Fur Elise

Dear significant pregnant person in my life,

I want to say some things to you, but I don’t want to be “that person”. The “you should” person. So I’m just going to post on here some stuff I wish I knew when I first became a parent. You can read it, or not. You can take it, or not.

For me, as a parent arising after complicated circumstances (bed rest, almost loss, ivf ) the transition was harder and easier. My road possibly had more potholes than normal. I don’t know how much that changes the transition. It must always be hard. So here goes.

No one can prepare you for how you will feel. You will simultaneously feel as though you’ve been skinned alive, every nerve ending standing to attention and raw, like there is no division or filter between you and the world. You will feel open and vulnerable, like a wound. And that’s ok.

To have a small person around 24/7 will feel perfectly right and amazing and completely wrong all at once.

You will also, simultaneously, feel stronger and fiercer than you’ve ever felt. More powerful. When your mumma bear gut kicks in, look out world. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will get between you and your child. Sometimes mumma bear views everyone as a threat. It takes time to get her to settle down. And that’s ok.

You will feel loss. I can remember almost bawling at my first mothers group meeting. I DIDN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT MY BABY. I wanted to hear what people DID, what BANDS THEY LIKED, and they couldn’t seem to see their way above the fog of milk haze and sleep deprivation. I was ANGRY at the loss of self. I was hurt that I’d never realise I’d lose myself, the me I knew. I was so upset no one ever warned me. They probably tried, but it’s a lived experience thing. And that’s ok.

You will dream some weird shit. Night 1 I was hallucinating I was giving evidence at a coronial inquest into my baby’s death. That shit went on for WEEKS. It made me feel like I was losing MY MARBLES. You will wake up SOAKED in sweat. Its probably the hormones combined with a bit of hypervigilance. It’s horrible. But its ok.

You will feel the walls closing in, like someone is holding their hand around your throat. You look ahead and visualise what is happening now, ad infinitum. And you want to explode. EVERY night with this little person? EVERY day? Every HOUR? How. Breastfeeding feels like a death sentence.

But in a few weeks, it isn’t the same. And in a few more weeks, it isn’t the same. And in a few months you won’t WANT to be anywhere else. So don’t look too far ahead. Its ok.
You will feel terrified. You will have more than one instance of “what have we done” or “there’s been a terrible mistake that they let me look after this on my own”. Heart in mouth pulse racing terror. It ain’t just you.

I want to tell you there comes a time when you realise you’re back. You’ve been forged in fire and re moulded, but old you is still there. For me, it was the day I could wear dangly earrings again, without fear of having my ear lobes ripped off. It happens. I put them on and thought “I’m BACK”. Try baby steps towards being back, early. Little bursts of “you” time fill up your mummy tank. Put on your own oxygen mask before putting on a child’s.
I’ll repeat that: in an emergency: put on YOUR OWN oxygen before putting on your childs. Top up your tank. Look after yourself. Give yourself time out. Simply because you matter. Additionally because having a full tank makes you a BETTER mum.

I want to tell you to ditch western cultural control ideals, put Gina Ford in the bin or preferably the shredder. Look at your baby. This is not a manipulative schemer who wants to lie in your bed awake 24/7. This is someone who was in a warm muffled balloon and whose brain is now literally melting trying to figure out WTF is going on. You are their tour guide, so try to learn their language. This someone will try to tell you what they need. And this someone will be happier if you try to read those signals, and soothe and respond to those needs. You will be better at this than anyone else.

If you control all the things now, you might feel better. But control is an illusion, and the cost can be an unhappy toddler, an insecure bond, or a stressed child.

I want to tell you some people love blobs. I do not love blobs. I love people. Blobs are boring. Thankfully, your mother told me about this. She didn’t love blobs either. Instant bonding isn’t always instant. Sometimes we bond much more when the blob becomes an interacting interesting person. Sometimes a bond grows very slowly. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a bond.

Speaking of bonds, we have boobs. This makes us pretty loveable to hungry small blobs. Having something physically attached to you 10 hours a day is pretty bond-i-fying. Not so easy for the dads. No boobs there. So first, give dad a job. Bathing was definitely my first choice. Swaddling to a degree of mental-patient –in-a-strait-jacket was my second choice. Hate that slippery little sucker.

Second, step back so he can step up. They aren’t a dad until bub is screaming down the house having pooed a kilo of slime up someone’s arm and you are nowhere to be found.

Step back so he can step up.

Every single week, designate a time, and walk out and don’t look back. EVEN if at first it is for 20 minutes. Make it sacred. Stick to it.

There will come a time when you look in the mirror and you see the weird little mummy paunch mummies get (it takes a while to show up) and you will think “hideous”. And your child will come up and grab a giant handful of squishy bits and say “I love squishy mummy”. And you’ll realise for at least one person in the world, you are amazingly perfect. You are everything. You are the North star, and to some extent for the rest of their lives they will navigate by what you put inside them, in these first short years. And that is more powerful than any size label or skinny jeans. It is a source of strength, and pride. And value.

On that note, read some parenting books. Read good ones. Things about baby led routines, about developmental stages, about the brain neuroscience of a developing child. You are a parent for a lot longer than you are pregnant. So read up now while you have some time and brain space. Get lots of tools in your parenting tool kit. Pinky McKay, Andrea mcNair, John Medina’s Brain rules for baby, I loved ‘how not to fuck them up’ Oliver James, Peaceful Parent Happy Kid Laura Markham would be a few for starters.

You will feel complete opposites at once. Often. You will feel the most amazing rage you have ever felt, and three minutes later when there are little baby snores and drool on your chest you will be transported to Kairos time. It is infuriating. You will think it impossible. You will loathe-love. You will impatient-stoic. You will bond-run away. You will feel power-powerless. You will feel motherhood is everything-nothing. That probably means you’re doing it right, not wrong. This article here BLEW MY MIND with how right it was. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html?ir=Australia

You can name it. You can say out loud when it sucks. You don’t have to love every moment to be an amazing mother. Sometimes, you can be a good-enough mother. You can go off your nana and still have a wonderful bond and an unstressed happy bub. Research says get it right about 64% of the time and you’re looking good. That will never seem enough. But it probably is, so cut yourself some slack.

Feeling loss and freak out at new parenthood is not post natal depression. Your world just went into the tumble dryer. It is normal to feel really thrown and unsure and nervous and a bit sad at the change. But there is such a thing as post natal depression, and post natal anxiety. And If you even vaguely suspect you have it, or just feel very wrong, disconnected, or the hypervigilance doesn’t settle, or you simply can’t feel or you struggle to make decisions about even small things, see someone. If they don’t help, see someone else. And keep asking til it happens.

You will almost weep trying to leave the house. It will take 3 attempts and 2.5 hours at first. It will improve around 1 year old and decline again at 2.5 years old. At first, you will watch the clock ticking as your bub feeds and you’re going to miss the paediatrician appointment and fantasise about walking out of the house with only your keys and phone.

You will fantasise about walking out and checking into a 5 star hotel without anyone touching you. If things get really bad, do it and send me the bill. I. Completely. Understand. Agree in advance which hotel it would be so we all know where to look.

It will change your relationship with your partner. Sometimes, the love for your child seems to eclipse everything so there is no room for three. That can be weird. Then, you will see your partner being an amazing parent, and it is a like a turbo boost for the love you had for him before. A supercharger. Prioritise keeping that relationship on track. Happy supported parents are better parents. And there’s enough room for all of you.

