The love

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

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

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

Winding down to labour

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

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

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

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

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

Finding the right midwife: a story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be a woman? A response

These days I don’t read my ‘baby’ blogs anywhere near as much as when I did while pregnant, as writing and reading has become my escape from all things ‘baby’, but today I decided to read about what Rixa has been up to on her fantastic blog, Stand and Deliver.  She’s written a short essay to inspire her students for their first writing assignment, and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d write something in response.

Once I got past puberty, whenever I heard the word ‘woman’, I’d squirm.  Woman.  There was something old, frumpy, big, mother hen-like about women; and I didn’t want to be that.  Don’t get me wrong, I was always happy being female.  But being a woman irked me.  In fact I never thought of myself as womanly, and if someone ever described me as curvy or voluptuous I’d really hate it.  I think this has to do with my weight issues, but also the fact that I’ve never been particularly maternal.

So for me to answer a question like what it means to be a woman is really a bizarre thing.  I remember my midwife referring to me as a ‘woman’ during my prenatal visits and I had to voice my feelings about that.  It was good to get it out.  I was never surprised that my body worked perfectly, that all the aspects of being female where, in me, efficient and effective and exactly as they should be.  I knew I was fertile, and I knew I was strong.  I knew I could get through labour, whatever it was, and that being a fantastic example of femininity would stand me in good stead.

Because I chose to have a baby at home instead of hospital, I began to read.  And inevitably stumbled upon all the hippy/crunchy stuff out there.  All the so-called ‘feminists’.  I’m all for empowerment, but of human beings in general, not just women.  I get the whole suffragette thing, I really do, but I really can’t stand women who go on about being ‘equal’ to men.  What’s the point when men and women are so incredibly different?  Why do we have to compete?  So women earn less that men, on average; so what?  Women are more likely to be at home with children.  This isn’t a burden; this is what women are great at.  Men can’t breastfeed or grow a baby or give birth.  Men don’t have bodies that secrete such delicate and perfect amounts of so many different hormones, that create life in such a complex and mysterious way.  We don’t have to prove ourselves or try to become ‘equal’; it’s an illusion.  We already are great.  Money is not a measurement of greatness, nor does the amount you earn have any bearing on your greatness as a human being.  The relationship between remuneration and gender is arbitrary.

I struggled with all these ‘women’ who wrote ‘womyn’ instead and expressed anger about men in general.  Apparently because we live in a patriarchal society, all hospitals are run by men who try to bring women down and violate them; so all men are evil.  Being a woman means fighting for your rights, fighting men.  This doesn’t sit right with me.

I have done the things that only women can do.  I’ve conceived a baby; I’ve carried that baby until he was ready to come into the world; and I’ve given birth to him, which was beyond the hardest thing I could ever have imagined doing.  Although I’ve never been maternal or interested in children, I give all that I have to this baby, my baby, my boy.  I do this not because I am a woman specifically but because I am a mother.  So being a woman is not just about motherhood, which I don’t even know well yet.  Being a woman is about knowing true power and being satisfied with that.  It’s about feeling so in tune with nature and the universe, and being thankful for the gift that is knowing the secret of creation.

Unlike some really crunchy hippies out there, I don’t catch my menstrual blood or participate in women’s workshops.  In fact I hardly notice my period coming and going most of the time.  But I do notice how wonderfully efficient my body is and how amazing it is that I can do what I’ve done.  Beyond having babies, being a woman is being a creator, whether you feel creative or not.  Being a woman is powerful; knowing womanhood is empowering!

The Dude’s birth: post script

Our little Mr I, aka The Dude, was born on Monday 9 May 2011 at 7:57pm in the pool at home.  The birth was transforming, as expected, but beyond anything I could have imagined.

There are a few key lessons I learnt from this birth.

