On sleep

I told my midwife that come evening-time, I feel like sitting and crying from tiredness. Sometimes I do. She cautioned me to look out for some things in regards to post-natal depression, and gave some advice.

But I am wondering: if she were getting between 5 and 6 hours of (broken) sleep every night for three weeks straight, wouldn't she feel like sitting down and crying come evening-time, too?

Just sayin'.

Labour story, part one

When I sat down to write my labour story, I realised that I needed to share more than just the labour itself because to me, journey to becoming a mother has been embedded deep in where I've come from and a lot of the choices, I feel, can only be understood in context.

Which is why I've decided to write it like this, long-winded and detailed. It's typed one-handed during deep nights when I've been holding my breastfeeding daughter with one hand and typing on the iPad with the other. (It's hard work, writing in a way that's meaningful whilst there is a toddler and a baby to look after.)

There will be three parts to this story, I feel, and I have only finished the first for now, but one day it'll come. One day I'll get around to describing the events that followed in Christchurch Women's, late on June 3rd and in the wee hours of June 4th, in what has been a healing ending to a story that started so, so long ago.

Thanks, guys, for reading and coming along.

Maria

***

The story of me wanting to get pregnant starts way back before I actually wanted to get pregnant.

I am not very... maternal, you see. Partially it is probably due to my personality - my genes - but partially (probably) simply the fact that I haven't got any younger siblings or cousins I would've taken care of whilst growing up. Babies have always been very... alien to me.

By the time I was 20, I'd held a baby maybe twice in my entire life. One of those times - I was a teenager then - a relative's friend who'd just had a baby was visiting and collectively they stuck that baby girl in my arms - "Go on, hold her!" - and as I was sitting there, awkwardly cradling this... thing in my arms, all the while I was thinking, "Geesh, can somebody please take her away now?" It's not that I didn't like her - I just didn't know what to do with her. Babies seemed so... fragile, awkward to me.

So taking that into account, it was no wonder that through high school and early years of university I developed this image of myself as a woman who was going to do the "important" stuff first - the travelling, the career, the dreams - and then maybe by the time I was 30 I was going to do the "family thing", too, providing there was a man I was wanting to have a family with. I didn't feel any maternal urge to have babies of my own sooner, and besides, people were having babies when they were 30 - 40 even! - so I didn't see any problem with my plan.

Except... by the time I was 21, I became aware of such a thing as infertility - and also the fact that there was a good chance I'd be facing it.

And that changed everything.

***

By the time I was 21, I'd been on contraceptives for years already, from when I was sixteen, seventeen maybe. It wasn't for the contraceptive effect though - not initially, anyway.

Initially, it was to get rid of acne - a welcome side effect those pills have, and I had LOADS of acne - and to make my irregular periods more regular. A while later, when boyfriends started appearing, the contraceptive part of those contraceptives became helpful, also.

But, anyway, that's not really important; what is important is the fact that when I decided to come off those pills at 21 - to see what my body would do without them and, besides, it's recommended to have a break anyway every few years or so - it suddenly occurred to me that... without the pill, nothing the heck happens. No periods. At all.

I gave it a little time before heading to see a doctor, six months in fact; he then ran a few blood tests and turned out, I had an underactive thyroid.

(Do you even know what a thyroid is? No? That's okay, I didn't, either.)

Thyroid is little gland at the base of the neck, and it secretes hormones that regulate speed with which lots of things inside a body move: digestion, heart rate... periods. Mine was underactive, so my lack of periods was probably stemming from a lack of those hormones. I needed to start popping a few pills each day, to make up for those hormones, and soon, I was assured, everything would return back to normal again.

Sounded pretty easy, and straightforward.

But here's where I ran into trouble. I wanted to learn more about it: what a thyroid is, what it does. To do that, I googled the word, and...

Oh. My. God.

My search took me into pregnancy forums. Lots and lots of pregnancy forums!

Turns out, thyroid is so inherently connected to periods, and hormones - and as a result, to uteruses and ovaries and pregnancies and babies - that people who discuss thyroids the most, on the internet anyway, are people who either want to get pregnant, are pregnant, have been pregnant, or have an opinion about it.

And... Oh. My. God.

As I was reading through pages and pages of these forums, I became painfully aware of the fact that women who experience problems with their thyroids often also experience problems with getting pregnant. Or staying pregnant.