Here’s my guide to the first few months:
Weeks 1-2 Swinging between hallucinating from lack of sleep and thinking “I have this sorted” cooking over complicated meals because bub is entirely nocturnal

Weeks 3-4 Crap, bub is waking up. A lot. What the hell am I meant to do with it? “Can someone google clusterfeeding?”

Weeks 5-6 will this never end. What is with the screaming ? Why is it from 4pm -9pm? What is going on? My ears! My ears!

Weeks 7-12 How long does this parenting gig last for? Do I have to do that needle crap AGAIN? How will I ever…? Oh look at that, bub can…..! Oh, is bub trying to talk? So cute! Stupid baby has still not figured out they are on the outside.

3-4 months – I’m sort of getting this. Bub is starting to seem like a person. A 5 hour stretch of sleep makes you feel drunk and hungover all at once. This is kind of amazing.

4 months + – personhood. It just gets more amazing every day. You don’t want to deal with solids.

5-6 months – you deal with solids. It’s kinda fun.

7-8 months – oh my god you left the room therefore you don’t exist, I’m alone! I’m Alone! And I am going to send you MENTAL with waking up 65 times a night.

8-9 months – I crawl, therefore I sleep. Mostly.

Babies are the world’s property. Every man and his dog (pot? kettle?) feels they are entitled to a comment, a helpful suggestion, advice, questions you’d never ask any other stranger but a new mother. It is ludicrous. But babies are the world’s property. I think it’s a survival of the species instinct thing. Try not to take it to heart. Sometimes it makes the world seem wonderful and fun and friendly. Sometimes its just downright annoying and intrusive. Sip your coffee and see if they’ll burp the little bugger. “Have you only got the one? Gee he’s chubby! Oh isn’t he tiny? What you should do is….”

There will come a time, and it’s a ways down the track, I’d say at 18 months? When you wouldn’t take it back for the world. When you feel as though you were never not this child’s parent. When you feel you couldn’t be anyone if you were not this mother, to this child. You will be reforged, knitted together again. Pre baby and post baby self will become a whole that is so much stronger than the sum of its parts.

Welcome to parenthood. It’s a stupid ridiculous annoying wonderful miraculous joyous ride. You’re going to love it. Maybe not at first. Maybe not every day. Maybe not even every hour. But when you add up the whole, trust me. It is worth it.

Story of my life

The j-man… My story so far

Day 1

Came out a hollering . Had big puffy eyes with no whites showing, so I looked a bit like a creepy alien and freaked the folks out at times. My head wasn’t too pointy. I was little and pretty cute!!! Aunty cathy was impressed by my enormous balls. I was totally over the baby cave so I took the express exit strategy and was out in three and a half hours.

Later on in day 1, i had a bit of a blood sugar crash (1.7) and had to go to special care. Dad went along too, in case there were monkey babies to spot. There were. They gave me two lots of formula (gross, I didn’t want to drink it and the midwife smelt funny) to get things rolling again. Then we went back to mum.

We got a few visitors on day 1, i got my first teddy from cousin Bec, balloons, and mum got flowers, and grandma Judith came too. Mum looked totally wigged out about what just happened, but improved when i gave her a cuddle. Grandma elva couldn’t come and visit as she had a bad flu, so there were tears on the phone, she was very upset.

About midnight on day 1, i was a bit blue. That made people take notice. Dad and I went on a road trip again to the nursery, and they whacked me under a BBQ and checked my oxygen levels. I was fine. These people really make a fuss, and if they pricked my heel once again I was gonna kick a nurse. Finally Dad got to go home and have a quiet beer in front of the Olympics at about 2am. He has new grey hairs in his eyebrow. I did that.

Day 2

mum looked like hell. Well I thought so. Probably because of dr north korea visiting at 7am and poking around in her unmentionables. Ouch. She also didn’t get that much sleep. She took AGES in the bathroom. There was a hair dryer and ice packs involved, but let’s not go there. She walked funny. She was happy when the hospital brought us a fluffy white robe, bath products, a teddy bear and a hat for me.

She did sleep quite a lot in the breastfeeding class though, best sleep she’d had in days. I think she may have snored, and dribbled on dad’s shoulder. Dad took notes, so I was assuming I’d still get fed. Later on they kept waking me to feed because my blood sugar was too low, and I pretty much slept through my feeds while they tickled my feet and jiggled my arms. It took three people to get me through a feed.

Stupid nurse pricked my heel again, and after i scored three good readings in a row and one more trip to special care I got the all clear.

We went up for high tea in the afternoon. I didn’t know a person could eat that many scones and brownies. Mum really outdid herself. We had a few more visitors in the arvo, but I’m pretty sure they were just there for the cakes.

Then the sneaky buggers went from the nice cuddles at high tea to BATHING CLASS. Now I was quite willing to watch and learn, but oh no, DAD went and volunteered ME to be the demo kid. Bloody hell. Mum spent her whole time filming my bits, she was too tired for baths after all the cake eating, and then they told dad to use a football hold. WHAT THE?? Didn’t they know he’s a boundary umpire? The first thing those guys do with a football is throw it over their shoulder. I tried to tell them it was a bad idea. Dad said my screaming sounded like a pterodactyl. I pretty much didn’t stop, even though he made a really nice fist of the bathing caper. Mum was laughing at me, and the midwife running the class was trying to explain how soothing baths are, but no one could hear her over my screaming. I went berko.

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Our mate Pete was visiting the class too, and he was making fun of my wussy cry and said his William’s one was WAY bigger. Eventually they gave up on getting me to relax. I stopped crying once or twice so mum got some good photies. I don’t think the midwife liked me. Dad had really big hands and my wrinkly bum looked hilarious when he held it.

I’ve since reassessed and I quite like baths.

Back in the room there were a few more visitors, including Uncle Pete. I think mum got jealous of the attention because that night she bunked me off to the nursery so she could sleep. Stupid midwives and their stupid suggestions. I got parked between two of the hairiest babies you’ve ever seen. Man those kids were uuuuugly.

Day 3 was Saturday. No classes to dribble through. Mum was looking better. I had a hearing test apparently, but I slept though it. I guess I passed.

Saturday, it was a chick cousin fest, and I was the centrepiece in pass the parcel.

Uncle Paul came too. Totally scored on the present front, bears were big. Cousin Bec brought mum’s banoffee pie as requested in her pregnancy blog, and mum pretty much caked up in the corner (again) and left me to entertain the guests.

I started to look less puffy. Some footy guys brought mum and dad wine instead of baby stuff.

Day 4, Sunday. Mum and dad planned to go out to tea tonight. We had a settling techniques class. Mum felt like crud. Mum did not do well in classes! When they talked about how hard we are to settle, mum just wigged out.

Sunday got a bit annoying because mum started to get these enormous bazungas that looked like rockmelons. Then she had ice packs EVERYWHERE. Six ice packs in her bra and extras in other places. Then they moved our rooms in the middle of nap time & visiting hours, so it was chaos. We got loads of visitors in the new room. Antonia, Greg and the kids, Janine & Beth, Penny, Jonno & the boys, Kim& steve, Uncle Jus. I scored more pressies.

I timed my feeds so there was no way mum and dad could get out to dinner. Dad packed up loads of stuff into the car because it was our last night.

