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.

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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.

Love and happiness

Here I am blogging at 10:03pm on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t aware until a few hours ago but apparently this is the kind of thing that people with 19-month-olds do at New Year’s. I am, however, drinking a gin and tonic and have found an episode of Sex and the City to put on that I’ve seen a hundred million times. Party time or what?!

No, seriously, I must first apologise to anyone wondering (probably no one!) for not posting in a while. It was near impossible while we were overseas – no time and no computer – and since we’ve been back it’s just been go go go, Christmas and now New Year. Secondly, I’m planning a whole series of posts around our trip and all the topics around travelling with a young child, visiting family, being a tourist, being an expat and finding home all over again, so stay tuned for all that. I’m also thinking a lot about a lovely comment from an even lovelier friend, Ms Lulu, and where my blog is headed. I’m pretty bad at being organised and focused about marketing my blog, that’s not really my thing, but I would like to write more and I kind of hope it’s interesting. At least I’d like to make it more interesting. So I’m feeling better about my stream-of-consciousness style and I’m not shying away from ‘mummy’ posts about all things baby and child. As the Cranberries said, ‘everyone else is doing it so why can’t we?’

I won’t lie, it’s been a pretty full on year for us. I mean, let’s face it, it’s always full on with a baby, or a toddler, or kids in general really.  Life moves faster when it’s full. And although I’m almost certain that the pace of life and events in the last few years has all been about the arrival of the Dude (more of an explanation on that another time), it hasn’t made things easy for me, or for my relationship. Lack of time, money, control, they all create tension and angst. We’ve been working our butts off to keep things running smoothly in the relationship stakes recently, butting heads and doing it tough big time, but every time we manage to pull it together I am reminded of how lucky I am to have found The One. Love is always there, and that’s an amazing thing.

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A few weeks ago, I think soon after we got back from the UK, I went to write something on our shopping list, which involves a fantastic ‘stick a post-it on the pantry door’ system that we just love, and I noticed the uppermost item was ‘love and happiness’. Mr Chewbacca had written it. For some reason, maybe because it just didn’t need to be said, I never mentioned anything about it. I knew he knew I’d seen it, and so when I started the next list, I added ‘love and happiness’ back to the top. I haven’t spoken to Mr C about it yet and we’re three lists in but I think it’s going to be our mantra for 2013, like an affirmation. He’s started the next list and put it at the top again. I truly believe that if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. That’s not to say I’m going to sit around eating icecream and watching crappy tv reciting  ‘I’m in love and happy’ but I think the more we see those words, the more we’ll remember to live them. And let’s face it, those two things are everything. I’m not totally in agreement with John, you need more than love, but love is really the root of things, it covers so many bases and can totally change the way you experience life if you are in it or feeling it.

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So I propose that 2013 be infused with love and happiness, in as many shapes and forms it can exist. And now I’m going to hit publish, refresh my gin and tonic, and hope the Dude stays asleep through the loud party over the back fence, the bogans setting off their fireworks two streets over, and the idiots next door who leave their dog to bark right outside our open bedroom window. I’ll be back shortly (hopefully tomorrow) with my 2013 resolutions post.  Happy New Year!

I’m writing a book on my phone

The subtitle of this post should be: “How parenting a high needs child is completely at odds with being a writer”. I made the excuse a while ago that I hadn’t been blogging because I was busy transcribing my granddad’s memoirs. And that was true, a while ago. I got to the end of the first 90-minute recording which equated to about 10,000 words, and discovered that the other three even longer recordings are barely intelligible. I scoped out some software to fix the sound quality (turns out we already had it on the computer). But before I could do anything, the Dude decided to mix things up a bit. No more going down for sleeps! Therefore no more uninterrupted showers and no more computer time. We soon got the stroller on his first birthday so I’m now taking him for walks every day and he usually sleeps then. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of premature transition to one sleep a day. And he’s close to walking and talking, plus his molars are due any time now. So I can forgive him for being out of sorts.

