Breastfeeding Categories

There’s so much information around about breastfeeding nowadays but something rarely discussed is the fact that no two breastfeeding sessions are quite the same. Sure, the mechanics are comparable but every feed is an adventure and you’re never quite sure how it’s going to go down.  As a former librarian, I have been known to enjoy a bit of cataloguing in my time, including the selection of appropriate subject headings and classifications. This post has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time and finally I think it’s ready to be shared.

Of course, every baby is different but here’s the 7 Breastfeeding Categories I’ve become all too familiar with over the past 16 weeks:

1. Blind Freddie

Sometimes called “The Tiny Octopus”, this one is part of the newborn phase.  It’s characterised by the eyes closed, head wobbling, mouth gaping, arms flailing baby that is desperately seeking yet not quite finding the nipple. Meanwhile, you’re desperately trying to hold them, move the flailing arms out of the way and guide them to said – usually excruciatingly sore – nipple that’s RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, all with two hands.

Solution: Someone that you don’t mind getting up close and personal with your boob to shift those arms out of the way comes in handy – or grow an extra set of hands yourself. Whichever seems more achievable.

2. Drowning Man

Usually occurring (at least in my experience) in the wee small hours of the morning when the ‘girls’ have had a 7-8 hour break and are fully charged and ready to rumble. Baby latches on and gets more than bargained for. Cue coughing, choking and splutterings galore accompanied by startled looks and whole body flaps like a good-sized fish encased in terry towelling.

Solution: Fight against the flapping and sit baby up with a cloth to catch the overspill. Wait til baby stops gasping like a goldfish that’s hurled itself onto the lounge room floor. Discuss with baby how there’s a tube for eating and a tube for breathing and it’s a good idea not to get them mixed up. Start again – but this time, lean right back and let gravity make it easier on the poor little mite.

3. Babysutra

Once baby feels they are master of your domain (between 3 -4 months), they’ll start to experiment with different positions. That’s fun. For instance, did you know you can breastfeed standing up without a sling? Either did I until Little Miss decided that was the ONLY way she was taking it yesterday. For the past week, I’ve experimented with different positions in an attempt to appease the small dictator. For instance, she’s now decided that she prefers her feed from the right side lying down … which is fine when we’re home but not so much out in public.  I tried the football hold to see if it was about angles but she’s so long now that it was just ridiculous. Even she thought so (I could tell by the long-suffering look she gave me just before she yelled). I strongly suspect it’s so she can lie on the floor, eat and watch TV over my shoulder all at the same time. Hashtag multitasking like a boss.

Solution: If you can, go with it and try different positions. It makes for entertaining stories when hubby gets home and is far better than suffering the Bucking Bronco.

4. Bucking Bronco

They said they were hungry and it is about time for a feed. So how come they latch onto the nipple, only to rip themselves off a few seconds later and bounce around like a bucking horse trying to dislodge its rider, all the while yodelling like the Lonely Goatherd? Who knows? Babies are fiendishly fickle.

Solution: Try another position (see Babysutra). If that doesn’t work, try burping. If it’s still no good, tuck the girls away and change tack completely. If you’re feeling particularly cranky, you can tell baby that she’s not getting out of it completely and you’ll just be serving up the same dish later. She’ll probably fix  you with an “I don’t care” stare but at least you’ll feel better.

5. Drunken Pirate

Baby comes at your boob like a swashbuckling sailor, complete with one-eyed squints and attack cries of “arrgghh”. Boob is grabbed and motor-boated with delight before latching on. One arm wraps around the back of you and pinches the skin underneath your armpit while the other heads up top and beats on your chest. There’s groans of pleasure, lots of lip-smacking and even a few heave-ho’s between boob changes before collapsing in a milk-drunk heap with the nip hanging out one side of the mouth.

Solution: Nothing. Drunken Pirates are highly physical and very loud but generally good-natured. If you are feeding in bed beside your partner in the middle of the night, you could move to another room … but why should you be the only one to suffer?

6. Pervert

Similar to Drunken Pirate but less boisterous and more exploratory. Baby licks the nipple before latching on … then pops off … then licks … then latches on … etc etc. Meanwhile one hand is delicately stroking the skin under your armpit while the other is lightly caressing top-side. All this is done while baby has positioned their head so they can eyeball you intently. Whilst one understands baby is exploring and making sense of the world, one can’t help but feel slightly toyed with.

Solution: Pray they’ll grow out of it … or try not to make eye contact if it’s really creeping you out.

