The moment my life changed forever

I totally hate how I look in this picture.

May 2011. In labour. No idea.
May 2011. In labour. No idea.

But it’s one of the most significant photos of my whole life. This was taken on Mother’s Day 2011 sitting on a bench on the coastal clifftop walk in Vaucluse, just up the road from the famous Gap. I look like shit because I am just not photogenic, but also because I am in labour with my son, my first child. I was 32 and had been having six minute apart contractions since 6am that morning. This was taken, well, sometime towards dusk, which is probably about 5:30pm at that time of year in Sydney. My son was born the following evening around 8pm. My life changed forever.

Now, people always say, oh yes, children are a big commitment but also a joy, your life changes forever, bla bla bla. You can’t conceptualise it and you just nod and smile and agree and maybe roll your eyes when they’re not looking. You KNOW your life is going to change. And even after it does, you think you KNOW just what you’re in for. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t. You have no IDEA.

I’m writing this nearly three and a half years later. My second child, a girl, is ten weeks old. I have no IDEA how I got through this morning. It’s freaking hard. It just is, and I make no apologies or excuses. Older, more experienced people have told me how straightforward it was for them, how they just swaddled their perfect little baby and laid it down in its old-fashioned cot with the sides up in a bedroom containing nothing else and it went to sleep for two hours during which they did all the housework and cooked meals for the next year and had a cup of tea and planned out the week. Yeah, great, nice work, good for you. That’s not how it is for mothers today. Well that’s not how it is for me, anyway.

My grandmother on my mother’s side had ten children. Her third child, a boy, died in infancy during the war. I’m not sure why or how. But let’s examine my maternal grandmother’s situation for a moment: she was either pregnant or breastfeeding for 20 years. She was a migrant, with half her children being born in Serbia and Germany and the other five here in Australia. She was poor. She grew most of the family’s food because of this. She had her babies in hospitals but could only stay a night after a birth because her other children needed her at home. My grandfather got up for work at 4am six days a week and was home after the children were in bed. No one but my grandmother cooked and cleaned, she did it all. Her name was Elisabeth and she was a Capricorn who never wanted children and didn’t marry until she was 23, virtually an old maid in 1937.

How did she do it? I have no idea. But I will offer one theory: life was entirely different. There were no computers, they never had a tv or other technology invading their lives. They didn’t even have a washing machine or fridge in the beginning. They ate from their farm and there was a purity of existence that has to be created with much effort these days. Somehow, I don’t know how, this lifestyle made for a gentler, more harmonious life. And babies who didn’t demand feeding 24/7, who wouldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes without being held.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am very much of an attachment parenting mindset and I believe that it’s completely normal for young babies and children to resist sleeping for long periods away from their mothers or carers. It’s basic physiology, part of being human. However. I’m not completely convinced that the reason babies don’t settle, the reason they cry, is due to the lack of attachment. I think there is too much stimulation in life today. Not only does all this distraction take up the time and space a parent might otherwise have had free, it changes the way we relate to each other, and to our children.

I don’t think there’s a solution to this, I think I’ve made a conscious choice to live in this way, and knowing my lifestyle impacts my babies in this way doesn’t make me want to change. I am however willing to continue on a “natural” parenting path as although it is a lot of work, I couldn’t do it any other way. I won’t be doing any kind of sleep training or controlled crying. I won’t be arbitrarily stopping breastfeeding and introducing formula. I won’t be forcing my kids to sleep in their own rooms if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. I won’t be pureeing meals and spoon feeding at some random age determined by some doctor.

I lie here in the dark at 9:30pm trying to slip my nipple out of my baby’s mouth without waking her so I can go back downstairs and watch Breaking Bad and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s just what mothering is for me. And it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye.