Sunday night mum completely lost it. She had weird all over shaking and fevers, and they had to wrap her in hot blankets to stop the shaking , & bunk me off to the nursery with a bottle of expressed milk. I was still being a total bugger to feed, lazy and sleepy, and the midwife could not get me to drink. Mum had issues because of combined baby blues, freaking out about taking me home, and a fever as her milk was coming in. Cue the ice packs.

Monday, day 5, we went home, eventually, after the lactation chick checked us out feeding. Dr north Korea did his thing, the pediatrician visited, the discharge lady, you name it. Mum did a Physio class wearing a towelling robe and six ice packs in her bra. She looked awesome, especially during the mat work and crunches. Mum said she felt better, like her body was still there somewhere. Under 6 foot of ice packs, I reckon.

I screamed blue murder during the pre departure wardrobe change, but slept through the loading into the car, the car trip, the deli trip, and then another few hours. Mum and dad drank champagne.

Since then, dad’s had three weeks off work. They have found it a bit of a sleepless blur. I’ve changed a lot. At first, I was a bit of a lightweight and didn’t put on much weight (80g) in my second week, and everyone was worried. Weeks three and four I drove mum mad with feeding, often two hourly, and put on 350g each week. Total fatty.

I’m not quite as sleepy as I was, and a bit more interesting. Mum and Dad will tell you all about the cool stuff I can do soon.

He’s a boob man

Jensen Angus, aka the J-man, is feeding like a demon on the left, so I’m typing with my right hand. It’s 4am, our last feed was at midnight, so we’re going to crack the magic THREE hours sleep in a row. O happy days. Yes ladies & gentleman, when life gets hard, as I often tell my type A perfectionist self, lower your expectations.

Breastfeeding is one of the harder jobs I’ve had, and I’ve had some doozies over the years.

Long hours? 56 hours a week. 7-8 feeds a day, 7 days a week, each with a one hour feed-change-feed-settle turnaround time. Baby, what a throughput. Uni lecturing takes me 35 officially, 40-45 hours unofficially.

Broken shifts? Say no more. At its worst, we’re an hour on an hour off. For eight hours on a stretch, so we feed 1-2am, sleep til 3, feed 3-4, sleep til 4-5. No annual leave or sick days. I believe there is long service leave eventually. This job needs a better union…

Difficult client / student? Can I have a HELL YEAH. A good email hounding or tight deadline wielding s.o.b of a CEO hasn’t got a patch on a three week old. No one ramps it up like a person whose very survival is at stake.

Physically demanding?OMFG it is. I eat like I’ve never seen food before. Today I found myself making a chicken and avocado roll whilst gnawing on a chicken leg and simultaneously planning my second course.

How’s the OH&S (occupational health & safety?) The news here is mixed. Breastfeeding is an office ergonomics what not to do diagram. Hell on your neck, shoulders and back if you want to make eye contact with the little guy. On the upside, it lowers my risk of diabetes, certain cancers, and other reproductive excitements, so the workers comp premiums would be better than many industries.

Equal opportunity for women? Better. We’re the only ones who can get this job. I know blokes with man boobs, but they’re yet to prove themselves useful. I think the pay would be better if men had to do it?

ok we’re typing with the left hand now. This should be faster…

I’ve had clients where I’ve had to wade through shit before. Literally. When I was an auditor working in chartered accounting, I had a client that made fertiliser. And twice a year I would don thigh high gumboots for the stocktake attendance. I’d pace the rows of rotting shit, and check their stock valuations. Ummm… Not a patch on this kid. I’m dealing with his fluorescent yellow downstairs about THIRTY FIVE TIMES a week. No gumboots required. Most days.

And while uni education is important, and can be profound or life changing for some students climbing their way out of disadvantage to a better life, nothing quite compares to a job where you are literally laying down someone’s brain wiring, improving their immune system, lowering their chance of later disease, raising their IQ and creating a bond from which every other connection they ever experience will spring. That’s a hell of a job description.

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Chapter 5: Gumby becomes the J-man: Jensen Angus is born

Chapter  5: Gumby becomes the J-man.

Chapter 4: we’ve contracted, we’ve gone from ACDC to classical, we’ve moaned, we’ve seen a head. I was reaching down to deliver our boy and…..

And as I went to lift him up to my stomach, STOP! He wouldn’t come! The umbilical cord was too short for him to reach! It was like he had a handbrake on! And he stayed there, in mid air, held by the midwife. My first thought, as he was waiting for his cord to be cut, was “He’s not big at all! He’s REALLY little!”.After a bit of open mouthed pausing, Stew was able, through his shock, to get down there and cut the cord, and they put Gumby-Jensen, finally wailing onto my chest. He was lovely, and I could see him reacting to my voice almost straight away. Not as mucky as I’d expected. They put a bunny rug over his back as he nestled in close, and I laugh-cried sobbing-laughing for what seemed like ages, til his crying stopped and his eyes opened slowly, eventually. We cuddled for a long time. It seemed as real as a marching band parading through the ward, delivering this baby.

I was a bit out of it on the gas, and finally being able to let go of the tight tight control I’d had of my breathing and focus for the past however long. Everything we’d fought for, for so bloody long came down to this moment.

And, just as I’d visualised, right then the song playing was a Peter Gabriel cover of “The Book of Love”. Please listen to this song. It is glorious. It is beautiful. (Have tissues at the ready). And just as I had pictured in my head, this was the song playing as our son hit the decks and made us into a family. It felt as though I’d painted this moment into reality. And everything about it sums up everything that brought us to right here and right now. With my boy in the corner of our apartment lounge room, quietly rustling awake, ready for his next feed.

I don’t know how something as simple as words can describe that day. The day that we had all hung on so bloody hard for. The day that arrived like a pre scripted affair, that lived up to everything it promised. The day I had thought about thousands and thousands of times, lying in bed, sitting in emergency, hearing “your baby still has a heartbeat” said to me so many times. The day that came and went quietly, without fuss, like walking to the top of a gentle hill and seeing what lay beyond it, and coasting down the other side. Words cannot do it justice. Music cannot do it justice. Photographs cannot do it justice.

Hope is like a giant beacon that flashes from a lighthouse in the darkest night. And though once I wrote in a previous non pregnant post that hope is like a monkey trap, sometimes hope is all we have. And sometimes it is all we need to keep us going. That and bloody minded stubbornness. That’s where I come in. And I guess, the J-man too. He must be stubborn. Tell me I can’t do something and you’ll motivate me for life. Tell me this pregnancy won’t last, and baby, I’ll show you something completely different.  I’ll show you our son. For many days, our hope, and the hope of those around us, was all we had to hang onto. And I am so glad we hung onto it, that we weathered it. That we made it.

But all good things must come to an end, and Dr North Korea did indeed arrive. My sister immediately asked him if we got a discount, seeing as he hadn’t made it. He gave her a death stare I reckon, after his mock good natured chuckle. According to the labour report it was 18 minutes of pushing. Not quite enough for him to make it to North Sydney from the city! His midwife told me he TORE out of the offices when he got the call, but still wasn’t quite there in time. And I was glad. I had the delivery I wanted.