7. Snugglebunny

This is the classic Hollywood version of breastfeeding. Baby snuggles into you, eventually wrapping her entire body around you as she grows longer. Hands are similar to the Pervert position but there’s no creepy stroking – they’re just there, warm and soft and lovely. Eyes are closed, latch is perfect, feeding is pleasant and quiet.  Ahhhh bliss. When it happens at the 2am feed, there’s nothing quite as calming and peaceful. You find yourself gazing with bleary-eyed adoration at the little angel, and not even minding being woken in the middle of the night. Best of all, they finish with a sigh and let you put them straight back into bed without a whimper … or a loud and grunty poop.

Solution: Soak it up and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. In reality, they are little babies for such a preciously short time and you’ll actually find yourself looking back wistfully on this part of your life … once you’ve had enough sleep, that is.

Dark side of the baby

Before I go ahead and tarnish the up-til-now perfect reputation of Little Miss, I’d just like to reiterate how awesomely placid this kid is. She takes everything – and I do mean everything – in her stride with barely a whimper. From a few days after birth, we’ve taken her out and about and generally conditioned her to sleep whenever and wherever.

Ten days ago, she was woken at 1am, had a boob thrust in her mouth (no complaints there) then tossed in the car for a 1.5 hr drive up to Auckland, stuck in the sling, hauled to the airport, into a plane, across the Tasman, slung in the sling, hauled from International to Domestic, cuddled by Aunty and Uncle, back in the sling, onto a small pocket rocket before being greeted by lots of family she hadn’t met yet and a heat that she was not entirely familiar with. Travel time from whoa to go was approximately 14 hours.

She was magnificent.

Hardly a fuss was heard.

A wee little trooper.

Then she had days of being tossed around like a small cuddly football (it’s her own fault for being so cute, I reckon) as we made her introductions to all and sundry.  You have to understand – this kid is a miracle. We had people with their fingers crossed for years for us to hit the reproductive jackpot and finally all those positive thoughts coalesced into Little Miss. Consequently she was quite popular with the locals and let’s face it – everyone loves a baby.

 

Then the whirlwind week was over.

We were up at 7 am to say goodbye to her big brother at his work (and get one last coffee from him – he’s an amazing barista!) then troop around to family for breakfast then catch up with bigger brother before heading to the airport at 1 pm.

Then it was: sling – pocket rocket – sling from domestic to international – sleep on couch for 1 hr – sling – plane across the Tasman … and here’s where we start to break down …

She was a little grumbly on the plane. Nothing a boob didn’t fix, but we sensed a storm approaching. Fair enough, too. It was 11 pm NZ time so waaayyy past her bedtime. She eventually passed out in my arms about 45 minutes before landing in Auckland.

Then it was sling again so we could have enough hands to grab bags.

Still good.

We got through baggage and customs really quickly and were heading towards the shuttle bus area in record time, just taking the opportunity to do one last nappy change before retrieving our car and driving the 1.5 hrs home to Hamilton.

It was 12.30 am.

We took her out of the sling in the baby change room and she proceeded to goo and gaa and be smiley-cute while we changed her and told her she was our favourite baby because she’d been soooo amazing – not just for the flight but for the whole holiday.

It was a Kodak moment. Seriously.

Then we went to put her back in the sling for the last time.

And that, Officer, is how the fight started.

I think we can all agree that we’d really pushed the patience and good will of the poor little tyke and she’d handled it all with grace and aplomb. But that last tussle into the sling was the final straw for her.

She was in and I was doing up the clip on Daddy’s back when she arched her back and screamed so damn loud I thought a banshee had suddenly appeared in the room.

Uh-oh. Houston … we have a problem.

The wailing was less ‘cry-of-pain’ and more a roar of absolute fury. In fact,  she screamed so loud she actually choked herself and stopped breathing briefly.

Meanwhile, we’re frantically trying to figure out what’s wrong with the sling set-up. Was her arm trapped? Was her leg bent? Was there something sticking into her bum?

But no. She’d just reached her absolute limit and was letting us know in no uncertain terms that she was “Not. Happy. Jan!“.

Unfortunately, we needed her in that sling or we wouldn’t have enough hands between us to get her and bags out the door and onto the shuttle bus. Briefly, I wondered how the hell we were going to do this with a miniature Jack-Jack in tow.

I pulled her out and gave her a hug while Daddy checked everything over and gave the all-clear. Then we tried again.

This time, she cried and wrestled briefly but must have been all out of strength from her previous mini-explosion. Tired, miserable and all done in, she buried her head in her dad’s chest and passed out from exhaustion.

We breathed a sigh of relief, grabbed everything and got out while the getting was good. She slept the whole way home, through a final nappy change and into bed.

Watching her lose her shit, even if it was short-lived, was impressive though. Good to see the kid has a bit of bite!

