Saturday, May 21, 2016

Following

I turned thirty a couple months ago.

And if you assume that I learned to walk around the age of one, that means it took me nearly 29 years to realise something about myself and how I tend to walk through crowds...



Toff has always been mildly annoyed at how I tend to walk behind him instead of right along beside him. Unless we are actually holding hands, I typically walk one or two paces behind him when we go anywhere. I don't like to annoy him (okay, that's a lie, I do like to annoy him. What can I say, I have the maturity of an 8 year old child sometimes. But I don't like to be annoying without actively trying to be annoying. That's not my style.) So I started trying to pay attention to why I always fall behind. I even, on occasion, tried to walk in front of him for a change. And then something happens, and I look up, and he's back in front of me. Okay, not a problem, a few quick strides and I'm up beside him again. I hold his hand so I can stay beside him - remember, I'm trying not to annoy him and actually like walking beside him and holding his hand! And then, next thing ya know, I'm two paces back again. Curious.

This scenario has played out so often over the past six years, in so many different places and continents and countries. Secretly, I started to blame him, assuming that when I wasn't paying attention he just started walking faster on his long legs so that I always fell behind. Silly boy!

And then, one day I read one of those Life Hack articles. You know, the ones that tell you to put a pool noodle under the sheets of your kid's bed so they don't roll off in the night or gives you 1,000 uses for old cd cases and bull clips. So this particular article was about people and body language - if someone's feet are turned away from you they actually can't wait to leave the conversation, and if you try to remember someone's eye colour when you meet them you will be more likely to remember their name. And if you are walking through a crowd and keep bumping into people, look instead at the empty spaces to "carve" your path - people automatically move out of the way because they can see by your line of sight where you intend to go. Remember this particular fact for later.

Around the same time, I started seeing all these memes around about avoiding eye contact with people and just avoiding social interaction altogether.

And I thought, "hm, that doesn't sound like me at all!" I like people and being around them and generally talking to anyone that wants to talk to me ...and then something clicked.

Aha! Eureka! That's why I walk behind Toff!! You guys. Whenever I'm around people I make eye contact as often as possible. Whenever I am around people I look from face to face until I get someone to smile back at me. I can't help it (I've tried). What can I say?! I'm a social creature. Actually, come to think of it, my 9 month old does the same thing so that it takes the two of us three times as long to grocery shop because of all the people who stop to talk to her because she smiles at them! My social little 4 1/2 year old asks me every day who is coming over for dinner, and if the answer is "no one," he gets really, really bummed. And this little noise in my brain says, "hashtag: extrovert parent problems."



Sigh. I can't even explain to you just how contented I feel, having figured this all out. It feels so good. There is a reason I walk behind Toff!

So thank you, dear husband, for literally leading me through life so I can just bubble along, happily smiling at people - it's exactly where I like to be.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Home Birth


When I shared my birth story for Meg, aka Baby #2, I titled the post "How I Gave Birth in 2.5 hours." 

That is the entire time it took from my very first contraction to when I was actually holding a baby. In those two hours we managed to cram in a shower for Toff (we had no idea, at the time, that those two minutes could have been way more useful in getting me to the hospital!), a 40 minute car ride, a walk waddle across the entire hospital to the Maternity Ward while I stopped and hum/sang/moaned through each contraction, a very brief conversation with our midwife, Bet, as we met in the hallway, and then a few big pushes. The room was still half dark and the tap was still running to fill the birth tub - even up to the last second I still had no idea how fast this labour was going to be over and done with. The first sound Meg heard in her whole life was my laughter, because I just couldn't believe I was already holding a baby!

Anyways, that is all to tell you, just so you wouldn't be surprised - for our third baby we planned a home birth. No, we're not hard-core hippies. Yes, I think people who give birth with dolphins are crazy. I have nothing against hospitals, and had a good experience with the birthing centre at the hospital for both of our prior births. But I just didn't feel like giving birth in a car on the way to the hospital. Because if baby #3 came even a few minutes faster than baby #2, we weren't going to make it. And what if we had to get there during rush hour traffic? What if there was construction or an accident or anything at all that would delay us for even 5 minutes? We were just too worried that we wouldn't make it in time. 


Luckily, the public hospital in Adelaide that I had both of my first two babies at just began offering home births through their Southern Midwifery Group Practice.  And while we were sad that the midwife who delivered both Trip and Meg didn't do home births, we were super excited to learn that a friend of ours who lived locally did!! How perfect. I trusted her already, and was so excited to have her working with me through my pregnancy! All of our appointments (other than the ultrasound) were conducted at home - great news for someone with two toddlers! She would visit us, listen to the baby's heart beat, have a chat and even have time to play in the cubby house with the kids on occasion. Trip would ask, whenever she came to the door, "Are you here to get the baby out of Mummy's tummy?" and she would reply, "No, I'm not doing that! Your mum is!" an answer I found to be just so perfect. 

