Friday, November 23, 2012

Joy: nine months in the making

NINE months.

No, not that mildly amusing movie starring King Fop of the Foppiest Foptheths Hugh Grant. (Do you realise that came out in 1995. 1995! 1995 sure wasn’t yesterday, although it damn well feels like it. Time, as you may have noticed by the length of it since the last entry on this blog, has a tendency to make like a Wright brother. Thank God for auto-memory on my Blogger password too, by the way, because I had no idea when it came to logging in. Apart from the fact that the layout has entirely changed!)

Nine months.

She is nine months old.

She. Samara.

Our beautiful, darling little girl is nine months old.


She is nine months old today.

Can you actually believe it?

Because we can’t.

She has two teeth, huge blue eyes and the cruisiest, happiest personality. Her thick black mop of soft, spiky hair fell out and has been replaced with a gold-flecked light brown fuzz, interpersed with longer wispier bits that are seconds away from falling out. These days, she spends her time crawling, pulling herself up to stand on things, eating ladybirds, clapping her hands, opening drawers and doors, laughing at her brother and dancing. Well, it's more like an impersonation of a tea bag with a fear of water than full-blown dancing.

At 11.2kilos, she is apparently off the chart, but none of us are worried. We are happy to do a big cook-up of healthy, home-cooked meals and stock the freezer every couple of days. Having a son with a peanut allergy has made us more willing than most to produce our own kids’ meals, simply so we know exactly what’s gone into them.

Sure it takes longer, but there are way too many benefits for us doing it this way.

She sleeps through the night, which we love.

She gets up like clockwork at 5am, which we don’t.

She eats, she laughs, she plays, she splashes, she gurgles baby-talk, she points, she swims, she takes absolutely everything in.

She. Is. Delightful.

I have at times regretted not posting here as often. Only because the creeping avalanche of exhaustion has played absolute havoc with my short-term memory and the past nine months have been an absolute blur. I really wish I had documented more of the moments that are now lost to my failing memory.

But lots of things have happened.

Uh, I had a baby. Oh yeah – I seem to remember that one.

I spent a full eight weeks losing my mind, every hour, on the hour. (Today, I am not sure what’s left.)

I settled into a glorious period of maternity leave where the busiest my day got was going for a walk and making dinner.

I went back to work full-time in August when she was not yet six months old. I cried, I suffered guilt, I wondered how it was all going to work, I cried some more on the days when it didn't work at all.

Samara went into family daycare for two days a week.

And I dropped a day of work in October because I was missing her way too much.

I felt myself being stretched too thinly. I knew I wasn't being a particularly good mother, or a particularly good journalist.

Something had to give and I realised one night looking at her while she slept, that I will never get this time back.

I didn’t want to be helping her blow out the candles on her first birthday cake and reflect that I didn’t know her very well, or I hadn’t seen her. Really seen her, and experienced her as much as I could.

So I am working four days a week, and soaking up every possible moment I can of her soft-skinned, long-lashed, calm and engaging gorgeousness.

Emotions? I’ve had a few (tonnes).

But, in the end, I did it my way.

Every morning lately T and I ask ourselves if we can get any more tired. Then we wake up the next morning and realise, that yes, yes we can.

T and I both work at our day jobs, then we come home and essentially clock on to what I call a hospitality shift at the Hotel De Samara Jay.

There are meals to be served, little bodies to be washed, bottles to be made, noses and bottoms to wipe, mouths to feed, fruit to be cut up, tripping/falling/burning hazards to remove, books to be read, teeth to be brushed, crumbs to be swept, kiwi fruit and banana smears to be removed (from the floor, furniture, ears), dishes to be done, toys to be cleared, hugs to be delivered, tucking in to be done, that one last drink of water to be approved and sore gums to be soothed.

I know we don’t have 14 children or nightmare night shifts or extreme poverty or anything that bad to contend with, but we are exhausted. Weekends that used to be times of refuge and recovery, of quiet and rest, are now busier than working weeks. Monday rolls around and the feeling is of being hit by a bus! Such an adjustment.

However, we know deep down, that the alternative would not be worth living for.

Our kids are the most wonderful gift. They are remarkable, beguiling little people that we created.

They look at us in the mornings, when we four cuddle in bed, and I cannot quite believe we are responsible for their little faces. I cannot believe how amazing they are.

We are so lucky.

But sweet merciful Jesus, is it too much to ask for one morning, just one, when I wake up on my own?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I have no idea how to start this post.

Right, now that we have got that sorted, let me expel a pile of linguistic vomit exorcism-style in an attempt to describe the past seven weeks and three days.

And I didn’t mean for that to sound quite so vile, but just as these past 52 days have been shocking, so shall the vomit word be inserted for adequate eeuw value.

Here goes.

Nightmare, hellish, freak-out, startling, terrifying, amazing, breath-taking, frustrating, refreshing, failure, achievement, fatigue, pain, fear, lucky, exhaustion, chaos, sorry, nervous, doubtful, clock, minutes, feed, relief, despair, joy, grateful, head spinning, sleep, hours, adjust, adapt, maybe, no, I don’t know, fight, flight, give up, blessed, miracle, smile, settle, help, why, information overload, unwanted advice, wrong advice, too much advice, shut up, punch the wall instead of throwing the baby, head exploding, tears – endless tears, sobs, can’t breathe, nap, panic, heart melting, heart swelling, ecstatic, wonder, snap.

