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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Banana in your ear… and other First Aid scenarios

I am a complete wuss when it comes to almost all forms of violence – exploding, shooting, stabbing, spearing, sword-fighting, animal attacks… I even turn away when Itchy ‘n’ Scratchy comes on. WUSS. Just the idea of pain and pointy objects sends my skin crawling, and if I’m made to sit through a particularly violent story or movie, I can feel physically unwell if I’m not allowed to leave the room.  It’s a wonder I ever managed to give birth to Arddun without painkillers.

Which is why it is almost laughable that I enrolled myself in a first aid course – and actually showed up.

Arddun, as it turns out, is one of ’em Active Babies. Started rolling belly to back at four months, the other way at 4.5 months, joined them both together at five months, now moving on to an uncoordinated commando-crawl and caterpillar squirm-flop at 5.5 months. Her legs just DO NOT STOP, unless she’s sleeping – which is the only way I can work out if she’s taking a snooze in the car seat. (Section past belly button no longer a blur.) And while I used to smugly tell others that I aim to house-proof my child, I now realise that I won’t always be fast enough. Or intuitive enough. Or alert enough. Or creative enough. Or obeyed enough. And it only takes the one time, before something drastic could happen. Plus if she has any of my genes, she’s going to be tripping over her own feet and getting her face smooshed by basketballs.

I needed both risk management AND crisis management plans.

Hence $150 2-day course littered with heartening worst case scenarios.

From resuscitation to poisons to dealing with LOTS of blood and embedded objects (pen in eye, knife through hand, ew ew ew ewwwww), I sat in a room with 10 other parents and learnt how to be useful when my child suffers the consequences of silly actions – hers, or someone else’s. It was a special first aid course that was geared especially for treating babies and young children, although the principles and practices are largely borrowed from the usual first aid you administer to adults.

I’m very glad I went, but the course did breathe new life into the saying, “Hope for the best, expect the worst”. I pictured Arddun in every scenario we practised, and felt my insides flop and lurch with anxiety. Every time the instructor gave an example of something her twin boys did (knives… benchtop… fighting over it… blood…), I had to mentally laa-laa-laa. The saddest part of the afternoon was spent practising resuscitation on a dummy baby – its wan, vacant expression and sealed-shut eyes an eerie reminder of cot death and a million things that could make babies go too quiet. And here I was, calmly squishing its hollow chest with my two fingers and hearing a whisper of doll’s breath wheezing out of those rubber lips with each poke.

As if that could ever be me, if I found my baby lying still as death. Not breathing.

Anyhoo – all said and done, I highly recommend the course. For while it made me squirm heaps, it empowered me more. And the last thing I want to be when my baby needs me is a useless, flapping wuss.

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.

Occupational health and safety

About 10 days ago, I put my back out.

And while I could dedicate an entire post to how wimpy that sounds (“Her baby weighs 11 pounds and she puts her back out! Pffft!”), I’d like to talk about how terrifying it all was for the millisecond I realised I couldn’t be there for my baby.

By “there”, I mean functioning 100%. You need your back to take the pram in and out of the car. To twist and negotiate the baby capsule in and out of its pod without flinging its contents (i.e. baby and blanket) onto the backseat or oncoming traffic. To carry baby out of the cot and to NOT drop your baby to sleep quite literally.

The day I put my back out, Arddun’s sleeping and eating patterns took a turn for the funny. Mostly because as soon as she was near dropping off to la-la-land, I’d try and lower her back in her cot or any flat surface and end up dropping her instead.

I’d like to say it was funny har-har. But no one was laughing that day.

Here’s the rub: while I have, in the last 7 years, a heightened measure of self-preservation because I’m now answerable to myself AND a man who loves me, having Arddun has completely upped the ante. Because no mommy = no honey. For once in my life, I have someone who really needs me. Who literally cannot stand up without my help. And that means that I need to think seriously about how I take care of myself.

Where once I’d turned a half-deaf ear to all the safety training on box-lifting at work, I’m now paying attention. I’m eating a little better. I’m praying more fervently. I’m driving a little less like a stereotypical Asian woman (heh!). Where once I had scoffed at fuel-guzzling soccer-mum cars, I now see the huge appeal. HUGE being very much the operative word. Between my car and another in a road accident, I’d like us to emerge with not so much as a scratch on our foreheads. If the turning circle didn’t take after the moon, if it came in prettier colours AND if it wasn’t such a doozy to park in Canberra Centre, the Manic Mommy in me would like to get a humvee, thankyouverymuch. Anything that could secure our safety just that little bit more.

There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Dylan McDermott’s character comes home from work to find his infant son screaming blue murder and his Julia Roberts wife sprawled on the back porch, unconscious. That scene terrifies me now. It’s the reason I don’t climb ladders alone in the house, for fear of losing my balance (the klutz that I am) and either landing on Arddun or bashing my head on the carpet and Tony only realising this when he walks through the back door at the day’s end. Paranoia. I think we’re all allowed some kind of neurosis now and then. This one’s mine.

