Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mums and Bubs Halloween Party

Penguin costume
Our friends Dan and Estee have generously handed down to us some cute clothes and baby things that their sixteen month old son has outgrown. Included in a recent bag of hand-me-downs was a Carter's penguin costume, sized six months. This was perfect as Lachie's nursery already had a penguin theme and Mickey and I decided it was his favorite animal... :) Last year when I was only a few weeks pregnant, I was already thinking about Halloween this year, how old the baby would be and how I could dress him. I think I'm not alone in my opinion that infant Halloween costumes are ridiculous and adorable.

Anyway, we had the perfect costume, but no occasion to which to wear it. Lachie's at least a year away from trick or treating and no one would be coming to our door so I decided that I had to host a Halloween party for our mother's group. I specified in my email invite that the mums shouldn't feel that they had to attire their babies in costumes to join, but that I would be dressing the Lachster in a penguin costume and snapping a photo regardless of the weather.

Mums and bubs
About 36 hours after sending the invitation to a large email list (I didn't want to not include anyone in the mum's group crowd), I had about a dozen yes RSVPs. That's twelve mums, twelve noisy bubs and twelve large prams, aka too much party for my apartment. Fortunately, I booked out our building's bbq courtyard area that has a nice patch of grass and shade. I was also allowed to borrow the two folding tables that belonged to the building.

This one melts my heart
I asked the mums to bring picnic blankets, but was concerned that there would be nowhere for anyone to sit if they wanted to sit at a table. We have eight outdoor chairs so I would ask the concierge to bring up a trolley, drag the chairs from our balcony into our apartment, load them on to the trolley, wheel the unwieldy trolley down the lift and outside to the courtyard. Whew! This was in addition to the other stuff I wanted to bring downstairs for the party: a tablecloth, a jack-o-lantern, a tray of cupcakes, decorations, drinks, Lachie, the stroller, etc. Having the party in the courtyard was perfect in regard to space, but it involved transporting a LOT of stuff.

I was grateful that Jess and her little giraffe for the day, baby Josh, came early to help. We made more than one trip up and downstairs to bring the party to life in the courtyard. The weather was perfect for a party, but perhaps less than perfect for Halloween. My cupcakes and candies started melting quickly in the sun, the champagne warmed and I only got half a week out of the jack-o-lantern before he was a mushy mass of mold.

Still, the mums and bubs had a great time! In true Australian fashion, the mums went all out with the baby costumes. We had a lion, flapper, witch, spider, angel and fairy princess in addition to the penguin and the giraffe. We sat on blankets in the grass and no one used the eight outdoor chairs (lesson for next time). Because naps are tricky to plan around, mums and bubs arrived at different times. Without fail, a new mum would arrive and suggest that we lie the babies down in a circle and take pictures of them in their costumes. This made for some funny shots as there were plenty of cranky bubs who didn't share our enthusiasm for costumes with head pieces. Lachie was a trooper, but mid party I realized that I couldn't in good conscience keep him in a fleecy penguin suit. That was fine because we got some great photos.

I love to entertain and hosting my first kids' party was an adventure and a half. I know for next time that at least this crowd of mums were really appreciative of a basic party. They were happy with an opportunity to be together outdoors in nice weather and didn't necessarily need the blood orange champagne cocktails that I couldn't find the proper ingredients for anyway. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Jaunt to Coles (my local grocery store)

Plenty of my posts are dedicated to exciting moments and events, trips, holidays, etc. The purpose of this blog, though, is to record my thoughts and feelings about not only those special times, but the mundane everyday parts of life as well. Hence this post about the grocery store.
Expensive GF cereal

I go to Coles almost every day. When you don't own a car, have limited storage space in the stroller, eat most meals at home and have only planned a meal or two ahead, you end up going grocery shopping a lot. Most of the time I buy five to ten items, but sometimes even fewer than that. Last week my bill came to $1.25 when I purchased one red onion and one-vine ripened tomato. And I wasn't embarrassed by this at all. The cashiers know as well as I do that when your total is $1.25, it's more about the journey than the actual groceries.

Indeed, a journey to the supermarket is the perfect outing for Lachie and me. It's close by so we can go in the stroller or the front pack. It's on the same route as most other places we go: the doctor, mother's group, the library, etc., so we can easily combine a quick stop to the market with our other errands.

Our Coles is underneath the iconic Coca Cola sign in Kings Cross, a neighborhood known for its bars, nightclubs and brothels. The folks I see shopping there during the day are mostly normal-looking: middle-aged working people, families, elderly people, but the occasional junkie spices things up. Kings Cross is also home to a number of youth hostels so a trip to Coles usually involves overhearing groups of German, French or Japanese backpackers debate what type of cheese to purchase for their Bondi picnics (at least that's what I imagine they're talking about).

We've lived here long enough that I often see people I know at Coles: mums from mother's group, the guy who cuts my hair. It feels comforting to run into people I know at the market even when I haven't put on makeup and have wild hair. It reminds me of childhood trips to Vons during which we'd always see friends and neighbors. I guess it provides a small sense of community within a large city.

The other familiar faces at Coles are those of the employees. There seems to be a high turnover rate among the mostly South Asian immigrants who stock the shelves and work the tills, but when you're there every day, you recognize people. It would be hard to forget a man called Joy and a lady called Sultana (the Aussie word for 'raisin'). The older lady whose arms are covered in warts regularly asks Lachie questions about whether he'd helped me do the shopping. I always answer in the affirmative on his behalf.