Committing to it

I’ve been planning this post for a while now, as a celebration of our upcoming visit back home to Oz. It was just going to be a list of all the things I miss about home – Smiths original potato chips; Allens Jelly Beans; teabags with string; decent free television channels;  a bathtub and straight roads being my “Top 6 Things I Miss About Home”.

But recently, a group discussion made me question  how I really felt about our life here in New Zealand.

At our last weekly Space session we were talking about the principles of respectful parenting and asked to share an experience that we’d found challenging but eventually succeeded at – the point being that our babies are constantly meeting challenges but will get a great deal of satisfaction out of succeeding on their own and at their own pace.

I shared my experience of finishing my degree whilst raising three kids, managing a home and working simultaneously – it took me 10 years but I eventually got there and it’s something I’m immensely proud of.

Others related stories of sky-diving; having twins and coping largely on her own and travelling overseas alone. But something one of the ladies shared really struck a chord with me.

She talked about the time she made the decision to really commit to settling and making a life in New Zealand. It was difficult, she said, but in the end she realised that she’d been here long enough that whichever way she went, she was going to miss someone.  That resonated with me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

In the famous words of Peter Allen, I still call Australia home, even though it’s been over a year. In my mind, I’ve realised I’m still treating this time in our life as a brief sojourn overseas and haven’t committed to the idea of living here ‘forever’.

The other day NIH and I were discussing what we’d do if we won the lottery and our lists were fairly comparable – pay off the mortgage currently giving us grief; travel around NZ and really see everything (we’ve barely scratched the surface!); buy a bigger car; find a bigger place to rent – but then I finished off with “or move back home”.

NIH stopped and looked at me. “Really?” he said, “I haven’t actually got to the place where I think of going home yet.”

Maybe it’s because I miss my ‘big kids’ so much.

Maybe it’s the emotional and physical demands of a new baby combined with the financial stress of one income to tackle a mortgage and rent.

Maybe I’m just bad at commitment.

Whatever it is, I’m not quite there yet.

When I use the logical part of my brain (rather than the purely emotional sooky-lala side), I realise that moving back to Emerald is not the solution.  As NIH put it, we’d be taking a huge step back rather than moving forward.  The only things I miss from there are my kids and friends.

So if we did move back to Australia, we’d be living somewhere with a more favourable climate … but I’d still be in the same boat, missing the kids and friends.

And I’ve realised I actually rather like it here. The climate suits me. The surrounds are beautiful. We have access to all sorts of services and events that make life more interesting. I’ve even started to build a community of mums with bubs as well as strengthen good friendships from work.

All in all, where we are is really good … I just have to commit to it.

Daddy knows best … apparently

Once a week Little Miss and I attend Space – a support program designed to facilitate connections with other new parents and their babies whilst exploring developmental milestones through baby’s first year.  Each week has a designated topic linked to activities such as singing, reading and craft. It’s brilliant and we love it!

Recently we covered the topic of “What does baby hear?” and we went around the room stating what our baby seems to respond positively to.  To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about Little Miss’s preferences regarding music until then, so last night we did a bit of experimenting before bedtime.

NIH suggested I start with the song we’d played for her a few times in the womb. We’d tried out a few and hadn’t really found one we liked (ok, one that we agreed on) so I had to ask him to specify.

“Metallica,” he said in an “of course” tone.

“‘Enter Sandman’? ” I scoffed.  “I don’t think that’s really a suitable lullaby.”

“Yes it is,” he replied, “Go on, try it.” then went off for a shower.

Muttering to myself that father, in this case, does NOT know best, I totally ignored him and started playing a selection of songs from a recent Facebook post I’d saved called “17 songs to help settle your baby that won’t drive parents mental” .

She stopped whinging to listen to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” and didn’t seem to mind Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” but to be honest, I don’t think she could have cared less about Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah”, no matter how soulful it sounded.

NIH came back into the room.

“Did you try it?” he asked.

“Pffft. No!” I replied.

[Cue baby starting to arc up again]

NIH looked at me and raised his eyebrows in that way only he knows how. It says “I’m right. You know I’m right. I’m not going to argue with you or force you to comply but still … I’m right.”

I sighed (loudly) and with no grace whatsoever found the song on YouTube and pressed play.

The little bugger shut up instantly.

“Just a coincidence!” I grumbled under my breath, avoiding his smug smile.  To prove my point, I flipped back to the next suggested song on my baby lullaby playlist – Coldplay’s “The Scientist”.

Turns out she hates Coldplay. With a passion. And she’s not afraid to demonstrate it.

“Bloody co-conspirators,” I grumbled and switched back to Metallica, whereupon she went back to sucking peacefully on her dummy with a drowsy stare that signals sleep is on the way.

