Monday, 29 April 2013

Time to slow down

I’m 23 weeks now and up until now I have been willing the time to pass as quickly as possible, if I had a fast-forward button I would have been leaning on it heavily. But now, just now, I have finally thought I should probably stop to smell the roses, so to speak. Realising that this is my last few months of me-time and time to just focus on H as my only child, and there will be no turning back once Little Miss is here.

I have been feeling really positive about the pregnancy now and doing everything I can to relish it and celebrate it. I am even doing a spot of pregnancy modelling this week, just as a “normal” looking pregnant lady! But it will be so nice to have my hair and make-up done and feel pretty for a night. Plus I get paid in maternity clothes, which I am more and more in need of.

I have had a wonderful long weekend of enjoyable family time, with husby taking an extra day off between the public holiday and the weekend. And now, only one week til we take our “babymoon” down the coast with munchkin. I can’t wait.

Tomorrow I shall attempt to cook said husby a special birthday dinner, including birthday cake. This will be special if it is even edible, as my worth in the kitchen is limited to doing the dishes. Yep, I’m the type who can’t even make toast without burning it, I’m so domestically challenged I could probably burn water. Even the planning of this meal has taken me hours already as I had to familiarise myself with a bunch of herbs/spices I wouldn’t be able to find in the supermarket unless they had neon signs on them, and then go through the cupboards to check our stocks, since I don’t even know what we have.

Luckily it’s a slow work week for me (meaning no freelance work sadly), so the daycare day will be free for my kitchen f*ck-ups, I mean, gourmet experimentation.

If only I had buckets of cash, none of this DIY shit would be necessary!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


I have been crying a lot recently. You could say I am an expert at it. And although my own pain is often the reason, I feel like I have become a sponge for others’ suffering too. It’s going to sound ridiculous, but I think perhaps the pregnancy hormones, combined with the grief of a mother have made me some sort of empathy super hero. Call me Sympathatron. Or Mega-Wail. Or something.

Today my tears are not for me. They are for the families and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. I have no words for the devastation it causes me to know that again, AGAIN, some f*cked-up people have felt that the best way of effecting change in the world is to hurt others - innocent, unsuspecting, unconnected individuals, whom represent nothing more than symbols of whatever misguided cause is behind this heartless attack.

My tears are also for this wonderful woman, Lori, whose blog I just found and can’t tear my eyes from: Her story is a true tragedy and yet she has risen from it with the courage and positivity that others can only dream of. She has been hurt, abandoned and traumatised by the one she loved and who loved her most, and instead of forsaking love, she has rallied and used her love to rise again, damaged but somehow cheerful. THAT is humanity.

And my reserves of tears seem to be boundless for Rachel, of whose eloquent expressions of grief are like a strange oscillating magnet to me, I am drawn to them, I have to read them but then I have to turn away because they churn me up inside.

I had a visit yesterday from the Baby Nurse I used to visit before I moved house. She was an angel, a beacon of light in the dark, treacherous, confusing world of new motherhood. Her advice, support and encouragement were my lifeline when I was unwittingly suffering post-traumatic stress after the birth of my son H, and she continued to keep me sane whilst I struggled with a baby who wouldn’t sleep more than 3 hours at a time for the first 7 months of his life.

Her approach to helping new mums has the personal, emotional, human feeling that the medical support services are gravely bereft of. She asks mums questions about themselves and their babies to really get to know them and then assesses them individually, suggesting things to try, but never prescribing a right or wrong way. She is always embracing new ideas and seemed open to learning as much from the mums she saw as she was interested in imparting her knowledge. But, most importantly she was always reinforcing what a great job I was doing, which, when you’re floundering in a foreign world and feeling lost and afraid and so goddamn TIRED you could accidentally wander out in traffic, is all you need to hear sometimes.

Her positive feedback and genuine interest in mine, and my son’s wellbeing were invaluable to me. Eventually, as I found my feet as a mum, I found I was visiting her clinic just for a chat, more than to seek out her professional advice.

But I had not seen her since we moved house 8 months ago when I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Benjamin, and after she heard of my loss just recently she tracked me down again. I am so glad she did. She came around for morning tea and we chatted for 4 and a half hours about life, babies, motherhood, politics and love.

If I am Sympathatron, she is the Compassionater. This woman oozes love and empathy. And to use a cliché, she is an Earth Mother, offering the nurturing care of a mother to all. This is not stretching the truth, as she not only raised her own 3 kids but looked after her friend’s 2 boys when they were orphaned and is now acting as a surrogate mum to a teen daughter of a friend who has gone wayward. She is the sort of woman who wants to give the world a hug and whose hugs are regenerative.

And after seeing her I feel a little bit more healed. Baby steps, as they say.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Be afraid, be very afraid

I am afraid of my son. I am not kidding. I wish I was.  He rules the roost and he rules with an iron fist. This is partly because I am a pushover who melts every time he smiles, cries or says/does something cute. But it is also from a lack of confidence.  I am afraid of most children in a way.

It is because I never really had that much exposure to kids beyond my peers. Sure, I babysat when I was a teenager but that involved sitting on someone else’s sofa, eating and watching TV while the kids slept most of the time. I never had to provide much supervision during waking hours and I had never changed a nappy before my son was born. I wasn’t all that interested in kids either (probably for the same reason). Because of my lack of experience I didn’t know what their age meant - how much independence they required or deserved, or what they understood - so I never knew what level of communication to strike with them. Use a “baby voice” and assume they know nothing and risk their scorn and derision – “well der, of course I know milk comes from cows!” Or talk to them like adults and hope they don’t find me as terrifying as I find them? There is a reason children make some of the scariest baddies in horror films – for your reference see Children of the Corn, The Exorcist, The Shining, the list goes on.

