Saturday, December 3, 2016

Storm-Light and (not quite) Newborn

A very welcome tropical storm swept through a few days ago. After a sweltering day lightning broke through dark and bulging clouds as we drove home from school. Thunder rumbled. The temperature dropped sharply and a welcome wind pulled at the trees.

In the evening the storm-light slanted through our front windows and reminded me of the storm that came through when I was still heavy with our little one. Now she has been here five weeks and it's impossible to imagine life without her.

We are still learning her - so much of her is familiar - the milk-drunk expression, the way she has of pouting out her lower lip when she's replete and stretching into curves, is so much her brother, the markings on her face and the delicate shape of it is so much her oldest sister, and yet she is so much herself. I'm still learning her humorous expressions, the way she scrunches up her nose before she lunges for the milk, the funny old-man look as she lifts up her pale eyebrows and her forehead wrinkles. The swirls of fine pale hair on her arms, and the way she pumps one foot as if it will make the milk come faster as she's feeding.

Another storm came through today - spectacular with its lightning and thunder (which I am convinced my in-laws' dog thought was the Great Dog in the Sky growling). I also made the acquaintance of another snake today - this one at close quarters as I helped my father-in-law get it out of his pigeon coop.  Beloved informed me again that this will be a Proper Queensland Summer - full of storms and snakes. My last Queensland baby also brought with her a lot of rain, although not so many snakes. While I love the storms and rains I am hoping this summer is not quite as rain-heavy as that one of 2010-11.

The lightning has stopped now, thirty-thousand homes are without power and the rain has paused, but moisture still hangs heavy in the air. My little ones sleep. I savour the cool. The quiet after the storm.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Before the Dawn

"Hon, wake up. Wake up. She's coming tonight."

Beloved stirred, murmured and went back to sleep. Sick for the last week, he'd fallen asleep beside Adventure Boy, trying to get him to bed. Another contraction took me up and I went back to my breathing, then tried to work out how long since the last one.

Everyone was sleeping, except the Wolf-en-Pup who was following me around looking worried.

"Are you sure?" The words were indistinct. For the last week Beloved hadn't been able to breath without ventolin and he was exhausted. I'd been giving him death-stares for daring to be sick when the baby was due, when I'd been warning him all year 'don't be sick when the baby's due.'

"Yes! I'm sure. She'll be here before dawn."

Of course, I'd thought that the night before as well, but this time I was really sure. These weren't just little Braxtons, these were Stamp-My-Way-Through-It, O-My-God-I'd-Forgotten-How-Much-They-Really-Hurt contractions. They were still irregular, in length and how far apart they were, but they were bloody strong.  I texted the student midwife to say I was fairly sure our little one was imminent, and opened my computer to start writing in times. Lighting a candle I'd saved since before Giggle-Bear was born, it's flickering comforted me. One of my favourite authors had a new release and between contractions I read on the ipad, in the dark room, by candlelight, with my present baby, the two year old, curled sleeping and perfect beside me.

I put my hand to my tummy, feeling the little one undulating within for the last time and felt like crying, but also laughing. Soon, soon, I'd be holding our newest little one. Soon, we'd finally meet her.

Already I was sure before the sun woke she'd be in my arms. I pictured the moment she slid out, that first miraculous meeting, when slippy and warm she'd be skin to my skin and we would get to meet the little one we already loved so much.

I let Beloved return to sleep, and read on. One-two-three-four-five-breath-in-through-the-nose, One-two-three-four-five-breath-out-through-the-mouth. O my freaking goodness this hurts. Of course, by number four I should have worked that out, but... Long breaths, steady breaths.

I waddled through to Adventure Boy's room again. "You need to get up, hon. I need you to time the contractions." Beloved stumbled through to our room and took over the stopwatch on the phone. Instead of fumbling with it myself as soon as the contraction started I said now, and he started timing. It was impossible to sit or talk through them. I jammed myself into a corner with the door, the bed and the cupboard, pressed down and stamped through them. Fast.Fast.Fast. Stamp.Stamp.Stamp. I worked out slower and harder worked better, bearing down worked better. I sank into a squat. Stamp. Stamp. Stamp. Soon. Soon. Soon.

"Over now," I said. My uterus was still like a ball of cement, but the pain had stopped.

"That was two minutes. You may be right. She may be coming." There was surprise in his voice. I'd told him the night before I was sure the little one was coming - my show had started and Braxtons were a regular ten minutes apart, but they hadn't been like this, and they'd died off with the rising sun. You know, just strong enough to keep me awake since midnight the night before.

