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.

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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.”

Birth story #1: Ray Martin, Laverne and Shirley and Coneheads

My darling cousin (more like a sister – there’s only 4 months difference between us and we had a great friendship thanks to attending the same Uni together) had come to visit me for a week, met at the airport by a heavily pregnant cousin, anxiously awaiting the overdue arrival of bump number one rather than holding a squalling newborn.

Thursday 3rd October was her last full day with us so I sent her into the city to check out the Art Gallery and Museums (she’s an art teacher and a very talented artist in her own right). My parting words were “I’ll be fine. See you when you get back.”   Little did she know that I’d been having what I desperately hoped was mild contractions since 8am … sneaky, yes but some things you just want to do on your own and I didn’t want to freak her out.

So I pottered around, made sure my bag was packed and everything was in order. Since it’s been 25 years since this event, I only have vague snatches of the lead-up to the main event but I do remember watching The Ray Martin Show – back then, a popular lunchtime variety program of the blue rinse set.  It stands out because it was a special event show, held at Sea World on the Gold Coast.

The FoMDT (Father of My Darling Three) came home for lunch to find me leaning forward on a chair in the lounge room, watching TV while doing my breathing through contractions and we decided that maybe he shouldn’t go back to work that afternoon. As it turned out, he could have. Nothing like the impatience of youth and the long, agonisingly slow progression of your first labour.   Being young and having no prior experience, we ended up going to the hospital at about 2.30pm.

The nurse did an examination on arrival and gave me the dreaded “You’re only 3 cm dilated, lovey.”  What the hell?  I counted at least 6 hours’ worth of contractions – how could this be?  She broke my waters to hurry things along a bit – a common method of speeding up the process.

That was the strangest sensation I’d ever had (up until that point … there was more to come). It was like someone tipped a bucket of warm water over my crotch … warm and comforting yet wet and icky all at once.  It did get things moving but also tuned up the pain gauge – back pain and lots of it as baby was “sunny-side up”, otherwise known as Posterior facing.

It’s true that you forget the pain afterwards. Looking back, I can only remember the impressions – like being trapped in my own body and wanting desperately for the ride to stop so I could get off.  But at the same time, I am a complete control freak and the idea of drugs scared me. What if I became a screaming banshee? What if I said or did something embarrassing?

Thus, when the nurse kept asking if I wanted pain relief, I said no – even though it hurt like hell. I had decided I wanted a natural birth experience with little to no intervention (ah, the naivety of youth!) and I was sticking to the plan. By the time I said “Yes. Ok. I’ll take that pain relief now”, she replied with “Oh no, honey. You’re too close now.”  Say what, now?

In hindsight, I have no idea how I kept it together. Up until midway through the pregnancy, I’d been a quitter. If things got too tough, I found a way out. This was the first time in my life that I couldn’t just throw up my hands, declare “I’m out” and walk away.

I remember being mortally pissed at FoMDT, sitting in the corner of the hospital room watching ‘Laverne and Shirley‘ on the television. I hated that show. He knew I hated that show. How DARE he watch that show while I’m over here in extreme pain! It was about that time that I  decided that I’d had enough of this shit for one day and was going home.

I recall saying something along the lines of “That’s it. I’m done. Take me home. I don’t want to do this anymore”. FoMDT looked at me with fear and doubt in his eyes. The tone said I meant it but what the hell was he supposed to do?  Thankfully, the nurse entered just then and reassured both of us with a  “Well, hello Transition stage! Not long now.”

Actually, it was another hour before I felt the urge to push and they packed us off to the delivery room. And that’s when things got really interesting.  Baby had decided to turn to face the right way but either got stuck halfway or just couldn’t be bothered.

Two and a half hours of second stage labour; pushing continually and getting nowhere; trying different positions and angles.

At one stage I was hanging over a large round cushion-type bar they’d set up over the bed and watching the frustrating lack of progression of a small black-haired head in a mirror angled at my poor nether regions. My arms were aching from trying to hold onto the cushion – it was way too big to get a good grip and I was sweating with the exertion. My thighs were sore from squatting.

Eventually, my OB/GYN, who had quietly sat in the corner of the delivery room for most of the action, piped up with “Do you want some help?”

