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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

June 2011

Smitten Kitten

I’ve grown accustom to your face
I’ve grown addicted to your smell
Housed in you
Perfect embodiment
Of Mini TonyVelle

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Handover notes

We’re home! And it’s taken us longer than expected to get to this point. Long story short,

Jaundice = sleepy baby

Sleepy baby = poor feeding

Poor feeding = >10% weight loss

However,

Jaundice = Eating heaps = >10% weight loss

Which meant Mommy and Daddy about went crazy, trying to get as much breast milk stuffed into a stomach the size of a child’s playground marble. Which resulted in a meltdown at one point when you’re trying to fight the Zzzz monster that comes with the jaundice. But we can talk about that in another post.

Our long hospital stay coincided with a mass exodus of excited new moms and dads, which meant that the Executive Suite got freed up. So we went from

Small ward N12
Your typical hospital ward. Tony's mattress is set up on the left of my bed.

to

Hello Luxury
Double bed! Couches! Space!
Other side of room
TWO couches! And more space! For stuff!
Microwave and fridge
Our own microwave oven! And bar fridge!
The other side of the room
Change table! Sink! Ensuite!
Bathtub
Huge bathtub! With no safety railings! So you can slip and fall! Or depend on a midwife to help you in and out when your pelvic bone is shot!
Couch of no return
The Couch of No Return. Like quicksand, you can sink in... but you may never get out again.

So yes, our stay was rather unique in that we’d managed to experience both types of wards for a week in Private Maternity.

Along the way, I’d compiled a list of Things I Now Know. So yes, if you’re about to pop one out your fanny some time soon, here’s a list of useful tips I’d cobbled together along the way.

Night light

Hospital wards have lighting that’s a bit all or nothing. You either get drenched in wattage, or you’re stumbling about in the dark – which is always fun when you’re trying to get your newborn to latch at 3:15am. Tip? Perhaps bring your own night light to plug in. One that gives you a happy medium.

Ear plugs

Bring your ear plugs for both you and your partner, especially if he’s staying overnight. Because you’re both going to be bone-tired, which means you both might snore. And even if you don’t, your neighbours next door might. Or the village might turn up to visit the popular newborn down the corridor. Whatever. The doors are pretty good with the sound proofing, but they completely ruin it by having gaps in the walls where you share a window with the next ward. The hospital can supply ear plugs, but it’s one size fits all.

Bring your own pillows

Because ours went walkabout, so between Tony and I, we had only one provided by the hospital. Which proved a logistical challenge since Tony was set up on a mattress on the floor beside my bed. Thankfully, I’d brought two along for the labour. But think about the kind of pillow you’re going to need when you’re staying up to breastfeed. And believe me – newborns take a while over dinner.

Nappy wipes

The hospital doesn’t supply them, so bring your own. If not, you can always use a wet face wash – which means you’ve gotta keep a ready stash of hospital-issue face cloths at bay in your room. I’m glad I brought my nappy wipes, because it was at least one less item to think about when we were trying to gently-but-efficiently scrub sticky meconium in 2.58 seconds flat while our newborn screamed blue murder. And then peed all over Daddy in between cloth nappies.

Books

Don’t bother. You are so not going to have the time to read. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking. Oh that’s right – I wasn’t.

Maternity pads

Unless you’re quite happy to use the hospital grade one – which is uber soft and absorbent but doesn’t do your clothes any favours unless you wear all five at once – BYO. The thicker, the better because you won’t know whether you’re coming out with stitches, piles or worse. The operating word here is Cushion. Yes. This tip is gruesome. But helpful.

Water bottle 

Breastfeeding is thirsty, thirsty business. Sure they offer you a pitcher and a glass to help yourself, but when you’re a one-arm bandit at 3 in the morning, faffing around with pitchers and glasses in the dark gets old pretty quick. Besides – the glasses they offer are teeny-tiny, and you’ll want to down 200ml in one gulp alone. Water bottle, my friend. Slurp-friendly.

