Discretion is the better part of valour


Discretion is the better part of valour. This Shakespeare derived quote implies that a large part of courage & bravery is thinking before you act. Discretion is all over Australian social media today.

Australian social media is in a bit of a furore over breastfeeding in public, after a seemingly well meaning male media figure, Kochie (David Koch), said a woman feeding her baby at the side of a public pool, whilst supervising her other kids, should have been “discreeter”***, and moved away from the pool up on the grass, or been out of a “high traffic area” to breastfeed. In a rapid backtrack he implied it was a safety issue…but it was too late, the view was out there. Despite public breastfeeding being enshrined in law here, the woman was asked to move away from where she was, to stop feeding. And Kochie was implying that it is not ok to breastfeed anywhere or anyhow.

***(Or more discreet, and no, not discrete, people, sort out that whole english thing….and your opinion would mean more if you could spell….but I digress…..)

Of course, there’s been a backlash, and there’s a few camps in the discussion on the various Facebook pages/ discussion boards:

1. Hell yeah, get the girls out whenever, wherever, breastfeeding should be normalised and shutthef#%^up Kochie
2. Breastfeeding is ok BUT….you should be more discreet/cover up/ use a feeding room/ use a muslin / never show nipple / be careful of offending the delicate little flowers around you
3. This is a first world problem and you’re all whinging feminist nazis

This was my 10 cents worth:

dear Kochie, I think as part of Monday’s mea culpa, you should make a personal donation to the Gidget foundation AND The ABA. (the Gidget foundation deals with pre and post natal depression and anxiety, the Australian breastfeeding association supports breastfeeding in this country).

When you have a new bub, planning to leave the house is daunting. The timing of feeds is a big part of this challenge. It is only when women can feed anywhere and anyhow that it can become normalised and new mums feel it’s possible.

With my 9 week old son at a family funeral, I was terrified how to manage feeds, rang ahead to find out about feeding rooms etc. and when it came time to feed, my family said “no. Don’t go away to feed. Stay and talk.” And I did. Now he’s five months old, I still get embarrassed, but I still feed him out and about. Without muslin, Often without the limited wardrobe choices of feeding tops. And if I hadn’t got out that door and occasionally “whipped the girls out” in a cafe? I reckon I’d be sitting at home with post natal depression. There are many layers to this issue, and it is much more than just a feed. It is about the well being of the woman and her child. And it is different for each woman.

I am never going to advocate what another woman should do. I find breastfeeding in public hard, I’m paranoid about people having a go at me ( but I do it anyway), and I can’t cover up because I get all hot & flustered, the jman gets all hot and flustered, and HIS idea of a happy feed is to see and feel as much boob as possible. So I get all my clothing fixed, I drape a nice muslin over my shoulder to cover my stomach, side-boob, whatever, I think, I’m doing a good job here, and he grabs the muslin, rips it off, then pushes my top up and away. Helpful!

I also can’t plan that well, because I feed on demand, and his demand changes day to day. I choose to go with that rather than adopt a rigid schedule, because this is what the world health organisation recommends.

In a way, I feel draping muslin wraps and so on all just draws more attention to what you’re doing…not that there’s anything wrong with drawing attention to it! Hell, I’d like to be discreet, because of who I am and I’m easily embarrassed, but I don’t bother anymore. Because when he says he’s hungry, it’s now, not in five minutes time. When he wants to see and feel boob, it doesn’t matter how carefully I arrange things, he’ll have me exposed in seconds. When I’m feeding, it’s his boob, not mine.

But I think it’s wrong to say women should try to cover up. It has nasty echoes of “women should be careful about what they wear so they don’t get raped”, or ” rape is wrong, but….”. Women should breastfeed how they want to…breastfeeding is brilliant, anytime, anywhere. No buts. No “you can breastfeed, but you should…”, no. I don’t believe Kochie was totally anti breastfeeding by any means, but it wasn’t an informed comment, and he should have thought more about it. I certainly hope it wasn’t a transparent grab for ratings; we all know how that has worked out for some Australian dj’s lately. He should not be lambasted or abused for his bumbling into a minefield, but he should get informed, clarify, apologise, and use this as an opportunity to do some good.

