Perpetual Tangent

I just know that something good is gonna happen. I don't know when, but just saying it could even make it happen.

The birth story of my second baby: part 2

Part 1 of this story is here, in case you missed it.

Saturday 23rd August. There was rugby on tv for some reason, as Mr C was cooking dinner, and I felt what I was pretty sure was a contraction. I didn’t have my phone handy to check the time, so I just looked at the time on the clock on tv – 6:30pm. A while later, as we sat down to dinner, I felt the same twinge and looked at the clock on the radio – 6:51pm. 20 minutes. That’s prelabour. We ate one of Mr C’s hearty meals – I think it was stir fry – and the Dude went off to sleep as usual about 7:30 or so. I sat uncomfortably on the couch and downloaded a contraction timing app. When Mr C came back downstairs I told him I was pretty sure contractions were coming regularly and he said I should call the midwife. So about 8:30pm I let her know something was happening and she was glad as we’d already had a discussion about the amount of time hospital would allow to lapse between membrane rupture and birth of baby and the need for antibiotics and neither of us wanted to have to deal with any of that. I wouldn’t have them of course, but it added an element of doom and gloom, just having the discussion, and made me regret again having had that stupid GBS swab back in my first pregnancy. Anyway, my midwife suggested getting to bed as early as possible to try to get some rest before things ramped up, as they are wont to do overnight, and I of course agreed but knew the chances were slim as I’m such a night person.

We watched something on tv, no idea what, and then Mr C kept badgering me about the pool: “Now should I get this pool up or what? I don’t want to be doing it at 2am!” And I kept saying, “yeah, I don’t know, like, I’m definitely having contractions but, yeah, I don’t know, whatever…” Typically vague! Eventually I said okay, blow it up, and he didn’t need to be asked twice. As he moved some furniture around and got the pump out, he kept saying to me, “go upstairs, get some rest, I’ll finish this.” And I kept saying, “okay, yep, after the next contraction I will…” Anyway, I had a few spoonfuls of yoghurt in case this really was ‘it’ and I needed the extra energy, and ended up finally going upstairs at some point around 10:30pm I think. It was bizarre swinging my hips through a contraction as I brushed my teeth but not painful, just weird. Those early sensations are the best, not painful but strong enough to know they’re doing some good work!

I finally lay down, probably past 11pm at this point I’d say, and started reading stuff on my phone, my usual bedtime wind down routine. Ridiculous, as I needed the rest now more than ever, but that’s me. Contractions were becoming pretty uncomfortable and lying down wasn’t helping, although I was tired. I turned off my phone and tried to sleep, and I think I did manage to drift off, but the sensations just got stronger and stronger and less and less bearable. I tried to relax into them and visualise opening and softening and all those good things. I thought about the hypnobirthing idea that labour needn’t be painful and that the pain is a man-made thing. I wondered how this could be the case as the pain got more and more intense and I found it nearly unbearable to continue lying down. The Dude got up and climbed into our bed, which he does most nights at the moment. I finally couldn’t stand to have another contraction lying down so I took my phone, got some clothes on, and went into his room. I couldn’t lie on the bed so I leant over it, kneeling on the ground, trying to rest between sensations. I had maybe three or four like that but I just wasn’t comfortable and I realised I probably wasn’t going to get any more rest, this was it. By this point it was probably about midnight or 12:30ish. I went downstairs. I knew Mr C would hear me and come down when he could once the Dude was back asleep. I kept timing the contractions and some were getting to be really close, five minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. I realised I had no idea when I would be deemed to be in active labour, and therefore when I should call the midwife. Between sensations I turned the water on, as Mr C had hooked the hose up before coming to bed, and got the pool filling. There was something really awesome about being in labour by myself, just kind of pottering about in the dark of night, stopping to lean over a bench or the back of the couch every few minutes.

Mr C came down I think about 1am and busied himself putting candles around the room. There came a point, I don’t really know when, but soon thereafter, when he just instinctively came over and massaged my lower back as I had a contraction. I got him to press down on my hips and it really helped sort of diffuse the pain. I finally understood what this term ‘applying counter pressure’ meant. He immediately asked if I’d called the midwife and I said no, so he said I think you should and asked me when we are supposed to, like how far apart the contractions should be. It was then that I admitted I had no freaking idea! There were some coming three minutes apart and they were sometimes starting to last a good minute or more. I called our midwife at 1:45am, or rather, I got Mr C to call her, and she asked to speak to me, of course, to see just how full on things really were. I was able to speak, and in fact I remember sort of taking a break to speak to her, like putting the labour on hold for a few minutes while I concentrated on the conversation. I think she and the other two midwives must have arrived about 2:15 or so, not really sure, but by that point I was in the pool and screaming the house down, needing Mr C to lean over and press on my lower back in a really awkward (for him!) way. Thinking back now, I wasn’t at all concerned about the midwives not making it. I think I would have managed just fine if they hadn’t. Anyway, I had this idea that I should try to remain upright in the pool if I could, so I was on my knees leaning over the edge. I wanted to be in the position that would get this baby moving down as quickly and efficiently as possible and this was it, although it was really uncomfortable as I’d have to pull myself up every time a contraction came and I felt my hips coming out of the water which meant I wasn’t getting the benefit of it during the time I needed it and I felt someone, probably the midwife, pushing my pelvis slightly further down so it was submerged, which I knew was important as if baby were to emerge it needs to be totally under the water as the first contact with air will stimulate breathing.

I eventually changed to lying semi-reclining, as I did during the Dude’s birth, although I didn’t sit on the blow up ‘seat’ part, just on the floor of the pool. I liked this because it was deeper, but I didn’t realise until the next day that I’d totally bruised my lower spine doing that as the floor of the pool wasn’t remaining inflated so I was pressing on the floor beneath. The contractions were insanely intense, beyond anything I could ever imagine! I thought later how ironic it was that I’d been so adamant that the pain wasn’t an issue for me, I wasn’t afraid of it and could handle any level of pain, no problem. I wasn’t handling this pain, or at least, I was simply withstanding it and screaming at it and hating it and feeling like it was too much for me. I did ‘handle’ it, in that I managed to get through it, but my god, it was just so far beyond anything I thought could be possible. I wasn’t going to pass out or anything, I just wanted to escape it. I remember when I was still in the upright position I just screamed and kicked my legs and said ‘no, no, no!’ which as I recall was similar to what I did pre pushing stage with the Dude. And the midwives, as my first midwife had done, said, ‘yes, yes, yes’ in response. I knew in my head I had to accept it and I forced myself to visualise opening and relaxing but there were moments at the height of the contraction where I just tried to run from it. It sounds weird, running from something happening inside your own body, but it’s what I did, or tried to do. I kept beginning to say, “I don’t think I can do this…”, shaking my head, and at one point I threw up all over the edge of the pool. I had my eyes closed but I imagined the knowing smiles on the faces of the midwives; aah, transition. I thought a few times about transferring for pain relief, like I wasn’t totally sure I could withstand the intensity. Mr C said later he knew I was thinking about that. Neither of us ever voiced it during labour though and the midwives had no idea that’s what I was thinking.

I felt a shift in the atmosphere and I knew the Dude had woken up and come downstairs. It was about 3am by this point, and I was really in the thick of it, needing Mr C for every contraction, reaching behind to grab his arms as I withstood another wave of intensity and hoped for the ‘pushy’ feeling. Dude wasn’t upset or afraid or even vaguely concerned. I heard him laughing at various points, being read stories, commenting on things, like an old hand, like watching your mum give birth in a pool in your living room in the middle of the night was an everyday occurrence. The funny thing is, a week or so after the birth, I was sitting on the couch with him, which I don’t think had happened before as I was on strict bed rest upstairs, and I asked if I could get up and do something and he said, no, not yet mummy, and grabbed onto my arm. He just wanted me to hold him. So I whispered to him: “Did you miss mummy when I had a baby?” And he must have misunderstood what I was asking because he said: “Yes, mummy, I was really super scared when you having a baby. I was scared you were so loud.” So even though he hadn’t shown it, he obviously was afraid during the birth, and understandably so as I was incredibly loud, much louder than during his birth. I explained that sometimes it takes a really loud noise to get a baby to come out and he didn’t demand anything further and soon let me get up and do what I needed to do.