First, my relationship with my mum completely transformed.  During the pregnancy I was able to identify the fact that I’ve not relied on anyone for a very long time, since I was a very young child in fact.  I’ve always been independent and headstrong, and I had some kind of complex about relying on others, probably because I couldn’t be sure they were reliable.  No one had shown much in terms of reliability.  It wasn’t so much anyone’s fault, it was the situation, the circumstance.  My mum, through no real fault of her own, let me down somewhat because she didn’t stand firm with me.  It was hard, I was clever and angry and strong and lacked empathy; I’d be so adamant about what I wanted and she found it impossible to stand firm against that, she actually needed to protect herself.  So when, during the birth, I lost control, lost faith, lost hope, and was running from the very thing that would bring the baby down and out, my mum did something heroic and unlike anything she’d done before.  She stepped up.  She didn’t let me escape.  She wasn’t mean, she just supported me and she didn’t let me down.  She was there, no matter how long it took, and she was prepared to go through it with me and be my rock.  And I needed her, I really did.

Second, I couldn’t take shortcuts.  All my life I’ve been really good at most things without exerting as much effort as most people.  I was always healthy and strong, tall and flexible, clever and funny, and I managed to cruise through most things others would consider a challenge without much effort.  When I had to put effort in, it would be half-hearted, and if I wasn’t great at something firs time, forget it, give it away, not worth doing anyway.  I didn’t take direction well and would ignore teachers at every interval, from the ice-skating teacher I had at age 8, to the maths tutor I had at age 14, to the flute teacher at age 16, I wrote them all off, did whatever I wanted, scraped through and escaped the challenge.  My mum always said, ‘you’re living small’ and that made me angry.  I know my dad could see it too, as he does the same thing.  But this labour, this was by far the biggest challenge of my life, and I couldn’t escape it!  There was a way out; hospital, intervention, drugs, disappointment.  I couldn’t do that.  I knew that was wrong for me and for baby.  So I did it, I rose to the challenge, I pushed through pain a hundred times beyond anything I could even imagine feeling, and I achieved a huge goal.  I overcame this without any shortcuts.  I don’t ever want that feeling to go away; I want to always remember how it was to beat myself and overcome this, so that I can achieve really great things in life and not wimp out or make excuses like I have in the past.

Birth story: part 2

Continued from part 1

Then it was just me and my mum.  Until then I hadn’t been that aware of her presence, or at least only alongside that of my friends.  Everyone was doing their own thing to help, pouring hot water into the bath, getting my water, making each other teas and food and going out to the shops when needed, and I could hear all this going on in the background, but at this point everything seemed down and at a standstill.  I think it also felt empty because Mr Chewbacca was off on his walk, probably feeling exasperated and finding it hard to watch me and listen to me in so much pain.  I got the sense that my moaning was getting repetitive, it was not only tiring me out but it was draining on everyone else too.  Emotions were feeling stretched and everyone needed a break.

My mum was somehow next to me.  I don’t remember her coming there, she just was there.  At first it was a little annoying.  She has a very light touch and it can be a bit irritating, rather than Mr C’s firm, strong, confident touch which is reassuring.  And I’m oddly touch-sensitive too.  But then she did something I don’t think she’s ever done.  She began to tell me I could do it, and with each contraction she told me it was ‘a good one’.  She repeated the same things over and over, and in my head it was a bit annoying but I began to believe it after a while.  She made the noises with me, in a really steady way, and it was just the two of us, breathing and making noises and getting through it.  She was the only one still sticking by me, and she wasn’t going to let me get out of this and give up, she was going to see me through no matter what.  She’s never done this; she’s always let me get off scot free, give up halfway through, take the easy way out.

Mr Chewbacca came back from his walk and things had changed.  Everyone began to migrate back into the room, hanging around the edges watching and noticing the atmosphere changing.  I was only vaguely aware of this at the time, but everyone commented on it later and it made sense.

At a couple of points, I vomited pretty violently.  Most of it went on Mr C!  If it were me, I’d have been sick in response, but he took it all in his stride, didn’t even change his shirt apparently, just stayed with me.  A bit of vomit went in the pool, which I hated, but was too out of it to deal with.  And it wasn’t like there was a lot to throw up, mainly just water and some orange bits.  R of course was excited by this, recognising it as a sign of transition.  I’m not sure that it was, but things did change when it happened.

