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.

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!

Birth Story #2: Accidental Hero

My darling Dad working on the caravan – his last ‘baby’.

“I’m a bit nervous about seeing you in labour.”

This comment came not from NIH but from my Mum, who is flying over from Oz in a few days to keep me company in the last week of pregnancy and meet the fourth and slightly miraculous grandchild.  It was only then I realised that, due to one thing or another, she hadn’t been present at the lead-up or the hours immediately after the arrival of my first three kids, but my Dad had that dubious honour for two of them.

In 1994, we were in Sydney and FoMDT was in the Army and currently on course. The Army, at least back then, was notorious for being less than accommodating for family – the common saying being “If they wanted you to have a wife and kids, they would have issued you with some” –  so we arranged for my Dad to come down to be there as support both during and after the new arrival.

At that point in time, my Mum and Dad had their own business – a secretarial service that they’d built up from an electronic typewriter and photocopier in a small room to a two-roomed office complete with three networked computers, a giant photocopier-cum-printer, trainee, positions on the local Chamber of Commerce and regular customers.

Dad (according to him, at least) was the brains of the operation – the networking frontman who could dazzle with wit and intelligence, gaining peoples’ trust (and therefore business) with ease. Mum, on the other hand, was the one who actually DID the work … so she couldn’t be spared for a week or two to gallivant off to Sydney to hold her daughters’ hand, whilst Dad was deemed expendable.

He was allocated the task of being primary carer for The Princess so FoMDT could hold my hand in hospital when it came time to deliver the baby that was to become the thorn in her side for a number of years.  At that stage, there wasn’t paternity leave and being on course, FoMDT wouldn’t be able to take leave, so Dad was also my designated support person for the first week out of hospital.  This meant I could take advantage of the newly established “early release program” at Liverpool Hospital,  going home as soon as mum and bub were given the ok and the midwife would home-visit.

I have to admit this labour is the haziest of all three. I do remember things were not running to schedule and Dad and I did lots of walking around the block in the hope of getting things going. Labour finally started sometime after the 8.30pm Sunday night TV movie. This particular night was Accidental Hero starring Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis.  There was something about a plane crash and a shoe … but that’s all I can remember of it. Obviously, I wasn’t able to follow the storyline and huff and puff at the same time … or it was a shit movie.

We headed to the hospital about midnight and I was introduced to the wonders of the hot bath. For me, sitting in hot water whilst in first stage of labour is the absolute bomb. It completely takes the pain away whilst still being aware of contractions. Liverpool Hospital had just done a major refurbishment of their labour rooms so there was big triangular bathtub adjoining the ‘business section’ of the room. After being convinced by the midwife to try it out, it was all she could do to get me out to deliver, as water births were not allowed.

When I did get out, the contractions hit me like a sledgehammer. Holy cow, how did second stage get here so quickly?  I really wanted to hop back in but they insisted on us moving to the bed as it looked like baby was not far off.

Now … I had figured that second stage would be a cinch for second baby, since my nether regions had become … let’s say ‘more flexible’.  What I did not figure on was the size of the head of the second baby.

The paediatrician doing the rounds the next day actually said out loud “That can’t be right” when seeing the 38.5 cm head measurement written in my file. He measured baby’s head himself and breathed “Damn”. I wanted to say “No shit, Sherlock” but I was too concerned with a doctor being in awe of a head that size. Was there something wrong with my baby?  Checks a few weeks’ later found nothing wrong – he just had a big head.

So, back to second stage (my nemesis) taking longer than it should. My OB/GYN finally arrived, announcing his arrival by popping his head in the door and asking if he had time to get a coffee. If I could have taken a breath, I would have yelled “No you bloody don’t! If I have to be here, so do you!”. Fortunately, the midwives took care of it for me and he (rather grudgingly, I might add) decided to join the party.

Not long after I recall him looming over my bottom half with a pair of scissors and saying to the midwives, “I’m all for natural, ladies, but perhaps now is the time to do an episiotomy.”

“Dear God,” I thought “Not stitches again!” so I put everything I had into it and pushed REALLY HARD.  We finally got somewhere and after a few more contractions, our darling boy was out.

