Not much happening

I could write these long, meaningful posts, right, but the fact is that I am just totally, utterly... knackered.

Emotionally I am in a good space and a lot about this pregnancy has been clearing away (emotional) clutter I had somehow accumulated from my previous pregnancy (and a subsequent delivery), but physically speaking I am just... yeah.

I just don't want to write. Really. I am not depressed, I am not hiding anything, I'm just not... bothered. I want to sleep and rest and sit and lay down and just do very little, and let my tailbone heal, and my pelvis relax, and my tummy to hurt less.

I want to be quiet, and I want to just let myself be.

So, basically, not much happening. And I need new pants I can actually fit into - pants my tummy can comfortably fit into. 23 weeks. I'm getting pretty big...

Reading Ready for Air

This book I'm reading now is so familiar...

Page 47:
At three o'clock in the afternoon, Dr. Anderson comes in and moves close to the bed, so I don't have to turn my head to see her. But I can tell by her eyes, which hold none of the smile that they usually do, that something is wrong. 
"The baby," she says, "isn't doing well."
Donny reaches for my hand.
"Each time you have a contraction, the baby's heart rate drops. This is called deceleration. She isn't getting enough oxygen."
"Labour isn't progressing," she says. "I'm going to stop the Pitocin and remove the rice sock. I'm going to get you on oxygen and see if that helps. Then we're going to need to do a cesarean."
"Thank God," I say. "Thank you." Weeks ago, I never would have guessed this would be my response at being told I would need a C-section, this immense relief.

I remember that, too.

I remember how my midwife was standing by the printout of The Kid's heart rate and furrowing her brow, and how she then explained to us that each time I had a contraction, The Kid's heart rate was dropping. I remember the oxygen mask on my face, and the feeling of relief when they said that a C-section is due.

I, too, wasn't that bothered any more whether it was a natural labour or a C-section or whatever, all I wanted was for him to simply be out of me and safe.

Page 70:
"It's a phototherapy light," Kally says. "For the jaundice."
Donny squeezes my elbow, and I look at him. "Do you want to touch her?" he asks. He's smiling. Why is he smiling?
"Kate," he says. "Do you want to touch the baby?"
I nod then. Yes, I guess. The nurse, Kally, points to the sink in the corner of the room.
The sink is wide and metal. Foot pedals turn on the water. Donny presses the pedal with his toes, and squirts pink soap into my hands. 
"Lather two minutes," he says. "Rinse fingers to wrist, hands up."
Again, I look at my husband and wonder who he is, how he knows this. But I do as he says.

"Yup," I feel like saying when I read this, "I know this, too."

When The Man wheeled me up to NICU in a wheelchair so I could see The Kid, he'd been up there - with The Kid - for a while already and was familiar with how the procedures worked. He, too, showed me how to wash my hands, and how the antiseptic creams were supposed to be used. He, too, wheeled me to where The Kid's incubator was, and I, too, remember just sitting there next to the incubator, looking at it, and sort of phasing out until someone asked me if I wanted to touch my baby.

I remember sticking my hands inside the incubator and stroking my son, and how the nurse then said that it's enough for now, she needs to close the incubator again to keep my son warm. I took my hands out, she closed the little flaps, and then I remember just sitting there and not really knowing what else to do, apart from maybe being wheeled back to my room where I would get the expressing machine out again, and try to express some breastmilk again.

For the first few days, The Man was the one who was teaching me what to do with the baby, along with the nurses down at the maternity ward and up at NICU. Changing a nappy, feeding, holding, washing the feeding equipment - he'd done it all ahead of me and so there I was, a mother of this child, but apparently the one who knew what to do the least.

I felt a little... useless, like there wasn't anything I was capable of doing better than others, because even giving my son breastmilk - the stuff mothers are supposed to be useful for - wasn't working and so he kept on getting fed on formula.


I read this book and I'm not even sure if I can appreciate the literary beauty of this text because for all the images Kate Hopper is painting of her experiences, and her daughter, and her story - most of what I am seeing, in my mind's eye, is mine.

But I am also reading and recognizing that compared to a year ago, there is much less anguish inside of me.

Something has changed in the year gone past, there is some acceptance I've come to, and understanding. I remember my days in NICU and the emotion I am feeling the strongest is probably... nurturing. I feel like cuddling that experience in my arms and carrying it with me for how precious that part of our story is to me.

The Kid is... great. I mean, don't get me wrong, he is still two and therefore challenging at times, but even yesterday evening I was sitting on the floor in our living room and telling The Man how the things The Kid does now so often make me smile, and go, "Whoa."

