Tag Archives: pregnancy

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

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Making God Giggle…and other Funny Anecdotes

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So I’m just sitting and waiting, and waiting and sitting, and trying to recline but finding it hard to breathe, so I decide to eat cake. This is the life of a pregnant woman in the week of the impending due date.

I won’t lie to you, it’s a terrifying time. Women are blessed with the opportunity of considering whether or not their baby will be born with hair or if the kicks they have felt for months are indicative of a rugby player or dancer. But just whilst you’re overcome with sentimentality, you’re also forced to consider the implications of using a heat pack on your nether region and whether or not this will reduce the chance of someone coming at it with a scalpel. Enter the birth plan….

I have to disclose that I am not feeling very mother earth and all accepting at the moment. Much like my last post, I’m in need of a vent. A true believer in the power of the sisterhood, I’m about to jump ship and assert myself in a rather aggressive way. I reserve the right to retract below statements in a haze of “pregnancy hormones” if it all backfires…

Someone once said that to get a giggle from God, make a plan (or something like that) and I understand the meaning. I do believe it may have been the same person that said life is what happens when you’re making other plans. Both good anecdotes that elicit a wry smile. An even wiser person once said, “If you don’t plan how you’re going to get to the city from the suburbs on public transport, you’ll get lost, hot and bothered and you’ll end up in a taxi you couldn’t afford and makes you feel car sick”.

Ok, no one clever said that, it was obviously just me but I am assuming I’ve made my point.

It continues to astound me how many people are so eager to tell me that I can’t plan a birth. I am painfully aware that my body has decided to pack up and do what it bloody well wants to of late (I’m happy to email a running sheet of disgusting things a pregnant woman is capable of) and no doubt birthing will be the same. But in an age where we plan parties to the most minute of floral and table setting detail, why are women not educating themselves about the birthing process and planning for a desired outcome?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a twelve page birth plan file to carry to the hospital which stipulates all medical officers must refer to me as Goddess of the Wild during contractions, I have a one page, dot point plan including such one hit wonders as “Please ask permission from parents before artificially breaking waters, cutting the vagina or taking baby from us”. Yep, grossly out of line aren’t I? Well I can tell you that I hear about all three happening every day in hospitals all over the country, all because it was “best for baby”. And in some cases, it definitely was…but in some it wasn’t. And perhaps, as women, we should be educating ourselves about the difference.

All I ask of you is to consider that whilst I could be wrong and completely naïve in considering a birth plan, I could also be right. And before you think we’ve all gone mad, also consider the thousands of women all over the world, who are survivors of trauma and to whom a simple “examination” might not be so simple at all.

When talking to the toolman today, we were desperately trying to figure out where my strong feelings were coming from. And I suppose it is this – please don’t talk to women like me (and by “women like me” I mean the slightly off to the left ones who take homepathics , use acupuncture and hire midwives instead of doctors) like we are stupid, uneducated or are taking unnecessary risks. We have indeed educated ourselves, have taken what is most probably a more expensive route with said homeopathic private midwife hippy treatment and believe we are making a good choice. I will indeed draw blood for any woman I love who is criticized for the choices she makes, regardless of what they are because I have blind hope that they are making an informed decision (and by informed I don’t mean “because the man in the white coat said so”). And I am accepting that you and I are likely to feel differently about many things. Just please tell me you have considered some information outside of what one person (usually a man) has told you.

All I ask for in return is that when you ask me about something I have decided to do (and I stress the word “ask” because I have completely given up advertising it), please don’t infer that it’s not safe or considered, naïve or risky, because I have been very polite this whole time in trying to make this coffee date pleasant and non-confrontational.

Oh bugger it….

Perhaps it’s best said like this, “If you don’t plan how you’re going to get to the city from the suburbs on public transport, you may just get hot, bothered and end up strapped to a bed,  legs in the air and a knife coming at your waa-waa”.

Living Large, Feeling Small.