R wanted me to get out of the bath.  Things were happening, but not enough, it had been going on for way too long, even I knew this.  I wasn’t getting a break between contractions because, even though they were at least three minutes apart, I had this intense pain in the front of my pelvis.  R suggested this might be the last bit of cervical dilation happening while the baby’s head pushed against it.  Whatever it was, it was debilitating and never-ending.  The only thing that made it go away was a contraction, even more pain.  I remember being given different homeopathics and having peppermint oil waved under my nose to help stave off the vomiting. Or was it orange oil?

Apparently it was around 3pm that R finally got me out of the pool.  It felt like the most difficult thing I had ever done, working up the strength to move.  I’d talk myself out of it between contractions, then a contraction would hit and it’d be like, oh well, can’t move during a contraction.  Eventually I got out, and went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet.  There were a few contractions there, not pleasant, and I just felt like I was more uncomfortable, didn’t feel like the contractions were stronger as such.  But R was pleased with this, and when we came back to the pool she firmly said I should lie on the couch a bit first, which I was really unhappy about.  I stayed there for maybe two or three contractions but they were just unbearable, I remember saying I need to move now because I don’t think I can make it through another one here.  I don’t know what not making it through actually means, but I was adamant.  So I got up, but R still insisted I stay out of the pool, so I stood for a while, leaning on poor Mr C whose back was completely screwed by now.  But of course he gave me everything and let me do what I needed, continued to hold me up despite being in pain himself.  What a man!  I knew he’d be amazing, but it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of him and how committed he is to me, especially during the birth of our baby, just extraordinary.

I stood for longer than I thought I could, leaning on Mr C, and R said, ‘just stay there for two contractions, then you can get back in the pool’.  More than two passed, and I knew it, but I couldn’t summon the strength to say, hey, you’re trying to trick me!  Eventually when she said again, ‘just one more now,’ I said, ‘you already said that two contractions ago!’  So I went back in the pool which provided some relief.

I think standing up must have helped somehow, and I’m sort of hazy as to when the transition with my mum occurred, but eventually I began to feel my body push, and she was next to me when this happened.  It was overwhelming.  It reminds me of that movie Ghost, where the various spirits jump into the bodies of the living; it felt like something taking me over and my whole body convulsed.  The pushing felt so intense, but I was glad to feel it because I guessed it meant I’d reached the last part.  There was a still a fear that nothing was being achieved.  I expected to feel the baby moving down the birth canal, getting closer, but nothing, it just felt like my body was pushing against a rock that wouldn’t move.  I wondered briefly if my cervix was dilated, especially as R mentioned what the pain in my lower pelvis might be.  But I knew to trust in my body and that if it was pushing for me, it was ready, and it would do exactly what was needed.  I wondered if R could tell my body was pushing; I assumed she could actually, and was a little frustrated that she hadn’t said anything.  Reading back through the notes I can’t see any mention of it until I mentioned my body was pushing for me, which was quite a while after it began I think.

After a while of this pushing, and after I’d told R it was happening, she offered to check my dilation, just to see if I was progressing and if the cervix was actually out of the way.  She wrote in my notes that I’d declined several times but I don’t remember declining, I just remember being silent, and thinking to myself, what good is it?  Let it just happen.