And that was the first hour!

After surviving the first seven weeks with a newborn (just), I am left to wonder WHY. THE. HELL. THEY. DON’T. TELL. YOU. HOW. HARD. IT. WILL. BE. IN. THE. FIRST. SIX. WEEKS.

Miriam Stoppard et al may coyly suggest some “difficulty” getting your baby to settle, or some minor fatigue due to a sudden lack of sleep, but that is tantamount to labelling Uluru a larg-ish pebble, the Pacific Ocean a bit wet and the Taj Mahal a small weekender.

In short, an understatement.

Quite frankly, the birth is a breeze compared to the complete upheaval a newborn means to the household.

And when that household has a four-year-old, the tables are turned, burned and topsy-turvy forever.

My god. I am breathless thinking about it. The adjustment is enormous. Of course it is, that’s what you sign up for. But you don’t quite realise how much until you are stuck in the thick of it, up to your eyeballs and drowning in it.

I feel ok now, because I can look back and see that the terror has dissipated somewhat and I see that things are better today. Is that because I have those weeks under my belt now, and I have learned from them; or because our baby has matured, emotionally, physically, mentally, digestively?

I know it is a bit of both in equal measure.

I am just glad they are behind us.

I know this does not mean that we’ll be singing Happy Days Are Here Again while sucking on lollipops and counting butterflies while snuggling on an Egyptian cotton picnic blanket as an artist captures our reverie on oily canvas for perpetuity, but things are definitely better.

For a start, Samara is learning to put herself to sleep in her cot during the day.

That is a revelation for two parents who spent the first five weeks trying for hours on end to wrap her and rock her to sleep. Ok, sometimes that rocking turned to shaking of varying levels of violence, swaying and shushing despite her shunning another very important S word: sleep.

We have a baby, it seems, who does not like to sleep during the day.

We might get an average of 25 minutes per day (daylight). 25 minutes, people. When the books all say newborns sleep up to 18 hours per day.

Not ours.

The flipside, and by god I would be handing her back if there wasn’t a flipside, is she sleeps in eight-hour blocks through the night.

Has done since week one.

Hooray! Of course, as her mother, I see this as a clear sign that she is intelligent beyond her years and so advanced that she has adopted a very adult approach to wake-and-sleep patterns.

Plus her active brain clearly desperately needs stimulation as long as there is daylight to illuminate the world’s wonders, each one laid bare and so new for her pure eyes. Sigh.
So just these past few days, I have chilled the freak out about her daytime sleeps – or lack thereof.

I do not spend hours anymore with her in my arms trying to get her to sleep, when that is probably a distraction anyway.

A few weeks ago I heard, actually listened, when our baby health nurse and some books said “when she looks tired, wrap her and put her to bed”. What a bloody novel idea!

To be fair though, I was caught up in caring. I was very conscious of this new little person adjusting to life outside the womb – and how damn freaky would that be for her??

So we gave her extra comfort, in the way of putting our bodies close together for hugs and rocks rather than a cold cot in those early weeks, just to let her know we were near.

Then slowly, over some days just recently, I actually absorbed the concept of just putting her to bed. I cannot tell you how much of a revelation that was. It sounds funny now.

Sometimes it works (like today!), sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it does for less than it did the day before.

Maybe I have learned to deal with her cries more. Or I have learned to read her cries. In the early weeks, as soon as she made a noise, my stomach twisted into knots as if the very noise of it was an intrusion reminding me over and over again that she had needs that I was not meeting.

Failure. You are a failure.

These days, I am feeling more confident and, while not successful, certainly capable of success.

I know now it is a waste of time second-guessing and going around and around in your head with possibilities of why she might be crying/not sleeping/kicking her legs/etc. The fact is unless there is a serious problem evident, the only answer to those questions is always: some babies are like that – it’s completely normal.

Personally, she has rocked my world in hundreds of ways. I feel as though I have started again as a person; that she has caused me to shatter into tiny pieces – in a good way and bad – before I slowly, carefully repair.

I feel as though that repair comes from those beautiful smiles after a sleep, from seeing her thrive and put on weight because of me and my breastfeeding, from the amazing support from my partner and from seeing the fantastic effect she has had on our family, the love her brother clearly has for her. In short, the good stuff.

The bad stuff sees me shatter again...but that’s life.

It also took a good five weeks for my milk supply to settle. Talk about pre-conceptions shattering on that front also. I never thought that would happen. A week maybe, not five.
I took motilium, on the wrong dose (thanks doc), then moved on to fenugreek, which I think worked.

Who knows if it was simply time that helped or the pills?

And this is as far as I managed to get today...more soon!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

She's here!

