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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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labour

Preparing for the next two chapters of our lives

It’s funny how all of us are now eagerly anticipating – no, expecting – Boy Blob’s arrival any day now, even though we are still 11 days out from the official due date. With Arddun, her early arrival had caught us all by surprise. First babies are notoriously late. And second babies are notoriously earlier than their trail blazers.

Well, it’s starting to look like both kids are determined to flout expectations.

The hospital bag is more or less packed. The rented bassinet is where it needs to be, with fresh batteries inserted so now it can vibrate and/or play music while allowing a small night light to shine on. Christmas shopping is mostly done. I’ve handed over most meal preparation duties to my mother-in-law next week. We are stopping by the Baby & Kids Market tomorrow to see what else we can score, but I think we’re almost ready. Materially ready.

And yet, it doesn’t feel like we’re that close to going into labour after all.

Meanwhile…

One of the other things I’ve needed to prepare myself for is Arddun’s entrance to preschool early next year. A small deluge of emails have recently swamped our inboxes from the enrolment office, and Arddun has been fitted out for her uniform.

Arddun was not impressed by her new togs. After very reluctantly allowing me to put on her polo T-shirt and sports shorts (that ballooned out enough, as unisex school shorts always do, to more closely resemble badly fitting culottes), she looked me very seriously in the eyes and quietly pronounced,

“Mummy, I don’t want to wear this.”

In the 3 years+ of my dressing her, I have never heard her utter a preference – much less a statement saturated with such obvious distaste. She has never really commented on what I choose for her to wear. And I have never really given her much choice in the matter, such is the peaceful arrangement we have always had.

But put her in shapeless unisex polyester, and suddenly her fashion senses are screaming.

I had a good read of the school website today, and got the heebie jeebies myself. There’s something about the language and tone of school administrators and teachers that take you waaaay back, and can make you feel this small. I think it’s the no-nonsense way rules are spelt out in full. Read our policies. These are our requirements. You will not bring your child in before this hour. You will sit with your child until such a time. If your child is late, go to the office and fill out a late slip. If you are late picking your child up, God help you. And gaudy colours are not permitted.

I felt like I was going back to school again. And I suppose Tony and I will be, in a way. We may not be the ones in front of the interactive whiteboards, but we will certainly feel every bit as assessed as our child.

Still, I’m glad we’re starting Arddun a year early to ease her (and us) in. And I’m glad that still leaves majority of the week for her to enjoy unschooled, uncurriculumed, unprescribed Play.

Arddun blowing bubbles with her eyes closed

The Overshare Affair

A few conversations this week have awoken me to the sad realisation that I’ve gone back on my word and am now as guilty as the next mum of Oversharing.

Oversharing usually occurs when the filter between the mind and the mouth takes a holiday. Many mothers and some world leaders (*cough* Lee Kuan Yew *cough* Paul Keating *cough*) suffer from this fate. By-products of oversharing include the deterioration of the Shame Membrane and Care Factor, and usually results in many grossed-out listeners who are not either mommies or world leaders.

For mommies, oversharing is almost always about bodily functions.

I went to my first mother’s group this week, and the first formal thing we ended up doing was going around in a circle and talking about our labour stories. Which basically got distilled into

  1. number of hours
  2. episiotomy or tearing
  3. c-section or au naturale
  4. epidural use
  5. aches and pains of recovery.

Each detail was outlined in loving, tender detail as if it were yesterday, each fanny scar a badge of honour. And it is, you know. At least for the first year, I reckon.

But it’s not exactly dinner conversation, is it. I hardly know these women – we hardly know each other – but here we were, trading stories about our lady bits as if we were discussing Julia Gillard’s latest hair-do.

It doesn’t stop there. TheOneWithFour recently came back from the Netherlands for a month-long whirlwind tour de friends. We met up for a super time over cakes and bikkies (I came with Sara Lee) but the only conversation that sticks in my mind about the day is The One about The Booger.

So here we were, two mothers, waxing lyrical about the crazy sense of achievement and satisfaction when you finally get that ball of gooey mucus out of your baby’s nostril.

You might know the one. Your baby’s been coughing and spluttering the whole morning and you can just hear it in her nose. But you just can’t get to it, and your baby can’t get to it, and it’s driving both of you absolutely nuts because she can’t breathe, and you can’t stand that she can’t breathe. Finally, you decide to grit your teeth and get that globule out even if it means two excruciating minutes of screaming baby.

Well. We talked about technique – baby cotton buds, screwed corners of tissue paper. We talked about the art of imitation – pretending to give your nose a blow so your baby might try to do the same. And then we talked about that golden moment – that carpe diem moment, where you manage to grab hold of the tiniest end of that glob of Disgusting, and very slowly puuuuuuuull the darn thing out like the longest thread of blu tack known to man, until the rest follows in a gooey ball and your baby’s nose is glob-free.

Two minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but it felt SO GOOD to talk about it with another mother.

But the most criminal thing I’ve done recently is to overshare with a non-mother.

Actually, I’m possibly doing it now, aren’t it. But there’s a difference. I’ve flagged it beforehand, so you know what you’re in for. This article – neon signposted, baby. So you’re getting what you came for. But it’s a completely different kettle of fish when you’re on Facebook and chatting to an Innocent.

One moment, I was typing happily about maternity clothes, the next I was detailing the trials of breastfeeding and how it gives you constipation. How I managed to segue from fashion to bowel movement (or lack thereof) is beyond me, but there you have it. Overshare. Wasn’t even gradual – it just happened. Like verbal diarrhea. Oops. Did it again.

And that’s when I knew I had crossed over and become One of Them. And I’m so, so sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again but I know better now than to make promises.

