I’m not scared of the birth (yet)

I’m not scared of the birth (yet)

Fifteen years ago, like most women in their first pregnancy I imagine, I spent a lot of time thinking about, researching and creating my birth plan. I wanted as natural a birth for my son as was possible, and I wanted to labour in water as pain management, that was a big one for me. As it turns out, no-one cared about the birth plan, at all. I’m not sure anyone even looked at it.

I was living in London at the time and was booked into Guy’s Hospital. After an initial false start I finally did get admitted and shown to a birthing suit that had a large bath, only to be told that if I was to use it I needed a midwife with me all the time and they were simply too short staffed that night to accommodate that. I sat on a birth ball in a sterile and stark room, shivering with cold, laboring through the night feeling very overwhelmed and alone while my husband (at the time) slept in the corner. I remember looking longingly at the bath, its presence but inaccessibility taunting me.

I did go on to have an epidural when extreme exhaustion set in. This was the second night I had laboured, I’m one of those people who’s contractions seem to virtually stop during daylight hours, and so after 36 hours of nothing but occasional dozing I gave in to pain relief at 4:30am. The labour stalled at sunrise again, and eventually I was told I was going to be prepped for a cesarean as I had been stuck at 8cm dilated for too long and the baby was now in distress. ‘Just give a push a try’ the doctor said on his way out. I did, and the midwife grabbed my husband by the arm and thrust him into catch position as she madly lunged for gloves. Two more pushes later he was out and the midwife was breathing sighs of relief telling us she’d never seen an actual birth so fast.

My memories of that birth were riddled with feelings of being scared, cold, alone and disempowered, so when number two came along I was determined to do things differently. We’d moved back to Sydney and I had private health cover so I hired a private midwife. I saw the same person throughout the pregnancy so she came to know me, and my values, well. I prepared a birth plan and we’d gone through it but it hadn’t really been necessary, she knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want. Again the priorities were as natural as possible and please let me labour in water.

Again I found myself in a room with a birthing bath but unable to use it, mostly because number two arrived so fast that I had bearly time to get into the room. Again the hospital had been short staffed, but this time I had my own midwife with me and felt like I was in safe hands. Arriving at 1am I was left waiting in the hallway with another laboring with no staff to be seen. He wasn’t going to wait however, he was on his way. My midwife barged into the other room where all the other midwives were and declared she was taking me into the other suite to deliver the baby whether they liked it or not. Two came running immediately. The actual birth was fast again, this time after just a three hour labour. I was still standing near the doorway, having just made it into the room. If my midwife hadn’t been there I probably would have delivered in the hallway, or maybe the labour wouldn’t have been so fast because I didn’t feel safe and supported, I don’t know. What I do know was that it felt like the perfect birth, I’d managed to mentally master the pain and looking back it felt like an empowering experience. I felt like I had conquered the world!

This time, having dropped my private health insurance obstetrics cover long ago, I will be back to a similar situation as my first birth, rocking up at the hospital and hoping I’d come across the midwife on duty before. Even if I had a choice I don’t think I would have felt it necessary to have a private midwife, I’ve done this before and nailed it, I got this. I have a more supportive partner that I have confidence in and I’m less invested in how the baby arrives so much as that she arrives safely. Is this nonchalance because I no longer have anything to prove, or is it because I’m older and wiser? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because at 44 (which I will be when I give birth) they tell you the risks of this and that are so much higher that I will feel blessed just to both get through this alive. Maybe it’s because my large fibroid may mean I need a cesarean anyway, and in coming to terms with that idea already I have started to practice letting go.

I know I will eventually do a birth plan because I’m that type A personality that needs to dot all the i’s and cross all the it’s in order to feel in control and reduce anxiety, but I think I’ve also matured enough to know when to let go and just go with the flow. There has to be some advantage to this older mother gig, maybe that’s it. I’m heading into the third trimester unafraid of the birth experience that is nearing, and that feels good.

Pregnancy and parenting teens don’t mix

Pregnancy and parenting teens don’t mix

Well, our little mini break without the kids and school pressures on hold due to school holidays is over. And don’t I know it. 