We don't do a lot that's terribly interesting each day, so I save up my Coles anecdotes to share with Mickey when he gets home. I update him on what's happening with the produce: blueberries are down to $3.20 a punnet again, so I bought two, or the first peaches of the season are in and they're $15/kilo! I have him try to guess who I ran into or complain about the stench of the homeless guy I waited downwind of in line. As of yesterday, the employees at the deli ask you if you want to try anything behind the counter. Free samples are not as big of a thing here as they are in the states so tasting some Virginia ham yesterday was fun. Today I couldn't try anything because I had a cough drop in my mouth when they offered.

Coles lost our business for a while when Lachie was first born. We hadn't even noticed that you couldn't get in without going up a flight of stairs and going down an escalator, but with a stroller it suddenly became a challenge. We were very cautious with our newborn and went out of our way to shop at the Woollies in Potts Point (they have a ramp). Convenience ultimately trumped caution though and now I take the stroller down the escalator.

Coles won't be my local grocery store for long and there are plenty of things about it that I won't miss: $10 boxes of cereal, the fact that dog food is refrigerated but eggs aren't, the absence of black beans and the way they replace more and more registers with those awful self check bagging stations.

I wonder what my relationship with my new local grocery store will be like. How long will it take me to learn where everything is? Will I go there everyday? How long before I start seeing other people I know there? Time will tell.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Swimming Lessons

Lachie and his mate Josh in swim nappies
As soon as I learned that the Cook and Philip Pool offers lessons to babies as young as four months, I knew I had to enrol my little nipper. We've gone four times now and it's fantastic. The instructors are knowledgeable and patient: not pushing you to dunk your baby under the water until you're both ready and working up to every skill with clever baby steps.

Of course a lesson for a four month old is really a lesson for the parent and that's fine by me. I'm happy to learn more about how to hold Lachie in the pool and other water safety tips. I didn't expect a lot more from the class; I just wanted to have something fun for us to do together that gets him better acquainted with water.

I realized though that swimming lessons connotes actually learning how to swim when I told my brother, 'Lachie totally killed it at swim class today.' He said something to the effect of, 'yeah? Is he learning how to kick and paddle?' I clarified that my definition of 'killed it' actually meant: did not cry during the half hour lesson.

Not crying may not seem like an accomplishment, but on day one, when all the mums and dads were ready with cameras, most of the babies cried and some had to be taken out of the water. This is understandable because there are only short windows of time during which infants are not too tired or too hungry to do anything else. They certainly weren't crying because of the water temperature, though. They keep the hydro pool heated to a bath-like 33C.

Getting ready to go under the tunnel
Lachie, though, has yet to have a poolside meltdown and I'm proud of him for that. I give most of the credit to his Swimava, an inflatable tube that goes around Lachie's neck, allowing his whole body minus his head to be submerged in the water (and allowing me to have two free hands during bath time). It looks odd, but it's fun and I suspect it makes Lachlan feel very free. He can't yet roll or crawl or walk obviously so kicking in the water is the only means for him to direct his own body.

Most of the time when we get into the pool, Lachie starts splashing right away. He becomes very focused on the water and often doesn't look at me or use his voice. I think he becomes so distracted by the pool environment and the stimulation of the water that he forgets everything else. I hope that in the coming months he'll laugh and smile in the pool when he's more comfortable.

Lachie's mate Mattia is on the left with his papa
Getting dry and then rinsing off and dressing Lachie and myself after the lesson is a juggling act. I try to make sure that he doesn't scoot off the bench or scream the place down when I dress him. Lachie is exhausted at the end of our half hour lesson and ten minutes of getting ready and so am I. He has his best morning nap of the week (up to 1.5 hours) afterwards and that alone makes swim class worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Early Childhood Health Centre

During my antenatal classes and while staying in the hospital, the midwives stressed the importance of reporting to the Early Childhood Health Centre (ECHC) as soon as I left the hospital. A midwife would visit me at home, answer my questions and I'd be referred to the local parents' group. This sounded great to me because these services are provided by the government for free and I'm a nervous new parent who can use as much help and support as I can get.

I returned from the hospital on a Saturday, the following Monday was a public holiday so I promptly called the ECHC on Tuesday. I was greeted with a lengthy voicemail message informing me that the office was open two days per week (Wednesday and Thursday) and that a midwife would get back to me then as long as I answered my phone. The message stated that nurses spend a lot of time playing phone tag with new mums who need to answer their phones: "when we call, our number will display as 'private,' so please pick up our call." Jeez, I get it.

Anyway, I didn't want to fail Lachie in the first week of being his mom so I left my phone on full volume during normal business hours awaiting a call from the ECHC nurse. It took them seven days to return my call. The earliest they could see us for my baby's one to four week check was in one month. That seemed a little late, but I said okay. In setting up my home visit, I was asked a series of strange questions which, after the fact, felt like a quest to find something that would impede our meeting:

Nurse: Are there any renovations happening in your building?
Me: (Idiotically answering this question honestly) Oh, all the time!
Nurse: ...Uh... (obviously unaccustomed to hearing the wrong answer given so enthusiastically) Anything that would impact Denise's safety?
Me: No (Did she think I'd bring my baby home to a construction site with asbestos and metallic dust?)
Nurse: Is there abuse in the home?
Me: No (very sorry for the people who respond 'yes' and are in obvious need of support, but are probably denied a visit)
Nurse: Is there parking available where you live?
Me: Oh, yes, we have a car spot in the garage, but no car so she's free to use that.
Nurse: How will she get in?
Me: We leave her name with the concierge and he'll instruct her to go to our spot, number 787.
Nurse: How does the nurse get out of the garage?
Me: ... (Is this really a question?) ... There are doors leading to the lobby.
Nurse: Our staff have gotten trapped in garages before. Can someone meet her?
Me: Yes.

