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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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second baby

A birth plan for a second-time mother

When we had Arddun, I came to the hospital without a written birth plan. Partly because Arddun was early (she came in week 38), but mostly because I wanted to go with the flow as much as possible. It was my very first time, I had chosen not to educate myself on other birth stories for fear of setting up unrealistic expectations personally, and I’d rather scoffed at the idea of planning a birth. As if something as mysterious and miraculous as that could be wholly micro-managed. Pfft.

I’m rethinking my stance now with Boy Blob.

It’s not about micro-managing Boy Blob’s entrance to the world, and nor am I trying to tell my obstetrician and midwives how to do their jobs. But I do want to capitalise on the lessons learnt from Arddun’s birth. At the very least, articulating on paper how I’d like to try new things and what I found disempowering will help crystalise what is important to me and my family.

So here’s what I’ll be trying to cobble together in the next 24 hours as the clock ticks over to Week 39.

Document length: short and sharp
If I am to whip this out and wave it in front of staff in a tremendous hurry, I need it to be scannable and easy to digest. Enter Web Writing 101 – good headlines, chunk content, use dot points to break down large sentences or concepts. Preferably kept to one page length.

The introduction: a disclaimer
I read the following introductory paragraph in a birth plan, and like it enough to want to adapt it for my own. It sets the context for the document, assures everyone that I’m not a control-freak (or try not to be), and that I understand things can get fluid.

Mine might go something like this:

We’re hoping for a natural childbirth without unnecessary intervention or the use of drugs, although we are open to changing our minds on pain relief medication down the track if needed. We appreciate your support with our birth preferences.

This plan represents our preferences. However, we recognise that in the event of unforeseen difficulties it may need to be re-negotiated. In this eventuality, please discuss all procedure options with us. When possible, we also kindly ask for some privacy to discuss our decision(s) between ourselves before agreeing to any new procedures.

Backgrounder: How did the last birth go?
Chances are, my midwife will be someone I’ve never met before. Which means she is going to assume that my body will labour at a similar pace to other women’s. Except I know what party tricks my body whipped out the last time, and that knowledge will ultimately benefit her judgement, too. Things like

  • the fact that Arddun’s birth was mostly drug-free (does paracetamol count?)
  • how Arddun’s birth was augmented and I was on syntocinon
  • how, after contracting every 1 to 2 minutes for about 2½ hours, I had dilated a mere 2cm
  • how, after being told I probably had another 12 hours to go, promptly dilated 7cm in 30 minutes so my obstetrician had to abandon his lunch and run back
  • how my total length of active birth was 4 hours
  • how I used vocalisation as my primary pain management tool, especially when hooked up to a cocktail of drugs and confined to the bed. Read: if you are going to constrict my movements, be prepared to hear me bellow for 4 hours like a dying animal. And oh, I have a pretty fit, choir-trained diaphragm. I can project.

What I’d like to try out
Because my last birth was an augmentation and I had a monstrosity of tubes and such sticking out my right arm, I ended up delivering Arddun while flat on my back. I’m not saying the same won’t happen, but if I could, I’d like help to move around the room more, get into easier birthing positions, and get into that bath so I can pummel warm water down my back for pain relief. Assuming, of course, that baby isn’t in distress and nothing crazy is about to happen.

What I’d like to avoid
I also want to stress my right to speedy pain relief if I decide that’s what I need. I think I’m going to try and do it without drugs again because part of me wonders if Arddun’s birth had been quick because of that. But if this birth turns out to be the opposite of Arddun’s (i.e.: slow, start-stop) and I feel that I need to conserve energy for the final push later, I just might opt for an epidural. I am older now. I am also less fit than how I was when I had Arddun, and I’m getting less quality sleep every night. I understand my limitations, but I want the assurance that others will trust my instincts, too.

Also, the idea of forceps and episiotomies scare the living crap out of me — even more than a C-section. I’ll brave them if I have to, but I’d really rather not.

 

I’m open to hearing other birth preference ideas, if you have any. Even if this turns out a purely academic exercise and I don’t actually whip out a plan on the day.

