt pain, but didn’t think much of it — though I probably should have, seeing as your due date had come and gone. After she’d left I texted my mom from the bathroom to tell her I thought that labor would be starting soon. She called from work and we talked about how I was feeling, the intermittent pain and overall discomfort. I hadn’t realized it, but when she said it I knew. I was definitely in early labor. I suddenly felt afraid and very much alone. After hanging up with my mom I tried calling my sister, but she didn’t answer. She soon called me back to tell me she was on her way, all the while Wolf was pulling at my legs wanting to be picked up. I felt overwhelmed.

I carried Wolf around, more or less pacing, until April got there. Marlene, my mom, and Scott arrived soon after and I felt perfectly at peace surrounded by my family. I’d forgotten to note contractions and began to at the suggestion of my sisters. I’d been noticing contractions for a couple of hours at that point, but they weren’t very strong yet and we continued to talk and laugh through them.

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I felt like I needed Scott to stay nearby. He, my sisters and I were on and around the bed keeping track of contractions.

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After a while we decided I should call my midwives. My contractions were a few minutes apart so they decided to get ready and start heading over. The midwives I’d been seeing for the duration of my pregnancy were sleep deprived so I’d be seeing two that I hadn’t yet met as well as a student midwife. They each came separately and as they arrived they introduced themselves to us all and began setting up things they might need for the birth. They bring with them equipment to resuscitate baby if necessary as well as IV fluids which had frozen in the midwife’s car. April boiled water to place the bag in to thaw. While one midwife was finishing setting up, another checked my blood pressure and listened to my baby.

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I was glued to my “birthing ball” (an exercise ball I’ve always had which gained a new purpose) and leaned on it during contractions.

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I didn’t pay much attention to the time and spent most of my labor not having any idea what time it was. The light in the room was changing and I remember noticing at one point that this labor felt longer than Wolf’s. My contractions felt increasingly stronger and I couldn’t move much during them. If I wasn’t already resting on my ball, I couldn’t get to it once a surge had begun and so I’d stay in whatever position I happened to be in. I remember during one contraction my leg was hanging off the bed and while the position was very uncomfortable, I couldn’t move so I just suffered through it. I felt a little anxious, but not exactly in a bad way. I wasn’t afraid or worried something would go wrong. I had total confidence in my ability to birth my baby. It was more a feeling of excitement. I was excited to meet our baby, but the feeling of apprehension I’d been having throughout my pregnancy (and especially toward the end) were still there. I was nervous about what having two babies would be like. Wolf is high needs and I was worried about how I’d manage to continue to give him the attention he needs while also taking care of a newborn. These thoughts were present, but I tried to acknowledge them and let them go so I could focus on having the peaceful birth I’d wanted and planned for.

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Scott was a comforting presence for the duration of my labor and I leaned on him often when I needed a boost in confidence.

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My contractions were becoming quite strong. I found it helpful to lean on my ball and vocalize through them. My birth playlist had repeated a few times so we had other music playing, my old iPod on shuffle. A Lil Wayne song, and Tom Petty’s Last Dance With Mary Jane. I tried to visualize ocean waves growing and ultimately crashing, imagining my contractions were doing just that, but all I could see was a beached whale that we saw in Newfoundland when I was a child. It was a bizarre and somewhat unsettling image.

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I knew we were getting closer to it being time to push. I was starting to feel pressure during contractions and each was becoming more intense than the last.

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My midwives periodically listened to my baby, but remained mostly hands off. Midwives have a wonderful way of putting the birth experience back in the hands of the mama.

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When I felt like I had to start pushing, I told my midwives and they checked my cervix. Unlike my experience giving birth in a hospital setting, this was only the second time during labor that my cervix had been checked. As anyone who’s given birth vaginally can tell you, having your cervix checked for dilation during labor is wildly uncomfortable. For me, it feels as if all sensation is heightened during labor so any touch feels electrified. I was relieved to hear the confirmation that I was, in fact, ten centimeters dilated and that I could push when I felt like it. My midwives were encouraging while still allowing me to listen to my body. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have nobody yelling, “Push!” at me at a time when what I need most is calm, gentle support.