But oh lordy, I would not be able to pee without sobbing for the next five days. Remember how it would sting so bad when you fell on cement as a kid and grazed your knee?  Now imagine that same stinging sensation on your foofoo. In hindsight, the episiotomy would have been a much better idea.

But at that moment – 3.35am Monday 1st August 1994 – I didn’t care. We had a beautiful boy safely laying on my chest … with balls swollen to a size that made FoMDT ridiculously proud.  Due to the longer second stage, he was also a bit swollen and puffy around the face … like a  footy player on a Sunday morning after a big game and an even bigger Saturday night at the pub afterwards.  And as we discovered, the size of his head had been the reason for the hold-up. The midwives actually congratulated me for only saying the “F” word once during delivery.

He went off with FoMDT to get properly weighed, measured and washed while I enjoyed that oh-so-delightful shower.  Then I got to keep him beside me for the remainder of my time in hospital, once again sniffing that delightful baby smell that I assumed was bath wash.

It was totally blissful, just laying in bed with him all bundled up next to me. I had missed out on this with his sister so really enjoyed that quiet time in the early hours before the bustle of normal hospital routines would begin, marvelling at this perfect little creature we’d made.

When Dad brought The Princess in later that day, I couldn’t believe how big and kinda scruffy she’d turned overnight in her brightly-coloured jumper,  fine blonde hair all over the place and the remains of something (a bribe, most likely) around her mouth. She was just shy of turning three but until The Master arrived, she’d been my baby and had seemed so small.

She clambered up on the bed and I gave her a hug and said “Have you been a good girl for Peter?” – Peter being my Dad. She decided when she was old enough to talk that he was Peter – not Grandad or Pa or Poppy. Everyone else called him Peter so she did too. He was so besotted with her that she could have called him anything – so Peter it was, for her and her brothers to come.

She looked at me with her serious little two year old face … and displayed not just her sense of humour that I’d grown to know and love but also her ability to read people fairly accurately.

“Yes … but he doesn’t like wiping my bum.”

The phenomenon of birth stories

birth-storiesStories are fascinating, and I’m not just talking about fiction here. The method of handing down knowledge from one generation to the other began with oral recitation long before the printed word and perhaps this primal desire is the reason why women invariably feel the need to share their birth stories.

 

I’ve been mulling over doing a series of my previous three birth stories in the lead up to Number Four for the following reasons: one is to remind myself that every birth is different yet no less miraculous and wonderful and two is because I find them a fascinating phenomenon.

You’ll be sitting in a group at a social gathering – be it a casual barbecue or formal dinner – and the women will start to chat together. Even if they’ve only just met, there is a relatively predictable pattern to the conversation that ensures. At first it starts out as general niceties – the weather; their work; their other halves. Then, if they are mothers, it will move onto their children.  Once a sense of familiarity has been reached – the ratio of wine consumed being directly proportional to the speed with which this occurs – the birth stories will often start.

If you’ve ever been through a birth yourself, you’ll understand why.  No matter if it was a good or horrendous experience, it’s a badge of honour every woman wears for the remainder of her life. I would liken it to a warrior’s story of undergoing an epic battle on all three fronts of  physical, spiritual and mental.

I use the word “battle” to describe labour and birth, not to emphasise pain or drama (even though there’s often plenty of both), but rather to highlight the power and long-lasting effects that such an experience has on you.

Ina May Gaskin, hailed as the mother of authentic midwifery, said it best:

“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”

You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie there, Ina May.

Birth stories are unique to each mother … and in turn, each child they have. Every one of my three birth stories are as totally different as the baby that arrived at the end of them.  Each one gave me an opportunity explored my strengths and weaknesses at that given stage in my life, offering a glimpse into my inner self and what I was capable of handling.

After hearing other mothers’ birth stories over the years, I also recognise that I was incredibly fortunate to have three positive outcomes that only served to build up my confidence and resilience as a mother.

I only know the following tidbits about my own birth story from my mother:

  • I was three days late and the start of her labour interrupted Sunday lunch
  • I was breech so they whacked Mum out on drugs to deliver me
  • I spent time in a humidicrib but when I kicked out the bottom, they decided I’d survive
  • I was born at 5.55pm Sunday night but Mum didn’t get to see or hold me until Monday afternoon
  • I had a weak palate so when I cried I sounded like a lamb bleeting (that was Dad’s contribution to my birth story. This was back in the day when husbands didn’t get to go in with their wives for the birth. He was waiting outside when the nurse wheeled a whole bunch of babies past. He smiled at the funny cry and she said “Don’t laugh – that one’s yours”.
  • Dad insisted on carrying me out of the hospital, against hospital policy of a nurse doing it.