I think I’m starting to understand what it feels like to live for someone else. Whoa!

Hypochondriacs R Us

I need to take a chill pill. Ironically, that might involve a doctor.

Okay, back up. Here’s the situation. In just 2 weeks, my girl’s got the sniffles. And then 10 days ago, her face exploded into a gazillion pimples so innumerous, they’ve sorta merged into one giant crusty, flaking mask of yuck across my offspring’s gorgeous face.

Baby modelling career over before it ever began.

On a more serious note, it’s really distressing to watch. Mostly because it just looks so painful. To add to the litany of skin-related woes, her nappy rash came back with a vengeance and now we’re talking major ouchy looking sores.

And I feel terribly guilty. Like I didn’t wash her face properly. Or keep her dry enough. Or hydrated enough. Or cool enough. Or warm enough. Or something.

Not enough! Nothing I do feels like enough. I feel like a man, and want to run out and DO something. Get a cream! See a doctor! Alleviate the pain and suffering. Except the books and websites all claim that nappy rash and colds and baby acne happen, and I should just sit tight and let it run its course. That medication at this age would be overkill. That it’s normal. That This Too Shall Pass.

Not on my watch! another part of the brain yells. And as with any extensive sleuthing on the internet, the worries grow. It’s probably nappy rash… but it could be THRUSH! Quick! Run to the chemist! Call the GP! Get Canesten! No wait, too strong for baby! No, it’s alright! Leave it alone! No, do something now before it gets worse! No, if you fiddle, it WILL get worse!

She has a snuffly nose. Or it could be… the FLU! Viral! It’s winter! What if it gets to her lungs! Quick! Get her booked into the after-hours clinic at the hospital! Turn up the heater! No wait, too hot. No wait, turn down the heater but turn on the humidifier. No wait, get the Vicks vaposteam thingamajig to menthol-ise the air! No wait – not advisable for babies! Might burn her lungs out. Or something. No wait – says it’s okay on the box…

She’s got a bad case of baby acne, but it could be… DERMATITIS! Or SEVERE ECZEMA! She could be allergic to EVERYTHING! Quick, change her formula supplement to soy! And change your diet so your breastmilk doesn’t taste of chilli. Or something. And run out and get this cream that everyone swears by – Aveeno. Or Weleda. Buy them both. But patch test first! But where! Which part of baby would you like to patch test on, so that if it goes balls up you can just say, “Phew. Thank goodness that was only on [insert body part here]”. Tell me that.

They never told me this was part of motherhood. I wish I can turn this part of my brain off.

You know you’re getting bigger when…

  • … you can no longer remove your rings without contemplating amputation
  • … you can easily go back for seconds on the chocolate shavings / shortbread crumbs you’ve collected in that groove between your breastplate and your bulge
  • … no matter how high you’ve filled your bathtub, you want to sing “Islands in the Stream” when you’re soaking in it.

I am at the cusp of the third and final trimester, and while I’ve been valiantly staving off frumpy footwear and Fat Mama fashion thus far, I am starting to get the aches and pains that come with a burgeoning belly. One evening this week, I suddenly felt as if my rib cage were pulled apart by two metal wires retracting in opposing directions and if I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that Blobette was gripping a right rib with her toes while all that was happening.

Meanwhile, finding the optimal sleeping position is as elusive as the quest for WMD, and I usually wake up with some kind of shoulder ache. My new favourite toy: this wooden three-prong nobby thing that works like a three-fingered ninja massage of death. Apparently, I’m suppposed to rub it along my back in wide, gentle figure-eights. Yeah whatever. Most evenings now, I just prop it up against the back cushion and cheerfully stab myself with it.

For the curious:

Body Shop COTE Tri-Massager
Presenting The Body Shop's COTE Tri-Massager. Also known around these parts as the Tripod of Back Relief.

As for Blobette, she’s starting to pack more of a punch when she decides to do the amniotic riverdance. Which is delightful because I know she’s alive and well. But it’s also distracting, especially when I’m chairing a meeting and suddenly find myself pulling odd faces.

But don’t get me wrong, people. Don’t even think for a second that I’m having a dawg-awful time. Because I’m loving this.

Cramps, Champs, and Junior Gymnastics

Pregnancy, like any good project, should be given milestones to celebrate because let’s face it – there are rather boring bits in between. Once an avid reader of Up The Duff (the book which inspired the domain name of this blog, BTW), I now find myself reading older chapters to play catch up. Methinks perhaps this pregnancy is rather cruisy thus far. Awesome.

But anyhoo – Week 22! Lovely mini-milestone after The One About The Sex (gender, not nookie). Like textbook, Blobette did away with the fluttering and got into some serious thumping. Or head-butting. I’m not quite sure. But since Week 21 day 4, she’s been charging around the Velly Belly, and this momma is pleased.

