Australia has a new Prime Minister! Tony Abbott.
Love him or hate him, (and judging by the comments on facebook, a lot of people hate him!) the Australian people made it pretty clear that they wanted a change of government. The massive swings to the Coalition and the drop of support for the Greens is, in my view, less about policy and more a reflection of the fact that Australians want their government to govern, rather than to spend their time trying to appease the Greens and a couple of key Independents, just so they can remain in office.
It’s been a week of new beginnings in my house too. I started a new job last Monday, the day after Father’s Day. The start date was significant for me, because earlier in the year we were expecting a baby, our little boy Alexander, lost to us at four months, back in March. His due date was officially August 31, but as both my little girls arrived the day after their due date, I was expecting him on September 1, Father’s Day.
Those of you who regularly read my blog will know that Alexander was not the first baby I’ve lost. He was my 9th pregnancy and I have two children. From past experience, I know the weeks surrounding the due date are always tough. Even if my mind doesn’t consciously remember, my body does. In the weeks before the due date, I will suddenly start having dreams about pregnancy or breast feeding or trying to hold a baby that keeps slipping out of my arms. Once I dreamed that the baby was actually still alive when it was taken away. Sometimes, in a strange moment of physical de ja vu, I will experience the sensations of being pregnant , in the way that those who have lost an arm or a leg can experience phantom sensations or pain.
So when I was offered a job starting the day after my baby would have been born, I knew I needed to seize my chance to have a new beginning. It wasn’t an easy week. There were times when I would have liked to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out. Thankfully, I have one or two friends who remembered, and who phoned or messaged me in the past few weeks to say they were thinking of me. At times, my head was completely back in March. But I was also pathetically grateful to have something meaningful to do this week. Starting a radio show the week before a federal election is an opportunity I could never take for granted.
It wasn’t a coincidence that on my first day in the job, I sat down to talk face-to-face with an Iranian Christian assylum seeker who came to Australia (shock horror!) by boat from Jakarta. And yes, he drove to the studio on the M4, which might explain the terrible traffic that day. 😉
My Mum’s family came to Australia by boat. Rev Ridgeway Newland, his second wife and eight children arrived on the Sir Charles Forbes back in 1839. They were congregationalists, fleeing religious persecution in England and wanting to start a new church in Australia. My Dad’s family came by boat too. They migrated to Tasmania in the years after the Second World War because my grandfather had itchy feet and couldn’t settle back into life in post-war Edinburgh.
I am so grateful to my ancestors, who risked everything when they boarded a boat and travelled half-way around the world to give a better life to their children.
Sometimes you just need a new beginning… Whether you’re an Iranian Christian whose home has been raided, a traumatised soldier, a marginalised Reverend… or even a grieving Mum.
The Australian people chose a new PM on the weekend. Even though I don’t agree with all Tony Abbott’s policies, I’m willing to give the guy a chance.
Maybe it’s just time for a new beginning…
This week I had the chance to take part in a new parenting panel on Erica Davis‘ morning show on Hope 103.2. It was very kind of Erica to invite me and I had a ball. I couldn’t help feeling though, how much my life has changed in just four months! I felt ridiculously nervous appearing as a guest on the show that I used to host. I also felt incredibly out of place in a professional work environment, (not unwelcome, just out of place) where people are all busily carrying out their business. The pace of life at home and school is just so much more relaxed and casual. It was also the first time I’d ever been so physically far away from Molly and the 40 minutes of freeway between us felt like a void as wide as the Simpson Desert.
This week on the panel we talked about the publicity that surrounds celebrities getting their “body back” after a baby. Is there too much pressure on Mums to get their body back into shape? In once sense I find this question a little laughable, as if we were all perfectly sculptured gym junkies before we had kids. I don’t know about you but I had wobbly bits before kids, and I have wobbly bits after kids, at least now I have more of an excuse! Personally I don’t compare myself to celebrities. They’re paid to look good – it’s their job and they have a team of personal trainers, nutritionists and nanny’s to help them. (I certainly don’t envy her job. If I wanted to be gawked at while standing around in my underwear I’d visit my dermatologist.) So if Miranda Kerr looks hot after a baby, good on her. She was hot before and it has no relevance to my life. If women feel pressure to look like her, before or after bub, then surely it’s a pressure they’re putting on themselves.
If anything, the time immediately after giving birth is the time you could head out in your pyjamas and people would tell you you’re fabulous, they’re just so impressed that you’ve managed to leave the house. If you bother to run a tiny bit of lippy over your mouth before you head out they’ll say you’re amazing. I remember clearly when Molly was six weeks old walking to the local shops in the late afternoon. I passed a Mum of twins cutting through the park and she looked a little despondent so I stopped for a chat. I remember exactly what I was wearing. My hair was in plaits that had been done at the crack of dawn and were now falling out in a mess. I had a green cap on, an old stained white singlet that was thinner than a supermodel, an orange skirt that was falling off my hips, and red Birkenstocks. A medley of clashing colours, no make-up, no jewelry, probably hadn’t washed my hair or shaved my armpits for several days. This lady I’ve never met before asked me how old the baby was and when I replied that she was six weeks, she gushed, “Wow, you’re looking fabulous!” It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. I looked like an unwashed hippy who had escaped a commune for the day.