I've developed a bond with this child - which I were so lacking back at the beginning of this journey - and as much as there is uncertainty in carrying a second one at the moment simply because I don't know what the future holds, the emotion I feel the strongest is trust, not fear.

I have immense trust in medical professionals in New Zealand and especially when it comes to pregnancies and childbearing, I feel wholly supported - which is... nice. Good. It's a healthy feeling to have.

Pregnancies, babies and hospitals


A few months back I discovered a book I wanted to read, Ready for Air by Kate Hopper. I requested it from my local library and today, it arrived.

I am only 5 pages in at the moment, but already I look at it and think, hmm, interesting - what coincidences.

Because, you see, I had an unexpected visit to Dunedin hospital last week and reading Kate Hopper's Ready for Air now reminds me of it.

What happened last week was that I woke my husband in the middle of the night with what sounded like very laboured, struggling breathing and when he then started asking me if I were alright, apparently I started arching on my back in what looked like a seizure.

I, of course, have no idea about any of that because as far as I was concerned, I was sleeping. All I know is that at some point when I woke up, The Man was asking me all silly questions like "How are you feeling?", and "Do you know where you are?", and "Do you know who I am? What's my name?"

I was looking at him, squinting my eyes in drowsy sleepiness, and answering automatically, "Yeah, I know who you are. You're [insert name here]. I'm feeling okay."

"Do you know where you are?" he repeated his earlier question.

I looked around the room. "No."

"Can you figure it out if you think about it for a moment?" he asked.

I couldn't. I did look around the room, even stood up to go see the lounge, but couldn't, for the life of me, tell him what this place was - which, I probably don't have to add here, The Man found suspicious.

Apparently, it had already taken him more than half an hour to wake me up - he'd been talking to me, shaking me, pinching me, even biting me - and once I was finally awake he was intent on making sure I was, actually, you know... okay.

And then, to top things off, I started vomiting and immediately afterwards came down with a heavy, heavy headache, closely followed by a few dizzy spells.

The rest of the morning I only remember in scarce, broken pieces because for the most part, I lay in bed trying to sleep through my headache and my nausea, whilst The Man was discussing what had happened with my midwife (over the phone) and with his dad (who is a pharmacist).

And the reason why Kate's book reminds me of it is because the stuff I am describing here is pretty much exactly the sort of stuff that Kate Hopper is describing in her book - the sort of stuff she was warned against when her doctors first started suspecting pre-eclampsia.

Except, unlike Kate Hopper, I do not have pre-eclampsia.

I still don't know what it was that I had.

After The Man had spoken to my midwife who asked us to see a doctor, and after we'd seen a doctor in Balclutha who asked us that we see a doctor in Dunedin, and after we'd spent the whole day in Dunedin where one after another doctors came to check me out - we still were none of the wiser.

I have beautiful blood pressure (90/60), I am not leaking any protein, I have beautiful blood sugar and all sorts of other blood markers (only with the exception of somewhat low potassium) and, basically, there seems to be no reason I would've felt ill - except, I was. I had a headache which was bad enough I was struggling to look at any lights, even after Paracetamol, and I was nauseous, and I was getting dizzy spells - but I didn't have pre-eclampsia (and I was too early to get pre-eclampsia anyway because I am only 22 weeks pregnant now).

But... then it sort of begs the question that... what the hell was it then!?

I don't know. All I know is, whatever it was, it passed.

I will put my laptop aside now and keep on reading Kate Hopper's Ready for Air. If nothing else I will at least learn a little more about her journey, and maybe remind myself of what my own journey through NICU 2.5 years ago was like.

The Kid is asleep. It's quiet.

A holiday in Catlins

A week-long holiday in Catlins was... wonderful. It really was.

There was no TV, no internet, no rush - just an old rustic holiday home right on the beach and lots of ambling, dinners at The Point Cafe (seafood chowder's awesome, man!), bagsful of seashells, sand in all the crevices and crannies and... life. Life at a different pace.

This year, summer's different. I can actually feel it's summer! For the first time in several years, I am not working my head off. Kind of weird, actually, living a life and working a job where summer isn't the prime, massive busy season.

During my summers in Alaska I was handling sled dogs - every day up to 10 000 people flowed off the cruise ships and so we worked, sometimes 13 hours a day, to cater to their holidays.

Then my summers in Wanaka, skydiving - again, days were sometimes 13 hours long, from sunrise to sunset, getting everyone up in the air and flying.

Then last summer, fixing up the house, fencing, working...