Birth plans: this century’s oxymoron

The first time I read about drafting a birth plan, I thought, “Geez. Anal-retentive much?” (Don’t get me started on how inappropriate and ironic that statement is. It has dawned on me since.) Birth plans, as it turns out, are tremendously in vogue. They are the done thing in my day and age, part and parcel of the whole pregnancy shebang. Like an internet plan with a new home, so is a birth plan with a new pregnancy. What? Your house didn’t come with ethernet ports and fibre to the premise? Get with the programme, dah-link.

Except, I still don’t quite get it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen the templates and the samples, and I can see how some of it can useful. But the biggest thing that’s doing my head in is the fact we’re encouraged to think we can control what’s going to happen, when it happens, how it happens, and why. Some of the birth plans I’ve come across read like Hollywood scripts. The baby emerges with a lusty cry after a natural, calm birth, minimum tearing and no episiotomy. Mother and child bond at once with skin to skin contact. Breastfeeding ensues. Exchange of lovey dovey looks with birth partner. End scene.

But birth plans I’ve come across seldom include the following scenarios:

  • very early arrivals
  • very late arrivals
  • babies in distress
  • mothers in distress
  • birth partner out of action (late, still trying to park the darn car, fainted on the floor)
  • I-didn’t-quite-make-it-across-the-parking-lot-help!
  • emergency c-sections
  • “no room at the inn” (overcrowding at birth centre, private ward)
  • complete and utter exhaustion coupled with zero physical strength after XXth hour

and most importantly,

  • crazy changes of the mind, because you’re in the most gawdawful and intense pain you’ve ever known in your thus-far sheltered life.

Are we in danger of setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment – and literally a world of pain – if it all goes to crap? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking we can control almost every moment of our child’s birth? Every older woman I talk to almost snorts in derision whenever they hear the words ‘birth plan’. “Yeah,” they chortle. “Good luck.” (The polite ones mock you only with their eyes.) I can see why they’re sceptical. The birth stories I’ve heard so far have all to do with reacting to the moment and doing whatever works, and hardly resemble anything the mother envisioned or articulated beforehand.

After a bit of scrounging around, I learnt that the whole birth-plan idea emerged around the 1990s with the return-to-natural-birth movement. Great. I actually like the idea of NOT being confined to the bed, on my back, whimpering softly and breathing like a choo-choo train (hee-hee-hoo!). I think there’s much to be said about birth positions that capitalise on the laws of gravity, and I’m all for involving Tony as much as possible in this tremendous journey. But as with anything the world comes up with, I am inundated with conflicting messages.

On the one hand, we’re told that we are each entitled to a natural birth, that having a baby vaginally is within our control, and that we can each facilitate a less painful birth if only we knew how.

On the other hand, we’re told that natural birth is all about losing control and letting go. Wanna have your while baby squatting on one leg and bellowing the Haka? Whatever works, hon! Wanna have your baby in the bath while the lullaby rendition of Rocky’s theme is playing softly in the background? Whatever floats your boat, ma’am. Take off ALL your clothes while you’re at it. None of us are strangers here. (Except, the doctor, the midwives, the anesthetist…)

So… wrest control and lose control. Got it?

I’ve heard of birth plans referred to as birth wishlists. In some ways, that’s even worse. My wishlist would involve any of the painless births I’ve had in my dreams – with no tearing, no pushing, and midwives in my bathtub with 1950s showercaps on. It might also result in birthing a cuddly black labrador puppy instead of a healthy baby. (Don’t ask. I don’t even want to know where my subsconscious got that bit of inspiration.)

So, where to from here?

As much as I want to bag out the whole birth plan idea, I think there’s merit in visualising success before entering into any challenge. And perhaps our birth plan can help Tony and I scenario-test the less desirable situations and talk about what worries us and what helps us cope. Hope and pray for the best, prepare for the worst. Pray for strength regardless.

As for my preliminary list, here’s a few nuggets.

I plan:

  • not to swear like a sailor, no matter how painful things get.
    This is actually harder than you think, because I can get pretty potty-mouthed like the best of them when under crazy-stress. And this will be crazy-stress.
  • not to take my pain out on Tony through verbal abuse and blame.
    The whole “Deees eees YOUR FAULT!” may be tempting – and practically a given in Hollywood births – but is unfair to the poor chap. And I know he’ll try his hardest to be there for me on the day. It’s going to be a special kind of hell for him while his wife is baying like a wounded animal and he cannot do much about much. He’s going to hate that.
  • to trust that things will work out.
    Am I nervous? Oh yes. We had an antenatal class this week where they passed around the epidural needle and my hair was already standing from that. But I am holding on to the promise that we will not be tried beyond what we cannot bear. So meanwhile, I’ll try not to rule anything out and enjoy as much of it as humanly possible.

And you know I’ll keep you guys posted. :)

The ones who’ve been there, done that, lived to tell

So it’s probably not the best idea to read labour horror stories right now. Because all I can think about now are words like “pain”, “trying not to swear”, “tearing” and “stitching”.

But I chanced upon this old blog and read the gruesome details of an actual birth with morbid fascination. And yes, I know it’s all worth it at the end, but geez. Now I’m thinking about who I can call if Tony passes out in the middle of stupendously ouchy contractions, or if I can single-handedly bundle an unconscious grown man into the back seat, and then blitz down Tuggeranong Parkway to Woden in a 13-year-old manual car, while dilated at 6cm. You know, just in case Calvary’s maternity ward happens to be on fire.

But then I read the blog the husband built, and his thoughts about the days ahead, and then it was meltsville. See, this is why fathers-to-be should blog more.

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