As I began to get closer to crowning and my body gave those pushes as it had the last time, my midwife bent down and spoke to me about how I should try to go easy during crowning, take it slow, let my body do the work, don’t crazily push hard. I guessed it was because she didn’t want me to tear, but I just said, “I didn’t do that last time”. I wasn’t in the mood to take anything slow at this point, I just wanted the baby out as quickly as possible! I heard what she said and took it on board but I was thinking, screw that, I want this over with! I began pushing on top of the contractions, and I did actually feel baby moving down this time. As I got closer I felt her moving inside me, a really weird and frankly not nice feeling. But I knew it had to happen. As before, I felt like my pushes weren’t doing much and I was pushing against that brick wall again. This time I actually reached down a few times to feel what was happening which was a bit of a mistake as despite the optimistic words and noises of the birth team, my vagina felt exactly as it always does. I couldn’t feel a head or indeed any kind of stretching. Massive disappointment. I questioned just how much longer I could do this, as every contraction was hell but as I began to push on top of them it felt marginally better, like I was getting some relief. I tried my best to keep my sounds low and guttural but it just wasn’t possible all the time, I literally screamed the house down, sometimes sounding like a murder victim from some tacky horror film. Not good birthing noises. But that’s what I did.

I finally felt something when I reached down, although again I was disappointed as it just felt squishy, no hard head, no stretched bits. The midwives had already announced they could see the head and asked for the mirror I was apparently supposed to have in my box of birth stuff. I was like, “oh no, I didn’t get it as I don’t want to see,” and they said, “yes, but it’s for us to see!” Anyway, they of course had one and I think perhaps Mr C got to see things stretching that way, although I didn’t have my eyes open so I have no idea really. I think I opened my eyes maybe twice from the moment the midwives arrived to when she was born. Towards these latter moments I began making this sort of mooing sound between contractions, kind of like keeping the momentum flowing or something. I could hear myself and was thinking, what a bloody awful sound for everyone to have to listen to, but it was working to keep me going so I went with it.

The head was doing what the Dude’s head did, starting to crown and then going back in again. I think it probably happened about three or four times before I managed to hold it there while I breathed between contractions and then I pushed like crazy and out she came. I think I heard the midwife begin to say I should take a breather and bring out the body on the next contraction but I don’t think I did that, I just needed her out!

“And welcome back, Kat,” said my midwife as her body emerged and I immediately snapped out of birthing and back into consciousness again. I felt how quickly it happened, I didn’t lie back and rest or anything, I just reached for my baby and as before helped the midwife unwind the cord which I think was a couple of times around her neck, I can’t remember. She had the same Apgars as the Dude, 9 and 9, and she began crying, clearing out all the fluid and mucus. I can’t express the sense of relief I had at getting that baby out. 4:25am, so more or less a five-hour labour, three hours active really. So fast! Thank goodness! Within minutes of beginning to breathe, she began sucking on her hands and rooting around for the breast. This little girl had a perfectly round little head, no cone head moulding like the poor Dude had after his spinning around during labour. She was going to be a happier baby.

I glanced into the water in front of me and saw this sudden cloud of red blood billowing out around me. I wondered if it would have been a gush, had I been on land. The midwives were keeping an eye on things and certainly hadn’t missed the loss of blood. We had a few minutes of oohing and aahing and kissing and smiling and coughing and spluttering from baby before my midwife suggested I get out of the pool as she didn’t like the look of the amount of blood I was losing while waiting for the placenta. I had a couple of mild contractions in the pool I think, and I was soon out and lying on the couch. I just let my midwives get on with things and look after my bleeding as I couldn’t feel it and didn’t feel any different at that point. It wasn’t long before the placenta arrived, perhaps 20 minutes or so, much faster than the hour it took for the Dude’s to come out. I guess perhaps my body knew it had no time to waste and I couldn’t afford to lose much more blood. Dude and Mr C cut the cord together which was kind of cool, although I’m sure Dude just liked the idea of getting to use scissors!

My midwife told me that as soon as the placenta emerged, the bleeding stopped, which is just what should happen of course. But overall I’d lost in the region of 800ml, which, when you consider I lost only 400 last time and anything over 500 is considered a haemorrhage, it certainly wasn’t anything to write off. I knew I’d be okay of course, but still, it’s a little disconcerting realising you’ve suddenly lost almost a quarter of the blood in your body! I knew I was pale and beginning to feel a bit odd, although I wasn’t dizzy or anything and there was no chance of fainting. I did feel a bit out of it though, and found it hard to concentrate on what my midwife was saying for a while there. The crazy thing was that no one offered me food, and I didn’t think to ask as I was out of it and concentrating on baby and what was happening moment by moment. Eventually, when baby had fed well and passed out happily, and my midwife checked to see about tears. She mentioned she’d seen my scar tissue stretch when the head emerged, but I was puzzled. “What scar tissue?” I asked. “Oh, you know, where you tore last time,” she said. But as far as I was aware I had no tears or grazes last time. When she checked she could see the ‘old’ scar and after initially declaring no tearing, she looked again and discovered a first degree tear and labial graze. I realised that I must have torn last time but it wasn’t picked up. I was pleasantly surprised that even my first wee wasn’t really that painful, nowhere near what it was the last time when I had to get in the shower every time I needed to go to the toilet. Apart from that funny feeling of having no muscles in your general pubic area, I felt really good physically. But I was pretty depleted. I eventually got someone to make me some Vegemite toast (without butter, what the hell?!) and drank juice and despite a bit of hesitation from the midwives, I decided I could make it up the stairs to bed. It was a slow ascent and I was shocked by how short of breath I was – my first real experience of iron deficiency I think.

But it was done. She was here. 24 August 2014, 4:25am. 3.935kg, 54cm. Clementine Elizabeth. Or ‘Mole’, as we’ve dubbed her, due to her distinct lack of hair on her little round head and her snuffly head bobbing as she roots around for boobie. I love her. I finally understand how it is to feel that strong bond with your baby instantly, to love breastfeeding, despite oversupply and engorgement and vomit and poo and night waking. I definitely don’t want to have any more children at this stage, I’m grateful to have these two, a boy and girl, and I just can’t wait to see who she becomes.

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First feed soon after birth

The birth story of my second baby: part 1

I’m publishing this in two parts because it’s hellishly long, as most stuff I write is, and I wanted to split it into the ‘build up’ and the ‘real deal’.

I’d been fairly casual about the planning for this birth, in typical fashion. There was no question I’d be having the baby at home, as I did the Dude, and although we’d only recently moved to Melbourne, I’d made it my business to get an independent midwife sorted out quickly. I ended up swapping to a different midwifery practice at 32 weeks as the midwife who was meant to be my primary announced she was stopping practice and while she could still come to my birth, all pre and post natal care would need to be handed to another midwife at the practice. I’d already been less than satisfied with a few other goings on at that practice, being asked odd questions and having to have appointments with different midwives when really I just wanted one-on-one care, so I decided to swap to the midwife I’d originally met back when I was about 14 weeks.

I felt well, better than I had with the Dude, and it was only at about 38 weeks that I noticed a bit of swelling round my ankles which didn’t surprise me as I’d had it for the whole third trimester in my first pregnancy and I’d been under a bit of stress, trying to get things done before baby arrived and forgetting to take my supplements. I was starting to feel heavy, and baby felt very low and dug into my cervix regularly. But I had no Braxton Hicks that I could feel and I began to think about when this baby might arrive. Previously, my water had broken on the dot of 39 weeks, at about 1:30am, and then I had no contractions for 28 hours. I’d always considered this to be partly the way my body worked (my mum had the same thing with me) and partly because my boy was so keen to come. I expected this second labour to be faster and a bit more ‘normal’, not your typical long first labour which mine was, more or less, apart from the premature membrane rupture.