This inane conversation went on longer than it needed to. A friend had a similar experience when they phoned about her home visit. They asked if they'd prefer the midwife to remove her shoes in their home. My friend and her husband usually do this so she said 'sure.' The midwife replied, 'well, she has to leave her shoes on.' Okay...

Again, it felt like they were using any excuse not to do their jobs. When the day of Denise the midwife's visit finally arrived, my mom and I were curious and eager. At the appointed time, Denise rang and said she'd be there in half an hour. One hour later she phoned again from outside the garage. I was feeding Lachlan so I told her my mom would run down and meet her. Ten minutes later the midwife rings and says she can't see my mom and also her mobile doesn't work in the garage before the call dropped. My mom calls me and says she can't find the midwife. I tell her that she just phoned, but the call dropped would she please have a look around the garage. Ten minutes later my mom is back in the apartment saying that she jumped into a car with an old lady she thought was the midwife and rode into the garage with her before learning that she spoke little English and was not in fact the midwife. My mom went back to the garage and hollered for her before noticing a car parked on the second level with its lights on. My mom approached the car and found the midwife sitting in her car. When my mom asked her why she didn't get out of the car she said something about, 'oh, we don't do that. We need you to come to us.' Right.

Once everyone was finally upstairs the midwife asked a number of questions that I'm surprised she didn't have the answers to. When I told her that Lachie was five weeks old, she said, 'we don't usually see babies older than five weeks.' That's when we wanted to tear our hair out, but I calmly tried to explain that their soonest appointment was five weeks after I called.

Nurse: Well, have you booked in your 6 - 8 week check?
Me: No, I thought I had to sort out this visit first. How long does it take to get that appointment?
Nurse: Several weeks so you better arrange that now.
Me: No kidding.

Denise weighed Lachie and said he appeared to be in great health. I walked her back to her car to make sure she wouldn't get trapped in the garage.

I had high hopes that my conversations with the other midwives at the ECHC wouldn't be as nonsensical when I visited the center to attend my first parents' group meeting. During these 2pm meetings, new moms sit around a circle and state their name, baby's name and any issues/questions she has about her baby. The midwife gives a vague, unsatisfying answer and then they move on to the next mom in the circle. I quickly learned to ignore most of the baby advice and just enjoy the time commiserating with the other moms.

Unfortunately, the midwives didn't ignore me. Denise gave her colleauges at the center a heads up that I was suicidal or something (see my previous post on anxiety) so they were always calling me to see how I was doing, referring me to other people who didn't know anything about me and making sure I was attending the next parents' group. At one point they asked if I wanted to attend such and such support group and I agreed because it was helpful to meet other new moms. Yet another midwife then left several messages on my voicemail explaining that there was no room for me in the group that they had referred me to. Great.

During one meeting I made the mistake of telling the group that I was concerned about Lachie's weight gain following his cold and tendency to regurgitate an entire feed. I had seen the doctor about this and he wasn't too concerned. He was confident that Lachie would gain the weight back quickly after his cold and the vomiting subsided. The midwife cornered me after the meeting and lectured me about feeding Lachlan more and waking him up in the night to feed him. She threatened that if I didn't and he didn't gain enough weight, 'his brain wouldn't grow.'

The midwife who replaced her wasn't on my case, but was kind of grumpy and useless. Once I began attending mother's group meetings in the park, I stopped going to the ECHC. Friends and other mothers agreed and had similar stories and bad experiences. One mom said that the midwife yelled at her and made her cry. My friend Meaghan said that though government midwives in Victoria are required to have masters degrees and a certain level of experience, "any old grandma could get this job." Meaghan was right. When I learned that the government didn't trust these midwives enough to allow them internet access in the ECHC offices, I finally wrote them off.

At my last meeting at the ECHC, a midwife complained about potential budget cuts to their program. I felt like raising my hand and asking how I could give the government my feedback about the program. Dear NSW, your attempts to help new moms are admirable, but if the best you can deliver is poor service from lazy, mediocre staff then don't bother.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On a More Serious Note...

I am amazed by how profoundly my experience as a new parent is shaped by expectations and confidence.

Like Rufus Griscom in his TED talk: Let's Talk Parenting Taboos, I expected to be hit by a "Mack truck of love" upon holding my new baby for the first time. Though I loved Lachie and in a way had loved him since before he was born, I did not feel an overwhelming surge of love in the way I had expected. The experience of holding him and looking into his eyes for the first time was surreal. I found myself dumbly asking him, 'are you my baby?'

I had grown up loving the story of my own birth: the doctor announcing "it's a girl!" and mom declaring it the happiest day of her life. Unconsciously, I had expected to feel the exact same way when Lachlan arrived and when I didn't, I immediately felt deficient. In the days following his birth, I tearfully asked my mom and Mickey, 'when will I love the baby the way I'm supposed to?' I felt a bit of relief when my friend Shannon told me that falling in love with your baby is a lot like your other loving relationships: they build and grow over time.

Mickey surprised me by putting Lachie in our bed
Still, during those first weeks I was filled with overwhelming anxiety. I was on the lookout for post natal depression (PND), a condition which affects 15% of new mums in Australia. The literature and websites advise you to call a doctor if you feel like you don't want to get out of bed, can't cope or have thoughts of harming the baby. That all sounded very alarming and I couldn't really relate. Instead, I felt a paralyzing fear of making the wrong decision in regard to looking after Lachie. It felt like there were a zillion decisions to make about the new baby (Should we swaddle him? Is he still hungry? Should we change his diaper when he seems so sleepy?) and I couldn't bear the thought of him being uncomfortable and unhappy while I struggled to respond to his needs. I found these decisions so exhausting that non-baby decisions were likewise impossible. Even deciding what to have for dinner felt unbearable. I found myself looking for excuses to do housework even though my mom was doing most of the cooking, cleaning and shopping. Tasks such as emptying the dishwasher were gratifying to me because I felt confident doing them. Nothing about caring for Lachie was as straightforward or satisfying because I felt like I was doing it all wrong. I fantasized about being our housekeeper because then I could help with the baby, but not be so completely responsible for a new little person. I constantly asked Mickey and my mom to tell me what to do.

