CAT NAPPING – Is not the practice of stealing cats. Oh no. This is the incredibly frustrating habit of many a young baby. Tom is kind of an expert in not sleeping longer than one sleep cycle during the day. Ever. Unless he’s permanently attached to my boob which, you know, is kind of annoying. And so I set out on a mission to ABOLISH THE CAT NAP. I bring you this special report below…
Good day readers. I am reporting to you from BEHIND ENEMY LINES: the deep and dark recesses of the baby nursery. This reporter is currently situated under the cot, out of baby’s line of vision. One does not move for fear of waking the baby.
Mission: To abolish cat naps. Specifically to get baby to sleep for longer than one sleep cycle (roughly 40 minutes). So far all attempts at abolishing cat naps have failed. But not today. Mummy is taking charge.
It began with the usual. I watched Tom like a hawk for signs of being tired, so as to avoid the dreaded “I’m-so-overtired-I’m-just gonna-cry-and-wriggle-and-scream-until-I fall-in-a-heap-of-exhaustion-and-you-have-to-hold-me-the-whole-time-and-you-can’t-eat-or-drink-or-shower-sucker!” theme we’ve been running with for the last 14 weeks. He was fed, watered, nappy changed. Happily playing on his mat, cooing at me while I sang the words “I’m so hungry” to the tune of “I’m so sexy.” (I haven’t slept in awhile. Don’t judge me.) A nap was imminent, he’d be getting tired soon. Any minute now…
BAM! HE’S RUBBING HIS EYES! GO, GO, GO! Swaddle, dummy, white noise app (ocean sounds – delightful), a little rock & cuddle until I saw the first eye droop. Then kissed him on the forehead, dropped the kid in his cot and bailed. This is the easy part… He settled quickly (we’ve been practicing this bit.) I was guaranteed 40 or so minutes before the first sleep cycle was finished.
Right. PRIORITIES. I was in the Green Zone. Toilet. Coffee. Food. Put laundry on… Briefly played with the idea of hanging some laundry out, but my time is too precious, so I laughed and bundled that shit in the dryer. A shower… Regrettably postponed until later. I need to be ready for when the sleep cycle ends. Chucked some vomit-stained clothes on and waited. Step one of the mission complete.
Almost exactly 40 minutes after I first put him down, I hear a baby cry out. STEP 2 COMMENCE! GO, GO, GO!
I quickly worked my way back into enemy territory. Tom looked up at me with red, tired eyes and a gummy smile. Damn it. He wants to play…. Aww he’s so cute… NO! I gently but firmly popped that dummy back in, rolled him onto his side and patted his bum. Almost immediately his eyes began to droop again… YES! Except no, because he wants to fight sleep. I desperately tried to avoid making eye contact with him, so as to not distract him. In my peripheral vision I see him trying to twist his head to look back up at me and smile behind his dummy. Don’t look… Don’t look… Don’t look… Damn it. I looked. I can’t help but smile back. He knows my weaknesses. I CANNOT let the enemy win.
THIS IS WAR.
Time to amp it up. I stroke the bridge of his nose. Little sucker closes his eyes immediately. Ocean sounds are still playing. He starts to breathe deeply. All is peaceful. I back out of the room slowly with ninja-like precision… Quite chuffed with my awesome sleep inducing abilities. I’m almost out. I begin to self-congratulate. And then 2 steps from the Green Zone and the fucking postwoman arrives.
It was like it happened in slow motion. I could hear the growl and screech of her motorcycle get closer. She paused at next doors mailbox before revving up the engine again. I looked frantically around for Otis, knowing that he will bark his head off as the postwoman approaches. A flurry of dog hair is the only clue he was even in the room. Oh shit… Cue hysterical barking down the hallway. FUCK!
Baby immediately drops dummy. His eyes still closed as he frantically moves his head from side to side looking for it. I’m torn. Do I scream blue murder at the dog and try to shut him up? Or return the dummy to its rightful place? (Dummy. The answer is always the dummy.) As soon as it reenters his mouth, his eyes fly open and I drop to the floor like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. I watch his reflection in the wardrobe mirror as he sleepily closes his eyes again. YES!
I wait a few minutes to let him get back to sleep before I attempt to commando crawl my way out of the room (which after almost a year since any form of real exercise was fucking mission in itself.) Almost at Green Zone. Freedom is so close, I can smell it. And then I hear it. The dummy dropped out of his mouth again. CRAP! I stood up with alarm and ran back to the cot to reinsert the dummy. His eyes are still closed but he’s taking longer to settle this time, some more bum patting and forehead stroking required. Every time I went to leave, my old rickety bones would click or the door would creek and he would stir. So I sat on the floor, just in case he reawaken and I be required to continue this charade.
And then I had a desperate need to cough. I’ve spent most of the week overcoming a bout of tonsillitis and an annoying persistent cough. It filled my throat and chest. I suppressed it for as long as I could. Really. My face turned red as I held my breath and then my cough escaped in a short, sharp burst of phlegm. Disgusting as well as disheartening.
Tom’s eyes flew open and I shimmied under the cot and that is where I remain, lest he notice me again. And that dear readers, is where I spent the next 40 minutes, for he finally stayed asleep. And while in essence, he technically slept for a total of 80 minutes (though not together), the whole charade took somewhere in the vicinity of 2 hours. As I wasn’t able to use the time to indulge in luxuries such as a shower, it was not quite a rolling success.
But hear this! I resettled a baby that regularly fights sleep in the cot! Only parents of newborn babies can fully appreciate that little victory. And while catnaps have not yet been abolished, we live to see another day. Since he woke up happy, I figure I can claim this battle as a victory. BUT THE WAR ISN’T OVER. And Mummy will win Tom. Mummy always wins.
It was only 11 weeks ago my little ear muffed watermelon entered the world. And in that time I have struggled. It is so much harder than I ever anticipated. I’ve touched on it in other posts but I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate it until they’ve done it. As always, there’s a bunch of stuff I wish I had known before having a baby that might have made the first few months a bit easier. So if I was to write a letter to myself pre-baby, this is what it’d look like.
Dear Past Jen,
Congratulations! You are about to meet the most beautiful boy in the whole world. He will be tiny and smell delicious and his smile will melt your cold, cynical soul and turn you into a big softy. He will be the best thing that ever happened to you and your heart will burst with love for your little family.
But it won’t feel like it all the time. Sometimes, it will feel really, really bad; and you will be certain that you’ve made a mistake and that maybe you aren’t very good at this whole mothering thing. And sometimes those feelings will be so overwhelming you will cry and run away from a lunch date with a very good friend because your baby is screaming for no apparent reason and you can’t handle it. So you take your baby home only for him to fall asleep peacefully in the car while you remain hungry and lonely. That will be a really crap day.
Don’t worry though, they’re not all crap days. And there are things that will make the crap days easier. You won’t know what they are of course so you’ll feel like you’re spiralling out of control, but lucky future you is here to save the day. Here’s some advice that will help you enjoy the first 3 months of your son’s life a lot more. (Oh yeah, you had a boy. SURPRISE!)
DON’T let other people make you feel bad about how often you feed your baby. Demand feeding is exactly how it sounds. It’s on demand. And some babies want it all the time. Your baby will be one of these. Every 2 hours, most days. This will be the bane of your existence for the first couple of months until you just accept that he feeds frequently. And people will say things like “Oh shit, you’re feeding him again?” or “He’s a hungry boy isn’t he?” or “Have you tried formula instead? It might stretch the feeds out a bit longer?” or “Didn’t you like just feed him? Have you tried routine feeding? 2 hourly is too often, maybe try 3?” These questions will make you seethe. And in your head you will say something like the following: “Yes bystander, I did just feed him, but thank you for drawing attention to that fact. What would I do if you weren’t there to point out the tiny person gnawing my nipples off? Kindly fuck off with your comments. I know I’m feeding him often and actually, I don’t always enjoy it. But if he’s screaming blue murder 2 hours after last being fed, I’m not going to stretch him out for an hour in the interest of creating a fucking routine, for my sanity as much as his comfort.” Because there is nothing more cutting to the soul than hearing your baby cry.
Demand feeding is hard because often the most demanding times are when you want to shower, eat or sleep. Especially sleep. While 2 hourly feeding (day and night) is an absolute mindfuck and makes you literally insane, be happy in the knowledge that you are providing a secure attachment for your baby and creating a contented little soul. (Most of the time.) And it won’t last forever. While at 2am, breastfeeding feels like the loneliest job in the world, the first time you get more than 3 hours sleep in a row feels like winning the lottery. You’ll be euphoric and break out in a shimmy before abruptly stopping because your boobs are so full they’re slapping together painfully. And one night, he’ll sleep 6 hours straight and then do it the next night and then suddenly you’re a routine that works for your baby and everyone is happy. Until he changes it up again because he’s an unpredictable little monster.