Some of the women who had posted on these forums had been wanting to be mothers all their lives. They had wonderful husbands, delightful jobs, they'd designed entire nurseries in their heads, ready to make those dreams into a reality on a single hint of a positive pregnancy test - and they had no children.

They cried often, or so it seemed. They posted a lot. They... doubted their lives/choices a lot.

And it made me wonder: would I, one day, become one of these women?

For a while, I didn't know how to answer that.

On one hand, I knew for sure that I didn't want children NOW!, but on the other hand - if I waited, say, ten years, fifteen years, and then found out (like many of the women on those forums) that I had missed my prime time, that I had effectively become infertile by the time I had started wanting children - age tends to do that, and so do thyroid issues - would I be okay with that?

Would I?

I had always assumed that children and pregnancies came planned when wanted, but stories on those forums convinced me otherwise, and so I started debating it in my head over and over again. If I could have a wonderful life, but no children, would I be happy? If I could have a child, but not that wonderful life ahead, would I be happy? What would make me happier? 

Was that even a valid question to ask?

The thing was, I just didn't know. Chances were, I had carried an underactive thyroid around for years, right through teenhood when all that "womanly stuff downstairs" was developing, and whether it had done any damage - or not - I wouldn't know until I actually tried - tried to get pregnant - and if I tried too late, it wouldn't make any difference because it would be too late anyway.

Whichever way I looked at it, it was becoming more and more evident that I was quickly approaching some sort of a watershed moment, because, the simple truth was - I wanted children.

I parted with my partner, amicably, and we carried on on our separate paths, and mine led to New Zealand.

***

Within days of meeting him, a fellow backpacker with bright eyes, my husband-to-be - not that either of us knew it at a time of course - I laid it out to him, plain and clear, that I was attracted to him, yes, but I was only interested in dating him if there was a potential for children at some point. 

He looked at me with a sort of a... oh, expression.

He'd never met a girl so straightforward before, but I didn't see much point in beating around the bush with it: he was going to find out eventually and, when he did, I'd rather if it were sooner than later. I was not willing to waste time on simple travel romances when what my heart really desired was children - a child - and so I figured: he was either going to stay, or he was going to run, and his decision wasn't going to change much with time, so I might as well go with it.

And luckily, he took it in his stride. If anything, he was kind of... impressed by it. He was expecting a prolonged romance, gradual deepening of a relationship, trust earned in time, but instead, he encountered this... Bam!-thing. This, D'you want children? Yes? Good, because I do, too.-thing.

And I guess he liked me strong enough to just go with it.

Realities of late

The best way to wake up a baby is to put her to bed.

Also, baby's puking ability grows in correlation with the size of a cloth I've placed under her head. The bigger the cloth, the further she throws up, making sure it all lands just past the cloth and on the bed / sofa / my shirt etc.

Consequently, I smell like cottage cheese most of the time, and so does my bed. Sofa's next.
Knackered.

On being different

It's hard.

I don't talk about it often, and never on my blog because I don't need people coming up to me with their "helpful" suggestions at times when I am not ready for it or when those "helpful" suggestions aren't that helpful at all.

But at the same time, keeping it down is hard also. Even between me and The Man, when we do talk about it, we do so tentatively, like we're stepping on something very fragile.


Since he was born, I am used to hearing the word, delay.

He was born little, and so he has always been down at around the 5th percentile, both weight and height wise. To some professionals that have pointed that out, I have learned to reply, yeah, but he is growing steadily. He's never fallen off his "line" on those charts, and never spurted up from it, and instead, he treads along nicely.

Someone's got to be down at the 5th percentile, just like someone's got to be up at the 95th. Not everyone can be in the middle, 50th.

Then it's gross motor delay, fine motor delay. Just like many other NICU babies, he sat up a little later, and crawled a little later. To some professionals that have pointed that out, I have also learned to reply, yeah, but he's developing steadily. He gets to these points a little later, but he gets there consistently - that's what matters.

The kid didn't walk until he was 22 months old, but when he did... one day he just started walking. From a moment of having never walked before, to a moment when he was toddling 3-4 metres between me and The Man, back and forth, back and forth, without any support whatsoever, it wasn't even 5 minutes!

And now it's speech delay.

Being a bilingual family, I knew that kids with two background languages were expected to start a little later than kids who encounter a single language only, so to a paediatrician who suggested half a year ago that we start therapy, I replied, let's wait until he's three and if he hasn't started by then, we'll do it.