For some, feeding in public is covering up, for others, this is letting it all hang out. And frankly, I love the “letting it all hang out”ers; they make it easier for the rest of us. They make it easier to feel that breastfeeding is normal, they make it easier to feel “hey I could do that”, they make it easier to think “actually I can go and meet that friend for coffee today even if his feed is due.”

And as an aside, no judgement from me if you can’t breastfeed, or choose not to. It can be a pain in the ass, it can be incredibly wonderful, it definitely is full of health benefits for baby, if you can manage it.

There were a couple of key moments in my breastfeeding career that changed it all.(and it is a career: 8 hours a day, seven days a week at first). The first was that moment at a funeral, noted above, the next one was meeting my old school friend I hadn’t seen for years (thanks ‘Tish), when she got the girls out for her daughter in a cafe facing the shopping centre about 50 metres from a baby change room with feeding cubicles. No muslin, no nursing top, no turning to the wall, no sorry nice seeing you but i have to go now and feed…..and no one even noticed. Except me. I noticed, and ten minutes later, I fed the jman, sitting right there next to her. All of a sudden the “how the hell do I ever leave the house with him” feelings lifted, in that instant. I felt different altogether.

When jman was new, I would create so much stress for myself before an outing, ringing ahead and googling “facilities” to see if feeding & change rooms were available, finding out where they were on arrival, planning ahead when to hit the cubicle and feed. When they’re newbies, feeds go on for almost an hour; that’s a long time to be away from what you were aiming to do, and it is often on an hour on/an hour off schedule (ie two hourly feeds). I had an added layer of embarrassment because I’m 40 (41 now!)… I was worried I’d get more disapproving looks as a 40 year old first time mum.

Breastfeeding can be annoying, and painful, and messy. My commitment to breastfeeding will slow down my return to work, now that my boobs are suddenly on a “no expressing without a trumpet fanfare and four days notice” binge. Breastfeeding lacks the control over modern life we’re so used to. You don’t know how much bub is getting. You don’t know when he’ll want his next feed. You don’t know if you have enough milk, or too much. You don’t know if you’ll spring a leak in a public place, or if the little bugger will pull off your boob in a sushi bar and leave your right one spraying across the table while you madly grab the baby wipes and hope no one noticed. It’s a great metaphor for parenthood, really.

Recently, after a bad night with jman and a visit to the paediatrician, I desperately needed a coffee before I could safely drive home. And jman desperately needed a feed. The doctor ran late, the planned feeds stops went all awry. All cool. I stopped in the hospital cafe, ordered my flat white, and sat down in an arm chair in a quiet corner to feed. Forgot to wear a breastfeeding top. Bugger. And then next to me, sat an older man. Damn. Here we go. Ah well, offence or no offence, I’m feeding the boy. You do not get into a car with jman when he’s hungry. You will only ever make that mistake once.

Jman of course had to make eyes and gurgle and giggle at the man, doing his “aren’t I cute” routine before turning, grabbing my top and reefing it up. At five months old. Lordy.

So I feed him, and I can feel the man’s eyes on us, and I think “ah well. Sorry mate. Jman comes first.”

And as I finish, and jman sits up, belches loudly, and starts grinning again, the man says

“Excuse me?” In a lilting German accent. here we go I think…”i hope you don’t mind me asking.”… oh dear, I think, here it comes…”how do you know when he’s had enough?”

“Sorry?” It just wasn’t what I was expecting.

“It is probably very rude of me to ask, but I am so curious you see, how do you know when he’s had enough?”

“No no! It is not rude at all. It’s fine! Umm, well often, you don’t! But when he pulls off, and looks around, and stops and starts, usually that means he’s had enough. I was just giving him a quick top up before the car ride home.”

“Oh thank you! I just wondered, I hope you don’t mind.”

No, I don’t. And no, he didn’t. And there should be more of it. More of these conversations around breastfeeding. It was a great moment, it turned my fears on their head.

Bugger discretion in breastfeeding…but we can be discreet about what we say to feeding mums. Sure, they’re not starving or fighting for survival, yes it’s a first world problem, but it speaks to the health of a future generation and the current & future mental & physical health of feeding mothers.