And then the fun started. I saw a flicker of concern pass his face after he got me to push (again? Are you serious?) and deliver the placenta. I never even felt the injection go into my thigh to speed up the third stage. My sister later said there was a lot of blood. The obstetrician had a fleeting look of concern, a moment of indecision, I felt. This was one of those possible nasty turns, and I recognised it. Cathy leaned over and quietly said “are we ok here?” to the midwife. They were looking to him. And after a split second of indecision, of weighing up that I saw pass across his features, gauging me and my tolerance versus the situation, he decided to stitch me up under gas with just a local anaesthetic. I had a feeling he was considering whether to send me for surgery. And I decided I didn’t need to know what was happening and I blocked my ears to their replies, and looked at Gumby/Jensen.

Dr North Korea explained they would do it then and there, the internal stitches, but that I’d need to use the gas. More bloody gas. The next 30 minutes were harrowing. So so hard. He SWORE I would not feel the pain, just the pressure. I SWORE I felt the pain. And the knots. And the thread pulling through my skin. OH HORRID. And in my head, I was so so concerned that I was squeezing the baby as I sucked on the gas, and no one would notice and I’d kill him. I was SO convinced this was going to happen, but I couldn’t vocalise it because there was no way I could let go of that gas. Eventually I got out the words to tell my sister to watch me with him, and she assured me they were, that he was fine. I swear Cathy and Stew did more coaching in that half hour than in the whole labour. It seemed to go on and on and on. It seemed harder than the labour, perhaps because this was not part of my visualisation. At the end of it I felt very shaken up. The stitches were all internal, but god it took a long time, and EVERYTHING I had left. I was so relieved when they took the baby off me so I could just regroup.

They weighed Jensen/Gumby and finally hub-in-boots held him. Stew looked close to tears but despite me thinking it was odds on, he did not cry. I think everything happened so fast, and he was so worried about me, that he had no time to get that emotional. And for me, God it felt good just to sink back and stop being in control, stop with the focus already.

Sometime later, the midwife led me off for a pee (terrifying) and a shower (glorious), with Cathy poking her head in to scrub off the random bits of WHATEVER stuck to my skin. I remember being fascinated by the fact that my right foot was ENTIRELY caked in blood. I had no idea how that had got there. Apparently nightmare on elm street in the labour ward had passed by without me so much as noticing.  Just how I like it. Oblivious!  My sister said there was a LOT of blood. I found it hard to believe that was my blood. The shower was incredible.

Later on, they asked would I like to see the placenta. The bastard organ that almost gave us all that trouble. You bet. Everyone was surprised that I agreed, but I’d read accounts of women’s birth stories who said it was important to see it, and although I did think it kind of gross, anything that helps your head catch up to what your body  has just done has to be a good thing. The midwife showed us the sac, the placenta, where the umbilical cord was attached. It was amazing. It was HUGE, stashed in this giant silver kidney dish which she lifted up with both hands.

I did not say the word “curry” to hub-in-boots, though I thought it. Every time anyone said placenta in an antenatal class I would tell hub-in-boots stories of people cooking and eating the placenta, or planting trees in it, or drying it out and turning it into capsules they took like vitamins. Just to gross him out. I always said “we could make a nice curry out of it”. So I’m sure he heard my head saying the word “Curry”, even if my lips weren’t moving. It was cool to see, anyway, and helped make the connection between baby in there and baby out here, which is, basically, sorry to be crass, a complete “mind fuck.”

From that point on, I was focused on me for a while. I ate like I’d never seen food before, when they brought toasted sandwiches all round I ate everyones. The cup of tea was just amazing. I proceeded on to eat museli bars, le snaks, you name it I ate it. I didn’t hold the baby for this bit. I think I was in shock. I felt like I was in shock for another two hours, and it was only when I held the little man again in the ward that I started to understand what had really happened, who this little guy was, and what we had accomplished that day. I think for a while there, I just had to come back into myself, to be me for a bit, before I was able to be mum. They had brought him for a feed in the labour room, and I fed him before my shower after he was weighed and towelled off.  I can’t remember much about that first feed. We have a nice photo of it though.

Dr North Korea did a good job at the stitching up I think, and really, that’s where you need an expert like him. We didn’t need him for what, amazingly, incredibly, turned out to be an uncomplicated delivery. A  calm, lights low, music playing, perfect delivery. We got our happy (natural) ending.

The printed labour report says I was in labour for 3 hrs 38 minutes. THREE HOURS! Are you serious? Helped along by all the pre labour I did at home, helped on by the calmbirth breathing, and focus, I think it was incredible for a first child. I pushed for 18 minutes. And stage three went for 5 minutes.

I didn’t want to commit to a name straight away, because I felt so out of it. But sometime the next day we finalised what was, really, already final, and Jensen Angus Eckermann was named. At 3.125kg or 6 lb 14oz, he’s not a big guy, not for my family at least. He was puffy, with puffed up eyes and a pointy head, and a funny lamb like cry. He changed immensely in those first 48 hours.

I am amazed that the birth went exactly as I had visualised, though I expected about another 15 hours of it. I am amazed that I could do this, though I always believed I could. No epidurals, no c-sections, no crazy post partum haemorrhages, just a bright pink boy who was attempting his first cry before he was quite out.

And just like that, with the long hoped for arrival of Jensen Angus, we were a family.

I’ll write for you very soon about our hospital stay, three trips to special care, our time settling into being home, melon boobs, cabbage leaves, the mind numbing killer sleep deprivation, and most of all the wonders of our little J-man as we get to know each other. There’s so much to say about him already.

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Gumby’s birth story Chapter 4: This is Serious Mum

Chapter 4: This Is Serious Mum

So far, chapter 1 covered pre labour, and chapter 2 & 3 the dramatic waterfall from my nether regions. The serious action continues in chapter 4.

Of course, on arrival at the hospital, the car park was full. Hub-in-boots decided to drop me at the entrance and send me in solo. It was a bit nerve wracking. I’d sent out a few messages on the car trip, and the contractions were sitting at about 8 minutes.

People in the foyer looked at me, but didn’t do anything, and I didn’t ask for help. I limped in to the lifts and waited. I probably should have sat down right then and there and hollered, but it’s just not my style.

In the elevator, a contraction started and continued as the doors opened. I leaned on the door, not quite making it out of the lift.

“Hello! You certainly LOOK like you’re in the right place?” A lovely older lady with a clipboard, obviously having just left a meeting, (clearly some kind of nursing unit manager) came and grabbed my arm. Shall I take you around to delivery?”

“Yes please. My husband is coming but, no car spots.”

“Okay. Just around here.”

She walked me around, chatted, got my name and details out of me, and shouted out to the midwives and I was taken through. I started to get really nervous being in the delivery room alone. I checked, and sure enough it was the ONE room without a bath. Bugger. Then no one came. And no one came. It felt like ages. Finally, hub-in-boots arrived with bags, a bit stressed. I emphasised we would be moving to a room with a bath, if I had to cross my legs for two hours it would happen.

Finally the midwife came in. They took details. I nearly forgot the printed birth plan and medical history.

“Are you guys in medicine? These are very thorough.”

“No no. Just control freak first timers.”

She read through the birth plan and I started to feel better.  .

Then nothing for ages again. My sister arrived, armed with freshly made rice paper rolls she snaffled from their morning tea at work. I hoed into them like I’d never seen food before. I had changed into a hospital robe (I think).

