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Finding The Happy

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Planning ahead

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 yuck factor. Coming soon to a baby near you.

One of the things I’ve been told by a midwife to bring to the hospital is a Snappi nappy fastener – the modern and supposedly safer equivalent of the old nappy pin to hold a traditional cloth nappy together. Apparently, the hospital insists on using cloth nappies for the duration of our stay, as that enables them to monitor baby’s output easily.

Those suckers are really hard to find. Tried the usual suspects – BigW and Target – and got nothing. I stared and stared at a packet of nappy safety pins (the old-fashioned ones) and tried to imagine myself fastening the nappy competently. One scenario had me fastening the nappy so loosely, it dropped as soon as I picked up Blobette. One other scenario made me blanche. There is no way I want to wield a sharp object anywhere near a very soft, piercable baby.

So it was back to the Snappi hunt. Tonight, I thought I’d turn to the interweb to scrounge around for an online seller, only to read about this… er… health warning on the Natural Parenting website:

WARNING Snappy/ Nappy Nippa danger

Today a mum from the south east of Sydney experienced first hand the dangers of nappy Snappy’s (known as Nappy Nippa’s in the northern hemisphere). Whilst manouvering over-flowing faeces, feet, flannels & fingers in an attempt to change her baby, the bottom Snappy teeth, which were covered in rouge faeces, got re-caught on the nappy. When the mum applied a combination of wriggling & pressure to release the Snappy it suddenly flung faeces at great speed directly into her mouth. Authorities have released an offical warning.

Yah. The joys of parenthood. Admit it – you’re now cursing my name, and surreptitiously scraping imaginary baby poo from the roof of your mouth. I hear that other people’s babies excretions are always gross, but you’ll be fine with your own baby’s liquid goods. I’m counting on the fact that God might have hardwired mothers and fathers to remain impervious and immune to their child’s stinky bits. But we’ll see.

Confessions of a bargain hunter

We had a big shopping spree yesterday – the pointy end of the sudden realisation that

  • I am 3 weeks out to full-term
  • babies can come early
  • I can no longer put on my house socks without resembling an inebriated Sumo wrestler in a dizzy bat race. Very unglamorous.

Prior to yesterday’s shopping spree, I had waxed lyrical about the different kinds of shopping mommies out there, and I’ve learnt I vacillate between The Bargain Hunter and The Accidental Splurger. And truth be told, I hardly splurged – which surprised me very much. The biggest surprise is how much I’ve enjoyed bargain hunting with Tony – who, as it turns out, is great at scouring AllClassifieds for cool deals.

Anyhoo… after months of bargain hunting, I thought I’d compile some tips and tricks we’ve gleaned along the way.

Pace yourself

So you’ve just peed on the stick and you know you’ve got months to get things in order. Don’t start too late. It’s a budgeting thing, really – if you can afford to spend $2,000 at a go towards the end, good on you. But chances are, you’ll need to spread the cost over a few months. Especially if you’re starting from scratch because you have no hand-me-downs.

Decide what’s new, what’s pre-loved

One of the things I struggled with initially was the guilt that I wasn’t being prudent enough with money. So the temptation is to go against your gut and try and buy everything second-hand. Only to go home with dregs and realise that you’ve just wasted $120 rather than saved $170, because now you’re stuck with a second-hand electric breastmilk expressor that you can’t bear to use because you keep picturing some other random woman’s lady bits in them, and faint mooing in the background. Or whatever. And look, it’s an individual thing but Tony and I eventually figured out what we absolutely wanted to buy first-hand, and what we were happy to buy pre-loved. It’s okay to buy some things brand new.

Know what the going rate is

Once I figured out what I wanted to get, what was absolutely necessary to me and what I felt were optional extras, I started a list that has lived in my handbag ever since. I also did a bit of online sleuthing beforehand and dropped in the best recommended retail prices (RRP) I could find in that list. Those RRPs formed my price ceiling. That way, if I happened to walk past a shop or find something online for cheaper, I had a benchmark from which to work. It made impulse on-the-spot buying a lot easier and cheaper. And oh look – I’ve even included my Shopping list template!

Go in pairs

You are a pregnant woman. Chances are, you are going to slow down by 30% by the time you reach 6 months, and waddle by the time you’re 8. So think about your safety, and turn up at the door with someone else who can

  1. yank you to safety, or
  2. have the presence of mind not hampered by Pregnant Brain to defend you if you should come into harm’s way.

If you’re responding to an advert to suss out pre-loved goods at someone’s house, remember that they are strangers – even if they sound lovely on the phone. Also, having someone else with you to bounce off ideas wouldn’t hurt.

Get your code straightened out

Whether you’re turning up at the Baby & Kids Market, or at someone’s home sussing out their wares, it can be hard to walk away from an offer that just doesn’t meet your minimum standards. Especially if the owner (usually the Mommy) is standing there, rocking her gorgeous baby, and sharing how he/she “absolutely loved playing with it”, and how it was his/her “favourite toy”. Couple that awkwardness with your shopping partner and you trying to discuss the merits and demerits of the item in question while the owner listens in, and you’re more likely to find yourself leaving the stall/house with crap you didn’t want. So yes – get some kind of pig latin going between you and your shopping partner. Learn to read each other’s signals – especially if one of you is uncomfortable and wants to say ‘no’.