Also buy a breast pump earlier, so other people can feed him while you sleep. You don’t have to do it all, even though you feel like you do. This is advice you’ll ignore but I feel like I should at least say it once so you consider it.
DO YOUR RESEARCH ON BABY CARRYING. Some people would have you believe that all babies do is eat and sleep and that this is somewhat easy and achievable. They’re lying or talking about some magical, mythical, unicorn baby that only exists in stories. Some fight sleep. Your baby is one of these. People will often comment on how “alert” he is. This word will make you want to punch said people in the face. Your baby will be a sucker for cuddles and looking into your eyes ALL THE TIME. Which is beautiful and sweet and sometimes really fucking annoying. It makes doing anything for yourself impossible. You go hungry, you don’t shower and your bladder is always full. Until you buy a baby carrier and your life dramatically changes for the better. If you had prepared for this baby properly, you would have already known the benefits of baby wearing. You’d buy a wrap or sling which essentially just simulates the womb for your little one and they fall asleep in a matter of minutes, leaving your hands free for other things like brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea. Instead you will pull your hair out for 6 weeks (Figuratively, of course. You don’t have any free hands.) because your baby cries whenever he’s put down and you think you have to hold him all the time. Then you pop him in a Hug-a-Bub wrap carrier and he promptly clings on like a koala and falls asleep. You will weep with joy. (After weeping with frustration figuring out how to put the damn thing on. You need to be some sort of fucking contortionist and will almost certainly pop your shoulder out assembling it, but it will be so worth it.) You’ll wear it everywhere – and it’s given you peace of mind for venturing outside the house. You will totally nail baby-wearing.
HOWEVER. When you go to the airport and are suitably kitted up in your wrap with the little guy sleeping against your chest, the security guard will ruin everything by making you disassemble the wrap to walk through the metal detector, even though it is literally one single piece of material. Like wearing an extra shirt. You point out this fact to the guard who says he sympathises but you still have to take it off. Then he says “don’t worry you can put him back in it after you walk through.”
Uh pardon, Mr Security Guard? Have you ever tried to put one of these fucking things on, let alone attempt to take it off? You need 2 hands, a mirror and an endless amount of time and patience if you’re doing it properly. There’s nowhere to put a baby down on the other side of the X-ray machine, plus you’re now down one hand because you have to carry your baby, not to mention the 2 pieces of luggage you’re taking on board with you. The whole point of wearing the wrap was to avoid this very problem. Plus your baby is now awake and crying and they’re calling your flight to board. Fuck you, Mr Security Guard. Fuck you. (This is just the first of a series of bad events at airports including multiple poonami’s, but don’t worry these stories provide excellent fodder for future blog posts.)
So for travelling, you would do best to buy a carrier that’s more user friendly and assembles quickly. Like an Ergobaby. This will become your favourite baby item (closely followed by the Love to Dream Swaddle and the Sound Sleeper white noise app, for those playing at home.) Which brings me to say don’t travel with a newborn on your own if you can possibly avoid it. While everything will be fine, the anxiety you experience will age you about 12 years. Don’t be surprised if you have a full head of grey hair before your 30th birthday.
JOIN A MOTHER’S GROUP. You’ll wish you did it earlier. While friends and family are wonderful, there is nothing quite like bonding with other mothers who are experiencing the same thing as you and who totally get how hard it is. (Though some of them don’t have it hard at all. Some of those women have those magic babies that sleep 12 hours straight and never cry. And you will agonise over that and be sure you’re doing something wrong, because your baby wakes 3 times most nights and screams when anyone that’s not you holds him. But you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s all good.) And yes, pre-baby you thinks a mothers group is a totally lame idea, but you will need them. Swallow your pride and go.
ACCEPT THE HELP. Stop saying you’re fine when you’re not. When Mick goes away for work and the baby is unsettled and you haven’t slept and your best friend moves away and your diet consists of coffee and grapes (for they are easily accessible and require no preparation); it’s okay to say you’re not fine. For some reason you think if you say “I’m fine” enough, it’ll be true. When Mum offers to come up to help, say yes. When Hannah asks you if you’re doing alright, tell the truth. When friends invite you out for coffee/lunch/a walk, GO, even though it’s the last thing you want to do because taking the baby out (especially in the first couple of weeks) is terrifying, and you feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because your massive oversupply of milk literally squirts halfway across the room. (Future you is currently working on a prototype “plug-like” device to prevent leakages from your fembot nipples. So far, no luck.) This will all settle down at about 8 or 9 weeks, but it’s a trying time. Accepting the help and getting out of the house will save your sanity and seriously, there’s only so much daytime television one can take. When you start to notice that they’re playing repeats of Dr Phil, it’s time to socialise, Past Jen.
IGNORE THE STUPID QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK YOU. My personal favourite: “Is he in a routine yet?” When you hear this, remember to just breathe and respond with the following:
NO. My baby is not in a routine. Now I don’t want to speak badly of my child, but it’s like he’s some sort of neanderthal. HE DOESN’T EVEN OWN A WATCH, SO HOW CAN WE RUN A SCHEDULE? He feeds when he wants. He sleeps when he wants. He shits when he wants. I would love to know when these things are going to happen so I can have some semblance of control over my own life, but no. Currently we’re just carelessly floating through our days, routine-less. WE ARE OUT OF CONTROL.
Or something to that effect.
And when you’re exhausted and hungry and the child won’t just go the fuck to sleep, he’ll beam at you and you’ll remember that one day you probably won’t be his favourite person anymore and maybe you should just enjoy the cuddles while you’ve got them. Because damn that kid is beautiful.
Love Present Jen xoxo
P.S. Future Jen wishes Present Jen would stop referring to herself in the third person, never mind writing letters to previous versions of herself. Loser.
I’ll start at about 2am. That’s when my son decided it would be a good time to wake for a feed. Slightly unconventional and not really socially acceptable, but I’ll go with it. No problem – job done. We should be good for another couple of hours.
Except no. We will wake again at 2:58, 3:40, 4:50, 5:23, 6:38 and 7:52. Some of those were feeds, but most of them because he grunts so hard he wakes himself up and requires a lot of shushing, patting and dummy insertion to get back to sleep. Breaks my heart when he does this because he’s not fully awake, appears to be suffering a lot of wind pain and cries out in his sleep. Except by 7:53 he’s cooing, laughing and smiling apparently ready to start the day. I stare at him murderously as I sip my first of many coffees.
He’s tired by 8:20 (naturally since he’s been up half the night) and refuses to go to sleep unless being held. Luckily Grandad and Juju are there to tag team some baby rocking and humming while I pack to fly home from the Gold Coast to Townsville. We’ve somehow doubled the contents of our suitcase in 2 weeks. I play suitcase Tetris to get it all to fit in. Exhausting – another coffee. Shower, get dressed and pretend to be a normal human being.
Head out with my mum and brother around 10am for a pleasant stroll in the sun. Third coffee of the day consumed, along with a delightful vanilla choc muffin. Tom decides he’s hungry again. No problem, I have boozie juice on tap. Except actually he’s not hungry. Oh wait, yes he is. No, false alarm. Chomps on and off for 20 minutes and cries when he gets sprayed across the face with my fembot milk. Sigh.
Get back to Grandad and Juju’s. Tom makes faces like he wants to poo, but then decides it’s too much work. Naps instead. This time in my arms, because why would anyone sleep in their own bed?
Leave for airport around 2pm. In the car ride we play a little game I like to call “I want the dummy but I want to spit it out 12 times first and then cry so you put it back in.” I discover that I am some sort of shoulder and elbow contortionist, as I twist my arms back to retrieve the dummy out of Tom’s lap from the front passenger seat. Potential future physio required.
Check-in at airport on time. Lining up at airport security. Tom stares contently up at me, cooing and smiling. And then let’s one rip. Except it’s not just wind. This is the real deal. A FUCKING POONAMI at the x-ray machine. I somehow manage to place 2 bags on the conveyor belt and quickly assess the damage. I see a mustard stain on his white muslin blanket. OH SHIT. Literally. I miraculously avoid getting any on myself by holding him out like Simba in the Lion King. “EVERYBODY MOVE OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY!” I screamed in my head. Nobody moved. We finally got through the slowest security line ever and as I collected my bags, a lady with a wand encroached upon me to swab my bags for drugs. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME LADY?! I wafted Tom under her nose and her face crinkled as she waved me through. Little victory.
