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…

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.

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.

Learning how to really relax: birth preparation

I always thought I was great at relaxing. I’m super lazy, always keen to sit down and watch tv or read or play on my phone. Since becoming pregnant again, I have been thinking about how important relaxation is, particularly during labour. It’s about more than just sitting around doing nothing; it’s a conscious practice that could mean the difference between a purely physiological labour and a need for intervention.

When I was pregnant with the Dude, I had grand plans for doing yoga classes. I thought fairly superficially about it, with an aim to keep flexibility in my body and stretch out sore muscles. I never actually did a prenatal yoga class. For some reason I thought I could just manage by reading a whole bunch of, albeit great, books about natural birth and avoiding intervention. It wasn’t actually birth preparation at all, it was more just education on birth, physiology, biology and history. The only real birth preparation book I read was Birthing From Within by Pam England. I hated it. It was all about finding strategies to work through fears or worries leading up to birth, and ways of shedding baggage brought on by trauma experienced in previous births. I didn’t identify with any of it, and found the strategies around ‘birth art’ and the like to be a bit ridiculous; definitely not suitable for me. I felt like I had no fears at all. I wasn’t afraid of the pain, of tearing, of not being able to give birth. I guess I was afraid of ending up in hospital, although I felt the chances of that were so remote that it wasn’t much of a fear.

So I did no real birth prep. I knew about Hypnobirthing but I didn’t do it. I thought I could switch my brain off. Years ago I used to have problems falling asleep, calming and slowing my mind so as to be able to go to sleep, but over the years I developed ways of telling my self to relax and switch off and falling asleep wasn’t such an issue any more. This is what I thought I’d do during labour. How incredibly wrong I was! Not only could I not calm myself, it wasn’t my racing brain that got in the way, I was completely unable to relax and accept the contractions. I hated them. Of course it didn’t help that for most of my labour I had terrible pain around my waist in between the contractions so I had no opportunity to relax when a contraction subsided. To put it bluntly, it hurt like fuck! And when those pains subsided as the Dude most likely made his way right down into the birth canal? They were replaced with pain in my groin, in my uterus itself. It was like a muscle cramp. The uterus fatiguing, needing a break, after contracting every six to three minutes for 38 hours. The ‘ring of fire’ that so many women talk about was not apparent to me. In fact the crowning was the most comfortable, easy part of the entire labour for me. There was a bit of stinging at the front but not even the tiniest twinge in the perineal area.

Anyway, this time around I promised myself I would take a different approach. As I debriefed from the Dude’s birth, I began to create a small ‘to do next time’ list in my head:

  • hypnobirthing
  • birth ball
  • yoga
  • re-read Birthing From Within

At 22 weeks, the only one of those things I’ve addressed is the yoga. About seven weeks ago I began doing  a class at Kundalini House, run by a lovely and knowledgeable doula and apparent Melbourne birth aficionado, Nina Isabella. I’ve never been too fussed about doulas, to be honest. I think they do a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but hiring one is not something I’ve ever considered beneficial to me. I am not great at relying on anyone, let alone someone I’ve hired. During labour with the Dude, I don’t think anyone gave me a moment’s massage or anything like that. I don’t really even like massages. Or at least I didn’t. I pretty much held on to Mr Chewbacca’s arm and endured the contractions. I’m sure people wiped my forehead and gave me rescue remedy or whatever but that was about it in terms of actual support. And it’s how I wanted it, what suited me at the time.

This pregnancy is a whole different ball game, and now I know I’m having a girl, that goes some way to explaining why I feel so different. I am more aware of my weaknesses this time around and I’m determined to put some strategies in place to address them and get through labour in a more relaxed, evenly-paced way.

I didn’t really know what to expect, going to my first yoga class. Is it just going to be modified yoga or is it more meditation or what? I realised I didn’t even really know what I wanted. Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself crying. I don’t know how well I hid it, perhaps Nina noticed, and perhaps she sees that all the time. But the tears came, the emotion just welled up. I think it was due to not having taken any time out for myself since the Dude’s arrival, not real time. It was this massive release. I spent most of the class dealing with emotion welling up. It was a good class, great movements, nothing strenuous or wrong-feeling, and lots of relaxation. The second class, I cried again, but not so much. It wasn’t until the third class, when I didn’t cry, that I realised I couldn’t really relax. I went again and again to the classes each week, I felt really up and down. Some movements I really got into and some just felt confronting or wrong. I couldn’t grasp the acupressure points the teacher explained to us, couldn’t feel them at all, still can’t, and this was really frustrating. As I ended my sixth class, I suddenly realised I’d properly relaxed for the first time. It was a great feeling! I lay there for the final meditation hearing no sound but the instructor’s voice very faintly in the background. None of the trams thundering past outside, the clip clopping of heels on the floor below, the phone ringing in the background, even registered. And I wasn’t asleep. I was just totally relaxed for the first time, well, ever, I think. What a breakthrough!