I was hooked up to a monitor to monitor Gumby’s heart rate and my contractions. At first, his heart rate dropped a little each contraction, and I stared at those graphs just waiting and waiting whilst they monitored things. My head wasn’t in hospital yet, my head was still at home in bed getting ready to kill time for another day. I couldn’t quite catch up.

Louise came in, the midwife that was to take us through to birth. She asked could she do an examination, waiting til a contraction had passed. I was 2-3 cm dilated, and my cervix was “paper thin”, which I guess is the effacement part. This was brilliant news.

“You’re doing REALLY well” she said, weirdly exactly the same phrase that was used in visualising this on the calm birth meditation about the day of the birth.  At this stage I was joking around a bit, and hub-in-boots put on the ipod. Eric Idle from Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of life” was playing as I had the first examination. Ironic. What a shit disturber.

Louise assured us we’d get a room move, and sure enough we did. It didn’t take too long. I think it was about 11am when we arrived at the hospital, and maybe 11:30 when we moved rooms. According to the printed report, this is when active labour started.

At this point, it didn’t seem to take long for things to ramp up pretty quickly. I suddenly, after my batch of vague, remembered the Labour TENS machine I’d hired, to give electrical impulses to my back, with a booster button for contractions. That $5 extra to get it express post was a good thing…it arrived Monday, and here we were on Thursday hooking it up. Hub-in-boots got the electrodes on and yeah, now I’d call it pain.

I donned my big white towelling dressing gown, popped the TENS machine in the pocket, and wandered around in a figure eight around the room. Hub-in-boots followed me, massaging my upper back in contractions. My sister followed me trying to get my patient ID to log on to the hospital wireless network. That almost got her a broken arm. She was captain communications & catering though, so it was probably a good thing. The TENS machine was good, and gave me something to focus on, though I often forgot to turn off the booster as the contraction ended. It allowed me to get my focus back, which I’d completely lost, and come back to the breathing, and it was good to be free of monitors so I could move and move and pace and pace. So much had happened in the last hour, it was hard to maintain focus.

The pressure element ramped up, and the pain moved more into my back than it had been. I still managed to upload the blog post I’d typed at 5am and answer some texts in the break between (what a dag), but i knew I was quickly running out of time for anything except labour.

I wasn’t hooked up for monitoring anymore….but on my contraction timer I realised they were now coming every two minutes. As they lasted about 45 seconds, it was basically a minute on, a minute off.

There came a point where the TENS machine became more of a nuisance, as one contraction seemed to run into the next, and Louise suggested I hit the bath. It was a good call. She made all the right suggestions with the right amount of emphasis at the right time. The hot water, as I slipped in to the deep bath, was amazing. I believe this was the last time I saw clothes during the labour! I didn’t realise it was true, but you REALLY DON’T GIVE A SHIT about modesty when you feel like a disposable extra in the cast of Alien. I always wondered whether you’d feel your baby kick at all during labour, how he’d be doing. And to tell you the truth, I have no idea. The contractions become so all encompassing, so demanding of your attention, that anything else is just screened out. Kind of like having an itchy foot when you’ve just broken your arm. The itch just doesn’t cut it in the brain’s attention ranking.

Another funny music moment came in the bath as the pressure ramped up, and ACDC’s “A Long Way to the Top” was playing…and in contraction land, it sure is “A Long way to the top if you want to rock n roll”.  I’m not sure if this was in trip to the bath number one, or number two. Outside, I had started to vocalise with the contractions, a freaky primal sound that wasn’t exactly voluntary. It wasn’t moaining, it wasn’t screaming, it was just this noise I felt like a bit of an idiot really, and quite surprised at myself. Inside, I was mucking around as I breathed, singing the joke lyrics :” It’s a long way to the shop if you want a chiko roll”. So whilst it sounded like game on, inside I was doing pretty well.

After goodness knows how long in the bath (maybe 20 minutes according to Hub-in-boots), Louise decided that despite the inconvenience she needed another look. It really hadn’t been long. The aim of the bath was to get the contractions lengthening out, as they were kind of short at 45 seconds and needed to be around the minute mark to get my body doing what it needed to do. We waited out a contraction leaning on the bed, now most certainly long enough,(and hollering) then she hooked me up to monitors, and on examination found I was 7cm dilated. What the hell? I was so surprised. This was going rather quickly, and the change in sensations was a real roller coaster…just grab the “Jesus!” handle and HANG ON FOR THE RIDE. I started to stress out a bit about how much worse this was going to get, and Louise yelled out from the other room that they don’t get any closer together. A minute long and two minutes apart is IT. Okay. I never knew that. Okay. I can do this. No closer together? I can do this.

Then it was back in the bath with Hub-in-boots by my side, and Louise explained I would start to feel more pressure but I needed to breathe through it and not go with any urge to push, but instead to buzz her back straight away once that occurred. It sounded like I was on hold to a call centre, this phase would take a while, judging by her tone of voice.

I reckon she was out of the room 30 seconds when it hit, and MAN did it hit. Through clenched teeth (sorry Calmbirth) I said to Stew “BUZZ HER. MUST PUSH. BUZZ HER.” She was back in in a flash, and kind of surprised. “Sorry Jo but I’m going to have to get you out again. I think we need another look. Is that okay”

“Bloody oath it’s okay, I think you need to check it out. Its moving fast.”

“We’re going to wait out the next contraction…..”

“Aaaaaaaaaaagh”

“…hang on to the basin here”

“Aaaaaaaaagh…..okay. Fucking Calm birth. Riding fucking waves of freakin pressure to meet your fucking baby my ASS! This HURTS. LIKE. HELL!” She cracked up laughing. Apparently, this was the only time I swore during the whole labour, and this time it was deliberate, and, for those that know me, incredibly unlike me. The Calmbirth description was apparently shared in the corridor and cracked the other midwives up. For those that know me, not swearing is pretty unusual.

We literally limped back to the bed, and I believe, from memory , that was the last time I was on my feet until we had a baby and it was time for an antenatal shower.

I was 9.5cm dilated, so I couldn’t quite push. The baby had moved to a transverse (sideways) position. She went to get another midwife to reassess. Louise asked softly I know you want a natural birth but would you consider using gas to help you breathe through and not push.

 Inside, I was saying “Hell yeah. Are you insane? Give me the gas. Give me the FUCKING gas.”. Outside, I was totally focused on my Calm breathing. Not pushing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I was helped onto the bed, completely inward at this point. I could no longer drink water, and was being fed pieces of ice by my sister and the midwife in between contractions. The crunching eased the tension in my jaw, and the cooling effect was so welcome. I felt like I had a raging inferno inside, burning up my face. It was weird.

Then something in my head said “It’s ok. This is all ok. This is supposed to happen. This is transition. 9.5 cm. This is transition. You get HOT in transition.” Somehow this eased my worries and from this point on I was in complete control…complete moaning vocalising shouting control, but control nonetheless.

Around this point, Cathy dashed out to move both cars and avoid parking tickets, as things began to ramp up pretty damn quick. I began to worry she would not make it back. Time had slowed down and sped up all at once. It had no meaning. I was on internal time, which ran fast between contractions and slow during one. I had to dive deep deep deep within myself to get through them now, and somehow I managed to shut down all my senses. I could not hear properly, I could not see, even with my eyes open. I could hear Stewart’s, Cathy’s and occasionally the midwife’s voice, and I could hear the balls rattle in the happy gas pipe and the music. I could feel the ice crunch between my teeth. The only thing that stressed me out a bit was that they would be doing an internal when the contraction hit, but they managed to time it well with my rather vocal encouragement to get out of the way as the waves rose again.