Mum is coming over to spend time with me before and after Little Miss arrives and I plan to ask her for more details about her birthing stories.  It makes me wonder if it is a generational thing or she just didn’t want to scare me before I had my own stories to tell.

In fact … I don’t know if I’ve ever shared all the details of my birthing stories with my children.  Perhaps it is considered too intimate and the stories share too much of our true selves?  Maybe we don’t want any negative experiences we might have had to be misinterpreted by the child that was part of it until they are old enough to understand that the birth stories are actually not about the baby at all but about the mother?

Maybe we are just so busy in the first 18 years of their life on earth that we just don’t get around to it …

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to share mine.

Kids, have I ever told you how I met you ….

 

Sheer torture

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Answer the questions, dammit!

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started or if it’s related to one particular event or a combination of them over time, but I have a deep mistrust and downright dread of most medical professionals – especially the upper echelon known as “specialists”.  Knowing this, you would understand how much I enjoyed yesterday’s little foray to the obstetrician at the hospital antenatal clinic.

In NZ, your LMC (lead maternity carer) during pregnancy and childbirth is your midwife. In my case, I have two women who job-share. It’s a great system and the part I like the most is that, in most cases, these women have had children of their own.  No offence, fellows, but until you’ve hefted around a growing creature in your innards then pushed the damn thing out, pregnancy and childbirth is all just theory to you.  And theory and practice can be two vastly different experiences.

The specialist visit is a mere formality due to my *cough* maturity, as everything has been trucking along like a normal pregnancy.  And I’m fine with that. Let’s be cautious, by all means. We’ve waited too long for this little miracle – if a specialist visit or two is necessary for safe delivery, I’ll do it.

But what I hate the most with every visit to a new specialist is THE GRILLING.

Or, as they like to call it, “documenting your medical history”.

To add insult to injury, it was done by a nervy yet nice final year medical student, before sending me forth to see the doctor.

I technically could have been the poor guy’s mum.

With these medical history interviews, I always feel like the innocent victim in one of those film noir movies, accused of a crime I didn’t commit.

You know the ones. Black and white. Gritty scenes of victim sweating under bright spotlight as they insist their innocence. Slamming of fists on desks. Declarations of … well, you get the picture.

The interview kinda went like this:

Dr: [looking down at folder] “So, how many pregnancies have you had?”

Me: “Ahhhh…” [Shit. I hate this question. I can never remember.]

Dr: “17? Is that right? Is that what I read? Because that’s a lot. Is it really that many?”

Me: [Trying desperately to remember] “Um … I think it was closer to 11 or 12?”

Dr: “Hmmm … that’s still a lot.” [pause to glance at records]

Me: [nervous sweat starting to trickle in certain places] Does he not believe me? How many was it again?  “Umm…”

Dr: “How many living children do you have?”

Me: [relieved] Phew. A question I can answer confidently. “Oh – three.”

Dr: “So how many miscarriages then?”

Me: Dear Jesus, is my maths being tested now? And why does maths seem so hard when I’m stressed? “Ummm .. so that would be …”

Dr: [interrupting] “And when were they?”

Me: [gaping at him] Are you serious?  “Errrrr…”

It’s a test I should know all the answers to but for some reason, my brain just goes on holiday and I end up looking and sounding like a gormless idiot.

Perhaps what I should do is write it all down and just present the list of whats and whens to each new practitioner I visit. There may be eyebrows raised regarding my perceived OCD levels but at least it might prevent the grilling!

The upside to pregnancy

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Merry Christmas from the Bump!

I’m not going to say that EVERYTHING about pregnancy is great. I’ve had a jammed sciatic nerve on and off for the past four months or so and it is definitely not something I am grateful for. I had a massage a month ago that really relieved the nagging pain but it’s come back the last few nights to haunt my sleep once again and the pregnancy massage lady is finished for the year, damn and blast it all!

