Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A dream mask

Oh, so this is what they meant when they said uncomfortable!

Don’t worry, I am not about to launch a waterfall of whinge. Frankly, the online space is filled to capacity with guff of that sort already.

Actually, the online space is capacity-free, isn’t it? And isn’t that a worry.

Suffice to say I am feeling quite awkwardly large for the first time. I sit down at a desk for most of the day – not a position conducive to pain-free late-term pregnancy.

I have been dreaming this past week of inventing a contraption that allows a laptop to be strapped onto a bib-style apron to enable the wearer to walk around, rather than sit, while working on a computer and doing a lot of typing.

It probably already exists, even though most people would surely only use it for a matter of weeks during their entire lifetime. Perhaps I could design one, and one only, that is shared about the world’s pregnant working women via a roster.

And I do know there are 14 million mobile devices on the modern market that allow people to check emails and various other internetty things while IN MOTION, but I mean something that enables people to stay standing and do hours-at-a-time typing-related computer work. Hmm.

These, and other random thoughts are par for the course between my ears right now. What else am I meant to do between the hours of 3am and 5am, when I am regularly awake.


If I am not awake, I am dreaming some truly weird things. In the past week, I have stolen discount vouchers from an old lady while a fellow I used to work with, oh, about 12 years ago watches with uniformed police from a surveillance room next door; and I have flexed my biceps while conducting a post-match press conference at the Australian Open tennis event. Just some of the weird dream flashes I can remember off the top of my head. It's been a busy week for my subconscious.

I am also thinking a lot about how life in our little house will change so much in a short matter of weeks.

I am reading Susan Maushart’s book The Mask of Motherhood, given to me, funnily enough, by my own mother.

It is part feminist textbook, part comedic rant and part statistical report that more than partially does my head in. But on the one-in-five occasions when I am mentally coherent enough to absorb what she is saying, it certainly does make my head think rather than hurt.

Suddenly I have realised little things like I may not be the one making dinner seven nights a week, just like I used to, due to certain new priorities. I am realising bigger things too that I will most likely fail at something so very new, in the short-term at least.

And I use the term fail deliberately, because parenting is full of little failures. You just hope the victories are bigger and tip heavier on the scales. And little fails are not full-time or permanently scarring (I hope). The best ones are short, temporary, and they teach us stuff.

Hopefully, I’ll be awake enough to pay attention.

Maushart also paints a rather depressing picture of the facade mothers all over the Western world perpetuate...essentially lying to each other about how well their babies sleep, about how lucky they are to have husbands who deign to change nappies (when two parents should be sharing parenting roles equally) and how expertly they are managing to juggle motherhood with work and wife duties.

The reality, she claims - and with the results of about 3,000 research studies to back her up - is quite the opposite. But it's like a massive conspiracy that no one talks about. Women working part-time with a baby just months old will, she says, think she is multi-tasking with great skill. But she is actually, she claims, failing spectacularly at each 'task', so thinly is she spread, so stressed is she under the weight of many burdens.

I partly disagree and partly absorb for future reference. First of all, 99% of the situations she writes about involve heterosexual couples and the traditional constraints, she claims, that continue to be placed on their relationships.

That is a whole other blog post. On the whole, it has been refreshing to read something that reminds me how big the upheaval will be in a few short weeks. I am preparing for a memorable time where I will not be capable at some things, where I will make mistakes and be sleep-deprived and hormonal and all over the damn place. I have to surrender to that, and lots of other things...and it will be bloody good for me, I am sure.

And as someone reminded me today, while I have not undergone the full physical part of giving birth; I have been in baby-land before. I was a mum to a baby only a few years ago.

But I was a kind of father-mum...someone Centrelink may not define as the “primary care giver”, not exclusively the one getting up for night feeds.

Plus, you forget so easily. You forget about things like teething, nappies, solids, burping, toilet-training, tummy time, dummies, rashes, wind, that first smile, baby talk. Ok, I am remembering now...

But life can be so busy that the only way is to live in the moment.

I just wish the moment that she arrives was here! These last few weeks are dragging so much!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Be sensible. For once

I am reading Kaz Cooke’s famed pregnancy book Up The Duff.

As she writes week by week about her pregnancy, so too do I read the relevant chapter at a time.

This week she talked about presenting her birth plan to her OBGYN at her latest appointment.

As far as I knew, it was a piece of paper, actually handed over to the doctor.

I got a bit worried and wondered if this was par for the course, so I raised it with my OBGYN when we went in this week.

Dr Sensible, as he shall henceforth be known for all eternity, said that was probably something advisable in larger hospitals where the staffing complement of midwives was enormous and such notes/plans would be clipped to patient admission forms to ensure that Labouring Mother A did not get her Enya CDs, carrot sticks and lavender oil burner mixed up with Labouring Mother B’s sandalwood incense, Tim Tams and strict instructions to do third stage naturally.