So this is the post I have been longing to write for, oh, 10 months. Maybe longer.
Yes, it is probably something I have been longing for since I hopped on the IVF rollercoaster more than two years ago.
Our beautiful baby girl is here. Samara Kate arrived in the world at 9.08pm on Thursday February 23.
I was hoping for “smooth” and “incident-free” when it came to the birth. The reality was quite different...isn’t it always?
The first I suspected that she might be on her way was at precisely 1.22am on February 23.
I woke with the unmistakable stirrings of early contractions. I had felt something similar when we had the termination in 2010.
Actually, it wasn’t contractions as much as an uncomfortable bloating in my belly and a forceful urge to wander the hallway of our house.
I contemplated going outside for a walk around the block...I just wanted to walk everywhere, keep moving. But I stayed inside (scared of walking into a spider web, actually.)
I walked into the baby’s room and looked around, amazed that we would have a baby to sleep in there very soon.
I checked on Jay, amazed that we would have two children under our roof very soon.
I stood at the back door overlooking the pool and garden as I rocked my hips from side to side and stretched and breathed.
I stared at the lights flickering in the water and tried to put a lid on the nervousness.
Here we go, it was happening.
I tried to lie down at various intervals, but as the early morning hours wore on, and as the sky started to lighten, I wanted to stay in bed less and less.
The pains were getting more intense now – although compared to what was to come later that night, those particular contractions were absolute bliss!
T was up by 6am, and had heard me creeping about the house all night anyway.
I am looking at a piece of paper now that notes down the contractions. What time they came and how long they lasted.
The first one starts at 6.24am (although I had felt them much earlier than that) and lasts seven seconds, the last one is at 11.55am and lasts 46 seconds.
The last entry on that piece of paper says “show” at 11.59.
That was pretty much the catalyst for me wanting to get to the hospital. I think at that stage I was fairly well convinced that show would be the spark that blew up this pregnant powder keg!
I had been having three contractions every 10 minutes since 10am.
We got in the car and I was sure I would flood the passenger seat with my waters and we would arrive in civilised time to make ourselves comfortable in the birth suite before our new baby popped out 20 minutes later.
Good lord, I was wrong.
We got to the hospital about 12.30pm and went to our room – number 8.
We probably stayed there for about an hour before being transferred. Things were progressing and I remember the midwives excitedly telling us we would probably have a baby by the end of the night.
Bloody hell.
We got to the birth suite and I then proceeded to take the world’s longest shower. Please somebody call Guinness, as T informed me later I had a three-hour shower.
That water was THE BEST thing I had ever felt in my entire life. Ever. There were two jets, one T positioned toward my lower back and the second one I held on my lower belly.
I sat in a chair for most of the water and contemplated the water wastage for about three seconds, before turning the hot tap on harder.
It was teeth-achingly painful. It stirred in me those truly horrific fight or flight feelings – and mostly, let me tell you, I wanted to fly, run, sprint, zoom out of that room and away from the pain.
I got irritable and demanded pain relief, incredulously demanding the midwife do her job and offer me some gas or something. I mean, shit, I was in pain – couldn’t she see that and why wasn’t she doing anything about it?
So I tried the gas and threw up bile and orange juice about four minutes later. That was quite enough of that.
Then I tried the bath, which was great for a few hours. Actually I remember the midwife saying at one point that I looked bright and alert. I actually felt it.
I was still having strong contractions, but all of a sudden I felt ready to take on the world, strong and powerful, refreshed and positive.
Hmm, that feeling didn’t last long.
Pretty soon after, I was crying and sobbing into the edge of the bath screaming at anyone who would listen that I didn’t want to do it anymore.
Not long after that, I was saying that I couldn’t do it anymore. I can’t, I can’t I kept repeating.
I stayed in the bath for ages and I could feel the contractions intensifying. I felt sure I was going to rip the two metal support bars clean off the tiles – actually I was trying to focus on doing that. Wouldn’t that make a great story, plus it gave me something else to concentrate on for a while.
Throughout it all I did try and keep coming back to the breathing techniques I had read about. Imagining the uterine muscles needing a good oxygen supply to do their natural thing on the in breath and imagining the cervix and vagina loosening on the out breath, as I made sure to drop my shoulders and unclench my fingers.
I even visualised breathing in white light (which later turned to yellow, orange, light blue or any other happy colour) and breathing out red (later, black, yucky green, brown etc).
It worked 60% of the time. The other 40% was sheer, white-hot, eyeball-bursting, completely frightening, horror-movie pain.
There is no breathing through that.
I gave birth to a baby girl who weighed 3990 grams (8pound 13 – almost four kilos) naturally, with no painkillers.
You do the math.
There is no breathing through a borderline third degree tear that I received at that moment.
But it is true, your body does take over and does its own thing. In the last hour I felt freakily removed from my body had been split in two. One part was doing its primordial birthing thing, while the other was freaking the shit out.
In the final few minutes, the two finally came together. It was amazing really.
I was out in the main room by this stage and sitting on a birthing stool, leaning into a lounge chair and crunching my face into a bunch of pillows.
At its most intense, I was trying to focus on ripping the pillow cases to shreds – damn that was some strong cotton!
The midwife had been monitoring the baby’s heart beat throughout and placed the wand one last time. Up to that point, the rate had been strong and consistent at about 140 or 150 beats per minute.
At that last reading, it was 62. I heard the midwife say “this baby has got to come out now”.
Hearing that heart beating so low was the final push I needed to turn “can’t” into “just watch me”. Looking back I cannot believe that I was at that point of seeming hopelessness and yet I managed to find something that little bit more to save my baby girl.
Even if I knew it was going to hurt, injure, scar or ruin me, I didn’t care – it just had to be done.
I was vaguely aware of T climbing up the back of the lounge chair so she was actually sitting where your head goes.
Later she told me it was as if someone had turned on a tap and blood was pouring from me. She is not good with blood and said she would have fainted if she had seen any more.
I was aware of a second midwife coming into the room. I thought it was standard practice right as the baby was born. Later I found out the first one, ashen-faced, had called her in when the blood loss began.
My mind could only see white sparks and fluorescent flashes as I screamed – in semi-perfect soprano that I am sure troubled the inner ears of some of Sydney’s finest hounds – and felt myself opening up.
I heard two gurgles and felt a small release.
“Is she ok, is she ok?” I said. “Yes, that’s her. That’s our baby girl” T said.
“Is she alright, what’s happening, where is she.” For some reason I didn’t look down, I was afraid to move. I actually thought the midwives had taken her to the table to check she was ok. T later told me she was on a towel below me.
Then I heard her cry. Oh, that moment. I knew she was fine.
T hugged me and kissed me, I think. I can’t remember.
Soon, I was being helped up off the stool and guided toward the bed. I still hadn’t seen my baby. I think T was holding her by this stage.
What I did see was a room that looked like a crime scene after a massacre.
Hospitals, why is white the preferred linen option? Really.
I don’t mind telling you I had left every conceivable bodily fluid known to woman on that birth suite floor and I was wading through it feeling a euphoric exhaustion I had never felt before.
My doctor had arrived at the exact second she popped out.
I lay on the bed and our baby was placed on my shoulder. He stitched me up telling me I had a second degree tear, borderline third degree. He had to give me about six shots of local anaesthetic - and the needle absolutely killed! Of course, it was ridiculous that I had just squeezed a watermelon out of a drinking straw and here I was complaining about a stinging needle. But it bloody hurt.
Ok, I would like to say I felt a flood of emotion and that I wept tears of joyful love. But the truth is, I was shattered, and in shock, and feeling the effects of 50,000 miligrams of hormones on an empty stomach and I was numb.
Happy, and numb.
Then our baby amazed me as she found my breast and started sucking. I looked at the clock at that point. She was 30 minutes old and she was sucking.
A few minutes after that as I played with her tiny fingers, she gripped my hand.
She gripped my hand! She was less than an hour old.
That’s where I have to leave my story as I am now in desperate need of a nap. She is six days old and has been a dream. My milk has been slow coming in, but we are supplementing with formula and she is doing all the right, incredible things.
J completely loves her and has been so helpful and eager to be near her. He has been better than I ever imagined. T has been the most amazing support – being a woman, having been there before, keeping a level head and helping me answer endless questions with logic and reason. She is such a wonderful person to have close. I didn't think I could love her any more. Until these past few days. I am so, so lucky. Love to you all. Good night!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Give me my dues