Once I decided I’d feed anytime, anywhere, a weight was lifted off me. I felt more mobile. I felt like I could embrace the world with the jman at my side, not hide away from it. I felt more like a mum.


Dreaming it right

Written on 30 January 2012:

I had this dream the other night about being in this rocky place that was all boulders and cliffs and narrow crumbly paths. I was trying to get from here to a lookout, and there were other people with me. We were in Kirribilli, Sydney, a harbourside suburb in Sydney, but like many dream landscapes, it didn’t look anything like Kirribilli. It was sort of an organised holiday, but badly organised.

We had a short time to leave our holiday tour, and go independently to this lookout on a treacherous hike. The lookout we were trying to get to was, we thought, across this big body of water. But when we got to where we thought the water crossing would be, there was only more paths and brown cliffs. It was strange. There were other people with me. I think hub in boots was somewhere there, but always behind me, somehow on the walk I was always alone. Alone, but with a couple, E & J from boxercise, (who in real life are 22 weeks pregnant as I write this we are 11 weeks).

When we got to the lookout I was with E & J, and there was this gully down to the left. In reality if we were really in Kirribilli, there should have been harbour views as far as the eye could see, and we would have been near the foot of the harbour bridge. But in dream landscape, there were these lush lush valleys of trees, deep rainforested plains, and off to the left this one incredible gorge. It reminded me of views you get from some of the lookouts up the Blue Mountains. It drew our eyes with water running down a rock wall, and like a little garden of eden it had all of these amazing green trees, every shade of green you could imagine. Where we were was hot, and dusty and rocky and dry – down below in this gorge was like an oasis of green cool.

Then E & J were gone, and I knew they’d gone to the gully, and somehow I was again alone, struggling to find my way through the rocky hot dry crumbling dangerous paths to the lookout I had just lost. I lost some of the sequence of the dream, but i remember thinking I’d never get there. I was so hot, and so thirsty, and so lonely. The walking was so hard. The path crumbled, my feet slipped.

Towards the end of the dream, suddenly, I made it. I thought I’d still be climbing, and I was there. The lookout was smoother, not as rocky as it had looked the first time. And there were the miles and miles of trees stretched out before me, and below and to the east, the gully. I could see it, and although it looked slightly different to the first glimpse of it, I knew I was going there, I was on my way to the gully.

I woke up with an enormous sense of peace.

Today 1 August 6pm (the horses birthday!)

E & J had their baby boy a little while ago (6 weeks?)…..and last weekend us and our Gumby reached full term. So I guess I’m at the lookout, looking towards that gully now. Geez that dream has stuck with me since I had it. On the worst days, I’d look back at this draft post I typed at the time, and I’d hang on to the mental image of that lookout.

A friend from work knows someone who gets “messages” about the future, often via bible verses. A ‘message’ was sent for me around the same time as I had the above dream, she sent a message to have faith that we’d make it, that we’d have our baby, but there would be more bumps and turns in the road. These turned out to be more hemorrhages and gestational diabetes diagnosed very shortly after the call. Then Wednesday last week, another message, this one stating Gumby would not need to be induced, he’d come soon, in his own time, and all would be well. Just like dreams, I am not sure if I believe in this sort of thing, but I also don’t actively disbelieve it. Sometimes this kind of insight can be comforting, if nothing else. I’ve thought about it a lot this past week.

And today, something started happening. Maybe it’s pre labour-y. Maybe it’s early labour. Maybe it’s just boring garden variety braxton hicks contractions amped up like a chinese olympic swimmer and I was just looking for an excuse to couch the f$%& out watching sport for the last 13 hours?! They might continue, they might change, they might fizzle out. They start low, they radiate upwards and around my hips to my back. They are often regular for hours at a time, but haven’t really “progressed” a great deal…45 seconds ish every 10 minutes. Crampier than braxton hicks, uncomfortable, some pressure, nothing major. I sent hub-in-boots to work, had a chat to the midwife at the obby’s office, and took it easy all day, hitting the contraction timer app on my iphone when I had the focus. (Can I just say the look on hub-in-boots face, and subsequent blanching as he lay in bed and heard I’d been timing for over 2 hours, was completely priceless? I should have taken a photo. I’m surprised he came home tonight instead of buying a one way ticket to La Paz).