NIH and I smiled delightedly at each other … this could be fun …

I’m not ashamed to say we toyed with our daughter’s emotions last night, flipping back and forth between the two songs and watching her reactions. It was, without a word of a lie, freakin’ hilarious.

She’d settle right down for “Sleep with one eye open; gripping your pillow tight” then start the wind up for “Nobody said it was easy“.

I’ve given birth to a heavy metal freak. Daddy does know best after all.

Oh baby!

Damn!

I believe I’ve previously touted the amazing health system in New Zealand, focusing in particular on maternity and after-birth care. I’ve experienced the most amazing support from the time I realised at 8 weeks that perhaps I should actually go to a doctor and get checked out since I seemed to be ‘still pregnant’ (usually we’d make it to 7 weeks tops before miscarrying).

Australians are uniquely blessed to be considered ‘honorary kiwis’ if they decide to move to NZ and plan on staying more than two years. This includes cheap doctor visits; free antenatal care from a registered midwife up until six weeks after baby is born; free ongoing support from Plunket after baby arrives and being able to get prescription medication for only $5 a pop.

Now, before I go on, perhaps I should do a shout-out to my older kids …

Hey guys!  Mummy is about to tell all about something that could be construed as embarrassing so feel free to look away! Look away now!

I’m going to talk about contraception … and in particular, the prescription I picked up from the chemist yesterday. You may have noticed the photo. That’s the ACTUAL BOX … or should I say “boxes” – all 12 of them.

Yep, 144 stolen moments of Confident Pleasure right there. And I say ‘stolen’ because that’s what happens when you have a small child that may wake up at any time and demand attention.

To be honest, when the midwife first brought up the topic of contraception post-baby, I scoffed. Firstly, the baby in question was only two weeks old and I was currently undergoing a stark reminder of the consequences of sex. Secondly, did she not realise how much of a miracle this little bundle was? The idea that we (and by that I mean ME) could actually conceive another child seemed ludicrous. And yet … lightning has been known to strike twice.

I don’t like chemical contraception (and all versions of it certainly doesn’t like me) so to alleviate their concern and show that I was moderately responsible, I opted for the good ol’ Love Glove.

Yep, I got a prescription from the midwife for 144 Frangers. One gross of Frenchies. French letters. Dingers. Rubbers. Sheaths. Raincoats. (Oh yes, I am loving googling all the slang terms for condoms but in the interests of my mum have kept it to the clean ones!).  And I got them all for the bargain price of $5.

Since life has settled down somewhat and the baby is now nine weeks and showing signs of sleeping longer through the night, sex may be a topic of conversation again. Even though I’m not sure we’ll even use them, I decided that perhaps I should get that prescription filled yesterday, if only to see what a years’ worth of condoms looks like.

I don’t know who was more flustered – the chemist handing over the ‘package’ or me trying to stuff the damn thing in the tray underneath the pram.

When I got them home, I took a photo and sent it to NIH at work with the caption “DAMN!”.  He was suitably impressed.

The instructions on the label say “USE when required”. I’ve checked the Use By date and fortunately we have until September 2021.

Thank god for that.

Drinks with the girls

Last Friday night I met up with two girlfriends from work for drinks and a catch-up. Of course (as with most of my expeditions) there was some minor drama beforehand to add to the excitement.  I won’t go into detail but suffice to say that due to circumstances out of my control, I had 20 minutes to get dressed, prettified, say goodbye to the baby (oh … and NIH), drive, find a parking spot and walk the 5 minutes to the bar.

Challenge not only accepted but achieved. What can I say? It’s a gift … and there was the promise of wine and gossip at the finish line!

For two hours we shared a bottle of wine, some hot nibbly food and chatter. It was such a treat for various reasons:

  1. I was out in clothes that I hadn’t fit into for some time – and not to boast but I think I looked pretty fine for someone who, up until 7 weeks ago, looked like Moby Dick’s twin sister
  2. The clothes were not chosen according to how discretely I could pop a boob out (although some may argue that’s precisely how you should dress for a Friday night out on the town)
  3. I got to spend time with two lovely women who make me laugh, keep me grounded and fill me in on happenings outside my temporary but very narrow world
  4. Hot food that I could eat without interruption
  5. Wine. Enough said.

My life at the moment revolves around a small, squinty-eyed dictator who calls the shots … and I’m ok with that. It’s all part of motherhood.

However, for a brief two hours I was just Me. And that’s something we mothers tend to put on the backburner – sometimes for so long we forget where we left it. Having a baby can be a very isolating experience if you let it so as a “Do-Over” mum who’s been through this before, I’d like to say “Don’t”.

