Sleep Success and Some Dodgy Mothering

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Sweet Sleep

Sweet Sleep

A few weeks ago now I had dinner with a couple of girlfriends and was encouraged to take some more “me time”. I had to laugh at the suggestion (on the inside of course) but did my very best to take on the encouragement and went to the movies with Bella. You may remember the fallout from last time I was here. It wasn’t good.

Exasperated, I tried to explain to my girlfriends that the real struggle I had, head and shoulders above the rest, was sleep deprivation which made little challenges like a crying baby in a movie almost unbearable to deal with.

Unfortunately, a sleeping baby seems to be the pin up of good parenting, the holy grail if you will. I’ve written about this all before. But it seems that by some miracle, Bella heard the conversation I had with my girlfriends, heard the desperation in my voice and saw the tears and decided that very night to sleep the whole time I decided to. She has continued to do so ever since. In fact, she seems to have transformed into this little snuggle bug who at about 9 o’clock each evening, presents herself to me on the floor face down, asking for a massage. When she decides she’s had enough, she turns around, climbs onto my lap for a kiss goodnight and then motions for her bed.

This is what I would class as an almost supernatural occurrence of masterful proportions. And you know what? I’m as proud as punch. I’m proud because I stuck to my guns for the last 14 months and continued to feed, cuddle and sleep with her when others told me not to. I did it even when I was exhausted and teary and even when my doctor told me my lack of rest was becoming dangerous given my history of depression. But what makes me so proud is that despite being warned that my constant responsiveness to her (or spoiling) would render her needy and insecure without me, she now after sleeping with me and then just in my room, sleeps happily in her cot. FOR THE NIGHT!

Oh sweet sleep. How I had longed for thee.

Now after some gratuitous pats on my own back I have discovered a new delight I hadn’t anticipated. I’m not crazy after all. I’ve started reading again, planning for the future and worrying about how I look. Ok, the last bit isn’t so great but it certainly does indicate I am thinking more about me and less about all things Bella. I hadn’t realised that getting up so many times a night had left me feeling a little bit like the walking dead. I’m excited, that’s all I’m saying.

Here’s the thing, since I’ve become a mother and realised how truly challenging it can be I have become a lot less judgemental about how other people live their lives. I’ve done things on my own parenting travels which I’m not proud of and which quite frankly I’d rather keep quiet. As my sister puts it, “who cares if you use a dummy (pacifier) or not, what are we all fighting about?!”

We rarely put it out there, the things we’re not proud of. It’s hard to admit that you may parent occasionally in a way that is not synonymous with how you see yourself. Is it okay to be an “attachment parent” and use a dummy (pacifier)? Is it okay to bottle feed and co-sleep? You catch my drift. We are so nervous about being judged by other mums and so intent on keeping up the air of maternal perfection, we don’t share with the very people who just may be able to sympathise. Here are some of my insecurities, in no particular order:

I bottle fed. When Bella was on the breast, I cried every time she was crying, knowing I would have to put her on and became terrified of her because it hurt so much. I used a dummy from the very first moment I couldn’t soothe Bella on my own (she is now pretty much addicted to said dummy). I regularly give Bella processed cheese (She loves it what can I say). She watches television (there, I said it). When she was really tiny, sometimes she’s stay in her bouncer for hours because I was so tired. Sometimes when she’s bored and whinging, I give her a snack even though I’m pretty sure she’s not hungry. She regularly plays with my iPhone. Sometimes she’s tugging at my pants for attention and I ignore it because I’m looking at Facebook. I once found her playing with my razor; more specifically “brushing her hair” with the razor (you can imagine…). She once drank my coffee when I was out of the room and was buzzing for hours (totally weird she liked it I know). I used to drink heavily and dump my milk, giving her formula just so I could go out. My husband dropped her in the bath one night. I regularly turn five consecutive pages of a book at once hoping she won’t notice because I can’t be bothered reading to her. I’ve smelt her nappy first and pretended I hadn’t till the Toolman does. At times I have longed to be alone without her. At times I have longed for my life before her.

But all the time I have loved her. And I have done a lot well too. I know we are not supposed to say that. We’re not supposed to tell each other that we think we are good mothers and we’re certainly not supposed to tell each other what we do that’s a bit dodgy.

