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But Hang On, Where’s My Epidural?

birth story

On the morning of my 38 week obstetrician appointment I woke up at 7am with an overwhelming urge to drop the kids off at the pool [my gen Y sister told me about that saying!]. While on the toilet, I noticed some bleeding which I recognized to be my ‘show’.  Fortuitously, Mark had taken that very day off for us to finalise the nursery so I bounded out and gave him a blow by blow account of my morning so far…at which point I felt a tightening across my swollen abdomen. Did I say swollen? Forgive me, I meant ENORMOUS. I had gained 20 kilos so far [contrary to more lies about the average woman only gaining 12 kilos during pregnancy]. In the time that it took me to explain, in great detail, what my show looked like, I’d had another tightening. Hmmm… these seem to be regular? Let’s time them. Hon, am I doing this right? Wow. I think this baby may come today. Put on the kettle hon, and I’ll just call the hospital [as my birthing classes had told me].

“Hello, it’s Tania P speaking. I’m actually not booked in for another couple of weeks but I woke up half an hour ago and had a poo and had some blood which I think was my show and now I’m getting this strange tightening which I THINK might be contractions, so my husband’s making me a cup of tea but I just thought I should touch base with you” I remember my voice had a sort of ‘lilt’ to it.

“Yes Tania, that all sounds great. How far apart did you say those tightening were?”

“Well they WERE every four minutes, but now they’re every three – that’s right isn’t it hon?” I’m practically singing by now… because I’m thinking – I can do this EASY.

Silence.

“Tania, how far away from the hospital are you?”

“About 20 minutes in peak hour, which it is right now – why?”

“I’d like you to come in straight away” the midwife’s voice took on an almost unnatural calm and I vaguely remember wondering why she was speaking to me like a mental patient.

“Ok, well I have an appointment there at 2.15 anyway so I’ll finish my cup of tea, get organised and come on in”

“No Tania, just grab your essentials and come now. We’ll be waiting for you.”

So, I call mum and tell her the entire story of the morning and that I’ll be heading into the hospital soon and then head for my shower [maybe I was skipping?] and it is just as I have stripped naked that I am hit with the most excruciating pain I had felt [so far] in my life. I fall to the floor on all fours and scream a guttural cry that I had read only native women had ever used. Mark runs in and is terrified by the sight he is facing which is, a naked, 80 kilo woman on all fours with bed hair and a massive distended abdomen skimming the tiles screaming like an animal.

In this time my mum has called back to tell me that she had a dressing gown for me and would I like to pick it up on the way. She is surprised when I come to the phone, hysterical, but is calm when she tells me “it’s OK Tan, you can do it and I’ll see you at the hospital”. IT’S OK TAN. The f*ck it is.

I CRAWL to the bedroom and put on whatever I had discarded onto the floor from the night before. I still have bed hair, sleep in my eyes and furry teeth when I get into the car to face the peak hour traffic on the way to the hospital.  And here’s where the fun really starts.

Our chosen hospital was a private hospital which resembles a 5 star hotel. It has a cafe at the entrance which at 8.40 in the morning was full of gorgeous and fresh interns, doctors and nurses. Mark pulls up OUT THE FRONT of that café, puts on the hazards and helps me out of the car. I am unable to walk properly due to the almost heart stopping contractions which are coming every one and half a minutes. So my gait is not dissimilar to an ape. Nor is my face. Gorgeous doctors are looking.

In my memory they may have even been pointing and gasping as the receptionist RUNS out of the hospital with a wheelchair and yells, dramatically ‘we’ve got a pusher!’

child birth

I’m feeling better from the moment I’m through those doors and comforted further as two midwives meet me in the lobby [yes, it’s a LOBBY] and one wheels me, while the other wheels a trolley chock full of every medical supply you would need. I find it weird that the birthing suite is clearly ‘BYO’ [I found out later it was in case they needed to deliver my baby in that very same lobby, outside the café with the gorgeous people] but I don’t ask. I can’t ask. I can’t speak. I just groan. A LOT.
We finally get into the suite and they get me out of the wheelchair and on to the bed. Bottoms off and baby monitor strapped onto my belly at which point, I remember my birthing class advice and say “I’ll have my epidural now”. Midwife #1 steals a glance across my belly at Midwife #2 and then says ever so gently “Oh darling, your baby’s coming now”. WHAT THE F*CK???