Don’t forget who you are.

Don’t put off catching up with the outside world from time to time. It would have been far easier for me to just cancel, considering what was going on that afternoon but I had made plans and by golly I was going out, even if it meant I was late and it was only for a little while. Once you start down the road of opting out if it gets too tricky, it gets harder and harder to turn back. It’s ALWAYS going to be tricky with a baby. Work around it.

Don’t ditch your mates from BB (Before Baby). You need those girlfriends without kids just as much as you need girlfriends in the same boat as you. They not only remind you of who you were before but also give you a chance to talk about something other than sleeping, pooping or feeding. Make the effort. They are totally worth your time.

Take a step out of your routine of feeding, changing nappies and coaxing the little darling to go to sleep and do something for yourself.  It refreshes your batteries and makes you appreciate motherhood all the more.

Terrible confession

Not just for funsies

Way back when I was a girl, one of my jobs was to take the garbage bag out to the wheelie bin that would sit behind the shed until bin day. We lived in Northern NSW, where sugar cane is a big industry. And with sugar cane comes cane toads.

Cane toads were prolific in our area, even in suburban back yards such as ours. Invariably, I would have to take the garbage bag out at night, walking across the grassy yard using the lights from the house as my guide in the darkness.

I did this in a sort of hop-skip-try-to-float-above-the-ground way as the worst feeling in the world was accidentally stepping on a cane toad. Or so I thought.

I was wrong.

Not long ago … I stepped on my baby.

That right there was definitely the worst feeling in the world.

“How on earth could you step on your baby?” I hear you cry.  As simply as this:

I had her on the floor on a blanket, having a stretch out and enjoying time NOT in my arms (or maybe that was me enjoying the time).  I got up to get a drink and came back and stepped over her … almost.

I was wearing some seriously comfy floppy pants. Unfortunately they’re a little long for my stubby soccer-player legs. The end of one pant leg slipped under my left foot and tripped me in such a way as to interfere with the planned trajectory of my right foot, shortening the arc considerably and re-configuring the landing site to close proximity to darling Little Miss’s left ankle.  In other words, I tripped on the stupid-arse pants and planted some of my foot on hers.

The yell she let out was magnificent.

I scooped up the poor little monkey and hugged her close, sobbing “sorrysorrysorry”.  She settled much faster than I did  and I spent at least an hour afterwards hugging her and repeatedly checking her little foot to make sure I hadn’t completely squished it.

Happy to say she’s fine – although if there’s any issues with it as a soccer player in later life,  you are all sworn to secrecy.

It’s only now I realise the dual purpose of those mats with the mobiles built over the top. Those foam pipes are not just for her amusement but also for protection against clumsy oaf mothers.

Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game

I’m struggling to align my mental image of myself with my new role as SAHM in this Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game called ‘Life’.  You may have heard of it – like World of Warcraft only without the healers to come and get you back in the game after you’ve accidentally set yourself on fire.

It’s nothing new. I’ve been here before and asked the same hard-hitting question:

“What the Sam Hill will I do with myself while the baby is sleeping that will make me feel clever and worthwhile and maintain the shreds of sanity I’m barely hanging onto … but doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning or craft?”

In the olden days of my first time around as SAHM,  I discovered study and I really do attribute it to keeping me from going completely ga-ga.  I started my Bachelor of Science (Library Technology) via Virtual Campus and of course, fell pregnant midway through my first semester. Never one to let a mere trifle as children stop me, I carried on for the next 10 years, cutting back to one unit a semester when life got complicated (i.e. had another baby) until I finished.

Once I’d completed that sucker, I was hooked and went on to do a few other courses and diplomas related to teaching, editing, proofreading and graphic design.

The only one I didn’t see through to the end was the teaching grad dip. One round of prac finished me. I had three kids at home already – did I really want a class full of them as well?

Looking back, I note that I started them all at a time where I was struggling with my identity and self-esteem. Some people drink and take drugs. I get my jollies from assignments. Drugs would probably be cheaper (just ask my accountant about my HECS debt)  but hey, my addiction fills out a CV really well and makes me look smart.

This SAHM do-over, I vowed to take a different path from the norm. I would get involved with mum’s groups and baby play-based education sessions. I would take the baby for long walks in the pram. Leave baby home with Dad occasionally and go out for Friday afternoon drinks with the girls.

I would not sign myself up for more study and would definitely not spend countless hours at the computer with the baby asleep (or waving its arms frantically in hopes of gaining my attention) in a bouncer at my feet.

If I were grading myself on how I’m doing so far, it would look like this:

“Welcome to Stay At Home Motherhood … again.