And she was a regular at the bakery too! So between visits I'd often run into her and get to ask any teeny questions I had while we both enjoyed a coffee. And if I didn't run into her when I had a question, it was incredibly likely that I would run into another midwife on her team, who was due with her second baby the same time I was! What a fabulous set up. What a wonderful, village style way to approach birth. I was so comfortable the whole time.



Trip and Meg listening to the baby's heartbeat <3


And then, plans changed a little bit. A few weeks before I was due, our midwife hurt her back. Bad enough so that now, almost a year later, she is still recovering. I was a little bummed, but mostly concerned for my friend! I knew she must be in a lot of pain to not even be able to work! But I still saw her at the bakery, and my "back up" midwife simply became my primary midwife, so that was okay. Then the stars really started to line up against us, and our back up midwife was away during my likely due date, so I was then given a "back up, back up" midwife. With all of these changes, and with the baby due any moment, Toff and I had some serious thinking to do. To continue with our planned home birth, knowing that it was likely we would potentially end up with someone delivering our baby whom we had never met before? Or to scrap this plan altogether, and just go up to the hospital? 



Laughing at myself because even maternity shirts were starting to get too small!

In both cases, we weren't going to be able to build a relationship with any of the midwives on the team - there just wasn't any more time! So we created a new plan - if my labour began with contractions only two minutes apart like my second birth, we would stay at home. If, however, my contractions started further apart (anywhere between 3-5 minutes) we would keep a bag packed and ready and head to the hospital! One of my favourite things about the home birth program through Flinders, was that if any of us were uncomfortable with anything at any point in the birth, we could just go to the hospital anyhow. It was a good plan, and one I was comfortable with. If we had to get to hospital, we weren't going to worry about driving - instead we would call the ambulance. The station is just around the corner from our house, and we know all of the drivers as they come into the bakery regularly.

My due date came and went. I was exhausted and getting bigger by the day. I don't have small babies - Trip was just under 9 lbs and Meg was just under 8! And judging by the size of my tummy, this one wasn't going to be  any smaller! I couldn't breathe for a nasty cold I picked up, and my heart burn meant I had to sleep on the couch sitting up (if I could sleep at all.)

Two weeks before my due date we got all dressed up to attend the
Telstra Business Awards that our bakery was a finalist in!

I was over it. So, so very over it. So we made an appointment with a lovely friend who does acupuncture, and he was so confident that we would have the baby after seeing him! "Of course," I joked, "if I don't go into labour before my appointment with you anyhow!"

And, of course, that is exactly how it happened.




Annabelle Charlotte, named first after my maternal grandmother, and also the town I grew up in (Charlottesville), arrived four days after her due date on August 4th, at 5am after only a two and a half hour labour.

For the first first hour of my labour Toff and I were alone in our house, as it took our midwives that long to get down there from where they live (another unfortunate event caused by our midwife situation - our original midwife could have been there within 5 minutes) and as my contractions got stronger and stronger, I warned Toff that he might have to deliver this baby himself. A scenario he wasn't quiiiiiite comfortable with. Luckily our midwives - we had two in attendance, one who we had only met once, and another we had never met at all, but who at least had done a home birth before - both walked through the door not long after.

In a magical turn of events, the big kids were both at Toff's mum's house for the night! Just like when Meg was born and Trip just happened to be at Jen's house for the night. What a magical place our bodies are! So full of wisdom. Our brand new au pair was sleeping in his bedroom next to the living room and says that he didn't hear a thing. (I think he must have been sleeping with headphones on - I wasn't quiet!) and our niece, Alyssa, was out sleeping in her shed-room. A friend who was going to come along with her camera didn't receive the message I sent, so in the end it was just me, Toff, and two midwives. For a birth that could have happened amidst all the crazy chaos of our always-full home, in the end it was quite quiet.

Although my labour was brief, it was intense. With contractions that start so fast and strong there is just no other way to describe it. We already had a birthing kit and an oxygen tank delivered from the hospital, and they were waiting in the corner until they were needed - but because neither midwife had packed the kit themselves they struggled to find things, and the oxygen tank took more brain-power to set up than anyone who has a woman clearly moments away from giving birth just two feet away would have available to them. As soon as I lay down and was finally able to push (one of the midwives told me to wait as they were still getting set up - which caused her to be on the receiving end of one of the meanest glares I could muster) but as soon as I finally lay down to push.... my pushing urge just stopped. The midwives were worried, which made Toff worry. And because I  had already retreated so far into myself, to wherever that magical place is we go to when something of big strength is required of us - I couldn't efficiently communicate to them that I wasn't pushing because I just couldn't! I wasn't worried, as I knew that when my body told me to push again, I would get that baby out! It's what I'm good at - potentially only because I have known my whole life that I would be good at it. But they didn't know that because they didn't know ME. So I gave up trying to explain all of this to them, closed my eyes, and just waited. And sure enough, my body told me to push again, so I did. And ignored the midwives as they said unhelpful things ("only push when you're having a contraction," yes, I know that! Thank you!) but did as I was told when they said helpful things ("crowning! Don't push!") and with one final, massive push that felt like it lasted a minute or more, we had a baby. And it was a girl, and she looked big but oh my was she gorgeous. She was so gorgeous. She took a big, deep breath and cried a little (what a marvellous sound! A human beings' first breath ever! Magic.) And I held her to my chest and I told her it was so nice to finally meet her. It was so nice. She was so gorgeous.