At this stage I start to panic. BIG TIME. The pain is excruciating. It feels like my body is being torn apart from the inside out. They offer me gas. Gas. Whatever. I have the mouth piece and I make that bastard sing… for what it’s worth which is not much. The pain is so bad, so unnaturally excruciating that I’m sure there’s something wrong. I’m convinced in fact. No-one, NO-ONE, ever told me it would hurt THAT much and that quickly. Where was my 8 hour labour that came in stages? And why did no-one tell me that it is even harder to not push than push?

No-one broke it down and said it feels like you’re DYING. And you know, to this day, women keep telling that lie! When I break out my birth story, in all its glorious detail, in a group of women to an expectant mother, they gather together and try to shut me down. Shushing me like a gaggle of geese. “Don’t scare her!” “Don’t tell her that, it’s not THAT bad” “Why would you SAY that??” Really girls? Because it’s the TRUTH!!! It’s terrifyingly painful. It feels like you can’t go on. It feels like you couldn’t possibly survive such a traumatic experience. You are weak with exertion and screaming with fear and pain. That is what having a baby is like for a lot of women. Did I forget the moment I held my gorgeous new son in my arms? F*ck no. I still had to deliver the placenta and THEN I had to be stitched up because I needed to be cut and I needed to be cut because that HOLE IS NOT BIG ENOUGH!!!!

So, from go to whoah my labour took about 2 hours. I woke at 7.00am facing a normal day and Nathan was born at 9.40am. No cups of tea, no relaxing in the bath, no back rubbing, no breathing, no epidural. Stefan came much the same way.

Dear first-time, expectant mum, I am not really trying to scare you. Having my sons was the greatest thing I have ever done in my life. The entire, uncomfortable journey of pregnancy and childbirth IS miraculous and exhilarating and awe inspiring. It is, unquestionably, worth every bit of it. But it hurts and it’s scary and I’m fortunate that my story doesn’t include the need for other scary things like cesareans and needles the length of your forearm in your spine and breach babies and prem births etc, etc. I just think if you HEAR real life stories from real women who are honest and brutal in their account, and you head into your 38th week expecting the worst… then anything better than that may just make it not terrifying. Maybe bearable. Perhaps even wonderful.

So to break it down, my top ten bits of real advice:

  1. Ask for an epidural at 38 weeks
  2. Pack a camera [disposable if need be] in your hospital bag
  3. Have something gorgeous to wear on hand wherever you are so you’re not mistaken for a gorilla on arrival
  4. Don’t bother with that cup of tea if you’re having cramps every 4 minutes
  5. Prepare your partner to see you begging, screaming, crying and in excruciating pain. I have found so many partners did not expect to be affected by seeing a person they love so much in so much pain, without being able to help
  6. If you’re pushing, getting the head out is the worst. Go hard and listen to your midwives. It really does sting but the shoulders are easier and then you’re done. Except for the placenta. But that’s a walk in the park comparatively.
  7. If you find yourself without an epidural [makes my eyes water just thinking about it], then take the gas. It barely took the edge off for me, but it did help me to ‘not push’ which the midwives may ask of you
  8. Don’t bother to ask your obstetrician to ‘sew the whole thing up’ while they’re down there ‘cause you won’t need it anymore… take it from me, they won’t do it
  9. Pack something alcoholic in your hospital bag. At least one of you will want a drink after that baby comes out
  10. Be prepared to fall in love… but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen the moment they put your just-born, screaming, covered in blood and goo baby on your chest, still attached to the umbilical cord. It may take a minute for you to catch your breath x

 

This post originally appeared at Seventies Baby – a gloves-off perspective of womanhood, parenting and modern family life in a world obsessed with being perfect and politically correct. It has been republished with full permission.