I’d been rocking along ok for a while, yeah maybe I wasn’t happy that they still using that c word at me (cesarean) but that’s not the end of the world, just an inconvenience (I’ll have very little help after the birth) and a disappointment to get over if it happens. But by the end of that first week back at school I that wasn’t feeling  great. I reasoned it away: I was stacking on the weight, which was getting me down; I am approaching the third trimester and starting to get tired again, which is to be expected; there were some pressures coming up at work, I found out I was going to be the one left holding the fort over the Christmas/New Year period at eight months pregnant; and the first week of school term always hurts a little as I get back into the hectic swing of things. I chose to work from home on the Friday, I’m lucky to have that option, and thought I’d pick up over the weekend.

I didn’t. I had lots of plans, but I was tired and struggling to do them. Mr Z was a bit crabby with me, wanting me to do more. I was trying, but really I was pushing already, too hard. When everyone is used to you being the one keeping it all together ads getting things done they don’t react too well when you start dropping balls though. Don’t expect sympathy, expect a’get it together mum’ attitude. I tried.

By Monday afternoon, the first day of the working week, I was already struggling. I’d had yet another call from the school about my eldest son’s behaviour. The usual support teacher is away for a couple of months and it seems like everything is going to pieces, I felt on the edge of cope. I came home, cranky at my lack of help, made dinner then went to bed to watch Netflix on my phone with headphones in. An unspoken do not disturb. People weren’t pleased. I didn’t care.

By Tuesday morning I was exhausted just getting out of bed, I had a headache and my eyes hurt. I had a big row with both my eldest son and Mr Z. I felt over them both. I went to work in an upset daze, just staring out the window of the train, unable to do so much as read the news. When I arrived at work I told people I simply wasn’t well, had a bad headache (it was true) and was told I was looking terrible and pale in return. I had no appetite, I left work just after lunch, tears threatening to spill over already the train. I felt exhausted and the sciatic pain was overwhelming.

Mr Z got home late that night, again I was in bed. He didn’t so much as come in the room. It became obvious he intended to sleep on the lounge. At one point I got up and tried to talk to him, to tell him I wasn’t well, but he didn’t want to know. I ended up yelling it at him, that someone should know that I’m not doing ok, whether he cared or not, just in case something happened. He ignored me. I cried myself to sleep. 

The following day he was distant but kind, he brought me coffee in bed. I got out of bed long enough to get the kids to school, then returned, and so did the tears. I cried off and on for hours that day, unable to stop for very long between, my head splitting. I was texting a friend, trying to verbalize what was wrong, I couldn’t, the only words in my head were “I can’t”. Mentally I kept running over everything I have to achieve, telling myself I had to get it together, I had no luxury to go to pieces, but the only response to anything was “I can’t”.

Mr Z finally approached me, saying “You aren’t doing ok are you?”. My reply was yet another bout of sobs. He doesn’t do crying, he usually heads out the door till it’s over. He stayed, put on his professional hat and gave me an assessment. High blood pressure, he eventually concluded. I cried some more. He gave me an acupuncture treatment, frustrated that it wouldn’t provide an instant fix that would get his partner back to him, now.

I stayed in bed for the rest of the day, and didn’t go to work the following day either, although I had finally managed to get out of bed. The treatment was kicking the in and my headache was letting up although I was still a bit dizzy. Then the vice principle rang. She was putting my son on a in-school suspension for a day, they were at wits end with him. I said join the club. 

I told her I wasn’t doing so well myself, the baby was starting to be affected. She said she didn’t push medication, and respected my decision to this point to not go down that path, but for everybody’s sake maybe it was time. She said he just was too disruptive to keep in the classroom, but was trying so hard and was starting to get down on himself that he just didn’t get it. 

I have always been on his side, always asking for understanding for him because he doesn’t think the same way as the average person, but now I wasn’t so sure. He was given a lunch time detention and simply decided not to go. That isn’t autism, that arrogant teenage  asshole-ism. I wasn’t so convinced that autistic thinking was behind his behaviour, so much as having been suspended and his father  (that he ran off to at that point) having allowed him to treat it like a holiday, a reward, a well needed break from having to behave himself at school. That experience, and his autistic view of it – that it didn’t matter how it affected anyone else, it was a good thing for him- I viewed that the biggest problem here. I’m not sure he needs medication so much as a good kick up the behind.