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I felt most comfortable on my knees and after about fifteen intense minutes of pushing, pausing, and pushing again relief finally came. Once my baby’s head was out I paused for a minute or so and waited for the next contraction. I knew the hardest part was over and that after the next surge I’d be holding my baby at long last. When that contraction came, I pushed a final time and all at once was overcome with relief and joy. I heard my mom and sister say in unison, “It’s a girl!” They both sounded surprised, and I think we all were save for April who had been saying for months she thought I’d be having a daughter. She even bought me pink cloth diapers. My midwife caught my baby and handed her to me between my legs. I held her to my chest, still kneeling, and looked down at her scrunched face. She was already opening her eyes.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect, how I’d feel the second time around. Would it be as overwhelming, all those feelings all at once? The best feeling, that birth high. It was. I was instantly in love with my daughter. My daughter. What an unusual feeling, total disbelief. People were moving around us, my midwives and family. My midwives were checking on us, but once they felt sure we were both okay they stayed out of the way and went about their tasks of note taking and observing us. I was so grateful to them for giving power back to me, for letting this be our birth, our moment. I felt completely safe with them, but they made me feel so confident, like I could do it all on my own. With all these people around us, I could only see her and Scott. Scott’s fist to his mouth, his other hand holding his elbow. Tears in his eyes, looking at his daughter. I’ll remember it forever, that look. The way he stood there with his family, so proud and in love. We’ve never been perfect, not even close, but I couldn’t be more thankful that he’s their father. My best friend and my partner in birth and beyond.

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I didn’t feel rushed like I had in the hospital. I got to kneel there on my bed holding my daughter, reveling in the relief and ecstasy of having had this awesome experience. After a while my midwives helped change pads and position me more comfortably, leaning back on pillows.

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Scott leaned over us and studied his baby’s little face. Her long fingernails and wrinkled brow. The way she smelled. I felt at home with him there above us. We had delayed cord clamping, but the time had come for dad to cut the cord.

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After the cord had been cut, we spent more time skin-to-skin. Scott and I stared at our daughter, memorizing this point in time, all her little features. She was so alert, already nosing around looking for my breast.

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She spent a while at my breast, nursing and falling asleep. Soon my midwives wanted to weigh her and take her measurements. We got her into a cloth diaper, zeroed the scale with a clean cloth diaper, and made guessed as to what she’d weigh. By this time Scott’s dad and step-mom had arrived so there were quite a few guesses. I think the highest number was eight pounds and a few ounces. She surprised us all weighing nine pounds and three ounces! It started to make sense why pushing felt so much more difficult with my second baby. Wolf was born weighing only seven pounds.

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After being weighed and measured, then dressed and swaddled, Scott finally got a chance to hold her. After handing her to Scott, April took me to have a shower. She helped me walk and get into the shower. Stood outside the shower stall to make sure I managed alright. While we were in the washroom getting me cleaned up and dressed, Scott made sure everyone got to see and hold our daughter.

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I had needed two stitches and was feeling sore, so after showering got back into bed. My midwives stayed for an hour or so, checking my blood pressure and our temperatures periodically. Once they felt confident we were perfectly fine, they finished up with their paperwork, went over a few things with me, and said goodbye. They each hugged me, told me how well I’d done and how proud I should feel (I totally did, and do!). Having midwives was a healing experience for me. Birthing in the hospital had been traumatic in some ways and having this wonderful, peaceful, gentle home birth felt like redemption. Shortly after they’d gone, Scott’s family said goodbye and started their long drive home. My mom planned to stay over with Wolf, who was finally asleep, and April stayed over pretty late before heading home herself. Marlene had to get home to her own family. I was so glad my sisters had been there for the birth of my daughter. It was a really lovely feeling, being surrounded by family. After my mom went to bed, Scott and I spent the end of the night talking and eventually fell asleep ourselves.

It was a beautiful day and I’m so grateful to everyone who made it so special.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have an unassisted home birth. Maybe next time?

Love,
Mama

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All of the photos in this post belong to April Bonia. Please do not use them without permission.

Hello Again

It’s been a long time and a lot has changed. I think the reason that I have been absent from this space is that I find it difficult to share things. That applies to all aspects of my life. I tend not to tell anybody very much about how I feel or what I’m thinking, particularly when it comes to relationships and my children.

Children. As in more than one. Wolf has a little sister now. She was born on February 18th. I’ll tell you about it sometime. The pregnancy, her birth.

