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.