And trust me, when it comes to banshee demands from a woman in labour, you do not want to confuse a carrot stick with a Tim Tam.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” he said, when I told him I will certainly try for a natural birth but will be undoubtedly disappointed if I have to have a Caesarean or some other drastic means of intervention.

I hate that about myself sometimes...the fact that I anticipate extreme, negative emotions that I may never feel. But perhaps I need to experience something of that – to imagine that – to provide me with enough internal incentive to try and avoid it?

But that’s the thing about labour. Your body takes over. How much of your mind could possibly play a part when there is a physical process just running the show? How closely intertwined can body and mind really be at that point, especially as it’s a point when women commonly LOSE their minds...?

Back at the doctor’s, I hopped up on the table for a quick heartbeat scan and gentle tummy feel. The head is definitely down. Good news.

I told him friends of mine had had their doctor give them a rough indication of the size of their baby via a quick ultrasound. Could he also do one on me, please, so that I might have some early warning as to whether or not I should be readying myself to deliver either a hippo-shaped human or a lemur-sized lump.

Just who is who in my zoo?

Dr Sensible then explained that such calculations were very imprecise and carried a margin for error of 15% either way. And besides, he said, some women have heard a weight, – say 8.5 pound – freaked out about the possibility of delivering a 9.5 pound baby through their fragile pelvis and opted for a Caesar only to deliver a 7-pounder on D-Day.

Too much information? It is EVERYWHERE in the world of babies, pregnancy and parenting.

At the end of our appointment, I wasn’t one bit miffed. In fact, I was thankful we had a doctor who was willing to stand so proudly with both feet firmly in Reasonville, Logic Land.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Transition ignition

I have been thinking a lot this week about transitions.

The chew-your-nails-off-with-terror transition that signifies the progression of labour from the, I believe, comparitively quite tranquil first stage, to the second (IE: the part where vulnerability, pain and anxiety are at their peak, all the while the alien being inside you claws, rips and tears its way out of a tiny hole in your genital regions).

I am really quite frightened about that. Because it is so unknown. I cannot micro-manage that...because I do not know what hormone-induced emotions will surface, nor how they will manifest physically.

I never forget the woman in a reality birth documentary series on TV who was so zen about her meditative birthing experience. She had her support person whispering mantras to spirit the pain away during contractions, whales moaned via loudpeaker in the background and she looked very stoic as she closed her eyes while the muscles peformed their inevitable, automatic clench. Occasionally, her lips would purse, but it was the only giveaway that things were not completely normal and fine inside her skin.

Some edits later and Regan from The Exorcist had replaced zen woman. She was bellowing and writhing and sporting wild, white eyes of panic as she yelled abuse and orders to her clearly-rattled support people. It was terrifying.

Will that be me?

I am also anxious about the transition I will undergo from working professional to stay at home mum.

That thing that has own its own acronym: SAHM.


I have been working full-time as a journalist since 1996. For five days a week, sometimes more, that is what I have been.

Hard-working, sensible, professional, thorough, doing my job. A job I became qualified for after three years at university.

I go to work and I have full knowledge of what the day will bring in terms of what is expected of me, what I need to achieve to feel fulfilled and ensure my job is done properly. It is very satisfying.

I am about to switch, not only jobs, but entire careers, mindsets, time zones, body clocks, routines and physiological functions.

I am about to become a new person with a new, incredibly important job. A job that does not come with a degree or any opportunity for pre-preparedness study.

It is scary to think about. But then, of course, we went through the same thing before J was born.

And we muddled through.

It’s what most rational, sane, adult people do.

I just wonder how rational and sane you can really be at 2am when you haven’t slept for three days and your baby is screaming for no apparent reason.

We are now down to seeing our OBGYN weekly, the baby’s room is set and ready to go and our ante-natal classes finish this week.

It feels like the end of things, the tying up of loose strings.

It’s incredibly exciting but also bloody daunting.

Our lives are about to change forever.

Intellectually, I know they will change for the better. Of course.

But I wonder how much of me will mourn the loss of the life we lived before.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The sticky

When we first moved to beautiful, sunny Queensland seven years ago, we had no idea where precisely in amongst the state’s 1.72million square kilometres we would settle.

So, we swished and hovered vague fingers over coastal regions on our map and hired a car. Started at Point A and drove to Point B, all with a clear understanding that Point B would firmly be defined as the place that featured a climate no hotter than we could cope with.

Anything north of Noosa, we decided, was way too hot. Too tropical, too steamy and too much of a filthy, sticky inferno to call home.

Sure, we had come from South Australia where 44-degree days were a walk in the park. You want a dust storm with those 44 degrees? Why not? Just close the windows and take a cold shower. Pfft.

We knew all too well that an enormous dose of meteorological malice does something crazy to the weather in Australia once you cross state borders and head north.

It’s called humidity.