But today I am telling you and I’m also saying that on the sleep front, things have finally worked out for us. I made an informed choice about how to manage my lack of sleep  and I’m so glad I persisted in following my instincts. It may change and I really hope it doesn’t but for now, I’m a happy, sometimes dodgy mama.

So whatever your thing is, try telling someone around you. Tell them what you’re embarrassed about and tell them what you do well. We don’t have to be perfect. You never know, they may just do the same.

*If are struggling with sleep and would like some more info on why I chose the to refrain from using sleep traingin techniques, you can follow this link.

http://www.pinky-mychild.com/sleep/sleep-articles/the-con-of-controlled-crying

 

Battle of the Tantrums: Our Day at the Movies.

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The lead up was big enough in itself. I had decided that I was going to take Bella and I on a little date to the movies. Where I live the local cinema has “mums and bubs” sessions where you can see current release movies and pretend that life goes on after you have baby. Wrong. Well, wrong for me anyway.

Now I really should start by declaring that as much as I thought I would be an “easy-going” mother, I fear I’m more of a nervous nelly. Mothers like me are generally not revered in parenting circles. Not only do we need to breastfeed, co-sleep and parent “consciously” these days, it seems we also need to approach the whole affair with an air of Bob-Marley-come-Miranda-Kerr “zen-ness” which sees these types of mothers slide graciously into their role.

I’m more the neurotic and tearful type of mother which means I literally want to puke up my lunch when I leave Bella for more than an hour or so. I was also the mother that packed a small suitcase to go to the shops when Bella was younger simply because I was acutely afraid that she may want or need something and I needed to have whatever it was with me to satiate whatever that need or want  was at exactly the moment it appeared. So you can imagine the mental preparation it took for me to come around to the idea that I could take her to a movie.

The Toolman implored me to go, told me to take some time to do something nice for me. So last night I excitedly made a lunch box for us to take, packed only a few nappies and one small rug and went to bed with the anticipatory excitement of a child before their first day of school. I got dressed this morning in normal big kids clothes as opposed to the mummy uniform I wear everyday and applied makeup. Was definitely on a roll.

It started well. We arrived early, I had a coffee and bought an extra snack to take with us. I didn’t think about requesting an appropriate seat to be with the pram so was allocated one right in the middle of the cinema. Problem you ask? No, I’m all easy breezy you see and I’m just running with it at this stage.

A slight little twinge of anxiety began when other mothers started rolling in and they had all brought newborns asleep in their prams. Not a toddler in sight. Good on them I thought. But then these sadistic nutters who don’t even have kids started rolling in. It was about this time that Bella realised that in the aisles on both sides there were stairs. Ok I thought, no problem, we’ll just go and sit right down the bottom where there is a large area and she can crawl around down there. Sure, I’ll be so close to the screen I’ll get a headache but beggers can’t be choosers, so off we went.

Now dear daughter has realised she can climb a proverbial mountain of stairs, very quickly mind you, right to the top. She hasn’t mastered crawling down yet so she proceeded to teeter at the very top, threatening to make a 15 metre tumble to the bottom. I spent a good fifteen minutes running up and down quietly apologising when people couldn’t see over me. I tried sitting with her on my lap, lying down, standing up. None of it settled her.

Deciding there had to be a better way, I put Bella in her pram which provoked the biggest all out tantrums of the century. In and out she went from the pram for another ten minutes, now in a real state. Knowing she was tired, I tried to feed her and I can now hear whispers of “They need to turn the volume up”. I decided to attempt to get her to sleep outside in the pram and so walked her up and down the theatre entrance for thirty minutes, Bella screaming all the while. Thirty minutes…just ponder that for a moment, thirty minutes.

I’ve never felt angry before. I’ve been sad and tired but never felt outright angry about having a child. Didn’t she realise this would be magnificent if she was just asleep as I knew she actually wanted to be at this hour? Didn’t she realise the effort it took for me to do this? Didn’t she realise I really needed this.

And then I was crying too because I feel like I’ve failed at this. Because I can’t see myself in this anymore. Because I can’t manage what others seem to.