The problem is, I can’t sit at the computer to write for more than ten minutes. He hates it! And that’s fair enough, in basically ignoring him. But the fact remains that I no longer get any writing time. I’m writing this on my phone. It’s frustratingly slow as I’m a touch typist so can more or less type fast enough to keep up with my brain.

I know this may be a short period, and it’ll pass soon enough, but I’m finding it very frustrating. I must have a dozen posts half written in draft, and all these ideas punching me in the head every day but I just don’t get any opportunity to write.

How do others tackle this? I guess the majority of people have babies who actually fall asleep fairly predictably.  Babies that calm down and relax when given a bedtime routine and lots of milk. Babies that don’t smack you across the head and then laugh within two minutes of waking up.

So instead of wallowing in misery (not really, slight exaggeration there), I’m going to think positively about this. Perhaps I’ll be the first person to write a 50,000 book entirely on a hand-held mobile device!  Imagine what Dickens or Tolstoy would think about that!  They’d probably think it was nonsensical and ridiculous. Aside from being confused as to how one can write a book on something the size of your palm. Technology is pretty cool, let’s face it, and I can safely say my iphone (actually Samsung Galaxy SII now) has saved my sanity millions of times while I lie for hours trying to get the Dude to stay asleep.

But the fact remains, parenting has gotten in the way of my writing, my passion.  And it’s not just general parenting, it’s the kind of child I have, his personality, mixed with the way I’ve chosen to parent.  Oh God, should I really say it, should I really attach that term to myself? Shit, I think I already did. Yes, Attachment Parenting.  I’d never heard of it until after I had the Dude, and frankly I thought it was all a bit of a wank.  Not the principles of AP per se, those make sense, but more that people are yet again being sheep and just going with a certain theory or way of doing things.  Of course many so-called AP parents will tell you that they just do what comes naturally and have fallen into the AP category.  I’m one of those.  And I actually refute the assertion that I’m AP.  It’s a label. We know how I feel about those.

I had the Dude at home, as readers of this blog may be aware, and I had no interventions in pregnancy and birth.  Well actually that’s a lie, I had three ultrasounds (all of them completely unnecessary) but yeah, no real interventions.  I’ve still never been to hospital in my life, apart from when I was born.  I plan on keeping it that way!  I don’t vaccinate my son, never been done myself actually. He has only ever drunk breastmilk and water.  We know about nutrition and natural ways of helping the body thrive. We don’t take drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen. We like homepathics and they work for us.  Dude enjoys the ergo regularly, and previously enjoyed the Hugabub and even a ring sling for a short time. We generally like to avoid regular mainstream doctors as our experience has been that they have little idea what they’re talking about and recommend toxic chemicals that just cover up symptoms and don’t help the body heal. Oh and we co-sleep.  Now I’m sure I’ve said before, co-sleeping was not really my plan.  I was totally against it when my midwife first mentioned it, but once the Dude was here it was the only way I ever managed any sleep.  He’s a crazy dude.  His cot has been side-carted to our bed for the last nine months but he’s pretty much never slept in it.  Occasionally he’ll squirm into it half asleep and pass out there, usually with half his body still on the bed. But generally speaking, he is right next to me; taking up half the bed to himself. He’s beautiful and I love having him right there but I would LOVE to have my own bed again.  I am very touch sensitive and find it hard to be comfortable with someone right up next to me.  I even push my husband away when I’m going to sleep sometimes.  I like my space.  Which was the whole reason I had an issue with co-sleeping in the first place.

Anyway, because of this attachment style parenting we practise, and because the Dude is so full on, I don’t get a lot of time to myself. Now let’s be clear here: if I was into letting the Dude cry it out and leaving him in bassinets to go slowly insane or fobbing him off to childcare centres, I’d be in a worse situation.  Yes, okay, we might have more money because I might actually earn some, but the Dude would be miserable, we’d be sleep deprived and he’d probably be sick a lot. I’m sure about my choices. And I’m not asking for sympathy for them or for my predicament. I just think it’s ironic that I slacked off for so many years, sat around watching Seinfeld repeats and eating Sarah Lee Honeycomb and Butterscotch icecream instead of writing my heart out when I had the chance.  Things will change. This will pass. Before I know it this little crazy blonde dude currently sitting on the floor next to me destroying daddy’s uni notes will be asking for lifts to concerts and sneaking vodka from our liquor cabinet like we wouldn’t notice half a bottle of it slowly but regularly disappearing. The old ‘evaporation’ explanation never worked.