For now I’ll talk about Wolf, my first baby. My baby still, though he’s tall and sassy and changing all the time. There have been a few developments with Wolf. Blood tests showed a deficiency in vitamin B12. The metabolic specialist at Sick Kids believes that to be the cause of his delays. That it could be so simple is hard to believe and, at first, was not easy to accept. Now I know we’ll be lucky if it is that simple. Many families wait for years for answers, some get none at all. Countless tests can lead to the same question: what is causing global developmental delay in my child? All you can do is continue the therapies — occupational, physical, speech, feeding — not knowing if there is something else you could be doing. The progress can be painfully slow. So, in adding B12 injections to Wolf’s treatment I’ve gotten back the feeling that we’re being proactive, that this might actually help my son. And it has. Wolf has weekly B12 injections for now, but the frequency may be increased to daily once we know the results of his most recent tests. It took a little while, at least a few weeks, but we started to notice things. Little things. Sometimes barely noticeable things and we’d question whether he’d done whatever it was on purpose or not. He started to hand things to us and he became more communicative with us when he needed help. For instance, he’ll hand us his spoon now when he’s ready for another bite, thankyouverymuch. He started taking drinks of water from a straw and yesterday even handed me his cup when he was thirsty. He’s been chewing solid foods and managing most of what he’s tried quite well. He’s not standing on his own or walking, and is still nonverbal, but his other improvements are encouraging and right now they’re enough. They’re enough to give me back hope. They tell me that I’m lucky and that I shouldn’t dwell for too long, though I do still sometimes get mad at the universe. Both of my babies help me stay present, focusing on right now. And right now is pretty great. 

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MRI Results

When I was pregnant with Wolf, I had an idea of what becoming a mom would be like. I had built it up in my head, filled it with expectations. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, I had been trying not to. Of course, I was wrong in so many ways. There is no way to predict what my child would be like, what kind of personality he’d have. I assumed he’d be “normal”. I think every parent assumes they’ll have a “normal” child. So, as Wolf got older and it became apparent that he does things differently and at a slower pace, I guess I was taken aback. It has slowly dawned on me over the last few months that this is who Wolf is. The first step is to accept that he will likely never be “normal”. I refuse to feel guilty for taking my time with this. If there is a parent out there who was instantly accepting of their child’s differences and didn’t have even a moment of wishing things were different, well, that parent is a special person and I applaud them. I am not that parent. I am not disappointed in Wolf. I love him with everything in me. But I can’t say that I wouldn’t change our situation if I could. It is selfish, I know. This is Wolf’s “normal” and he doesn’t know anything else.

His MRI showed white matter volume loss, which is a neurologist’s fancy way of saying that his white matter is smaller than it should be. There isn’t a name for it, it isn’t a syndrome or anything like that — which means that there isn’t a lot of information… or any information that I can find, for that matter. We don’t know what this means for the future, other than that we’ll be spending a lot of time with physical therapists, speech therapists, etc. The good news is that his genetic tests came back normal, and that his MRI didn’t show any tumors. Of course, the best result would have been a totally unremarkable scan, but at least this gives us an idea as to what might be causing his Global Developmental Delay. And it’s definitely not as bad as it could be. He is healthy and another thing that I am always grateful for is that even being nonverbal and having delayed social behaviors (no waving, pointing, etc.) I still know that he loves me. Sometimes he just wants his mama. That means a lot to me. I feel lucky in a lot of ways. I am glad that I chose to leave my job to be home with Wolf, even though that definitely has its challenges — primarily in the financial sense. I likely would have had to quit by now anyway. Our appointments with therapists and doctors are frequent and generally take place in the middle of the day throughout the week, so working around them would be tricky. Wolf’s dad is really amazing and supportive. I have family who are supportive and understanding, and have never challenged my more “crunchy” ways of living and raising Wolf. He is loved, and that means something.

Being normal is likely overrated.

 

What We’ve Been Up To

It’s starting to feel like summer is on its way again after a few days of cool temperatures and lots of rain! It’s warm today and is perfect weather for a park babywearing meet-up, but I didn’t make it today. First, Wolf slept through our first bus. Once he woke up we left and just caught a bus, made it to the next stop for our second bus just in time — but alas, I was at the wrong stop. I watched the bus turn and felt so defeated that I decided to just head home. It was nice to be out for a short while, even if it was just to turn around and come home. I did get a chance to wear Wolf in our new wrap, a size 2 Didymos Orient. It arrived on Thursday and my mom picked it up from the post office for me. She had planned on dropping it off at my house on Friday morning so she left it in the car. When she got to me house Friday morning, she reached back to grab the package out of the back to discover it missing. Now she remembered that her door had been slightly ajar as well as her glove box and middle console open. Her prescription sunglasses and an iPhone cord were missing as well. We drove around her neighborhood hoping to find the package discarded. I assumed that whoever stole it out of the car would open it and realize it was useless to them. We didn’t find it and had given up when we got a call from my sister saying a neighbor had found it in their ditch and returned it. I was so relieved. The Didymos box that it came in was destroyed because they ripped through it instead of simply removing the lid of the box for whatever reason, but the wrap was unharmed and that’s what counts. I love Orient as much as I thought I would, and am getting used to shorty carries.