My seventh class was not what I was used to due to a last minute change to the instructor, but attending my eighth class this week I found myself slipping back into that state of relaxation almost straight away. I had learnt something! There are still many aspects of the movements that feel frustrating to me, and times when I can’t relax my body and it seems like I should be able to from what the instructor describes, but I think that breakthrough, feeling true relaxation, was profound and a good reason to keep going.

This little girl growing inside me is already leading me places I could never find before. I am shifting mentally in ways I could only wish for previously. Beyond the birth prep, there are two significant and crucial blocks I have been needing to overcome for most of my life and for the first time ever I am poised to actually take action and change. I hate saying I will change because on every other occasion in my life when I’ve said this, I haven’t. But I won’t give up. My baby needs me to be the best I can be, as does the rest of my family. And myself.

How the tables have turned

So things have really been up and down since settling in Canberra. The main issue we’ve been facing is that we have no income, yet we’re trying to renovate a house for sale.  We were both applying for jobs, but it was hellishly frustrating as we’re both somewhat unemployable: Mr Chewbacca as he’s not yet a citizen, and citizenship is required for a security clearance needed for the majority of government jobs, which make up most jobs in Canberra; and me, as I’ve not worked in nearly two and a half years.

I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t applying for absolutely everything. The main reason for this was that I felt completely drained of the confidence I left the workforce with back in April 2011. Yes, I’ve done a few bits and pieces of work here and there, but none of it full time or in an office, and certainly not challenging or suitable for adding to my CV. I wondered whether I really could do what I’d done before, and my hellish experience in 2010 working for a large charity organisation and being treated like total crap and victimised all came flooding back. I didn’t want project management roles, not that that’s my forte anyway, but with the right amount of confidence and commitment I know I could get anything.

I’d been quite surprised at being offered an interview for a role about three weeks before we left Sydney, and I ended up doing the interview over the phone. I think I stuffed it up a bit, partly because phone interviews are hard, but also because I rabbited on a bit and it was obvious I was elaborating too much and talking a bit off topic. I also asked a really dumb question at the end of the interview. So no surprises that I didn’t get any further contact. So I had a tiny bit of confidence due to being offered that interview, but soon it dissipated when I applied for quite a few government jobs, working really hard on the selection criteria response, and had absolutely no requests for interview.  I also applied for quite a few roles through recruitment agents and had zero response there too. They’re looking at my CV thinking, what the hell, this woman has no recent experience!

Mr C spoke to literally every recruitment agent in Canberra and they all came back with the same thing: you pretty much need to be a citizen to get anything in Canberra. Demoralising. He was encouraging me to apply as much as possible, given he thought there was no possibility of him getting something, although we did prepare a couple of applications for jobs that came up in ACT Government, which doesn’t require citizenship. I must say I was surprised not to hear anything back, as I used to work there and I know the application process so well. Anyway.

I saw a role advertised on Seek that was with a recruitment agent I hadn’t applied to yet, so I applied. And, miraculously, the next day I got a call back from the agent wanting further information! I had a quick chat with him about my relevant experience for the role, a temporary communications job at the right level, and he said he’d put my CV forward. He didn’t even end up speaking to my referees, as he said he got a ‘good feeling’ about me. And the following day, I was invited for an interview! The organisation, a federal government statutory authority, sounded fairly boring, but the agent assured me that the role was suited to me and the people were lovely and fun and interesting. He gave me a fantastic package of information to help me prepare for the interview, which was at 9am on a Wednesday. I was nervous, but I immediately felt at ease with the people who interviewed me, and I just spoke freely about what I’d done which seemed to gel so easily with what they asked. It was entirely informal and I knew I’d done well. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but as I drove away I thought to myself, “we do really need the money, but I actually genuinely want to work in that office!”