As things started to wind down and we did our dry run with the birth pool, I realised I really needed this baby to wait a bit longer than 39 weeks. Dude had come down with a really nasty virus that was turning into a horrible cough and just going on and on, so I was looking after him and not even thinking about giving birth. It just so happened that Mr Chewbacca’s contract at work was due to finish on 29 August (four days after 40 weeks for me), the third intern midwife who I’d invited to the birth to help with the Dude was going to be away between 25 and 30 August, and my favourite ABA group meeting was scheduled for 27 August. I wrote all these things on the calender and suddenly realised I was pretty sure this baby would wait until after the 30th to be born. I was predicting either the 31st or 1st September. I even wrote a post about it on one of the online groups I’m regularly on, the morning of 22 August:

A question about timing and mummy instinct: much of this pregnancy I’ve thought there’s a good chance baby will come at 39 weeks like my first. But just in the last couple of weeks I’ve come to this realisation that baby will wait until we are ready. There are a few things happening that would mean baby arriving any time in the next week would be a bit inconvenient – husband’s contract at work finishes on the 29th, toddler is still recovering from a bad bout of the flu, extra assisting midwife isn’t available until after the 30th…
Now at 39 weeks (depending on the calculation my guess date is somewhere between 25 and 28 Aug), I have this strong feeling that baby will stay put and most likely arrive about the 31st/1st. Aside from a hard head pressing on my pubic bones and cervix, I’m really not feeling uncomfortable or over it, not wanting to ‘make’ anything happen, but I was more wondering about this sudden confidence I have about when baby will arrive. Has anyone got any stories to share about ‘knowing’ when baby will come? It feels so at odds with my logical understanding that babies come when ready and I have no real say in it, more just about practising surrender and faith. But I feel so clear about this, I just know baby is waiting until we’re ready, husband can focus on us, toddler doesn’t need me 24/7… Thoughts?? I’d love anyone’s stories around this.

And then the next morning:

Well. So much for ‘knowing’ bub is staying put for another week! I woke about 1:30am after some fitful dreams (refusing to wake up I think!) about my membranes rupturing but trying to deny it, only to feel a ‘leak’! I got up to go to the toilet, felt more wet, soaked through my pyjama pants… The ol’ bladder can be a bit dodgy these days but I’m pretty sure it was amniotic fluid. I shoved a bunch of toilet paper in a new pair of undies, lay back down, realised I was an idiot not to use one of the many maternity pads on hand (conventionally located all the way downstairs of course) and I felt shaky, massive adrenaline, exactly like my first labour. Got a pad, took some emergency essence, back into bed. Oh no, I didn’t want her to come yet, just one more week please! Felt some ‘tightenings’, eventually drifted back off to sleep after explaining what was possibly happening to husband, who’d been getting our three year old back to sleep while I leaked… Nothing happening this morning, again, same as last time… Am I going to have a baby tonight?!

Thinking back now, I realise there was no way baby was waiting. Although the membrane rupture was not a big gush like the first time, it was clear it was a leak and I was getting ready to have a baby. Mr C and I just looked at each other in disbelief: now, really?! And then he said something to seal the deal: “Well, if she’s going to come, she better come TONIGHT or stay in for another week!” I didn’t say anything because I was still in denial but I knew that he’d just given our girl permission to come on out. We randomly decided that if this was going to be ‘it’, we should do something productive. And you can’t get much more productive than going to a shopping centre and buying an electric kettle! We ate a big meal at Schnitz, followed by icecream, and spent an hour with Dude in the Target play area. I had to walk so slowly, leaking the whole time, it was almost comical actually. Last time I hadn’t had this heavy head in my pelvis as Dude began labour in a breech position and turned sometime during the 38 hours of contractions that followed, so I’d been a lot more comfortable walking around.

We got home mid afternoon sometime and I just wanted to rest. We tested out our new kettle only to decide immediately to return it as it beeped really loudly. I began to get emotional. Our neighbours began to play their usual loud Arabic-style music which has this throbbing, incessant beat, and I began to feel desperate. This was my worst nightmare. I tried to hold back tears as I sat on the couch with the Dude. I felt what I thought might have been a contraction but wasn’t sure. What do contractions feel like again? Period pain? But I don’t get period pain. I felt this internal dilemma, like I knew I needed to accept that this baby was coming but I just couldn’t bring myself to that point yet, nothing was going right. I cried in Mr C’s arms, in the Dude’s arms. “It’s okay mummy, don’t cry,” he said, and patted my head.

To be continued…

 

 

The love

So my second baby has arrived. She made quite a dramatic entrance, or at least she came much faster than her brother did three years ago. I will do a separate post on the birth story, but suffice it to say, it was about five hours of established labour, three hours active and more freaking painful than anything I could ever have imagined! Intense! But I came out of it relatively unscathed, a first degree tear and graze noted although frankly it feels like nothing, nowhere near the sting of last time. I lost 800ml of blood this time, which is about double that of last labour, but although this is considered a haemhorrage, it really didn’t take that much out of me. I actually did feel dizzy and a bit weak afterwards but the placenta came quite quickly, within about 20 minutes, much faster than the almost hour of last time, and I stopped bleeding straight away. She came on 24 August, hours after the zodiac switched from Leo to Virgo.

I cannot describe how bonded I feel to this baby already. It’s not familiarity, it’s this true bond, the kind of pure perfect bond that should occur after birth. I think with the first one perhaps that doesn’t always materialise in such an obvious way, as there are too many things to learn, too many variables. But this time, gosh, it’s something really special. I am actually enjoying every moment of being this girl’s mother! I guess this is in keeping with a number of things that have been harmonious or ‘right’ throughout this pregnancy and even the birth, despite the shock elements of it. I’ve actually liked my body during this pregnancy, enjoyed seeing what it can do, enjoyed being female, which is not something I’ve felt much before. I am probably bigger and fatter than ever before in my life, yet somehow I like my body more than I have done in a good long while. That’s not to say I don’t want to be at a more comfortable weight, but more and more I am happy with who I am. Pregnancy has improved my hair and skin too! For the first time I don’t worry much about wearing makeup as my skin is relatively clear, and my hair does what I want it to do. I like it. And I don’t have to put much effort in. This air of contentedness has permeated this pregnancy and is continuing in this fourth trimester. Which is quite weird as life is quite full to overflowing and there are many stresses coming at us from all angles.

I can say one thing though, there’s little chance I’ll have another baby. I thought before this one came that there might be a chance of a third, but after that labour, and now getting to have this pure mothering experience, I think I’m done. I’ll go into detail in another post on the birth, but the intensity of it, phew, I don’t think I can handle that again, I really don’t. I would have liked more than two children, but at least there is more than one, as Dude being an only child would have been a big disappointment for me. He already adores his sister, wants to hold her and kiss her. He is put out of course, and feeling a little abandoned I think as daddy has had to go off and do some unavoidable work stuff and I’ve been completely confined to bed, short of toilet breaks and the odd shower. My mum is here for him, but I think he’s just a little bit much for her, he pushes the boundaries and she doesn’t have the same techniques to deal with him that we do. So he gets away with things and everything is a bit up in the air. Despite all that’s going on around me, though, I am completely in the mothering zone and finding even the painful bits fun. I know challenging times are ahead, but despite this I am loving being in this moment.

Winding down to labour

It’s been a while, over a month in fact, since I’ve posted. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to or had nothing to say; the opposite is true in fact. I’ve had lots to say! And some of it not appropriate for this forum, not yet anyway. But I feel I need to post just for my own record-keeping about this pregnancy as it’s coming to the end now and I’ve barely documented anything about it.

A second pregnancy feels quite different from a first. Physically, the main difference is that this baby has been very confidently head down from about 30 weeks, unlike the Dude who was flipping and spinning right up until he emerged. So that’s interesting, dull aching pelvic bones and this sort of stiffness akin to having done a two-hour intensive gym workout after a period of dormancy. The other physical aspect is that my general health has been quite different this time round, much better in a lot of ways I think. It’s weird because I’m three years older, I’m fatter, I get less good quality sleep and do less physical activity. But this time round I’ve had no swollen ankles, which I had from about 23 weeks last time. I’ve been taking spirulina throughout this pregnancy and I think that’s helped maintain my health this time round as I discovered it only at the end last time and I remember what a big difference it made when I started taking it, even just to my energy levels. I’m also taking cod liver oil and my b vitamin which I’m not totally happy about relying on but it really does help me feel energised and stops me getting sick or run down. I don’t take prenatal vitamins as a rule as I think supplementing with real ‘foods’ is much better and synthetic vitamins have their place but it’s better to get your nutrition from real food supplements or better yet, just real food. I struggle to do the latter as both Mr Chewbacca and the Dude aren’t big salad eaters so my food choices put me in the minority.