I don’t care what you say: it is easier to cool off in dry heat than humidity. Cold showers don’t work when you can’t even dry yourself properly afterwards.

I may have scored 11 out of 20 in my final year biology exam, but even I know that sweat plus increased moisture in the air equals approximately 426% extra sweat and a 65-fold increase in the level of discomfort.

Is it any wonder the word troppo, used to describe a state of seriously deranged mental delirium, derives from tropical?

I fear I may go troppo this week.

Summer has finally arrived in our neck of the woods and while temperatures in their early 30s might not sound like much, especially when compared to the mid-40s from SA, sweet Jesus, it is hell on earth around here. My favourite moment was yesterday when I logged onto a weather website, to which I am quite addicted, and saw that while it was technically 33 degrees, it "felt like" 38. Not sure how they measure that, but I thought it was hilarious. For about three seconds, then I started crying tears of sweat into my keyboard.

Did I mention I am eight and a half months pregnant?

Thankfully though, the good people we purchased our house from six years ago had the genius idea of installing a pool and air-conditioning. Thankfully, we made the most of a government rebate and put insulation in our roof a year ago...so there are three things mercifully keeping me cool at this time of year.

Also this week, we bought a new pram. While we have been really lucky to have either recycled J’s cot, change table, toys and some clothes or been given a mountain of baby girl’s things...the old Steelcraft we bought for him four years ago was showing its age.

We needed a new one, and gave the old one to charity (after a good clean). It was terribly sad dumping it at Lifeline...I remember thinking of everywhere we had used it as J grew from a newborn to the almost-four year old he is today.

Then my breath caught as I realised the new pram we were going to pick up would do exactly the same...and how quickly it all happens.

Time flies. Blink and you’ll miss it. I try to remind myself of that at the moment, when I feel like I have been pregnant for about 14 years, so desperate am I to meet our daughter.

I also packed my bag for hospital and completely freaked out when I saw A) the enormous packs of maternity pads for the post-delivery bleeding that T bought me and B) the teeny tiny gro-suits and singlets our baby girl will be wearing in hospital.

Goodness! Let me finish this post here, before I start crying!

Hurry up, time!*

*This sentiment likely to change at any given moment, especially when I start questioning – again – if we are ready or not.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Are we ready?

We lifted up the cot mattress base thing this week.

It had been left down in its lower position ever since J slept in it, probably about 18 months ago.

Just seeing it up higher now, ready to accommodate a tiny swaddled peanut, brings reality a lot closer to home.

I know I keep going on about how real this is all becoming.

But pregnancy creates a funny state of mind, causing your emotions to flit from silly denial to steely preparedness, from “I can’t do this” to “yes, of course we can”.

Firstly, you feel as if you will be/have been pregnant A LONG TIME. Possibly forever.

And 10 months is a long time. If I could do the maths quickly in my mind right now, I am sure it would be the equivalent of 4098 days.

Or something.

And you are keenly anticipating the arrival of this new life. We can’t wait to meet her, see what she looks like, feel what impact she will have on our family. We say those things a lot, as we wonder and surmise. So time drags.

On and on. Turning those 10 months into 10 centuries in your mind.

Secondly, you start wondering if you are ready, if you can ever be ready, to be a parent to a newborn.

So what if we have done it before. Things will be very different this time around.

It’s my first baby, but the second in our family.

We have an almost four-year-old to consider.

So what if we have done the sensible, practical things, like get a new pram, stock up on nappies and raise the cot mattress.

Emotionally, are we ready?

And what sort of baby will she be? We have already done ourselves a massive disservice by starting (already!) to compare what she might be like to Jay (who is basically the perfect child).

“Well, we were so lucky with him, we are bound to cop it with a little prima donna diva princess with this one,” we tell ourselves. We are joking, but also shit-scared it might be true.

We really should stop putting that sort of sentiment out there. Poor little mite, cursed even before she pops out.

But then of course we realise that we felt the same things and asked the same questions just before J was born.

We got through. Some days it was a muddle, some days were bloody awful for T, but most days were funny, memorable, amazing and joyful.

Occasionally in the early days we would reminisce about our life before he was born and how we could do crazy things like sleep in, eat nothing but chips and gravy and lemonade and know subconsciously that every minute of every day could be filled with any activity of our choice.

And this week I realised, we will probably do the same thing after our girl is born.

These times with J will seem different, maybe easier, certainly quieter. But that goes to show how easily we adapted to life with him.

Of course we did. We had to – and we love him, so we were happy about the change.

Of course the same will happen again.

We also had a 3D scan of our baby a few weeks back. It was incredible. The cord was slightly in the way, so distorted some of the images.

Plus her nose looked squashed and enormously wide, prompting me to announce in the scan room that I would have to check our records to see if the donor was in fact African-American. But the radiographer assured me all baby noses looked like that.

Here are a few pics:

Naw. Be safe in there baby. See you soon. Sigh.