But there are a few things I do enjoy about pregnancy. My hair, for instance.

Usually, you could collect the shed hair on the bathroom floor on a weekly basis and weave a decent sized rug from it … if you were that way inclined.

I had to wash it every couple of days (further exacerbating the shedding issue) as it would quickly become stringy and flat and generally cruddy-looking.  If I had the time, the inclination and the moon in proper alignment (and a red-hot hair curler), it would get a bit of wave and look halfway decent for a day and a half. But for all intents and purposes, my hair and I are generally not great mates.

But how do I love pregnancy hair? Let me count the ways …

  1. I don’t have to wash it for at least seven days … once I even stretched it out to nine days by putting it up for the last two.
  2. When I do wash it, I just let it dry naturally and voila! It looks glossy and wavy for days.
  3. A simple brush in the morning and I’m ready for the outside world.
  4. No great handfuls plugging up the shower drain.
  5. No bathroom floor coated with masses of shed hair.

Another thing I love is my bump. Even though she’s getting rather heavy to carry around all day and turning in my sleep resembles a walrus flopping from one side to the other whilst suntanning on a rock, it is a very physical reminder of our good fortune.

And I don’t have to worry about sucking my gut in when out in public …

I also adore her kicks and wriggles –  and lately what I am pretty sure are hiccups. Even the hectic jumping around like a frog in a sock last thing at night and first thing in the morning is lovely … even if my internal organs do get the occasional breath-taking wallop!

My nails should also get an honorable mention. Strong and quick to grow, they’ve never looked so good! I’m pretty sure my toenails are not bad as well … although it’s hard to see them now.

Oh, and there’s my skin. I’m pretty sure a fair percentage of my wrinkles have smoothed out on my face.  At first I thought it was just that my eyesight was getting crappier (which it is, to be honest) but even with my glasses on, the crows feet and forehead wrinkles are definitely fainter than six months ago. Woo!

So there you go. Whilst I look like a giant eggplant in my new purple maternity swimwear, there are bonuses to being pregnant!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Becoming the fairytale

I’ve only just realised we’ve become the fairytale we’d often heard about while desperately hoping and wishing and jabbing stomachs with needles.

Those of you who have travelled (or are still navigating) that rocky road of infertility know what I’m talking about. The story you’re often told about someone’s sister’s best friend’s neighbour’s god-daughter who struggled for years then POOF magically became pregnant and had a delightful baby girl/boy/gender yet to be fully determined. The story usually has a point, outlining something they did/swallowed/wrapped around themselves, and is retold in good faith to give you hope that maybe if you do the same, the magic will rub off.

Well folks, I am not here to give you that story.

I don’t believe it’s just a matter of changing our environment; of deciding to focus on other things. I don’t think that we’d stopped stressing about it or that we’d simply given up. 

For those of you still navigating, waiting and hoping, I would feel like a fraud explaining how a miracle like this happens in terms so simple … and ultimately so false.

Because you and I both know you never truly stop thinking about it. It’s a special kind of grief – grief for a life unrealised. An ache for something you didn’t get to have. The ache may dull with time but it never truly goes away. 

You just learn to carry it better.

We would watch small children playing; smile back at smiling babies; commiserate with struggling parents – all with a wistfulness we hoped was concealed from all but each other.

Even when we got those two pink lines, we did not celebrate. We’d been here far too many times before to know it was a done deal. We shrugged and said “We’ll see what happens.” It truly wasn’t until we saw that tiny little blob with the heartbeat at 9 weeks that we started to let ourselves hope that maybe … this time … we’d get the fairytale ending.

Now that she’s kicking so often (shades of her older sister!) I’ve got a lovely reminder that she’s here, she’s real and she’s on her way. It’s such a comfort to me, even if there’s the occasional kick to the bladder or pushing against my ribs!

I had my monthly visit with the midwife this afternoon and she was talking about how from now on, this baby is considered ‘viable’. Although it’s rare, babies born at 24 weeks can survive. And every week after that, their chances jump dramatically. As she put it, my pregnancy has turned a corner and from now on, any issues are treated differently.

So, no, I don’t have any sage advice or miracle cures. Honestly, the more you look into the mechanics of baby making, the more you wonder how any of us actually got here in the first place. Miraculous is the only word that adequately describes the spark of life.