I’ve had lots of movement throughout the second half of this pregnancy, which has surprised me to be honest as I thought the Dude was an unusually busy baby in utero but this one is just as active. I think having had a hard head pressing on my pelvis and cervix for the past few weeks makes it particularly uncomfortable. I find sitting for long periods really uncomfortable and baby just hates it, wriggles and stretches until I stand up or sit in a higher, more upright position.

The other bizarre thing happening is that apparently I’m still producing breastmilk. I can’t be sure, and I’m beginning to think it’s changed to colostrum now, but there’s definitely something coming out as the Dude has been having boobie most days recently and I can hear him swallowing and guzzling for ages. I tried to express some in the shower the other day and being completely inept at expressing didn’t really get much out but what I saw looked to be very watery, not thick white milk. I have to just go with the flow on this one, as I’m sort of in no man’s land given that most other women I know who’ve fed through pregnancy have had their milk disappear at some point before the new baby arrives. I know I’m super awesomely efficient at producing milk but it’s just getting a bit ridiculous! Although I was grateful for it recently as the Dude came down with a cold and was really miserable so boobie sorted that out easily. I just wish he wasn’t so obsessed with my boobs! He has recently taken to demanding he showers with me every morning, which is fine, I know he’ll get sick of it eventually, and it means he actually gets clean without me having to put much effort in. But I just can’t be topless and within his reach! He immediately grabs at my breasts and says, ‘that your boobies!’ very excitedly. Then when I tell him to stop he’s like, ‘no mummy, I just have to count: one, two!’ He has to count them. Sometimes he counts to three or four or five.  It’s funny but when I’m bending down to dry him off it’s just impossible to avoid his grabbing at me. I don’t think he realises they’re not his to grab. Anyway, he’s not stopping feeding any time soon and I’m really not sure how I feel about that. I certainly never planned to tandem feed and the thought of it is a little difficult to come to terms with, but I will see what happens.

I’m publishing this post as is, although I hadn’t finished it. It was written on 16 August and I’d been meaning to come back and finish it but just never did. And then I had a baby. So time to give another update…

Some writing

I never publish my writing, even on this blog. It’s mainly because I don’t have enough of it that I consider worthy of even being read by another human, let alone being published anywhere. I’m all talk when it comes to writing. Yes, it’s true, I never get a chance to sit and write, but by the same token, I would do it if it were really important. I haven’t got the self-discipline and I can’t focus for long enough. 

As part of some planning for my MA application (yeah, I’m finally doing it, if I can work out how, after ten years out of university), I stumbled across some bits and pieces I’d strung together when preparing an application for a Masters program about seven years ago. I never actually ended up applying, although I had everything pretty much ready. I had planned to study in the UK when I went over all those years ago but for some reason, I can’t think why now, possibly the financial implications, I never ended up applying

But anyway, I came across this piece which, although it is far from polished, and in fact somewhat incoherent really, I thought I’d post here. I quite like it, as the beginning bare bones of something.  It has no title, just a series of subtitles for each little section.

 

WEDDING

Boxing Day in 1924 was a cold but bright day.  Rosa, frail and thin, wore a large heavy wool coat and some second-hand men’s sheepskin gloves.  Lottie looked the picture of spring, shining cheeks, a freshness and openness about her.  Joe wasn’t cold, he was tough.  And he didn’t care much for fashion or looks, he just got on with things.  Thomas remained smart and stiff with carefully parted hair, and perfectly groomed moustache and a three-piece suit with his watch chain draping appropriately across the front pocket.

Lottie glanced over at her counterpart, the other mother-in-law, sitting alongside her husband.  Hands folded in the lap and a hardened look on her pale face, you could see she wasn’t well.  She looked about ten years older than she was.  As the cameraman adjusted his lens, ducking under his black cloth to check the focus, Lottie wondered about Rosa, and whether she had ever wanted anything more than marriage at 16 and 12 children.  There was no real expression on Rosa’s face; you would never know, thought Lottie, that she is the mother of the bride, who sat fidgeting alongside her new husband, glowing with early pregnancy in her usual state of nervous excitement.  Perhaps once you’ve been to ten of your children’s weddings you just don’t think it’s special any more.  The fashion was certainly well and truly still Victorian, and shabby even at that.  Lottie’s hair was a bohemian experiment, piled tight and curly up on top of her head and fenced in with a bright silk scarf.  Rosa had worn the same hat twenty years earlier for her eldest daughter’s wedding, a large-brimmed affair with a dull ribbon squeezing the protruding cap.

“Right-oh everyone, hold still…” announced the cameraman as he ducked under his cloth for the final time.  Lottie could hear Uncle Jim cracking a joke in the row behind her and she reached her hand up to quiet him, but couldn’t help laughing.  Snap went the shutter and that was it.  Joe had smiled at the joke too as he sat next to his wife, enjoying the moment, amused by the amount of effort people went to for something as trivial as a photograph.  The moment was captured perfectly, Lottie and Joe smiling away as they always did, and Rosa and Thomas, stern and stiff.  Two such diverse families one could never meet.

 

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

Gladys had spied him walking home from work and had gotten all worked up and flustered, as usual.  His shyness was attractive to her in a mysterious and intriguing way.  He was used to silly girls mooning over him, and thought nothing of this one; but she was persistent, and that’s what made the difference.  She worked herself up into a frenzy. The more he withdrew and went about his usual routine, the more she became adamant that he was the one.  She liked the chase.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like girls.  He just wasn’t interested in the game of flirtation; in fact he didn’t play games at all.  He found her attractive too, in a sort of ditsy, helpless way.  She wasn’t unintelligent, but she was so highly strung that the slightest thing would cause hysteria.  Perhaps it was because she was the youngest girl in her family, much younger than the other two girls, and spoilt rotten.  She wasn’t close to her mother; it was her father who doted on her and encouraged her little princess routine.

He puffed on his pipe like a man twice his age and considered things. She was the antithesis of his own mother, who was easy-going and level-headed. She’d probably find this small, hysterical girl endearing, at least until she became annoying. When he was near this jumpy rabbit, he felt a pull as he’d never felt. He’d never been compelled to pursue anyone, but this girl, her chasing and flirting was becoming infectious.

 

MEETING

Lottie stood at the shop window watching the reflection of the pipe smoke curling inside an invisible tunnel up into the air.  Somehow, without the smoke deviating from its perfectly vertical course, snippets of the sweet, comforting smell drifted across to her, and she felt warmer with each breath.

“I’d love to smell it again,” said Joe, sucking in the air through his mouth with a practised rhythm.  It was enough to bring her out of her trance and she straightened her posture and peered with purpose into the shop window momentarily.

“Is this your shop, Sir?” she asked, turning towards him as he leaned against the door frame.

“That it is, Miss,” he replied.

“I wonder if you might consider selling some of my garments?” she asked, lifting the cloth that covered a large wicker basket she held.  He moved only his eyes in the direction of the basket for a few moments then chewed the stem of his pipe.  “On commission, of course,” she added hurriedly.  He slowly breathed out a soft cloud of smoke.

“I mean no disrespec’, Miss, but ‘ow can I be certain ye’re of good repute?” he asked.

“Well, I… I must say, Sir, I am quite offended by that.  I know not whether you and your shop are of good repute yet I am willing to sell my items here, at least on a trial basis.”  She tried to stare him down, even though he wasn’t looking at her.  Joe peered into the bowl of his pipe, then tapped it sharply against the wall to free the last few ashes.  He turned and held out a hand for the basket.

“Come inside, Miss, an’ I’ll see what ye’ve got.”  She hesitated, but let him take the basket so knew she had to follow him in.