I asked her if she thought it was a valid decision to make, she said yes. Bilingual kids do tend to take longer, she agreed.

Three years came and went, and now we're on a referral to start speech therapy at the beginning of term 3.

But with all these little things and some I am not going to get into, I also wonder... I wonder if something else is going on, too.


It's hard to tell at this stage, with children so young it's often either a diagnosis or a waiting period of "let's see if he catches up", and for a while there really isn't much else to do than to simply carry on and see if he catches up, to wait and see how he's developing.

And because of that, I don't want to talk about it, because I don't want labeling. It's not helpful.

To people I trust, I reach out already, and to people who know what they're doing - paediatricians, GPs, therapists - I have been reaching out for a long time already, doing what we feel is beneficial and necessary.

I get pissed off when family members or generally people alike tell me I should be doing this or that, that why does he have that red scar on his cheek, or is he not talking yet, and why is he still in nappies. For crying out loud, people, I feel like saying, do you think I have not noticed!? Do you really think I am not doing anything about it!? Do you really think that what you're saying to me is helpful!?!

I think if it weren't for the position of being a mother, I wouldn't be so argumentative and protective, but I am. It's one thing commenting on what I am like, but when it comes to my children - holy guacamole.

And what's the point of saying it out loud here now, I really don't know, I think I am simply decompressing from having watched Izzy's video above.

Futility of efforts

Sometimes when I've got The Girlie up on the changing table, I wonder, what's the point?

I put a fresh nappy on, she poops. I change her clothes, she vomits milk all over her top. It's like she makes an effort to be exactly in the same condition once I'm finished with her as she was before I'd even started.

What is the point?

Lately

Two children sleeping at the same time! Time for a quick post.

Lately we've been...

...spending a lot of time sitting on the bed, breastfeeding.


...holding The Girlie upright to get the burps up.


...letting The Kid watch lots of Pixar movies. At 7 o'clock in the morning (when I've been up since 4-something) and 5 o'clock in the evening (still up since 4-something), whether it's good parenting or not, it gets me through the day.


...learning to type one-handed and getting stuff on the computer done with The Girlie upright on top of us.


...and regardless of how tiresome - if not to say exhausting - this time in our lives is, feeling that it is also full, and rewarding.


PS. Am I really only taking photos of her when she's wearing the suit with cars on it!?

Explosion

So, I learned first-hand today why nurses/midwives/doctors, whenever they undress a baby - for weighing, for example - the first thing they do is place a little napkin on baby's bum.

Because picture this: me undressing The Girlie for weighing today, chatting away happily, about to hand her naked body to the midwife by the scales and...

Pfrrrt!

I look down and, for a moment, my brain freezes. There's bright yellow baby poo all around me: on my t-shirt, on the carpet, on the bouncy chair, on my pants. I'm standing there, still holding The Girlie in my hands... I don't even know what to do next.

What do you do in a situation like that? Place the baby somewhere, but where?, since there's poop on her backside. Step away? But there's poop on my feet, I'll tread it around. Take off my t-shirt? But what am I going to do with the baby still in my hands?

Jesus Christ it was messy.

And carpet... Don't even get me started on cleaning baby poop off carpet. AND! On a certain toddler finding it amusing to take a poop-soaking rag off the carpet then and start playing around with it.

Oh, being a mother is such a glamourous job!

On growing

In this radio interview *, a mom of two Magda Rabenda tells of what it was like having her first daughter in her early twenties and then her second one at 45.

It was amusing listening, I laughed in the end. Magda was saying how she was so much more naive at twenty-something than she was at 45, and as an example she brought up a story of buying her first daughter clothes from a store someplace, and a while later going back there to tell them the clothes had shrunk.

And I laughed, because apparently the store-lady had touched Magda's arm, looked at her closely, and said,

"My dear, your baby has grown."

:)

* full link address is http://ec.libsyn.com/p/9/d/6/9d66b8d9571bc092/111_Becoming_a_Mum_in_Your_Forties.mp3?d13a76d516d9dec20c3d276ce028ed5089ab1ce3dae902ea1d06c88434d2cf5a56b4&c_id=7235951

A Saturday











Realities of two weeks old

Come by our house at 8 pm and chances are, the lights will be out and people in bed already.