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The birth story of my second baby: part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First feed soon after birth

The birth story of my second baby: part 1

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

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

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

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

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

And then the next morning:

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

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

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

To be continued…

 

 

The love

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

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

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

A fresh start

So it’s been about three months since I last posted anything here. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’ve just been way too busy to even log on and write, let alone publish anything! So here’s a brief recap of the last three months:

  • We packed up our entire house in Canberra and after a very long day getting it all on the truck, cleaning and fitting all our remaining stuff into the car, we made our way to Melbourne to stay with some lovely friends way out on Mornington Peninsula while we hunted for a rental in the northern suburbs.
  • We got pregnant. Yep, that’s right, there’s another dude or dudette currently cooking away, due at the end of August. We’ve found our midwife at the lovely MAMA midwifery practice, and I’ve started yoga and I’m on the hunt for a good meditation/relaxation recording. It’s been a fairly easy pregnancy so far, with only one serious vomit incident resulting in paying $150 to get our car detailed. Aside from when drunk and not remembering, I’d say that’s the most I’ve ever thrown up in my life!
  • It only took a couple of weeks of driving the hour or so between our friends’ place and the area we were looking in Melbs for us to find something and we moved in early Feb. It’s only two bedrooms but fairly roomy, brand new and under 10km from the city about 15 mins walk from the tram. We like it, although yet again we’ve managed to end up with a barking dog next door. Granted, it’s not as annoying as the one in Sydney which I had fantasies about poisoning (oh god that sounds horrible doesn’t it, but seriously, this thing was a total menace! Actually the owners were the ones needing a good lesson…) but the owners don’t seem to care when it barks pointlessly, which is crap.
  • Dude is weaning. He is still having boobie but things have really shifted in that area, particularly since I told him that the milk might not be there or might change and that the new baby will have boobie and we need to ‘save’ the milk for the baby. This was my vague attempt at getting him to cut down as I’m increasingly over breastfeeding. He is three in May and although I know plenty of people who’ve fed children longer than that and I think it’s awesome to feed as long as you and the baby want, I personally am just really keen for a break. I’ve never enjoyed breastfeeding particularly, never experienced the bond or hormonal rush that other mums describe, and although I discovered a new fondness for it when Dude turned two, I still feel very touch-sensitive and would like to find other ways of comforting and relaxing him. Suffice it to say, daddy is suddenly all the rage and has to endure numerous readings of mindless, repetitive material, mainly by Dr Seuss, until Dude is satisfied and goes off to sleep.
  • Now that we’re in Melbs, we’re trying to settle, but it’s just SO hard! I’ve never felt so strange about being anywhere, and I think it’s because I planned to really settle here and it’s proving a little difficult. I don’t know if it’s Mr Chewbacca’s influence or me changing, but I’m finding it terribly hard to love my country of birth. Australia just means nothing to me culturally, and there’s so much about living in this country that has no cultural significance for me; in fact it is downright annoying! It’s early days here, and no matter what we plan to stick it out for a few years at least. I just can’t wait to find some friends and regularity here.

There’s been plenty more happening, but it’s all rather mundane and boring involving trips to Centrelink, buying clothes, looking for jobs and negotiating weird Melbourne traffic, so not really worth mentioning!

This third move in Australia is a huge achievement for us, more so for me actually, as I’ve had it in my head that Melbourne is the place for me since coming here for the first time nearly 20 years ago. It’s also a final move for us; if this doesn’t work, that’s it, we’ll be heading back over to the northern hemisphere, the UK, outer London probably. And to do that would not only cost a fair bit of money, it would need to be a really certain final move. We’d never move back here. So Melbourne, you’ve got a lot of work to do to get us really loving this country!

One year ago…

The Dude turned one last week! He is growing and changing faster than ever and seems to have come so far in just the last month alone. New skills include clapping, which he just randomly did one morning. He woke up, immediately sat up in bed and just started clapping! He seems to do it a lot in bed for some reason.