The shop itself was most interesting; it didn’t fit into any particular category—iron mongers, haberdashers, tailors—there was such variety of goods filling the shelves which reached to the high ceilings.  Lottie couldn’t help staring in amazement before she noticed him watching her with amusement and collected herself, replacing her look of amazement with a look that said she’d seen it all before.

“Is this your own work, Miss?” asked Joe, running a finger over a finely embroidered red rose, intricate green leaves curling around it in a myriad of Celtic style patterns.

“Of course,” she replied haughtily.  Joe smiled at her, noticing for the first time that her own clothes were adorned with the same style of embroidery, tiny coloured flowers on the dark background of her bodice.

“Your work is very fine,” he nodded. She relaxed a little, having been ready to gather it quickly into the basket and march out of the shop, secretly terrified.  “I’ll sell it, at an agreed price, with commission.”  Lottie breathed an audible sigh of relief and was about to speak when…

“On one condition.”

She immediately became suspicious again.

“Is the commission not a condition already?” she asked, grasping the embroidered nightdress, ready to leave.  He noticed how tense she was.

“Yes, ye’re right, that it is.”  He pulled a shirt from the basket and held the colour close to his eye, lifting his glasses to see it clearly in detail.  “I’ll give ye thruppence for each o’ the men’s shirts and a shilling for each ladies nightdress.”  It was more than she’d expected, and she wondered what his game was.  But the money was all important, so she nodded in agreement.

“I’ll warrant there’ll be a demand for your garments, but we’ll wait to see what happens.  Come back in a week,” he said bluntly, gathering the pile of clothes out of the basket and dumping them on the counter behind him.  There was something about him, she thought, that told her he was honest.  Perhaps the pipe smoking.  Her father would puff on his by the fire of an evening and announce to no one in particular, ‘ye can alweez trest a man wi’ a paipe’.

So with that she left the shop, sneaking another quick glance at its crowded walls, full of everything from tea sets to nails.

 

HAPPINESS

Uncle Buddy was the first person in the street to own a camera.  The camera itself had been around for years, but only professional photographers, of which there were not many down the East End in the 1930s, owned them.  There hadn’t been many celebrations or real knees-ups for some time, since the beginning of the war when Arthur was sent off.  Lottie had never been the same, but had helped so many, which in some way helped her own grief.  Life moved fast, and Lottie made it so. As long as things were humming along, as long as she just got on with things, there would be no time to mull over losses, which really was a waste of time and made one old beyond her years, said Lottie, when questioned as to her busy life.  It was worth it, for her, as she brought solace to so many grieving mothers; most of them felt their sadness wane, knowing what Lottie herself had gone through.

The trouble was, the camera didn’t accommodate speed.  It didn’t accommodate any movement.  In order to be captured on camera, one had to remain absolutely still for at least a minute, depending on the light of the day.  So all of Uncle Buddy’s earliest pictures were of buildings or graves, which were guaranteed to remain steadfast and one could really focus, get the timing right, the shadows black and the light white.  A grave was the closest thing to a person that Buddy could photograph.  He could have asked a stranger, paid some quiet child to sit still for him, but he felt as if the subject should be still by its very nature.  Posing, trying to remain still and frozen for the photograph was so unnatural and, to Buddy, went against the very reason for the existence of the medium.  Painting was a medium with which one could capture movement, and moving objects and depict them in any way needed.  It was artistic license, making it up according to a fantasy.  A photograph was real and should never be used for trickery.

The tragedy of war, the removal of life, the future of an entire family, had caused Uncle Buddy to develop a fixed way of thinking about photographs.  And it took the birth of Lottie’s first grandchild, only son of her only son, to bring her back to life.  She remembered dancing, singing, the many celebrations she had been a part of since her marriage until 1917.  Celebrations became a part of daily life—in fact not celebrating became a novelty, and Joe secretly relished those days off, where he could smoke his pipe in peace and quiet and think of nothing.

Uncle Buddy got a new camera.  For him, it was a whole new medium.  It replaced his painting almost entirely.  It captured life, movement.

“Awright, you lot… ‘Eck, pop in there on that side… wear your ‘at, can’t ‘ave a picture without the ‘at… put that baby down for a moment, will you Glad?  No, Ron, thas it, pop yer ‘ead in, thas right…”  Joe bared his missing teeth as he laughed along with Ron, the next door neighbour, and Mrs Axley from across the road, who was laughing so hysterically by this point that she held a hand to her mouth and tears brimmed in her eyes.  Gladys finally relaxed, her thick glasses giving her something convenient to hide behind, as she smiled at her husband, laughing heartily, a rare thing for him.  Uncle Buddy chose the moment and the flash bulb smashed, the moment captured.  Lottie was in the corner.  Whether she laughed, we’ll never know. That corner of the photograph was torn off by mistake.

Finding the right midwife: a story

I haven’t written much about this pregnancy or the stuff going on around it. It’s all just too normal and boring really. In a good way! But there have been some interesting goings on in terms of my care provider which I feel may be good to share, possibly useful for women looking to find a midwife to support them in birth and all that goes with it.

As you might know, I gave birth to the Dude in a pool in my living room just over three years ago now. I planned a homebirth from the get go and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Given the epic nature of the birth and what I withstood in order to keep to my plan of having my baby at home (38 hours from first contraction to birth with 10-12 hours of active labour, most contractions during that time without a break as Dude apparently turned from breech to head down during labour which meant incredible pain in my sides between contractions), it would have taken something pretty full on to get me to go to a hospital to have my baby. And that hasn’t changed. There are really only a few very rare medical problems that would compel me to seek guidance from an obstetrician and give birth in a hospital. Things like complete placenta praevia or placental abruption, life-threatening haemorrhaging, or serious infection. Real medical problems. Not just being in pain or feeling tired. I have more faith in my body than that, and I am extremely robust and strong physically. Especially after having the Dude, I have absolutely no doubt in my body’s ability to give birth and I don’t need any assistance or pain relief, it just works.

Anyway, having moved to another state when newly pregnant with this second one, I couldn’t seek out the same (awesome) midwife this time around. I did a bit of reading and research and discovered that in Victoria we have an abundance of midwives available for pretty much any birth scenario a woman might choose. How fabulous, I thought! Some midwives work in practices, some individually, some have practising rights in hospitals, and there are a very large number of independent midwives in general. In addition, there is more than one GP who supports women to give birth anywhere they choose, even at home, and getting that pesky Medicare referral signed is pretty easy.

I felt so relaxed this time round, couldn’t really think of any requirements I had for birth. I just wanted a midwife who had the same ideas about birth as me and would support me at home. Easy! Or at least, that’s the way it seemed. I only met a few, and only dealt with two practices, but it was hard to meet more as a lot of them charge for even a first consultation and they are all really nice, it didn’t seem like it would be a hard choice. Anyone would do. I must admit I felt rather corralled (Mr Chewbacca’s very apt description) during my initial consultation with one of the midwives, but I was already about 12 weeks pregnant and wanting to get my midwife sorted. I was keen to have that first ultrasound and blood test done and then just sit back and relax into pregnancy. I let the midwife I saw do what needed to be done, even though I made it clear that we hadn’t made our choice yet. We met with two other midwives, one from a different practice, who was lovely, and another from that first practice, again lovely. We ended up choosing the latter, not for any reason in particular, perhaps just because we chatted a little more freely and had a few more things in common, but there was really nothing in it. Mr C did mention he thought the practice we chose felt ‘clinical’ when we first walked in, but I dismissed this without really thinking. After all, his only real experience of birth is what we had with the Dude, at home, so a midwifery practice office is going to seem more clinical in comparison. Certainly nothing even close to a clinical hospital environment. He has good instincts for this sort of thing, though, and I really wish I’d been more open to hearing him and shopping around a bit more. Not that I regret choosing the midwife we did, but in hindsight I don’t think it was the right choice.