Due dates mess with your head. They should also be kept a big bloody secret, especially from the pregnant woman concerned.

Months and months ago, when you find out you are pregnant and the doctors spin their paper wheel before proudly announcing that perfectly-calculated date, it takes on some magical significance.

Of course it does. That is the day your new baby will arrive. (The “Or thereabouts” part is often lost in the excitement, anticipation fogging your rational vision.)

Then, as the big day approaches, the one you put in your calendar and in your phone and the one you tell people over and over again when they ask “so, when are you due?” it gets closer, you attach more and more importance to that particular day.

Sure you know that it’s an estimate, a guide, and that women rarely actually give birth on that day, but you expect to be holding your little one close to that day.

Well that day has come and gone and it’s now a whole 24 hours later. I know that’s not much, but god dammit I was expecting Everest, my close-up, show time, something, anything, go! yesterday.

The week had been wonderful – my first full one without work. I walked on the beach, I swam laps, I did my stretches/pretend yoga/focused breathing practice thingo and threw in a few squats to ensure a feeling of supreme piousness. I read, I relaxed, I dusted, I wiped down kitchen cupboards and cleaned behind the microwave. I baked, I cooked soups and sauces for the freezer stores and I napped like a newborn.

Sure I hardly slept overnight, but I caught up during the day and even managed to indulge in some quite ordinary daytime TV. Bliss.

On the morning of my due date (Feb. 20) I shaved my legs and underarms, moisturised, plucked my eyebrows and re-painted my toenails in readiness.

It was like I was getting ready for a night out...and had I actually been able to fit into anything other than a sheet-sized singlet shirt and leggings, I would most certainly have been all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Talk about anti-climax.

I am drinking raspberry leaf tea and either swimming or taking short walks, as well as chasing after our little boy. Well, my version of waddle-chasing a four-year-old who has the speed of a whippet. That game of chasey could really go on forever if there was sufficient stamina and/or time.

So I saw my obstetrician today and he said “college guidelines” recommend letting women go no more than 14 days past their due date.

Last week he said I had a 50% chance of going past my due date this I have a 20% chance of doing the same for another week. Beyond that – NOT THAT I WILL GET THERE – it’s down to 5%.

This is, of course, as long as my blood pressure stays fine and as long as all is well with our baby in there.

We talked about induction and I explained that I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. First of all, they can bring on quite intense labours and it all seems unnatural and interventionary, if that is a word (don’t think it is). And secondly, the last induction I had was horrific. I know the outcome this time will be vastly different, but this is what is in my head.

He is also taking next week off – inconsiderate bastard! – so there is extra incentive to pop this baby girl out THIS WEEK, so he can be there and some random colleague of his, who I met for the first time today, isn’t the one scoring all the credit!

I switch from fearful to psyched, worried to excited, desperately impatient to desperately wishing I had more time to prepare.

The labour is all I think about. Especially when I am trying to tell myself to think about something else. Even when I tell myself there is no point anticipating what might happen or how it might go. You just don’t know until it happens.