He has also began waving but like the clapping, he doesn’t do it on demand. In fact that’s a theme that has been running through everything; he never imitates. I read Dr Sears’ The Baby Book and it went on about how babies learn by copying, so you stick your tongue out and they do it back. I’ve been poking my tongue out at this baby for nine months now and never once has he done it back! Oh he’s had plenty of tongue poking practice, it’s not like he has a tongue tie or can’t do it, but it’s never on command or in response. Same goes for anything else, waving, clapping, making noises, he just looks at us like, “go for your life, man, but I’ll do that when I feel like it thanks!”

Some words are definitely coming out. He knows mama and dada, numnums (our word for food) and I’m convinced he says zeh-zeh (his version of his name, Izzy). He also says “ohhhh”, to which I always reply, “what’s occurring?” (Gavin and Stacey anyone?).

He adores music, any kind, from hiphop to classical to rock to dance to the little jingles that emanate repeatedly from various toys. He dances, it’s so cute, bounces up and down while sitting, standing and even in the ergo. I’m not that surprised, given the musical appreciation and raw talent running rampant in both my and Mr Chewbacca’s families, but I’m secretly very chuffed. I will do my best not to impose my shit on him or force him to embrace anything just so I can live vicariously, but I would love it if the Dude ended up doing something with music. I hugely regret not learning piano as a kid. So does Mr Chewbacca in fact. Anyway, his latest favourite is the classic Chili Peppers “Give it Away”. He likes it when I sing the “oh yeeeeeah” bit.

We’ve had so many changes this last month. Dude grew another centimetre so he’s now at 79, and he put on 600g so he’s now 11.5kg. That puts him in the 75th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. He’s eating more, and I’m allowing more variety, so he now has peanut butter on toast, more variety of fruit and veg and the odd tidbit from our plates. I even gave him a little of the pasta from a homemade lasagne today and he loved it. I know he’s keen to eat everything we eat but I believe it takes time to introduce such variety. So it’s just little bits at a time for now.

My dad bought the Dude a stroller for his birthday and I was thrilled to discover he actually loves it! He falls asleep in it and everything, which is a massive contrast to how he was months ago when he screamed after ten minutes. Lucky, because he’s getting too heavy to carry for any length of time. He’s been on my back now for about an hour and I can feel it.

We went out without the Dude for the very first time since he was born. It was a few days before his birthday. We got a breast pump, and I pumped a couple of bottles of milk. Urgh, hate it, so hard, don’t know how some women do it full time! I think they must have firmer, perkier, smaller boobs. Anyway, moving on… We left the Dude at home with my aunt for the evening while we went to a friend’s wedding. It was hard! I had such anxiety when I first left home without him, and I just kept checking my phone every five minutes. It was great though, to just relax with friends. We got home around 11:30 and Dude was asleep, although he woke soon after we arrived. He’d refused the bottle entirely! I think the milk wasn’t fresh enough. Anyway, it was a success and although I wouldn’t do it all the time, it’s good to know it’s possible.

We had a little party for him on Sunday. It went really well, considering neither of us has ever hosted a party for twenty odd people before. I am so disorganised. I like planning but don’t like actually scheduling the work and sticking to the schedule. So given I made all the food, I think we did okay. The cake was a serious disappointment, to me anyway. It looked alright, as I did a hundreds and thousands cover up job, but it was nothing compared to what I’d planned. I just didn’t prepare properly and guessed a lot, which is always bad. image

Anyway, despite the mould-coloured slightly curdled icing hiding under those tiny coloured spheres, it tasted pretty yummy. The kids wolfed it down and went for seconds. Dude was given a piece but was more interested in the plate at first, then started mashing it into the table and floor, then finally tried to eat some.

He was really the highlight of the day for me. He fell asleep on my back for half an hour or so before people started arriving and then he just socialised! He loved having.everyone in the house, other kids to play with, so much stuff to do. There was really only one point where he seemed to get tired, probably three or four o’clock, and a good friend who was at his birth offered to carry him round in the ergo. That was great. He didn’t sleep but he chilled out, and then just kept going. Once everyone had gone about 6:30-7, he suddenly realised he was beyond tired and screamed the house down while we quickly got him ready for bed. Nothing out of the ordinary there, he does that more nights than not.