So far your efforts to get out and socialise are to be commended and you seem to be tracking well for achieving some semblance of regular adult conversation and interaction – even if it is baby-centric. Excellent work. Keep it up.

I see you’ve arranged to get together with former work mates this week. Please remember that whilst your world revolves around your baby’s bowel motions and cute smile that may or may not be related to said bowel motions, not everyone will want to hear about it.

A simple “Baby is still alive. Husband and I still talk to each other with words of more than one syllable. I am a little tired but all is good” will suffice.  Try engaging interest with topics other than your baby such as world politics, the state of Kim and Kanye’s marriage woes or, if desperate, the weather.

However … I see you’re getting into the blogging again and I wonder if this is a wise choice?  That baby is only going to take vigorous bouncing at your feet for so long before she really jacks up. Please arrange an appointment to see me about this before it goes much further.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone is waving their arms at me frantically …

Birth Story #4: Destiny delivered

Mummy’s little helper

A long time ago, I had my palm read for a bit of fun. I don’t remember most of what she told me – but something she said came back to me a few years ago. She pointed out the divergence in my life line and said I would have a major change midway through that would lead to a completely different path. She also said I’d have four children …

If you haven’t read this blog before (which I neither expect or necessarily encourage), you may not realise how unlikely the fourth child seemed to be for me.  Here’s a recap. But it would seem Little Miss was destined to be here.

Even though the pregnancy had been textbook perfect, the Ob/Gyn specialist advised at my last visit that not only would I have to deliver at the hospital rather than the birthing centre, I would also be induced on or before my due date because of my maturity. I could bitch ad nauseum about that but I think I’ve covered it in previous posts,

So just before 11am on the Saturday morning we took the short walk (or in my case waddle) up to the hospital less than 200 metres from our front door to be admitted and get the party started with chemicals.

And thus began the long and frustratingly slow process of presenting the eviction notice to Little Miss followed by her fast and furious evacuation of the premises.

Writing this so close after the birth means it is quite vivid and healing is still underway. This makes it a little too soon to be particularly funny about it but I’ll have a go.

Nothing much happened for the first 11 hours, which annoyed me no end. I am not a particularly patient person at the best of times, and being stuck in a hospital room facing an unknown timeframe before the action (i.e. pain)to begin was definitely not me at my best. There was moaning and complaining that had nothing to do with contractions and everything to do with boredom. NIH took it all in his stride, imparting his calm and somewhat soothing support, despite the fact he was just as anxious as me.

I stayed on my feet as much as possible to encourage things to hurry the hell up and eventually the contractions started building in intensity. By the time I was attached to the monitor again at 2 am, the midwife suggested we could either just keep going the way we were and check again at the next six hour mark or she could examine me and see if I was suitably dilated enough to go down to the birthing suite and try breaking my waters to finish the process of establishing full-blown labour.

I was a tad keen for it all to be over so the war cry was “Bring it on!”.

Nothing happens fast in hospitals so we didn’t get downstairs until 4am. Then there was some question of a fibroid that had mysteriously appeared and disappeared on and off through all my scans so they hauled in the ultrasound to double-check.

*sigh*

“JUST GET ON WITH IT!” I wanted to yell. Instead I mentally reminded myself of the bigger picture – as in a straight-forward delivery of a healthy baby.

Finally, at around 5am they broke my waters, which was as delightful as always, but worked in really cranking things up very quickly.  After the obligatory monitoring for 30 minutes to make sure Little Miss was travelling ok, I was free to move about again.

Heat packs and back rubs worked to distract and take some of the pain but I really missed the hot bath I’d used to control pain in previous labours. I very quickly advanced to the stage of labour where you wish to the good Lord above you could just climb out of your body and take a break for a moment. Or, hell, just go home with the promise of coming back and trying again the next day. I’d caught a bit of sleep between 10 pm and midnight but had more or less been awake for almost 24 hours.

Every contraction was hitting sooner and harder and seemed to last forever. At one stage I did get a bit sailor-mouthy, calling a contraction a ‘mofo’ – only I didn’t say mofo. Funnily enough, it never occurred to me to ask for pain relief. Perhaps subconsciously I didn’t want to ruin my perfect record of no drugs in childbirth … or am secretly a masochist. I suspect the latter.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore and how a c-section sounded like such an appealing idea and why the BLOODY HELL was I doing this again anyway, a wave of nausea hit like a hallelujah chorus. Transition stage! Woohoo! Sounds crazy but I knew I’d reached the end of stage one. It was around 6.30 am.