The thing about co-sleeping

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the Dude sleeps with me and Mr Chewbacca and has done since he arrived. It’s not really an ideal situation for me at least because I can’t spread out in bed, can’t really turn over and get way too hot. But it is our only option.

People probably think I’m crazy or a tree-hugging hippy or just not a good parent when they find out we all sleep together. It’s not viewed as okay in mainstream society today. I’m not really sure why, given it’s a lot more logical than a baby sleeping alone, but I guess these days people have this idea that independence is everything. So it’s totally acceptable for a mum to spend at least 8-10 hours five days a week away from a baby over the age of a couple of months. People don’t seem bothered by babies not being with their mums. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but then again most aspects of mainstream society are questionable in my opinion. We seem to think that a baby growing fast, developing early, becoming an adult as soon as possible is this amazing achievement. I guess it stems from the general awareness that the job of parents is to get children to adulthood, so faster is better somehow.

These days, instead of people just saying, oh, right, your baby doesn’t sleep alone, that’s how things are for you, everyone’s different, they are so judgemental about it, like it’s some awful sin or big mistake. People are terrified of children becoming clingy. It’s bizarre to me because children are supposed to be clingy, it’s how it works, this parent-child bond. There’d be something seriously wrong if a child didn’t ever want his mum, yet there is apparently some invisible limit on just how much and how often he’s allowed to want mum. At sleep time, this limit becomes more rigid.

Let’s backtrack here: when I was having prenatal visits with the midwife, we talked about sleep and  how and where baby would sleep. I point blank refused to entertain the idea of cosleeping. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the  practicalities of it. I’ve always loved my sleep, so the idea of a baby right next to me wasn’t thrilling as I knew it would be difficult to really relax.

In addition, I had judgements about people who let their children sleep in their beds. I laugh when I think about it now. A very close friend had a baby, ten years ago now, and I distinctly remember going to her place when he was probably around the age the Dude is now. I noticed she had her son sleeping with her and her partner and I was really shocked and scathing in my comments about it, not to her face of course. I remember remarking to a very close mutual friend how weird it was that our friend let her son sleep with her and putting it down to her just being a crazy hippy. Why would you do it, I thought.

Fast forward ten years and I must be one crazy hippy! But here’s the thing: while I’m totally cool with cosleeping and mums who choose to do it until whenever the kid wants his own space, I am not doing it because I planned to, and I’m not doing it because I love it. I’ll admit, the Dude is very sweet sometimes sleeping next to me, and now he’s bigger and more huggable it’s sometimes nice to cuddle him. I’ve never been concerned about his breathing or rolling onto his front or whatever. And I very quickly learnt how to sense him waking and how to get him in positions where it’s comfy for both of us, or relatively so. But given the option, I’d put the Dude in his cot. Let’s face it though, he is 9 months, he will still wake for a feed or two. Or he would, if he were a normal baby.

But our little Dude is one crazy ass mofo, as his dad would say. He’s actually been asleep in his cot perhaps four or five times ever. And he’s not lasted more than half an hour or so every time. This is the cot that is sidecarted to our bed, so he’s literally 30cm or one roll away from me. He’s fallen asleep without boobie or being in a carrier perhaps three or four times ever, and it’s never lasted more than five or ten minutes.