The calm birth meditation had said “you will find your partner’s voice very reassuring at this time”, and although I expected him to annoy me, I did find it incredibly reassuring, even if sometimes the meaning of the words passed me by. He had to repeat every instruction from the midwives, as it was really only his voice I could hear with any clarity. That and the music.

I could no longer joke around, or even talk between contractions. I did, however, manage to test my own blood sugar (the midwife was astounded) just before a contraction rolled around, as her test kit had gone missing in another room, so I whipped out the kit, pricked my finger, inserted the test strip, and tested away. And I could manage to dictate exactly which track I wanted playing on the ipod! Repeat! Repeat track 1 I said.

I struggled to use the gas at first, as the Calm breathing was through your nose, and the gas was through a mouthpiece. Cathy, who had finally made it back (blessed relief), kept saying listen to the balls rattle, and this helped me understand what I was supposed to do. I felt thick and foggy outside, and sharp and powerful inside. It was a strange contradiction.

The first few non pushing contractions were horrible. It was so so hard to do what they said. I had Stewart keep hitting replay on this track O Magnum Mysterium. This track I had sung in a several hundred voice choir on Bondi beach a few years ago, called Dawn Chorus. You can see it on Youtube by clicking on the name above…it makes a nice accompaniment to reading the blog :-).  This was the piece we sang as the sun came up over the beach, as about a thousand people watched for the Sydney Festival. It was written by an American composer in the 70’s, about the birth of Christ. I loved it, and having rehearsed it a gazillion times I knew every little piece of phrasing inside out. I was INSIDE the music. I could visualise it moving around the stave. I could see the sand between my toes as we stood, dressed all in formal black, on the beach and sang it, I could see the first rays of the sun coming up and the gentle swaying of the conductor, Brett Weymark’s arms, as he swept us along to the sunrise. I breathed to the music, and I was through two or three non pushing contractions, sucking back on the gas like my life depended on it. My focus was like a laser, as it had to be.

Then they let me have a “trial push.”

Oh my god.

It was a relief, but it was also hard to let go of what I’d been holding back so hard. It took just as much concentration to remove the barrier I’d put up in myself. YOU CAN’T PUSH. The midwife had to say “try pushing” quite a few times before I really understood. I mentally took down the barrier. I once again listened to my body’s screaming for release.

And I pushed. It felt like the baby, and I could feel him, was a million miles from where he needed to be, like my body only had the most tenuous grip on him. He was at the end of a long long road. I could just feel him, but I thought it would take such a long time. He was such a long way away.

There was a hurried conversation between the two midwives about when to call Dr North Korea. I clearly remember the phrase “No we need to. I just trialled, she’s a CHAMPION pusher. It’s not too early.”

My head went back to the TV show One Born Every minute, the US version having been on in the past week. I remembered women on there who couldn’t seem to get the hang of pushing, and at the time, I wondered would I be one of them. Apparently not! I also reminded myself of what they said about a “burning ring of fire”. Oh ouch. But if you felt this, it was the baby’s head, and in a few pushes it would soon be over and you would have your baby, if you could just get through it. I reminded myself of this, and I hung on to it, to motivate myself to go on. I knew it was coming.

Finally I let hub-in-boots move the music off track 1 in my “Big day out” playlist. I had never even played this playlist to him, having come up with it one night at about 34 weeks when I couldn’t sleep. He’d only loaded it onto his ipod the night before.

I could feel the baby had moved, and moved significantly closer.

I continued to breathe through the music, and I had one or two contractions without any urge to push at all, even though Louise said that I could. I also remembered this from what I’d read. Some women get this, but by no means all, and it’s called the PAUSE. My head gave me the information, just as I needed it. Louise explained it to Cathy and Stew. I already knew. My body was resting and gathering up its resources for the last hell bent charge for the finish line. I loved the pause. It was only two or three contractions, but it was such a huge relief to be able to relax without the demand by my body to push, even as the contractions arced over my head.

“You can push! You can push!” they were saying, but I went with what my body wanted. I breathed, and I regrouped.

Then I was ready to rumble.  Some women get a pause for an hour. Geez that would have been nice!

Then it was on. And the “burning ring of fire” arrived. A little part of my head started singing Johnny Cash’s “I fell into a burning ring of fire” then I told myself to shut up and focus, and I went back to the Chopin piece that was playing (Etude # 3 in E) , following the complex piano line up and over and through with my mind and my breathing.

The pushing at this stage was bloody horrible. It wasn’t pain, it was burning. Just burning. (Which may have been the feeling of me tearing myself a new one!).  But i told myself to just suck it up and get through it. Teaspoon of concrete and harden the F#$% up, girlie. I was egged on by the “we can see his head” comments. And thankfully, no one offered to get me a mirror. NO MIRRORS, said my birth plan. Later, I kind of wish we had video of this, but my visuals of what was happening were pretty clear. Who needs technology? None of us had time for photography.

Apparently hub-in-boots at this time was away from the business end, as I wanted, and was sponging my forehead with cold wash cloths. My sister called to him, “Come and see your son Stew!” and he moved to the end of the bed, to see the dark hair of Gumby / Jensen about a third of the way out.

“Oh my god! His head’s not out and he’s trying to cry!’ said one of the midwives.

Gross! Said my internal voice. I needed to focus on what I needed to do, not deal with him as a little person just yet. So I let that comment slide through to the keeper and went back inside, deep down. Back to my breath.

As Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks Menuet began to play, the midwives started with the “just one more push and you’ll have your baby” calls. Hub-in-boots repeated their instructions. The midwife said “put your hands down Jo. Here comes your baby. Deliver your baby.”

Musical aside: The menuet is a bit less showy than the main part of the fireworks suite, and rolled out by orchestras a bit less often than the main movements. It spoke to me of a quiet but grand entrance into the world. Unbeknownst to me when planning our accompaniment, it is one of hub-in-boots’ favourite pieces of music. Poetry.

Not a doctor in sight. No Dr North Korea. No Dr South Korea. No doctor at all. Just two nice midwives and my sister and my husband. Afternoon sunlight streaming in the white plantation shutters, the overhead lights dim, Handel playing, and I reached down to hold our boy.

Gumby’s birth story chapter 2: Keeping it real and chapter 3: Laughing my ass off

Well chapter 1 covered day 1 of pre labour, olympic watching, and horsie birthdays. Here, in chapter 2 and 3, things heat up a bit.

Chapter 1 covered pre labour, with semi regular contractions and a slight “show”. Here, we’re laying in bed, we’re a bit bored with it, and the adventures continue.

Chapter 2: Keeping it real

“What are we going to do?” said hub-in-boots. “There’s no way I’m going to work.”

Why don’t we get dressed and head up the deli for bacon n egg rolls? It’d be hilarious if my waters broke there!”

Famous. Last. Words.

“Brilliant. I am busting for bacon and eggs. Yep. I’ll get in the shower.”

“Ok. I’ll just go to the loo.”

Chapter 3: Laughing my ass off. If you’re squeamish, don’t go there. TMI warning.

Oh. My. God.

“STEW! Get the phone. You know how I said I had a show? That wasn’t a show. THIS IS A SHOW. Oh my god. Ring L. I think we need to go to the hospital. Oh god!”