There is nothing in life like this.

A job interview you can prepare for, an exam you can study for...everything else seems to have rehearsals, dry runs, drills, practice, trials, run-throughs.

Not this time. I must surrender to that. Maybe I need to grasp that concept – really have it properly seep into my soul – before my labour can start?

Who the hell knows?

Soon, soon. Hopefully soon. I just wish I could define exactly what that meant.

So let me raise my raspberry leaf tea in a toast: “here’s to my next post being all about the textbook, incident-free birth of our baby girl”.

Monday, February 13, 2012

When the work is over

My last week at work.

It's over. I will be back, but I can't help thinking how momentous the closure of this 15-year-old chapter in my life is.

When I return, what will be waiting for me? What on earth will be going on inside my brain when I do go back? How will I be able to do the working mother thing?

Cart? Get back in the shed, we've got a horse to saddle up first. I am getting ahead of myself.

So my last day was February 10. I am due February 20. First of all, let me say that I am quite proud of myself - an inherently lazy person prone to naps and complaining OFTEN - that I actually made it to that date. I remember picking it out months ago to tell payroll...and part of me sheepishly thought I would more than likely leave a fortnight or so earlier. It just seemed so close.

But there, it is, I made it. I had a comfy chair at a desk and air-conditioning. Sure it broke down, but it was summer - it does that every year. I also had a huge goal of getting the maximum time off with our bubbalina after she is born. I didn't want to burn all my maternity leave bridges, especially when I haven't even crossed the whole labour one yet.

My brain managed to hold on to its journalist-wired functions - something I was quite shocked by. And I didn't make a complete fool of myself asking someone mid-serious interview, say, what their opinion of controlled crying was or the best remedy for cracked nipples. Although some days, I must admit, if more than three things happened at once (someone asked me something, my phone rang, an email popped up on my screen and I was half-way through writing a story) certain spheres of my brain would temporarily self-combust in overload mode and I would invariably have to apologise and run away to the toilet. Just to regroup. Oh, and empty my bladder for the 17th time that minute.

Everyone at work was lovely, supportive. I have some amazing friends there, good people who cried with me when we lost our baby in 2010. As they shared in our grief, so too do they share in our happiness and anticipation.

I was even treated to a "pink sugar" themed morning tea. That wasn't what it was officially called, but that's what sums it up. Every pink biscuit, cake, lolly, iced thing you could imagine was served on pink plastic plates with pink serviettes. Cute! I hope the doctors got it right!

I still wonder about our bub popping out sporting a between-the-legs protuberance we weren't expecting! It happens.

It was quite confronting and bizarre to clean out folders and folders of old emails (I am quite the hoarder) as well as my desk drawers and storage places. It was a great cleanse, but one I knew I couldn't commit to 100%.

I am not leaving that job for good. I will be back, in some form or another. At this stage, I will return in August. But anything could happen.

So I gathered up my timebook, voice recorder and a few personally signed business books that I might have time to actually read. They will make a nice change from all the pregnancy books! But I left the business cards of contacts, the stapler and a whole stack of pens for my replacement, who might need them.

It was quite thrilling to drive out of work on Friday night. I felt waves of nervousness and excitement.

Gone, completely gone, are weekdays I can plan out, organise, arrange. I don't really know what will replace them, but I can guess they won't be that structured as my previous life.

And that is actually quite liberating. Exciting.

I must admit, I have been getting ready for this next phase for a while now...ever since I was pregnant the last time. I don't know if all women are like that, but I could feel that I needed a change from the work routine. As comforting as that was, after years of it, I realised it wasn't as fulfilling as it had been in the beginning.

And now, we wait. And watch daytime TV. And spend too much time on the computer getting at least four different updates per hour on Whitney Houston. And do the dishes, cook, garden, swim, dust, tidy, nap, read. And wonder if that twinge is the start of labour. What that kick means...whether or not those damn endless hiccups signal something freaky.

Wondering when it's all going to happen.

I stood in the baby's room yesterday, eating watermelon. I looked down at my belly and then at the cot, which T and J had made up just that morning with pink gingham sheets and her new froggy slinky that J had chosen.

I looked from my belly to the cot and realised in a matter of days, weeks, she will be out of me and lying there.

Over. Whelmed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sleep peels and heals, I squeal

You should count yourself bloody lucky.

You know that, don’t you.

So, you lay your weary head down to sleep night after night and, hey presto – guess what?

You do actually sleep, don’t you?

So your blankie might sneakily slip off your legs as you languidly change position, mid REMs, causing you momentary chill and to momentarily stir to replace it; and so your poor sleepy little head might be roused, just briefly, by the breeze blowing the blinds against your window sill...

So what?

You go back to sleep. Literally, in the blink of an eye. And you stay that way. Don’t you. Until the day’s first light pierces the dim that has enveloped you and your sub-conscious so deliciously and in dreamy reverie for, oh, at least seven hours.

Sometimes it’s light for HOURS before you actually stir, isn’t it? Sometimes, those damn birds are out there chirping, as they have been since 4.02am – and you know NOTHING about it.


Because you have slept like a dead rock-shaped baby log on Valium. Yes you have.

And I hate you. Do you hear me. I HATE YOU!

No one, no one I tell you, has the right to complain about being tired unless they are A) pregnant or B) a parent to a child under the age of five.