I’m not sure of the exact words but I do believe it was something along the lines of “Cut me open with a rusty saw if you have to. Just GET. IT. OUT. OF. ME”

And so he did. An episiotomy (which isn’t as bad as the alternative … but that tale is for Birth Story #2) was done and he pulled out a suction cap thingy with a pump on the end and inserted it onto baby’s head. Not completely comfortable for me but by that stage I could not have cared less.

And then he started the process of vacuum extraction.

Just when I thought I’d experienced every kind of strange sensation in the one day … Dr’s down one end of me, braced and pulling on what is essentially a sterilised plunger attached to a small creature’s head inside my body; FoMDT’s up the other end, hanging onto the bed head so the bed doesn’t go flying across the room … and I am the piggy in the middle.

Thankfully, it was only a few minutes and baby was out and oh my god, the relief of it.  After nearly 14 hours, at 9.45pm October 3rd 1991, our first baby made her entrance into the world. Not altogether gracefully, that’s true, but nevertheless she’d arrived in one piece, weighing a very healthy 8lb 11oz.

They plopped her on my chest and said “It’s a girl!”. We had no idea of gender but she’d been kicking me so hard, I’d just assumed she was a boy. I actually checked to make sure they had given me the right baby. Yep, still attached … only baby in here … must be mine. I was so delighted – I’d secretly hoped for a girl.

She was motley-purple, had a funny cone-shaped head and squinted up at us blearily as if to say “What the fuck just happened?”  The nurse patted my arm and said “Don’t worry, sweetheart. Her colour will improve and the swelling will go down in a day or two and she’ll look just fine”.

FoMDT and I, on the other hand, thought she was the most gloriously beautiful creature in the whole wide world and had already fallen in complete and utter love with her.

After that, it was a jab in the leg, delivery of placenta and then stitches (which I don’t really remember because, hey, baby on my chest!) then she was taken away with FoMDT to be properly weighed and measured and washed and I could have a shower.

Oh lordy, that shower. I remember how incredibly weak I felt but how amazing it was sitting in the shower chair under the warm running water. It was almost orgasmic. With each subsequent birth, I’ve used the goal of the shower afterwards as a means of motivation.

Afterwards, I was allowed an hour with baby.  I remember sniffing her as she smelt so delicious – I thought it must have been something they washed her in. I had no idea that, like a new car, babies have a distinctive smell that activates bonding.

Sadly, they took her away to the nursery for the night to “let me rest” but how on earth could I rest? I was on a high! I’d just had a baby! And lived! Holy cow!  If I hadn’t been so young (only 22) and she hadn’t been my first, I would have insisted she stay in the room with me. I only dozed on and off until they finally brought her back at 8am, marvelling at what I’d just achieved and desperately wanting to hold her again but not being game to ask for her.

It was definitely a turning point in my life. After that, pain had a whole new measuring stick to go by; patience was something I quickly learned to cultivate and forever-more one of my names would be Mumma.

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 ….

 

Don’t worry bout a thing …

bob-marleyMost of this pregnancy has been smooth sailing. And I’m not talking about the fun physical changes to me or the little life inside either. I’m talking about the emotional hormonal pregnant woman rollercoaster.

Calm. Happy. Going with the flow. Not particularly worried about anything, really. Just like Bob with a well-lit spliff hanging off his lip.

Until I hit 30 weeks.

And then HELLLOOOO anxiety! Where have you been? You almost missed the party! Only 10 weeks to drive this woman and her poor husband truly crazy before Little Miss arrives and all hell really breaks loose.

It started with antenatal classes. I decided a while back that it was worth doing them because:

a) NIH needs to have the ‘full’ experience and it’s only fair he has some warning of what’s coming; and,
b) it’s been a while and I thought a little refresher course for me couldn’t hurt.

And it was all fine … right up until the end of the first class, when the leader (lecturer? labour whisperer? ) said two little sentences:

“Partners, listen to your wives’ breathing during labour. When she goes from pushing sighing breaths out like this “whewwwwwww” at the end of a contraction, to a deep guttural “wherrrrrrRRRRRRRRR”, that’s a good sign she’s going into second stage and wanting to push.”

When she made that noise, crystal clear memories of that EXACT feeling that hits when you’re getting to the business end of childbirth came rushing in and I barely managed not to exclaim “Holy FUCK!” out loud and scare all those poor sods who don’t know what’s coming.

But I remember now. I know what’s coming. As I explained to NIH later, just because I’ve done it three times before doesn’t mean I like it. I cried at home afterwards.

