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.

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Labour of Love

This is a serious one.

For the first time in my pregnancy I’m scared. Scratch that – I’m petrified. Up until now my emotions have been even-keeled, and I’ve managed to maintain my sense of humour, but something’s switched around and I’m all over the place. I think I’ve just been on a preggy hormone high, but what goes up must come down – right?

We’ve been going to antenatal classes, and the first one was awesome. We learnt so much cool stuff, like what my pelvis is capable of, and how lying on your back makes it pretty difficult to give birth. The process is by no means graceful; it’s primal. And I’m OK with that. My hubby’s eyes were like saucers at the end and I thought that was hilarious.

This week though, we went to our second class, and it was my turn to be all wide-eyed. The midwife discussed the various stages of labour, using very tasteful visual aids to show what happens to your body as you progress. And cartoons that show what your facial expression looks like: from smiley, to serious, to grim, to dying a thousand deaths at once, to peaceful. No gory stuff, which I was grateful for.

Only thing is, she threw around words like “thrashing contractions”.

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Let me give you some time to process that.

Thrashing. Contractions.

Thrashing.

It was at that point that something in my mind switched. All the images I had of a peaceful labour just vanished, and I began to seriously doubt my ability to give birth naturally, without the assistance of drugs.

I react badly to pain and helplessness. For example, I remember needing to be held down to get an injection when I was about 10-years old. And then, on my 22nd birthday, I apparently attacked some helpful paramedics who were trying to get me out of my car after I’d had an accident.

Somehow I hadn’t considered this aspect of my personality in relation to childbirth. Then when she said “thrashing”, it all came crashing in.

So now, I have 9 weeks to get my head together and stop freaking out. In my mind I know that the baby has to come out, and that logistically this can be tricky, but I also know that us women have been doing this for years.

Unfortunately, this rationale is all only in my mind. In my heart I’m unsettled. I’m not proud to admit it, but every time I hear something dumb like “Save the beaver; have a Caesar” or “Why go through the basement if you can go through the penthouse?” I recoil inside and question my decision to go natural.

I think what I’m really afraid of is being in the moment, and not being able to cope. If I’m 100% honest with myself, I’m not 100% sure I can do this.

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