We’re not quite sure what it is yet. A friend said this stage is like listening to a radio on a really low volume, so you can’t quite hear what song is playing…and he’s so right. But if I figure out the tune and start to sing along, I’ll be sure to let you know.

crunch n punch

Well we’re here at 35 weeks 4 days today… And we never thought we’d see this kind of gestational age.

I’m feeling a little better this week, with good sleep at least half the nights and although gumby is sometimes hurting when it feels like he’s burrowing in ( into my hip right now as I type, into the back of my navel, into my pelvis) and now regularly gets the hiccups (just started) for long periods of time, we’re getting on ok. His sleep wake cycles are so regular you could set your watch by it… Every 40 minutes. Nothing like the two to three daily periods of activity he had about 8 weeks ago. It’s amazing how things change. All activity just about can be seen from outside: my abdomen moves in crazy waves, has jolts, you can see the hiccups from across the room, things stick out that might be a knee, bottom, or elbow. My belly warps in funny directions, flat in one spot and a huge bulge on one side.

If gumby was born now, they wouldn’t need to give me steroids for lung maturity. If he was born now he’d probably crack 3 kg, as he was an estimated 2.76kg (6lb 1) 10 days ago. These things are comforting. He’s head down, at last check not engaged, though a bump drop yesterday (and new difficulty bending and having an easier time getting out of a chair) tells me otherwise. I’m putting on weight now… 2.5kg this pregnancy. One good outcome in a sea of hard yards!

In myself, I feel a little better, with not as many flat days and flat spots not lasting as long.

My blood glucose is still good despite ridiculous new developments in chocolate cravings that occasionally beat me down into submission. The weeks of roasted chickpeas and walnut snacks and control control control are making me crack! My HB1AC (average glucose reading of sorts) is still only 5.3 though. Still eating loads of veg. Still on a red meat bender, with much improved iron levels. We’re doing good.

I’ve had my first encounter with criticism in real life of what I blog about, which surprised me. I figured just don’t read it if you don’t like it…?? It stopped me blogging for a while. I’ve seen this happen to other bloggers, and I always thought how odd it was. If a reader doesn’t like a book they don’t tend to send aggressive emails to the writer. They just put it down. Or write a bad review. And don’t buy the next book. It’s like ignoring a dumb status update on facebook. We all see them. It’s not hard. There is so much more I could say here, but really, it isn’t worth my emotional effort. Let’s just say that apart from slamming Dr north Korea (who deserved it), no one cops it on here that I haven’t personally spoken to about a given issue in real life.

The one thing i will defend is criticism of hub in boots on here. Infertility and pregnancy puts a big strain on relationships, as those out there in blogland know all too well. It is important to reflect on this, and if reflecting on my OWN overreactions & irrationalities in relation to him in a public place helps others in a similar situation, that’s excellent. If blog readers comments and feedback on similar issues helps complete that picture, even better. Hub in boots and i have talked, resolved, and continue to love each other very dearly, and a bit of online “oh my god, men!!!” will not affect my very funny thick skinned optimistic man one bit. If it did, i’d whip it off in a flash. If i didnt know him as well as i do, I’d never mention him on here. He reads my blog, he reads it regularly, he proudly promotes it, and we usually chat about posts before, during and after. He comes up with funny titles. He suggests topics.

And i think the slow honesty of a piece of writing in this long hard haul has, mostly, opened up many many conversations and much emotional closeness between hub-in-boots and i. Sometimes the blog has comforted him: months ago when he walked in and i was teary after an all day hemorrhage, but had posted that day about knitting and the twenty bonuses of bed rest, well at least he knew there was a little bit of humour and life still in his wifey somewhere, and could even draw on that to lighten the mood.