And since that little meltdown, it’s like I’ve opened the worry flood gates and everything is getting to me.  I spent a good two days sitting at my desk at work with headphones on – not listening to music; not making or taking a phone call – just to stop people from talking to me. I was mortally afraid I’d cry if they asked me a question I couldn’t answer … like “How are you?”.

I am exhausted but only sleep about 4-5 hours a night, waking up at 4am to worry about anything and everything.

I worry about work. I’m currently recruiting for my job and feeling the pressure. What if I can’t find anyone? What if the person I pick is shit? Or – even worse – way better than me?  Will there be enough time to train this person or is my co-worker going to be left carrying the load?  If I’m going to be completely truthful, the biggest fear I have at the moment for work is losing my shit and crying in front of someone.

I worry about money. We are so very fortunate that I qualify for maternity leave here in NZ and get 18 weeks paid plus enough unpaid leave to have a year with Little Miss before heading back to work. But we still have a house back in Oz that we haven’t been able to sell. Luckily, we’ve been able to rent it out for almost a year but it only covers half the mortgage, so we’re picking up the slack on top of the rent we pay here. That’s fine when you have two incomes … but things will be very tight after July.

Of course, I worry about labour. The clock is ticking down to the moment where I will be required to push something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. Last time – in fact, the last two times – I had a hot bath to soak in for most of labour and it worked absolute wonders in taking the pain away and making those hours leading up to the main event much easier to deal with.

We don’t have a bath in our flat. That scares me. The bath was my go-to. I knew it worked. How will I cope with the pain this time?

Of course, there’s the classic – Will she be ok? Is everything going to go smoothly? Will there be complications? And I can’t even bear to think about worst-case scenarios. My mind just completely does a 360 degree turn.

And then there’s the afterwards. I have 18 years of care ahead, starting with nappy changes, breastfeeding, colic and a few years of no sleep.  I’m not in my twenties anymore.

What about my other kids? Sure, they’re grown up and all but how’s this going to affect my relationship with them? Will they like her? Will she understand who they are? When am I ever going to have the money or the time to fly home to see them again?

Around and around and around in my poor shrinking brain cell head.

Funnily enough, now that I’ve written it all down and am reading it back … things really aren’t so bad. I mean, sure, labour is hard and painful but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long.  I can choose a water birth in the pool at the birthing centre or just go in when things start getting interesting and sit in the normal bath to ease the pain.

Nine times out of ten, childbirth goes well. And if it doesn’t, we are very close to the largest teaching hospital on the North Island, with all the medical facilities to cope with emergencies.

My kids are grown ups now, and lovely warm-hearted human beings to boot. They’ll be fine and the addition of Little Miss will only add to our shared relationship. Besides, they have their own lives to lead and don’t rely on me anymore.

I’ll cope with breastfeeding and nappies. I have infinitely more patience than I did 20 years ago and after dealing with three kids under five years old, one tiny baby seems much easier to handle.

The house will re-rent for more money or sell.  And if all else fails, I’ve crunched the numbers and know that we will cope. We won’t be living the life of Riley but to be honest, we will be more interested in sleep than anything else for a while – and that’s free.

Whoever takes over at work will be fine. My co-worker is an awesome teacher and so easy-going. He’ll take care of the newbie. At the end of the day, work will go on without me and I’ll be missed about as much as the proverbial hole in the bucket of water.

In the end, perhaps Bob Marley was onto something … even without the toke on a giant spliff.

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!

Oh the joys …

0007045011864_500x500Way back in a previous life, I lived next door to a charming and lovely older couple in their mid-70’s.  I don’t know what we were talking about one particular afternoon over the fence but the woman told me that she had a nightly ritual she swore by.

Instead of dessert, she and her husband would each have three prunes generously soaked for a few days in a jar topped up with gin.   The gin popped them off to sleep nice and easy and the prunes made … let’s just say “other things” … nice and easy the next day.

“Huh,” I thought, “Must be tough to get old and have to resort to such measures.”

Well … Meet my new best friend, Mr Prune Juice.

I am pretty sure we were not friends back when I was pregnant at 22.

Or 24.

Or 26.