I called the Toolman to vent and he told me that these sessions were made for this type of thing. I shouldn’t worry if she’s crying, everyone will understand.

I hung up on him.

I called my sister and my best friend. No answer.

I looked at Bell staring up at me and felt suddenly a huge divide. I felt like she had won a battle and for the first time I didn’t want to be around her. On top of that, I had let her cry in her pram instead of picking her up which I know is all she really wanted. And then the tears really did flow.

You know those moments in movies (which I of course HAVEN’T seen) where a tearful mums totally disgraces herself in public and everyone around her just assumes she has a touch of post natal depression? Bingo! You’ve really got the picture now.

So we left. I waited in line at the ticket office, tears flowing and asked for a refund. The poor teenage boy wouldn’t dare refuse. We got in the car and came home. As the movie still runs and maybe some or all of the mums are left watching it, I’m here writing this and Bella is blissfully unaware have a nap.

My silly tears are still flowing and it’s all over a movie for heaven’s sake. I’m not really sure what lesson I learnt from it all. I may even be silly enough to try it again one day. I’m starting to think it was silly to even attempt it in the first place.

But most of all, right now, I’m having one of the biggest all out tantrums of my own.

Raising Healthy Girls and the Diet Trap

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Bella out with her friend Ninja: Making health and exercise part of our life

Bella out with her friend Ninja: Making health and exercise part of our life

“Bread goes straight to the hips Bella” my friend caught me saying this morning.

“I thought you weren’t going to talk to Bella like that” she said. Busted. Big time. There I was perpetuating the generational cycle again. Message given: bread bad but delicious, therefore should be eaten in large amounts behind closed doors in a binge like fashion. Not to mention the message about a woman’s hips needing to be a certain shape.

Those who have followed this blog will remember my entries about weight loss. What I have failed to mention here lately is that since Bella was born I have been trying to shed the weight that I gained whilst pregnant.

Let me recap quickly for you. 2007: got married. 2008: became depressed and spent the best part of 18 months rotting away in a psychiatric unit trying to recover but nonetheless, gained 40 kilos in the process (talk about “blowing out” after marriage right?). 2010: got well on the road to recovery, jumped back into life and started down the weight loss path and lost 30 kilos by Christmas 2011. 2012: carried Bella to term and somehow managed to put it all back on.

Now I know what you’re thinking, why did I do it to myself again? Well I can honestly say, I had no idea it was happening. I didn’t own scales at the time and as my big belly grew, the fact that my ass was growing at the same time seemed to elude me. Sure, I couldn’t fit into my clothes but wasn’t that a product of the pregnancy? Apparently not.

So a couple of months after having Bella I procured some scales and was absolutely astounded to see that I had gained over 25 kilos. No, it wasn’t fluid and she was a few months old at that point so it definitely wasn’t her. It was just fat. Friggin fat..again! Deep breath.

Before I fell pregnant I was ten kilos away from my goal weight which by the way was not thin but very comfortable. Having Bella has just put a little stumble block in the way of returning to that goal. The good news is that I have managed to lose 22 of those kilos since that dreaded day on the scales a few months after she was born. But I now have to finish what I started in 2010 and lose that extra ten and get back into wedding dress shape.

But I’m so darn tired of it. I’m tired of this being an issue and I’m tired of being in the proverbial no man’s land when it comes to shopping (every other size 16 woman on the planet knows what I mean when I say this!). But most of all, this little problem needs to be nipped in the bud quick sticks if I’m to set a great example for Bella.

Just to be clear, the example I’m aiming for is not to be thin and beautiful. It’s to be healthy and happy. I’m a short woman so pushing 80 kilos around is not healthy and it certainly ain’t happy. So for the last six months I’ve been pushing the pram up and down hills, over creeks and under bridges. I even went to a Zumba class for seniors last week for heaven’s sake (which by the way was delightful)!

But all that aside, as well as the self-ingratiating sentiment that by doing all this I am somehow being a good mother, I went along this morning and managed to demonstrate that I really haven’t got the picture yet.