Food

Those maternity check lists go on and on about food for the partner and you during labour. But being on tap for baby at all odd hours of the day means your food clock goes silly as well. Be prepared for hunger attacks during times when the hospital’s Food Services have come and gone. If you have a supportive partner who can rummage together a ham and cheese toasty for you at 3:47am, great. If not…

BYO breast pump

Tony and I brought our own breast pump along because we wanted to learn how to use the pump while we were surrounded by wise midwives. Except would you believe they didn’t have/didn’t want to supply sterilisation equipment? So yes – it’s hospital-grade Medela or broke. Thankfully, my breast pump turned out to be easy enough to work out once we got home. But yeah, you might want to leave yours behind.

Take cover

If you know or suspect that you’re going to have visitors drop by, you might want to bring along either a shawl or a feeding cover. Because you’ll never know when Bub wants a breast feed, right when visitors drop by for a quick surprise visit. Also, shawls are great for covering the shoulders when it gets nippy. And hospital rooms can get nippy.

Baby clothes 

If you end up staying in the hospital for the best part of a week, you might want to dress your new kid in actual clothes – rather than a bit of cloth with strings attached, which is what the miniature hospital gowns are in essence. About as drafty as a medieval castle in the Scottish Highlands, and fiddly as heck.

Know thy bed options

If you’re ever given the option for bedrooms in private maternity, perhaps consider these pros and cons.

Single bed – pro: 
Usually a bona fide hospital bed, which means fancy buttons for messing around with bed height and elevation. VERY useful when you are sore, and/or your pelvic bone has decided to get shifty and/or a myriad other reasons that basically HURT. LIKE. THE. DICKENS. when you so much as move a centimetre to get out of bed to feed your new offspring. Now it’s all, “Come bring the baby to me.” (*bzzzt* adjust bed height and boob-to-mouth distance). Handy.

Single bed – con:
Your partner will end up sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Which means if you need to wake him up in the middle of the night, you might need an assortment of poking devices or soft toys to fling in his general direction. Which by NO means is a guarantee of waking him up anyway.

Double bedroom – pro:
Comes with a double bed. Which is lovely for cuddle times, especially when you’re still basking in the newfound admiration your partner has for you after witnessing Birth in all its gory.

Double bedroom – con:
See Single bed – pro.

Not a mellow yellow

Ah. This is an extra special one, and because I’m now writing this bit past 30 June, what I’m about to point out has become a non-issue. Essentially, Calvary Hospital has renovated its postnatal wards, so if all has gone to plan, Executive Suite that Tony and I had the privilege of staying in will no longer be in commission now. But this tip might still hold true.

Tony was just changing Arddun’s diaper one sunny winter afternoon, when both of us heard an alarm go off. My first thought was that the hospital was conducting a fire drill. Which was a little odd, but hey – health and safety is important in a hospital and maybe our timing just happened to be impeccable. That train of thought got derailed the moment a midwife burst into our room unannounced. Half panting, she took in the scenario before her – our stunned faces, Tony in mid nappy-wipe – before running over to where Tony was standing and jamming a button.

“This button,” she explained, “sends ALL STAFF to your room.”

Tony had accidentally bumped the yellow emergency button.

Strategically placed within elbow-grazing distance
Do not press the yellow button. Unless you want Really Efficient Service.

 

You have been warned.

You there. A bit of shush, please.

WARNING: While not all that graphic, this is a blog-as-I-went post about the labour. So if you don’t “do” labour stories, you might want to move along…

BACKGROUND
My hind waters broke on Friday afternoon and we were told to take our sweet time to report to the hospital for a routine check. So we mosied in at half past five that evening, fully expecting to return home straight after… except I was already contracting 9 minutes apart. Bags were already packed in the car, so we went out for a late dinner – Indian – and checked in at 9:30pm. This is our story.

+++

11:17pm

A baby’s wailing in the next room and my man has managed to fall fast asleep in a recliner that doesn’t lock, and looks very likely to fold in on itself when we least expect it. Tony and all.

I’m not altogether sure what I was expecting for my labour, but this is what we’re getting so far: a private room with a SINGLE bed, contractions 9 minutes apart that I cannot feel, 1 caustic, pregnant midwife who was indisposed when they were handing out the Happy Hormones, and the promise of antibiotics by drip at the crack of dawn.

I am keeping an open mind.

+++

4:50am

Word to the wise: when given the option of staying in hospital to sleep for 6 hours or going home to get 4… choose home. You may be housed in the private ward but sound travels and they let babies cry a whole lot through the night in the public wards, I can tell you that.