Found a parents room quickly and set up shop. Holy crap. There is shit everywhere. It’s all the way up his back. TO HIS FUCKING NECK. How does… What the… Jesus Christ. In no way is this outfit salvageable. His onesie is binned. I make my way through a whole packet of baby wipes, while Tom laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever seen. Which to be fair, it probably is. At 9 weeks old he hasn’t been exposed to much other than peek-a-boo and a song about a potato train. (That’s a train that carries potatoes, not a train made out of potatoes. There’s potential for confusion there.)
Mercifully, I have a spare outfit in my bag. He screams blue murder while I change him, so I pack everything away and feed him again. I’m finally getting my breath back when the lights go out. What the actual fuck is happening? Turns out the lights in the parents room run by sensor, so if you don’t dance about continuously it shuts off. NEVER MIND THE DOOR IS AUTOMATED AND SHOULD KNOW THAT SOMEONE IS STILL IN THERE WHEN THEY HAVEN’T PRESSED THE BUTTON TO LEAVE! I fumbled around to get the lights back on, while Tom absolutely devoured his meal as if I’d been starving him for weeks. After he finished, I checked to see if my nipples were still there and found with great relief that they were. Just as we’re getting ready to head to our gate, an announcement comes in that our flight is delayed. Wonderful.
When we finally get to board our flight an hour later than scheduled, we are luckily placed in a row by ourselves on an otherwise full flight. Finally our luck is changing! Though there was a toddler in the row in front of us that may or may not have some sort of infectious disease due to the hacking cough she produced for the entire flight, some of which she pointed in our direction as she attempted to scramble over her mothers head throughout the journey. Swell. Add turbulence +++ and a second wave of shit (happily contained in Tom’s pants) and we finally made it to Townsville. I had crazy eyes fo sho.
At the baggage carousel I had the happy job of holding a baby while wrestling my suitcase and pram off the conveyor belt. A small group of young men watched on with bemused expressions until a lady came over and helped me. Bless this woman, whoever she is. I somehow negotiated my way back to my car with my son happily gurgling in his pram, towing a suitcase and my remaining dignity in tact. Paid for parking that was cheaper than expected (winning), packed up the car and turned on the engine.
Except scrap that last bit, because the engine didn’t actually turn on. FUCK. MY. LIFE.
So then I called RACQ and was given a 45 minute window in which someone would be deployed until I almost had a nervous breakdown on the phone to a kindly voiced woman named Lee, who upped our status to “priority”. Tom and I occupied ourselves by pacing the car park singing ‘potato train’ until a mechanic came, replaced the car battery and sent us on our way. As I exited the car park, the machine charged me another $15 because I had waited too long between paying for parking and leaving. FUCK YOU.
We get home in one piece, the car ride spent dreaming of flopping onto the bed and sleeping until lunchtime tomorrow (baby permitting.) I walk into my house to discover that my DARLING husband has left for his work trip without putting sheets on our bed. Never mind he was here for 2 nights between our family trip to Sydney & his work trip, in which he would have had ample time to do so. I queried where Mick slept when he was here, until I saw evidence of it on the couch. I cursed his name under my breath. And then very loudly for good measure. I noted there were clean towels in the bathroom… So he does know where the linen cupboard is. It’s not like he couldn’t find any sheets. He just… Didn’t. Can’t wait to hear what his excuse is. He’s currently ignoring my abusive text messages.
Sheets on the bed, bath my stinky baby and he stays up for a second too long and is now overtired, refusing sleep and demanding boozie juice every 10 mins for about an hour and a half. I weep on the inside. And the outside. Somewhere around 10pm he finally gives in. I saunter out to the kitchen in search of a small morsel that might tide me over until the morning and discover that anything left in the fridge is rotting, because apparently my husband doesn’t know what to do in this instance either. Evidence of Thai takeaway containers in the bin confirm suspicions. Am livid.
Discovered a fun size Crunchie at the back of the fridge and eyed the wine lovingly before deciding against self-medicating. Opened my mail and realise I’d forgotten to pay the Telstra bill last month and I have a specialist appointment to go to in May for follow up for when my vagina broke. This includes an Anal-Endo ultrasound. Great. Sounds fun, I’m sure you can all look forward to that post.
I debate whether to have a shower or wait until morning when I spot a slight mustard coloured hue on my fucking elbow of all places. I’m too scared to look in the mirror, certain that if ever I was going to get Tom’s shit on my face, it would be today. I scrubbed myself from head to toe, just to be sure.
Make my way back to bed and am suddenly wide awake, all those coffees from earlier finally deciding to kick in. FUCKING HELL! So I write this and feel better about everything and finally am able to drift off to sleep until 1:28am when it all starts again.
My last post appeared to resonate with many people and with others… not so much. I knew what I wrote might have been unpopular. It’s not okay to speak about something that’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life and discuss the less favourable aspects. Yet overwhelmingly I’ve found that most women who’ve had kids and read the blog relate to it – going so far as to say they felt the exact same way when they were going through it. Which relieves me greatly because they’re all kickass mums & I’m happy to be in such good company.
I’m not going to go too in-depth with some of the criticism I received, my very excellent sister did that for me when coming across a statement comparing having a baby to breaking in a new pair of shoes. If you haven’t already, you can read her brilliant response here…
Like my sister, I encourage healthy debate and discussions and know that not everyone is going to agree with me and that’s okay, it keeps things interesting. Ultimately, while having a baby is in NO WAY like breaking in a new pair of shoes, I get the point this woman was trying to make: that having babies can be hard but ultimately rewarding (Is that the same as having a new pair of Louboutins? Anyone?) My son is the best thing I have ever done and I am filled with wonder and love whenever I look at his tiny, gorgeous face. Even at 2am when he wants feeding AGAIN and I haven’t slept more than 2 hours together since he came home. When he stares at me with his big blue eyes, my heart melts.
However I do take issue with one thing she said that I can’t let go. Well actually 2 things.
Firstly, I don’t believe that one can be too honest. The truth is the truth. My experience is not everyone’s truth and I have never pretended to speak for anyone else when I write. Clearly, what I write about is personal – it’s MY experience. I’m not going to sugarcoat it so that it’s easier to read and doesn’t scare new mums and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for doing so. I’m honest not because I’m trying to horrify or shock anyone, but because this is genuinely how I felt (and still feel) while going through these major life events and I wish I was better prepared for it. If I can help just one new mother feel less loco by telling her MY story, then it’s ultimately worth telling the whole internet about my broken vagina (my dad has read these posts, you guys. My DAD.)
Secondly and I feel most importantly, I take UMBRAGE with the fact that I’ve been accused of promoting a negative birth/mothering experience (UMBRAGE is an excellent word I desire to use more in my everyday vocabulary.) Despite all the scary and painful stuff I’ve been through in the last 10 or so months, I feel like it’s been overwhelmingly positive and I’m sorry if that has not translated into print. I have plenty of great things to say about my birth experience. I was lucky enough to be case managed by the best midwife in the world (like seriously, I’m in love with her and if she would let me, I would feed her grapes and fan her with giant palm fronds all day long). I chose to have a drug free, natural labour and while it fucking hurt (which I’m saying because it’s TRUE and I’m not going to omit it just to appear positive), I’m so glad I did it the way I did. Never have I felt more alive or human than the day I gave birth to my beautiful son and I would fully encourage any woman who is low-risk to go through a midwife run birth centre. My decisions were supported and my body was allowed to do what it was supposed to do without any unnecessary intervention. And even though the process SAVAGED my vagina and ended up being incredibly emotionally traumatic, I would do it again the same way. (I know people have heard me say otherwise, but honestly? I could do it naturally again. Probably. Maybe. I’ll get back to you on that.) And lets face it, whose birth experience is a walk in the park? Epidurals, c-sections, forceps, multiples, it’s a major trauma on your body and emotions no matter how you go about delivering your baby. Some just deal with it and recover better than others. To accuse me or anyone else of promoting negativity, because the experience I’m retelling isn’t as positive as you’d like is inappropriate.
(Worse still, there are people who give a backhanded comment like “happy mum = happy baby” which is absolute bullshit. My baby is very happy, smiley and calm while I’m anxious as fuck. Don’t minimise my feelings with some ridiculous cliche that implies it’s my own fault if I’m finding some aspects of motherhood difficult and that if I just relaxed a little, I’d enjoy it more. Shut up.)