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SBCC in Orient

Wolf completed his Communication Strategies Group. I wish I could say it was a great experience and that I learned a lot, but I would be lying. It wasn’t a terrible experience necessarily, but it was repetitive, not conducive to unstructured play (which is what Wolf thrives on), and by the end of each session he was so frustrated. Maybe I’m teaching Wolf bad habits by not “sabotaging” his play — seriously, that was what we were told to do — but I just don’t see a point… Why would I purposely frustrate him? A lot of what the therapist suggested felt very counter-intuitive. I really believe that Wolf will learn things in his own way, in his own time. I’m not denying he is delayed, I recognize that he is definitely behind his peers in a lot of ways. However, he is learning things all on his own without my pushing him constantly (I break a lot of the therapist’s rules, speech and OT alike) and he has never regressed, only progressed. That must count for something. I guess I’m just really not that concerned. Does that make me a bad mother? Should I be taking these therapies more seriously and practicing new skills with Wolf every day? Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know, and believe to be true, is that I know my son. I would know if something were wrong, and I just don’t think there is. I think he is unique, and I think he will always do things differently. And maybe he will take longer to do certain things, or learn, or what have you. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do it “right” or that he doesn’t do it beautifully. Finally in my mid-twenties I can say that I have learned that being different is more than okay, it is wonderful. And I would never have learned that if it weren’t for Wolf.

Wolf also had his MRI at the end of May. I got to stay with him while they administered the anesthetic using a mask. He got very upset before falling asleep and it was hard to watch. I kept it together until leaving the room. The overly polite part of me didn’t want to make the anesthesiologist uncomfortable by crying in front of him. He was the same doctor who took care of Wolf’s anesthesia for his surgery at the end of March, and he’s obviously a very nice and gentle man. After Wolf’s papa and I left the room, they administered an IV which would keep Wolf asleep for the duration of his MRI. They assured me he wouldn’t remember any of it, but I’m not convinced that just because someone doesn’t remember something that it means they weren’t affected by it. We waited about an hour and then were called in to the recovery room where Wolf was just waking up. Unlike after his surgery, Wolf woke up from his MRI in good spirits. He lazily nursed for ten minutes and then we got him dressed and headed home. He was happy for the rest of the day, and not all that groggy. We have a follow up appointment next week with his neurologist to go over the results. We have our fingers crossed and are hoping they didn’t find anything abnormal. But if they did, so what? Big deal. We’ll figure it out.

I’ve been listening to a lot of country lately, as I tend to do every summer. This song, especially, is great and I wanted to share it with you.

Down the Rabbit Hole: How I Chose My First Woven Wrap & What I’ve Learned Since

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When I set out to purchase my first woven wrap I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea where to begin. The swaps were intimidating, the Facebook groups in particular. I browsed the FSOT forum on The Babywearer, saw a couple of wraps I liked, but wasn’t sure where to go from there or even if the wraps I liked were right for me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to choose between all of the fiber blends, colors, weaves, lengths, brands… the options are endless. Ultimately, I decided to buy a new wrap from an online retailer, specifically Wrap Your Baby. I was so impressed with the customer service and loved the fact that by buying my wrap from Diana I was supporting a small business run by another mama. She answered my questions personally and quickly. When my wrap arrived, I was instantly hooked.

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My first wrap was Natibaby’s Nursing Love in a size 5 and is a blend of cotton and linen. Linen, when new, is pretty stiff and it takes a bit of work to break it in. I didn’t follow any of the recommended methods for breaking in a new wrap (weaving it through crib rails, braiding it, etc.) and instead just wore it often. I’ve had it almost a year and it’s basically broken in now. I don’t know if I’ll ever sell it because a) I might be a wrap hoarder, and b) it’s the first woven I wore my son in.