Newbie babies are angry babies.

My new midwife is a peach. Also, the cheerful interim one after the Snide Bear. That’s one good thing about a rotational system, I suppose. Don’t like who you got, wait 10 minutes. Kinda like Melbourne weather. Of course, I could get a grumpy one back later…

Ooh. Forgot to mention this last night, but the reason Tony scored a dodgy recliner rather than a mattress and we landed arguably the Private Ward Most Resembling a Formule One Motel? Canberra has run out of beds. Seriously. They are flat chat at the mo; last night alone saw 4 births in the hospital I’m at. Trust our daughter to want to be in on the action.

+++

20110618-070909.jpg

7:17am

Two goes at getting the antibiotic in two hours late. One rather butchered arm later, and they give up and GIVE ME A TABLET.

Occam’s Razor, anyone?

Cramping in the lower abdomen has started. My midwife is pleased but it seems I’ll have to be brought to the birth suite after breakfast to kick start the process proper, as it’s been almost 24 hours since Blobette unplugged her own heated swimming pool.

Meanwhile, Juju Sundin sits bookmarked at page 73 out of 281. I ask Tony to inhale the book and its contents with his big brain, but we know it’s a lost cause.

+++

8:53am

Have been contracting about 12 times in the last hour. The latest midwife – also a darling – had a feel while I was contracting, and pronounced it moderate. Which is encouraging, except I’ve heard so much about women contracting for aeons, only to have the doctor cheerfully tell her that she’s dilated all of 1cm.

Anyhoo, after my lovely breakfast of lukewarm tea and indifferent toast, we took a leisurely stroll down to the birth suite in my jammies and my Bunny Slippers of Ill Repute:

20110618-090453.jpg

Can’t really believe we’re in the birth suite now, although the first thing I did was to have a contraction, and then waddle over to the ensuite to check out the bath tub. Which is HUGE; a jacuzzi minus the jets. Big enough to bathe an elephant. Almost.

“Wow…” enthused Tony. “It’s almost like a holiday!”

A holiday of PAIN.

+++

9:40am

Doctor’s here. I’m 2cm dilated and am now a human pin cushion. My arms look distinctly Frankensteinesque. Everyone is rather impressed with my iPhone app – the one that times my contractions.

+++

3:59pm

Oh my word, we’re parents!

After determining that I’m 2cm along, the midwife told us that first time mothers usually dilate a centimetre an hour.

Which meant potentially 8 more hours of writhing in pain before a potential 2 hours of actually pushing.

Forget that. As if raising a red flag to a bull, the contractions started in earnest after the 2cm announcement, and I learnt how to howl the place down. Syntocin is NOT fun.

After doing without pain relief for 2 hours because we actually forgot about panadol (!), I opted for the gas, which was a good reminder to breathe through the pain, but which SO did not “take the edge off”. I vaguely recall flinging the equipment in disgust at some point, after being told for the umpteenth time to breathe slowly with it. Tony was a wall of strength – literally. If I wasn’t clinging onto him in mid-contraction, he was mopping my brow with a cool, damp cloth and reminding me to breathe.

Breathing is not an automatic thing when your body is racked with gobsmacking pain.

1:00pm – dilated at 4cm. Gas wasn’t impressing me at all. By now, my eyes were pretty much sealed shut in agony. I’d fall into a deep meditative sleep in between the yelling. All that choir training came in useful for pitching low, using the diaphragm, and bellowing like a wounded bull. Knowing that I had theoretically at least 6 more hours to go was the most depressing bit.

Which might explain why I ended up dilating 5cm in half an hour. I think my body just went, “Nup. Enough faffing around. Let’s FINISH THIS.”

The midwife kept saying I wasn’t ready to push yet, but for the very first time, all that natter about “listening to my body” came together, and suddenly my brain and body got prepared.

1:35pm – midwife returns with the needle for my morphine shot – even though she told me she was going to give me pathedeine. I’m past caring, but suddenly she takes one good look at me, gives me a check and realises I’ve dilated 9cm. So. No painkillers for me.

1:45pm, and I’ve fully dilated and learning to push. There is no time or energy left to get into some fancy-schmancy calmbirth position. I’m on the bed. I’m on my back. Thundercats are go. Everyone’s telling me what a good job I’m doing, which perplexes me because it’s like praising a cow for chewing grass. I’m doing the only thing I CAN do, as far as I’m concerned. Which is push like the dickens.