Sleep deprivation, of course, compounded the problem. It killed me that we weren't up all night because Lachie was. On the contrary, he gave us decent blocks of sleep between his feeds, but I found that I couldn't put myself back to sleep easily. I nearly had a panic attack one day while lying down for a nap thinking, 'I need to sleep right now because he is, but I can't.' There was so much pressure to sleep when he was settled and I was always sure that the moment I dropped off to sleep, the baby would wake and need me.

After one particularly heinous night, I stayed in my pajamas the following day so that I could nap, but I couldn't nap and then felt even worse. From then on, I made an effort to shower and dress each day not because I was going anywhere, but because I needed it mentally. Nights were like this really strange sick joke; let's all put on pajamas and brush our teeth and pretend that we're turning in for the night, but really we'll be feeding and settling the baby around the clock.
Impractical, but cute overalls

I made the mistake of sharing some of these fears with the Early Childhood Health Centre midwife (whose visit is worth its own post). She must have decided that I was suicidal because mental health specialists turned up at my door the next day. They began making appointments for me that I never agreed to attend. When I didn't turn up to these appointments, they visited me again and when I didn't allow them in, they phoned Mickey and left cryptic messages on his voicemail. The madness didn't end until I visited one of their doctors. It's unfortunate that the government's response to my request for help with anxiety only yielded more anxiety and I regretted ever sharing my feelings with this midwife.

What did help was talking to other mommy friends and time, of course. I learned that all of my feelings were completely normal and common though not textbook PND. It turns out that I didn't really need a diagnosis; I just needed time to realize that making the "wrong" decision when caring for your baby won't kill either of you. In fact, it will help you respond to his needs better the next time around. As my friend Meaghan said when I told her I was afraid of nights, "dawn always comes," and she was right.

Lachlan is twelve weeks old now and I grow more confident as a new parent each day. It helps that he grows more settled and more communicative each day. When I first held him the day he was born we were strangers, but with each smile and cuddle I fall deeper in love.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cool Stuff About Lachlan

Our baby boy changes everyday and I don't want to forget what he's like now at nearly seven weeks old. Here's a list of a couple things we've noticed:

Lachie in his striped cardi from Nani and red recliner

  • He likes to raise one fist in what I call his 'power to the people right on' move. When he does this while feeding, I kiss his fist and congratulate him on fist bumping Mama's lips.
  • He doesn't always take long daytime naps. We're okay with this because he gets a couple of good stretches at night.
  • I believe that the cuter someone is and the more you love them, the more nicknames you create for them. I wish there was a nerdy graph for this theory! Here is a list of Lachlan's nicknames organized by the person who calls him each one:
    • Papa calls him - chubba, chubby, chubbawumba, bubba
    • Mama calls him - the Lachster my rock star (almost rhymes), pudding, puddingtons, sausage, possum, little bear, little person, my love
    • Nani calls him - angel, precious, darling, sweetheart
  • He can smile! As he becomes more aware and alert, he smiles at us more often. Of course these smiles melt our hearts. He's also begun cooing; it's terribly sweet.
  • He "chuckles" in his sleep. Of course he cannot really chuckle, but he makes this cry/whimper noise that sounds like 'heh heh,' so we call it his chuckle and it's adorable.
  • He likes hanging out in his red recliner (borrowed from Ken and Meaghan) and his swing (borrowed from Adam and Elise). He used to tolerate these for just minutes, but he can go for longer stretches in both now. This is extremely helpful because it frees up our hands and bodies to do other things. 
  • If well fed and not overtired, he also likes taking a bath.
Hopefully pictures and video will help remind me of everything else that Lachie's up to.

Pregnant No Longer

When Lachie arrived, I experienced a lot of new feelings physically and emotionally. One of them was a sense of disbelief that the pregnancy was really over. There were times during my pregnancy when I felt like it would never end and then suddenly it had.

I don't miss the backaches, my slow waddle or the inability to lie on my back, but I almost miss the feeling of being special in the eyes of the general public. The first time I walked around town without Lachie a strange thought occurred to me as I passed strangers on the street, 'they don't know that I just had a baby!' Somehow, I had gotten used to my big belly alerting the world as to what was going on with me.

Likewise when I rode the bus for the first time without the babe, I thought 'people don't know that I need a handicapped seat because I don't have a belly anymore.' It took me a moment to realize that I actually don't need a handicapped seat.

With Lachlan, though, I feel just as special as I used to when walking around in public in the sense that strangers smile and strike up a conversation just as often as they did when I was pregnant. People comment on his sweet looks, mention the age of their own children and remark on how fast the time goes by.

Lachie's First Weeks

I don't know how new mums find the time to update their blogs! I have a tremendous amount of help from my mom and Mickey and still I've neglected my blog during Lachie's first weeks.
The Lachster in his tiki shirt from Papa and mittens from Steph

I'm determined to fire out a couple of ineloquent lines so that I don't forget the roller coaster ride that has been Lachie's first weeks, aka parenting boot camp for Alane and Mickey. Lachlan grows and changes just as quickly as my moods so I need to take a moment to record what's going on.

It seems like ages ago that we spent two nights at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital and two nights at the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach, but of course it was only last month. On the whole, the care we received was excellent, but I remember being shocked by how inconsistent the midwives' advice seemed to be. Some would tell us to wake Lachie in the night to feed him while others weren't bothered by the fact that he was a little sleepy in his first two days of life. As a new mom, you just want to be told the right answer in regard to your new baby and that was tough when it seemed like none of the hospital staff were on the same page.