Speaking of sleep, I can’t say it’s great but it could be a lot worse. He goes down between 6 and 7, and then wakes two or three times before we go to bed at 10:30 or so. Sounds awful! But it’s not that bad. At least when we do come to bed he’ll often sleep through, or only wake once. He usually wakes around 6:30-7am, although has been known to sleep in for no particular reason. His itchy skin is what interrupts sleep. I wish I could say we’ve sorted his eczema but it’s still an issue. It’s not totally out of control but it’s not being well-managed. We can’t afford the Graham’s cream any more and I still don’t know the cause of it. I thought it might have been a zinc deficiency but I’ve been giving him a supplement for about a month now and I’m not seeing a massive difference. I thought maybe it might have been healing just the other day but I’m not sure. I’ve just upped his dosage as I realised I read the label wrong, so we’ll see, it might help.

I must finish now and turn off my phone as the light is distracting for him as I try and get him to sleep. He’s now sitting up in his cot playing very seriously with some stuffed toys and a blanket. He’s in the ‘pick it up, throw it down’ stage. Pick up the blanket, thrown it down, pick it up, put it down, all the while with great focus and effort. You’d never know he’s dead tired…

Nearly 10 months (actually nearly 11 months)

Very nearly!  He’s going to be 10 months tomorrow, holy shizzle!  Currently he is sitting in my lap watching me type, about to pounce, so this post will take a while but… yep, there he goes, he wants that mouse!

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Well, that first bit was drafted nearly a month ago – yeesh, has it been that long? So this post is the “nearly 11 months” lumped in with the previous one. He’s going to be 11 months on Monday!

So, what’s happened since 9 months? So much! He is really mobile now and very vocal. The crawling is still an odd sort of crab-like variation of the cross-crawl, so his left leg is dragged under his body a bit and his right goes out at the side to plant his foot flat.  He’s very fast though, and occasionally he’ll crawl a bit on all fours, with both feet flat, or alternatively he’ll crawl normally once or twice. I’ve been taking him to see a chiropractor to see if we can sort out his crawling, and it has helped a lot, but I very much doubt he’ll ever do a normal cross-crawl permanently before he walks.  He stands very well now, and will let go and stand unassisted for a few seconds at a time, smiling to himself in triumph.  His motor skills are good, and he can grab really tiny things between finger and thumb as well as larger things with both hands.  Recently he acquired a rugby ball and has been throwing it around and chasing after it, it’s very cute.  I remember about a month ago he discovered that his little soccer type ball makes a ‘boing’ noise when you throw it, and he was absolutely delighted!  He’s had that ball since he was about four months, but he only just discovered the noise is associated with throwing the ball.  It’s nice to see these little discoveries.  He gets into every drawer and cupboard at his level to the extent that we’ve had to finally do some baby-proofing. I think I’ve probably bought every type of baby-proofing lock/latch/device on the market and we still haven’t gotten around to installing them all.  So he opens the drawers and pulls out the wooden spoons and turkey baster and clingfilm and all sorts of random stuff.  He’s also started putting things in places, so I’ve found his rugby ball has been deposited back into his toybox and random toys or his sippy cup have ended up in the bottom drawer in the kitchen.  He unpacks the plastics cupboard on a daily basis.  It’s all about emptying things at the moment, so if there are smaller containers or lids or other items in a larger container, his mission is accomplished as soon as it has been tipped out on the floor.  I take him outside with me when I hang up washing and he sits at my feet and tips the pegs out of the plastic bucket. Endless entertainment!