She’s still a skooncher – occasionally I’d find her trying to burrow her way into my left thigh or something – but she’s definitely bigger now. We have a growth spurt. For the first time, I’m feeling the stretch and getting rather rotund in the middle. I walked into the lift at work this week, and everyone in it took a mental (or not so mental) half-step back. Might have also been the work of my new white maternity shirt that made me look like I was wearing a marquee. Note to self – shirts look great for work, but they also tend to hang off the edge of your belly so now you have a gentle draft every time you run for the bus. SO did not know that till Week 22.

Speaking of buses – breakthrough! Kindly older Chinese businessman gave up his seat for me in the bus, and I sank gratefully into it and was sure to give him a pretty smile. My whinge about Bus Men and the Seat that’s now Rightfully Mine had sparked quite a few offline conversations about chivalry, feminism, and how men feel that they’re damned if they do and don’t. And then I learnt about this strange new breed of pregnant women who glare at gentlemen when the latter gallantly offer their seats. They then go on to hiss at the poor men, something about “being able to take care of themselves, thankyouverymuch”.

Talk about being terribly ungracious. No wonder the men are bumfuzzled and decide never to make eye contact with spawning women in public transport. Look ladies – get over yourselves. Feminism is all well and good, but it takes courage for a man to approach any strange pregnant woman – unless you’re in IT. (More on that very soon.) Don’t get your granny panties in a knot over such a kind gesture. It’s not about I-Tarzan-You-Jane, it’s just human decency. Also, you’re bloody ruining it for the rest of us.

Had another belly-grab yesterday, but this one was a milestone because it was a HE. Think he completely forgot himself in all his excitement about bumping into me after we hadn’t seen each other for ages, only to realise that I was getting rather portly in the mid-section. It was rather bemusing, but I got over it once he started telling me all about girls being more expensive than boys “because of all the pleats and sequins”.  

“Don’t know about the sequins…” I replied, wrinkling my nose at the thought a girly-girl bedroom strewn with ridiculously fairy-princessy garments in 27 shades of pink.

“Oh, it’ll happen,” he nodded sagely. “You’ll see.”

Had a killer cramp last night that lasted from the time Voldemort got away and the Ministry arrived, till after the credits. Just wave after wave of excruciating agony. I had tears forming at the corner of my eyes, and if I hadn’t been writhing on the couch, I would have done a Homer:

In a sense, it was a good test bed for Tony and his partner support skills (pretty good, once I could find the breath in between yowling to give instructions). It was also an opportunity to practise some Yoga breathing and pain management – which accomplished diddly-squat last night, but I’m still learning. I hear from many preggers that it goes downhill from here – the cramps really become a part of your day. God’s way of raising the threshold for pain, I suppose.

Stomach smiles, and other strangeness

It’s Week 9, and I’m feeling freakishly unpregnant.

Sure, there’s the odd nausea hit now and then. But I’ve gone off yogurt (or at least don’t think of it and salivate anymore), and my skin is clear again. Apart from twinges when I laugh too hard, cough, or sneeze 7 times in a row (darn genetics), I’m feeling pretty normal in a most pre-pregnant way. Most of all, I got my energy back.

Which is freaky. FREAKY.

Meanwhile, I’m down to a single pair of work pants that actually fit because they’re hipsters. Anything else splits my body in half just about, and then there’s that terribly unsexy muffin top which – coupled with water retention and that Canberra “Tan” – makes me ooze as much come-hither appeal as a beached whale. They promise all sorts of hormonal overdrive and sex-kittenry when you’re pregnant. I really don’t see how that can come about when you’re at that weird in-between stage and skinny all over, except for this jiggly mid-section. The albino starving-ethiopian look was never really in vogue, methinks.

Everyone who knows assures me that I look Exactly The Same. But I’m eating 50% more than normal which, given the fact that Blob is the size of a grape right now, seems like overkill. I know it’s 50%, because today I wolfed down 3 sushi rolls instead of my usual 2. (YES, they were cooked… stop yelling at me about listeria.)

Hmm. So maybe I still am pregnant. Just not tired.

Got out of the work car today to get some petrol, and felt my belly button grin so hard, I thought it was about to split sideways. Lovely that my body seems to want to demonstrate its happiness from the mid-section, but it weirded me out for a full minute, AND I had to waddle to the pump. Also very un-yummy. Went home and read up as much as possible about errant belly-button behaviour. As usual, everything on the internet is both reassuring and horrifying at the same time.

One thing’s unanimous, though. If there is a way to test to see if you’re still healthily pregnant every day, every DAY… there’s heaps of paranoid pregnant women who’d love to know.

Called Calvary Hospital to try and book a place, just in case I change my mind at the last minute and want to go public. Got the forms in the mail today and to my chagrin, I have to submit a plethora of referrals from my GP together with the forms. Except I just had my last appointment with my GP 4 days ago, didn’t I.

If we ever make it to Week 40 and beyond, I am SO going to whip up a flowchart in Visio and post it on this blog, so every n00b mother can figure out this convoluted chicken and egg dance. Meanwhile, I’m going to try and wheedle two referrals ASAP, without paying yet another $70…

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