I’m still coming to terms with the fact that in 16 weeks’ time (or thereabouts) we’ll actually get to meet this little person. 

It still feels surreal. Like a fairytale.

Better start buying some baby gear ….

Well … that was disappointing …

A few weeks ago, with the impending arrival of Little Miss looming ever larger in our minds (and in my stomach!), we decided to look around for another rental that may suit our upcoming needs better. I don’t think our expectations were unrealistically high. We just wanted somewhere that had perhaps:

 

  • a separate laundry, rather than a washing machine at the end of the kitchen bench;
  • a bathroom with a bath as well as a shower;
  • an extra bedroom maybe?

We were hoping to get this for not too much more than we are presently paying (after all, we will be back to one pay packet from March and we’re still paying a mortgage in Australia on top of rent here so it’s going to be tight).

First of all, let me just say kudos to the real estate photographing geniuses who can make a shoebox (I’m not kidding – Shoe. Box.) look like a spacious mansion online.

Well done you.

The first place we looked at was tucked down a long driveway beside another house. They have a thing here with putting two or more separate dwellings on the one block (or as it’s called in NZ, section) of land so you get the whole “46A” and “46B” thing happening regularly. Possibly it’s a city thing.

So we trudge down the potholed gravel driveway and the first thing I think (actually the second thing – the first thing I thought was “At least I get to see what this is like in the rain”) is “Oh hey. That looks waayyyy smaller than the photos.”

It’s supposedly a three bedroom house with a long front deck. Hmmm. So we walk in the front door which is straight into the main living area that has the kitchen along the wall at the back – close enough to flip pancakes from the stove onto the waiting plates of anyone sitting on the lounge I was trying to picture actually fitting in there – and I can already see with a sinking heart that while, yes indeed, there are three bedrooms, that is a wild stretch of the imagination.

I once flatted with friends briefly in Brisbane and since I was last in the house, I got what was known as ‘the cupboard’. It had enough room for a single mattress on the floor and a couple of boxes with my clothes in them. The mattress was as long as the room so it was cosy at best. Putting actual furniture in there would have been impossible.

These rooms made me reflect fondly on ‘the cupboard’.  We may have been able to fit our queen size bed in one of these rooms … but only if we wanted to jump into bed from the doorway. Literally.

Not to worry. We’ll know better next time. Onward and upward, as they say!

Bierflaschen, Ladakh, IndienThe second place was once again down a long muddy driveway at the back of someone else’s house but this time it ended in a large muddy pool before you were herded around to the back door … where a veritable mountain of empty liquor bottles greeted us, along with the agent hurriedly saying “Ooh don’t worry about that. The cleaners haven’t been through yet.” Obviously the previous tenants liked a tipple and were happy to try anything that was on special …

Needless to say, any hopes I’d had before arriving were well and truly dashed before even walking through the door. And the rest of the house did nothing to raise them.

Hovel. Does anyone use that word anymore? ‘Cause that’s the word this place deserved.  I got the giggles walking through it while muttering ‘Holy shitballs, Batman’ to myself.

The third place was not as bad. It seemed reasonable. The gangland-style house with the front yard full of rusty cars was further up the street. It did not have a mountain of liquor bottles to greet us at the front door.

But the shower door was off and sitting in the bathtub. Paint was peeling off all the walls. And the stove … well, apparently three of the four plates on top don’t work. And the real estate agent indicated that wasn’t going to change anytime soon.

Sigh. Maybe I am fussy. Possibly I expect a little too much.  Needless to say, we gave up after that and figured we could just rearrange a few things in the second bedroom so she’s not actually sleeping in a box wedged between the computer desk and the PS4 set up.

Did I mention that we are renting out our 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 huge living areas, massive undercover area, huge shed, solar panelled house in Australia for less than what we’re paying here?

Sigh once more.

However … this morning , I got an email notice of a nice little place that’s just been listed (because I didn’t cancel the email subscription in the vain hope that something suitable may come up) and it’s not far from us. It only has two bedrooms but other features include:

  • good neighbourhood
  • separate laundry
  • bathtub and shower
  • separate toilet
  • ‘conservatory’ (enclosed front porch)
  • fenced yard

And all for $20 extra per week.

I have emailed the real estate agent …