To quote my sister: Please stop with your zen mother shit. It’s okay that some women don’t enjoy every aspect of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood and comments rejecting that idea are what make a lot of new mothers feel useless in the first place. Support those who are struggling by ALLOWING them to say they are struggling – and then be a good friend and take them food and let them cry and tell them they’re doing a great job. Because they are. At the same time, commend those who are killing it! How lucky some are to get to enjoy every aspect of pregnancy and motherhood? My stories shouldn’t take away from that and they shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying it just because someone else is finding it tough. Everyone has a different experience and that’s okay.
Don’t worry I’ll be back with the regular stuff next time. I just needed to get that off my chest.
Tom is now 5 weeks old. That’s how long it’s taken for me to feel semi-normal since our little one entered the world (and I stress the “semi.”) There is so much about those first couple of weeks at home with a newborn that is so messed up. The lack of sleep. The lack of food intake. The lack of basic personal hygiene. Those first days and weeks are a blur, blocked out due to intense emotional trauma. (Seriously, if you ever want to deeply examine every facet and failure of yourself as a human being, have a baby.) Here are snippets of what I can remember.
As with most new parents, Mick and I fumbled our way through those first few days. Tom is a “good baby,” he rarely cries, feeds well, has a whole myriad of wonderfully alert facial expressions and blue eyes you could drown in. He is beautiful. But that first night and morning at home… Well let’s just say he didn’t necessarily exhibit all his best qualities. He fed ALL NIGHT. Newborns can feed every 90 minutes-2 hours. And they count that from the start of the feed. Take into account that it can take up to an hour for one feed (especially in the beginning) there is little time for slumber. Example: Feed at midnight, finish feed at 1am, baby demands next feed at 1:30am. MY NIPPLES WERE ON FIRE. I am literally a walking milk machine. It felt like hot pokers were shoved right through the… milk hole? The bit where it squirts out, whatever that’s called. It was fucking awful. Luckily as time has gone on he has become a more efficient eater, but now I have an oversupply problem where milk literally just squirts out of them all day. Like 2 hoses. I’m often reminded of the fembots from Austin Powers… But I digress. Onto the next trauma.
There’s no dancing around it: There’s no such thing as sleep when you have a newborn. And a massive eff you to those people who get a baby that sleeps through the night from day one. You suck and I hate you. And if you’re so lucky to be getting upwards of 4 hours sleep a night, keep that shit to yourself. I will punch you in the throat.
Tom would fall asleep while feeding quite often in the first 2 weeks. During the day he would stir the minute I tried to move, so I would just hold him for 2 hours at a time, bursting to pee and dying for a coffee, but relishing the moments my boobs got a break. At night I would attempt to transfer him to his bassinet carefully, gently, so as to not wake him… He’d last MAYBE 10 minutes if we were lucky before he woke up again and the only thing that would settle him would be for him to latch back on and munch away. And if he didn’t wake up, I just lay there waiting for him to – despite every fibre of my being telling me to just go to sleep. I’d start to drift off and just as I would ease into that lovely place between sleep and awake, I would be jolted back to the present by Tom stirring, grunting or farting. He farts a lot. And if he did sleep quietly, I would suddenly be convinced he’d stopped breathing and would have to get up and check on him. On average 30 times a night.
Eventually I uneasily settled on the idea of “co-sleeping” in an effort to keep Tom asleep for more than 30 minutes, which I didn’t want to do and absolutely hated. Having a baby, a husband and an incredibly persistent German Shepherd join you in bed is not my idea of sound sleeping. In a previous life I was a bit of a starfish sleeper… Gimme a bed and I’ll dominate that whole mattress. Not anymore. I was so worried I would squash Tom, accidentally roll on him, push him off the bed or lose him in the sheets, I hardly dared to move. And if sleep ever eventuated, I woke up in a legitimate panic; sweating, shaking, searching the bed – totally convinced I’d killed him before I realised that he was in his bassinet and I’d literally only just put him there 30 seconds ago.
The only way I could lie down would be on my side with my arm awkwardly stuck under my head while sandwiched between my snoring husband, who frequently attempted to suffocate me by throwing his arm across my face, and my son who seemed to be trying to fuse himself to my chest. And not to be outdone, there was Otis who would lollop his 35kg body across my legs rendering me virtually immobile. I would have screamed in frustration if I’d had the energy. Co-sleeping lasted about a week before I packed it in and persisted with settling him in his bassinet, which of course we eventually mastered. Eventually.
They were dark days. Anyway, next.
Physically, for those first few days I felt like absolute shit. Lack of appetite and exhaustion was causing me to vomit and the aftereffects of the lactulose given to me in hospital caused me to have bouts of diarrhoea (NOTHING WRONG WITH MY BOWELS NOW, HEY DOCTOR?) And then there’s all the other physical changes that come post childbirth. (I’m sorry, but the grossness must continue in the interest of remaining transparent. Though this is probably the last time that I talk about my vagina for awhile. Hurray!)
So. You bleed. A lot. Clots the size of golf balls. Freaked the hell out of me until I was told it was normal – after the fact of course. There’s no fun in being well-informed prior to the event. They don’t make any secret of the fact that you’ll bleed after giving birth, but they should probably mention that giant chunks of your uterine lining will literally just fall out of your vagina. (Luckily you get to wear giant surfboard maternity pads for a number of weeks afterwards, hey?) And then there were my stitches – keeping them clean is a job all on its own. Sitting down wasn’t exactly fun for the first week either, I’m sure you can imagine things were rather tender. Everything was bruised, swollen and disfigured – unsurprisingly, since I pushed a fucking watermelon out of it and TORE IT WIDE OPEN (I’m still not over it, okay?) Word to any newbie mums – DON’T LOOK AT YOUR VAGINA WITH A MIRROR RIGHT AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH, UNLESS YOU WANT TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK. I’m scarred for life. (And before you get all judgey, I had to check my stitches okay? I don’t make a habit of inspecting my bits with mirrors.) You’ll be happy to know however that it all goes back to normal after a few weeks. I’m guessing. I’m too scared to look again. My 6 week check up will be happening soon, so I’ll let you know for sure, I’m sure you’re all dying to know. End vagina talk. For now.
My milk came in on day 3 and HOLY, did it come. All that cluster feeding did it’s job because I suddenly had a massive rack, kindly referred to as “crazy porno tits” by my sister-in-law. They were SORE. The let-down reflex (when your breasts fill up with milk) feels kind of like pins and needles on steroids. It’s hot, tingly and painful and then BAM! Tight, rock-hard melons that sit somewhere just below your chin. Dreams of lying on my belly were shot to hell after it felt like someone knifed me in the chest the first time I tried. Also, they leak. All the fucking time. I remember when my midwife came to visit the day after we went home. I looked a sight. Dark circles under my eyes, paler than pale skin, unwashed hair and lying like a beached whale in the middle of the bed wearing a vomit-stained shirt, complete with 2 lovely wet patches indicating exactly where my leaking nipples were situated. Nursing pads became an absolute necessity and remain so 5 weeks later. I have lots of ranting to do regarding my boobs, so stay tuned.
Lastly, and by far the worst in my opinion, is the heightened emotions. Talking to some other mummy friends we all agree, THERE ARE SO MANY FEELINGS. I cried at everything. Because I was tired, because Tom cried, because Otis appeared pissed off with me and I was convinced he had abandonment issues. Because there was no chocolate left. Because I loved my family so fucking much.
And also because… and I am reluctant to admit this next point for fear of being judged, but I’ve been honest all the way through this blog project and figured I shouldn’t stop now. I cried because I missed my old life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anything to change. Tom is the best thing I’ve ever done and I love my little boy more than I will ever be able to convey in words. But when you’re exhausted, feeling sick, have a sore vagina and leaky boobs, and there’s no chocolate left? A small part of you yearns for a time when you could sleep 10 hours, be in good physical shape and have an ample supply of confectionary in the freezer.
Now that I’ve said that, cue the overwhelming Mother’s Guilt – a legit condition that royally fucks you up and literally makes you feel like the worst person in the world. Because who could complain when you have a child who is so perfect and precious, whose face is so beautiful it breaks your heart? What kind of person are you to have wishful errant thoughts about a life when this child didn’t exist?
A FUCKING NORMAL ONE. There’s no way anyone goes through the experience of becoming a parent with a smile on their face the whole time. It is fucking hard. But also the best job in the world.
So far I’ve mostly told stories about what people don’t tell you about having a baby. And then there are the things that people do tell you and you’re still completely unprepared for. Example: Having a newborn baby is a complete and utter mindfuck. Fact.