I’m sure people don’t believe me when I explain just how full on he is. This is a child who screams blue murder the moment you put him down to sleep, even if he’s fallen asleep in arms or I’m staying right next to him. I read all this stuff about patting and singing babies to sleep but that’s rarely worked for him. I did manage to pat him back to sleep in the middle of the night when he was about 5 months, but it only happened a handful if times. If I try it now he just screams louder and doesn’t respond to my touch. Some babies fall asleep in their mothers’ laps with a bit of rocking or just holding. Not Dude. He occasionally falls asleep in my arms while feeding if he’s dead tired but he’ll sleep for maybe half an hour then wake crying because he’s still tired but won’t fall back to sleep. He refused dummies, just spits them out or plays with them. He’s not interested in soft toys or blankets or clothes that smell like me or breastmilk to comfort. You may as well put a block of wood next to him, that’s how much comfort he derives.

I am good at rocking babies, being as quiet and peaceful as possible, singing relaxing songs. I think my techniques would work with other babies. The Dude is the true definition of high needs. And any other person wouldn’t be able to deal with him and stay sane. There’s no way we could have done anything differently to have him sleeping in his cot. Unless I’m willing to get up every half hour, which I’m not. I know it’ll pass, but yeah, I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to cosleep any more!

Nearly 8 months

It’s funny. Eight months doesn’t seem like a very long time, but for the little Dude it’s a lifetime.  And because my life has changed so much since he arrived, it’s a lifetime for me too.  He is now sitting up by himself, having just randomly done it one day a few weeks ago.  We’re now in a stage I didn’t expect where we wait for him to sit himself up, then place pillows strategically around him in case he falls backwards or to one side, which he’s done many times.  Without pillows he’d just fall and hit his head on the ground, and even with the carpet under him it’s still a shock and probably hurts.  He’s tall too so he has further to fall.  I shudder to think how hard it’s going to be monitoring him when he’s learning to walk!  It’s nice now he can sit because it gives him more to do and he can play alone for longer without getting frustrated, although he still puts himself on his tummy and then starts screaming like he’s a beached whale and can’t move, it’s really weird.  That’s usually an indicator that he’s tired.

Speaking of tiredness, sleeping has been reasonably challenging recently.  He sleeps well at night, generally right the way through, but that’s only because he’s right next to me and can have boobie whenever he wants.  Some nights I’m sure he sleeps right through without even a dream feed, but other nights he gets restless at 4am and will toss and turn and feed on and off for an hour or more, which can be a bit annoying, but not the end of the world.  I’ve not had to get up with him in the night, so I think that’s quite good.  He still has a really hard time actually getting to sleep, especially for naps, of which he has two during the day.  Or at least I try to ensure he has two, and preferably for two hours each, although that rarely happens.  Not that he doesn’t need it, he so desperately needs more sleep, but he just can’t wind down and stay asleep.  Recently he’s been dozing off still attached for an hour or so, and then when I think I might be able to detach him and creep away he wakes and starts smiling and playing even though his eyelids are drooping and it’s clear he needs more sleep and will probably scream because he’s tired in about half an hour… So my life these days consists mainly of trying to get the Dude to a) sleep and b) stay asleep, which he rarely does without me for more than about 45 minutes.  There have been occasions where he’s slept alone for an hour or even two, but those are extremely rare, so rare they’re just flukes I think.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this child is freaking intense!  But I guess I shouldn’t have expected much else, given how his dad is, and the family history of insomnia on both sides… the poor little dude doesn’t stand a chance really!  Sometimes he’s thrashing about so much I wonder how it’s possible for him to ever fall asleep, but it happens, and when he finally relaxes deeply after a couple of hours he will sleep pretty soundly, or at least I think that’s the case, I don’t remember being awake to find out!