A few more contractions then that switch in gears that signals second stage hit. You go from feeling as if you’re drowning in a sea of pain with each contraction and wanting to sleep in between the waves to a sudden surge of adrenaline like a revving of the engines with that need to push that will not be denied.

Unfortunately you also make weird grunty noises to accompany that need to push but at this point, you just don’t give two hoots. You leave your dignity at the door when you walk into hospital to have a baby and you pick it up on the way out … only to shove it in a cupboard at home until your kids are teenagers.

Between pushing, I’d look at NIH holding my hand with worry etched all over his face and give him a grin or crack a joke, trying to assure him that this was good and we were nearly there.

I haven’t been game to ask if I pooped while pushing and to be honest I don’t want to know … but I did accidentally let out a few loud farts – something I rarely do in front of anyone. For the first two, I just hoped they didn’t notice but the last one was a ripper.

“Whoopsie!” I muttered, trying to laugh it off.

Whoopsie?? WTF?

With each push I felt like Sisyphus pushing that blasted boulder up the hill. I remember thinking that there was no possible way I was going to get this baby out – she was going to be stuck in there forever.

We experimented with a few different positions and eventually found the magic one – me with one foot braced on my midwifes’ right hip and the other on NIH’s left hip. I lent forward with the next contraction, grasped the handgrips on each side of the bed, gave it my best grunty push and felt movement.  And – oh gosh – that burn.

Ouch. I can still feel that burning pain. It is just … there are no words. But I was determined she wasn’t slipping back. I panted like a hyperactive puppy, holding that bloody watermelon right where it was.  The memory I have (and it’s vivid) is just blackness (I had my eyes closed); excruciating pain in my nethers; short panty breaths and words of encouragement and direction from my midwife.

Slowly baby inched forward then there was a kind of give and I shouted “There she is!” as she was slipped out.

Unbeknown to me, NIH was the one to skillfully catch Little Miss and place her perfect warm little body on my chest. We finally met our little miracle at 7.09 am on Sunday 26th March 2017. She weighed 8lb 2oz and had a perfect Apgar score.

She’s a delightful baby and so far has been quite placid and easy-going.  However, today has been a rare grumbly day so I’ve pecked out this post with one hand while Little Miss snuggles on my chest – the only place (apart from at my boob) she seems to be content at the moment.

When I look back down the path filled with heartache and money and time and longing and labour that led to sitting here with this warm, burpy, poopy, whingey baby in my arms wanting nothing but me to comfort her all day, I only feel overwhelming love, a profound gratefulness … and awe that once again I survived childbirth.

Birth Story #3: Big Bang

We had our pigeon pair and that was going to be it as far as procreation goes and since I didn’t like what the pill did to my body, we adopted the Rhythm Method and it worked perfectly well … until that one time that it didn’t.

We were enjoying the adventure of Darwin at the time. The Princess was well over three and perfectly precocious. The Master was about nine months old and just starting to develop a sense of humour after a rough first six months of crying unless he was strapped to me via sling. Life was slowly becoming more manageable.

Then FoMDT was sent off on exercise for a month before coming home for a mere week before another assignment that would be three months long.  We behaved like teenagers, and despite the fact that I was still breastfeeding and my chart CLEARLY SHOWED it was a designated safe time to indulge, life (as the famous line goes) found a way.  After the initial shock, we were fine with it. We already had two kids – how hard could a third one be? My confidence in my abilities was absurdly high … and I’d forgotten to take into account that every kid is different – as is every pregnancy and labour.

It’s funny that you should find yourself questioning whether you’re in actual labour or not with your third child but I didn’t find it so amusing at the time. We were staying with my Mum and Dad, awaiting FoMDT’s marching-out day (aka resignation from the Army life) and the birth of number three before heading off to a new life and promise of work in the mines in WA.

I had contractions that were on-again, off-again for two days, leading us to head into the hospital on the Thursday night, only to be sent home again a few hours later. I was so embarrassed – how could I not know if it was for real or not?

I remember being so bloody miserable the next morning, standing at the big glass windows in the back living room of the house, rotating hips to ease the tightening of Braxton-Hicks whilst gazing out at the beautiful vista of the misty valley below through my tears. I was huge, tired, miserable and just wanted it all over.

My Mum was leaving that Friday morning for Hobart for a meeting and I was under strict instructions not to have baby until she was back on Sunday … so off she went to the airport; off Dad went to the office and after seeing how distraught I was, FoMDT took me off to the beach for a walk.

I love the beach. It’s not just the simple act of walking along enjoying the view, breathing in the fresh, salty air and being lulled by the rhythmic sound of the crashing waves  – scientifically speaking, the negative ions created by the movement of the water have been shown to boost your mood and energy levels.