Bargains can come from anywhere

I’ll relay a recent shopping win that best illustrates this point. Those floor-gym thingies with overhanging toys that encourage newborns and toddlers to get tactile? They are colourful, educational, and freakishly expensive. Tony and I were eyeing a Lamaze one that was retailing for $99.99 on average. He found a second-hand one online for $50 – score! So he set up the appointment… and I happened to waltz into Target, found the same unit, did a price check… and walked away with a $14.84 bargain. Brand new. True story. Very smug still. Moral of the story: just because it’s in a department store, doesn’t mean you can’t find freak deals. Leave no stone unturned.

Plan to recycle

So you’ve made your bargain buys. Now what? Document how much you actually paid for each item. And then keep the packaging. Take photos of how the item came packed, if you have to. Because when it’s your turn to play babyware seller for some other bargain hunter, you’ll know exactly how much to price your stuff and you have a better chance of selling your wares if your packaging looks pristine. And who knows – you might be able to make a tidy profit.

To be a reader breeder

ElilyMommy is a voracious reader, so it’s really no surprise that she’s read more books about Mommydom than I can count on all the fingers and toes in my household (formed and forming). And while I’ve had difficulty digesting some of the other volumes she’s passed to me because she has infinitely more patience than I do with long-winded authors (Tony and I keep hollering GET TO THE POINT! at Babywise, for instance), I’m absolutely loving The Read-aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

Basically, it’s a book about instilling the love of reading in a brand new human being – and it’s chockful of statistics and case studies that wow and inspire the likes of Tony and I. We’d both decided ages ago that our child’s love of electronic nannies (television shows, computer games) should never trump the love of reading – mostly because we have a hunch about the benefits of reading as we’ve each been its beneficiary. This book turns the hunches to ah-hahs. It also tells us why we should start by reading aloud to the child, pretty much the moment she can hear you.

Which, for Blobette, would be right about now.

It’s weird reading to your own belly. As much as I feel I should sit and read “Where’s the green sheep?” to my protruding middle torso, I fear it gives me the giggles and the distinct sense of You’re on Candid Camera. But when I was nine years old, I loved my borrowed copy of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes so much, that I made myself memorise the shortest tale. So much so that I can recite it to this day.

So this is what Blobette’s been hearing from me. (Might be slightly inaccurate, as I’m typing this from memory. Haven’t bought my own copy yet.)

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went to knock on Grandma’s door,
And when she opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin.
Then Wolfie said, “May I come in?”

Poor Grandmama was terrified.
“He’s gonna eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right –
He ate her up, in one big bite!

But Grandmama was small and tough,
And Wolfie cried, “That’s not enough!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve gotta have a second helping!”
Then added, with a frightful leer,
“Therefore, I’m going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”

In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

“Grandma… what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see you with.”

“Grandma… what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear you with.”

The Wolf sat watching her, and smiled.
He thought, “I’m going to eat this child.
Compared to her old Grandmama,
She’s going to taste like caviar!”

Then Little Red Riding Hood said,
“Grandma, what a lovely, furry coat you have on!

“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf.
“Have you forgot?
To ask me what big teeth I’ve got?
But ah, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway!”

The little girl smiles. Her eyelid flickers.
She takes a pistol from her knickers.
Aims it at the Wolfie’s head,
And bang, bang, bang! She shoots him dead.

A few weeks later in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change – no cloak of red!
No silly hood upon her head!

She says, “Hello… and do please note
My lovely, furry wolf-skin coat.”

“Son… I hope you like pink.”

They say that with ultrasounds, there’s a 60% confidence rate that it’s a girl when they say it’s a girl, and about a 90% confidence rate when they tell you it’s a boy. For those I have to spell things out to, the idea is that with boys, you tell by figuring out if there are bits. For girls, it’s more about the lack thereof.

The first time Tony and I were told we’re having a girl, I had asked the ultrasound technician how certain she was, and had repeated that spiel about girls being more difficult to work out. In reply, the technician had just stopped short of rolling her eyes back at me, and then had tightly told me that they are “pretty accurate about these things nowadays”. Our obstetrician settled the whole Blobette question in both our minds the following week, when his own scrounging around by ultrasound drew the same conclusions.

Well. Apparently we’re not out of the woods yet.

We’ve been attending antenatal classes at the hospital we’re booked at, and the midwife this week – entertaining lady, name’s Jenny – happened to mention that three – three – births in the last month alone came up with surprises at the end of the tunnel.

One couple was told they were having a girl, and so they promptly ran out and spent $2,000 on baby girl clothes… only to find they had to dress their boy in pink.

Another couple – and this was their second child – were told they were having a girl, got a boy, and the father was pretty much inconsolable.