So how do we raise these girls of ours then? I read a quote from Kate Winslet that said “As a child I never heard one woman say to me I love my body…no one woman ever said I am so proud of my body. So I make sure to say it to Mia because a positive outlook has to start at an early age”. This quote had quite an effect on me and for some time I tried to follow suit. I started small and told Bella that I really like my fingers and then slowly ventured up to telling her I liked my tummy.

But it felt weird and it went against everything I have been taught about modesty. Perhaps it isn’t right to raise a little girl who goes into interactions with other little girls talking about how beautiful she is anyway? But mainly, I’m not a liar and my stomach resembles more of a circus act than anything else. Like the rest of me, it’s just hanging around waiting for the plastic surgeon to arrive.

Perhaps the best thing is to not mention anything at all; not food, not my fingers, not even my curly mop which Bella seems to have been blessed with as well. Maybe by some sheer luck of the draw she will be a confident little girl despite all the images she sees in the media and her mother’s venomous dislike of her body. But I doubt it.

I fear it’s my job to do this one thing right. And all I know right now is that it starts with those hills and that pram and the last ten kilos so that Bella only knows a mother on the beach who is bouncing around in all her stretch-marked glory with confidence, rather than hiding under an oversized caftan. And while I’m at it, there’s only so much holding-the-camera-above-your-head-whilst-simultaneously-pulling-your-chin-out-and-placing-your-hand-on-your-hip can do for the Christmas photos. Perhaps if I’m happy though, she’ll know no other condition but to be such.

With some embarrassment I’m owning up to my folly during pregnancy and making the public resolution I made here some three years ago. This weight has got to go.

So all together now, collective sigh….Here’s to 2013 and lacy knickers.

P.s. G-srings, boxers, briefs, (new addition of Spanx) and nudies also welcome.

The Friend Zone: Catching Mums

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“I’m just really loving life, reallllly loving it. I’m just looking forward to everything you know? Everything!”

Ok, I admit it, I was being a little bit enthusiastic about life this afternoon. And the bounce in my step as I brought the jug of water to the dinner table, forcing some of the watery contents to spill over the side was just unfortunate timing, making me look a little crazy. Isn’t a girl allowed to be chipper?

Unfortunately for me, this time last week I was in such serious doldrums that I declared “Nobody loved me” and I couldn’t possibly see how I would get through the year.  This paired with the slightly manic bouncing with said jug of water resulted in the rather sobering response from the Toolman, “Mmm Hmm” which is husband speak for “Don’t take this seriously, her mood is likely to change with the wind”.

Ok, fair call. I have been known to be a little unstable in the past but I’m telling you, I’m on the up and up. But in order to be up, one must be down.

Enter the doldrums of last week…

Being in the southern hemisphere and therefore approaching the ass end of summer (not including the randomly hot days we get in March), it’s fair to say my friends around me have started to settle back into their normal routines and are far less, “Sure lets meet in the park tomorrow, sounds delightful!”. The Toolman was back to normal working hours by mid Jan and by the end of last week I was feeling lonely and isolated. No amount of positive reinforcement was going to help, I needed some extra company.

Mothers love to tell newly pregnant woman all of their tips and tricks of how to do things. Don’t fight it ladies, it seems to be some sort of strange biological imperative. It’s usually about bottle warmers or prams or maybe on a particularly bad day about “storing sleep”. Just nod politely at these ones and listen close to this one word of advice that I guarantee will get you through. It’s a real cracker …

As soon as you find that test to be positive, con as many amiable women around you to fall pregnant as quickly as possible. A best friend would be great, a work colleague will do, just make sure you cast your net really wide. You’re going to need them. But don’t need them so much they can smell your desperation…

You see, in the last year I realise now I have been focussing my attentions on people around me who are not available. Nice, loving but for whatever reason, not available.

“Why don’t they call?” I’d ask the Toolman. I foolishly thought that when I had a baby people would constantly be visiting (and lets face it, bringing me cake). And some did and for that I am so bone grateful I could cry. Others didn’t and I suppose for some silly reason that I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of yet, I thought they would. I assumed it was my turn to be visited. But mainly, I’m just too darn young to have any girlfriends who have started their families and women who have gone before me into motherhood have moved on. My sister had to go and get a silly job last year and my dear cousin is now returning back to work. So I’m existing in a bit of a vacuum.