You can (and should!) follow the blog on Facebook here.

 

TOP 20: Hospital Bag Essentials

Hospital bag essentials

Have you noticed how many ‘lists’ there are doing the social media rounds lately? With so many to choose from, sometimes it’s hard to know which list is right for you.

Well at ABB, we value what our community has to say. We ask and we engage and we listen. We’ve put together a top 20 list which we have compiled from real mums. Some first timers, some veterans but ALL sensible and helpful. You may recognise some of these suggestions as your own and some of these may surprise you. Whatever the case, if you’re expecting, print it out and put it on your fridge as a go-to.

Our mums have told us what they couldn’t do without and we’re sharing the love.

1. Ural
Have you ever experienced a urinary tract infection? It’s horrendous. It feels like you’re weeing broken glass and Ural is your best defence. I suggest you start drinking it straight after you meet your baby.

2. Magazines
It’s likely that you may never read one cover to cover [ever again, in fact] but there’s a chance that you will have a moment to yourself and be interested in something OTHER than the new beautiful little life you’ve just created. It’s also great for visitors who may wish to avert their eyes distract themselves as you’re trying to get your baby to ‘latch-on’ to your enormous, engorged breasts.

3. Lollies
You’ll be KNACKERED and the sugar hit will help you out, particularly during labour.

4. Range of clothes for bub
It seems that many a mum has been caught off guard with a baby that was bigger/smaller than they expected. Most hospitals do actually provide little baby gowns [which is what I kept both of mine in until I left – so much easier than getting them in and out of tiny outfits] but lots of mums like to dress their little one in their own gear right from the get go.

5. Nice body wash
Make no mistake, child birth is incredibly traumatic on your body, irrespective of HOW you birthed. A little luxury when you’re alone in the shower is very, very welcome. Of course, just being alone in the shower will become its very own luxury once your baby comes home!

6. Maternity pads
Hospitals will provide you with maternity pads and you will DIE when you see them. They are enormous and incredibly uncomfortable. They also do not have any adhesive, or fancy wings, so they tend to move around in your [gigantic] knickers. You’ll want to use them for the first 24 hours ’cause it’s quite likely you’ll bleed like there’s no tomorrow, but once you’re up and about you’ll probably want something slightly smaller than a mattress between your legs.

7. Your own pillow
This was a popular suggestion and one I wish I had done myself! Hospital pillows look clean and fluffy but they sound like they’re full of potato chips. They are NOISY. If you can pack your own, it’s a good idea.

8. Big knickers
Pack lots. We’re talking huge. If you’ve had a natural birth then everything ‘down there’ is sore, swollen and possibly even held together by stitches. If you’ve had a c-section then your abdomen is tender and you’re definitely held together by stitches. On top of all the discomfort you bleed A LOT and need enormous pads so the bigger the knickers, the better. Think Bridget Jones.

9. Lansinoh
This is an absolute MUST in my [and many of our mums] books. Breastfeeding is not easy and many, many women even find it too difficult to persevere with due to the pain it causes. Lansinoh is pure lanolin which provides almost instant relief to ravaged traumatised nipples and is so pure that it does not need to be removed prior to breastfeeding. Which is important because you do not want to be wiping your nipples. You won’t even want to dry them after a shower. Air dry and Lansinoh. You’ll thank us later.

10. Front opening tops
Breastfeeding is tricky enough without having to navigate your clothes. Having button through or zip up tops make access to the breasts sooo much easier. Pack a few though ‘cause you’ll almost definitely leak milk onto at least two of them and old milk, even your own, is not nice to sleep in.

