Birth and Beyond

This post isn’t meant to be contraceptive. It’s not my intention to gird your loins or dull your ardour, but if that’s a secondary response to reading on, so be it. Hey, you may remember me fondly one day, as you gaze over glittering waters from the deck of your 20-foot yacht.

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Two-and-a-half-months into my daughter’s life and I’m ready to make peace with how she came into the world. On many levels my head is still all over the place but, day-by-day, I can feel myself moving on.

Part of moving on involves accepting certain new realities. Having a child is a thing. Having two is another thing entirely, and when your kids are less than 2 years apart, it’s a massive gnarly compound thing. Or at least it is for me.

*pause to comfort baby*

one day later

My new realities range from having a toddler watch me poop (privacy is a thing of the past), to embracing interesting new diets (read: I mostly eat out of my handbag). In fact, as I type, I’m inhaling a bowl of banana milkshake flavoured Oatees (somehow plain banana didn’t make the cut). I’m hoping to boost the old energy levels before the toddler wakes up.

Full disclosure: I’ll probably wash it down with another bowl of lumo yellow cereal, and maybe some Provita with hummus dippy dip dip. And gin.

Add to this pre-apocalyptic world of parenting a toddler who’s just discovered how to climb out of his cot, and a nanny who never returned from holiday. It accurately summarises the funky spice mix of my current life jambalaya.

*half-asleep toddler marches into lounge making demands*

two days later

Right. After spending 20 minutes wailing for the cot, then the bed, then the cot, then the bed again, toddler is finally asleep on the floor. Newborn is swaddled like a Cuban cigar, and hopefully she’ll also nap long enough for me to write a few full sentences.

Once both childers are down in the evening, hubby and I stagger into the kitchen with the intention of throwing something nutritious together. More often than not, we chase a cheese sandwich with a glass or two of wine and sit gently on the couch, feeling fragile and depleted. Then it’s off to bed where we reset for another day of relentless mayhem. I handle the nocturnal baby feeds, and hubber tackles the pre-dawn waking toddler.

It’s an endless cycle of fatigue, frustration and inimitable joy, and some days it’s worth it. Others, not so much.

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On my darkest days I indulge myself, allowing my thoughts to dart back to that moment in the labour ward when the gynae told me, as I rested between contractions, that if we wanted to save the baby I’d have to have an emergency c-section. On my darkest days I buckle under the weight of disappointment that 9 months preparation cannot bear.

My feelings are not unique. Birth rarely goes according to plan, and many moms feel like they were robbed of an experience that they’d hoped would become part of their tapestry.

To be clear, this is not a tirade against elective caesarean births. Oh hell no. It’s just an honest account of how I feel having had to undergo surgery when it was the last thing I expected. I mean that literally. If you’d told me that we were having sextuplets with webbed toes I could have taken that in my stride. I’d given birth naturally before (albeit with some assistance), so a c-section wasn’t even on my radar.

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As I write this, I find that the specific elements I’ve been pointedly ignoring are dissolving. They’ve been menacing shadows, black dogging my thoughts for the last few months, but now they’re becoming non-issues.

Writing it out, actively recalling specific moments… this exercise is cathartic. It’s more for me than for you that I let myself remember.

The Things:

The hasty plastic razor pube shave? Meh.

Trying to get into the gown between contractions? Ok that one sucked.

Contractions? The worst. Not just because of the pain, but because they were useless. I was finally in labour. Three days of stop and start contractions and now it was go time, for reals. But the sensations I’d been preparing to own, to surrender to and push through were pointless. That’s when I started feeling the loss. With every new wave of pain I gave into the fear. I felt myself sink lower and lower until I was a gibbering wreck.

The uncontrollable shaking as I entered the surgery with my soft white underbelly exposed? Probably the most fearful moment of my life. I’d been ready to give birth to this girl using my body for the very purpose it was formed. Naked and primal. Instead, I was prone and shivering on a gurney, in a polycotton frock.

Crouching for the aenethetist between contractions? A low point. Basically anything to do with contractions is still a sore point. Hah.

Fretfully informing the doctors that I could still feel things? One of my greatest fears. Don’t start yet guys. We’ve all seen Alien.

Feeling like the handbag in which the gynae was trying to find her keys? Not great.

Looking up at my hubby in his scrubs? Now that’s a happy memory. That’s some glitter in the turd. He looked like a sheik in his disposable hospital hairnet, and his beard provided some absurd kind of comfort. It’s funny, even though it was an ordeal for me, and even though we didn’t get to use the exercises we’d practised, we were uniquely, incredibly connected in the experience. More so, even, than in Finn’s birth.

Hearing the gynae exclaim with increasing amazement as she evicted our daughter through a cut in my belly, “Cord’s around her neck, one, two, three, FOUR times!”

Not hearing the plaintive wail. Not hearing the cry. Asking for my baby. Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?