Of course he’s massive, as usual.  He’s actually off the growth chart all together in terms of his height/length, which at 7 months sat at 75cm (haven’t measured recently so not sure, he’s probably grown since).  He was just shy of 10kg at 7 months, and that’s the 97th percentile or thereabouts.  We’re predicting he’ll be at least 6’5″, as his dad is 6’3″ but I’m convinced his mum’s lack of prenatal care and his terrible infant nutrition contributed to him being slightly smaller, as his dad is 6’5″.  I also think his strange eyesight (being very short-sighted only in one eye, discovered when he was four) and his odd digestion are related to that too.  But that’s just what I think.  Anyway, the Dude is huge and thriving, of course, despite my ignoring the stupid doctor and not plying him with iron fortified rice cereal made with formula!  Speaking of the doctor, I’ve decided I’m never going back to her, as every time she just disappoints me, doesn’t help me, doesn’t listen to me, and says really annoying things.  I’m going to try a new anthroposophical doctor I’ve discovered nearby and heard good things about, so we’ll see what happens there.  I’m curious about what she’ll say about his skin.

Speaking of the Dude’s skin, it isn’t fantastic.  I know it’s definitely constitutional and something his body has to work through, but I feel that there is more I could do for him.  Sometimes it’s really quite bad and cracks a little around his right wrist and both ankles.  He seems to have more on the right side than the left, which just helps confirm its constitutional nature.  His skin on his bum is perfect, which was a real mystery for a while there, until I was bathing him and my mum was here and she suddenly suggested that having the nappy on was actually helping the skin retain its moisture, and so it’s a simple case of the skin being unable to retain moisture.  That makes so much sense, given how much worse his skin got when we were in (dry) Melbourne, as Sydney is so humid most of the time.  Husband said it makes sense to him as he actually has extra dry skin and has done for as long as he can remember and that’s why he slathers himself in cocoa butter every morning.  So now we have a bit more insight into what’s actually occurring with the skin, and when it was really bad I did relent and apply a little cortisone cream which of course cleared it up very quickly, but I’m really not keen to put it on all the time because I know all its doing is suppressing the immune response, which is just a quick temporary fix and not a long term solution, plus it’s not something I want to do.  The immune system is working, that’s good, I don’t want to block it.  So we’ll see what the anthroposophical doc says and go from there.  At some level I feel I could do more with my diet, but I just haven’t got the commitment; sad but true.  So his skin has red, dry patches around his wrists and ankles, and a few bits behind his knees, up his lower arms and under his chin, although it changes slowly.

Anyway, as far as other developments go, he’s really moving around a lot, although not technically crawling yet.  He can get up on his hands and knees briefly and rock a bit, but generally he sort of pulls himself along with his arms, and pushes off with his feet.  He’s still really shaky and it’s very scary watching him try and sit and pull himself up.  Because he’s pretty tall he can see over the coffee table, and earlier today I turned around for a minute only to turn back and find him about to pull a ceramic bowl of Christmas chocolates onto his head!  It’s pretty awful when he falls backwards or sideways and he’s already had a few bumps on the head but we just do our best to keep cushions around him or be down on the floor with him and always watching.  He’s extremely strong – I’m currently watching him pull a dining chair towards him across the floor with one hand… and yes, that’s a metal framed chair, quite heavy!

He’s recently begun saying ‘mum mum mum mum’ and ‘dthe dthe dthe’, and he also says what sounds like ‘yeah’, in addition to his ‘ngeng’ and ‘geh’.  He laughs and responds to peekaboo and tickling, makes his mini Chewbacca noise, screeches loudly for no reason in particular, and cries out of frustration ALL the time.  His eating is pretty good, I think.  We’ve been doing combination baby-led solids, so I often give him big chunks of fruit to eat straight off his tray table in the high chair, which he is very capable of doing.  Today he polished off about three quarters of a whole nectarine (his favourite).  I’m holding back on all the nightshades – tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, eggplant – as well as citrus and other allergenic fruits like strawberries.  I’m sure he’d be fine with all of that, but it’s more about getting his body used to eating before we make it work extra hard to process this kind of food.  He eats rusks which have a tiny bit of milk and wheat in them and so far is fine with it, but that’s as much as I’ve given him of those two things.  He has also eaten a few crusts as well.  Other than that, I spoon feed him a bit, usually with an organic veggie, fruit, millet mix I get from the supermarket.  I’m a bit slack with making him food, and he loves the stuff in the packet and it’s completely natural and all organic and free of additives etc so I figure it’s all good.  We’ve discovered that, like daddy, he hasn’t got a sweet tooth, so he likes his nectarines much more than something like mango, which would be my preference.  He’s amazing with the nectarine actually.  I cut him off slices like little boats, and he eats the flesh and spits out the skin.  At first I was worried and was going to peel it but there’s really no need, he’s very capable of eating just the flesh.