I had done a lot of reading on choosing a woven wrap, but it all came down to choosing one that I liked. I really believe that wrapping takes a lot of trial and error, both when purchasing wraps and practicing carries. You’re not going to know what you like — and don’t like — until you try some different wraps. The differences between each wrap is vast. Even two wraps both made of 100% cotton will feel different. Some are thicker or thinner, some are tough when new and some are floppy to begin with. So, I bought my first wrap simply because I thought it was pretty. It happened to be a linen blend which was meant to be cooler in the heat of the summer. I honestly didn’t find it much cooler than my second wrap, a thin 100% cotton Ellaroo Mary.

Since those first two wraps, I’ve accumulated six more — not including the one and only wrap I ever sold. Do you need that many wraps? Absolutely not. You don’t have to get crazy and start collecting wraps to enjoy wrapping. You can have one wrap that you love and that’s all you need.

Happy babywearing!

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In Bloom

Little green buds are appearing on the hedges out front, and now on the birch tree. It’s as if it happens over night. Suddenly everything is green.

Alongside the highway driving home from Sick Kids there were daffodils amongst all the trees, clusters of them. I wish this season lasted longer, but it’s over so quickly. The buds turn to blossoms or bright green leaves right before our eyes.

Wolf is having a bad day. We had our fourth session of Communication Strategies Group. This week the focus was on reviewing the previous three visits. It was even more a waste of time than usual. I wish I were getting more out of it, and maybe the reason I’m not is because of my resistance to it, but the setting and strategies are not for me. Wolf has no interest in sitting still during these visits, but the room isn’t set up for free range play. There are papers and pens laying on the floor, toys in plastic bags. Of course it’s the bags he wants to play with. He loves crawling over to the other child and his dad, climbing into the dad’s lap, and staring at their faces. The other little boy is a bit put off by this, so I usually go and bring Wolf back to me. Wolf loves people and isn’t shy in the slightest.

The speech therapist gave us her assessment of Wolf thus far which included the term “severely delayed” regarding his receptive and expressive speech, as well as stated that socially he was delayed also. It mentioned something about his play not being what it should be for his age, but I can’t remember and really, what the hell is that supposed to mean anyway?

After that appointment we came home so Wolf could take a nap, and then we had to leave again for an appointment downtown. He had to have a minor procedure done which was painful for him, and I hate that. I hate that he had this long day and it ended with something uncomfortable that he didn’t understand. I hate being in that hospital, but I know we’re lucky to be there for things so minor. Something that has never been lost on me, ever, is how lucky I am to have my son. Ever since he was born I’ve known how lucky I am to have had an uncomplicated pregnancy, a beautiful birth experience, and a healthy child. I’ll always be grateful for these things. It helps to remind myself of them when I’m feeling down or mourning the loss of a “normal” toddlerhood. The appointments and therapy might be exhausting, but he’s healthy and he’s happy. That’s the most important thing.

Now that we’re home he’s feeling better. He loves to get home after a long day in and out of the car where he can finally play and explore untethered. He’s already made quite a mess, including splashing in the dog’s water bowl!

I’m happy to be home with my little boy and glad this long day is coming to a close.

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I’m Not a Better Mother Than You Are

We’re all trying. Each of us has experienced feelings of frustration, total exhaustion, and even failure. We may worry about “screwing up” our children, the damage we might cause in those moments we could have been more nurturing. It’s no secret that this is hard. We’re doing our best. Sometimes we struggle. It’s important, for me anyway, to remember that I’m not the only one. I’m not the only mother on the brink of burn out, some days barely getting through the day to bed time. It’s also equally, if not more, important to look at my son and pause. He’s not just an extension of me. He’s a little person. He doesn’t understand why he feels the way he does or why he can’t get to sleep. His little hands and feet won’t be little forever. I have to remind myself to pay attention because that look he gives me will change. His little face will change. Each expression and movement is unique and I don’t want to miss anything, not one little thing, because I’m too busy trying to get him fed or changed or to bed.

Wolf is an energetic, spicy, funny, sweet little boy with a big personality. He is stubborn, and magical. I’m so lucky to be his mom, even in the tough moments.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other people. It seems to get even easier when you become a mom. We’re encouraged, as parents, to gauge where our children fall on milestone charts, charts that leave very little wiggle room. So, when our friend’s baby walks before ours, or has more words, or eats better, it’s easy to get down on ourselves. Could we have done something wrong?

But we’re just different. Our babies are different. And that’s okay. It’s beautiful. I don’t want to waste another moment worrying about how I’m doing as a mother. I just want to be.

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