Continued in part 3

And it begins…

I was feeling odd yesterday.  Mainly because I hadn’t had any contractions and my waters had broken and all I was doing was leaking everywhere!  I didn’t expect it to be like this.  I spoke to my mum on the phone who told me this is just how her labour began too.  I couldn’t believe it, as I’ve heard her tell my birth story so many times, and yet she’s never mentioned this… or perhaps I’ve never heard it.  I was feeling a bit like the midwife was a bit annoyed at me, like I’d not done things the way she expected or something, I don’t know, all in my own mind probably, I’ve been known to blow things out of proportion…

We had a delicious spaghetti Bolognese, courtesy of Mr C, and watched Inception, almost falling asleep at about 9:30 at night, both so tired.  Went to bed about ten and read for a bit, must have dozed off by 10:30.  I had a really solid sleep which was great, I needed it.  I found myself awake in the early hours, as I have done for the past week or so, and immediately felt a bit annoyed that no contractions seemed to have started.  I had this fantasy about being woken by a strong contraction in the middle of the night – no idea why, that sounds a bit yuk!

I was dozing, and finally looked at the clock and it was 5:59.  Then I felt something.  Definitely a contraction!  Like crampy period pains, not really very painful, quite smooth and wavelike, a deliberate, firm sensation building and then tapering off.  I looked at the clock – 6:05.  Then another of the same – clock says 6:11. And again – 6:17.  And again – 6:23.  Wait a minute, that’s consistently six minutes apart!  Yay!  So I knew I was finally in labour.  I just lay and felt them come and go, timing them, now with the app on my phone.  I didn’t want to wake my husband as he’d been so tired from broken sleep the previous night and a rough game of rugby during the day before, but eventually he woke up about 6:50 and asked sleepily if anything was happening.  It was so nice, feeling the pains coming and going but being snuggled up in bed with him.  We enjoyed that time because we thought maybe this is our last night just the two of us.  We talked again about missing Ben Folds, I’m a bit gutted about that, but it’s just not going to be possible.

Eventually we got up about 7:30 and I was excited to see I’d had a show, and the fluid that had drizzled out during the night was tinged pink.  It was a little distracting getting up and dressed and walking around, I realised the contractions weren’t really that strong because I could sort of miss them if I was talking or doing something.  But what a great feeling to finally be having contractions!  I don’t know why I ever doubted I would, it’s just that I didn’t expect labour to begin like this.

We skyped husband’s mum in the UK to let her know, and had a bit of a chat – I happily timed my contractions throughout, didn’t need to stop chatting.  I made myself porridge and had that outside.  It’s the most beautiful day today in Sydney, very clear blue sky, sun shining, no humidity, just perfect.  I spoke to my mum again, who said she’d make her way down (about a 12 hour drive), and texted my friends who’ll come along when things ramp up.  I spoke to my midwife who was pleased everything seems to be going so well, and she said to take some more vitamin C, go for a walk if I felt like it, and generally just chill out.  She said I might find things will start getting heavier when the sun goes down, so I’ve got the day to just do whatever.

I feel a bit at a loose end actually!  Like I hadn’t really planned anything, because obviously you can’t with childbirth, but yeah, I feel as if I want to DO something, just because I can.  I’m just timing contractions and feeling baby move a bit between them, eating (still crazy hungry) and hanging around at home, waiting for husband to get bored and want to do something.  As soon as he finishes watching his rugby I’m sure that’ll happen…

The pointy end

I’m writing this post purely for myself, to remember what it was like to be 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant with my first baby.

I’m still feeling good in general, not too tired, not in pain, not weird.  I don’t think I’ve had any contractions, or at least if I have I haven’t felt them.  I’ve had what I’d describe as various types of niggles and twinges, not consistent or lengthy enough to be considered contractions per se, but I think they are just signs my body is getting ready and baby is changing position to engage.  In the last couple of days baby has gone from moving crazily to being incredibly quiet and moving only very gently.  Gone are the big belly flops and twirls and spinning that baby has been doing since the beginning of the third trimester.