At some point I had to get up from the floor and the foam mats I was lying on, and get onto the couch. Such a strange feeling, to have to do that with absolutely no abdominal strength! Even with Toff's help it was still a strange, long ordeal.

We put our new baby on the scale, and even though we knew she looked big, we were all surprised when the scale read 4.4kgs (9lbs, 11oz)! That last pound was quite unnecessary, I told her.

One midwife sat at our table to finish all of the paperwork while the other cleaned up (not nearly as much mess as you would expect, actually), and Toff made us all a cup of tea. I sat on the couch by the fire and just snuggled and snuggled and snuggled our new little darling. Potentially the best part of having a home birth - resting in your own house and taking a shower in your own bathroom and not having to worry about putting a brand new baby into a car seat that inevitably looks too big and not nearly as comfy as Mom or Dad's arms.

Toff rang his mum so she could bring Trip and Meg over to meet their new sister. They were both absolutely amazed and Trip asked to hold her right away. Alyssa came in from the shed and was surprised to see that we were holding a baby!






Then everyone left. The house was quiet. Toff and I crawled into bed with our brand new baby and tried to sleep. Our next big adventure was just beginning.


And there were three!
Aged very-nearly-4, 2-and-a-half, and 1 week, respectively.
 





Epilogue:

Having a baby at home was a big decision. And, just like everything else baby-related, everyone has an opinion! Some people thought it was a terrible idea, and implored my parents to not let me have a home birth, some people thought it was a wonderful idea and wished they could have had done the same. It was a choice we made out of this particular situation, and looking back now - even with everything that went awry - I feel confident that we made the right choice. In different circumstances, with more time or a less than 40 minute commute, I might have chosen to go back to the birthing centre at Flinders, which gives you the comfort of being in a room that feels more like a suite and less like a surgery room, but with the emergency services just around the corner if needed. I am glad, though, that we were at home for this birth, as I feel that the midwives - who didn't know me at all - would have potentially called in "back up" because they were uncomfortable, when I knew that they weren't needed - but would have been unable to fight for what I wanted because I was so far "in the zone." In the end, we got a healthy baby, and that is all that matters. That's all that matters.



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Solo



Washing dishes tonight, I looked out my window and quickly realised that the beach was actually where I wanted to be. So I grabbed a beer and ran out the door, hoping I could make it to the beach in time to watch the sun set.

I did.




My house is empty tonight. Really empty. Just me, empty. My level of happiness with the solitude lasted long enough for me to enjoy my steak and potatoes dinner over the first half of an "okay" movie. Then I realised that I was alone and the house was quiet and there was no one to talk to.... and that's all just a bit boring for a girl who has lived with 4-8 people at every moment for the past six years. 


Toff is in the States right now on a 2 1/2 week boys trip. He's gone snowboarding and beer tasting and he has caught up with some of our very fantastic friends in America. I'm glad he got to go - I'm glad that he is the type of person who jumps at every opportunity he has to make his life a happy one, because his drive for happiness (not success, and not money) makes the fact that all I want from life is to be happy way easier to achieve. And sometimes happiness means that one of us needs to go away. We both agree it would be better to go together, but with three kids, right now this is just how we make it work.

So tonight, with Toff away and our Au Pair up in the city for his night off, and all three kids at Jen's house for the night - along with our "fourth kid" Alyssa who goes along too as Super Nanny to help because three kids under the age of 5 is a big task for one person to handle by themselves - I am alone. So I walk down to the beach with a rug and a beer and I catch just the last glimpses of a pink and gold sunset. There is one dolphin gliding through the smooth surface of the ocean every couple of minutes, and a family of tourists standing next to me taking photos and speaking not english. And I take my rug and walk down the beach, and as everyone else is packing up and leaving for the night because the best of the light show is over, I lie down and wiggle my fingers and toes and enjoy the specific softness of the cool end-of-day sand. 





I  enjoy my beer and the air around me and think of all the craziness of the past five years of baby plus baby plus baby plus bakery plus bakery plus bakery plus bakery plus bakery. It's been such a wild ride. And I think of everything I have to be grateful for in my life. Oh my gawsh is there a lot. I think of all the good people in my life and how beautiful a place it is I live in. And I start to think of some ideas for how to make this next year easier than the last - because for almost a year now I feel that Toff and I have been in "survival mode" where yeah, we're coping okay, but we need more from this life than to just cope with it. So I create a few ideas of how to change that in my head, and I breathe in the deep, salty sea air and watch how the water stays this liquid gold after the sun is already out of sight and I walk to the water's edge and enjoy the feeling of the cold water as it washes slowly to my toes and away again.

And then, casually scratching at a tiny itch on my tummy, a raisin falls out of my shirt.