Piglets and naps

You know that piglet-sounding thing newborns do? That "Mh. Mh! Mh..." thing, as if they're pushing one out? (Though they're not?) Usually right before sleep? That thing.

The noise of my life.

Coming up to six in the morning, I've been up with her since four-something. She's "Mh!"-ing in the bassinet, not really loud, but just loud enough to keep me from falling asleep, and we go like that for over half an hour.

Finally she settles and I think, yay, a little sleep!, but not even five minutes later... The Kid is up. I get up, too, thinking, and another day has begun, just like that.

Now it's the other way around: The Kid has just gone down for an afternoon nap, I've laid down, too... And not even five minutes later the little piglet starts her thing in the bassinet.

Oh for Christ's sake, again?! Another nap time like that?

Yesterday the same thing happened and as soon as The Girlie had settled, The Kid was up.

But, hey, at least it's a step up from yesterday morning when I'd sat up with her since three AM, not four like today.

Jesus I'd like to sleep.

Getting sort of repetitive here.

Images of late










PS. Looking at these images now it occurred to me that she's wearing the same onesie on every single photo here.

Just for the record: we do change her clothes (have to, there's lots of milk-puking going on) and she does have more than one onesie =). It's just that I seem to be taking pictures when she's wearing the one with cars on it... Oh well.

On sleep

Vacuuming will wait, and so will dishes. Dusting, washing-sorting, the lawn - all can wait. Sleeping - cannot. Won't.

Wednesday is when The Kid spends a day with our nanny, a sort of a Waldorf-mindset lady. It works well, and gives me a break, but depending on how this week goes I may add another day onto our "nanny timetable" because, getting sleep with two? Ain't going very well.

Pretty tired. But that's to be expected :)

(Am I repeating myself? I am, ain't I. Well, tough luck then.)

The realities of having two

It looks like it's about to rain. The Kid is asleep, so I decide to quickly pop outside and get the washing off the line and inside before it's wet again.

I plop The Girlie in a wrap on my tummy and head out the door. Right before I do so, she starts crying and I think, "Oh, great, I bet that just woke The Kid up..." Still, I head out the door.

And fair enough, as I'm standing outside, underneath the washing line picking down clothes and nappies, The Girlie is crying/screaming in my wrap and from the house I hear The Kid doing the same, crying/screaming as he's just woken up and got out the bed and realised that no-one's home.

You know what? It's... way, way easier having just one.

And boy do I feel like crying, too, in the end of the day when one is in bed and the other one not quite yet and I'm thinking, please, please, please go to sleep so I can go to sleep, too!

I guess we're going through exactly what having two is supposed to feel like.

On joy and sadness of love

It was such a beautiful, and yet such a heart-rending moment on Wednesday morning, just thinking about it now makes my eyes well up.

I was getting us ready for a trip into town. The Girlie was laying flat on her back on our bed as I was pulling on her jumpers, booties, woollen pants. She was squeaking her newborn squeak, mouthing around for attention and looking around inquisitively. I stopped what I was doing, looked at her, and kissed her tummy.

"I love you so, so much, you do know that, don't you?"

And suddenly it hit me: this, this is what all those mothers have talked and written about! This feeling which pulls at the heart and makes me want to cradle her in my arms and then keep her there. Love - love for this tiny newborn creature.

And it suddenly made me cry in joy and sadness all at the same time because as I was standing there above her, I knew that it was a new feeling - new to me. I was crying out in gratitude for having experienced it now, with my daughter, and felt my heart fill with sadness for not having had that with The Kid.

I ached for knowing that I had not had that with The Kid.

Almost everything about this birth has been so, so much easier than our experience three years ago! The physical healing, the emotions, the amount of sleep - the love.

Three years ago, 9 days into my son's life I still hadn't left the Dunedin Hospital since he'd been born, I was still not able to breastfeed him fully and spent hours each day attached to that damned breastpump, I was worn out but pushing myself constantly to get us out of there and home, and to get us all healthy. The love grew over time, eventually, but very slowly and on a road filled with potholes, in what felt like a long, hard slog.

Whereas now I have been home for almost a week already, I have long walks with my family, I can lift things, there isn't a daily dose of Codeine on my nightstand and when I stand above my daughter, dressing her in her outdoors clothes, I feel... love. The sort of love that pulls at my heart.