I still have reflux, on and off, but I’m so used to it now that although it’s uncomfortable I just kind of deal with it.  I haven’t taken a tum in ages.  I also still have swollen ankles, despite having discovered the magic of Spirulina, whose initial effect was to dramatically reduce the swelling.  I think it’s just because I’m getting so close to birth and my body is focused on that rather than keeping the fluid moving.  I’m heavy, I notice it whenever I stand up, and my pelvis aches, as does my tailbone occasionally and my lower back on and off.  It’s not really painful, it’s just noticeable, it’s just there from time to time.  Sleeping is hard because I have to keep changing positions from one side to the other and as much as I want to it’s not comfortable to lie on my back for any length of time.  I have been randomly waking in the middle of the night, getting up to go to the toilet because I’ve got nothing else to do, and then lying there waiting to go back to sleep.  It’s odd, I haven’t ever had broken sleep in my life except when really sick.

A week or so ago I had a positive test for Group B Strep which was initially a little off-putting and worrying, but I read up on it and realised there was no need to panic.  I thought long and hard about it, based on what I had read, and I decided a few things.  Even if the second swab, which I did last night, proves to be positive, I won’t have antibiotics at any point unless I am seriously running a fever and clearly have an infection that I can’t shake.  Their effect on me is so awful, instant thrush, and I can’t imagine the agony of thrush and recovering from birth, not to mention the fact that I’d be concerned for baby ending up with thrush on its face and then passing it to my nipples, could be absolutely disastrous!  In the UK, they don’t do the GBS test; instead they monitor mum and baby during birth, and offer antibiotics if there are risk factors.  Then they monitor baby after birth to see if any fever strikes, which they would do anyway.  The GBS test result is often ambiguous, or rather, it can show up one day and then be gone the next.  If I didn’t have any bacteria in my vagina, baby wouldn’t receive it during birth and the formation of gut flora would be seriously compromised, a huge issue in terms of digestion, and probably even worse for a new baby whose digestive system is being used for the first time really.  Lastly, I also realised why this positive test had occurred; to teach me to take my diet seriously!  I’ve been pretty good since the positive test came through, avoiding refined sugar almost entirely, which is a huge deal for me, as my diet is the one thing in my life I have problems controlling.  I’ve even cut right down on my bread intake, in order to avoid the yeast.  What I also realised is that this bacteria is me; I’ve always had high levels of bacteria in my system, high acidity.  I know this because as a child I always had thrush and spent many an hour sitting in a basin of salt water to soothe it.  I think the concentration of bacteria is normal for me, but it has been kicked out of balance due to my poor diet and indulgence in foods infused with refined sugar.  It’s been a great wake up call!

I still think the baby is a girl, although it’s been hard to work it out, and Mr Chewbacca is now saying he thinks it’s a boy.  Because it was so active and a few people had looked at me and said it was a boy I started to wonder.  I’ve thought it was a girl ever since that 13 week ultrasound when I saw its face it was like a miniature version of myself.  I’ve studied the 19 week ultrasound images and can’t see anything resembling a penis or a vagina, despite having looked up what ultrasound pics should look like for both sexes.

I’m almost totally prepared – birth pool and oxygen have been delivered, I have the hose and fitting, plastic sheets, Emergency Essence, apricot kernel oil, maternity pads, biodegradable wet wipes, cloth nappies… I’ve even washed all the baby clothes and re-folded them in their drawer in piles of ‘types’ (ie. all singlets together, all onesies together etc).  I’ve read all the books I wanted to – Michel Odent, Sarah J Buckley, Pam England, Ina May Gaskin and so many more than I didn’t have on my list but were lent to me by my midwife.

Speaking of the midwife, she asked me an interesting question at our appointment yesterday: what do you plan to do for pain relief?  I was slightly taken aback, I have to admit, because I’m having the baby at home, probably in a pool – I mean, there is no pain relief, or at least no real external intervention.  I just assumed that because I’m giving birth at home, we won’t think about the pain as real pain per se, it’s more about the psychology of birth and how I’ll turn off my brain that registers that pain and work with it to give birth smoothly and as I’m meant to.  I can’t ever imagine being in enough pain to want to have, say, an epidural.  The idea of someone sticking a thick needle in my spine in order to inject fluid that will numb my legs is far more frightening than being torn in two to allow a baby to pass through… I know, it probably sounds weird, but I only feel like this because I think of vaginal birth as natural, but an epidural as very unnatural.  So what happens naturally in birth is ‘right’, but what is caused by external intervention is ‘wrong’.  It’s just how I think of it, what works for me.