The following day I felt a lot better, the acupuncture treatment was kicking in, although a lingering headache persisted. It was Friday and rather than push myself to go to work I took the extra day to rest and go to the hospital antenatal clinic for a more formal checkup for peace of mind. My blood pressure had come down to the normal range and baby was doing fine but they put more through a lot of tests anyway, my risk factors for pre-eclampsia were increasing and they needed to rule it out, which they did. Not only that but I’d lost 2kg, probably due to the reduction in hypertensive fluid retention. I left relieved.

And so we trudge on. I’m still not glowing.

My new friends

My new friends

I’m really enjoying living further out in the Australian bush. It’s an ideal location, not quite rural, but far away enough to feel you’ve left the city behind. It’s tranquil, but I wouldn’t say serene. No, in fact, you are never quite alone out here, thanks to my new friends. Not that I mind a bit! The native parrots may be demanding when it comes to being fed, but they certainly are entertaining and beautiful to have around. I’ve captured a little for you to see what I mean.

“I know you are there, I can see you! Hey, look at me, it’s important, the food bowl is empty!”

By the way, that fake owl he is sitting on is sold here as a bird deterrent. The previous owners must have been a bit disappointed with it’s performance!🙂

“Finally! Hey everyone, FOOD!”


Enter a caption

Beautiful, aren’t they?  From left to right there’s a Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Rosellas and a King Parrot. The big white bird in the other photos is a Cockatoo. Both the Cockatoos and the King Parrots are often friendly enough to eat out of your hand.

Long weekend bliss

Long weekend bliss

I can’t say that 2016 up until now has been more stressful than previous years, but it has been relentless and exhausting, up until now. I haven’t been on a holiday this long weekend but I feel like I’ve had one, simply because there has not been something pressing or urgent to do and I’ve had the opportunity to rest and do things I enjoy, without the weight of things I should be doing instead weighing on my shoulders.

A dear friend came to visit on Saturday, which was actually Mr Z’s and my anniversary but he was at work. I gave a tour of my new home, discussing all our plans to update and renovate, then we went out shopping. It’s been so long since I’ve been shopping with a girlfriend I’d forgotten how much fun it was! 

Mr Z and I went out to a lovely dinner after work, and the rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, gardening and cooking. We had fantastic spring weather on Sunday, giving us the opportunity to try out our backyard pizza oven which Mr Z had spent time restoring to working condition. It was perfect, like camping without ever leaving home. Bliss! The bliss didn’t end there, I used the leftover pizza dough to make cinnamon scrolls for breakfast the next morning, a perfect way to start a public holiday!

That’s not to say we didn’t celebrate our anniversary in a bigger way, particularly being our last before the arrival of our baby, it’s just that with all the stress the previous week Mr Z treated me to a evening away in a luxury hotel in the city last weekend, bringing the celebration forward because I had obviously needed the treat then.

The pizza oven

Our quaint bush backyard

Preparing the pizza dough

My first pizza ready to go – we were learning lessons! It turned out that the dough was sticky and the oven not hot enough but it was still delicious

A much improved second attempt

I’m NOT glowing

I’m NOT glowing

Who ever said pregnant women glow? Do glowing, serene pregnant women even exist? I’m not glowing and I’m not serene. At least I’m over the 24×7 nausea – that started to let up around 18 weeks – only to be replaced by chronic hip and leg pain from sciatica. My working days are long, I have a 1.5 hour train ride between work and home and while I used to find it relaxing the sciatica now means that by the time I get off the train some days I’m almost in tears of pain. It’s my left side, the side you are supposed to sleep on, so that’s going just great too.