And the following morning, I got a call from the agent. Good news! I got it! I spoke calmly to the agent, trying to take in the info he was giving me about going in on the Friday for a handover and starting on Monday, but as soon as I got off the phone I ran and jumped on Mr C, screaming!  I’ve never felt so relieved! The pay would be decent, enough to pay our mortgage and bills and finance the renovation, and the work would be varied and enjoyable. Mr C would be a stay at home dad, which would work out so well as Dude is daddy-obsessed at the moment. The only negative is that Dude would have to cope without me all day, or more importantly, without boobie all day! But strangely enough, he just coped. He got a bit upset when I had to leave on the second and third day, saying ‘mah mah mah work!’ and shaking his head, which means, ‘no, I don’t want you to go to work!’ but he soon said goodbye and was quite happy with daddy all day, just having boobie in the evening.

I’ve just completed my first week at my new job and I have to say it’s fantastic. My boss is amazing, so lovely and chilled and fun, and the people in my team are just lovely, easy going and friendly, helpful and kind, interesting and funny. It’s been tough getting up so early as I’ve been catching the bus which makes a 20 minute drive into an hour, but providing I don’t miss it, it’s quite relaxing to sit and read or whatever and listen to music. I’m considering other commuting options, other than the car, but that’s for another post.

So far, it’s great. Only one hitch: just yesterday, the end of my first week, I finished up feeling absolutely exhausted but pretty happy as I’d written my first media release and had it signed off by the Chief Executive with no changes. Mr C checked his email after Dude went to bed and found an email asking him to come for an interview for one of the ACT Gov jobs he’d applied for. it’s higher pay than mine and, looking back to see which role it was as we couldn’t remember, having submitted the application so long ago, we noticed it was one that we’d actually submitted late! We sent it through a few hours late with an apologetic note saying it was an honest timing mistake. Obviously they were cool to accept the application. So… how we’re going to tackle this, I don’t know. If he doesn’t get it, well, he doesn’t, and we continue on as we are. But if he does, which would be amazing financially and in terms of career for Mr C, it totally screws us in terms of the Dude. He has never been in care, and I don’t think I could do it to him, even now that he’s two and fairly tough and self-sufficient. I don’t think I can handle the thought of him being with strangers all day. Just this last week I’ve really not seen him that much, only an hour at best in the morning, and an hour or so at night, not including overnight of course where he’s still right next to me. We could consider the option of a nanny or perhaps family day care might suit, but yeah, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of leaving him. This is all probably crazy, as Mr C hasn’t even had the interview yet, but I know how impressive he is and how dodgy the ACT Gov is and I think he’ll blow their socks off.  We’ll just have to wait and see…

 

Two years of the Dude

The Dude turns two in less than a month! Time sure does fly. In some ways, it’s seemed like forever for him to get to two and I feel like he’ll never grow up, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe it’s gone so quickly. I haven’t done an update on him for ages, so here’s the latest.

He’s insane. Not just active, truly crazy. He is the most full on person, even more full on than Mr C in some ways. He is quite destructive at times, deliberately so, sometimes to get a reaction out of me and sometimes just because. He tries to smash the tv with toys or cutlery; he turns on the oven and then stands on the open door; he pulls all the DVDs out and takes the paper covers out and the discs and then stomps on them; he squishes food and cutlery and anything else he can in the smallest spaces, like under the tv stand. He throws toys, phones, anything even slightly delicate, just to see if they break, and when they do, he shouts, “oh no, broken!” He puts his trike or his plastic chair on top of the coffee table and then tries to climb up and sit or even stand on them. So dangerous! Needless to say, it takes every ounce of patience not to lose it with him!

He is well and truly into the ‘terrible twos’. I don’t mean to label him, but it’s true, he is there. He screams every time I put him in the car and will kick up a huge fuss when I try to get him out again, unless there is an incentive like a busy carpark to try and run into nearby. He absolutely refuses to hold my hand when crossing the road and will scream and sit down in the middle of the road, so I end up just pulling him across the road or picking him up, where he squirms and tries to jump out of my arms. He’s not the heaviest kid for his age, somewhere around the 75th percentile – about 13.5kg – but he is, of course, very tall, and still right at the top of the growth chart, which means he can be difficult to wrangle. Gone are the days when I could do a bit of cooking or walk around the house with him on my hip; these days I can manage it for about five minutes before my arm starts to break. On the plus side, he is easier to communicate with as he understands virtually everything I say and I’ve found that sometimes a firm voice can do wonders. It’s often hard to tell when he’s genuinely upset and when he’s just being overly dramatic. And yes, I know it’s probably not very AP of me to ever think his feelings are not ‘real’, but seriously, this child is a great actor! He screams bloody murder for nothing, and there I am trying to find out what’s going on, trying to cuddle him, trying to make him happy so he’ll calm down, and he doesn’t want a bar of it. Sometimes, if I just look him in the eye and tell him to calm down and stop, then put him down and walk off, he’ll calm down instantly and it’ll be like nothing has happened. He really is his father’s son.