As a brand new mum, I feel like I’m not supposed to say that. It’s not really acceptable to say “some of this parenting stuff is crap” only a few days into being a mother. There’s this massive pressure to convey how much you love your little bundle of joy, that everything is sunshine and unicorns and how you’re completely overwhelmed with happiness. And of course I am – really. I have never loved another person more fiercely than my son and I would quite literally do anything to ensure he is safe, happy and healthy. But with that comes other feelings including a shitload of anxiety, guilt, panic, resentment and exhaustion – and that was just in the first 2 days. So many people told me how difficult it is to be a first time mum and yet I still feel like I was blindsided.
In the first couple of days after Tom arrived I was forced to stay in hospital due to the ear-muffed watermelon incident. This was not in my initial plan. I know myself, I know that I am a shitty patient (I think most nurses probably are) and all I wanted was to go home and be in my own space and try to figure this whole baby thing out, but the medical team refused to let me go until I “opened my bowels.” (I hate that phrase. It reminds me of nursing homes.) I argued with them, saying “I know perfectly well how to poo thank you, I can do that at home.” But they wanted me to do it in hospital, I assume to make sure I was stitched up properly and didn’t have poo coming out of the wrong holes. So, no pressure or anything. It’s obviously super easy to go to the toilet when the WHOLE DAMN WARD IS ON POO WATCH. They even gave me instructions on how to poo. “Lean forward, don’t push or strain, just let it flow out or you risk breaking those stitches. But don’t try to NOT poo because you’re scared, because then you’ll be constipated and we REALLY don’t want that. So just poo when you feel the urge.” Yeah, no pressure at all.
I met numerous different midwives, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, hearing specialists and child & family health representatives that would all choose to visit me and Tom when I was either breastfeeding (which is all the time. WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS EAT TINY HUMAN?) or when I was trying to do something for myself that made me feel vaguely normal, like eat or shower. Everyone wanted to know if I’d “opened my bowels” (to which the answer was always no, because believe me when it happened I’d be fucking shouting it aloud and dancing down the hallways outta there. Ripped va-jay-jay permitting.) And if it wasn’t that, they wanted to feel my belly to make sure my uterus was contracting back properly or inspect my lady garden to see how I was healing. (That happened so often I considered charging people for the honour, but I had a niggling thought that it might be misconstrued.)
I’d have a baby hanging off my boob and half a sandwich in my mouth (if I was lucky), while they lowered the back of my bed so that it was flat, lifted up the covers and had another look and a prod at my not-so-mysterious vagina, because by now I’m certain every health professional in that hospital has seen it. Nobody knows your name, you’re reduced to being called “the tear in bed 26” and half the time they don’t know what you’re even in there for. I had one nurse attempt to tackle me back on the bed because I stood up without “supporting my stitches.”
Nurse: “What are you doing?! You need to hold a pillow over your stitches when you get up, you’ve only just come out of major surgery! You need to support the area to reduce the risk of your stitches coming apart.”
Me: “Huh? You want me to go round holding a pillow between my legs? How the hell do I hold my baby if I’m too busy supporting my vagina?”
It took a couple more minutes of confused discussion to realise that she thought I’d had a cesarean and appeared mortified when I explained that no actually, it was my lady parts that had been ripped open beyond recognition, not my abdomen – though I’m quietly considering that as an option for next time (Ha! Next time.) She left the room in a flurry of embarrassment and excuses.
Obviously in conjunction with my physical recovery, I also had to learn how to look after a whole other completely dependent human being. I was flattered by remarks from the hospital staff who were surprised that Tom was my first child and that I was a “natural” at being a mum, I was just so “relaxed.” But I wasn’t fucking relaxed, I was fucking panicked. I had NO idea what I was doing, I just have a good poker face. I work in an acute mental health setting. I have practice appearing calm in tense situations and as a result probably hid my terror better than most first time mums.
So, time to look after the new tiny person. From the get go I was immediately introduced to the concept of “cluster feeding.” Cluster feeding is basically when your baby just feeds and feeds and feeds. FOR HOURS. Babies do this because they’re hungry, they’re about to have a growth spurt or they’re trying to increase milk supply. And lets face it for a newborn, all of those things are kind of crucial. I had no idea that cluster feeding was a thing. (It’s since occurred to me that maybe instead of shoving evening primrose oil into my hoo-ha to bring on labour, maybe I should have read a book about raising babies?) And even though breastfeeding thankfully came fairly naturally to both of us, it still wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t have the cracked, bleeding nipples that you hear about from a poor attachment, but I wasn’t exactly used to having a mini human sucking my boobs dry every hour of the day either. That first feed is sort of magical, because you’re still in that “holy crap, I just had a baby” moment but when you’re tired and in pain, it’s weird and uncomfortable. You kind of have to fight the urge to pull away and I was increasingly frustrated by how often and long it would take. I half expected my boobs to look like shrivelled up raisins when Tom finally finished feeding, but luckily this part of my female anatomy remains in working order. (I currently have quite the ample bosom.)
People always say “all babies do in the beginning is eat and sleep.” I had firmly established that yes, babies do like to eat. But sleep? Bollocks. They don’t sleep.
Blissfully, on the first night in hospital the midwives took Tom out for 4 hours so I could catch up on some rest after being awake for 36 hours straight. (They were also able to feed him the colostrum I’d expressed before he was born so they didn’t have to wake me for feeds. Mothers-to-be, MILK YOURSELVES! You won’t care about the whole weirdness factor when you’re delirious from exhaustion. Promise.) But the second night I had no such luxury. For the brief moments that Tom did sleep, I marvelled at his little face not quite believing that I had made this perfect boy. And then I would try to sleep. Except that I couldn’t because I heard every noise he made. And babies are NOISY. Full of snorts, sniffles, moans. Every time I was just about drift off, he’d make another noise and I was paranoid he was in pain or choking or want to feed again. The worst was when he vomited everywhere and I literally jumped out of the bed to pick him up to make sure he wasn’t dying. I’ve never moved so fast. And I definitely put my stitches at risk. I was in this pretend sleep-feeding cycle until about 4am before I cracked and begged a midwife to take him out for an hour so I could sleep. Right when my baby blues set in like clockwork, right on day 3.
Ah the blues. It completely takes you over, there’s no stopping it. I was an emotional wreck. Uncontrollable crying. Sobbing, snot pouring from both nostrils, hiccuping instead of speaking type crying. I felt so GUILTY for asking someone to take my baby away. Hell I’m crying now even remembering it, it was so awful. A part of my brain warned me that I knew the blues were going to happen, that it was hormonal and a normal part of having a baby. The other, much louder part of my brain screamed YOU ARE A SHIT MOTHER! HOW COULD YOU SEND YOUR POOR DEFENCELESS BOY AWAY? YOU DON’T DESERVE THAT CHILD! AND YOU HAVE SNOT POURING INTO YOUR MOUTH, YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS!
I pathetically cried myself through a shower, teeth brushing and eventually to sleep, only to be woken an hour later by the midwife with my very hungry baby who had eaten his way through our colostrum stores and was demanding boobs again. I had to fight my very irrational urge to scream in frustration. Sigh. This was so much harder than I thought it would be.
Just as Tom finally fell asleep (when most people are starting their day), Mick arrived with coffee and muffins. I of course started crying again, though tried to stop because I didn’t want to freak him out. I shouldn’t have worried, he didn’t even ask me what was wrong. He just gave me a big hug, handed me my coffee and stroked my hair as I quietly ate breakfast. That right there is the reason I married him. He gets it.
The parade of health professionals continued that afternoon, most notably the medical team who decided my primary concern now that my baby had arrived, was what I was going to use for contraception… For fuck’s sake.
I LITERALLY JUST HAD A BABY! A BABY THAT TORE MY VAGINA WIDE OPEN. The last thing I feel like doing is having another one and I was certainly in no condition to practice making any. Regardless, the doctor stated she’d seen heaps of women have unwanted pregnancies very soon after they give birth. She recommended I go on the mini-pill and began writing out a script immediately. I politely informed her that while I’m sure she was just being helpful, Tom was planned and our next one (ha!) would also be planned and my husband and I were perfectly capable of preventing any unwanted events occurring ourselves. She said I needed to think about it and that she would have her registrar review me later on with my decision. I told her to fuck off. (OK not really, I just sighed and nodded, too tired to argue with a pushy doctor. But I screamed it in my head.) She reminded me that I wouldn’t be discharged until I’d “opened my bowels” and wished me a pleasant afternoon. Smug bitch.
After that I made it my mission to poo (a process that would have undoubtedly been easier in my own home – an argument the doctor wasn’t interested in hearing and who then gave me a very serious talk about “going against medical advice” if I discharged myself. Eye roll.) I’d had enough of this hospital malarky. No longer were my bowels going to hold me hostage! The nurses gave me some meds to help the process along and I spent most of the afternoon pushing Tom around the ward in his bassinet, hoping that gravity and exercise would get things moving, which it eventually did. Finally, success! (Though it was totally terrifying when it came time to actually go to the toilet. I sat there for a good 20 mins before anything happened because I had visions of ripping my vagina open all over again. Plus the sensation of “opening my bowels” was an alarming reminder of childbirth and the whole experience was still rather emotionally raw, as you can imagine. But don’t worry. Me and my vagina are good.)