So far he still doesn’t suck on a dummy, although I give it to him when we go to sleep.  He does like it to chew on and play with, but when it’s time to sleep he will get upset if I put the dummy in his mouth.  He doesn’t accept substitutes!  At some level it’s as though he knows it’s just not the same.  He’s like that with everything actually.  I’m sure he understands what I’m saying most of the time.  He looks at me so intently, listens to everything I say, and responds accordingly.  He has known his name for months now, and will always respond, even if it’s to just give a cheeky look and go back to whatever havoc he was wreaking.  Although usually he’ll pay attention and actually turn back, as though he knows exactly what I’ve said and is doing just what I’ve asked.  It’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, at the moment, five days off eight months, he is just about to crawl, beginning to say words, and just turning into an amazing little boy.  I wish he’d sleep by himself as I’d love to be able to stretch out in bed again and go to sleep and wake up whenever I want, but I know it will pass and eventually he will sleep in his own bed.  For the moment, he is how he is, and he is just perfect.

Have child, will travel

After numerous heated discussions and difficult exchanges, husband suggested I go to Melbourne and just chill out with friends for an extended weekend.  At first I was reluctant, thinking about how hard the flight would be with the Dude, who just doesn’t do the comfort feeding thing and doesn’t just fall asleep, but I finally agreed to go and booked some flights on Qantas.  Luxury!  Normally we fly dodgy Tiger but with the Dude I wasn’t taking any chances, and besides, it wasn’t actually much more expensive.  I booked an 11am flight out on the Thursday, thinking that would be cruisy, and a 4pm flight home on the following Monday.  But it wasn’t to be so cruisy!

Firstly, about a week beforehand, husband revealed that he’d volunteered for a day out accompanying some deaf kids into the city to the Botanic Gardens and on the ferry etc. Which is lovely, except it happened to be the day I was due to fly to Melbourne.  And he had to be at the school by 8:30am.  In North Parramatta.  An hour’s drive away.  And my flight was booked for 11am.  Urgh.  We discussed the possibility of him bailing out, but he’d already saved the day as someone else had pulled out and I thought it would be pretty slack to bail at the last minute like that.  So after discussing the possibilities – him taking public transport to North Parramatta (erm, that’s like having a death wish!), me taking public transport to the airport (erm, again, a bit of a death wish, given I’d have the baby and my wheely bag), me taking a taxi to the airport (for $70? Hmm, think again) – and finally settled on a plan.  He dropped me in the city at about 7:45 and I strapped the Dude to my chest, put my nappy bag in my wheely bag, and took the airport line straight through from St James – easy!

A few things to explain here: I decided not to bother with taking a pram as the Dude isn’t a fan and I can’t fathom how one person can possibly handle a wheely bag and a pram at the same time.  Seriously.  How is that possible??  The other thing is that I don’t own a nappy bag.  My nappy bag consists of a rather tatty Target ‘green’ bag.  I have the material at home, just haven’t gotten round to making one, and there’s no way I’m spending $100 on a proper one, what a total rip off!  Plus I’m not a fan of carting round a whole bunch of shit just because I have a baby.  Sometimes I take a nappy and wipes, occasionally a change of clothes, a hat, socks… that’s about it.  So anyway, all I had was my modest wheely bag, my handbag and the Dude strapped to me in the Ergobaby.

The train trip through to Sydney airport’s Qantas domestic terminal was a breeze.  Fast, easy, simple.  The only drawbag is being subjected to extortion when you pay $15 for a ten minute train journey!  Freaking rip off!  But that’s Sydney for you… Anyway, I got there, decided to check my bag, and was impressed with how easy it was despite the fact that Qantas seem to have now gotten rid of actual people to check you in and you do the whole thing yourself: check in and print off your boarding pass and bag tags, attach your own bag tags, then drop off your bags yourself.  Pretty cool really.