“What!? What’s happening?” he stood outside the bathroom door. “ Will I come in?”

I couldn’t stop laughing. “Oh my god! NO! No don’t come in! It’s gross!.” I was SCREAMING with laughter.

“What’s gross? What What?”

“Oh my god! This thing! There’s this mucous thing! Should I pull it out? It’s a weird colour.” I could not stop laughing, Tears were rolling down my cheeks and it just seemed so ridiculously Hollywood.

“What? What? Oh! I’m coming in!”

“You are NOT COMING IN! It’s too gross!” I was screaming with laughter.” Just ring L! Oh my god! There’s so MUCH OF IT! You’ll have to tell her the colour. Oh my god”.

“What what what?” He was laughing too. “I’m coming in!”

“No!”

He opened the door. “Oh my GOD!”. He took one look at the (TMI WARNING) foot long mucous stringy thingy and small dark plug and nearly passed out. Breathe hub-in-boots, breathe.

I wrapped it up and stuffed it in an empty panty liner box in case they wanted a look at the hospital. Talk to me about gross.

“I’m ringing L”.

“Oh my!” I screamed with laughter as I went to stand up from the loo. He had left the room.

“What?”

“I just felt something GIVE!”

“what?”

“I think my waters just broke!” I was laughing so hard I could barely talk. There was a small fluid leak. Very small. The minute I stood up, whatever had been happening stopped. “I think. There wasn’t very much. I’m not sure”.

“what? WHAT? WHAT??????”

“Just ring L babe. Tell her. Ask what we do”

He left the room and there was quiet conversation. “The colour’s fine babe. Totally fine. But Lexi said it’s go time. It’s GO TIME. We have to go to the hospital right away.

Hub in boots then rang the hospital. He got the midwife, and she asked to speak to me. I can’t remember much of this call, except to say yeah look I think they broke but I’m not sure, there was a huge show, HUGE!  I’m still having irregular contractions, they are still mild, and we only live ten minutes away.

This was when I started to get stupid. “but I want a bacon and egg roll. Could we stop? And we can drop off the shirts at the dry cleaners.”

“No babe. No stopping.”

“Can I just have a shower? I can’t go in like this.”

“Yeah ok, a quick one.”

I had a shower.

I messaged my sister. Her stand by continued, but we were headed in. Note that”game on mole” is a 70’s expression used in “The Shire” around surfies and books like Puberty Blues. It’s also pretty popular with the boxercise crew. I love that I’m having a moment, and she thinks it’s incontinence. Just what you want in a birth partner. hurrumph.

And later the conversation turned one sided:

My mobile tingled with a message. “Ok to facetime?” says my Melbourne cousin, after yesterday’s “Maybe I’m in pre labour” message. Hell yeah, why not. Hub-in-boots jumped in the shower. I had pants on, but not much else. And I took the call.

“Babe! How exciting! Pre labour!?”

“Yeah I know. There’s been developments. I just had a show. We’re heading in.”

“Oh! Are you serious? I never had one of those?”

“Hang on, I’ll just walk out here and grab my jeans.” As I stood up, it was like a waterfall. I could see my face blanch in the corner of the Facetime screen on the phone. And my cousin’s face looking just as shocked as mine.

“Jules? Have to go. Waters. Just. Broke.” She opened her mouth to say something, and I hit end call. I don’t think she’ll forget the first ever facetime call on her new ipad in a hurry.

“STEW! STEW!”

“What? What?”

“My WATERS BROKE! Towels!?”

“WHAT??????????”

“Towels!!!! Can’t MOVE!!!!!!”

“Oh my god!” We were both laughing again. As I went to take a step, more water. I changed again. More water. Changed again. More water. Stew had laid out a towel trail all over the apartment, everywhere I tried to move.

I sms’d my sister. Waters really really really broke. My phone was going crazy with messages. I did not touch it again til we were in the car.

“What the HELL am I going to wear?”

“are you serious? Your waters just broke and….”

“Well I was going to wear jeans?”

“Not. A .Good. Idea. Skirt? Maybe easier”

“Yep skirt! God! There they go again.”

“Ok, I’ll  start packing the car, you get ready. List. What else do we need?” As I tried to dress (repeatedly), I shouted out instructions. The list of last minute items was sitting ready by the tele, and Stew went through them and started running stuff to the car. Including the remaining crate of old towels we use as cleaning rags. ALL OF THEM.

It felt like it took me hours to get it together. I changed three or four times. I had absolutely no focus. I stopped and put make up on, and did my hair, and picked out earrings and a necklace. What the hell? You idiot! Your waters just broke and you are applying lipstick? Are you for real!? WHAT WAS I DOING??????

When the last round of waters broke and I said I was going to change again, hub-in-boots put his foot down.

“Babe. I really think we need to go.”

“ok”. I limped to the car and hoiked my skirt up to my hips. “MORE TOWELS babe. THREE MORE TOWELS.”

He towelled up the passenger seat, and we were off. He drove calmly, as I timed contractions, that were mostly at 8 minutes but still slightly irregular. The winding road to the hospital was strange, every bump and bend was funny. I sent a few messages to people that needed to know.

Stay tuned for active labour in Chapter 3.

Gumby’s Birth story Chapter 1: Olympics and horses

Settle in kids. There’s a story to tell. TMI warnings will be given. Laughter will be had. A baby will be born.

Here’s the LAST BUMP PIC EVER.

30 July, 2 days before arrival. Pre labour started two days later.

Since last Thursday, a week ago today, (ok update so now over two weeks ago) a lot has happened. And in my quiet moments, I go over and over and over the birth in my head. Hopefully putting the story down here will give me and my brain more time to rest….so here goes! There is a story that will need to be pieced together, because my birth story is different to hub-in-boots or captain communication’s version of the story. We were all there. We all played our part…it’s just that mine involved more stitches and gas and less photography.

So here goes.

Chapter 1: Pre labour day 1

Well last week on Monday 30th, I was 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant. It was time, I decided. I did not want to wait for induction, because I did not want to be the one dictating when this baby would come. I went for a long walk to our local deli, stopped for coffee with two nonnas who were there (relatives of friends), and all the way there went a bit berko on the pelvic floor exercises  as I walked because, as usual, I hadn’t really been practising them as much as I should.

A few days earlier, I had gone on a mental online shop, and FILLED the cupboards full of food, stockpiled us up so we could live for weeks without shopping, filled the freezer with meats and meals. I spent about $300. I worked all week, getting bills for the next few weeks paid, our tax returns  done,  getting paperwork together for the paid parental leave. I visited my work, said hi to a few people, did a maternity leave form, visited the boxing crew on Saturday for breakfast. Looking back on it, all week I was putting full stops on all the sentences in our lives.

After the walk, my groin muscles were aching. I’d kind of overdone it, and they kind of continued like that for two days. Stupid Kegel exercises. I sat on the couch and thought of the things I still had to do before the baby came, and I listened to the calm birth meditation and a playlist I’d done up for the birth. I decided in my head that the jobs that were left to be done were not so important. It would be okay if Gumby arrived at any time. We were ready.