It’s true, I haven’t done the preparation I expected to do, like prenatal yoga and meditation.  I didn’t read the Hypnobirthing book or Calmbirth, and I don’t have specific techniques for breathing or noises or focusing or positioning that I plan to use.  I have read about so many different ways of doing things, and the way I see it, I’m really good at listening to my body and what it needs so I will do what it asks of me.  My pain threshold, or more precisely, my ability to deal with pain is pretty high; especially this kind of pain.  Of course I’ll also listen to what others say, especially the midwife, as her experience is really why I hired her.  I am also acutely aware of my family history in birth and that no woman on either side of my family has ever had a caesarean or a really complicated pregnancy or birth.  The worst to happen was stillborn babies or miscarriages, and there were always clear causes – alcohol, cigarettes, bad diet, advanced maternal age.  I also think babies come when it’s time, when they want to be here, and this one really desperately wants to be here.  I think it’s like its daddy, impatient, full of energy and desperate to connect!

My prediction for the birth date?  17 May.  This will be three days past my due date, and a full moon, so that’s when I’m expecting to at least have some movement.  I’ve thought for the last few days that things are happening because of the lack of movement and the deep ache in my pelvis, but I know I won’t go into labour before the 40 weeks.  I occasionally have odd ‘scared’ feelings, usually just after I get into bed with my husband.  I feel a little overwhelmed at what I’m about to go through and what might happen.  It’s purely fear of the unknown and it’s okay.  I just keep focusing on the fact that baby will arrive, eventually, it will come out and I will have a baby, one way or another.  So one day this will be over.  One day soon in fact.  I just hope it is the transforming and rewarding experience I have heard it is, and I hope I have the capacity to stay calm, tune into my body and my baby, and let them do their work.

Finishing work

I’ve been looking forward to finishing up at work for a while now. It seems great, right?  Fantastic, I don’t have to drive in peak hour traffic any more, I don’t have to get up early, I don’t have to do that 9-5 thing every day! I’m free! I’ve always been very lazy, lacking in motivation, and if I had the chance to avoid any kind of work or effort, I’d do it.  But now I have the chance to potentially not work for the foreseeable future, just in the last week (my final week at work) it’s begun to get scarier!

It’s really crept up on me, suddenly I realised this is it, this is the end!  Everyone says, oh but you’ll have plenty of work when baby arrives, but it’s not the same.  As lazy as I am, I’ve been earning my own money since age 18 and I’ve been self-sufficient for so long.  I might have written about it before but I felt growing up like no one was there for me, and I had to fend for myself, at least emotionally.  I wasn’t happy to go along with the way my mum did things, I didn’t want to eat what she ate or do what she did, so I found my own way.  And she didn’t rein me in, she let me go as and when I felt like it.  I’m not sure if this was good or not really, it might have seemed like the right thing to do for a kid like me.

So this is the first time in my life when I’m really going to hand over the practical reins to someone else.  And I couldn’t have chosen a better person that my husband to do it, he is so incredibly organised and so supportive, just an awesome person all round.  But wow, is it hard or what!  I’m not going to be earning any money (no maternity leave, given I was on contract), so any bills and payments for my house will be my husband’s responsibility.  Which is okay, given it’s his house too, now we’re married, but still, I feel uncomfortable about placing that burden on him.

Today was officially my last day at work.  Last night, it really hit home in a big way.  Husband was off at happy hour at the pub, as he normally is on Thursday nights, and I encourage him to do it if he wants to, especially as he might not get to do that stuff for a while once baby arrives.  But I really needed him to be home and comfort me, just tell me the money situation will work out, somehow.  I was poised for one of my famous meltdowns, which have come upon me at random throughout pregnancy.  And the absolute worst thing I could have done is watch Revolutionary Road… but because I wanted to delete it from our digital recorder, where it’s been sitting for many months, and I knew husband wasn’t too interested in watching it, I decided to watch it.