Tony mops my brow and tells me she has my hair. My eyes are still sealed shut. I’ve stopped yelling. I’m definitely in some kind of zone now.

+++

2:16pm

I’m a mommy. Tony’s a daddy. Our girl has my hair, eyes and nose, poor thing. But she has Tony’s complexion, chin and mouth. And so tiny!

She smells awesome.

9 days early, Arddun Rei Hibberd came into this world and lit up our lives in a way only babies know how. 47cm. 6 pounds 8 ounces. Ravishing and complete.

20110619-113252.jpg

Adjusting to huswifery when shaped like a house

I’ve heard it said that the main benefit of taking the full 6 weeks’ maternity leave before baby arrives is so we can adjust to full-time home life.

Because believe me, it is an adjustment.

Whether it’s the lonely sound of a ticking clock, or the fact that your day is no longer governed by the crisis of the moment in between seven consecutive meetings, this business of full-time huswifery takes a little getting used to.

My urge to nest coincided the week I stopped work in the corporate world. Which is perhaps cruel because when you’re shaped like a blimp, all you can really do when you see dust is to point and stare. Of course, you try and get on your knobbly hands and knees and get some dust-busting going… but you pay for it soon enough. I am still shaped like an inflated bowling ball propped up by Japanese chopsticks. Which means whatever little padding I had to begin with is now squished beyond redemption.

It no longer pays not to have a generous posterior. Ladies, God made us soft for a reason. This is the reason.

My latest party trick is the Movable Pelvis. Everyone goes on and on about the Happy Hormones and the muscle relaxants. No one actually mentioned how said muscle relaxants tend to loosen your body parts near the end – to the extent where you feel like you’re literally coming apart. It is physically ouchy to walk now. Or move in bed. Or dress myself. I actually snap, crackle and pop. It is most disconcerting, but my midwife is very pleased with my progress.

“My pelvic bone hurts like the dickens!” I wail.

“That’s wonderful!” she beams.

“I feel a little like I’m being hanged, drawn and quartered! I can’t breathe!”

“What great progress!” she enthuses. “You’re right on schedule, luv!” And then she goes on to take my blood pressure, and pronounces me textbook and boring.

So, physical limitations coupled with No Corporate Project makes this Jane rather schizophrenic. These 10 days have seen a new pattern emerge: I’ll “go hard” for a day or two, and then completely collapse in the house on day 3. By “go hard”, I might be

  • out at a doctor’s appointment in the morning
  • shopping at Koorong and Baby Bunting in the afternoon
  • grabbing lunch groceries at Woolies, on my way over to
  • FertilityFriend’s place for lunch and baby cuddles
  • stopping by Coles to do the grocery shopping on my way home, before
  • settling in to cook a semi-ambitious dinner.

Not rocket science. Very cushy, really. But I’m paying for it today. The thing is, the mind still remembers how crazy-busy I’ve been the last XX years of my life, and cannot buh-LEEVE that I can be wiped out so easily. So it pushes and pushes. Just one more load of washing. Just one little stop at the shops. Just one quick visit at a friend’s place.

But my bulbous belly can no longer take it. And it’s probably time I learnt to listen to my body.

A name is a wish your heart makes

Visited LovesHerShoes and YogaMate yesterday, and inhaled a chocolate mud slice, and breathed in their gorgeous babies, and soaked in their birth stories. The topic of names came up, and both new mothers soon discovered that, had they been each blessed with a boy, they would have both named their young’un “Zachary”.

Which, as it turns out, is a gorgeous coincidence. However, LovesHerShoes then went on to tell us what her doctor had said when he learnt of their chosen boy’s name.

“No,” he said in mock gravity, gearing up no doubt for the punchline.

Which was, “You can’t name him Zachary because then people would say, ‘His face… looks egg-Zachary like his arse.'”

For months now, Tony and I have been asked whether we’ve decided on a name, which would then follow with a slightly expectant air of us telling them. And for months, we’ve politely resisted. Partly because it’s the one surprise we really want to keep for ourselves, now that everyone knows it’s a she. But mostly because we want to avoid punchlines such as the aforementioned. I have a sense of humour, but there’s something almost primal and very, very personal about the naming of a child.