Words are coming thick and fast, and two-word sentences are also emerging. He is clearly very musical and walks around the house singing Twinkle Twinkle at least 20 times a day. Whatever he’s focused on or talking about, he’ll start singing about. So if it’s Daddy, he’ll just replace the words “‘Twinkle Twinkle” with “Daddy Daddy”. It’s very cute. He can make himself understood about 80 per cent of the time with me, and probably 50 per cent with Mr C, and it’s really only his pronunciation that lets him down, as he knows so many words and talks so much. I’ve found the transition of learning to say words pretty fascinating, from a linguistic perspective. For example, he used to say “yo” for yoghurt. Then it became “yogie” and now he actually says “yoghurt”. It’s been this three stage process. It was like that with bus too, he used to say “bu” and then one day he just said “bus” and now that’s what he says. He wants to speak whole sentences but he just doesn’t have the capacity to pronounce words all in a row yet, so he’ll say, “viju viju viju viju, work?” and his voice will go up at the end to form a question, so he’s asking “has daddy gone to work?” or something similar. He got the intonation down pat ages ago, so he knows how to alter the tone in his voice at various points in speech to denote a question or a statement or even when he’s searching for something he’s lost; he’ll say, “ba-all, ba-all” in this sing-songy voice when he’s trying to find his ball, it’s very cute. He knows his own name now, which is cute, and also refers to himself as “you”, “me” and sometimes “dude”. Usually after he spills or breaks something he shouts, “oh duuuuude”!

He is pretty good with other kids and the brief period where he threw toys or hit them on the head was clearly just a short phase. I notice other kids who’ve been in care have huge problems sharing toys or waiting their turn or they just come up and hit other kids for no reason. Dude never seems concerned when other kids push or hit him or take toys from him; he’ll usually just smile and try to interact with the kid, it’s pretty awesome. He offers food and drink to others, to his toys, especially his talking Yoda. It’s hilarious, sometimes I’ll come into the living room to find Yoda lying on the coffee table with a fork sticking out of his mouth or vegemite in his hair as the Dude has been trying to feed him. He talks to toys, “hello, hello, hello Yoda” and will say “num num num” when ‘feeding’ them. He also hasn’t lost his ability to turn everything into a phone, from the xbox controller to the potato peeler, everything is held up to the ear and a ‘hello?’ spoken. He also likes to ring ‘ba-mah’ (grandma) – “Hello? Ba-mah? Oh, ha ha ha. Bye!” I guess that’s his extroversion shining through. He’s happy being around others and doesn’t mind what they do or what happens, just being around them makes him happy.

Food is a little bit of a struggle. He’s never been a big eater, but since the beginning of summer I’ve been trying to get him to eat fruit and he just won’t, it’s bizarre. A year earlier, when he was starting out on solids, he used to plow through melon and mango and stone fruit quite happily. He never got the hang of apples, and never liked bananas, but I was never concerned because bananas are known to constipate and apples are pretty hard. But now, he knows what fruit is, knows the names of some and will even ask for it or pick it up out of the fruit bowl or my bowl, but even if he occasionally puts some in his mouth, he’ll immediately spit it out and say ‘yucky’. I really don’t understand, it’s like a phobia or something. It’s not that he can’t handle texture, as he quite happily eats huge pieces of cooked veg or meat in a stew or curry, he’ll eat toast or pancakes or cereal, and he likes some dried fruit. But a piece of raw fruit or veg, no way Jose! Back in the day I used to give him fingers of cucumber and he’d happily eat those, sometimes even raw carrot sticks or zucchini, no problem. Not now. It’s kind of worrying because I feel that raw things are pretty important, but I do make him smoothies now and again and he loves them. He likes to stand up on his stool at the kitchen bench while I cut up all the fruit – banana, melon, berries – to go in, then sometimes add yoghurt or a bit of juice or almond milk and usually chia seeds or cashews. “Moosh!” he’ll shout, pointing at the cupboard where the blender lives. So it’s not the taste of the raw stuff I don’t think, but it’s sometimes to do with the texture mixed with the taste. I really don’t know but I’m going with the flow, continuing to offer him stuff, eat stuff in front of him, and I fully expect that one day he’ll just be cool with it. He certainly has some bizarre tastes – he loves to steal our coffees in the morning and will guzzle a whole cup full of milky espresso if given the chance, even without sugar! I try to stop him and I give him his own babycino in his little mug which is just the tiniest drop of espresso with lots of frothy milk on top and he’ll happily spoon it out and then drink the liquid. We discovered last night that he loves balsamic vinegar. He loves sauces of any kind, tomato, HP, you name it. And he likes really spicy food! I made a curry a while ago that I thought was actually a bit too hot even for me, but the Dude loved it, no problem. So I’m finding it hard to believe that tastes aren’t inherited, as this is all stuff that’s not as much my kind of food but that his dad loves. Strong flavours, spice and acid, anything rich, but not necessarily sweet.