But you know what I’ve realised. People are busy with their own lives. They’re just getting by themselves, needing the people in their life to make allowances too. And you know what? I’m not that damn important!

So I decided to pull myself together. If I couldn’t find anyone to play with, I’d just get on out there, just Bella and I. So I’ve been walking and walking and walking some more. I walk everywhere. And this morning, a friend with a bub met me for a walk. And then when I was walking home, another friend with a bub saw me and “yoo hoo-ed” out her window and asked me to have a coffee. And then this arvo, another girlfriend with a bub invited me to the zoo. You see what just happened there? It’s taken me a while to figure it out I know.

And you know the best thing about all this? My face was make up free, I was in my “gym gear” throughout it all (P.s. Stay at home mums rarely go to the gym. Stretchy pants are just really comfy) and not one of these other mums bat an eyelid.

It’s ok to talk about teething and raspberry stains unselfconsciously. It’s absolutely normal to stop half way through a conversation to attend to a child only to pick it up again immediately without offending someone. And best of all, other mums understand that when you say you’re going to sneeze, it’s perfectly normal to all stop mid walk and cross your legs.

So yes Toolman, I am really loving life today. I’m more optimistic about the coming year, even if no one is around for coffee next week. I feel good today simply because I’ve spoken with friends and felt understood. Chatted around the proverbial water cooler.

We may be the boring people in the supermarket aisle, with dollops of yoghurt on our stretchy pants or the over animated mums at music class but inside we’re the amusing people of yesteryear. Don’t let the appearance fool you, we may even be quite good company.

And just like I have learnt in recent times, there just might be a special friendship in the making…

Inadequacies of Motherhood

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She won't remember this but I will.

She won’t remember this but I will.

I’ve been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to write for weeks. After anticipating that I would be receiving a laptop for Christmas from the Toolman, I was looking forward to the prospect that it would enable me to write more. Currently, I have to take off to the office to write and raising Bella rarely allows it. Needless to say I wasn’t even slightly perturbed when instead of a laptop I was presented with a diamond ring to mark the successful first year of Bella’s life. Complaining? … Not!Following other blogs as part of my morning coffee ritual has left me itching even more for the opportunity to get back here. But I have also been left with a rather uncomfortable “blog inadequacy”.  I’ve moved in the past year into the “mommy blog” domain and thus am confronted daily with articles and ideas for balancing life, feeding toddlers, baby wearing and co-sleeping.  Mothering can now be done in a “style” and a larger than life market has been developed to largely make us all feel rather inadequate. You think the celeb magazines are bad? Pick up a parenting one and you are guaranteed to feel undermined.

I’ve only started thinking about all this in the last couple of days when I had to admit to myself that the reason I hadn’t written was that I was waiting for something to happen, something noteworthy to share. Something really exciting that didn’t start with “Today Bella ……….. for the first time”.

(Insert tumbleweeds here).

Everywhere I look there seems to be change on the horizon. Friends expecting second babies, people returning to work or study, starting a project of some sort. Here I am with Bella, just us, most days. And it seems that there is a whole industry designed to make me feel uncomfortable with this.

No one ever says to me, “That must me great”. I usually get, “Well if you don’t have to return to work, good for you” (only another woman could understand why this stings), “What do you do all day?” or my personal favourite, “Do you socialise her?”, like she’s a Rottweiler.

Just to be really really clear about it, this isn’t a blog about how a parent should be at home just because that is what I am doing. That would actually be giving me more credit that I am due. You see, being a mother at home (do we still use the phrase “stay at home mum?”) just came about for me as a result of an assumption both the toolman and I made. In that way I know I am lucky; as well as wanting this gig, I’m also with a man who wants it for me too.

Now more than ever I am venturing into unfamiliar domains. The first year of Bell’s life was undoubtedly the most transformative and difficult time of my adult life (and believe me, I’ve had some doozies)! But in a way, it was clear what my role was. Especially because I was expressing full time, my days were structured and ran on a four hour pumping routine. For this reason and because I was permanently sleep deprived, my wings were rather clipped.