And now, suddenly, man - I have a holiday. For me!

It feels... awesome.

One of the reasons not to have babies in America

Wow... I read this page, 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World, and just like Dooce I, too, went: America, are you for real!?

Because check this out:

Map by New York Times

A movie worth watching

Joe Simpson is a magnificent storyteller. Truly, truly magnificent storyteller!

It is a rare gift among mountaineers - to be drawn to and passionate about mountains, but also to able to put it into words so eloquently, why.

He has, in addition to writing "Touching the Void" and "The Beckoning Silence" (and several more books), narrated much of the two movies that have been based on these books.

His "Touching the Void" is a great story - in fact, it is an amazing story! I don't know if you've seen the movie, but I recommend it wholeheartedly; even people that have never had anything to do with mountains have said that it makes for absolutely gripping 2 hours (okay, little less than 2 hours - an hour and 40 minutes...) and afterwards I have seen people sit around a table with drinks in hand, saying, "This guy is incredible..." and discussing what are the chances of anyone ever being able to pull this off.

Really, his "Touching the Void" story borders unbelievable.

But now yesterday I discovered that another movie, "The Beckoning Silence" is available - full length! - on Youtube.

And I didn't even know the movie existed!

In short, it is a movie about a 1936 expedition up Eiger's north face, and the soul-ripping story of four young men attempting it.

But it's more than that. It's also a story of Joe Simpson and why he doesn't climb like that any longer; a story of a man that is now in his 50's, inward-looking and contemplating.

Yesterday, me and The Man watched the movie together, gripped by the story, and I was borderline teary not only at the end where Toni Kurz is so unbelievably set on living and surviving that he keeps defying the odds, one after another - but also where Joe Simpson talks about his climbing and why he doesn't have that passion any more.

It is a rare gift, to be - or to have been - so passionate about something, almost to the exclusion of everything else, but to also be able to put it into words like Joe does...

I'm really glad this guy has lived to tell these tales.

I'm really glad for all the storytellers of the world, actually.

On headaches and houses

Almost everything stops in migraine's tracks. Evenings become long hours in shaded corners of the house, laying down and either reading or sleeping. Time becomes slow: whatever else needed doing in its absence, for now the headache takes prime priority in life and everything else sort of... merges into nothingness of everything else.

I don't recall ever having had one before. A quick Google search has shown that pregnancy, apparently, can make for awesome headaches and my midwife has confirmed what I already thought was the case and that is: if it keeps on going tomorrow, I need to drive to town and see my GP.

For now, it has subsided a little, hence me sitting upright and staring at a computer screen.

In the morning I went around closing blinds and curtains (so bright!), and squinting at my son's wild demands for food. So loud! So... piercing! He was hollering because (after a month spent with grandparents) he didn't want for breakfast what we were having for breakfast, and I kept insisting that sorry, mate, but if you're still hungry, there's food on the table here.

For ten minutes he hollered on like that, me patiently squinting in pain as his wailing rolled through my head, and eventually he climbed back at the table and ate his breakfast with us. Phew.

Mid-morning I attempted living a "normal" life and getting on with... stuff, whatever it was, I cannot even remember exactly - but by noon I was back in bed, asleep yet again. Then again at 5.

A 500 mg Paracetamol dulls the pain for a few hours, but it's not enough to take it away from me, and so I simply exist, rhythmically breathing in and out, in and out, as hours pass and wishing it were night already and I got those blissful hours of sleep again.

In between sleeping, I read Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun" again. It's one of the few books I have at home - the few I find worthwhile reading over and over again; everything else I can get from the library if need be.

Just like a migraine, "Under the Tuscan Sun" has a rhythm to it, like a wave almost: up and down, up and down, up and down. It's been several years since I've read it and it's easy to see why: it's the book to be savoured when time feels plentiful and slow, sort of like it is now. When the light gets too bright or the ache behind my eyes makes it too difficult to read, I set it aside and sleep a little; when I wake I take it up again and continue from where I left on earlier.

As she describes her house in Tuscany and the various nonnas that - over the years - must've swept its brick floors and filled its kitchens with bittersweet smells of almond cake, it makes me wonder about our house here, on the hill.

Our house... it doesn't roll well off my tongue. This house, old house, the house we live in - but not our house.

If Frances' house was built to be lived in, this house on the hill here was built to be worked in. It was never meant to be an abode for a family, only a temporary residence whilst men (or maybe even women?) were keeping the radio transmitter running.

After the generations, old radio antenna was replaced with a new, unmanned one, and the need for these houses here came to an abrupt end - if there isn't an antenna, there isn't a need for men running it either, and people moved on.