In fact, back then I had no idea who or why you would ever drink Prune Juice. But now? Oh now, we are best mates. I have a shot every morning as part of the breakfast routine. It *ahem* keeps things operational. I do so wish I could try the gin trick but we don’t want to pickle Little Miss before she arrives. She’s going to have enough fun with traces of wine in the boob juice because MUMMY NEEDS A DRINK, DARLING.

Funny how things change over the years. It’s been so long since I was last pregnant, I only have vague recollections at best with no hope of remembering the fine minutiae.

It was only when I sat down to write this post that I realised it is exactly 21 years, almost to the day, since I was 16 weeks pregnant last time. Little Miss is actually due around March 25 and my youngest son (soon to be ousted from his title as ‘the baby of the family’ after an impressive reign) made his arrival on March 22.

I still find it hard to believe we’re here, to be honest. It’s been such a long, hard road with so many tears along the way. I was only reading the other day that babies such as Little Miss are often referred to as “Rainbow Babies” – the shining beauty that comes after the rain.

So far, this has been a relatively problem-free pregnancy with just the usual stuff you’d expect from a huge influx of hormones and the beginnings of major construction of a small human being. I have been very lucky with the morning sickness, although it was more like  ‘all-day’ sickness from week 6 to week 13.

When I say ‘lucky’, I mean I felt disgusting and there were a few occasions when I had to stop and take very deep breaths to avoid throwing up – but I didn’t actually chuck. When I hear some of the stories of throwing all day and being hospitalised – yeah, I would call myself lucky.

And now that’s settled down, the bump is really starting to pop out and I can feel the tiny little movements that signal I’m not imagining things – we really are having a baby.

This is the glory time when it’s lovely being pregnant and I intend on enjoying it.

How did that happen?

google-searchesOne of my workmates shared a really interesting article back in early August about Google stats on cost priorities for countries based on their most frequent searches and this one really made me laugh.  Of course, I had no idea back then how amazingly accurate Google’s stats would be …

If I’m friends with you on Facebook, you would no doubt know the incredibly amazing news. That’s right, folks! Maybe it’s something in the water, the fresh air, the change in temperature or the simple fact that we preoccupied ourselves with taking a chance and setting up a new life overseas in NZ – whatever the contributing factor, the outcome is that we are expecting a little bundle of joy at the end of next March!

20160919_172634Pictorial proof that it’s not the bacon that’s causing my jeans to get tight but in fact a very healthy Little Miss (this is her at 13 weeks – isn’t she cute?).

To say NIH and I are absolutely over the moon but still a little shell-shocked is a slight understatement. We’ve spent the better part of six years hoping and dreaming yet having those hopes smashed repeatedly. To have it all happening now seems so surreal that I keep the first ultrasound picture of Little Miss at 9 weeks (a wee blob with a fluttering heartbeat) on the fridge to remind me every day that it’s actually happening and not just my wild imagination.

To be honest, I believe this all came about because we shook things up.  We decided that if we couldn’t have the adventure of children, we’d do something else life-changing instead, such as moving overseas to live and work. We got side-tracked with new environments, new jobs and a new way of life.  Funny how many people have recently told me they went through similar experiences to have the same outcome.

And one other thing happened to change my inner belief system …

When you have fertility issues, you never give up. Not really. It’s a bit like grieving for a lost loved one. The pain is always there inside you but as time goes by the ache becomes a little duller and easier to handle. You’ll see a small child being cute (as they do) out in public and look at each other a little wistfully – a “wouldn’t it be nice” moment. But it’s ok. You can cope.

On a whim one day, I typed in ‘pregnant at 47’ and the first result back was a little story on one of those babymama websites from a woman here in New Zealand (not far from Hamilton actually) who was turning 50 and had a gorgeous 2.5 year old. They’d started late and tried for about 6 years to have a child. Medical professionals couldn’t find anything physically wrong and the multiple miscarriages were put down to a result of old eggs.

Then, out of the blue, she became pregnant and successfully delivered a baby girl with no issues or complications. She had written on the forum, she said, to give others a bit of hope.

It really affected me. In the back of my mind, I’d always held onto the belief that I was too old. That I was being greedy to want more children, since I already had three lovely fully-grown kids. That I was completely crazy to think it would ever happen. But after reading that little story that had oh-so-many correlations with our experiences, my beliefs changed.  And about three months after … well, you’ve seen the photo.

I can only hope that my little story, such that it is still a work in progress for now, can have the same effect on others like me.