Fast forward to the next appointment, a real prenatal check. It was fairly relaxed, a nice conversation, the usual listening to the baby’s heartbeat, blood pressure check. Midwives generally are easy to chat to, especially about pregnancy, birth and babies, and this one was no exception, so there was nothing really wrong, just different from what I’d experienced previously where I went to my midwife’s house and she had a cosy little room with all the midwife paraphernalia and it felt so comfy. I was a bit taken aback when my midwife suggested I make my next appointment with one of the other midwives in the practice with the aim of getting to know a few of the others. I wasn’t really sure why I would but I got the impression it was because one of them would be the back up midwife, the second midwife, which I was assured would be there for the whole birth as much as possible. This was also weird as I just had the one midwife last time and although there was a backup who I’m sure would have come along if need be, I never actually met her. I gathered the these midwives I’d signed up with worked in more of a group style practice and I didn’t think much more about it. I ended up meeting not just with that other midwife (who turned out to be the one who’d corralled us at the first appointment), but yet another midwife who I hadn’t previously met. The reason for meeting the third one was that after booking in with my primary midwife, I got a call before the appointment to say she wouldn’t be there and I’d either need to reschedule or have my check with a different midwife. So I chose the latter.  Again, didn’t really think much about it.

After my second appointment with the corralling midwife, I decided that although I respected and actually liked her, I didn’t want her at the birth unless something went seriously wrong and I had to transfer. She seemed far more interested in training student midwives and rabbiting on about risks or things that didn’t pertain to me than actually providing one-on-one woman-centred care. So I made it clear to my primary midwife at our next appointment exactly how I felt. She was understanding and said that would be fine. But then she dropped a bombshell: she said she was going to be ceasing work as a midwife and wouldn’t be renewing her (undoubtedly very expensive) insurance and therefore wouldn’t be able to do any of my pre or post natal care. She said she’d come to the birth, which kind of made sense as independent midwives are exempt from insurance for birth at home so she wouldn’t need it for that, but alarm bells began to ring for me when she said I’d need to book in with another previously unknown midwife in the practice to cover the rest of my care. Another one! So that’s now four midwives I’d have seen. I agreed, more just because I was a bit shocked than anything else, but as I made my appointment with this other person I’d never heard of, I began to feel uneasy. Later when I received a call to say that midwife actually didn’t work out of the local practice and I’d need to book in with yet another person I’d never heard of, I realised that none of this was sitting well with me. It suddenly dawned on me that the model of care that this practice worked with was not like that which I’d previously experienced; I would never get that personalised, cosy, woman-centred, one-on-one care I needed with this practice, and I suddenly became acutely aware of how important that was for me. It was the very reason I’d chosen to birth at home with an independent midwife. Needless to say, my brain went into overdrive, thinking of possible scenarios and options.

I spoke to Mr C about it all, my mind reeling, beginning to panic and worry about how this would all pan out. I was 31 weeks pregnant, on the home stretch, and all of a sudden I didn’t know who would be at my birth! This might not even be a consideration for most women who are booked into the public system. You rock up in labour and whoever is rostered on is who you get. When there’s a shift change, new midwives come on board. You might be lucky if you get a lovely one who stays on a bit longer after her shift ends to support you through to the end. Or you might have numerous people coming and going throughout. However for me, birth is private and sacred. I don’t want a whole bunch of randoms I hardly know hanging out and influencing things. I want to know who will be there so I can relax and do what I do best. And I want to be sure my philosophies and choices are respected. There had been a bit of talk about ‘pain relief’ during some prenatal appointments, and I found this rather odd as it’s not something I felt I needed assistance with. Surely at home you just give birth, and yes, it’s painful (for some it isn’t, just intense), but you make it through and it’s this incredible feeling of elation and achievement straight afterwards. I began to think about this and how the suggestion of pain relief was a bit at odds with what I thought I’d explained about my own philosophies and choices.

After a couple of days mulling it over and chatting with Mr C, it became pretty clear that I needed to find a new midwife. I thought back to the one we’d met from the other practice, and I knew I had to contact her. I had to return a book I’d borrowed when we first met which I should have done ages ago, so I thought that was a bit of a sign that I needed to get back in touch. But when I called, her phone went straight to voicemail. I suspected she was at a birth or sleeping one off, but in fact it turned out she was overseas – oh no! She returned literally a couple of days after I called and we had the loveliest conversation over the phone. By some miracle, even though August is the busy time for birth, she turned out to be free for the whole month and beyond into September! And she said she would be happy to support me. Wow! I was blown away and so relieved. I met her and the other midwives last night and feel already so much more connected to them than the ones I have been seeing at the other practice. I can’t express how glad I am that I’ve managed to make this choice and get what I need for this baby. There’s only one thing left to do: speak to my original midwife and explain that I won’t be using their services any more. That is scary! I am terrible at confrontation! I don’t want to be a bother and I’m a bit worried about what I’ll have to pay to get out of it, but I think the fact that they’ve changed things on me gives me more of a leg to stand on in that respect. Anyway, I have to make that dreaded call today and arrange for my records to be copied so I can bring them across to my new midwife next week when we meet for our first prenatal check. I will be 33 weeks then!

I hope anyone who has managed to get to the end of this story will find it useful in their hunt for the right provider. Everyone has different needs and a different picture of their pregnancy and birth care. I hope that no matter where, how and with whom you choose to have your baby, you experience what works for you.

The fear and necessity of specialisation

I’ve always been an all-rounder. Generally pretty good at everything. In fact, fairly early on in my life it became apparent that if something warranted a bit of effort, application or concentration from me, I wouldn’t bother. It wasn’t often that things fell into that category during primary school, but as I progressed through high school and on to university and then into the workforce, I came to a frightening conclusion: it’s not good enough to be okay at everything, even if you’re clever and capable enough to be okay at things without any effort. I discovered I had a distinct problem with self-motivation, drive, ambition, and ultimately in my 20s this lead to something akin to depression. I was terrified to discover that I wasn’t passionate about anything! Not really. Because being passionate meant really immersing myself in something. It meant choosing and being disciplined enough to stick to something. And risking failure.

Now at 35 years old I am experiencing some pretty harsh realities and finding it harder and harder not to specialise. As this very insightful article I just stumbled upon explains, if you don’t specialise you become unemployable. I would go further to say that if you don’t delve into your passions, you are living small. I’m not going to be so arrogant as to assume that everyone knows what he or she is passionate about, or that everyone has the means to explore passions to the greatest extent. But I think that most excuses for not really grasping your passion fully are cop outs; it might frustrate some, but the old cliché is true: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

This question of will comes up for me now. As I mentioned earlier, I was shocked to realise I wasn’t really passionate about anything, or at least passionate enough to really get up close and personal with any one topic. In the past, I’ve put this down to being ‘pretty good at everything’. But what I realised recently is that I’m not good at everything, I’m good at what I’m interested in. It seems pretty simple, but the moment I realised that, I also realised I was pretty arrogant to dismiss specialisation in any given field purely because I was just so fantastic at everything. That was the ultimate cop-out.

I’ve talked for years about doing my Masters. In fact I realised recently that it’s been ten years since I last studied! What?! That not only makes me feel old, it makes me feel like I’ve slacked off. So what has held me back? I could say that I was just having too much fun, doing too many other things, that it wasn’t really that important. But that’s not true. What’s held me back is the awareness that I’d finally have to specialise. That’s scary, as the article I linked above so eloquently explains. It’s scary because it means having faith in yourself, in all the sweeping statements you’ve made in the past about ‘being good’ at things. It’s also scary because it can feel like a limitation, like you are having to relinquish some pretty interesting ideas in order to make space for the big idea, the big passion, the speciality.

Anyway, I am finally looking into really doing my Masters, but doing it in a way that doesn’t allow me to slack off, cop-out, give up, make excuses or fail. And let’s face it, my chances of failing are pretty slim, given I never studied throughout my undergraduate degree and it never occurred to me I could fail until my very last semester at uni when I discovered friends had to take a unit again due to having failed the first time. I actually did come close to failing once or twice. I remember the struggle I had studying history in first year uni (Culture and Society in Britain and France 1750-1850 – I was 18 and had never really even heard of the Industrial Revolution and my knowledge of the French Revolution revolved around vague notions of people getting their heads cut off a lot). It was a year-long unit, which made it extra painful as I had no option but to see it through right to the end of the year. I had no study skills whatsoever, couldn’t absorb the texts as I didn’t understand any of the context, and there were all these crazy philosophy dudes in my tute group sitting round and pontificating about things I couldn’t comprehend. All I knew is, I didn’t get it, and I hated it. My tutor was a really lovely English woman who could see exactly what I was going through and kindly gave me a pass mark (52, I think it was) at the end of the year, probably because I managed to read most of Voltaire’s Candide and write a vaguely coherent, grammatically correct essay about it. But did I feel ashamed or upset that I’d let myself down by getting such a low mark?  Oh no, I just decided that the kind of history they were teaching at uni was garbage and not worth learning about. Yes, I was arrogant. I put my nose in the air and enrolled in linguistics where I proceeded to write entire essays the night before they were due with absolutely no referencing or citation, claiming I’d just come up with the ideas myself and that was enough of a reference. Hmm. I must have been a bugger to teach!