Having said all that I did struggle with my body when I was pregnant. By the final 8 weeks I really did feel like a whale. I shamefully confess that I turned down a number of invitations to events, lunches and catch-ups in those final weeks because I felt too conspicuously unattractive, un-coordinated, inelegant and unsociable. The last thing you want to do is knock over somebody’s expensive glass of wine with your mega-pregga belly as you try to squeeze past the white tablecloths without inadvertently collecting one on the way. I also didn’t want to meet new people at a time when I felt so awkward and exhausted and wasn’t capable of giving them my full attention and energy.
While it’s nice to get a bit of positive, albeit unrealistic, feedback about bouncing back after bub, it seems a little unfortunate that we’re more likely to be told we’re looking good and less likely to be told we’re doing a good job. The other day I arrived late to school pick-up after racing across to Chatswood to pick up my niece from pre-school. I had phoned my neighbour and asked her to wait with Birdy until I got there. A full ten minutes late, I garbled my frantic apology. “I’m so sorry I’m late, I just totally underestimated how long it would take, thanks so much for waiting, I’m so, so sorry.” My friend stopped me, “Katrina, it’s fine. Can I just say that I think you’re coping really well? It’s a lot to take on with a new baby.” Wow, what an encouragement it was to hear those words for the first time in three months. (It may not be the first time somebody’s said that, but it was the first time I’d heard it.) And it was just what I needed to hear. So while it’s lovely to have somebody say we’re looking great after a baby, let’s also encourage each other with how we’re doing. That’s the feedback new Mums really need to hear. Because while our bodies may change after a baby, what changes so much more is the heart. Our own selfish ambitions and desires gradually fade into the background while our better selves, the one that just wants the best for our baby, fights its way to the fore. That’s taken a little longer for me second time round, not because I’m more selfish, but because I had more to give up. So on those days when I’m feeling tired, haggard, grumpy and restless it means a lot to hear that I’m doing OK, even if I look like crap.
Are you concerned about regaining your body after a baby? Have you struggled to lose weight, exercise or to find time to take care of yourself? How have you changed since having a baby? What has encouraged you in your parenting role?
It started off very gently. I went to have acupuncture that morning because I’d heard that can be a nice gentle way to induce labour, as opposed to getting on the oxytocin drip, which is like being hit by a truck. As soon as they put the first pin into my little toe I felt this lovely gentle contraction that came in waves like a rolling ocean. And I was surrounded by beautiful dreamy music and it was just all so relaxing and calm.
Of course it didn’t stay that way. I spent the next few hours of my labour wandering around Chatswood Chase looking for a teddy bear for the baby, but I knew it was time to go home when we were sitting in Pattison’s Pattiserie with a cup of tea and a red velvet cupcake, and I really wasn’t enjoying it. So I went back to my sister’s house in Chatswood to rig myself up to a Labour TENS machine.
For me, the Labour TENS machine was awesome. If you haven’t heard of it, you stick these electrodes onto the small of your back and it literally feels like somebody is patting your back. Makes a husband totally redundant. Then when a contraction hits you press a button and it sends electrical pulses through your body to distract your nervous system from the pain. I loved it. By this stage, I was having contractions every 3 – 5 minutes so I rang the hospital to see whether or not I should go in. I told them I’d had quite a long pre-labour with my first child so they suggested I wait a few hours and see whether the labour heats up or cools off. So we settled in at my sister’s house. She tells me that when she arrived home after work she was quite surprised to hear tribal drumming resonating up the driveway. Apparently I was banging a drum with increasing intensity through each contraction while Birdy and her cousin danced around singing, “Go Mummy, go Mummy!” I don’t have a really strong memory of that, but there you go.
After a couple of hours of that it started to get a bit more painful so we decided to go to the hospital and just walk around the grounds so we would be there if we needed to be. But on the way, it started to really hurt, so I got out one of those little stress balls and started banging it on the car door and counting through each contraction. I realised that they were now 2 minutes apart and very painful. So we went straight up to the labour ward. As we stood at the double doors to the ward, waiting to enter, I had an unexpected moment of anxiety and flooding grief. The last time I was in that spot I was delivering Samuel at 14 weeks and though I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, the emotional memory was so strong that for a moment it overwhelmed me. Then I said to myself, “Katrina, Get over it, you’ve got to keep it together and get this baby out!” Then before I knew it, I was being quite seriously berated by a midwife for not phoning to say I was coming in. So I said, “Look I’m very sorry, I was just going to walk around the garden, but it’s starting to hurt, so I thought I’d better check in.” “Well next time, make sure you call!” Next time? I’m hardly thinking about next time when my insides are being slowly smashed apart by a wrecking ball!