I took the Dude to an anthroposophical doctor, mainly for his eczema, and we formulated a plan of attack.  I got him an anthroposophical medicine (like homepathic only more refined) which he has three times daily, plus some calcium compound morning and night, to help his teeth.  In addition, if it’s an imbalance in the gut, I’ve given him a course of probiotics daily in his porridge.  I’ve got the most amazing cream, made by Graham’s, with colloidal oatmeal as the active ingredient, as well as some other creams like goats milk and rescue remedy.  I haven’t really been eating much dairy, not drunk milk in a long time, and I think that’s helped both me and him.  So his skin has improved amazingly, it’s such a relief!  It’s still itchy unfortunately, but it’s under control now, which is great.  And of course taking to the chiropractor regularly has had an impact I’m sure.

Another big milestone was reached a few weeks ago.  He had his first fever!  It was due to teething, his eighth tooth coming through, and it only got to 38.2, but still, I was impressed.  I could see his body just going through the motions, so efficiently processing, the fever just doing its job.  For a whole day he didn’t really want to play and just fed and whinged and slept and cried and whinged and was generally annoying, but because he was so hot I could easily forgive him.  I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I just gave him homepathics and fed him when he wanted and spent a lot of time lying down with him.  At first I was resentful that Mr Chewbacca went out (it was a Saturday night, St Patrick’s Day, good friend’s birthday and other good friend doing World’s Greatest Shave), but later I was very glad as he was too drunk to be woken when Dude woke and cried three times during the night.  In fact at one point Dude was crying loudly right next to Mr Chewbacca’s face and he didn’t even stir.  It was annoying at one point when Mr Chewbacca decided to snore loudly, just as Dude was drifting back off to sleep, so I had one hand on Dude and was hitting Mr Chewbacca in the face, holding his nose and twisting his head from side to side with the other.  Now I know what you’re thinking, who co-sleeps with a drunkard, right?  Yeah, probably technically against the guidelines, but I seriously didn’t think he was affected, he seemed fine when he came home, and the Dude sleeps next to me anyway.  He has been so dead tired recently, not getting enough sleep, due partly to his own crazy body clock but also to the fact that Dude is waking up earlier. Anyway, the fever was gone less than 24 hours later and when we woke the next morning, everything seemed back to normal and the tooth had come through.

And yes, the inevitable has happened, no more sleeping in for us, Dude is getting up early like normal kids!  He is waking around 7 these days, and I’m trying to get him in bed by 7 at night as I know he’ll sleep 12 hours given the opportunity, but it’s been a real chore to get him to sleep recently.  The feeding to sleep is getting really tiresome, mainly because the majority of the time he doesn’t really want it, but it’s the only way he can go to sleep.  He squirms around, makes grunting noises and is always too full.  So then he turns over and comes off the boob, and then sits up and chats and crawls into his cot and all over me, going everywhere head first as he is so dead tired his head just wants to make him lie down.  He fights sleep til the bitter end! Some nights this week it’s taken me well over an hour to get him down.  But the good news is, once he’s down, he (touch wood!!) hasn’t been waking, or has been going a good couple of hours before waking.  And when he does wake and go in to get him back down again, he goes down again very fast, definitely ready to be asleep.  So things are shifting, vaguely closer to normal/happy.

He suddenly wants to eat a lot more, which is great. I’m doing a fair bit of spoon-feeding, mainly because the baby-led solids are so difficult to do without totally trashing the floor.  I still give him chunks of food, rice cakes, fruit and veg, other snacks and things, but I’ve been cooking up just simple pasta and two vegies and freezing it in portions.  He’s also been having some millet porridge for breakfast which he’s been eating all of for just the last week or so, since his big fever transition. I’m getting a bit more lax with what I let him eat, so he has had the teensiest taste of my yoghurt, which he loved, and I usually give him a couple of crusts of my morning toast, if he’s awake when I’m eating it, which he also loves.  I figure if there’s a trace of butter or vegemite on it, it’s not really bad, and it’s good that he gets used to more variety in taste.  I made some humous the other week and put a little too much garlic in it, but I let him try some and he really liked it, I was so surprised!  I still haven’t given him any meat or cheese or egg or other types of full on protein, mainly because I don’t think his body really needs to deal with foods that complex yet, but I would like to give him some actual protein, so I’ve bought some chick peas and lentils and will work out what to do with them at some point.