Lacho in his playsuit from Jennie
It's delightful that breastfeeding women are encouraged to eat 300 - 500 calories above their normal pre-pregnancy daily intake and both the hospital and hotel take that into account when preparing meals.  Hospital food wasn't great, but there was so much of it that you could pick and choose what you wanted to eat. Likewise at the hotel, new mums in the Little Luxuries program were covered for an entree, main, side, dessert and drink, basically enough food for three people.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Little Luxuries program. The hotel was far more peaceful than the hotel because you could (try) to fall asleep to the sound of crashing ocean waves instead of the nurses' call button.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Birth of Lachlan Nicholas

First moments with Lachlan
It was just three weeks ago that we welcomed our sweet boy to this world. Though I wish I could post daily updates, pictures, thoughts, feelings and observations, my first priority is to write his birth story before it fades from my memory.

I had an appointment with my obstetrician, Dr Lucy, on Monday, June 4 at 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant (nine days overdue). I was nervous about this appointment because I knew it would involve a discussion about an induction and the inevitable end of this pregnancy. Some women are desperate to give birth after 41 weeks of pregnancy, but my fear of the birth and general good health left me feeling reluctant to rush things.

Many doctors don't allow their patients' pregnancies to extend beyond 7 - 10 days overdue so I was relieved when my doctor indicated that she would let me wait until Friday (13 days overdue) until she would induce labor. That would allow baby four more days to come on his own if he was ready.

The doctor did an internal exam and told me that I was one centimeter dilated and also did a quick membrane sweep (separating the amniotic sac from the cervix to get labor started if the baby is ready). None of us thought that less than 24 hours later, our boy would have arrived.
After weighing and measuring

In the hours after the appointment I began to experience mild cramps. I knew this might happen after the membrane sweep and managed the pain with panadol and my heating pack. As evening turned into night, though, the pain only increased and by midnight I suspected that this was the real deal. I had read that pre-labor can go on for days so I decided to let Mickey sleep and wandered out into the living room. I had every intention of watching one of my favorite shows, but when I flipped on the TV, the Kardashians were on and I didn't change the channel. The Kardashian reality show was followed by another featuring Clint Eastwood's wife and daughters and still I didn't change the channel. It's funny what makes sense during labor.

By 3:30 I woke Mickey and asked him to start timing the contractions. We phoned our doula Gaby and she told me to have something to eat and also to rest. My mom prepared some scrambled eggs, buttered toast and grilled cheese, but I could only get a couple of bites down. The contractions grew longer and slightly more frequent so we phoned Gaby again and told her to please head our way.

She arrived at 7am and I told her that I wanted to go to the hospital right away. Gaby usually encourages women to labor at home as long as they can because going to the hospital sometimes slows labor down when women leave their comfort zone. Also, the hospital sometimes puts you "on the clock" and expect your labor to make a certain amount of progress over certain periods of time.

I didn't care about either of those things, though, because the contractions were painful and difficult and I couldn't imagine dealing with them while Gaby navigated morning traffic. Looking back on it now, there was a funny moment when we entered the elevator and found two men already in it presumably leaving home for work. It was pretty obvious from my girth and expressions where we were going and my mom made a joke about getting stuck in the elevator together. I contemplated that possibility for a moment and then said, 'Mom, don't even joke about that.' Mickey and Gaby placed a plastic sheet and towels down in the back seat of her car (in case my water broke) and away we went to the hospital. Fortunately for me, the roads were clear of traffic and we arrived relatively quickly at 8am.
Papa Lachie time

The next couple of hours are kind of blurry for me (literally because I took off my glasses and have poor eyesight). I do remember a very uncomfortable internal exam not just because of overwhelming contractions, but also because I had to lie on my back for the midwife to be able to do the exam and even reclining, let alone lying on my back hadn't been comfortable for months. On the plus side, though, the exam revealed that I was 6cm dilated, a cause for celebration. This piece of news confirmed that my labor was not only for real (I had a lingering fear that they'd send us back home and tell me I wasn't actually in labor), but that it was progressing well.

I asked the midwife to show me how to use the gas (nitrous oxide that you breathe during contractions) and was thrilled that it did indeed take the edge off the pain. The whole situation felt almost bearable when I hopped into the tub and alternated between sucking on the gas intake tube and my blackberry flavored lollypop. Mickey had read in his childbirth-for-blokes-type book that a dad took a hit of his wife's gas while she was in labor and he was working on a tricky crossword puzzle. He claims that the gas cleared his head and allowed him to complete the puzzle easily so, of course, Mickey had to give it a try.

After a couple of hours in the tub, it felt like even the gas and warm water weren't cutting it in terms of pain relief and I felt the sensation to push. My doctor confirmed that I was 9cm dilated and it was nearly push time. I hung out on a chair for a while until my water broke. I wanted more pain relief, but the midwife and my doctor told me that by the time the anaesthetist could administer an epidural, the baby would already be here. Prior to the labor I had feared this sort of 'it's too late for drugs situation,' but my team kept telling me that I could do it. I was more disappointed when I learned that I couldn't use the gas during push time. During our antenatal class at the hospital, they showed a woman doing exactly this and so it came as a surprise that I couldn't breathe the gas while pushing. In hindsight, though, my doctor was right that I would not have pushed as effectively on the gas so this was ultimately the right decision.