He asks me to dance most days, which involves standing up, holding hands and jumping about excitedly. He loves the swing and the slide and can climb up and go down all by himself now. He spins around until he’s so dizzy he falls over and thinks it’s hilarious. Meanwhile I’m feeling queasy just looking at him! He is now discovering how to roll down a hill and spends ages just rolling around on the grass trying to coordinate his body. A few months ago, he saw some kids crawling on tv and he just got down and started crawling around, the perfect cross-crawl. I was amazed, given his bizarre one-footed crawl and my worries about how right dominant he was. He still is very much right dominant, but it appears to be evening out of its own accord, as I sometimes notice him leading with the left foot or trying to draw with his left hand. He loves technology of all kinds and (I regret this) he watches tv. Mainly Cee Beebies, the BBC children’s channel, and a little bit of ABC2.  He also loves plugging and unplugging all manner of technology, learning how the remote works, and playing music on our phones. I can’t say he’s particularly adept with the old iphone; I’m comparing here, but a while ago I saw a little girl calmly and expertly flicking through the photos on her mum’s phone. She was 17 months. Dude has only really learnt how to do that in the last month, and he doesn’t last long. He’s the same with playing music on the ipod, he loves skipping from one song to the next but a little too much, so he’ll end up hammering the screen controls and eventually pauses it by accident or presses the ‘home’ button.

As far as sleep goes, he is much improved, mainly due to my patience and consistency. He actually asks for “seep” when he’s tired for his midday nap, which is usually one to one and a half hours, and his evening bedtime is 7pm. He is always tired and ready for bed, and although will protest against the nappy change and sometimes be a bit impatient about teeth brushing, he happily goes to bed and we’ve never had an argument about that. I’m sure that’ll come. Most nights he goes down straight away, over the space of about half an hour to 40  minutes, where I just lie down and feed him. Lately he’s occasionally been stopping feeding before he’s asleep, rolling away and just going off to sleep. There are some times when I have to tell him to ‘lie down and go to sleep’ a few times, as he’ll have a bit of milk and be a bit energised and want to chat. Sometimes he’ll tell me he’s done a poo, which is always a lie, just a ploy to get up again. And sometimes he’ll ask for daddy instead of me, which is often just a ploy to stay awake longer but sometimes he’ll just fall asleep on Mr C’s chest, which is nice. Often he’ll sleep all the way through until after we come to bed, which is an absolute miracle considering what he was like when he was littler. He still wakes a couple of times in the night, and I’m finding this increasingly annoying and unnecessary so I’m going to be exploring night-weaning once his last molars are in. Oh, and speaking of poo, we did begin the toilet learning journey a few months ago but so far it’s been relatively unsuccessful. He doesn’t seem to really care about doing wees, and will look down in mild surprise when he wees during nappy-free time, then will either splash in it or just keep playing. He sometimes tells me when he’s going to poo or has pooed and occasionally I notice and ask him if he’s pooing and he’ll say “yeah”. But we’re quite far from actual wees and poos in the potty. I tried for a few days, getting him to sit on the potty outside without a nappy on every few minutes, but he never once got the wee in there. He’d sit for a few seconds, and then run off and then a wee would just arrive at random and he’d ignore it and keep playing. Perhaps I’m being too lazy, but I think I won’t push the issue and will follow his lead. Next time round, it’ll be EC all the way, at least early on anyway!

Gee, this has turned into a whole Dude update… and there I was, thinking I was going to write about how things have changed for me since the Dude’s arrival. Save it for another post.