To the uninitiated, children have the incredible power of the unknown quantity. They represent walking time-bombs, we never know what to expect and fear the worst. If I tell them off for jumping on the glass coffee table or playing footy with mum’s fine china ornaments will they cry? Or worse, will they defy me and then tell their mum I abused them? Hate me and tell everyone they think I smell? They may be innocent but to me they always seemed so cunning…

I guess I am not what you’d call a “natural” at this motherhood gig. I was never a “chuck the baby on my back and off I go” kinda chick. I was the one struggling with the nappy bag the size of a suitcase and freaking out the minute the baby cried in public. I was the woman who was so flustered she forgot to put her boob away properly after breastfeeding in a park (only once, and thankfully I noticed before I got ALL the way home…)

In my experience, every day is about delicately balancing everything you do to keep them happy. Don’t, whatever you do, skip a feed, be late with a nap, deny them some toy or dangerous/expensive/fragile object. The whole day can fall into disarray. Take today for example. Thanks to the wonderful invention of daylight savings, which I am now petitioning be abolished, my monkey has been waking at 5am all week. This would be OK if he also napped early or extra long, which he did yesterday. But today, exhausted after a string of resist- and-cave tantrums over his lunch, I eventually had to try some tough love and left him crying in the cot. For 25 minutes. It was worth it though because now he is asleep. However the many plans I had for my day (see my To Do List post below) and the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes cannot tempt me and all I can think of doing is going for a little nanna-nap myself.

Of course once you get your head around the nuances of your own spawn, the daily grind becomes much easier.  You develop the confidence to exert the ‘power of the big people’ and utter those arrogant words “because I said so”. But I still fear the wrath of a toddler and prefer the path to an easy life.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Milestones and setbacks

Here is the post I wrote yesterday BEFORE seeing my OB:

Halfway. I have officially passed the point where we lost Benjamin. This should encourage more confidence but I still panic at the slightest pain and worry when I think I haven’t feel the little bean move in a while. Lucky for me she is a pretty active little bean and there are plenty of kicks to comfort me.

I attended a Pregnancy After Loss meeting two weeks ago. It opened the floodgates to my grief and a room full of people got to witness the debacle that is me crying. I’m one of the ugliest criers in the world – it’s all gulping and sobbing and streaming, red blotchiness. It must be hard to feel sympathy for a blubbering, snot volcano!

Overall though, it was good to get it out amongst people who understood, were there specifically to hear it and had useful feedback. My major revelation was that I felt like I had less legitimate reason to be grieving than the others, that my grief was less valid because my baby did not go full-term. Technically my loss is called a “miscarriage” on the medical records at least. That is because babies that die before they are 20 weeks are not considered still-born – even though I had to give birth to him, the same way all babies are born.

I will never forget when I asked about claiming the body from the hospital the nurse simply saying I was not “obliged” to give the baby a funeral. She seemed not to understand that I wasn’t even thinking about a funeral, I wanted to take my baby home and it didn’t occur to me that they would not release the body. After some ridiculous bureaucracy was dealt with we were granted permission to receive the body after an autopsy (which we agreed to and still anxiously await the result of).

I never held a funeral or any type of service and I never really considered it, but I have his ashes and I may choose to scatter them privately. Or I might just keep them. That is my right, the very least I am entitled to.

The other thing I learnt was that if I want to get a positive reaction about my pregnancy from friends it’s up to me to convey it as a positive message. It seems so obvious now, but I realise I was “breaking the news” in such doom-filled way that people didn’t know how to react and so followed my lead with a sombre response. This made me feel miserable. So now if I tell someone new, I say it with excitement and omit the disclaimers of “hopefully” and “all going well”.

In short I am actively trying to embrace this pregnancy and “Operation Normalise” is on. I have taken my first bump photo. After we survived the milestone 19 week scan, or to be literal, my baby survived it, I celebrated by buying something for the baby. The fact we know it’s a girl helps. It gives me added incentive to shop as I always used to look longingly at all the lovely girls’ clothes in shops and it seems as though there is always twice as much available for girls as there is for boys.

I have even resigned myself to the fact that my clothes are not fitting anymore and dug out the maternity clothes bag. It is such a relief to wear comfy bras and jeans again! I have now resolved to tell anyone I see or speak to, and am ruminating over a Facebook announcement. The bump is getting too obvious to ignore now anyway.
So that was before seeing my OB. Unexpectedly he had the results from Benjamin’s autopsy – we had been told it could take up to a year so I was not expecting to know anything before this baby was born. The only indication they can find of a cause for death was that the umbilical cord was too long and hyper-coiled, so may have compromised the blood flow. 

I am feeling pretty conflicted about knowing this. In some ways it's good to know it wasn't a genetic problem or something likely to occur again. But also to know such random things can happen makes me feel so nervous that not just that could happen again but any one of a million other things could go wrong. I have gone from being like the majority of the population, thinking “it won’t happen to me” to being a big scaredy hypochondriac-style neurotic, who thinks that every complication is not only possible but likely to happen to me. This extends to my little man too, my mama-bear protective instinct is in hyper-drive and I foresee every possible accident or mishap befalling him. Husby thinks I’m insane I’m sure.

The next PAL meeting isn’t for another month and I don’t know how I’ll feel then. Will I need it, will it make things better or worse? I’ll just see. For now it’s back to embracing the positive and cherishing the kicks my little girl gives me on the inside.