I pushed in a standing position for perhaps half an hour before the doctor and midwife encouraged me to hop up on the bed on my knees while leaning against the front of the bed which they had elevated. I gripped my mom's arms while Mickey massaged my back through the pushes. Mickey had a look down at the business end of things and told me he could see a small fraction of the baby's head. I remember thinking, 'if this is what it feels like when they see a fraction of baby's head, this isn't going to work.' I told the doctor this by saying, 'I don't think there's enough room!' She assured me that there somehow was and at 1:02pm, our baby was born.

I grabbed him first and turned into a seated position before Mickey and I looked and learned that he was in fact a boy. My family and friends knew that we were hoping for a girl, but we were thrilled with our sweet healthy boy. He cried a little, but didn't scream. He looked up at me wide eyed while I held him on my chest.  I thought I would be the one to cry with emotion and relief, but it was too surreal. Instead I found myself saying, 'are you my baby?' as I looked in his eyes.

Lachlan and Sidney were at the top of our names list for boys. I preferred Lachlan and Mickey favored Sidney. I also loved Sidney, but worried that as he grew up, that name would be considered a girl's name. I looked at Mickey and asked if he could be Lachlan and I don't think Mickey could have refused me anything at that point, poor guy. His second name is Nicholas after my brother.
First bath

I continued to hold Lachie while they delivered the placenta, Mickey cut the cord and the doctor stitched my tear. My mom was surprised that the nurses didn't clean Lachlan up, but the general wisdom these days is to allow the baby to keep the smells of the womb on their bodies. We wiped him, but didn't actually bathe him for three days. Likewise, I didn't jump in the shower until after Lachie and I had some bonding time.

Our stay at the hospital and hotel and Lachie's first days deserve a separate post. For now, I just wanted to reflect on his birth and express my gratitude to the friends and family who were physically there with me and those who were there with me in spirit. I drew a lot of strength from the positive energy I felt from those on my birth team: the midwife, the fantastic doctor Lucy, my doula Gaby who knew exactly what I needed at each phase, my mom and, of course, Mickey. He never once made me feel gross and instead told me how very proud of me he was. Though Lachie's birth was challenging and painful, it was also incredibly positive and empowering.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Best Baby Shower of All Time

Me and Jennie, hostess extraordinaire
Last month, Jennie hosted the most beautiful, personal, thoughtful and delicious baby shower of all time in my honor. She, Thor and others put in a tremendous amount of work to make my penguin-themed, high tea shower incredibly special and fun and I couldn't be more grateful.

Everything from the handmade penguin and snowflake decorations, to the baby trivia game, to the fabulous gluten free high tea goodies was elegant and perfect. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that Jennie spends her 9 - 5 hours crunching numbers when her talent for putting on the perfect party is this exceptional. She occupies a unique category of person that I made up to describe her: saint genius. A saint genius is someone who is both incredibly kind, patient and generous (saint) and also brilliant at the same time (genius). If you need help decorating your holiday table, assessing your finances, hemming your trousers, deciding where to go on holiday, hanging pictures, relationship advice or basically anything, Jennie is your lady.

The highlight of this already amazing shower was connecting to my friends in San Francisco and mom in LA who were all celebrating in their own way live via webcam. We encountered some of the normal problems that come with video chat: for a while we couldn't hear them and I always feel the need to shout, but for the most part it worked brilliantly. I was incredibly touched that Steph, Jess, Lee and Laura had gathered in San Francisco and had set up a party complete with decorations, food and gifts and had coordinated with Jennie on  organizing the video chat.
The food - can you believe most of this is GF?!

When Jennie first sent around an email invitation to the shower, I insisted that she include those ladies even though I knew they couldn't make it. They all used to live in Sydney and I consider them part of my core group of Sydney friends even though they've since moved back to the states. Still, seeing them on the webcam via the TV was a wonderful surprise.

Handmade penguin bunting, a treasure for the nursery made by Jennie and Thor

Trivia!

Another highlight was the multimedia trivia game that Thor created just for the party. He generated nine rounds (one for every month of pregnancy) of baby-related picture, video and music trivia questions. The content was fun and right up my alley; in one round, Thor used photos of celebs with their children and then photoshopped out the mom so you had to name the celeb mama. In another round, we had to identify movies about babies based on parts of the movie poster. Answering the most number of questions correctly by a good margin, Lisa was the clear winner, but I felt like a winner, too, because the trivia was so much fun.

Of course another highlight was catching up with lady friends who I know and love from book club, TA and Google. It was so sweet of all of them to celebrate with me and bring such gorgeous, generous gifts. I've since had way too much fun looking at, organizing, washing and then reorganizing and putting away these beautiful baby things. I'm confident that our little person has everything now that s/he could want in regard to toys, books and clothes. I know, though, that what our baby wants most is love and I've got a lot of that ready, too.
Girls just wanna have fun

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hi, I'm the least threatening person you know!

As a white woman without multiple visible tattoos, I was pretty used to appearing approachable to the general population. I visited Australian schools often in my role at TA and though I always followed school protocols for signing in as a visitor at the head office, no one at the schools seemed to question for an instant my right to be there. I truly believe that if you look the part and act like you belong, you can slip in almost anywhere. I knew that I wasn't a crazy lady, but did the schools really know that?
Would you talk to this woman?

Anyway, I've recently learned that pregnancy makes an already non-threatening looking woman even more approachable. I was prepared for strangers to try to touch my belly and fortunately, that has yet to happen. I wasn't prepared for what has actually been happening for weeks: lots of strangers talking to me in public.

I suspect people feel more inclined to chat to an obviously pregnant stranger because, just by looking at her, they're aware of one of the most important parts of her life. Most people who have approached me have been friendly and kind: store clerks asking when I'm due, people in our building asking if I know whether my baby is male or female, etc. Sometimes, though, comments can be mildly rude or revealing. A man recently looked at me and said, "my kids are grown up. I don't envy you." Ummm... thanks? Minutes later, a woman in the elevator asked when I was due and said "my daughter is struggling with IVF." I wished her the best of luck and she thanked me when she got out at her floor. Perhaps when people feel they know something personal about me, they feel they can tell me something equally personal about their own lives.

