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!

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!

Wigging out

wiggly good timeMy daughter and her boyfriend have just finished their seven week trip around the US and Canada with a day at Comic Con in San Diego. They got into the spirit of the event, dressing up as Princess Leia (the original version with the buns and white dress) and a Jedi warrior. They also met some really cool people, including Adam Savage from Mythbusters fame.

Before we got the opportunity to move to New Zealand this year, we actually had Melbourne Comic Con in our sights.  Like the kids, we’d dress up and enjoy the atmosphere and meet famous people. I’ve only just realised the one little issue with that – I don’t handle meeting famous people very well.

Last weekend, we dropped into our local Countdown on the way home from pokemon hunting a lovely afternoon walk. NIH and I were standing at the packaged salad section of Fruit and Vege, debating which salad dressing to get for the coleslaw (Ranch is nice but Japanese Sesame adds a whole new dimension IMHO) when a guy with a grandma-dorky style light blue beanie walked past and started massaging the avocados.

I stopped mid-sentence. My jaw dropped. My eyes bugged out of their little sockets. NIH looked at me quizzically.

“Oh. My. GOD,” said the little voice in my head, panting slightly with excitement, “That’s Anthony, the Blue Wiggle!”

I turned slowly to look at NIH. I thought I whispered but it may have been louder (apparently I stage whisper – you know, so the people at the back of the room can hear).

“OH MY GOD THAT’S THE BLUE WIGGLE”

Once NIH registered that I was not having a stroke – just a ‘moment’ – he looked over where I was pointing with my eyes. Or the salad dressing. It’s all a blur, really.

“Oh. Yeah,” he said casually, “So it is.”

I then proceeded to back AWAY. Yep, back away. I could no more front up to a famous person and ask for a selfie then do over 80 squats in five minutes (but that’s a story for another blog).

Moving slowly, so as not to frighten the Wiggle (although I believe he had headphones on and was probably bopping away to Big Red Car or some other major hit) I backed up to the Nuts Section (appropriate) at the back of the shop so I could still see him but not run the risk of having him see my dopey oh-my-god-someone-famous face and know that the weird older lady limply holding two bottles of salad dressing had figured out he was “someone”.

Was it him? I’m sure it was him. I mean, I wouldn’t know for sure unless I just walked up and said “Hey, aren’t you the Blue Wiggle?”. Or possibly both flatter him and show my age with “Hey, didn’t you used to be in The Cockroaches?”. But I think we’ve established either scenario was never going to happen.

Meanwhile, NIH thought the whole thing hilarious. In many respects, I’m fairly confident. I can speak in public (even recite my own poetry) and have been known to get up on stage once or twice. But saying hello to famous people is not within my range, it would seem.

The rest of the quick shopping trip saw me pretending to be calm on the outside whilst the little voice in my head was still shouting “Oh. MY. GOD!”, sounding more and more like Janice from Friends.

In light of this revelation, it seems attending Comic Con is not such a great idea and would render me speechless to the point of jibberish. Quite possibly I’d spend my time back-peddling away and hiding behind whatever I could, whilst my inner Janice went wild.

Maybe there’s a Nuts Section there as well.

Is New Zealand where Aussie shopping trolleys come to die?

Poor thing, just lying there.

Poor thing, just lying there.

This is the question I asked myself the other day as I struggled yet again with a trolley (a.k.a “trundler”) whilst doing the shopping at Countdown (a.k.a “Woolworths”). It’s been years since I’ve had to suffer a truly dodgy shopping trolley but it seems to be commonplace here. In fact, since we’ve arrived I can’t recall getting a single one that doesn’t have at least one wheel that a) wants to go in a different direction from the other three or b) doesn’t want to go at all. They look new which begs the question of why they’re so shite? Are they shipped here from Oz once they become troublesome?

However, that’s probably the worst of the adjustments to make when grocery shopping here. As I’ve said before, there’s many similarities between Australia and New Zealand, which makes it much easier for Aussies to acclimatise, especially with the mundane-everyday-routine stuff. Most of the brands are familiar and the layout of shops are pretty much the same.  It’s almost like being home.

Countdown is the NZ version of Woolies, complete with same logo, Select brand items and jingles playing over the sound system as you shop. New World is similar to Coles and Pak’n’Save is very much the old Franklins, which I don’t think I’ve seen in about 20 years – huge no-frills warehouse style shopping but still good quality stuff.

Fruit and vege is pretty good – much better quality and reasonable prices but I may be unduly biased due to living in a rural area in Australia where our fruit and vege was trucked to us over great distance after spending time in a warehouse in Brisbane.

And oh my gosh BACON. Holy Dooley. There’s a huge supply of Streaky Bacon and done the old fashioned manuka smoked way without the nitrites in it. Absolutely bloody delicious, without a word of a lie. The bacon here is one of the reasons why I started doing lots of walking. Besides passing the time and becoming familiar with the city, it lets me justify eating so much.

To be honest I haven’t noticed much difference in our grocery bill but like I said we’ve come from a rural area with slightly inflated prices. And it’s just the two of us now. This was really highlighted to me when I realised that a block of cheese lasts weeks instead of merely days in our fridge. Not mentioning any names, boys.

The deli section prices their wares slightly differently. For example, rather than a label saying “$18.49 per kg”, it’s “$1.85 per 100g”. The first time I saw a label like that, I did a double-take because I only registered the price and not the amount. I worked in a deli for a few years and can honestly say I’ve never seen items labelled this way, but I do acknowledge that maths-impaired people like myself would appreciate not having to do complex calculations in our head. Or in my case, saying ‘bugger it, I’ll just have it and won’t worry about the cost”.

Organic stuff is a lot easier to get too. For the past few years I’ve bought organic, non-homogenised milk for a few reasons. One is that the amount of fat in milk is really quite low percentage-wise and the processes it goes through to homogenise and remove the fat render the milk not only inedible (in my opinion) but also not entirely good for your body. Another reason is that it’s usually supplied by a small independent company and I like to support the little guy. If I’m honest though, it’s really just because it tastes so nice in my tea. The last few years have been easier to source it in Australia, but here in NZ I’m spoilt for choice.

The second best thing about grocery shopping here is that you can buy beer, cider and wine in the store alongside your groceries. They police it by having to get staff override when you scan it, giving staff the opportunity to scan you to make sure you’re over 18. Funnily enough, I never get asked for ID anymore. Possibly the grey hairs give it away.

The best thing of all  is how cheap the alcohol is. The same brand of wine I would regularly purchase in Australia is half the price here.  I’m not sure why that is but there’s some things in life I don’t like to question and how much I’m spending on alcohol is one of them.

It’s the same with beer prices. NIH is becoming quite the beer connoisseur – he blames me for this development. Before we lived together he never drank on weeknights at home. I call it ‘mature behaviour’. He calls it ‘bad  influence’. Whatever.  And even though you’re buying it in a grocery store, there are all kinds of boutique beers and regular specials. It’s a veritable smorgasbord. Of course we only have a wee tipple at night because it’s so cold. So, really, it’s like, ‘medicinal’ and stuff …