For a long while there were relentless pressures. There were left over issues to resolve from our residential move – the unpacking that took too long due to the exhaustion; the fight with the landlord over the bond as he tried to claim for things that he wasn’t entitled to; and the need to complete my last subject at uni while battling the exhaustion, nausea and competing priorities, which included working out why after 6 weeks they still hadn’t connected our internet at home. That makes it particularly difficult to do an online university course I have to say. I got allocated a new project at work that involved learning new technologies and mastering them to consultant level asap. My eldest son’s problems at school escalated, adding regular phone calls at work from the school about his behaviour that cumulated in a 4 day suspension. Teenage hormones and Aspergers just don’t mix. He then ran off to his father’s place to avoid punishment, bringing dealing with my ex-husband into the mix, like things weren’t stressful enough. Oh, and Mr Z was still only working 2 afternoons a week as my maternity leave looms and the mortgage remains a constant.

Amongst it all I got an email from Mr Z’s mother – she wanted to get to know me, which weekend (during my peak uni assessment time) was going to suit me for a visit? Did I mention I don’t have a good relationship with my mother and my last mother-in-law lived up to the quintessential MIL reputation in what could have been an award winning way? I felt pressure on my pressures, I cried, mothers scare me and I didn’t need yet another one in my life to show me disapproval, to kick me while I’m down. I developed a case of mild shingles due to all the stress, which just further exasperated the stress because now the baby was at risk. I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown.

Then suddenly it all stopped. The rental tribunal came and went having ruled in our favour; the school princIple turned out to be lovely and not at all on the verge of expelling my little trouble maker, she wanted to know how better they could help him; the new mother-in-law was kind and very supportive; I got my uni assignments finished and will graduate after all; Mr Z has several great looking opportunities for work; and the school holidays arrived and the kids went away, my mother’s duties disappearing along with them.

Now I find myself sitting in the resounding silence, feeling disoriented. Spring has arrived, there’s warmth in the sun, the blossoms are out and I even have time to enjoy it. My over-wound nervous system seems to twitch though, I have moments of panic that there’s something I should be doing and it takes a minute or two to mentally run through the issues and reassure myself that no, I’m not dropping any balls, and my breathing starts to return to normal. I feel agitated, not knowing how to cope with having nothing pressing to deal with. Then bub kicks me and I spend a moment focused on her and let the peace and joy I should be feeling finally wash over me. Maybe I might get a chance to glow serenely after all, even if it’s just for a week.

…or not

…or not

It wasn’t the pregnancy itself that was the problem, that was something we said we’d like in an ideal world, the problem was that we were not living in an ideal world. Far from financially secure I had just invested every cent I had in a Sydney sized mortgage and already had two kids to support, and Mr Z was still a couple of months from graduating from his master’s, after which would follow an internship type year that paid next to nothing. At 43 we had decided it would not be possible for us before time ran out. Apparently the universe had other plans. 

It wasn’t only the finances that concerned me, there was the issue of my previous miscarriages and the emotional rollercoaster that early pregnancy brings, every day waking to wonder if today would be the day it would happen. There was a lot to get my head around if this baby was going to hang in there, but I didn’t want to think about it too much and get too attached because the chances of it working out seemed so slim. Even if I didn’t miscarry, at 43 the chance of there being a serious genetic issue is 1 in 30, and what then? Add to that the hormones, the 24×7 nausea, the exhaustion, the stress of moving house, managing university assignments and still looking after kids through it all and it was a recipe for emotional volatility and copious amounts of tears. Hello relationship strain – just what we needed with our past history! 

I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the doctors at first, I was 7 weeks before I did. We were in the midst of the move and I didn’t even know which doctor to go to, I had to find a new one. I had been experiencing pain and assumed it was just a matter of time, but it was pain, not cramps, and after the previous miscarriages I was well aware of the difference. Finally I made an appointment. The doctor was lovely and sympathetic and sent me of for a scan. It was still another 4 days before I had it, but it was a relief when I did. There was the tiny little jelly bean with a clear heartbeat, and a giant fibroid that evidently was the source of my pain (an inconvenience but not really a risk). I felt so much relief. Finally it became real, finally I started to allow myself to think, what if…?  