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I’m back to big, living large and emotional about it. My “born-before-his-time-renaissance-man” would probably say I’ve hit the skids. And it’s not what you think…

Before I go on, I must acknowledge my extended absence from the blog and pass on my apologies. You see, it can probably be best explained when I tell you I got really happy (and busy) at about the same time I stopped losing any more weight and the goal posts in my life suddenly changed. I think it’s also of note that we often feel the need to be heard most when things are tough (think how many facebook status updates are angry tirades about other drivers) and so when life got good, I no longer had the same urge to keytap away.

But today, like I have done my whole life, I turn back to writing to try and make sense of the world when I can sense myself slipping back to a place that I simply refuse to revisit (yep, I can hear the mental health gods laughing at that one).

So where were we…..

Around February this year, I had just begun my frantic downsizing (in the form of skip hiring and random belonging throwing) and was about to embark on a camping trip with the toolman in an attempt to get back to basics (both were rather happily unemployed at the time and looking for direction). Miraculously, in clearing out all the clutter of the mind, the house and our relationship, a few very special things happened.

Firstly, being physically and emotionally lighter and in full recognition of the absolute living hell the toolman and I had fled only a short 18 months before, we had an absolute ball. My paranoia about shape and size left me and I swam, drank, ate and sunned myself like a Jackie Collins character in a back shelf romance novel.

Runner up in the happy stakes was the offer of a position with a charity that I had spent some time volunteering with and that was personally very meaningful to me. Considering potential pay cuts and our scary financial situation but running with “happy wife, happy life”, the toolman quickly made a commitment to support me in my new role.

But then look what he made me do. I went and fell in love all over again and as we all know, the more love you have, the more you have to give and so I went and fell pregnant.

Anyone who has read this before today probably remembers I was rather perturbed by a gammy set of ovaries for some time. So it didn’t actually occur to that I may in fact be pregnant when I started feeling what I now know as the tell-tale signs of pregnancy a few weeks after returning home.

It’s about this time that things started getting really good. Like, really good. Money problems were no longer money fears, work seemed meaningful, the toolman became the funniest and most endearing man alive, and I had what I had always always wanted. ..my baby snug as a bug.

So it confuses me that as I sit here now, eight months pregnant, with everything that I have ever wanted, I feel dejected. It’s even worse that as I contemplate the above and know how grateful I should be, I feel such confusion about my position that I have retreated from the world.

It seems that whenever I leave the house, I invite such a tirade of horror from other mothers and fathers alike, that is so invalidating, so patronising, I’ve been inside for days now crying. And as much as I have tried to come up with explanations that explain the motivation behind telling these stories, I’ve become too lost in them to find my way out.

Let me digress for a moment to illustrate my point (it’s a curvy one, stay with me).

I have spent a lot of time in the past dealing with mental health problems that has seem me spend a lot of time as an in-patient, changing medications constantly, dealing with sweats and pains, hallucinations and paranoia, judgement and stereotypes and some darn right scary situations. What I do know is that if you told me that you had been diagnosed with a problem, needed medication and in patient treatment what I WOULDN’T say is this:

“Gee, you better prepare yourself for the fact that you’ll never sleep again. Those night sweats are a killer. Oh, they might drug you so much you’ll wet the bed too. Better look out for that one. But no worries, you’ll start to feel a bit better, feel a bit normal again and then BANG- you’ll lose your sleep all over again…so don’t get cocky cos’ for a year you’ll feel like absolute shit. Forget your husband…he’ll be the dust. He’ll probably start looking around. And your body will turn to crap as well. Aches and pains. Better start massaging those muscles now cos’ the leg cramps will continue every single night for the next four years”.

