The Monday snapshot : hard ass year

That was one hard ass year.

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You can see jman is stressed out by it.

2012 contained several of the worst days of my life, hanging in time, frozen moments of some of the hardest yards I’ve ever done as a person. Others, with the tragic loss of Simon, were the worst that our extended family have experienced. Words are just pointless in the face of that. And it wasn’t just these moments, but the long hard slog that went with them, the sheer stubborn force of will it sometimes took to just hang on, day after day of feeling like a well that’s been drained, wondering just what is going to fill us up again….

I spent almost half of 2012 inside these four walls. Confined. Waiting. Hoping. Fearing. Balanced on a knife’s edge.

And of course, our boy has helped to refill our wells, with a whole lot of new stuff. He was worth the wait. Understatement of the millennium.

Thank you to those that helped us through. .

2012 also contained some of the best days of my life. His birth, of course. And teaching our son to make stupid noises & blow raspberries. Sometimes, blowing raspberries at life is the best course of action.

May you have a wonderful 2013, break resolutions by January 2nd, and may your 2013 dreams come true.

Take it away, jman.

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Ding dong, the witch is dead

An interruption to our invention broadcasts: This week I had my six week check up with Dr North Korea.

For those not in the loop, he won the title of Dr North Korea because of the dictatorial style he adopts in patient care, and the lack of involvement one gets in ones own health decisions. It wasn’t pleasant being his patient. He has all the empathy of a firing squad. It isn’t his fault, he’s a little aspergers-y, I’m thinking.

Anyhoo, my vijay jay passed the test, we’re healing nicely, thanks very much. Tick.

Let’s now reassess all the things he said would happen:

1. We’ll have an enormous baby on the 90th percentile

J-man was on the 25th percentile. He’s a little tacker. Good work with the ultrasound wand you bloody dill.

2. We’ll be separated at birth while he goes into days of special care for low blood sugar

He popped into special care for five minutes at a time, and had a few heel prick tests, and by 1 day old he was sorted.

3. I would have a caesarean

Natural birth, gas.

4. If I had a natural labour, my blood clot would rupture and the baby would die (his actual words)

The 60ml haematoma was re absorbed by 27 weeks, I had a natural labour, and bub was pretty happy actually

5. I’d have an induction

Nope. I told j-man when it was ok to come. He came 4 days later. Two and half weeks before the induction.

6. If I tried natural labour, I’d end up in an emergency c section

Or have a record 3.5 hr natural labour. With a bit of gas. And the jbaby arrived before the obstetrician did. Ha. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

7. We were at huge risk of pre term labour

He came at full term.

8. My gestational diabetes spelled disaster for us both, I’d be on insulin, blah blah blah

I saw dieticians and endocrinologists, I took oral meds, I watched my diet like a freakin hawk. I put on about 2.5 kg in pregnancy. I’m now 6kg below my pre pregnancy weight. Thinner than I’ve been for years. After 15 weeks bed rest.The bub was small. I rock.

9.I would never be able to breast feed (his actual words) because of gestational diabetes, PCOS and age

Ummm….my little Buddha of a boy gutses in the milk like a bloke with a yard glass of beer at his 21st. Breast milk. So ridiculously plentiful he splutters in it. And whilst sometimes I’d give anything to sleep through another freakin feed, my little butter ball is doing good on my gear. Never breastfeed my ass.

He’s lucky that doctor, that the best way to motivate me is to tell me I can’t do something, and don’t underestimate the effect of bloody minded stubbornness on us making it.

Then he had the audacity of suggesting I get pregnant by Xmas for bub number 2. This year!!!!I’ve been locked up since January, then breastfeeding & coping with a newborn since August 2, is he insane?????

What a dickhead. Well in the words of the wizard of oz, ding dong the witch is dead. We walked out of those doors and the sun seemed a little bit brighter. No more Dr North Korea. No more stupid communication style, rushed visits, scrambled responses. I am glad we stuck with him for the pregnancy, because Gumby aka Jensen made it. Against all odds. But no more.

Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.

Mother of invention #2: horizontal-o-meter

New to the home shopping network this week for that baby in your life: the horizontal-o-meter.

Babies, Worried you’ll miss out on something happening? Concerned those new parents of yours are just doing it too damn easy? Now the horizontal-o-meter will solve all your first year dilemmas. Just ask satisfied customer, Jensen Angus.

“I was worried the folks were really handling the changes well. That’s when I signed up for the horizontal-o-meter. Now, whenever I move from arms to bassinet, my horizontal o meter goes off and I spring into alertness. No chance of unwanted sleep here. ”

The deluxe model comes with a parent sensor. “I’m so glad I got the deluxe one” Jensen adds. “now, I can feign deep sleep, but as soon as mum or dad are horizontal BANG! I hit them like a landmine. It’s so easy to use, it’s child’s play. I can relax in the knowledge that I won’t miss out on happenings around the house, securing me a few more dances to the rolling stones with dad, or extra feeds from mum. I don’t know how babies ever survived without the horizontal-o-meter.”

Stay tuned for new product developments in this range such as the “just opened a bottle of wine meter”, “almost got to pretend they had a life meter” for sneaky nights out, and the “just sat down to dinner meter”.

The horizontal o meter is yours for just 12 easy payments of your life savings, plus postage and handling, cause lets face it they are never gonna get out to an actual store again. Buy one and get free installation in that baby in your life.

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.