Since her birthday though, we seem to have come into a whole new space. I’m not longer feeding; she’s crawling and standing and seems to understand most of what I say. This morning I found her trying to put on my socks and when I asked her to bring me my shoes, she crawled over and diligently did her best to drag them to me. I’ve gone from living with a mute stranger to having a permanently attached miniature version of myself who appears to have the same sense of humour (minus the vulgarity…give it time).

It would be too easy to simply list all the things I do in a day that occupy my time; we all know it’s a full time job looking after a child. It’s simply that all of these tasks put together at the end of the day, have little noticeable effect on anyone but the two of us. How interesting is it to anyone else that today I spent a good 45 minutes with two plastic cups, teaching Bell the art of chinking glasses and making a toast to the enthusiastic “Cheers!” of her mother. Or that I fancied myself a bit of a queen when I mastered the art of walking with the pram whilst reading a book to Bell at the same time. Hence, the blogging hiatus.

I have felt so confused that I have even considered returning to work after I received an offer from my old boss and mentor. Not because the idea really appealed to me but simply because I thought that in years to come Bella may be more appreciative that her mother was a “career woman”, rendering me utterly exotic in her eyes (I grew up in the 80s so the image of women with massive shoulder pads and brief cases still sends a tingle down my spine). But as the Toolman eloquently put it, if I did take up any more demands simply to satisfy a little girls fantasy that may or may not exist, he’d “never hear the end of it”.

So this will be our 2013. It will be about walks and books and music and weetbix. All of those things are now my social currency. I’m not the woman heroically juggling work and motherhood. I’m not the mother who runs a successful business from home. I’m not even the mother who runs bake sales. I’m the mother of a one year old and nothing else.  I usually love it, I often tire from it, and without doubt, most of the time can see the funny side (think calls to the Doctor concerning suspected radioactive blue poo after a blueberry incident).

So here we are, radioactive poo and all.

Cheers!

Birthday Celebration

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Lovely Bella

Dear Bella,

Me again. Today is your first birthday and before I go off to bed I feel compelled to write to you once more.

It’s been a quiet day, namely because we decided to celebrate your birthday in a rather unorthodox fashion. Last night, we gathered all of our friends and family and had an Adults Only birthday celebration for you. You were dressed in a beautiful pink dress and as you greeted guests with a beautiful smile, I poured them gin. We then poured wine…and champagne….and then there were jelly shots. When you look back when you’re a little bit older and wonder why there were fifty drunk adults at a 1st birthday, I’ll tell it to you straight, as I’ve always promised to do.

You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. You have brought me a sense of pride that I have never before felt. Together we experience a love that I have never before really understood. But lovely Bella, the last year quite simply brought out the best and took the best from me. As I have said before, motherhood came as quite the shock and in an effort to never let you sense my unease, I’ve worked extra hard to be a good mother to you.  As much as you have been growing and developing and learning to read me and the world around you, my adventure into motherhood has also been unfolding. I will happily hand out gold medals for all those mothers who have found it a little easier; I’m happy to raise my hand and collect a bronze on this one.

If I have done a good job, you probably won’t have any memory of this time at all. The perfume I wear today may trigger a feeling in years to come and I can only hope it will be a good one. You won’t remember the past year Bella but I will remember this time for the rest of my life. Those delicious tiny toes, the nape of your neck, the way your rock back and forth to music, your hysterical laughter at bath time.

But I will also remember that you have singlehandedly changed me; made me mother. So yes, you have grown but I have had to stop still years into my life and accept change, become stronger and mother you.

It’s for this reason that parents the world over cry with relief when their child turns one. It marks a celebration of love and transformation. It’s about accepting change and understanding that a life with a baby can be so much fuller if you just give into the rhythm of it. It was only fitting then that we throw a party for us as well Bella! We had a beautiful night with beautiful food and flowing drinks! Our friends stood around our pink Christmas tree themed just for you and we made a toast and sang you Happy Birthday before you were whisked away for an overnight stay with your Nani.

There will be plenty of years for your party antics. I promise to throw you a great sweet sixteen but last night was for us. I can assure you that every other day is yours.

Happy Birthday my darling. My only wish for us is that we can celebrate your birthday together until I am very old and very grey.