"Do you think it's time to phone the hospital?" I asked. I was wary of going in too early and having everything slow down. But nor did I want to have my baby in the hospital corridor. It was a fine line.

Time passed. I couldn't stay in bed with the contractions, but needed to leap up (in my own ungainly, out-of-balance way) to return to my corner to jam a hand against each wall, sink into a squat and prepare to stamp and breath through them.

"Should I phone the hospital now?" I asked.

"Mums always phone in too early."

"But won't they want to prepare?" I queried.

"I suppose. You're sure she's coming?"

"She'll definitely be here be morning." I stopped talking as the next contraction hit and I started stamping and breathing deeply.

"You may be right."

I phoned the hospital and warned the midwife on duty that we'd be heading into the hospital in the next few hours and then texted the student the same. Returning to my book I continued the pattern of jumping (or my approximate thereof) up every ten or so minutes as the pain gripped. This was not talk-through-it-pain. Toilet trips disclosed gunks of red and I looked for a pad. Excitement swelled. This was it. This night. Our little one was arriving. I dragged my suitcases through to the living room. Packed a few extras, gathered up computers, ipads, chargers, headphones and shoved them in.

In the next contraction it occurred to me I needed to be in the hospital now. There would be no more waiting. Besides, I'd finished my book. I informed Beloved of this as soon as I could talk, then texted and phoned to pass it on to the midwife and student while Beloved bundled stuff into the car.

My mama awoke and I told her that tonight was the night and while I hoped Beloved would be home for the school run, he might not be. (Yay! No school run! The world was good!)

We headed off into the night. I worried when I made it the five minute drive to the hospital without a contraction, then doubled over, pressing hard against the car bonnet and breathing low and heavy and as slowly as I could in the car park, while Beloved unloaded. I repeated my complaint about the pain.

There was a heavily pregnant mum in the dark carpark and we exchanged remarks about due dates and wished each other good luck. She still had a few weeks to go.

We waddled through the near empty hospital and through the different doors up to the birth suite. Our midwife hadn't arrived so the charge nurse led us in and we sat and put our bags down. Another few contractions hit while we waited for the midwife. The bed was a bit official looking and hard to get off during contractions so I perched on a chair and sent Beloved searching the room for water. We realised we'd left our digital camera somewhere (the unlocked car? the carpark?) but I didn't offer to release Beloved to look for it. What if the baby came? I resign myself to an undocumented birth, though I'd lament the loss later.

My midwife arrived and my blood pressure was checked, my blood sugar, the length of the contractions. Little one was monitored. Eventually, after what seemed like far too long, they started filling the bath in the adjoining bathroom.

Because of previous haemorrhages with my first two kids (a large one with the first, a small one with the second) they needed to put a cannula into my arm. They started putting the needle in and a contraction hit and it was beyond hard to keep my arm still while lying down and pain was everything. Blood smeared across my arm.

As soon as the bath was ready I waddled to the dark bathroom, the only light that coming through the door, stripping off and sinking into the large corner tub without thought for anything but the warmth and the fluid. I was an old hand at this - it didn't take me long to find the position that worked for me, kneeling in the corner of the tub, facing out. Between contractions Beloved sprayed my face, put my birth mix music on his ridiculously expensive headphones.

Time went into a strange place. Shoulder deep in the warm water I listened to the gaelic words of the songs - the Scottish bands Capercaillie and Manran playing on spotify, lolled in the water in the lulls and breathed hard and concentrated on not tensing, on keeping my hands, my mouth, lax in the pains. One-two-three-unclench-my-fists-four-five-breathing- in, one-two-three-steady-breathing-slight-hitch-four-five-breathing-out.

The breathing came from a deeper place, a slow, steady 'aaaah' from the very back of my throat, that could easily ease into a scream. (Of course, I had headphones on, so I could have been howling and not realising...)

I visualised a gardenia bud, white and richly scented, it's petals folded, and concentrated on imagining the petals opening. Open. Open. Soon.

Soon. soon my little one would be with us.

It occurred to me it was time to break my waters. Now. None of my other babies had been born before my waters were broken, and I was sure this one wouldn't be either. Although a caul birth had a certain appeal, I wasn't about to spend an extra minute in pain hoping for one.

I asked the midwife if she could break my waters and she informed me the doctor was in theatre. So I asked if she could break my waters and she went away to check. So I asked Beloved if the midwife could break my waters, or if he could break my waters but basically, I wanted them done. That minute. Beloved informed me I was yelling and not, (as I thought) whispering, because of the headphones. Oops.