The one last thing to say about this latest educational venture is about the way I’m going to tackle it. It’s a bit of a secret at the moment so I won’t go into details until it’s clearly set in stone, but suffice it to say, I’m excited. It’s going to be an adventure, especially as my family – Mr C, the Dude and the little girl joining us sometime towards the end of August – will be along for the ride, directly affected by everything I do. Specialisation, here I come!

The heart, it aches

I’ll be honest. The way that Mr Chewbacca and I ended up together was a bit of a whirlwind; pretty quick, too quick for some probably. At the time, I was about to turn 30 and he’d turned 34 at the beginning of that year. At some level, I think we considered ourselves old and we were both pretty clear on what we wanted from a relationship. It was as simple as realising we were both keen for marriage and children really. But there was also a meeting of the minds when it came to our mutual interests. And values, our values were always fairly similar, which I knew to be extremely important.

But it’s only fair to say that we jumped into the deep end and didn’t really give ourselves a chance to hesitate. Met in August, moved in together in December, got engaged the following August, moved to another country the next January and married the following April. Then got pregnant in July. It was fast, yes, but I think that’s just how it was meant to be. I might not have been so certain of this early on in the relationship but looking back I can see just how right it all was. Not necessarily the moving overseas part, but that’s another story!

I don’t really know when I actually fell in love with him. I don’t think it was even ‘falling'; it was just love. Almost like I was in it the whole time but I needed time to realise it. Anyway, like all couples, we have our emotional mountains to climb; it is quite intense, our rapport, I think because we are both very passionate people.

Since the birth of the Dude in 2011, I don’t think we’ve been apart more than the odd night here or there. Maybe two nights once? And that was torture. The older the Dude gets, the more entwined we become as a family. The connection between our threesome (and soon to be foursome) is really intense. I think it’s probably on par with plenty of other families but what is particularly confronting for me is that I’ve never had this feeling about family before. Most of my family I don’t have much to do with, mainly because I have nothing in common with them and no real pull to them. There’s a detachment there, the opposite of attachment. In fact most family connections are pretty weird, squirm-worthy really. I never enjoyed cuddling any of my family members; I’d just endure it. I never knew what it was to enjoy a hug until I met my first long term boyfriend at age 21. I’d look forward to being with family, but within moments of being around them I’d be disillusioned, realising that these people, while they had some agreeable traits, did not feel ‘right’ to me. I didn’t want to be a part of whatever it was they had. I never enjoyed spending time with family to any great extent. Until I had my own, of course.

I’m thinking about all this stuff now because Mr C is away for two weeks. He’s due back in a few days and I am so glad of that. Two weeks has felt like an eternity. And it’s not because I’ve had to be the sole parent and that’s been really hard. It’s hard, but not unmanageable. It’s a fantastic feeling to love my husband as a man, a partner and a father to my children. It is the most fully-rounded, complete feeling I’ve ever known.

Starting a family, especially so soon after we met and married, has been stressful to say the least. Having children is stressful in general, let’s face it. And it’s been a massive learning curve for us, particularly because we were simultaneously learning about each other and how we relate. We’ve had some huge changes as well, with not only moving to Australia but feeling completely unsettled the whole time and moving interstate twice. We’ve renovated and sold a house, persevered through numerous bouts of stressful unemployment and problems with work, and now we’re having our second child. We have managed. And not just managed but actually come through it all much stronger than we ever were before.

I am missing Mr C like I’d miss a limb. The Dude is too, desperate to drive to the airport, suggesting daddy is about to walk through the door, that he’s ‘back now’. While the missing is painful, it’s also joyful; I am so grateful for it. I am grateful to feel so deeply, so genuinely about another person in the world. This is new for me and oh so profound.

Life in the rainy city

That’s what Melbourne has always been known as, this city of four seasons in one day where it just rains at random. After three months here I’ve seen a tiny bit of that but nothing like what I expected. Having been here a number of times before, I’ve certainly experienced what people talk about, with a prime example being Christmas time in about 2004 where it was drizzling and 18 degrees on Boxing Day and then about 35 and scorching sun the following day. Unlike most people, Mr Chewbacca and I have been really looking forward to the rain and cold and were actually quite disappointed with Melbourne’s efforts on both fronts to begin with. Now it’s starting to cool down a bit and it’s lovely.

Somehow I’m managing to keep really busy. I think it’s got something to do with having a full on toddler but it’s also because I’ve really been making an effort to get involved with as many parenting and play groups as I can. I’ve just started taking Dude to a formal playgroup once a week which, although he had some crazy meltdowns the first time, he declared he loves, so we’ll look forward to next time. It’s a Steiner playgroup which is quite a bit different from any other formal one I’ve taken him to. When I say formal, I mean one that has a trained leader who involves the children with songs and activities, usually with a cost attached, and a schedule adhered to for the two hours. I was in two minds about this group, as I’m still not totally sure how Steinerised I want the Dude’s education to be and whether it’s really what would suit him. Mr C isn’t too impressed with anything Steiner, although to be fair he hasn’t really looked into it and just knows bits and pieces. There are some weird aspects that, even though it’s what my early education was focused on, I’m not sure whether I am too keen on the Dude being exposed, but what I do like is the rhythm, the wholesomeness and the wholistic approach to learning and creativity. Anyway, it’s been interesting, and now the Dude is enjoying it I think we’ll at least continue for this term and then see how we go.

I’ve made most of my connections via social media, facebook mainly, which I don’t feel totally comfortable with but I am grateful to have that tool to make my transition much easier.We have one weekly playgroup that we really love and Dude seems to get along well with most other kids he meets, or if he doesn’t connect he just plays by himself. I’ve also finally become a fully fledged member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association who do some awesome things for women and babies. But secretly the reason I became a member was so I could go to meetings and not feel like I was taking advantage not being a paid member. Plus I figure given I’ve been breastfeeding for almost three years now and will soon be taking on a whole new person to feed, I should acknowledge that in some positive way. Actually scrap all that, the main reason I joined was because I know I’m going to find like-minded people through the ABA. That’s not to say everyone who is involved with the organisation is ‘alternative’ or a natural parent or whatever. Far from this. There are members who exclusively formula feed or mix feed or haven’t yet had a baby to feed. The most fantastic thing about this organisation is the philosophy behind it which is clearly solidly backed up by leadership. I know from years of working with bureaucracies that without good leaders who live the organisation’s values on a daily basis, it’s misery and bedlam to work there. The ABA welcomes everyone with open arms, everyone is kind and open and genuine. Being a really awkward introvert, I find it so hard to slot into pre-formed social circles and especially given I’ve got some values that don’t always gel with the mainstream, meeting new people and feeling a part of something is a big challenge. I went to my second ABA meeting last week and it was absolutely freaking fantastic. I was there nearly the full two hours and really enjoyed it so much. I didn’t want to leave! And neither did the Dude.

Aside from the various playgroups and meet ups I’ve been immersing myself in, I’ve managed to catch up a fair bit with my closest friends here in Melbourne and that’s been great. It certainly does help knowing a couple of people. The other spare time I have has been taken up by appointments relating to the pregnancy. Doctor referrals, scans, midwife appointments, prenatal yoga… That has been good as it’s helped me get a feel for not only the geography of the city and surrounds (due to driving all over the place) but also the feel of the people in this city. I know I’m probably biased but I swear there is this lovely, kind, generous, open vibe here in Melbourne. Yeah, you get dickheads, don’t get me wrong (our neighbours and the freaky people across the road are in that category), but generally speaking I’ve had nothing but great experiences dealing with the people of Melbourne.