And it that moment, I felt so, so, so grateful for having had the experience like this, now, and such sorrow for not having had that with my son. I felt sad for not so much me, but for... him. For the time he had had a mother that was working so hard at loving him.

And yet it also made me proud, and grateful, for we got there in the end - didn't we! - and for all the parents heading down the same road of struggle, be it Caesarean sections or NICU stays or some other reasons: hang in there. It'll come.

PS. Sorry for such long, wobbly sentences. I am tired and lacking sleep. My brain's not really working...

Reality check

Two kids is pretty full on, isn't it?

Or at least going from one to two is...

*testing out on how little sleep a human can function

About the same size

The Kid at three weeks, just over 3 kg:


The Girlie at four days, just over 3 kg:


How we're doing

Thank you for all your well-wishes! I have not the time to respond to each of you individually, but just know that I appreciate all your e-mails, texts and comments you have left over the last few days. There's been an outpouring of love and we are feeling it!

We are doing very well. There's little sleep and not often a spare hand for doing anything on the computer, but given the circumstances - we're only 4 days old at the moment - that's to be expected :).

We are taking it easy at home and learning to be with each other. Each evening, a hot meal arrives at our doorstep - my workmates have made a roster of bringing us food every day for a few weeks, a real blessing! - and each morning, a slightly tired but a very happy parent gets up from bed to experience yet another day, one mostly with The Girlie (me, breastfeeding), the other with The Kid (him, playing).

She's a wee diddy thing. At birth she was 3065 grams (6 pound 7 ounces) and 50 cm, so she's adorable as in her clothes that are all slightly baggy on her :). She eats like a champ, especially at night ;), and keeps me glued to our couch for a large chunk of the day. Now she's burping on my tummy and I'm typing, one-handed.

The birth was hard, oh so very hard!, and by one stage, I screamed like I have never screamed before with all that pain - however, just like I was told, I cannot remember what that pain was like any more. I remember how it was hard, and how I kept thinking that I cannot do any more, how I feel I am being sliced open, but... I don't remember any more what it was like exactly, because what I remember instead is that, plop!, feeling as she slid out and screamed instantly, and how they lifted her on my tummy and I then cried, and cried, with tears of joy and surprise and relief.

Mostly, I am filled with gratitude and love. And as she's just fallen asleep, I will also hopefully be filled with sleep, too, in a few short moments ;). It's 3 am. We're doing well!

She's here













PS. One day, I will write a little more, but for now I will just want to say that it was... magical - so oh very hard, but magical. We did it. VBAC!

Mornings

A morning alone behind a sewing machine and Kim Hill on the radio. It was awesome.



Carrots - it's carrots we're eating.



And before you get to the next photo: it was never my intention to take a photo of me in my pink-flowered PJs, slippers and my bare tummy, and then upload it onto internet for everyone to see, but... oh heck with it, be adventurous, Maria - go on, do it.

Yes, I have pink-flowered PJs. And, yes, it was actually meant as one of those random photos to be stored in private archives, as a reminder of what mornings at 40+ weeks used to look like. Beautiful, isn't it? ;)

Two interesting radio interviews worth listening to

If it weren't so late and I weren't so tired, I'd write more, but it is and I am, so...

Two radio interviews that I think are worth listening to:

1. Kim Hill spoke to Janette Sadik-Khan who headed some major transportation improvements in New York recently (more bikers, more pedestrians, fewer cars) and, lord, do I wish something similar gets done in Christchurch!

www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2598032

2. Kim Hill also spoke to Claire Shipman last week.

The bit that struck me the most was where Claire pointed out that, if we were to generalise it like that, school-aged girls learn to do things well, achieve academically and aspire towards perfection, whereas boys learn to get in trouble but carry on regardless of their mistakes.

Which, when these youngsters get from school to worklife, means that women underestimate their achievements and spend a long time brooding over their mistakes, whereas men acknowledge their mistakes, have a little fuss and then simply press on - and that, in a nutshell, gives men an advantage when it comes to promotions, confidence, salaries etc.

And then she said that she and her co-author both have daughters: co-author's girl is a do-well achiever, and Claire's own daughter is a tomboy who doesn't even want to brush her hair.

Whilst they were doing this research, her co-author started to realise that her do-well achiever daughter could really do with some attitude, and Claire realised that her own tomboy daughter who used to give her heartburn might actually be benefitting from being such a rascal.

www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2597147