Finally we were able to go home. Mick packed up all our stuff in record time and we waltzed out of there. And then suddenly we were in our house, with our beautiful son. Otis met him and didn’t try to eat him (definite win), I had a decent cup of tea and felt warm with love looking at my happy little family.
Momentary bliss, before reality set in. And boy did it set in. Like a punch in the face.
Now I know I need to write a part 2 to my whole birth experience story, but the stay in hospital and the days after giving birth were as emotionally traumatic as giving birth was physically, so again it’s taking some time. Fear not however, for I have a collection of musings I have gathered over the last 3 weeks in between changing nappies, feeding and “sleeping” to appease you until I get it done.
1. Some people say that when you have a newborn, if you get time to have a shower it’s a good day. Now I don’t want to be smug but I have managed to shower every day since Tom was born. Sometimes twice. #Winning. (Though sometimes it’s not until 4pm and it only lasts for about 2 minutes. And I haven’t shaved my legs in literally MONTHS and sometimes I forget to rinse the shampoo out of my hair.) However, you should always assume that regardless of said shower, by the end of the day you will end up smelling like someone else’s bodily fluids. No amount of perfume/deodorant/soap will mask it. Eau de Milk Spew is now your new scent. Own it. Also, don’t ask me what I’ve got on my dress/shirt/face. It’s vomit. Or poo. Let’s all avoid an awkward social situation and just ignore the stains and stench.
2. It’s perfectly okay to leave the house with bed hair. I don’t know where my hairbrush is and I don’t care. Judge someone who gives a damn. Ditto make-up. Yes, I really am this pale. No, I’m not part vampire. Leaving the house with a baby is a full-scale operation that can take AGES, particularly when you’re on your own. So the fact that I remembered to even put a shirt on is a feat that should be marvelled.
3. Breastmilk cures all evils. Baby crying? Just chuck some breastmilk at it. Nipples sore? Breastmilk is your wonder ointment. Baby acne? The breastmilk takes the redness away – what??? Hell, it got rid of one of my pimples! (And yeah. I rubbed breastmilk on my face. What of it? Call it experimentation for blogging purposes. And it’s like the least weird thing I’ve written about, I don’t even feel like I have to explain myself.) Why someone isn’t bottling this shit and selling it, I don’t know. Just shut up and take my money.
4. I’ve discovered the secret to how breastfeeding mothers lose all their baby weight so quickly. Newborns have a sixth sense. They know when their mother is about to eat and become outraged that they aren’t also enjoying their 27th meal of the day – cue crying, mother either abandoning her meal to feed baby or alternatively attempting to eat it one handed (nearly always with your non-dominant hand) which results in major spillage and/or ruined meal. The kilos just fall off. Mystery solved.
5. Despite popular belief, hot cups of tea and coffee can be enjoyed as long as you plan them with military precision. Being ambidextrous is beneficial here – left handed tea doesn’t taste as good as right handed tea. Better still just get your husband to make them, especially seeing as you broke your vagina to bring his heir into the world – he can damn well bring you hot beverages. And chocolate.
6. You CAN function on less than 4 hours sleep a night. Reasonably well. (The baby is still alive isn’t he?) Though I’m not actually convinced I’ve slept at all since he was born. MOTHERS OF NEWBORNS ARE AWAKE ALL THE TIME. I thought shift work would have prepared me for the sleep deprivation, but no. I actually miss night shift, because at least I got a solid 6-7 hour sleep afterwards. And you get to pee and eat whenever you want. Now, I survive on snacks and dashes to the toilet when there’s time. For example, today I’ve managed a cup of coffee, 2 biscuits, a blueberry muffin and I’ve peed twice. Virtual high fives.
7. Googling newborn behaviours is just as damaging as googling pregnancy symptoms. Those forums suck you in again and suddenly you’re up to speed on cluster feeding, swaddling techniques, expressing, breast pumps, when to have sex again and the odd picture of someone’s stitches (both vaginal and c-section) querying whether it’s infected and should they go to the doctor? (Sidebar: If you’re posting pictures of your vagina on the internet asking if things are infected, then the answer is almost always going to be yes. Also the pus and redness kind of gives it away. GO TO A DOCTOR AND STOP ASKING THE INTERNET. Because moronic. I fear for the child you’ve just brought into the world if you don’t know the right time to seek medical advice.)
8. Driving with a newborn is the SCARIEST FUCKING THING IN THE WORLD. Do you know how many crazy drivers there are on the streets of Townsville?! Suddenly you’re driving 10km under the limit, hyper vigilant of other vehicles on the road and cursing under your breath at every dickhead who doesn’t use their indicator/is on their mobile phone/is picking their nose (your hands should be at 10 and 2 on the wheel! None of this one-handed shit!) You feel compelled to write to your local council, asking why the fuck these people aren’t locked up as they are clearly a danger to society. Aren’t they aware you’ve just brought an angel into this world? Do they need me to spell out the explicit pain that will come to them if they put my child in danger in any way? Everyone pull your fucking heads in. Tom Quilty is now on the road and his mother is a vengeful demon. Watch your backs.
9. Breastfeeding in public is terrifying. I never had an issue seeing other women breastfeed, I’ve always considered it kind of a non-issue. And yet when it comes time to exposing my own boobs in public, suddenly the whole situation becomes very uncomfortable (ironic really, when you consider the number of people who have seen and read about my vagina.) You become suspicious of everyone trying to cop a look and imagine you’ll be one of those people you read about in online articles who get asked to leave a cafe because some cretin decides they can’t tolerate breastfeeding in public and complain to management. I figure this will change with time, I don’t normally give a toss what other people think and I assume this attitude will return once I’ve had more than 2 hours sleep in a row and don’t feel like I’m in a glass case of emotion.
Actually reading that back, it makes me really angry that I’m worried about feeding my child in public. Fuck those judgemental bogans. I’m going to have coffee on The Strand tomorrow and I will expose my boobs and feed my child and I dare anyone to have a go at me. I’m fucking ready for your shit. Read above: Tom Quilty’s mother is a vengeful demon. Attack at your own peril.
10. Babies look like old men and it is HILARIOUS.
11. If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing husband and wonderfully supportive friends and family, there’s no way on Earth you can fail. It takes a village to raise a child and luckily I live in a utopia of kindness, generosity and love. Now enough mushy stuff, I smell something unfavourable coming from the tiny human.
Before we start, I want to say that I actually found this really hard to write. Giving birth was the hardest, scariest, most traumatic and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done; and while I will ultimately relay the tale with my usual candour and transparency, I have never been so physically and emotionally vulnerable in my life. It has been difficult to present some parts with the same level of humour that my others stories might have. Don’t worry though. I say the word VAGINA a lot.
Well it had to happen eventually.
I had my baby! Finally, our gorgeous little Thomas George arrived into the world. A perfect male specimen, with all limbs and appendages in check. Blue eyes for days, spitting image of his dad with the exception of his “resting bitch face” which undoubtedly is a maternal trait. And of course he entered the world in the typical dramatic flair I have come to expect from the Quilty’s.
In the days leading up, I had some minor “pre-labour” symptoms. Nothing dramatic and they really just annoyed me more than anything because I felt like I was in perpetual baby limbo. Until I woke up on the 13th at 05:30 and was having actual real contractions – FINALLY! (Ha, I can laugh now at my impatience. I wasn’t even overdue.) I could provide you with details of how I dealt with the first stage of labour, but honestly it’s boring. Basically the contractions got longer in duration, occurred more frequently throughout the day and increased in intensity. It wasn’t actually that bad. As birthing experiences go, this part was completely doable. The contractions weren’t painful, just uncomfortable and I was kind of thinking I had this shit nailed. I honestly wondered if it was actually legitimately happening because it felt too easy. (Don’t worry, I ate my words later.) Hindsight tells me I should have used the day to sleep. That was a rookie error. SLEEP ladies. Sleep like you’ll never sleep again. Because you won’t. Ever again.