Great movie, don’t get me wrong, good acting from both Leo and Kate, although I was slightly unconvinced by them as a couple – she seems a bit older than him or something, I can’t quite work it out.  But wow, I couldn’t have chosen a more upsetting movie to watch in my fragile state.  Imagine, I’m almost 36 weeks pregnant, and I’m watching a film which ends *spoiler alert* with a woman attempting to give herself an abortion and bleeding to death!  Not to mention the comments the movie made about relationships, communication and trust… it was great, but not good to watch.

So by the time husband finally arrived home, slightly intoxicated and armed with a couple of meat pies he wolfed down upon arrival, I was in a pretty delicate state.  All I wanted was for him to ask me what was wrong, to listen to me, to hug me and tell me everything would be fine, and take me to bed, but instead he began one of his ranty, drunken one-way conversations which involves me just shutting him out, due to sheer frustration.  The problem is, when he’s drunk, he thinks he’s fine, but really he’s completely impossible to deal with and his conversations make absolutely no sense although he is completely adamant he’s saying something really important and profound!  Normally I just roll my eyes and ignore it, but this time I stormed out after shouting at him and took myself to bed.  Of course he came and apologised, and he apologised again today, and I forgive him, it wasn’t entirely his fault.  It was just the intensity of my fear around finishing work that really frightened me, and I needed some help to deal with it in the moment.  Which is rare for me, I usually just get over things alone.

Today was an odd day, strange to be finishing work and knowing I’m not going back, not going to another job, saying goodbye to a really great bunch of people and an easy yet interesting job.  I have been extremely lucky really, to get to where I am, and it’s just not getting maternity leave that’s contributing to the freak out even more.

As I parked and got out of the car this morning, and I heard a hissing noise; I looked down and noticed the back tyre had a huge bolt stuck in it, and was going down in front of my eyes!  I couldn’t believe it, what random bad luck, and why now, why here?  I’ve had that happen one other time, almost ten years ago now, when I was driving manically to be at the birth of my good friend’s baby.  I heard something and felt the steering change, and I knew my tyre was flat but I had to get to her place, so I just kept driving on a flat tyre and somehow I made it without damaging the wheel (even though there was a scraping noise every time I went round a corner)!  I remember I called my boyfriend at the time and he and his dad came round and changed the tyre for me.  So this time, I realised I’d have to call roadside assistance.  Normally I’d never dream of it, I can change a tyre; but being so pregnant, it’s just not an option.  So I thought, well, I’ll worry about it at the end of the day.

I gathered my things together, submitted my final timesheet, and called the NRMA about half an hour before I planned to leave, thinking it’d take a while for them to get to me in peak hour traffic on a Friday afternoon.  As I prepared to leave, my phone rang and the guy was only a few minutes away!  I told him I’d be there as soon as I could.  I said my goodbyes, feeling entirely surreal and not having enough time to take in my last views of my office and the university grounds, and I walked as fast as I could to the car, parked about 10-15 minutes away.  The guy was there when I arrived, having already jacked up the back side of the car, and I handed him my keys.  I noticed straight away he had the kindest, loveliest young face, and his manner was so calm; he wasn’t in the least bit put out at having to wait, and was more concerned that I stayed curbside and away from any oncoming traffic.  Of course he asked about my pregnancy, saying he’d ‘been there, done that’.  And then something clicked; he began to tell me that literally days ago he’d turned 30 and the day after he’d found out his wife was pregnant!  Only 4 or 5 weeks along.  What was especially interesting was that she has Crohn’s disease.  I don’t know a lot about it, but I know it’s debilitating and doesn’t go away.  We just got along, chatted about having babies, and contraception – he blamed the ‘franger’!  He said they’d been together 10 years, never had a problem, but suddenly the world had shifted and somehow she was pregnant.  He said she’d also recovered from leukaemia, so had a bad run of things health-wise.  I normally would think things but not say them, however this time I just blurted out, ‘well you never know, maybe the pregnancy will help her Crohn’s,’ and he said funny you should say that because pregnancy actually cancels out the disease all together; that had happened during the last pregnancy.  It was an incredible connection we had because we didn’t know each other, yet we were telling each other these relatively intimate things.  Normally you’d wait and not tell people about pregnancy until that magic 12 week mark.  I ended up telling him about how random our conception was, how I couldn’t believe that it is possible to be on the pill for 18 months solid and get pregnant within four days of being unprotected!  And we both talked about how we know lots of couples who are trying so hard to fall pregnant, seemingly nothing wrong, yet somehow it just doesn’t happen for them.  It was an incredible conversation we had, as he changed my tyre, quite surreal, and I know he had the same experience.  When he was done and we said goodbye, he looked like he wanted to hug me, like we’d bonded in a few minutes, had this amazing connection!  It was just utterly bizarre.