You see, I forecast no value in “warning” anyone about any of this. But the greatest misnomer going around is that future mothers need to be told, to be warned, as it’s the kindest thing to do. Ironically, the above is not very far away from what I heard in the past few weeks. There is however, an even more cruel mode of communication amongst mothers and mothers to be which I like to refer to as “The Question Trap”. This is how it works…

You are asked a question which usually sounds genuine (don’t be fooled, no one cares what your answer is, the lioness is coiling back, ready to spring), you answer said question, trying desperately to avoid landmines that you can sense are underfoot but don’t have the map for, and Boom…you’re shot down blazing, pieces of your confidence floating through the air like confetti. I swear I can now see the satisfaction in the eyes opposite mine that read “that’ll take you down a peg or two”.

Let me give you an example that I have relived over and over since I fell pregnant. There are two main varieties, pick which one works for you.

Option One

Mother: “Are you going to use cloth nappies”

Me: “Yes”

Mother: “Why?”

Me: (This is where I insert the explanation about financial benefit. Crying poor is much more savoury than simply saying you think it’s a better choice – see what I mean about landmines).

Mother: (After a few seconds thought). “Well you realise that there is the cost of the washing powder and water and that it actually uses more greenhouse gas to wash them all the time. I give you a month before you go to disposables. You really should just see how you go. (Finishing slightly out of breath)”

Me: Silence. I never once thought of telling a mother who uses disposable nappies to “see how they go” but anyway….

Option Two (This one is the real beauty)

Mother: “Have you thought about a birth plan?”

Me: (MAYDAY! MAYDAY! THIS IS A TRAP!). “Ummm…yes…ummmm”

Mother: “You’re not bloody having it at home are you?” (Because that’s not loaded at all).

Me: “Umm..no” (Don’t let it slip about the birthpool for heaven’s sake). “I’m going to the hospital”

Mother: “And what about pain. Are you having a natural birth?”

Me: (Now this is where you tread carefully, I’ve learnt over time. I used to reply with big doey eyes that yes, I was going to try for a natural birth…I laugh now at the naivety).

“Umm, well I’m going to hospital but I’ll try to do what I can without any pain relief.” (Don’t say birth plan, don’t say birth plan).

Mother: (Half satisfied but still hungry for a kill). “Well, you can’t prepare for childbirth and really there’s no point in a birth plan because you have no control over it anyway. Plus you think it’s so important before you have the baby but realise how stupid it all was thinking about it once the baby arrives. I wouldn’t make your mind up just now (said with a laugh), just wait and see”

Me: (Yep, so my fear is stupid. Yep, my preparation is stupid. I feel small and silly for having a plan and on top of all that, the absolute most traumatic thing you can say you a trauma survivor is that you will have no control, even if it is the truth).

Why is it so threatening that I might want to do it like this? Why do I have to be told that my choice is silly and naïve and that I am considering doing something “the hard way”? You wouldn’t say to someone who is looking at detox, “Just wait and see how you go…you’ll be grabbing for relief in no time”, you’d be all “you can do it”, cheering from the sidelines.

I thought the other night that I had come up with the plan of all plans to avoid setting someone off. A master scheme that I could implement in future- Just lie about my intentions. When asked the question about pain relief, I replied that I was going to hospital ASAP, and would probably just have an epidural if I was offered it. But still no love; “Won’t that just slow labour down” was the reply, “You really can’t plan for these things you know”.

The innate problem with all this when I really think about it is that from the moment you are thinking about a baby, you are constantly struggling against someone up the line who knows better than you. I thought that when I fell pregnant I would finally be able to do what I had wanted to do my whole life…join the ranks of motherhood, talk with meaning. But there was always someone telling me with a sideway glance that “you know you can’t eat soft cheese don’t you”, desperately trying to put me in my place.

And perhaps this is where I am at today. I feel put in my place and invalidated. I have spent a long time finding a voice and I make no apologies that over the past few years I have often yelled more loudly than I needed to (I was just getting used to it you see). You see, I kept a secret for a long time and I made a promise a few years back that I wouldn’t do it again which has resulted in me often overstepping boundaries and saying things that others don’t necessarily appreciate (stiff upper lips and all).