I headed through security and grabbed a bacon and egg muffin at Hungry Jacks and a big veggie juice at the food place next to it – yum!  I found a nice seat facing out over the tarmac, finished my food and drink and gave the Dude a feed.  I had a couple of hours still before my flight at 11am, and I planned to get him to have a decent sleep so he’d be cool for the flight.  It was great, I strapped him to my back, then grabbed a coffee, then found a bench and stood rocking him while crocheting and sipping my coffee, too easy!  At 10:40 I went to board my flight; and that’s when things started to go awry.

The flight was delayed 25 minutes, so boarding at 11:05.  I kept walking round with the Dude, gave him another feed… It was 11:30 and we still hadn’t boarded.  Finally we all filed on.  Apparently the flight before had been late in.  I was beckoned to the front and slipped on board first, which was brilliant.  My seat was right at the back and the one next to me was empty, perfect!  The male and female flight attendants immediately flocked to me and took the Dude, who was happy to hang out with them, a total miracle, as normally he screams as soon as I pass him to someone else, unless it’s daddy.  This was going well! And then we sat on the tarmac.  For an hour!  The Dude got restless.  The lovely male flight attendant brought him some baby food, awful artificial Heinz vanilla custard (I read the label enough to notice the second ingredient was ‘sugar’ and then pretended not to notice), which the Dude of course absolutely loved and ate about a third of the tin!  But we weren’t flying anywhere on this plane it seemed, and were soon asked to disembark as the flight had been cancelled due to electrical problems.  I filed out with everyone else and stood in line for 10 minutes whereupon we were booked onto a 3pm flight.  Hmph.

Anyway, eventually we did fly out on the 3pm flight, but sadly the attendants on this flight weren’t of the calibre of those on the first and basically ignored me the whole time.  The Dude had had enough by this point and promptly screamed the plane down for most of the flight, even though I tried to soothe him by walking around and feeding (it only worked for the first 15 minutes during take off).  I finally arrived in Melbourne at 4:35pm and had to wait for my friend to pick us up as because of the delay she was stuck in traffic!  What an ordeal!

Some general observations about flying:

  • Baby change area at the airport? This had to be the most impractical place to change a baby, unless the baby in question is completely covered in poo and you need to give him a bath to clean him up… Where is the bit you change them on? I really do need to invest in a portable change mat, as the changing area consisted of a narrow, hard metal bench.
  • People that work at Sydney airport – really, this is your career? Reminds me why I want to leave Sydney!  I watched people working behind counters and in shops and thought, damn, what a way to live, how boring and average.  Yes, I am a cynic.  And a snob.
  • Are people really that lovely and helpful when you’re travelling with a baby? Some, yes, but judging by the stupid article I read in the Age about flying with a baby, some are just callous assholes who probably wouldn’t have the guts to say to your face what they’d say in an online comment.
  • There is a huge difference depending on the flight attendants.  I guess they see a million babies complaining on flights every day, but it made SUCH a difference to have those lovely flight attendants on that first flight.  I personally thanked them both before getting off the plane, and the female flight attendant came up to me in the airport after we got off the first plane to check if I’d been successfully rebooked and commiserate.  So nice.
  • Some people are tolerant and understand just how embarrassing and stressful it can be when your baby is screaming and you just can’t do anything.  As I sat waiting to get off the second flight to Melbourne, waiting for everyone to get off first, a smiling guy in a suit leaned down to me and said, “don’t worry, we’ve all been there before”.  I smiled.  Thanks man, I really needed to hear that.

My conclusion? Having kids and participating in mainstream society do not exist in the same dimension! But what’s new right?  All I know is, I did it, I took a flight alone with my baby and it was all good.  In fact he slept for the majority of the flight home – miracle or what!  I can’t say I’ll be doing it again in a hurry but at least now I know I can.