I'm convinced that I'm more approachable than ever because strangers often ask me about things totally unrelated to my pregnancy. A man in a furniture store asked my opinion about a chair and lots more people than ever before ask me for directions on the street.

There were plenty of early weeks when my pregnancy was only my business, but when someone offered up his seat on the train at 24 weeks, I knew I was definitely showing. Pregnancy has relatively few perks so I eagerly accepted the seats offered by strangers on buses and trains. I find it interesting that it's usually women my age who offer me a seat, but I don't believe that chivalry or courtesy from men in Australia is lacking. Instead, I believe that women are far more observant than men, particularly of a bulging belly. Mickey insists that almost every woman we pass on the sidewalk checks me out.

When I assume a less telling shape, I wonder if I'll miss the attention and smiles from strangers. Who knows? Maybe my baby will attract more attention, questions and conversations than my belly currently does. What I might miss, though, is the mischievous feeling that I could walk into almost any store, steal anything and get away with it. After all, who would suspect the pregnant lady?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Babymoon

It was only relatively recently that I learned about the concept of a babymoon: a last vacation for a couple before their baby arrives and presumably changes the way they travel forever. A babymoon was a must do for me and Mickey because we've always enjoyed travel and when I left work, only one of us had to take time off.
Posing on the veranda at Capers before our dinner at Margan

We considered returning to one of our favorite destinations, Hawaii (a 10 hour direct flight from here), and I even entertained thoughts of travelling to SE Asia where some of my TA friends are now living and working. At 33 weeks pregnant, though, long hours in any seat (especially an airplane seat) does a number on my back and getting immunizations and trying to avoid a stomach bug in Asia didn't sound like a picnic either. So, we opted for a holiday much closer to home.

We hired a car and drove an hour and a half north of Sydney to Toowoon Bay, a coastal town just south of The Entrance and just north of Terrigal. We chose this spot because Thor and Jennie had recently raved about Kims Beachside Retreat, a resort there in Toowoon Bay whose accommodation packages include gourmet buffet meals. Did someone say buffet to a pregnant lady?
Pregnant lady at a buffet

As you might guess from the name, Kims boasts a spectacular location directly on the beautiful beach. Though beach bungalows were available, Mickey and I opted for a terrace which was slightly cheaper and afforded more privacy. The decor in our bungalow was dated and not especially stylish and thus left a bit to be desired considering the price, but it was comfortable, clean and had the best shower I've used. It was large enough for two, complete with two overhead nozzles and six side nozzles for spraying jets of water at the rest of your body. I felt guilty about the amount of water we wasted when we turned on every nozzle, but consoled myself with the knowledge that Sydney's drought is long over, right?

This past summer, like the last four, was pretty wet and we didn't once make it out to Bondi or Manly for a swim in the ocean. The weather gods must have smiled on our babymoon, though, because we enjoyed lots of sunshine and I insisted that we get in the water every day that we were staying at Kims. The temperature felt brisk at first, but it was lovely once you got in. I savored every moment of my buoyancy in the salty waves.

Mickey and I prepared ourselves for these massive buffet meals by swimming of course, and taking bush and coastal walks. These were fun, but I felt sorry for Mickey in that I could only go so far before getting too hot and tired and needing a rest. He was a great sport about taking it easy.
Handsome man on the beach at Toowoon Bay

After spending three nights at Kims, we packed up and drove along a country road to our next destination, Wollombi in the Hunter Valley. I'd driven through Wollombi several times, but had never stayed there. It's a very small town (consisting of pretty much just a 't' intersection) south of Cessnock and the tourist center of the Hunter Valley.

I chose a B&B there, Capers Guest House, that had a fantastic host, but was ultimately a disappointment. The spa room with a fireplace sounded delightful, but it was too warm for a fire and the spa tub didn't hold a candle to the bathing luxuries available at Kims. Likewise, the room didn't have a television and almost every piece of furniture was upholstered in the same granny floral print. Worst of all, I had an allergic reaction to something in that room and sneezed all night despite the best efforts of my pregnancy-approved antihistamines. Again, the food and friendliness were top-notch at Capers, but I can't get over my disappointment with the room or the dead frog I almost bumped into with my mouth in the pool there. Yuck.

Fortunately, there was plenty to do, eat and sip outside of Wollombi in the Hunter Valley. Mickey tasted some excellent wines at Iron Gate, a winery whose managers are very defensive of their decision to use corks instead of screw caps, the norm here in Oz. We brought home a couple of bottles that Mickey generously won't open until a glass of wine becomes part of my life again. Later, we enjoyed a fantastic lazy lunch at Bistro Molines, a mod Oz/French bistro with excellent views over the Hunter Valley and a charming shabby chic/French country interior punctuated by bunches of gorgeous fresh flowers. (Kims and Capers, take note!)
Charm at Bistro Molines

Mickey didn't seem to mind that I wasn't up for lots of wine tasting so we spent another afternoon poking around the shops and playing mini golf near the Hunter Valley Gardens. As it was Easter weekend, this area soon became packed. We tried to have lunch at a cafe in the shopping center, but the managers had literally locked the doors because they "had too many customers." They told us to try again in thirty minutes. Oh, Australian customer service, you never cease to astound me.