Some houses were sawn in half, put on backs of trucks and carted down to Allandale where they now house people working at Living Springs. Some were probably dismantled. A few remained - old, strong, red brick houses like the one we live in now.

When Frances describes her villa at Bramasole, I cannot help but feel... pity for this house here, with a tang of an apology maybe, because it isn't this house's fault that it doesn't feel as homely or continuous as Frances' Bramasole. We've put work into it, carpeted the floors, hung curtains, insulated, scrubbed, washed and tidied, but there is a rhythm to how its rooms lay, the way the kitchen allows for such a multitude of people in it, but not much cooking; how bedrooms lay in a straight line off the hallway, like a dormitory.

The migraine allows me time to lay and when it subsides a little, to think. I listen to this house, the way it creaks in wind and how birds go about their days, making their various noises which the wind then carries in through our open windows and into our bedrooms.

In the evenings, the light shines right into our bedrooms and fills them with a golden glow, and when the sun then sets behind Southern Alps, it becomes grey again. Wallpapered drywall does not capture sunlight the way old Tuscan plaster does, and in a way, that's alright. This house has a much different attitude to it and I doubt it cares much for my pity - it just stands here, does its thing, and creaks in blustery winds that sweep this hillside.

It's a...

I spent over an hour under an ultrasound machine today. My technician was a student (so a bit slower to begin with) and add that to our little kiddo being pretty darn stubborn and uncooperative (to a point of being quite amusing, actually), we spent pretty much our entire morning at the radiology department.

Going by what the ultrasound was like, it is going to be a little rascal - just like I've been told I was.

"Let's have a look at that nasal bone," our technician says - kiddo straight away covers its head with an arm.
"I need to get three views of the spine," our technician says - kiddo sets itself even more deeply into my pelvis.
"We'll count the fingers," our technician says - kiddo clamps all fingers into a tight little fist.

Me and The Man were giggling, and that we even got to see - more or less - that it's a girl in there, I consider it a major win!

And now I am laying here, it's 10 pm at night, and I am reading about VBAC and TOLAC and ERC. It's still a long way away, and we'll keep on going week by week, just seeing how things go and decide what our plans/wishes are accordingly, but I am slowly getting this stuff straightened up in my head.

And what I like is that I am surrounding myself with people that help me feel empowered, and who are honest with me, and who help me laugh.

And that's what important.

Getting to the bottom of things

As I was standing in the shower and thinking about my ballooning tummy (reference to here), I remembered a book I read about three years ago, written by Jenny McCarthy and called "Belly laughs".

In short, it's her collection of complaints and moans over being pregnant, some quite amusing, and the one story I remembered was about being so constipated she had to go to the medical centre where someone scooped the stuff out. (If you don't quite understand what "scooped" and "stuff" means in this context, I'd say think about it for another minute, because I really don't want to go into details here...)

As I was pondering that, I wondered: why would anyone want to become a proctologist?

And as any modern human nowadays would do, as I got out the shower I opened up my laptop and googled it, "Why would anyone want to become a proctologist" - and as you would imagine, I was not the first person on internet to wonder about that.

The answers are actually surprisingly... sensible.

"About fifty years ago (how time flies) a few pre-med buddies and I worked as OR techs in a community hospital. We put the same question to a very busy proctologist, affectionally known as the Rear Admiral. He laughed and looked at us very paternalistically and said, "because we have the most grateful patients." If you have ever had severe hemorrhoids or a peri-anal abscess, you would realize the truth of those words. Urologists come a close second. But I didn't discover this until late in life."

"The field is popular becuase it's a surgery field where you can still have a lifestyle. There are very few "Colorectal" emergencies (just like there are few urological or breast emergencies) so most cases are scheduled in advance. So, when you have your cases end at a certain time on Thursday so you can get to your kid's T-Ball game, you're not going to be called back because somebody with a surgical abdomen just wandered into the ED."

"Perhaps they wanted to do surgery but didn't want the crappy (no pun intended) hours of the other surgical specialties."

"They make a sh!t ton of money."

It sort of reminds me of working with sled dogs in Alaska - for all the coolness of living on a glacier, flying in/out on a helicopter and riding snowmobiles, I did spend about half my time picking up dog poop.

So here you go. I hope you were enjoying your lunch or something ;)


The Man: "You're blooming, honey!"

Me: "Did you say blooming or - ballooning?"

The Man (after pausing for a moment): "At this stage, either one works..."

19 weeks, baby, 19 weeks.