It was weeks before I started to feel better, but even then every day that I wasn’t horribly ill I wondered if it was a sign that the hormone levels were dropping and I was going to experience that loss after all. I told my eldest about the baby because he had been causing me a lot of stress by fighting going to school (every day) and he didn’t understand my volatility and lack of patience with him about it, which I felt extreme guilt over. I thought he would be better if he understood, and he was. In fact he was delighted with the news. I waited until after the 12 week scan to tell my youngest though, he is a much more emotional soul and I didn’t want him along on my rollercoaster ride if I could help it. 

The stats on the genetic risk after the scan came back low so finally I told my youngest, that same day. I had told very few people that I was pregnant and clearly needed a bit of practice because I struggled to get it out. Or maybe I subconsciously had anticipated his reaction. Let’s just say he needed a bit of adjustment time before he could say he was happy about the news, not least because he was concerned someone was going to have to move out to make room! For a good three days I can say I crashed and burned from my position as cool mother to the most embarrassing mother on the face of the earth, but finally he came round to being as happy about it as the rest of us were. Thank God. 

Finally, out of the chaos that had reinstated itself in my life with renewed force, there came a little bit of joy.

Goodbye chaos, I’ve gained control…

Goodbye chaos, I’ve gained control…

It’s hard to believe it’s the end of August already. I mean I know the years go by fast at this stage but this one, this one has gone by in the blink of an eye. If in the last few years I felt my life was a little on pause, a little stagnating, this year it has shot forward with a jolt in a way that has left me standing here wondering what on earth just happened. In hindsight, the previous years were all a lead up to this, what I thought was stagnation was actually preparation and planning.

So what has happened this year? Well I’ve been away for so long that there’s some catching up to do. Mr Z and I benefited greatly from some time apart, realising that we still had a strong friendship and foundation of caring that meant we were able to resolve our differences and come back together with renewed and more realistic expectations. I had time to remember what my own plans had been for my life prior to having met him, and spent time getting those back on track. 

I re-committed to my studies and finally saw that financial planner and got back into the mortgage game, buying my own place before being completely priced out of the Sydney market. As it was I’ve moved to the very outskirts of the universe to do it, my commute to the office in the center of Sydney takes two hours door to door, with just over an hour and a half of that being on a train. No matter, I reasoned, the trip is comfortable and gives me time to study, the results of which will enable me to get a job away from the corporate city life in the future. The kids aren’t young anymore, they are old enough to travel to and from school independently, and I’m lucky enough to have shorter work hours that mean I still leave and arrive at home at the same sort of times that many of my friends that work close to home do anyway. 

It was an awesome plan, I’d lined up all my ducks in a row, I was in a relationship but still independent, money would be tight but I was fully in control of my life. No more landlords, no more moving, no more stress for an uncertain future. The future was here, finally I could take some time to kick back and enjoy life a little. My backyard is my own little bush oasis, I could hang pictures on the walls in my home, I could build a vegetable garden. Sure it’s a long way away from the city but I’m a mountain girl at heart anyway, my soul is at peace out there, it’s a place I love going home to and the kids love it too.

Now the last time I thought I had finally reached a position like that was when the kids were a lot younger and had gone away with their father on a holiday for two whole weeks. Rather than despair at the emptiness I decided to invest in myself, telling the naturopath I booked that it was my time to finally look at myself and my health and get everything in order – for me. I was a single, working mum but life had settled down into a regular, manageable routine, and it was time to factor in some self care. Two days later I got the news that my ex had broken his leg in multiple places, I needed to fly out to the remote location he was in and bring the kids home, and look after them for the next several months on my own, he was out of action. I’m just lucky I managed to hold onto my job and pay my rent during that time, and needless to say my stress related issues I had been determined to tackle doubled overnight. We all survived though. Just.

I know you know where this is going, the writing was always on the wall wasn’t it? Here I was thinking similar things, not having learnt yet that life is not like that, well not mine anyway. No sooner than I had committed to the purchase of a small, three bedroom house on the edge of the earth that was just perfect for us, and just affordable for me, feeling quietly just a little bit proud of my complete independence, I found out that I was pregnant.