11. A few pairs of pants

Whether you’re in pyjamas all day or dressed, it’s sensible to pack a few pairs of pants. The likelihood of you bleeding through your gigantic knickers and maternity pads is HIGH and no-one wants to be THAT girl on the maternity ward with blood on the back of her pants.

12. Slippers
Well you don’t want to be walking around the hospital in bare feet and you’re probably not going to want to wear shoes.

13. Phone/camera AND charger
You think you take a lot of photos now. Wait until you’re a mum. It feels like you live your life through a camera lens. If you’re bringing in your phone and/or digital camera, make sure you’ve got your charger too. There’s nothing worse than going to catch that priceless moment only to discover your battery has run out!

14. Lip balm
The air-conditioning in hospital is nightmare on the lips and you do sooooo much kissing of that new little baby that your lips need some extra loving.

15. Hand cream
You’ll do a lot of handwashing and you’ll want your hands to be soft ’cause you won’t be able to stop touching your baby!

16. Dummies [if you’re into them]
Some say ‘no’ some say ‘hell yeah’! If you’re a mum who’s into dummies, pack them. The hospital won’t have any.

17. Toilet paper!!
Surprisingly, this was one of our most popular suggestions! Even though you may panic at the thought, you WILL need to go and nice, soft toilet paper will help your visits. Lots of mums also suggested taking a pack of those flushable wipes. Both are a good idea and trust me, you’ll want to be kind to your southern regions after what you’ve been through.

18. Hair ties
From the feedback we received, it looks like lots of our mums got caught out fighting with their hair during labour! Pack some hair ties to keep your hair off your face. They’re also handy to move from wrist to wrist as a reminder of which breast your baby last fed on. Oh don’t worry, you will forget and you’ll be grateful for the tip!

19. Snacks
We all know about hospital food but even if you like it, it’s not enough for a breastfeeding mum… and, contrary to what the media bangs on about, now is NOT the time to be thinking about losing your baby weight. Bring some snacks you can either keep in your drawer or the fridge. Nuts, soft cheese [how much did you miss that?] crackers, fruit, chocolate, chips, etc. You’ll be surprised how hungry you get and especially when you’re starving at 3 o’clock in the morning. Pack any sp

ecialty tea bags you may like as well. I can’t live without my Twinings Earl Grey tea so I packed a box of them and the cafe on the ground floor took care of my coffee needs.

20. Disposable camera
This is actually something I wished I had done. My first son came early and I didn’t have the camera packed and my phone was almost dead so we didn’t have any photos of when he first came into the world. I tell everyone to just put one of those disposable cameras in their bag JUST IN CASE you’re caught totally off-guard.

So there it is! Our top 20 Hospital Bag MUST-HAVES!  

What about you? Did you have something you just couldn’t live without? How about something you wished you’d packed?

 

10 Parenting Rules – and I broke them all

cosleeping with my firstborn

Confession.

I was one self-righteous, know-it-all bitch Before Children [BC]. It’s true. I knew it ALL. Anything wrong with a kid? It’s their mum’s fault. Sometimes their dad’s. But mainly mum… because she CHOSE the dad after all. In my, far from humble, opinion parents were entirely responsible for everything their kids did, thought, said and broke.

And I knew WHY. Those parents didn’t FOLLOW THE RULES. There are rules in parenting that will guarantee a perfect child. Simple rules that I would often remind parents, even when they hadn’t asked, to help them. To guide them. To fix their brat.

Rules I swore to myself I would uphold. As the perfect parent embarking on raising the perfect child. *Insert wild, unhinged laughter here.

#1 – I will not use a dummy

It took me less than a week to let go of that one. Oh sweet, sweet dummy. How I loved the feel of you in my hand as I groped in the bassinet next to the bed under the blanket of darkness in the dead of the night to plug the screaming hole of my first born son. I brought a packet of them to hospital when my second son was born. I BEGGED him to take it. I tried every shape and size, even coating them in breast milk to TRICK HIM INTO SUCKING IT. Be careful what you wish you for. Turns out with number two I WAS the dummy. Take that you pious bitch.