Sometimes there were things that took a long time to write about & think about, and frankly the burden of those conversations on our evenings would be too much, too onerous, if hub-in-boots had to be the luggage handler of every bit of my infertility / pregnancy baggage that came up. Instead, this way, I dump and deal, and together, with my reflections laid bare, we pick over the important bits and we talk about a few small high/ lowlights, or his perspective on parts of the picture i’d missed. Importantly, we talk after we’ve both had time to reflect. Sometimes he emails me after reading a post. It gives our face to face interactions more quality, more insightfulness, and I think it’s really helped us to weather this storm. Together, in the middle of the crap, he’d crack a joke as a 10inch needle was about to be jabbed into my abdomen, and we’d joke about how we could write about this in the blog. In the worst moments, thinking of a funny tagline took us out of the shitty experience and made us laugh. It was a reframing technique. It still is. It’s a collaborative effort. We have never been stronger or more united.

On the dealing with pregnancy front, I have likened where we are now to a break between sets in a boxing class, maybe a set of “crunch n punch”. The worst thing about crunch n punch (sit ups with hitting the training pads) is not doing it, or even trying to avoid farting (yes, hub-in-boots, here’s looking at you, kid) it’s the break between sets. It’s when you stop that it hurts.

When you’re going, you can lose yourself in action. When you’re going, the movement takes your mind off the effort. It’s when you stop that it’s hard. It’s hard because you have to mentally process the effort it takes. It’s hard because after that, you have a very short time to get ready to go again, at a time when muscle fatigue makes the next set harder, and hurt more.

35 weeks 4 days for us is a break between sets. The dramas are behind us. There is another set of pregnancy weeks ahead of us, then we will move on, to a new (and apparently pretty challenging) exercise: parenthood! This place in between is not always as easy as it seems it should be. I feel like I should be relieved and grateful and elated. But I don’t always feel that way. I actually feel a bit out of breath, and tired, and spent and put through the ringer. A bit resentful of all the time spent waiting, which is mad, because it got us here. And bloody hell I’m grateful that we are here. Grateful that this boy is kicking the bejesus out of me day and night. And annoyed at myself, that after weeks of being relatively zen on bedrest, now that I can move, I’m impatient.

The effort it has taken to get here is largely invisible, the adrenalin and momentum of that hypervigilant state of hanging on kept us moving forward, the effort lost in the movement of the weeks.  Now, at times, I am feeling it catch up with me. It is hard to turn a hypervigilance off when it is switched on for such a long time. It becomes like a stuck light switch. I have anxieties about the birth, about Gumby arriving safely, anxieties founded in the real life recent losses of others. Some days, the “what ifs” begin their whispering game, and what a waste of time and energy they are.

I think now that I’ve sat down and thought, “ok, everything is going fine now but you’re feeling worse, and that’s ok”,  my stuck switch is ceasing to be a problem. I’m back to sleeping ok and I’ve got better energy.  I’ve still gone with the precaution of a visit to a professional next week to ensure I’m in a good headspace for what’s coming, and to ensure there’s someone who knows what they are doing to catch me if I’m not. After all, there’s another set to do! We pause, regroup, and get ready to go again.

Oh, and if you’re giving me the “Oh my GOD but you have NO IDEA how hard it is to be a PARENT” line, or even “birth horror stories 101”, this is me sticking my fingers in my ears and giving you the big “La la LAAAAAAA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” I’m not interested in your war stories. We just fought our own war, and we have (she says, crossing everything) just about won. So bugger off. Please, nicely.

Or, as hub-in-boots says, “I’m getting myself a big glass of shut-the-fuck-up. Would you like one?”. His other helpful suggestion is “Ladies and gentleman, apologies, but the Captain has illuminated the sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up light.”

If this 35 weeks IS a break between crunch & punch sets, I’m quite looking forward to the bacon sandwich and strong coffee we get after class….

In other news, Gumby attended his THIRD fancy dress occasion, this one at 35 weeks. Look at these photos!!!

That has to be a pregnancy record. The boxing crew had a fancy dress bowling night. I’m crap at bowling on an ordinary night, on an 8 month pregnant night dressed as a pirate, I suck balls. (Note: The best thing about a strike is not having to get up & play a second frame!!!)

Oh and bump update. Yay 35 weeks. Over and out.

34 weeks: pregnant pit crew racing for the finish line

As happy as fozzy bear to be 35 weeks