A moment of nothing, like the silence after a lighting strike.

Then the thunder. As a piping hot, feather-light body is placed onto my chest. Hearing it mew. Feeling it pulse.

And Breathe.

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The rest is a Pollock painting of morphine, painkillers and learning how to live with a toddler and a newborn. Which brings us up to date, give or take a few months.

It’s a good thing time doesn’t stand still, because for every dewy eyed couple knee deep in love there’s a new parent on the brink. Fortunately, after a few months, the horrific chaos peters out and settles into your garden-variety pandemonium.

Over time, my body has healed, and our lives have adjusted to accommodate our new reality.

Sleep patterns, social lives, housekeeping standards and bank balances all change, but so too does the heart. In addition to nurturing a grim sense of humour, I’m becoming more compassionate, patient and am able to put up with a phenomenal amount of toddler bullshit.

Will I do it again? Oh hell no. Hubby has booked his vasectomy, and wants to announce that it’s last rounds on his baby making juice, should anyone desperately want to get their hands on a sample – in a sterile, strictly business kind of way.

 

 

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Oona, pooping as I finish the final read through.

The Baby Paradox

Babies are a paradox.  They’re perplexing, disarming, frustrating creatures that can change your cooos to curses in split seconds, and then back again.

Those hands that yank your hair so hard you kick the dog are the same hands that gently stroke your cheek when you least expect it.

But then again, the voice that sweetly murmurs sounds that could be your name (I swear this time it was with MEANING) is the same voice that screeches with rage when you take away the wetwipes.

The science diagram below attempts to explain the inner workings of your average 10-month-old puppetmaster.

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As you can see, the tricky thing with babies is that the very appendages that show you love, or at least a cat-like acknowledgement of your necessity, are the same things that vex you the most.

It seems that they’re made pretty perfectly. In the image of God even. That ideal balance exists, and it’s practically a survival tactic.

For every rancid poop you get on your thumb there’s a pristine flank of unsurpassed squidginess that needs to be smooshed. It’s science.

My boy kissed me for the first time yesterday. I was lying on the ground when he 4×4’d over to me, dabbed his open mouth on my cheek and then lurched away. It was clumsy and perfect and I was the queen of the world.

Made me forget that he’d woken at 5am, breezed through two nap times and got asparagus in his ear.

Babies are cool that way.

For every sleepless night, for every tantrum, there’s a moment when they see into your eyes and recognise you as pack, as blood, as theirs.

Fear and Loathing in the Layette Aisle

I’ve been off the radar for a few days. My dad turned 70 and our family got together for the first time in nearly six years. I guess our time in Dullstroom is worth a blogpost in itself, what with veld fires, five children and an impressive array of whiskey (none of which are related). BUT, there’s something more pressing on my mind.

Preparing a gift registry for our baby shower. Egad.

When the hub and I got married, we went to a home store and zapped a bunch of cool stuff with those scanner guns. We didn’t really have a plan, just tagged things we thought were rad. Like a shiny red toaster, martini glasses, and three different sets of measuring spoons. These ‘essential’ items are now respectively broken, broken and passed on (because I don’t bake).

Point being that for the baby registry, I’d be damned before I went in blind. So I spoke to my mum, took an inventory of what we have already, and read some enlightening blogs. Armed with lists and recommendations, hubby and I sauntered into Baby City ready to breeze through without any issues. After five minutes, and some heavy breathing of the very unsexy kind, we had to get an assistant to help us.

While my hub compared the specs of three identical-but-completely-different colic drops, muttering: “This place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear” I had to ask some fascinating questions:

  • Ummm bottle teats come in different girths…?
  • So do you need to measure my nipples?
  • Which bum cream is the right bum cream?
  • What do you mean some kids don’t take to pacifiers?
  • How can we tell which of these nasal aspirators is a good one?
  • What’s a nasal aspirator?
  • Will this sippy cup really ‘stimulate and assist’ our child’s development? Really?
  • Can we get one of these in anything other than cheerleader pink or jock-strap blue?
  • What do you mean cracked nipples???

After 45 minutes of barely contained panic we called it quits, my precious list long forgotten. We had a good look at the other baby registry trolleys on our way out, and to our despair they were filled with carefully considered combinations of very important-looking baby things.

What if we chose the wrong feeding mat? What if our child develops a speech impediment because of a hastily chosen spoon? What if our lack of infant merchandise savvy causes us to raise a morally defunct human? It seems that we might already have failed as parents before we’ve even had our first intoxicating whiff of baby smell.

I still don’t know what half those very important things in our trolley are for, but hopefully once we have the little one our instincts will kick in and all will be clear.

On the upside, apart from the placatory post-registry ice cream, the day’s saving grace was that my hub found a gigantic carabiner (he really likes carabiners), and a baby sun hat that reminds him of Raoul Duke.

Baby stores, no thanks? Impossible to walk in this muck; no footing at all.