But despite my best efforts, in order not to challenge or confront others, I feel that over the past months, something has been chipped away slowly. I have been invalidated and inadvertently been silenced in so many interactions that I wonder whether I have been taken back to that place where no one speaks and why I find myself now, in my own home, unable to speak to anyone, including the toolman.

Fear creeps in when writing this as I can hear judgement (perhaps just my own) that reads, “Here she goes again, banging on about the past” but maybe it’s time to get my voice back. Perhaps my experiences are valid enough, just for me, because they are mine. Or maybe I should push more love out to the world that seems so keen on judging others (and most poignantly, probably themselves).

Or best of all, maybe I should go back to making a plan and start up that yelling again…

Skinny You Want And You Shall Receive

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If ever there was motivation to be found within, I just may have found it during a recent visit with whom I like to call “my ovary finder”. Some of you may remember the day my ovaries hid during a rather embarrassing examination which I am pleased to announce, were later found hiding behind a rather generous paunch.

What was to take place during the short visit with said “finder” last week left me in the very least, melancholy. Apparently folks, I am not a good “candidate” for fertility treatment. Yes, I need it. Yes, I desperately want it. No, I can’t have it.

As if I wasn’t a full blooded woman sitting in a very intimidating office, abreast the most recent and revered fertility treatment specialist in my town, I was turned down because of my weight. In a very short amount of time I was reduced to a body, an infertile mound of fatty waste, a non thinking entity deemed not eligible to experience the joy of motherhood.

I must admit, the woman who offhandedly threw this information my way was indeed professional, knowledgeable and attempted to be inclusive in her diagnosis. What she failed to tell me was,

“I can imagine this is very difficult for you to hear. Unfortunately, you don’t deserve to be a mother. It seems you are what we call in the business, a fatty-boom-ba!”

She would continue, “Please come back when you are eligible to be considered a skinny-minny. You will know you have entered this phase as you will feel light headed and hungry a good deal of the time”.

I explained to this woman that in fact I have always been rather munificent in the hips and buttocks stakes, and wondered whether I had been a significant player in the long standing misconception that this would in fact make me a prime candidate to carry a little one and put this belly to good use.

Apparently Not.

And just to add a little insult to injury, I was also informed in a hushed voice as she lent over the tiny desk which I’m sure was there to highlight how huge I am, that the medication I have taken for two years to keep me well and happy is not compatible with the hormonal treatment I need.

This part I knew. It didn’t surprise me one bit. I have become increasingly comfortable with the looks, the quite lean-in, the whispered voice that white coats use to give me even basic medical information, as if I might fly off the handle just because they exhaled a breath.

I have long suffered from an illness that can leave me devastatingly low, and then very quickly see me packing my bag to head to the beach at midnight. This too makes me an undesirable candidate for fertility treatment, so it seems. I’m used to my dynamic life, lived so much of the time in my own head; used to the active participation of my thoughts. Fortunately, the toolman is also coming around to this life that requires us to often be combat-ready. Just last week, as that beach bag was almost swung over my shoulder, he diligently and patiently distracted my attention to something inside the home, where I was safely under his watchful eye.

Having understood this, please understand me. Whilst some little girls wish to be fairies, or princesses, and the special ones even diligent lawyers, when I was asked what I wished for, I replied,

“I’m going to live in a caravan and have twelve children. I might even wear moccasins”

I have since marveled at the response. Not only was I proud to think of myself as a mother, childhood play during school holidays predisposed me to the idea that a caravan full of children was the happiest place on earth.

So yes Doctor, fat will turn to skinny. The pounds will not be my enemy in a quest to do what I have always felt would be my most magnificent role. I will return to weight loss with a new vigour if that is what you require of me.

But even as that caravan dream evolves into a country property, lovingly tendered by the toolman, you will not take my dream because I’m partial to life’s extreme highs and lows. Because that’s who I am.

But sure Doctor, I can give you skinny.