(Accounting for the few years in between when you’ll be way too cool to hang out with me!!).

Yours always,

Ma xxx

Birthing Bella

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Bella One Day Old...Bless!

Dear Bella,

We celebrate your first birthday next week and the last year with you has been playing on   my mind for days. More specifically, your challenging and rewarding birth has been weighing heavily. At night as I doze off to sleep I think about the day you were born and the days leading up to it. Over the space of three days, I brought you into the world, was transformed by you and became your mother. This is how it happened.

You will no doubt learn over the years through stories that become family folk lore that I had intended to labour with you in our home. Having set up a birth pool and surrounding myself with affirmations for birth, I waited patiently as my due date (which I have since learnt should be called a guess date) passed us by. I was still attending hospital visits in the clinic at the Royal Womens and at 40weeks, 10 days and having avoided an induction by the skin of my teeth, I started a regime of acupuncture and herbs to induce labour.

By this time, having been given all the fear mongering advice from the hospital, I had agreed that by 42 weeks, if you hadn’t arrived, I would artificially induce. Chinese medicine was my back up plan and I intended to use it. So I spent that Saturday, two days overdue with needles in my back and feet, hooked up to an electrical pulse to stimulate labour. With an induction date set for Wednesday, I figured that daily acupuncture till then would help you along. In hindsite it was a mistake as you were snug as a bug and reluctant to move!

By 6 o’clock that night, within ten minutes of each other, I was feeling what was undeniably the slow rise and fall of contractions. Irritated on my back and side, they were strong enough to have me on my knees a lot of the time. Saturday and Sunday night I was able to dose through the contractions which would slow and then return in ten and twently minute intervals. Every hour that passed I was sure that they would strengthen and you would only be another day away. “Baby by morning” I said each night as I went to bed but I was growing more and more tired and in truth, frightened.

Monday morning I returned for more acupuncture and returned home to bed where your Nani was waiting for me. She would rub my back through contractions and in between, we’d laugh excitedly and eat cut up pieces of peach and nectarine that your father brought us. “This is happening” your Nani told me and I was sure that you would be only 12 hours away each time. Confused, we called our midwife Mal to come over. By early evening I was  in tears and questioning my ability to keep going. I knew that labour hadn’t become established at all but I was now a few days behind on sleep and worried about being strong enough. Mal told me that sometimes acupuncture does little to stimulate advanced labour but can simply irritate the cervix to dilate consistently but not get beyond 1 or 2cm. Great news! I was so furious that I hadn’t trusted my body and now felt that I had wasted too much energy on getting nowhere. Perhaps I should have just waited for the induction all along?

At this stage it seemed so ironic that my house was filled with positive birthing affirmations and the birth pool laughed at me, inflated and all ready to go. I had my homeopathics out, my Gatorade at the ready, some lollies to give me energy when things got hard. Why weren’t things happening? If I went to the hospital for an induction, all that would be wasted and I would be strapped to the bed for monitoring. This was all unravelling out of my control so quickly.

But birth Bella is not like an exam that you can pass or fail. It doesn’t happen the way you always want it to and there is a lesson there I am sure. Now, with some distance away from that time I can say that I was so scared Bella. I had no idea what to expect, could not be prepared from the books I had read and I was frightened in a way I had never been before. I wanted to make your father proud, you proud, me proud and had so many expectations of myself that looking back, were really only setting me up to be heartbroken.

The statistics from the Doctors were running around my head…perhaps I was making a mistake by leaving everything this late. Perhaps I did need to induce. But all my stats were fine and my baby had stayed so consistent the whole pregnancy. All I could do was wait and see….wait and see….and roll around in pain. Those days from Sunday to Wednesday are now a little bit of a blur.

Wednesday came, my bag packed, we drove in for my 7.30am induction. It felt so wrong already. Some people feel comfortable with the bright lights and bells of a hospital; it just scared me. Was it too late to go home?

I was excited to be given an examination as I wanted to know where my days of labour had got me. 1cm. 1CM!!!! Now exhausted (or so I thought), I was still negotiating. Yes, I would have the gel, no they could not break my waters when I was dilated enough. All day, I would plod around the hospital, contract wherever I could and return to a waiting room where women were lined up in leather armcharis waiting for their contractions to gain momentum. This went on till half hour past midnight when I was again examined and told that I was 2cm dilated with a cervix that had not yet effaced.