Some younger, child-less people I work with often complain about being exhausted and I have to grit my teeth. Into a powder.

If you haven’t already got the gist, I am having trouble sleeping. Enormous trouble. I love my sleep. Enormously.

I know, I know – this is good practice for the express train to Zombie Land taking a massive detour past Sleepy-byes that all mums catch when they bring home a newborn.

But, seriously, disgustingly high night-time humidity, a four-year-old who has just started kindy and has now taken to waking in the night – often – for drinks of water or because of a scratching sound, a suddenly snoring partner not coping with the sudden outbursts of pollen in the air and my bladder demanding to be emptied up to four times a night DOES NOT A RESTFUL NIGHT MAKE!!!!!!!

I can understand now why the authorities say being tired can be as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel. I understand why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic.

Luckily I am someone who adores the gentle art of napping. It is something I indulge in as often as I can.

Unluckily, I am someone who is still at work full-time. And while it has been mightily tempting to flop prostrate onto my computer keyboard for a 30-minute power nap, my office is open plan and no less than 58 people would be witness to my antenatal-narcolepsy.

Sweet jesus, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to finishing work. It has been a bloody nightmare to lose so much sleep during the night, firstly, and secondly, not be able to just close the curtain on the dawning day to catch up.

Instead I have had to get up at normal time, shower, breakfast, makeup, get dressed and arrive at work at some sort of respectable hour.

All the while reminding myself that the closer I can work up to my due date, the more time off I will have with our baby.

It’s quite an incentive.

But I have only one more week at work to go. Hoo-to the hell-ray.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A dream mask

Oh, so this is what they meant when they said uncomfortable!

Don’t worry, I am not about to launch a waterfall of whinge. Frankly, the online space is filled to capacity with guff of that sort already.

Actually, the online space is capacity-free, isn’t it? And isn’t that a worry.

Suffice to say I am feeling quite awkwardly large for the first time. I sit down at a desk for most of the day – not a position conducive to pain-free late-term pregnancy.

I have been dreaming this past week of inventing a contraption that allows a laptop to be strapped onto a bib-style apron to enable the wearer to walk around, rather than sit, while working on a computer and doing a lot of typing.

It probably already exists, even though most people would surely only use it for a matter of weeks during their entire lifetime. Perhaps I could design one, and one only, that is shared about the world’s pregnant working women via a roster.

And I do know there are 14 million mobile devices on the modern market that allow people to check emails and various other internetty things while IN MOTION, but I mean something that enables people to stay standing and do hours-at-a-time typing-related computer work. Hmm.

These, and other random thoughts are par for the course between my ears right now. What else am I meant to do between the hours of 3am and 5am, when I am regularly awake.


If I am not awake, I am dreaming some truly weird things. In the past week, I have stolen discount vouchers from an old lady while a fellow I used to work with, oh, about 12 years ago watches with uniformed police from a surveillance room next door; and I have flexed my biceps while conducting a post-match press conference at the Australian Open tennis event. Just some of the weird dream flashes I can remember off the top of my head. It's been a busy week for my subconscious.

I am also thinking a lot about how life in our little house will change so much in a short matter of weeks.

I am reading Susan Maushart’s book The Mask of Motherhood, given to me, funnily enough, by my own mother.

It is part feminist textbook, part comedic rant and part statistical report that more than partially does my head in. But on the one-in-five occasions when I am mentally coherent enough to absorb what she is saying, it certainly does make my head think rather than hurt.

Suddenly I have realised little things like I may not be the one making dinner seven nights a week, just like I used to, due to certain new priorities. I am realising bigger things too that I will most likely fail at something so very new, in the short-term at least.

And I use the term fail deliberately, because parenting is full of little failures. You just hope the victories are bigger and tip heavier on the scales. And little fails are not full-time or permanently scarring (I hope). The best ones are short, temporary, and they teach us stuff.

Hopefully, I’ll be awake enough to pay attention.

Maushart also paints a rather depressing picture of the facade mothers all over the Western world perpetuate...essentially lying to each other about how well their babies sleep, about how lucky they are to have husbands who deign to change nappies (when two parents should be sharing parenting roles equally) and how expertly they are managing to juggle motherhood with work and wife duties.

The reality, she claims - and with the results of about 3,000 research studies to back her up - is quite the opposite. But it's like a massive conspiracy that no one talks about. Women working part-time with a baby just months old will, she says, think she is multi-tasking with great skill. But she is actually, she claims, failing spectacularly at each 'task', so thinly is she spread, so stressed is she under the weight of many burdens.

I partly disagree and partly absorb for future reference. First of all, 99% of the situations she writes about involve heterosexual couples and the traditional constraints, she claims, that continue to be placed on their relationships.

That is a whole other blog post. On the whole, it has been refreshing to read something that reminds me how big the upheaval will be in a few short weeks. I am preparing for a memorable time where I will not be capable at some things, where I will make mistakes and be sleep-deprived and hormonal and all over the damn place. I have to surrender to that, and lots of other things...and it will be bloody good for me, I am sure.

And as someone reminded me today, while I have not undergone the full physical part of giving birth; I have been in baby-land before. I was a mum to a baby only a few years ago.

But I was a kind of father-mum...someone Centrelink may not define as the “primary care giver”, not exclusively the one getting up for night feeds.