#2 – My child will never sleep in the same bed as me

It’s the second night of my life as a new mum and the midwife offers to take my screaming newborn to the nursery with all the other babies so I can get some sleep. ‘Ok’ I said as I watched her wheel him out of my room, ripping my heart out as she did. He was gone 15 minutes before I went to get him. This is how Mark found me when he got to the hospital in the morning. I promised myself it was just to get us through that one night.

Ahem. You know that feeling when you haven’t slept for 3 months and you’ve got up so many times in the night that you can’t remember putting the baby back to bed… where is the baby?? Did I feed him last time or just change his nappy? Did I feed on both boobs, or the same one twice? Why is he crying? Shhhhhh… rock, rock…. shhhhhhh… rock, rock…. shhhhhh rock, rock. Oh forget it, just lay next to me. THAT was how I broke rule #2 at home. And how, 8 years later, I simply just move over when I hear the sound of my 5 year old’s bare feet padding down the hall to my room in the middle of the night. He’s warm and cuddly. It gets a bit crowded when the 8 year old joins us every now and then, but I don’t turn him away either. Still feeling smug Tan?

#3 – I will not ‘pick my battles’. Every battle is worth it… and they need to learn that I’m the boss

Aahahahahahahaha. Ow, my sides are splitting. Dear BC TAN. You were an idiot. There are sooo many battles that have never been fought, won or lost here. Yes, you can wear your swim rashy on top of your jumper because it matches your rubber boots to the shop. Why not? Yes, you can take every teddy bear you own to bed because they will be sad without you tonight. Of course. No, you don’t have to eat the toast that I accidentally cut into triangles instead of squares. I understand it doesn’t taste the same. Just don’t cross me at bed time. That’s not negotiable. Most of the time.

#4 – I will not use food as currency to bribe my child

Well… what kind of values does that teach? I never understood the power of a promised [insert biscuit/yoghurt squeezy/ice-block/cupcake/smiley-face biscuit here] to ‘encourage’ a wilful kid to do just about anything really. Parenting Tip: carrying around any number of those bribes in your oversized handbag can make or break a public outing.

#5 – I will only feed my child organic, additive-free food

What?? Best intentions and all that…. My kids actually eat well. I’ve been pretty good at keeping their diet healthy. Additive-free is a stretch though and only organic? I’d have to take out a second mortgage to pull that one off. I have fed them McDonalds too. Oh the shame….

#6 – I will limit my child’s television viewing to no more than 30 mins per day

Oh don’t look at me like that. How was I to know that I would do anything to have an uninterrupted telephone conversation or cook dinner without tiny ‘helping’ hands or do a poo on my own or just sit and be quiet?? And with the new ABC stations there’s ALL DAY kids shows WITHOUT COMMERCIALS. The cheapest babysitting you’ll ever find. And you get to have a perve-fest on Sportacus. Eye candy eating sports candy… hmmmmm.

#7 – I will not ‘give in’ to my child’s constant nagging for something at the supermarket cash register

Unless I’m on my own with the kids and everyone looking has a grimace/scowl/frown/look of pain or pity on their faces. Oh wait. That’s every time.

#8 – My house will always be spotless… because that’s all I have to do. Look after my child and clean my house. Easy.

Yes, I’m shaking my head in disbelief too. One time while the tv was babysitting so I could enjoy one of my uninterrupted phone conversations, my, single, super-neat friend said to me “I spent all morning cleaning and my floors are so spotless you could eat off them” I looked around in despair and replied “You could eat off mine too… ‘cause that’s where all the fucking food is”

#9 – I will never yell at my child. Yelling is just a loss of control reserved for incapable mums

Yes. I was deluded. I yell at the tv when someone’s annoying. I yell at bad drivers on the road and cyclists who forget that they’re sharing the road with bad drivers. I yell at my mum, my sister, my brother, my husband. I yell at the PLAYROOM when it’s in a mess. I yell at weeds when I pull them out and the root breaks off and stays in the fucking ground. I yell at my cupboard if I’m out of coffee. How the hell I thought I would EVER not yell at my kids, who drive me insane, still astounds me. I yell. They look alive. I buy myself 2 minutes peace. They go back to whatever it is. It’s a loud, predictable dance.