Anyway, my doctor arrived soon after so I told him “It was really slow last time, I’m probably not even in labour, I’m probably not even dilated.” He examined me and said, “You’re 9 centimetres, let’s get this baby out.” My response was, “What? How can I be 9 centimetres? I’m not even in labour yet?” Clearly, I was delusional. So he broke my waters, and for the next half hour I was on my feet, stamping and vocalising my way though each very painful contraction. My husband only had time to give me one heat pack and next thing I knew I was on a birthing stool pushing her out! It was fantastic. I mean it was really, really hard work pushing her out, (I guess that’s why they call it labour!) but my doctor coached me through each push and it felt fantastic to be able to feel it all, drug-free!
Obviously, there’s no way to guarantee a good birth. No magic formula that will make it all fall into place. (Just read my sister’s birth story here!) It helps to have a good doctor or midwife, (and lots of prayers), but I think it’s also a good idea to get in training and learn as much as you can about labour and birth. I read a book by Ju Ju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch called “Birth Skills” and that really helped me to deal with the pain, stay in control and to have a very clear idea in my mind of what my body needed to do. (Stress balls, stamping, vocalising and counting are just some of the techniques recommended in the book! The drumming bit was my own variation!) It particularly works well for somebody with an expressive personality because it’s all about getting the pain out, burning off the adrenalin your body is producing and focusing on what is happening physically. I really recommend that book for anyone who wants some ideas about how to cope with the pain so they can stay in control, even when it would otherwise be unbearable. I also think the Labour TENS helped me to conserve my energy early on, so that I had plenty of resources to deal with the really painful bit at the end.
By the way, that little stress ball I used in labour, it started out with a little smiley face on it, but that was totally gone by the time I gave birth, so it got quite a workout! At the end of the day, what we all really want is a healthy baby. But I felt particularly blessed to have such a trouble-free, natural birth and to have been fully alert and present for the entire experience. The only thing I would do differently is to call first! I got three or four lectures before the night was over!
Do you have a labour tip to share? What did you use to help you cope with the pain of labour? For me it was tribal drumming, the labour TENS machine, stress balls, stamping and vocalising. What worked for you?
It’s been nearly nine months since I put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard.
I just wasn’t able to write during the last 9 months.
Initially it was because of the morning sickness. I was just so sick every night that as soon as Birdy was in bed, I passed out from exhaustion. If I didn’t go to sleep, I started vomiting.
Then as the pregnancy progressed further, (we got through the dreaded 12 week ultrasound without any bad news!), we started to wonder if maybe this pregnancy would actually result in a baby! But I still didn’t really dare to hope. And I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it. What if I wrote about the pregnancy and then something went wrong? Then I would have to write about that too.
So I stayed quiet. At least on this blog. I kept thinking that when the time was right, I’d start writing again. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. After sharing so much of my last 6 failed pregnancies, I decided to keep this one to myself. It was like there was just too much at stake. Too much going on emotionally. And if I can’t share openly what I’m really going through, then why write anything at all? If a blog is going to be anything, it should at least be personal. And real.
So here we are now. At the end of a three-and-a-half-year heartache and the beginning of a whole new little miracle.
Molly Jean Macdonald Roe was born on November 21 at 8.40pm after a fantastic birth. I looked at her in amazement. “You’re real,” I said as I held her in my arms for the first time. “And you’re alive. And you’re perfect.”
But more about the birth later.
For now, we’re just all enjoying the fact that she’s here.
And that she’s real. And she’s alive. And she’s perfect.
I received an interesting email at work yesterday that I want to share with you. It went like this.
Hi Katrina. Wondering if you can help. I have a friend with triplets who has been given sooooo many newborn nappies that her 3 have outgrown them before she has used them all.
They are all Huggies and all still in packaging, but with no receipts the shops aren’t letting her take them back.
Is there any chance we could get behind her and see if people who need newborn nappies would be willing to buy a bigger size and then swap them to support her? Happy to arrange a drop off and collection from anywhere in the area. Thanks, Helen.
Of course this email touched my heart. Firstly, I remember how expensive it was buying nappies all the time and can’t imagine what it must be like for triplets. Secondly, I just thought it was really sweet that Helen would go to such lengths for her friend. So I gave Helen a call today to find out more details.
Helen’s friend, Sarah has six-month-old triplets. She also has a two-year-old daughter, so she’s probably actually buying nappies for four kids! Ouch. Sarah’s triplets were born ten weeks premature so even though they’re six months old, they’re a little smaller than most. However, they’ve outgrown their newborn nappies and are ready to move onto the 3 – 8 kg size (or bigger).