Plus, you forget so easily. You forget about things like teething, nappies, solids, burping, toilet-training, tummy time, dummies, rashes, wind, that first smile, baby talk. Ok, I am remembering now...

But life can be so busy that the only way is to live in the moment.

I just wish the moment that she arrives was here! These last few weeks are dragging so much!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Be sensible. For once

I am reading Kaz Cooke’s famed pregnancy book Up The Duff.

As she writes week by week about her pregnancy, so too do I read the relevant chapter at a time.

This week she talked about presenting her birth plan to her OBGYN at her latest appointment.

As far as I knew, it was a piece of paper, actually handed over to the doctor.

I got a bit worried and wondered if this was par for the course, so I raised it with my OBGYN when we went in this week.

Dr Sensible, as he shall henceforth be known for all eternity, said that was probably something advisable in larger hospitals where the staffing complement of midwives was enormous and such notes/plans would be clipped to patient admission forms to ensure that Labouring Mother A did not get her Enya CDs, carrot sticks and lavender oil burner mixed up with Labouring Mother B’s sandalwood incense, Tim Tams and strict instructions to do third stage naturally.

And trust me, when it comes to banshee demands from a woman in labour, you do not want to confuse a carrot stick with a Tim Tam.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” he said, when I told him I will certainly try for a natural birth but will be undoubtedly disappointed if I have to have a Caesarean or some other drastic means of intervention.

I hate that about myself sometimes...the fact that I anticipate extreme, negative emotions that I may never feel. But perhaps I need to experience something of that – to imagine that – to provide me with enough internal incentive to try and avoid it?

But that’s the thing about labour. Your body takes over. How much of your mind could possibly play a part when there is a physical process just running the show? How closely intertwined can body and mind really be at that point, especially as it’s a point when women commonly LOSE their minds...?

Back at the doctor’s, I hopped up on the table for a quick heartbeat scan and gentle tummy feel. The head is definitely down. Good news.

I told him friends of mine had had their doctor give them a rough indication of the size of their baby via a quick ultrasound. Could he also do one on me, please, so that I might have some early warning as to whether or not I should be readying myself to deliver either a hippo-shaped human or a lemur-sized lump.

Just who is who in my zoo?

Dr Sensible then explained that such calculations were very imprecise and carried a margin for error of 15% either way. And besides, he said, some women have heard a weight, – say 8.5 pound – freaked out about the possibility of delivering a 9.5 pound baby through their fragile pelvis and opted for a Caesar only to deliver a 7-pounder on D-Day.

Too much information? It is EVERYWHERE in the world of babies, pregnancy and parenting.

At the end of our appointment, I wasn’t one bit miffed. In fact, I was thankful we had a doctor who was willing to stand so proudly with both feet firmly in Reasonville, Logic Land.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Transition ignition

I have been thinking a lot this week about transitions.

The chew-your-nails-off-with-terror transition that signifies the progression of labour from the, I believe, comparitively quite tranquil first stage, to the second (IE: the part where vulnerability, pain and anxiety are at their peak, all the while the alien being inside you claws, rips and tears its way out of a tiny hole in your genital regions).

I am really quite frightened about that. Because it is so unknown. I cannot micro-manage that...because I do not know what hormone-induced emotions will surface, nor how they will manifest physically.

I never forget the woman in a reality birth documentary series on TV who was so zen about her meditative birthing experience. She had her support person whispering mantras to spirit the pain away during contractions, whales moaned via loudpeaker in the background and she looked very stoic as she closed her eyes while the muscles peformed their inevitable, automatic clench. Occasionally, her lips would purse, but it was the only giveaway that things were not completely normal and fine inside her skin.

Some edits later and Regan from The Exorcist had replaced zen woman. She was bellowing and writhing and sporting wild, white eyes of panic as she yelled abuse and orders to her clearly-rattled support people. It was terrifying.

Will that be me?

I am also anxious about the transition I will undergo from working professional to stay at home mum.

That thing that has own its own acronym: SAHM.


I have been working full-time as a journalist since 1996. For five days a week, sometimes more, that is what I have been.

Hard-working, sensible, professional, thorough, doing my job. A job I became qualified for after three years at university.

I go to work and I have full knowledge of what the day will bring in terms of what is expected of me, what I need to achieve to feel fulfilled and ensure my job is done properly. It is very satisfying.

I am about to switch, not only jobs, but entire careers, mindsets, time zones, body clocks, routines and physiological functions.

I am about to become a new person with a new, incredibly important job. A job that does not come with a degree or any opportunity for pre-preparedness study.

It is scary to think about. But then, of course, we went through the same thing before J was born.

And we muddled through.

It’s what most rational, sane, adult people do.

I just wonder how rational and sane you can really be at 2am when you haven’t slept for three days and your baby is screaming for no apparent reason.

We are now down to seeing our OBGYN weekly, the baby’s room is set and ready to go and our ante-natal classes finish this week.

It feels like the end of things, the tying up of loose strings.

It’s incredibly exciting but also bloody daunting.

Our lives are about to change forever.

Intellectually, I know they will change for the better. Of course.

But I wonder how much of me will mourn the loss of the life we lived before.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The sticky

When we first moved to beautiful, sunny Queensland seven years ago, we had no idea where precisely in amongst the state’s 1.72million square kilometres we would settle.

So, we swished and hovered vague fingers over coastal regions on our map and hired a car. Started at Point A and drove to Point B, all with a clear understanding that Point B would firmly be defined as the place that featured a climate no hotter than we could cope with.