The midwife returned and I demanded asked again if she could break my waters and she said yes, I'd just need to come through to the delivery room. Beloved later informed me I used my 'demon woman' voice, which was odd as I didn't even know I had one, and she would have given me anything I wanted, including  a caesarean.

Anyway, I lumbered through, blinking at the bright light of the delivery room after the dim of the bathroom, and had all my vital stats checked and how far along I was and it turned out I was only six centimetres dilated.  This was a shame as I hadn't even intended to get into the bath until I was six centimetres, let alone get my waters broken, but I decided on a change of plan - my waters would be broken at 6 centimetres as I knew damn well she wasn't going to come till they were broken and sooner was better than later,.

Turns out I'd forgotten that it hurts. It hurts a lot. The midwife's whole hand goes up, and then a hook, and it's not a place for hands or hooks. Deep breath. And another deep breath. and another slooooow deep breath.

There was a gush of fluid and I was already hopping off the bed and heading back to the bath before the gushing stopped.

Soon. I knew she'd be coming soon.

With each contraction I concentrated on bearing down, pressing all the pain out towards my bottom - it seemed to hurt less, become bearable if I pushed out. One Two Three Four Soon. I imagined I could feel the passage opening, a hollow forming for my babe to slip through. Deep breathing, bearing down, onetwothreefourfive, steady, steadysteady, open. Time was lost again, amidst the dim and the pain.

I couldn't continue this till morning. I just couldn't. But there were four centimetres to go. Onetwothreefourfivebeardown,onetwothreefourfiveexhale. Whatever it took. I reminded myself, I'd do whatever it took. But morning was so far away. It was only just past midnight.

"I need to poo." I stood up, readying to clamber out of the bath and waddle to the loo. Something felt wrong though, and I reached down and felt - slipperyness and strange, bulging shapes. A foreignness.

"I can feel something."

The midwife hurried forward and reached out her hand.

"That's her head. I'm just helping her through." She looked at Beloved, who was clearly startled, not expecting anything to happen for hours.  "Are you ready to catch her?"

He stepped forward, still looking shocked, and our little one slipped out, an odd, satisfying feeling of slippery fullness and then she was in the world, all long legs and arms, and he was lifting her up to me.

And I was holding her. Our little one. Clasped to my chest, finally, after nine moons growing beneath my heart, here she was. Red, slippery, plump from her long sojourn immersed. Tiny wrinkled, fisted hands, frogged up legs.

"O you're here! My little one, my little one you're here!" Love and joy was overwhelming.

The wonder was overwhelming. She was small, red, with a shock of black hair. I clasped her to me, murmuring, afraid of dropping her. "Little one, o my baby, you're here!"

The moment reshaped the world. Changed everything. A new life was in the world. Our family was changed wonderfully for ever.

She was all newness, all promise.

I was dizzy, weak feeling, I didn't dare carry her and, still attached with the pulsing cord, handed her over, then reached for help to clamber out of the bath and to the bed. When my baby was given back I felt complete again. She was so very perfect. She smelt like newborn - sweetly divine. The newborn smell is so fleeting - a few days no more - I tried to savour it. She was still curled up, warm, wet and slippy against me, as if she was still within me.

"She's here love, she's really here," I murmured, dropping kisses on her wet black hair, plastered to her scull, with white stuff over it.

No one was in a rush to cut the cord connecting us, and I just held her, delighted in her. "O little one, we're so happy to meet you. This is the world, darling. This is the world. Welcome."

And then I felt a familiar, warm, gush. And then another. Uh. Oh. I'd been there before.

But none of that mattered, a story for another day, because our little had arrived, and there was still a long time till dawn.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tiny Toes

The words are still not coming together in any sort of order. Except - aww, my baby. Hello my darling one. I will make a start on NaNo... soon. At present my list of Things I Need To Do is getting longer and longer and jumbling together (emails to write, bills to pay) but it's all going in a pleasant blur of 'o baby.'

She is, of course, unusually alert and aware and gorgeous.

'Real Life' will hit soon when my parents leave and I will find myself blinking at the loads of washing that have presently been magically disappearing.

But for now here are some photos of my little one's completely perfect tiny toes. I adore the way babies stretch and curl their toes.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

By the shore (Firsts)

Words are escaping me at the moment (and let's not talk about numbers - two and two equals five and three quarters, maybe?) so I'm just posting these - my little one's first trip to the shore. It was a very impromptu trip when I needed to drop something at the kids' school and thought while I was there we could go for a walk on the beach nearby. I loaded my mama and papa and the toddler and the baby and the oversized Wolf-en-Pup (who had to sit on my papa's knee as our car is small) into the car and we headed off.