Tuesday the 31st I met with Captain Complicated Pregnancy for lunch. We went back to the deli and talked for a long time, but I felt kind of out of sorts, and weird about heading out. Despite wanting to exercise, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I almost rang her and apologised after lunch I felt like I was such odd company. I was agitated, but incredibly lazy at the same time, and really drawn to home. The weather was kind of crappy. When we got home I totally crapped out on the couch, but eventually muscled up the energy to turn the salmon I’d bought into a hot hot thai salmon curry that was really delicious. Hub-in-boots was stoked when he got home from training.

As hub-in-boots tucked into his meal, the usual evening Braxton hicks continued their merry work, but there was like an overlay to them sometimes, just a weird “what was that?”. I thought it was strange. You could have called it mild pain. I didn’t say anything. The night of Olympic broadcast was just unfurling when something in my head was really compelling, saying “whatever this is, you should rest”. So I called it quits quite early at around 9.

At 4am when I could not sleep. I lay there for a while, feeling the Braxton hicks do their tighten, release, tighten release, and I suddenly had a strong visual of a roller coaster. I could feel them rise to a peak, and then go up, over and down. They started low low low in my abdomen, rose up with the tightening towards my navel then arced over my hips and into my back. This was new. This happened three or four times before I started to pay attention. I reached for my iphone, grabbed the contraction timer on my Sprout Pregnancy app (so sad, techno girl), and started to time them. It was exciting being the only person in the world that knew this was going on, right at that moment.

They were regular, about 10-12 minutes apart, at first lasting 30 seconds and by dawn reaching 45 seconds. They were minor, but they were different. I lay in bed smiling. I was pretty excited. Would I tell Hub-in-boots to stay home from work? I didn’t know. Wait til dawn. Suck it and see.

At about 6:30, hub-in-boots rolled over, exhausted, and said “Oh god I’d give anything not to go into work today.”

“Well now that you mention it, babe, there’s been something going on. I felt it a little last night, but I’ve actually been timing something since 4am. They are not that painful, but they are different, and they are regular. I am not sure what to tell you about work”.

His face went pale, and his mouth opened and he looked across the pillow at me. “REALLY? Oh!”. He looked confused, and a little alarmed.

“Yep really. But I’m not saying they’re something yet. They just might become something later. But this stuff can rumble on for days. I wouldn’t worry too much.”

He was a bit surprised, and went for his shower, really unsure what to do. By about 7:15 I called it, and he came to the same decision, and said given work was only 30 minutes away, and given this may go on for days, he’d go in. But I was to keep him posted all day.

I dashed from bed to the loo with a bit of an upset stomach. Calmbirth course sign of impending labour number 2. Hmmmm. But it could be anything. Back to bed, be alert, but not alarmed. Keep Calm and Carry On.

15 minutes later at 8am hub-in-boots was back. He’d lost his car immobiliser thingy, so he couldn’t take his car to work. He was in a bit of a flap. I felt like I’d thrown him for six! I sent him off in my car, despite his protests, because hell, if they were contractions, I was not getting behind the wheel anyway.

I sent my sister, the other half of the birth team, a facebook message telling her she was officially on standby.

 

 

The day rumbled along, and after messaging captain complicated (S) and getting a lecture from her about doing nothing, and asking for what I paid for, by 11 I decided a call to Dr North Korea’s midwife was a good plan.

“Oh my god! I feel like your mother! That’s great! I’m so excited!”. The midwife was so enthusiastic after all we’d been through. She told me these things could rumble on for days, just take it easy, get loads of rest, but that it would be doing something. Getting my cervix ready for labour, thinning it out. Whatever it was, pre labour, early labour, false labour, whatever, it was bringing us closer. So I felt perfectly justified watching hours and hours of the Olympics.

The jokes rolled in about me having a baby on the horses’ birthday, August 1.

We’d done a meditation on early labour in the calmbirth course, about thinking you were in labour, and thinking through what you’d do. I got up and made as snack, just like I did in the meditation: banana and peanut butter on sourdough toast. Later on, a fruit smoothie. Just like on the calmbirth visualisation, I got up and had a long relaxing shower. I washed up, tidied the kitchen I did a load of washing and hung it on the balcony, I watered the plants. I added a few things to my hospital bag, and checked the baby’s coming home bag was in order. I was glad I’d made a mad dash to Target the previous week. I had a sudden feeling we didn’t have enough smaller baby clothes, and I bought about 4 suits in two different sizes (0000 and 000) and just hung them away with the receipt as a just in case. I felt like I was being stupid at the time, because we had heaps of clothes, and didn’t really need to be spending more, but I couldn’t help it.

At 5pm, the thing overlaying the Braxton hicks was a bit more “hello look at me”. The day’s contractions had regular patches and long patches of very irregular timing. 8 minutes 8 minutes, then 12 minutes 10 minutes 11 minutes, 7 minutes 8 minutes, always lasting about 45 seconds to a minute long.  It was all pretty interesting. We stayed home, had dinner, and went to bed pretty early.

At 2am Thursday morning, they woke me again. Now I think they’d qualify as painful. After two in a row at 4 minutes apart, I was a bit nervous so I rang the maternity ward. As I said in my brief post, I got a nasty midwife who did the dismissive “oh first time mother” routine, and told me to take two Panadeine and call in an hour. “No waters breaking, no show?” No. I was furious at how dismissive she was. (Cue the cranky post natal letter to the hospital!)

 After two hours of watching more tele on the couch, at 4am I called again, and the nicer midwife agreed something was happening, but probably nothing serious just yet. Hub-in-boots stumbled out bleary eyed. I told him I’d rung the hospital but there was not much change. Just get some sleep. One of us needed to be firing on all cylinders! I had no intention of going in to the hospital, I just wanted them on standby.

At 5 am I went to the loo, and woo hoo’d loudly, ran into the bedroom and demanded a hi-five from a deeply sleeping hub-in-boots. Stewie, we have a ( minor) show. And unlike the last time this happened, this was not something that said “Your pregnancy is stuffed”. Instead, this said “Gumby is on his way.” Hub-in-boots indeed hi-fived me, and went back to sleep immediately. I felt the auto- panic rise seeing even the tiny amount of blood, but I knew it was ok.

I crawled back into bed at around 5:30, and slept off and on til 8 or 8:30.  Contraction wise, nothing had changed. If anything, they were shorter and less regular.

At about 9am I rang the midwife at the Obby again. “still going, and had a show” I reported. I was concerned there was a time after losing the mucous plug that they would consider inducing for the baby’s safety or something. I wasn’t sure how it worked.

“I reckon you’ll have a weekender” she said. “These things can rumble on for days, especially with a first.” I madly added up the days. It was only Thursday. God another 48 hours of this? How do you stand the WAITING? “ I don’t think we’ll still be talking about this Monday. Just get heaps of rest. Of course, if it changes, don’t ignore it. Sometimes, just sometimes, I can hang up the phone from a call like this and things change in a moment and get cracking.”

She said it.

We pfaffed around laying in bed for another half an hour. I rang the mums and briefed them on what had been happening for the past day. My mum was excited but upset, because she was too sick with a virus to be anywhere near us anytime soon. Stewie’s mum was excited, first grandchild on his way.

Stay tuned for more adventures of maybe baby and hub-in-boots in pre labour: chapter 2 – keeping it real.

Chapter 2: Pre labour day 2: Keeping it real

Chapter 3: Laughing my ass off

Chapter 4: This is serious, Mum

Chapter 5: Gumby becomes  the J-man: Jensen Angus Eckermann

Chapter 6: My plan versus reality & did Calmbirth help