Anything north of Noosa, we decided, was way too hot. Too tropical, too steamy and too much of a filthy, sticky inferno to call home.

Sure, we had come from South Australia where 44-degree days were a walk in the park. You want a dust storm with those 44 degrees? Why not? Just close the windows and take a cold shower. Pfft.

We knew all too well that an enormous dose of meteorological malice does something crazy to the weather in Australia once you cross state borders and head north.

It’s called humidity.

I don’t care what you say: it is easier to cool off in dry heat than humidity. Cold showers don’t work when you can’t even dry yourself properly afterwards.

I may have scored 11 out of 20 in my final year biology exam, but even I know that sweat plus increased moisture in the air equals approximately 426% extra sweat and a 65-fold increase in the level of discomfort.

Is it any wonder the word troppo, used to describe a state of seriously deranged mental delirium, derives from tropical?

I fear I may go troppo this week.

Summer has finally arrived in our neck of the woods and while temperatures in their early 30s might not sound like much, especially when compared to the mid-40s from SA, sweet Jesus, it is hell on earth around here. My favourite moment was yesterday when I logged onto a weather website, to which I am quite addicted, and saw that while it was technically 33 degrees, it "felt like" 38. Not sure how they measure that, but I thought it was hilarious. For about three seconds, then I started crying tears of sweat into my keyboard.

Did I mention I am eight and a half months pregnant?

Thankfully though, the good people we purchased our house from six years ago had the genius idea of installing a pool and air-conditioning. Thankfully, we made the most of a government rebate and put insulation in our roof a year there are three things mercifully keeping me cool at this time of year.

Also this week, we bought a new pram. While we have been really lucky to have either recycled J’s cot, change table, toys and some clothes or been given a mountain of baby girl’s things...the old Steelcraft we bought for him four years ago was showing its age.

We needed a new one, and gave the old one to charity (after a good clean). It was terribly sad dumping it at Lifeline...I remember thinking of everywhere we had used it as J grew from a newborn to the almost-four year old he is today.

Then my breath caught as I realised the new pram we were going to pick up would do exactly the same...and how quickly it all happens.

Time flies. Blink and you’ll miss it. I try to remind myself of that at the moment, when I feel like I have been pregnant for about 14 years, so desperate am I to meet our daughter.

I also packed my bag for hospital and completely freaked out when I saw A) the enormous packs of maternity pads for the post-delivery bleeding that T bought me and B) the teeny tiny gro-suits and singlets our baby girl will be wearing in hospital.

Goodness! Let me finish this post here, before I start crying!

Hurry up, time!*

*This sentiment likely to change at any given moment, especially when I start questioning – again – if we are ready or not.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Are we ready?

We lifted up the cot mattress base thing this week.

It had been left down in its lower position ever since J slept in it, probably about 18 months ago.

Just seeing it up higher now, ready to accommodate a tiny swaddled peanut, brings reality a lot closer to home.

I know I keep going on about how real this is all becoming.

But pregnancy creates a funny state of mind, causing your emotions to flit from silly denial to steely preparedness, from “I can’t do this” to “yes, of course we can”.

Firstly, you feel as if you will be/have been pregnant A LONG TIME. Possibly forever.

And 10 months is a long time. If I could do the maths quickly in my mind right now, I am sure it would be the equivalent of 4098 days.

Or something.

And you are keenly anticipating the arrival of this new life. We can’t wait to meet her, see what she looks like, feel what impact she will have on our family. We say those things a lot, as we wonder and surmise. So time drags.

On and on. Turning those 10 months into 10 centuries in your mind.

Secondly, you start wondering if you are ready, if you can ever be ready, to be a parent to a newborn.

So what if we have done it before. Things will be very different this time around.

It’s my first baby, but the second in our family.

We have an almost four-year-old to consider.

So what if we have done the sensible, practical things, like get a new pram, stock up on nappies and raise the cot mattress.

Emotionally, are we ready?

And what sort of baby will she be? We have already done ourselves a massive disservice by starting (already!) to compare what she might be like to Jay (who is basically the perfect child).

“Well, we were so lucky with him, we are bound to cop it with a little prima donna diva princess with this one,” we tell ourselves. We are joking, but also shit-scared it might be true.

We really should stop putting that sort of sentiment out there. Poor little mite, cursed even before she pops out.

But then of course we realise that we felt the same things and asked the same questions just before J was born.

We got through. Some days it was a muddle, some days were bloody awful for T, but most days were funny, memorable, amazing and joyful.

Occasionally in the early days we would reminisce about our life before he was born and how we could do crazy things like sleep in, eat nothing but chips and gravy and lemonade and know subconsciously that every minute of every day could be filled with any activity of our choice.

And this week I realised, we will probably do the same thing after our girl is born.

These times with J will seem different, maybe easier, certainly quieter. But that goes to show how easily we adapted to life with him.

Of course we did. We had to – and we love him, so we were happy about the change.

Of course the same will happen again.

We also had a 3D scan of our baby a few weeks back. It was incredible. The cord was slightly in the way, so distorted some of the images.

Plus her nose looked squashed and enormously wide, prompting me to announce in the scan room that I would have to check our records to see if the donor was in fact African-American. But the radiographer assured me all baby noses looked like that.

Here are a few pics:

Naw. Be safe in there baby. See you soon. Sigh.