And it was so lovely to walk barefoot on sand, to take deep breaths just because, and not to deal with pain, to smell the sea. The Wolf-en-Pup bounded, Giggle-Bear said 'wow!' a lot and built sandcastles with my mama and my baby slept pretty much the entire walk, with a few times she blinked her eyes open and looked around in awe - as if to say 'this is the world?'

While she was deeply asleep I decided to use the scarf I'd swiped up as a sunshade as I headed out the door as a photo prop and took some photos in the shade of a lean-to made of driftwood. The breeze swept through and the ripples hushed and my baby smiled.

Tiny sandy feet = heart-melt.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Considering Choices (to veg or not to veg)

So I don't know if it's because with the baby due the thought of any wee creature in pain has me tearing up, or if it's because with my gestational diabetes diet I'm being forced to consider (very carefully) every mouthful I take... but...

Beloved and I were watching netflix recently, on one of those rare occasions when the kids were all asleep and we were both still awake, and we ended up watching one of the many food shows they have.

And this one was about the perils of eating too many animal products on our health.

Now, I've long been sold on how inhumane our treatment of the animals we eat is, but since I started having dreams about steak when seven months pregnant with my firstborn  and gave up twelve years of vegetarianism (with the odd stint of veganism thrown in) I've been a ravaging omnivore.

 I've put vegetarianism in the too-hard basket and told myself I'm eating meat and drinking milk - 'for the children.'

And it's true - four kids in eight years, and extended breastfeeding and I'm feeling somewhat... depleted. But... the show reminded me that actually, a balanced vegan diet can be healthier and less depleting than a meat and dairy rich one.

In a moment of weary weakness, my Beloved, succumbing to the shows comprehensive studies and case studies showing the benefits on heart disease, cholesterol and diabetes, said he'd try a plant based diet with me. Win. ((Beloved's addit: The ecological studies showed association and not causation, thus should be interpreted with caution.  I mean really -- if you did a double-blinded randomised controlled trial I'd be more convinced.... but.... meat... is.... good))

Now, I'm not saying this is going to be a super healthy food choice - my previous vegan attempts taught me a lot of the not so super-healthy options (fried bread with baked beans anyone? walnut and cinnamon scrolls, deep fried vegetarian spring rolls, honeyed macadamias, pineapple fritters...) but I do think it will be a lot healthier. (To be honest, healthier than Beloved's present diet of crisps, instant coffee and energy drinks wouldn't be precisely hard - physician heal thyself...twelve hour shifts without a meal break mean bad choices when work finishes...)

But my diet pre-meat was a lot healthier, with a much bigger veggie and pulse intake. Lentil soups were a staple and dhal, felafel and hommus were all regulars. Did I mention I weighed 20 kilos less back then? (Although that could just be the four kids - as the change was simultaneous it's probably fair to take some from column a. and some from column b. for causes.)

I'm still going to call myself a vegetarian, not a vegan because I'm not going to go ultra strict - the occasional free range egg? Not a problem. Honey? in moderation, and a lot of it if I get a cold. If I'm sharing a veggie pizza I'm not going to worry about a bit of cheese and if there's a particularly nice cheese (or chocolate) on offer I'll probably try a bit. If Beloved catches a fish, you bet I'm going to eat it. It's even possible Christmas and Easter will see me with a bit of lamb or (free range) roast.

But... I am going to try for a mostly plant based diet. This is particularly hard because I am the Dairy Queen. I've never met a meal I didn't think improved by a dash of cream or sour cream and custard is one of my big loves. (After the kids of course, but possibly not by as much as it should be.) And don't get me started on cheeses. Haloumi, goats cheese, brie... Sigh.

However. With my odds of long term diabetes markedly increased, wanting to set a healthier model for the kids (whose diet is frankly appalling) looking back to how much healthier I was pre-meat (and ignoring the fact I used to walk 5k a day then as opposed to just toddler wrangling) I think I'm ready to make the change.

At least, the dissonance of being totally appalled and heartbroken by how we treat our animals and the cost to the planet and not doing anything about it, is getting too much.

Here's looking forward to lots of bowls of crisp, refreshing salad, bursting with colour, avocado and salad sandwiches on fresh-from-the-oven-bread, and really savouring the delight of a fragrant mango fresh from the tree.

Any tips from those who've managed vegan long term?