TTT – The kindness of strangers and friends

Today was a good day.

Which is a happy coincidence, because Thursdays are also when I blog about what I’m thankful for. And while I usually try to keep it to three main things, I haven’t been able to stop at that magical number lately.

Here’s why.

I’m thankful for a beautiful girl with a beautiful temperament

Arddun walked a lot today. She spent pretty much the whole afternoon in a mall, shadowing her Nanna and I as we went about trying to get last-minute supplies. Presentable Pajamas for my hospital stay, for instance. A swimming top so if I were to end up in a bath tub during labour with the shower head beating warm water down my sore back, I have swimmers that finally fit me in my beached-whale state. I went to the post office. We went to Babies R Us. And everything took four times the length of the time it usually takes, because I’m getting slower and slower…

It’s boring stuff for 3-year-old girls. And she didn’t complain, not once in that mall. She did ask very politely whether she could go to the little indoor playground a couple of times, and then waited very patiently when we explained the sequence of events that were to unfold. (Lunch, shopping at Target, then playground.)

I jumped onto Facebook this afternoon, and someone had posted this challenge:

For 24 hours without complaining

And you know what? This little girl, from the second hour since her day began, didn’t complain a single time. I was so proud of her.

These kind of days happen more often than I give her credit for, but perhaps I sat up and noticed this time because we had her Nanna’s company. And as much as I know that part of it is Arddun’s natural temperament and part of it is consistent messaging from Tony and I… I’m just so thankful she has a teachable heart.

 

I’m thankful for hand-me-downs

I have received so many boy clothes that Boy Blob’s entire wardrobe is settled for 2015. This, of course, has not stopped me buying the occasional to-die-for outfit for my little man – but the fact remains that the entire half of Tony’s tallboy reserved for Boy Blob’s things is now almost full.

Sarah V came by tonight to hand-deliver my Norwex things… and she has been carting around boxes of boy clothes from size 000 for a while, so when I get the space and chance to go through them, I can. And now she’s offered to wash them for me. Seriously!

 

And it’s not just clothes. If I were to just whimper in passing about perhaps needing something, someone invariably rushes back with an answer. It’s probably why I’ve been less organised with baby prep this time around. Help seems available every which way I turn. I’m so thankful for this community.

 

I’m thankful for caring strangers

Have I ever mentioned how Canberra, for the most part, loves young families? Until I started carting Arddun around when she was a baby, I never got so much as a cursory glance. No one would ever think to strike up a conversation with me randomly. Once I started carrying a baby that was obviously mine? BAM – passing smiles, offers to grab things from shelves, people unpacking my shopping trolley at the conveyor belt while I’m queueing, passing me compliments and encouragement, the works. I was no longer invisible. I now had status – I am a Mother.

Last Friday was freakishly hot for Spring – a scorching, dusty and windy 35°C, real skin-cancer inducing weather. And while waddling around Garema place and Canberra Centre, I had total strangers coming up to me and asking if I was alright, and if I was keeping myself hydrated. I mean, it’s no secret that pregnant women have an inbuilt radiator behind their belly buttons, but that level of sympathy or empathy blew me away, frankly.

 

I’m thankful for professionals who truly try to help

Last week, I alluded to the frustration that we had been facing for the better part of our month. Emotional and financial interests spread across two continents can be hard, hard work. Throw in the complications of a home build and a newborn Coming Soon to a Bassinet Beside our Bed, and it’s enough to get a little angsty about life — a reaction we were working hard to avoid because we are grateful overall… but it made us feel anxious now and then.

For a good chunk of time, it looked like our options were getting narrower and more awkward. It seemed like the only road ahead was for me to travel back to Singapore very soon. Try figuring that in your schedule when you have a brand new baby to look forward to. When Arddun was born, she had arsenic hour from 4pm to 1am for upward of EIGHT. WEEKS. And then there were vaccinations and Boy Blob’s immunity to consider, the need to establish my milk supply, passports…

The alternative was for me to travel alone. And that was an even more difficult option for me to swallow.