For those who don’t know, we chose to go to a midwife-run birth centre to have the baby instead of through the general hospital system or obstetrician. Birth centres provide low intervention care and we got to be case managed by the same midwife throughout the entire pregnancy and birth. They’re big promoters of a positive birth experience, trying natural and non-pharmaceutical methods to deal with pain and allow you to trust your body to do the job it’s supposed to do. I wanted to really experience what it was like to give birth because I just can’t imagine ever having another instance in life where I would feel that… alive? Human? I don’t know, I just wanted to feel it. God knows why. I ate those words later too. (Sidebar: The birth centre and their staff were absolutely amazing and I’d highly recommend for any mother to be.)
So, we went in at 9:30pm, when the contractions were 3 minutes apart and I was about 6cm dilated. I was already getting tired by then having been in pre-labour all day, but lucky I brought my turbo-husband along for the ride. Chatting a mile a minute offering me, the midwife and the midwifery student ice blocks, chips and a variety of other snacks he had packed for the occasion. You’d think he was hosting a party. Totally in his element.
The contractions by now were way more painful – I had started to feel them in my back. It sort of resembled someone shoving hot pokers into your kidneys and twisting them round and round for 90 seconds at a time. Kinda started to get why women asked for epidurals and drugs, however I persevered, reminding myself that this is what I wanted and got into the water. I stayed in there for awhile, having a lovely chat with everyone in between contractions and having that positive birth experience I always wanted. Things were progressing nicely.
Until they weren’t. Because suddenly everything slowed right down. The midwife suggested I get out of the water and start moving around. And let me tell you, I’ve never looked so graceful. I was completely naked, my legs were shaky and wobbly and once I started moving, every 3 minutes or so I would let out an almighty groan that even to my own ears resembled a dying cow/prehistoric beast. I did this for awhile in an attempt to speed things along before getting back in the water when I couldn’t handle it anymore. We were all tired, so much so that Mick began nodding off mid-sentence. So the midwife suggested he have a nap, because quote “you’ll be useless later on when it comes time to push.” Yes, you heard right. Because HE will be useless when it comes time to push. Excuse me a moment.
HE GETS TO HAVE A NAP?! I’ve been up since 5:30am with a tiny person trying to crawl out of my vagina and MICHAEL gets to have a nap?! THE FUCKING INJUSTICE! And of course he falls asleep within about a minute while I, his wife and one true love, continue to labour to bring OUR child into the world. If I wasn’t already focused on another important task like GIVING BIRTH, I would have ripped him a new one. Pun intended.
By this stage, another woman had come into the room next door and was labouring loudly. Seriously she had this amazing, Amazonian, guttural roar that I could have found empowering but instead sent me into a clusterfuck of fear and anxiety. She was loud enough that she woke Mick up. And it wasn’t long until we heard her baby cry. Which made me cry with fury because WE WERE HERE FIRST! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?! Our labour was literally going on forever. This baby was never going to come and I was going to end up in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest pregnancy/labour ever recorded in the history of humankind. The midwife recognised my hysteria (I think she had become familiar with my quirks by now) and decided to re-examine me.
Funny thing about being “examined.” It’s one of those moments when you realise you have no dignity left. I was lying on the floor, naked, legs spread, panting and groaning with each contraction, red-faced from the hot water and sucking on a pipe (because by this stage I needed gas and air). Basically, I looked a million bucks. Then to add a touch more class, another woman shoves her hand up my vagina and fiddles around in there. Not as much fun as it sounds. Apparently my waters were “bulging” and then with a bit more of a fiddle and a pop, they flowed right out of me.
Actually, there. That’s when I lost any remnants of dignity. Nothing quite like soaking the shoes of your midwife and husband with fluid quite literally gushing out of your vagina. Once your self-respect has disappeared, you suddenly don’t care who sees what. I can now safely boast that I have vomited, urinated and defecated in front of more people than I would usually be comfortable – in the toilet not during delivery. (In 5 years together I had avoided ever going to the toilet in front of my husband up until now. I know some people are sweet with a communal bathroom situation – I am not one of them. But there’s no mystery there now. He’s seen everything. And as far as I’m aware, nothing else was pushed out during the delivery other than a baby and if it did, Mick and the midwife happily kept that to themselves.) I dilated the remaining centimetres and then it came time to push.
MOTHER OF LADY GAGA. Imagine the biggest poo you’ve ever had to do in your life. Then multiply it by a million and that’s what childbirth feels like. You strain and push and it literally feels like a fucking ring of fire… Everything burns. The gas and air was taken off me because I was focusing on that rather than “effective pushing.” (Can you blame me? It made me feel drunk, which I hadn’t experienced in 9 months. That shit was awesome.) The Amazonian woman next door had nothing on me… I screamed myself hoarse. I have NEVER felt pain like it. But at the same time, I kind of completely disassociated from it. I was aware that it was painful and that I was PUSHING A HUMAN OUT OF MY VAGINA, but at the same time I kind of felt distanced from it, like I was watching myself do it.
Finally, I felt the head come out. It came out with a pop and kind of shocked me a little – I think I was still skeptical that this baby would ever arrive. I was still contracting, but I wasn’t supposed to push, just to “pant” my way through the next little bit – hardest thing to do when every part of your body is screaming at you to push the rest of the little person out. Things seemed to stall for a minute. Then the midwife’s tone of voice changed. She said that the baby’s chin was stuck and she was trying to loosen it before I was able to push any further.
You know when you can hear it in someone’s voice that they are not shitting around and you better do what they say? That was her. Suddenly she told Mick to help me stand, because the baby was stuck and she couldn’t see what was happening properly. Mick just jumped up and did it, no questions. He supported my upper torso while I balanced precariously on my wobbly legs and offered words of love and encouragement. Never have I loved that man more. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t feel what was happening though found out later that the midwife had loosened the cord from around the baby’s neck. Once the cord was loosened, he quickly turned his head (another sharp pain I was NOT expecting) and slid right out, caught deftly by the midwife before he could splash back into the water.
Nothing could have prepared me for watching another person enter this world. Months of worrying, waiting, researching, talking about and listening to other women’s birth stories and I have never been so surprised or overwhelmed in my life. I gathered up my baby, both Mick and I desperate to find out who this little person was and finally I was able to say “it’s a boy” and sighed with relief when he instantly began crying.
The moments after that were surreal. I was given an injection in my leg to help the placenta come out. I was vaguely aware that it looked like some sort of shark attack had occurred in the water due to the amount of blood there was. I was carefully manoeuvred out of the water and back onto the floor to be examined. But all I could focus on was the tiny little face that moments ago didn’t exist in the world. Until I felt another contraction, which was VERY NOT OKAY – and again not something that anyone warned me about. I naively thought the placenta would just slide its way right out. But no. You have to push it. Or in my case cough it out, because I was torn to buggery down there.
Yep. You know when they say that giving birth is like pushing a watermelon through the size of a pea? Well my watermelon decided it would be a good idea to have his hands on his face as he entered the world. Essentially like a pair of earmuffs on his head (e.g. dramatic Quilty flair.) And as a result I got a 3rd DEGREE TEAR. I believe I mentioned in a previous post something regarding Google imaging 3rd and 4th degree tears? I again recommend absolutely NOT doing that and instead use your imagination when I tell you that he tore me open right to the edge of my arsehole, though none of the surrounding tissue which apparently is a blessing. I beg to differ.
Mick took our son while I got examined again and coughed the placenta out. Another dignified moment in my life – it’s not so easy to cough when your pelvic floor muscles have been ravaged by a giant watermelon. We discussed the tear and the probable need for surgery to fix it. I believe I said something like “No! I wrote about this shit in my blog, it can’t happen to me!” To which everyone just laughed. Because rude.
Not that any of that mattered once Tom was back in my arms again. A natural greedy guts (maternal and paternal trait) he latched straight on the boob and guzzled for Australia, all the while looking at me with the biggest, bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Everything you hear about the bond and falling in love with your baby when you first see them absolutely came true for me.
I got wheeled up to the maternity ward and met 2 different doctors, both of which examined my tear and said stupid things like “don’t worry you’ll be stitched up real good, your husband will be very happy” and “no rumpy-pumpy for 4 to 6 weeks afterwards.” Then they asked me what I did for a living. Once I informed them I was an RN they were suddenly a lot more professional. I wasn’t able to eat or drink before the surgery so naturally my energy supplies were low, but sleep was out of the question. I couldn’t not look at my boy and my husband and be completely filled with joy.
It came time for me to go to theatre and I’ll be honest, I was shitting myself (not literally. I still had bowel control.) Having a needle shoved into my spine is by far more terrifying a concept than childbirth, one of the many reasons I chose not to go the epidural route. But the feeling afterwards… lying back on that bed numb from the waist down was physically the most comfortable I’d been in 9 months. Even if my vagina was (again) exposed to a roomful of strangers (seriously, there were like 15 people in there). I occupied the surgery time by chatting to the anaesthetist about some mutual friends we had in common; while a team of doctors closely inspected my lady parts and put things back together. Another surreal moment I have no wish to repeat.