I must go off on a tangent here briefly and mention the incredible referral appointment I had with my doctor yesterday. Yes, I’m now referring to him as MY doctor. Now for anyone who knows me, you’ll know I have never once used this phrase in my entire life. I’ve never ‘had’ a doctor and usually only go to them when I really need a prescription, which isn’t very often as most things can be healed at home without paying out for pharmaceuticals and guesswork. But this guy, wow, I’m bowled over by him! The first time I went to him was upon recommendation from the midwifery practice I’m using to have this baby. I knew he must be fairly open-minded as he practises out of the midwifery clinic sometimes and signs lots of referrals for homebirths. We got talking briefly about breastfeeding and he actually commended me on having stuck with breastfeeding this long, despite my aversions. I was quite impressed! This time, I went for another referral for something a little more difficult to explain and he was so kind and understanding and said it was an absolute privilege for him to be able to refer me and that he was humbled that I’d been able to talk to him about the issue! I told him I wouldn’t feel very comfortable speaking to the majority of doctors I’ve met in the past but that he is different and I feel comfortable with him. He actually gave me a hug and was quite emotional about it! I was amazed and really quite elated. There are great doctors out there, they do exist!

Anyway, the most wonderful thing about being here in Melbourne, even though there is a lot more work to do in order to feel totally at home, is this feeling of genuine love for the place. There have been moments, one at the museum the other week, where I just stop for a moment and look up at the buildings and soak in the vibe and I genuinely like living here. I don’t know when I’ve ever had that feeling. Or at least if I have, it’s been a long time.  Probably since living in London. I did try to give Sydney a chance, really I did, but my heart just wasn’t in it and I never felt any connection to the place. I don’t know that I feel a huge connection to Melbourne, as I’m realising more and more that I am really not connected to Australia in general, but what I do feel is an appreciation of where I am. I’m glad to be here. There is a lot of goodness to soak up in Melbourne and I’m really looking forward to continuing to soak it up for however long I am here.

Toddler tantrums and two types of weaning

We’ve been going through some huge stuff with the Dude lately. Anyone who knows him will know he is a full on kid, really intense and wilful anyway, and quite unpredictable. I’ve never had much success pinpointing the cause of any particular problem, whether it’s physical or behavioural or emotional, and I think this is due to his nature. He is complex. That’s okay, so am I, and so is his dad in many ways. But it makes parenting him an extra big challenge most of the time.

I took him to a new playgroup yesterday morning and after a really difficult night the night before he was a bit out of sorts, to say the least. He spent about 70 per cent of the time having meltdowns and crying and screaming during the playgroup. The other mums and playgroup leader were extremely understanding and kind, gently offering him ways to be included and making efforts to include me as we are brand new to the group. After my initial tactic trying to coax him from his corner to join the circle of children, I sat down and ignored him and eventually he came over and sat with me, finally joining in a little bit of rough play with a boy of similar disposition. After nearly three years of parenting this crazy child, I am pretty good at remaining calm and giving him just the right amount of time and space to come back down to earth. Today was a massive challenge, though, as he was so unmanageable and screamed during times when the other children were trying to sing and participate in the various activities during the playgroup.

At one point, I found myself explaining what had been going on for him recently and I realised just how much he’d been subjected to over the last few months, how many big changes in all areas of his life. Not only have we made two big interstate moves, the last one barely three months ago, and he’s unwittingly been subjected to the conflict and stresses that inevitably arise during times of massive change, he’s also become more and more aware of the increasing presence of his little sister and the changes that will bring for him. He is really sensitive to everything I tell him about the baby, and takes it all in. I recently discovered, after he rejected me aggressively, refusing to let me lift him into his car seat, that he was just being considerate and not wanting me to lift him because, “you got a baby in there, I too heavy!” I’d only mentioned it once or twice when he wanted me to carry him for more than a few minutes, so I was shocked to discover how much he’d taken my words to heart.

I have found it quite hard going continuing to breastfeed him, although I know this is fairly common for women who are feeding and become pregnant. I have reluctantly night-weaned him in order to save my sanity and allow me to get some sleep, which initially seemed to be working quite well but now is really making it tough for all three of us. I really struggled with how to go about this, as I don’t want him to ever feel rejected, or replaced, and going cold turkey with breastfeeding is not a good idea for either of us health-wise. I wasn’t very consistent in my approach to begin with, mainly because I hadn’t come to terms with what I had to do. I had a brief but profound conversation with a woman at another playgroup we visited who said that she had to really get her head around what she was doing and why and be clear about the rules or boundaries. That really hit home with me and I realised I had to work out exactly what I was doing and how so the Dude wouldn’t be confused. It sounds simple, but in my experience breastfeeding full term (ie. into the toddler stage and beyond) is a very emotional experience and becomes more emotionally complex the longer it continues. The breastfeeding relationship accumulates more layers as it continues, and peeling back those layers prematurely can be painful and confronting. It may sound strange but I never really liked breastfeeding until the Dude was about two and suddenly something clicked. It’s not like I totally love it now, but there was definitely a positive change for me at that point and if I hadn’t stuck it out til then I wouldn’t have experienced anything akin to what I’ve heard described by other mothers in relation to the emotional pleasure of it.

Anyway, instead of arbitrarily refusing him as I’d initially done, I began to only refuse if he woke at night. He still fed to sleep if he asked for it, but if he demanded boobie any time before 6am, I refused him, explaining we had to save the boobie milk for the new baby. To begin with, it was a little hard, but he soon got used to daddy resettling him, and some nights he slept through. I thought it was working really well; until he started waking a lot during the night and expecting daddy to lie in bed with him for hours while he went back to sleep. I soon discovered he was getting really upset due to believing he couldn’t have milk any more, when really it was just at night time. Once that confusion was cleared up, it seemed to get better, until it got worse. That night before the playgroup was particularly hard. He woke at 3am, ran to my side of the bed and asked for boobie, which I of course refused. He immediately lost the plot and demanded daddy lie down with him as I hauled him back to his bed. I have little patience at 3am and didn’t appreciate being kicked and screamed at. I pushed him into his bed and shouted at him that he had to go to sleep and daddy was sleeping and not going to come. Pretty silly really, but that’s the kind of shit that goes down in the middle of the night when you’re just over it! Anyway, daddy came to the rescue, hauling me off the floor and sending me back to bed while he lay down with the Dude who went immediately quiet. I was quite upset and wondered to myself how the hell I would do this when Mr C is away for two weeks in May, or worse still, when the new baby arrives. I have no idea. I’m just hoping this is a phase and some kind of adjustment or growth spurt or something.

The other change we’ve made in the Dude’s life, just over the last couple of weeks, is weaning him off television. We expected him to watch less or none while my mum was visiting as she doesn’t like him watching any and will play with him forever if it means the tv stays off. He didn’t watch any at all while she was here for just over a week, and for the next few days after she left. He didn’t really even mention it or ask for it after the first day or so. I’ve always felt quite guilty about him having any screen time, especially before age two when there is absolutely no reason to put the tv on as far as I’m concerned. I truly don’t think it adds anything worthwhile to the life of a child and while I completely love tv and movies and feel like they add something to my life, it’s really just pure entertainment, so in fact what they add isn’t necessary and can be replaced. Before I had the Dude I was convinced I wouldn’t let my children watch tv, or at least not much, and not at a young age. That all went out the window pretty quickly and we found the Dude was watching hours a day, entire movies, and endless episodes of Peppa Pig. Deep down I always assumed we’d see a difference in his behaviour if we curtailed the exposure to tv. The funny thing is, we haven’t. He’s been without it ten days or so and if anything he’s less manageable, not more, although I don’t think this has anything to do with the tv. I seriously don’t think watching tv affects his behaviour at all, and that really surprises me. But what the lack of tv does is provide space for a little bit more healthy play and imagination, which is always a good thing.

It remains to be seen just how the Dude will progress over the next few months and once his sister arrives on the scene, but one thing’s for sure: he is a challenge and a joy all in one! I always say it’s lucky he is so hilarious and clever, it really does make up for the craziness.

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