Meanwhile, two professionals on two different continents were beavering away in the background to find a solution that other institutions weren’t interested or able to pursue. And this evening, I was finally given the word that I would NOT have to make this crazy dash, perhaps with newborn in tow. And that, my friends, is something that we are very thankful for.

So for those of you who have been praying… thank you.

TTT – A spidery web of thankfuls

Thankful for
My daughter’s hair
So long, oft knotted
Neither here nor there
Thankful that she calls
A simple plait her “Elsa hair”
She twirls and swirls
And casts her spells
Imagining bad juju she dispels

Thankful
That she sings
Both Christian songs
And nursery rhymes and things
She learns along the way
Her little voice just brightens up my day
Thankful
That she kisses
Baby Brother through my belly big
Even though she doesn’t twig
To what it will all mean
Major change yet to be seen

Thankful
That I have the time
To sit and write, and even try to rhyme
To spend these days at home
To hold my daughter and not feel alone
Thankful that I have
A husband who loves all of us deep down
And wide, and high, and long
Thankful that I didn’t get him wrong

Thankful
For his job
Though often tough, and tense, at times
A schlog
Thankful
He has one at all
As Canberra’s growth slows to a sluggish crawl

Thankful
He continues to provide
That we complement
That our ambitions don’t collide
That he is not a selfish man
That he supports in every way he can

Thankful
For the Boy
Whose kicks and turns might threaten to annoy
And yet I can’t complain
I’m thankful that he gets to wear our name

Thankful that he grows
And scars my body with his sharp elbows
Yet I will ne’er erase
This march of time
This proof of God’s embrace
The miracle of child
(The concept by itself is kinda wild)
And I anticipate
His Hello World
(The day my daughter meets her new playmate)
With huge emotions and a twitchy nerve
But most of all, a mother’s love

Thank you for my life
As mother, Christian, woman, girl, and wife.

TTT — Parking, Piccies, Pregnancy

Great parking when I needed it

This piece of gratitude actually came about the week Andrea and Ben were here. I hadn’t included it in last week’s list because going all swoony over parking is, frankly, a little embarrassing. But I think all drivers can relate to that punch-in-the-air feeling when you score the perfect parking space. As it turned out for my cousin’s visit, I scored a parking space riiiight in front of Jollimont Centre (the coach station here in Canberra) the day of their arrival… and then I scored a parking space at the side of Jollimont Centre on the day of their return.

Noice.

Parking around Jollimont Centre
So nerdy, but HAD to take a photo

I was especially thankful to get the second parking space, as that allowed me a good half hour coffee with Andrea and Ben before they boarded the bus. Precious times.

Selfies with Arddun

Arddun is beginning to get curious about photography — probably because I keep taking pictures of her on all mobile devices and now, an actual camera. She hasn’t quite understood the concept of looking through the viewfinder of a camera to take a shot, but I think she’ll get there soon. She is now fascinated with selfies, though. (I’m not altogether sure how to feel about that one.) We had a mini indulgence one recent lazy morning during breakfast, and for some reason I wasn’t quite prepared for how she snuggled up against me to take a bunch of selfies. Heart melted, blub blub…

Selfies with Arddun

Cruisey pregnancy thus far

I’ve heard that second pregnancies are harder on our bodies, and I’ve personally found that to be true. Muscles are looser, which means things get sore quicker; the pelvic pains I got on the last week of pregnancy that made walking difficult is something I’ve now been struggling with since the start. My nausea had hit harder, I feel more tired, I lose energy quicker. I’m sure part of it has to be with age and the fact that I’m running after a dancing toddler, too.

But I am so thankful that my pregnancy is boring. “Boring,” my midwife and obstetrician sagely reinforced, “is a great thing when you’re pregnant. No events. That’s what we want to know.”

There are other pregnant women who really struggle with the big stuff, even the possibility of severe complications leading to death. And I know none of us is immune. I try to remember this whenever I wake up in the middle of the night with blindingly painful leg cramps, the kind that contort your face into The Scream, or when Boy Blob decides to break out dance moves violent enough to cause me to jump. Because all this is temporary, and I know I actually have it real good.

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