And for those smugly thinking, “Heh. I know I’m having a man-child because my blob has bits,” the third couple were told they were having a boy. The sonographer even went as far as to point out testicles and the almighty tell-tale doodle. Only for it all to shrink back in or something, when he emerged a beautiful baby girl.

For months now, I’ve been talking to her. I’ve been referring to her. I’ve asked her to stop tickling me. I’ve announced when she’s awake. When I think she’s hungry. When I think she’s having hiccups, which crack me up. I have been singing to her. (I’ve been trying to sing more Mother Goose classics, but Gloria Gaynor and Abba seem to win out.) I’ve been dreaming of her.

And today, after figuring out that we have 6 weeks to go – less if you remember that full term is 37 weeks – we have been shopping for her.

It’s hard to avoid pink, if you want to shop for a girl but balk at a $32 funky onesie from Sooki. As for neutrals, you’re either stuck with white, which is boring and impractical; blue, which signals to everyone that it’s definitely a boy; and brown, which is not really a girl colour unless she’s 30. There’s hardly any yellow, orange or red nowadays. Purple almost always comes with insipid cartoon butterflies, and green comes with even stupider looking frogs and crocodiles.

So you go back to pink. All the while praying that you will be thick-skinned enough to swaddle your child in candy-floss shaded, butterfly-printed blankets and wraps and onesies when she turns out to be a baby boy. All the while hoping that everyone who’s been wishing you well and showering your child with girly gifts aren’t going to kill you because they’ve thrown away the receipt, but they can’t blame you for not dressing Blob in that $60 tutu they got you.

So here’s my plan, if we find out Blobette is a Blob:

  • Love him to bits because hey, it’s our boy!
  • Use up the pink stuff indoors, save the adorable lacy/ribbony/girly stuff for the second round
  • Beg the wall decal online shop to send me blue leaves to replace the pink ones in the nursery
  • Replace the pink IKEA cloth drawers in our bookshelves with purple and black ones.
  • Get that ridiculously cute pirate cotsheet set I’ve been eyeballing for months.

Because let’s face it. She/he won’t care, as long as she/he is comfortable and fed and loved. And we’ll still do all the things we’ve been planning to do – which includes playing with dolls AND trucks, and learning how baseball works, and what fun reading is, and what fun being naughty to mommy and daddy isn’t.

And besides… it makes for a funny story at their 21st birthday party.

Happy Almost-Mother’s Day!

It appears that my husband got teased for no good reason today after worship… because there on my pillow this evening lay a card with very mushy words about being a wife and mother, and now I heart the man to even smaller bits. The man, he pays attention to the calendar after all.

I was just commenting to my MIL this morning how poetic it’d be to become a mother today, and voila! YogaMate surprised us all – and mostly herself – by becoming a Mommy on Mother’s Day to a beautiful baby girl. See, to time it so beautifully is just showing off now. I’m terribly happy for her, but I guess that means coffee after yoga this Saturday’s no longer on the cards. :)

It just goes to show that babies really will come when they are ready. NewFromMattel had hers start to come practically the moment she turned her Out of Office assistant on, and now YogaMate’s 3+ weeks early. On the other hand, there’s the 2-weeks-overdue wait for SmallFry… and that’s another kind of surprise, I suppose.

This motherhood gig is tough for control freaks, no?

I have no idea when the day of this birth will be. I think I look huge now, but really I’m still quite mobile compared to others as far along as I am. So maybe she’ll be on-time/slightly late. Or maybe I haven’t a clue. I’m planning to take 3 weeks off before my due date, and am hoping in that time to get the nursery truly in order… but who knows, eh? She might have other plans.

She might turn out to be a he, after all.

She might come super early. In the office. What a nightmare.

She might be right on time.

She might come super late.

She might come with a cleft lip

She might come with mental complications.

She might come OK.

I just hope I’m ready.

Presenting… the anti-bodies

ElilyMommy alerted me to the fact that just as the world breeds Breastfeeding nazis (my words, not hers), the world also breeds Anti-breastfeeding nazis.

Wha…?

Curiosity killed this cat – with laughter. I had a quick Google, and found the following gems without looking all that hard.

  • Anti-breastfeeding campaign – serious whack jobs on a massive scale. They hate God. They hate breastfeeding slightly more. The good news: I’m pretty sure it’s satire. A lampoon of misconceptions and prudishness surrounding boobs and babes. The bad news: remember how art imitates life…?
  • Found this on Yahoo Ask – but my absolute favourite was the mother who purportedly saw the act of breastfeeding as akin to animal behaviour, adding “We’re not in Uganda!” as a debating point. Yuh.
  • The one with the dentist – although interestingly, the whole cavities by kissing thing seems to have legs. Huh.
  • Anti-breastfeeding Bingo – for every time you hear that comment…

On a more serious note, this journalist puts across some valid points about how breastfeeding fascism, as she calls it, is uncalled for – and has ramifications of its own. I guess the most important take away for me is that “scientific theory”‘ changes all the time, and unfortunately I’ll have to hone my own mommy instinct and figure this out, while growing thicker skin.

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