If you picture that I am having regular and painful contractions, now minutes apart, have been going since Saturday (it’s now early Thursday morning) am being examined in a hospital and foud to be 2cm dilated, you would agree I am sure that I did very well  to get away with only having my waters broken. I was still determined that there was only one way out for this baby and having our independent midwife there gave me the confidence to know that it was of course possible. Despite not everything going the way I wanted it to, I’m stillg lad we had a midwife and a birth plan.

But hearing that I was still in very early labour panicked me and I can now recognise that this is where I dropped my bundle big time! I asked for an epidural.

It was now 12.30 in the morning and I went into the shower while I waited for an anaesthetist to arrive. We were told that it was a very busy evening and we would have to wait.

I waited until 4am. It was during this time, after my waters were broken and I was in the shower that I experienced true labour. Bella my darling I wish I could tell you that I was magnificent; that I laboured with grace and strength. But it was hard, I felt trapped, I was scared and it was a noisy ol’ time. For three hours, with my contractions now strong, arriving every minute and lasting half that minute, I went into a very special but scary place. We placed a plastic chair in the shower with me and I leant over it with each surge. I begged for that epidural, pitifully begged for it. When I reaslied it wasn’t coming imminently, I retreated into my own mind.

During this time I needed someone there with me in my head, telling me I could do it. Your Pa and Mal our midwife were there next to me but I still felt lonely. I felt trapped and confused. Giving birth is not an easy process Bella; it’s messy and its emotionally difficult. It’s transformative and it has the potential to leave you full or empty. It’s about birthing a healthy baby but its also about a woman becoming a mother. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s simple.

At 4 am, the anaesthetist finally arrived (I know all this because I have my birth notes). Staying still whilst in very established labour is hard and your Pa was a champion. He squatted in front while I leant over him as the needle was inserted more than ten times in an attempt to site it correctly. Having been inserted and taped up, the anaesthetist left. Unfortunately it was ineffective and at 4.30am it had to be resited again. I was now dilated well and it was estimated that I was 6cm.

The following hours were slow and dim. I sucked on ice blocks, ate fruit and drank juice. We had a low dose coming through on the epidural so I could still feel the rise and fall of the contractions. This would also help me to push when the time came. At 6am I was 7-8cm dilated, you were almost posterior and your little head was turned on its side. At 10am I was assessed and fully dilated. I was given an hour to rest.

During this time your Pa had a wash, brushed his teeth and we had a cuddle, knowing you were going to be here very soon.

At 11.30am on Thursday the 22nd December 2011, with the dose low enough that I could feel contractions but was comfortable, I was helped up onto the bed, squatting across a bar and by 11.40, Mal could see the top of your head.

And this is the moment I will never in my lifetime forget. I reached down, felt you coming and sobbed like a baby. And at 12.05pm, you were in our arms.

“Is it a girl? Mal? Is it a girl?”

“Have another look” she said, grinning.

“Omigod, it’s a girl”. You will never know Bella how proud we were in that moment, your Pa sobbing and me so relieved to have you in my arms.

The minutes that passed with many doctors, nurses, emergency codes and bleeding were a blur even at the time. I was shocked to suddenly have so many people in the room, touching me, talking loudly, blood on nurses faces. It is these moments that explain my lethargy in the following weeks, my uncontrollable desire for sleep and rest. Feeling like I had been hit by a car. In that first hour, we had to share our time with surgeons and nurses. Shocked and scared, I was now worried for someone far beyond myself. I was suddenly a mother and trying to make sure you were as unaffected by what was going on around us as possible. We were catapulted into our very first challenge you and I; getting rid of all those doctors so we could be together.

Never again will we ever dance such a dance you and I as we did during those days when you were being born. This morning as we slept top and tail in bed (as you had decided you wanted you toes warm under my chin), I decided to put my grief over what could have been to bed.

Yes you Bella kept us waiting. You Bella were birthed just the way you were meant to for whatever reason.

You Bella, were worth it.

Love Ma