The baby shower enigma

34 weeks. Finally I’m starting to feel slightly tired and heavy, even though everyone said, ‘just wait til you hit 28 weeks, you’ll be exhausted!’  I’m fine, just noticing things are a bit of an effort.  And sleeping is not as comfortable as it once was, despite my newly acquired body pillow – husband with jimmy arms which step up a level after a few beers is also not conducive to comfy sleep!

So I had a ‘baby shower blessingway thingo’ (as I’ve awkwardly dubbed it) on Sunday.  I was reluctant to have it, for a number of reasons:

1. I’m not an organiser – do I really have to do stuff?

2. I’m not a good socialiser – love people, especially people who make sense to me, but socialising really takes effort for me, being the proper anti-social introvert.

3. I don’t like being the centre of attention.

4. I don’t like clichés and silly, girly banter – I like things down to earth.

5. I’m not that keen on ‘baby stuff’, oohing and aahing over supposedly cute outfits etc.  Babies in general I don’t really know what to do with and I’m not really that interested.

6. I find the whole ‘motherhood’, fawning over babies, talking about babies constantly to be a little full on and not ‘me’, despite the fact that I’m ridiculously excited about meeting this little person currently poking his/her elbow into my right hip bone.

7. I’m not good with ‘women’ stuff – being in homebirth circles you end up inevitably connecting with women who have rituals about their periods, worship the ‘Goddess’, do women’s workshops and consider themselves feminists.  I am completely happy to be female (way better than male, der!) but I don’t feel the need to draw attention to being a woman.  It is what it is, I am who I am, meh…

So it was with some fairly harsh pre-conceived notions and scepticism that I agreed to having a get together organised.  Luckily the friend who did it is absolutely freaking awesome, so incredibly creative and clever, and has a similar sort of ‘no crap’ kind of attitude to me, so I knew she’d do something that fits me.

Because it was in Canberra, where I grew up, I found myself inviting people who I hadn’t seen in a really long time, as well as people who I see quite often.  It was bizarre seeing all those different people in the one context.  My mum was there too.

Oddly enough, it turned out to be absolutely amazing.  We didn’t hold any hippy women’s rituals, nor did we play games involving bottles and nappies.  But it was perfect.  I realised what a mix of women I know and consider important, and how each had things in common with the other, via me.  Everyone participated in their own way, for me, and the various things people said and did all resonated and meant something.  I still can’t believe all those people came along just for me.

As we drove home I suddenly realised the purpose of a baby shower or blessingway or ‘get together thingo’, whatever you want to call it… This baby is going to be born fairly soon, and this get together just helped round it all out for me.  I felt so warm and fuzzy, it was ridiculous, so content, like I’d tied up all my loose ends and could just retreat into birth world and do what I was meant to do.  What a feeling!  On a practical level, no, I haven’t tied up all the loose ends, far from it in fact; but on a spiritual level I feel so ready, it’s insane, it’s like this perfect progression from woman to mother is occurring, and I’m completely content with it.