I made it back to the ward and my family, unable to walk until the spinal block wore off. By this stage I had been awake for 36 hours. I had stitches in my vagina. A catheter in my urethra. A very messy and uncomfortable blood loss situation happening down below and had not yet been able to shower. I had to learn how to breastfeed properly. A million and one phone calls and texts to respond to. As blissfully happy as I was with my beautiful son, I was fucking tired. And had an overwhelming feeling of “Shit. Now what?”
Which sets a nice precedent for how my first few days as a mother went. But that’s a post for another day.
Thomas George entered the world on Valentine’s day at 0643, weighing 3.475kg and 49.5cm long. We are completely overwhelmed with love and filled with joy to have such a precious, healthy little boy. Thank you so much to everyone for all their well wishes xoxo
So, I’m sick of being pregnant. (I know. Some of you are SHOCKED.) You know how you hear that it’s a magical time? Yeah those women are lying. Sure at first it’s lovely and you feel the kicks and rolls and imagine what it’ll be like to squeeze their chubby cheeks if they EVER DECIDE TO COME OUT, but you get to the last month of pregnancy and you are over that magical journey. You basically want to cry everyday because there’s a miniature ninja inside of you that has taken over your body, puts you in a perpetual state of uncomfortable and makes moving from lying/sitting to standing, a 2 man operation.
The 9th month turns even the sanest of women into crazy bitches (I’m guessing.) Any twinge, pain or tightening immediately triggers you to think that labour is imminent. You get more Braxton Hicks. You start looking for your mucus plug (another fun Google image project for those game enough. It somewhat resembles a giant snot ball that falls out of your vagina. You’re welcome.) And when nothing happens, you get more and more certain that your baby will never, ever be born. Which makes you emotional, which makes you think you’re more hormonal and thus more likely to go into labour and so the cycle continues.
I’m now 4 days out from my due date and I’ve been on maternity leave for ages, mainly because my job can be a physical and emotional burden and I decided it wasn’t really an option for me to be potentially at risk for longer than I had to be. And I know I made that choice for the right reasons, but God I’m bored. Right now my days are spent doing a fat lot of nothing. I drink tea. I lurk pregnancy forums, never contributing and silently judging. I’ve watched every episode of Girls, twice. I’m up to level 144 in Candy Crush Soda. I have never been so well informed about Australian politics (#libspill). I have become obsessed with Julia Morris on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and lost my shit when she favourited my tweet (FUCKING JULIA MORRIS!) I read. I write. I plot the death of my husband when he tries to “scare the waters out of me.” I make Facebook rants declaring war on Australia Post. And when you gather these sad facts collectively, I realise that I simply can’t be pregnant anymore. So I have embarked on an experiment this week to find a “foolproof” (read: unsuccessful) way to bring on labour. Many theories exist and there are plenty that women swear by, but I’ve decided I’m only going to discuss 1 or 2 that are weird and freak people out. Because entertainment.
NIPPLE STIMULATION. After the milking episode, my nipples and I are obviously very well acquainted. Supposedly this method releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps with contractions (BOOM! Science.) The rules around nipple stimulation appear to be very specific – there are even videos about it. Must mimic suckling newborn. Only one nipple at a time, for approximately 10 minutes at a time. Pull thumb and forefinger over nipple to make them erect, alternatively you can achieve this orally by licking or sucking… Presumably by your partner…? Oh no wait, this one website says you can do it to yourself.
Excuse me a moment.
SOME PEOPLE ARE LICKING THEIR OWN NIPPLES TO BRING ON LABOUR?! – I don’t even know how to begin to address this. This is a thing that should definitely not be a thing. Like how do you…? Who even…? Seriously, what the actual fuck? Needless to say, that’s a no-go. Strike it OFF the list. (Obviously, if this has worked for you, I commend you on your commitment to the cause, but seriously. Wow.)
HERBAL REMEDIES. I’ve been drinking raspberry leaf tea religiously, though this is not to induce labour, it’s more about strengthening the uterus and helping it contract so that I can push that baby out like a seasoned pro (probably.) Last week my midwife gave me some clary sage oil for the same purpose. It’s potent stuff, smells kind of like concentrated grass clippings and makes me want to rip my face off, but some people swear it helps to bring on labour. I tried it. Lathered it on, burned it, bathed in it. NOTHING. Further research into how it’s actually supposed to bring on labour is that people swear it absolutely doeswork, “but only when your baby is ready to come out.” WHAT?! That makes no sense – how do you know if it even did anything? It might have happened anyway, you know because YOUR BABY WAS READY TO COME OUT. Kerr-ist. Some say it helps with contractions during labour, but I react to this with a feeling of contempt and a snort of derision. I call bullshit.
My midwife also gave me evening primrose oil capsules to take. It’s meant to soften the cervix due to all the prostaglandins (same as what is found in semen, which is why sex is also a common suggestion to bring on labour. Because educational.) It’s suggested that you take one in the morning and one at night and with any luck, your cervix will soften and bingo bango there’s a baby. Oh and you have the option of taking them vaginally too. YES VAGINALLY. YOU CAN SHOVE CAPSULES UP YOUR HOO-HA. First of all, how do they even know this? Who was the first woman who thought “You know, I really think that if I shove this up my foo-foo, it’ll probably make my baby come out.” I vowed that I would never be that desperate. I’d let nature take its course and all that.
But… the arguments are compelling. Cut to a week later and taking them orally has not worked. So much to the disgust of some of my friends this will be… and believe me this is difficult to write due to all the scoffing and jeering I gave this when I first heard about it… I tried it. And without getting too descriptive (I do have some boundaries), it’s messy. Gel capsules aren’t exactly known for keeping their structure. What goes up, must come down so to speak. Judge all you want – desperation makes us do crazy things (next I’ll be licking my own nipples.) Then I read afterwards that “it rarely works just from one time unless your baby is ready…” (there’s that line again. How convenient),and therefore I would need to do it regularly to have any effect. FML. I really should read this stuff through properly before embarking on adventurous and uncomfortable experiments. Needless to say, I’ve abandoned this one too.
After noticing I’d made the epic mistake of not reading through entire articles before conducting these my previous tests, when I read about castor oil I went through a bunch of different literary publications before commencing anything. AND THANK GOD I DID. Because from what I can gather, castor oil basically makes you have a constant stream of vomiting, diarrhoea, cramping, bloating and general shitty-ness, while simultaneously starting contractions. And that sounds like absolute crap, so I’ve decided to give that one a miss. Apparently I’m likely to produce poo when pushing my baby out anyway, I don’t exactly need to help that process along.
So, some might argue that’s a lot of information right there. Maybe TMI, for some. I might have even agreed with you if it were not for these wise words from my spirit animal.
No such thing as TMI – I share because I care. And I’m bored. And hopefully people learn something and have a laugh in the process. For now I’m going to stick with the more traditional methods of inducing labour naturally – though FYI, none of these work either. Unless your baby is ready. So while I’m uncomfortable and frustrated, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t rush this little person. He or she will come when they are ready and life will be wonderful. The stubborn little monkey. Definitely a Quilty.
SIDE-BAR RANT: Before anyone who is or has been pregnant longer than me goes bat-shit crazy about how easy I’ve got it, let me just say one thing. I know that when I say I’ve been pregnant for awhile, it’s not as long as some women. I am aware that at 39+ weeks I may still be pregnant for another 3 before a baby pops out (though seriously Baby Q, we will NOT be starting off on the right foot if you’re that late, I don’t care how fashionable you think it is.) The reason I’m addressing this is because after talking to others and stalking aforementioned pregnancy forums, it’s clear to me that everyone is in competition for who is doing it the hardest. In fact in some cases, this extends to any woman who’s had a baby at some point in their lives. Everyone seems to have a constant need to one-up each other.
“Pfft, 42 weeks? Try 45 weeks.”
“Haemorrhoids? Mine were hanging down to the backs of my knees they were so bad.”
“Kicking you in the ribs? Please. My son broke one of my ribs! Well, it was never diagnosed by a doctor or anything but I could just feel it, you know?”
I don’t know why people do this, but it needs to stop. Let’s just agree that particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, everyone feels like shit. And by dismissing the woes of your friend, you’re refusing to validate that she is also a miserable, sweaty, land whale who just wants to have a whinge, eat some chocolate and plot ways to kill her husband for getting her pregnant in the first place. If you want to maximise happiness for both of you, buy 2 blocks of chocolate and plot their deaths together. Power in numbers.