Which is why what I’m about to do takes some measure of courage.

The middle name, Tony and I had long decided, would be a Chinese name. Single character, sounding phonetically like an English name, but with all the weight, symbolism and almost OTT flowery-ness that Chinese names do with such panache. And because I am the banana Asian in this marriage (yellow on the outside, rather white on the inside), the responsibility of such name searching fell to me.

In the end, I found a Chinese character I loved the sound of. I love it even more for how well it balances the meaning of the first name. And if a name is a wish your heart makes for your offspring, then apparently we would like Blobette to be imbued with, among a long list of other fine traits,

the “divine sagacity of sages”.

What does that even mean! I had to whip out a dictionary to confirm I understood half those words. But there we go. Great wisdom, complementing great internal and external beauty. As McDonald’s would say, it’s just a little bit fancy. But I love it.

Kiasuism for Kids

I love how different languages and cultures can birth unique words or phrases to distill the very essence of complex human behaviour and motivation. That a certain je ne sais quoi of one country can have an entire lexicon of its own in another, replete with well-known examples and long-established machinations.

Kiasuism is one such word and phenomena in Singapore/Malaysia, so much so that it’s finally made it to the Oxford dictionary, would you believe. For my non-Singaporean friends, it describes the attitude that governs the Oh Crap What If  part of the hippocampus – and sometimes manifests itself in rather madcap behaviour such as:

  • the hiding of research books in the National Library of Australia so that you – and only you – can locate them and use them for your 2,500 essay due in 3 months
  • the driving like a demon and the risking of oncoming traffic so you can overtake a person travelling at the speed limit to get a whole car length ahead
  • the queuing overnight for the latest Apple gadget (oh yes)
  • the Bonk and Book.

The Bonk and Book is the rather nerve-wrecking state of schooling affairs in Canberra, a result perhaps of the shortage of childcare facilities in general, a high incidence of dual-income Canberran families in particular, and the greater attentiveness of highly-educated parents to their child’s brain development.

In short, we’re a microcosm of the Singapore Schooling Spirit. Or at least, we’re heading that way.

The first thing my general practitioner told us when we announced we were pregnant was to stand our ground and ignore the breastfeeding nazis if it all got too silly.

The second thing he told us was to think seriously about enrolling our then water flea-like foetus in childcare facilities and/or schools. El pronto.

Barely seconds after grasping that I am a skinny, breathing human incubator, I had to think seriously about my views on public and private school education. I still haven’t gotten out of the habit of referring to High School here as Secondary School and Junior College.

And yet, here we are – me, swollen with Blobette and absolutely clueless about the educational system here, and Tony – a fine product of Brisbane’s private and public school education… except Australia decentralises its educational system and leaves it in the hands of each state/territory, doesn’t she.

So both of us are flying a little blind here.

The thing is, I was educated in a branded school. Actually, I hail from two branded schools in Singapore and no one cares here. And yet, thanks to my hardwiring and 20+ years of academic indoctrination Singapore-style, I feel a little anxious about the idea of sending Blobette to a no-name school. Actually, I quite loathe it.

MommyShorts, whose blog I heart and whose talent I secretly want to zap with a sonic screwdriver, is the queen of funny charts. But one chart in particular made me cringe-laugh so much, I almost shot juice out my nose:

Getting them off to the right start

I am trying so hard not to be that parent already, but oh lordy – I HAVEN’T ENROLLED HER ANYWHERE! I AM A CRAP PARENT! AND ALL BECAUSE I’M NAIVE ENOUGH TO ‘WAIT TILL SHE’S BORN, AT THE VERY LEAST’! WAAAAAAAHHHH!!!

<end scene>

Sonnet to Blobette

Art thou having hiccups now, my child?
Thou art quite jerky but consistent.
From cupped butterfly to random kicks wild,
Thy presence is felt, yes most persistent.
Be it noon or twilight, the breaking dawn,
Thy every kick maketh my heart gladder.
But sometimes, a misplaced stretch or yawn
Causeth yells of “Sweetheart, NOT THE BLADDER!”
Tho ice-cream and warm show’rs stir thee to move
And remind I carry a babe brand new,
The start of thee was the product of love,
And love thee we have, long before we knew.

So long as we can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

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