The other big thing that’s happened with the Dude recently is that the holes in his teeth (have I mentioned them before?) have gotten bigger and then just a week ago he chipped one!  The enamel/structure of those teeth is obviously compromised and I’m suspecting that’s the cause of the decay more than anything, as the chip just goes straight into the spot of decay.  The fact that the spots are slap bang in the centre of each front tooth says to me there’s something weak about their structure as well.  I wondered whether all my prenatal nutrition had done something bad to them, and I shuddered thinking all that icecream and chocolate and dodgy food I ate when pregnant might have had an effect.  Not to say I didn’t eat healthily most of the time – if anything I ate healthier when pregnant than any other time in my life, mainly because anything with acid or dairy or sugar gave me shocking reflux and I had these bizarre cravings for steamed vegies and salads, especially in the first trimester.  So yeah, it’s hard to believe something as simple as nutrition could be the only contributing factor to his teeth being compromised. When he chipped it, we realised it was time to find a dentist.  Mr Chewbacca was saying just take him the first place you can find, although preferably a children’s dentist.  I, in typical fashion, secretly sought out a holistic dentist and booked him in.  As luck would have it, they had an appointment on the Monday, which was the soonest we could get him into a regular dentist anyway.

So on Monday, despite having no money at all, I took the Dude along to this holistic dentist in Neutral Bay.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d read up online so I was hoping for the best. I knew they’d say my feeding him to sleep was a bad thing as the milk would be staying on the teeth all night and breastmilk does have lots of sugar in it.  We saw the loveliest female dentist who he took a shine to (he rarely doesn’t take a shine to people though) and she did agree with me about the feeding to sleep.  She said there’s not a lot to be done as it’s impossible to get him to keep his mouth open and keep still for enough time for her to drill away the decay and seal off what’s left of his teeth.  She gave me a referral to a paediatric dentist but warned me that although they are great, they are mainstream, and will probably recommend a general anaesthetic to do the drilling and stuff.  She said she personally wouldn’t subject her children to that at this age, and I said I doubt I would allow it either.  She said the decay is quite soft and probably going to get worse.  There were a raft of questions about other influences, vaccinations, nutrition, the pregnancy, the birth, illnesses, medications, but of course I haven’t done any bad stuff in respect to all that.  Needless to say she was impressed!  I will take him back there in about six months, as she said he should be able to sit still enough by then for her to do something, if needed.

Just as we were finishing up, another male dentist walked past and she called him in to ask his opinion.  Turns out this guy is something of an expert in holistic dentistry and been around for quite a long time.  I connected with him immediately.  He was serious but kind, and he immediately began to do some cranial stuff to Dude who is used to all that by now.  He asked me a few questions about the pregnancy, specifically how my relationship was during that time.  I said fine, if anything, better than at any other time.  So he asked me if I’d had any other stresses during early pregnancy.  And then it dawned on me. I had the most stressful job of my life in the first trimester, and experienced probably one of the most traumatic, emotional situations of my life at work.  It still upsets me now when I think about it.  He asked if I’d been treated for that, and I looked at him like he had two heads. Treated? What kind of treatment would you recommend?  Homepathics, kinesiology, he said.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered this before.  The first trimester and early second is when much of the tooth formation takes place apparently, so those stresses could have really affected things.  The good news is that his adult teeth will be great as they are being formed now, so whatever we’re doing now will be instrumental in forming his adult teeth.

Anyway, I’ve decided to seriously look into the treatment. The dentist recommended someone and as soon as we can afford it, I’ll make an appointment.  As I was waiting to pay, the male dentist made a point of coming up to me. He said out of the blue how strong Dude’s energy is, and mine too, and that I should get back into meditation as when I calm down, he will.  Wise words.  Just got to find the time!