But as we walked, I increasingly found it necessary to stop for a minute to let the contractions have their way. Unfortunately, as had been the pattern for the last few days, as soon as I stopped moving and sat down in the car, everything else stopped. To say I chucked a bit of a tanty is mild – I raged about how much I hated effing pregnancy and effing contractions and effing babies all the 10 minute drive home.

It was around 11 am and obviously someone needed a nap. I headed to bed and dropped off almost immediately to sleep but found myself waking up about every 15-20 minutes to contractions before dropping back off to la-la land again.  At about 12.30 pm I came to on all fours on the bed, panting and in pain.

Since the hot water trick had worked so well with pain management for the last one, I thought I’d try it out again and hopped into the bath about 1pm. I could feel the tightening sensation but pain was minimal.  In fact, I was so comfortable that I really wasn’t paying much attention to timing … until I realised that they were getting much closer together – like 2-3 minutes between each one.

It was around 2.15 pm when I called out to FoMDT that we might have to go soon … then stood up. BAM. A wave of immense pain hit me and I do believe my voice hit an octave that made any dogs in the area wince as I yelled “Ok, we have to go NOW.”

We called Dad to meet us at the hospital to take the kids then bundled everyone in the car for the 15 minute trip into town. I yelled through gritted teeth for FoMDT to slow down as we drove down the windy road and he hissed back that he was only doing 40ks an hour and did I really want to have this baby in the bloody car?  What can I say – gravity and contractions do not go well together.

We made it to the hospital carpark and while FoMDT transferred the kids and seats into Dad’s car, my darling father took my arm and walked me into the hospital foyer. I had to stop for a minute and pant just outside reception and I could see the girls on the front counter looking out at me with rueful smiles on their faces.

“Don’t you dare bloody laugh,” I said as we slowly made our way inside.

“Oh no, sweetheart. We’re not laughing,” said one of the girls with obvious sympathy as she gave directions to the birthing unit.

One of the midwives on duty was a close family friend of FoMDT’s – a down-to-earth, practical lady that I would have loved even if she was a stranger, as she examined me and exclaimed “Nice – 8 cm. This won’t take long.” Magic words to any labouring womans’ ear.

Not long after, I was hunched over the pillows and holding on to the bars at the head of the bed when the most extraordinary thing happened.  With previous labours, they’d had to break my waters – apparently my body makes a good strong membrane sac that don’t bust easily.  But this time, it popped by itself.

Wait .. did I say ‘pop’? More like exploded.

A huge “bang” then a gush of water, like a water balloon squarely hitting a target, causing the midwife and FoMDT to jump back from the bed simultaneously.  “I think your waters just broke” was quite possibly the understatement of the year.

Not long after, bustling was happening behind me and FoMDT said “Ooh, they’re gloving up! You’re nearly there, darl!”. After a few pushes, the Dr asked me to try turning over to face her and lifting up my hips. Next push and literally, out he popped!

Our beautiful third baby and second son was born at 3.35pm Friday 22nd March 1996 – in the record time (once he made up his mind) of 4.5 hours, with no stitches or grazes or tediously long second stage. I mentally high-fived myself on having finally ‘perfected’ childbirth – and a good thing too, because I wasn’t going back for a fourth go.

He was plopped up on my chest and went straight for the boob … and there he would have dangled for the next year if I’d have let him.  Once again, I sniffed that delicious newborn baby smell – but this time knowing  it wasn’t something he’d been bathed in.

We rang Dad at the office – barely 45 minutes after he’d walked me in the door – and gave him the good news. Unbeknown to us, The Princess was listening in on the phone line in the other room. She had been counting – nay, insisting – on a baby sister, going to far as to tell the GP in all seriousness that if it was a boy, she was sending it back.

Apparently upon hearing the news, she hung up the phone with a devastated look on her face, turned to Dad and said “I don’t think I can handle another brother.”

But handle him she did. The Master, on the other hand, took the attitude of “If I ignore it, it will go away”. To be fair, the poor little bugger was only 19 months old himself and still a baby in so many ways. After a week, he resigned himself to the fact the little bundle wasn’t going away so he may as well acknowledge the newest addition.

I was lucky enough to be let out of hospital by 11am the day after The Baby was born – with the midwives questioning my sanity all the while.  “Wouldn’t you rather stay? Don’t you have two little ones at home already?”

Yes, I did and yes they were loud and demanding … but they were mine and I missed them. I also hated hospitals (still am not a fan) and never felt comfortable or that the baby was ‘mine’ until I was home.

We drove out to pick up Mum at the airport on Sunday with baby in tow.  Thankfully she forgave me for not crossing my legs and waiting for her!