#10 – My child will not dictate my schedule. They will fit into my life, not the other way around

Oh.. shut up.

This post originally appeared at Seventies Baby – a gloves-off perspective of womanhood, parenting and modern family life in a world obsessed with being perfect and politically correct. It has been republished with full permission.

You can (and should!) follow the blog on Facebook here.

 

The Truth About Milestones

parenting advice
I’m at a kid’s party. Lot of mums are there. Mums with babies. In slings. In their arms. Sitting at their feet on the floor. I make my way over and say hi to one of them. Gush over their baby a little bit and tell them how cute they are. I ask how old their baby is. And the flood gates open up. “They’re 9 months old, but they look older because they’re on the 90th percentile for weight. They should be crawling by now but they just can’t seem to get it. What age did yours crawl by?” I look at her like a deer in the headlights. I can’t remember.

My sons are 6 and 8 years old. I can’t remember when they crawled. I know they both walked at 12 months. They talked at different times. Rolled at different times. Sat up at different times. One slept through the night and the other one NEVER has. Both natural births at 38 weeks. Both breastfed. One came out of me talking and the other one took aaaaages. One had a dummy and the other one refused, no matter how much I begged him.

I was totally consumed with every milestone of my sons’ infancy and toddlerhood. I knew where they sat on the spectrum of development at any time and furtively watched other kids their age at parks and parties and kindergym. Comparing. Sometimes quietly smug that my kid was doing so much better than the others. Sometimes aghast that everyone else’s kid was doing so much better than mine. It’s a terrible stressful time during which I judged my own performance as a parent by the weekly and sometimes daily [‘cause it happens that quickly when they’re babies] achievements of my kids. I remember the time but I don’t remember the details and I don’t remember the details because, here’s the thing… THEY. DON’T. MATTER.

Don’t get me wrong. Milestones are important for broad monitoring of whether or not there is an underlying learning disability or developmental delay for your baby. And if your child is repeatedly not reaching any of them and you have a feeling in your gut that something’s not right, take them to your GP or paediatrician or Child & Youth Health. But guess what? If your kid is just not keeping up here and there with the mothers’ group kids, it’s ok. And I say ‘it’s ok’ because I know that to be true.

Dear new mum, all that stuff that’s consuming you is not going to matter once your little one is in school. I don’t expect you to listen to me, I certainly didn’t when other mums told me, but it’s my duty to tell you nonetheless.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Trust your instincts and if they’re a bit fuzzy, DON’T turn to the kids you see in the playground to measure your child[ren] by. Every kid truly is different and let me tell you why. It’s because every mum is different.

So little Johnny didn’t roll at the same time as little Sammy. How important do you really think that’s going to be when they’re in the class room together? Little Kylie could count months earlier than little Sophie but that doesn’t mean she’s going to be a maths whiz in grade 5.

I know this all to be true but I still have to give myself this same advice even today. Drawing on what I know from my time as a mum to babies and toddlers I have to stop myself when I become obsessed with whether or not my child is at the same level as everyone else right now. I tell myself to take a step back and not get caught up in the school mum hype. It’s not easy but luckily I have friends with kids who are older than mine and they keep it real for me too. It’s a vicious cycle of self-doubt, comparison and judging but take it from me it’s not the stuff that matters.

The stuff that I DO remember involves a warm baby’s head nuzzling in my neck. I remember the feeling of joy I had when my boys took their first steps. I remember the sweetness in my heart when I heard them first say ‘Mum’. I remember the laugh in my belly when I first saw them clap their hands. I remember love.

But milestones? Sorry. No idea.

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