Both Helen and her friend Sarah live near the Hills District in the North West of Sydney (Glenwood and Castle Hill) so if you live not far from there and need some newborn nappies, they’d love to hear from you. Thanks to the generosity of her church friends Sarah has plenty of newborn nappies to spare. She has 2 boxes of 4 x 36 napppies, 6 packets of 36 nappies and 3 packets of 54 nappies. That’s a lot of nappies and they ain’t cheap, so you can see why Helen wants to help her exchange them.
So if you live in the Northwest of Sydney and are expecting a baby, have a newborn, or have a friend with a newborn, here’s how you can help. Either offer to buy some of the newborn nappies from Helen at the retail price, or buy a packet of 32 nappies in the next size up (3 – 8 kg) to swap with her! Then all you need to do is contact Helen by email to arrange the pickup and drop-off. Her email is nolanmh @ bigpond dot net dot au. Or if you comment here, I can get your email address and pass it onto Helen.
Thanks Sydney Mums. Hope we can help each other out!
BY A BADENHOP
I have a confession: sometimes I watch Private Practice. A few weeks ago there was an episode with a woman in labour. Having heard that a drug free birth would be best for the child she refused intervention from the doctors. After three days of increasing angst, the baby was finally born ‘naturally’ and all the pain was worth it. While I could applaud her tenacity, there were a few things that annoyed me about the episode 1) the woman was apparently in enough pain for the doctors to implore her to take drugs, but she could still string a sentence together (bah! call that pain?), 2) she wasn’t red in the face at all, and 3) the one that really gets me – the implication that if you just tried hard enough in your labour, you would have a beautiful ‘natural’ delivery of your baby.
I am really blessed to have two beautiful children. Prior to the birth of no. 1, I thought that while labour would be difficult, it would all go pretty well because I was someone who was good at toughing things out and had even been described as a ‘pocket battleship’.
Round 1. Happily, I went into labour just three days after the due date, and everything seemed to be going really well. For the first 18 hours I went without pain relief, spending time in the shower and bath, with birth balls and heat packs and music, trying to reduce the pain signals to my brain with noise, splashing, stress toys (a dolphin whose flippers were lost in the battle) scratching noises and singing (which degenerated from actual lyrics to ‘la, la, LA’ to primal screams of pain which I’m told you could hear down the hallway). After a period of a couple of hours of one long excruciating contraction, I was sure I must be in transition. Imagine then, my devastation when I was told I had not progressed at all since my previous examination. Not even a centimetre. My midwife in the birth centre then suggested I use gas, then pethidine, then an epidural with syntocinin, and then after 26 hours, with my baby showing signs of distress, I had an emergency caesar (for which I needed a spinal block because the epidural wasn’t working properly).
Round 2. Having had only one caesarean that had healed up well, I was able to try labour again, with more intensive monitoring, and went back to the birth centre to give it another shot. I had joked with friends that all I needed for this labour to be better than the last was for the baby to come out! This time I went into labour a few days before the due date, and the labour progressed really well from having a few odd contractions at 2 am to regular consistent contractions by 9 am. My waters broke immediately after my first examination at the hospital and then it was really on! After a few hours of intense labour, I really was in transition and, having been asked not to push, I requested an epidural. It was after that that everything went downhill. My baby’s heart rate was dropping, but not recovering after contractions. This went on for a period of time that is now all a little blurry until the point when a doctor hit the emergency button. Sirens blaring, my room was suddenly filled with people, I was pulled down into stirrups, and told to ‘Push, Push, PUSH!’ while my little boy was wrenched out of me with forceps in a matter of minutes. Shellshocked, we waited. My husband was certain it had all gone terribly wrong. And then, joy of joys, we heard his little cry, and over a series of debriefs and checks were reassured that he was 100% healthy.we It seemed that my placenta had come away from the uterus during labour (a placental abruption) and there probably would not have been time to prep for a caesar if forceps weren’t able to be used.
There’s so much more I could say about my labours. They certainly weren’t what I expected. I’ve found it cathartic to write down my birth stories and talk it over with people, but I confess to feeling a little envious when I hear about straightforward deliveries, and a little frustrated when people imply that with the right formula you will have a good labour. Prior to our first child, our birth class facilitator taught us that while it was good to have ideas about how you wanted your labour to go, the only really important outcome is a healthy baby. Now when I talk to expecting mums about labour I likewise encourage them not to get too hung up on the labour details – you never know quite how its going to go! At the end of the day, regardless of the process I am so thankful that the result was two healthy children.
What was your labour experience and do you feel like you have recovered from it? Did you feel any pressure from people to do/not do anything in your labour? What have you found helpful in dealing with the unexpected?