The highlight of this leg of the trip was our dinner at Margan. The 15km stretch of road from Capers to Margan in Broke was windy, partially unpaved and especially treacherous in the dark. Mickey and I left the music off and gave all our concentration to looking out for roos and turning the highbeams on and off when we encountered other vehicles (which was rare). Fortunately, we made it safely to and from the restaurant and the meal we enjoyed there was worth all of the trouble. The focus of the menu is seasonal, locally-produced food (some of it grown/raised right there at the winery), the service was excellent and the price was very reasonable considering the quality of the food.

Very happy at Margan
To cap it all off, we saw not one but two families dining there with extremely well-behaved young children. I found this very encouraging to think that this babymoon was not our absolute last opportunity to enjoy travel and dining for the next eighteen years. Indeed, I try to remember what my friend and former boss Christina said about life with young children. She said that people tell you to enjoy your life now because your life is pretty much over when a baby shows up, but she says to ignore these people. With a young baby you obviously can't go out every night, but with some thoughtful planning, she said, you can still have the life you want. I can live with that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Ultimate Birth Playlist

in front of the hospital gift shop, 36 weeks
In preparation for the moment when Mickey and I need to dash (or arrive leisurely) to the hospital for the birth of our baby, we've been studying checklists of items that belong in your hospital bag. Some of those items seem pretty obvious: toiletries, socks, etc., while others surprised me: lollipops to give the laboring mom energy, a swim suit for the partner so that he can support you in the shower.

We've also heard that you're welcome to bring CDs or an iPod and dock/speakers in order to listen to relaxing music or any type of music that might make labor slightly easier for the new mother. Though I hadn't thought about this before, I'm certainly willing to try anything that will make my birth experience feel more comfortable. A friend indicated that listening to her hypnobirthing CDs over and over again during labor and through contractions actually was very helpful.

So, for a while now, I've had "create the ultimate birth playlist" at the top of my to do list and I sort of don't know where to begin. The thought of creating a soundtrack to accompany one of the most alternately intense, boring, exciting, painful, emotional experiences of my life is both daunting and hilarious.

I guess relaxing music makes sense because a woman's labor progresses more efficiently when she feels comfortable. So, does that mean Enya? What about that wood flute music they play at day spas? Are there moments in labor when you want to hear upbeat music to motivate you through the pushing? I'm trying to imagine myself laboring to "Eye of the Tiger" or Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" (oh, we're halfway there!). Would that help or would I just want to punch somebody?

Alternatively, what kind of music might set a good tone for a C-section? I'm hoping that I won't require one, but if I do, what songs might make me most okay with having major abdominal surgery while awake? I've heard that the experience is surreal for many reasons, one of which is that a C-section is pretty routine for the surgeons and they sometimes discuss weekend golf plans while performing them. Meanwhile, the new mom is numb from the chest down during one of the most critical moments of her life. Should she distract herself by listening to surgeon chatter or focus on her partner and the soothing sounds of say, Norah Jones? I've always felt that listening to "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles can improve any situation so maybe that belongs on my playlist somewhere.

Years ago I heard about a woman who watched The Simpsons during labor and delivery. That always struck me as odd, but maybe television is a better distraction than music is. Mickey loaded our tablet up with episodes of my current favorite show Parks and Recreation so that I have the option to watch that at the hospital. Because watching the show makes everything less scary to me because it reminds me to not take life so seriously, it felt like the right choice.

Perhaps the more amusing question to contemplate is what do I absolutely NOT want to hear during labor and delivery? I enjoyed creating the 'do not play' list for our deejay for our wedding reception: no Disney, no Celine Dion, no Chicken Dance, etc. It tickles me to come up with songs that would be totally inappropriate for birthing: "Monster Mash" and anything you might hear at a Halloween parade, "Achy Breaky Heart" and any song that has its own dance, "Mambo Number Five," etc.

What about you? What's on your ultimate birth playlist? What wouldn't you want to hear? Ladies who have been there before, feel free to give me a reality check and tell me that there are parts of labor and delivery during which background music makes absolutely no difference.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Australia Day Weekend: the Penultimate Trip Before Baby

Cape Schanck
Over Australia Day weekend this year, Mickey and I took a quick trip to Melbourne. We enjoyed a long day at the tennis watching back to back semi finals matches and then spent the remainder of the weekend on the Mornington Peninsula, a wine-producing region two hours south of Melbourne.

Fortunately for me, this trip coincided with what you could almost call a sweet spot in the pregnancy. The morning sickness had eased significantly and I wasn't yet so large that I couldn't get around. I guess there's no part of a pregnancy that's ideal for wine tasting, but the Mornington Peninsula has a lot to offer beyond its wineries.
Victory for the Bryans

Yet again, the tennis in Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open didn't disappoint. We were able to cheer on Team USA as we saw the brothers Bryan win their men's doubles match. Mickey snapped a well-timed photo of their mid-air chest bump. Our afternoon seats afforded us with a great view of the action during the next couple of women's matches, but I fried my skin in the dangerous Australian sun. I was pretty upset about this because I had reapplied my sunblock several times to no avail. Cheering for one of my faves Aussie Kim (Clijsters) was worth the time in the heat, but I probably should have spent the Sharapova match in the shade. Seriously, Maria, I'm sick of the grunting.
I love you, Roger!

The main event was the Roger versus Rafa match that evening. I should have enjoyed the match more because I love both players, but I'm a terrible tennis fan in that I'm not interested in any outcome other than Roger winning every time. He could have won, too, as he started out strong, but I think Rafa and Djoko get under his skin in a way that other players don't.

Brekkie at Big Blue Backyard
After a quick breakfast with Kate in Melbourne, we leisurely drove south down the Mornington Peninsula and checked into our B&B, Big Blue Backyard. Our cottage was decorated beautifully with handmade furniture and art by local artists and we found it very romantic and private. Indeed, the proprietors wouldn't have it any other way; when we asked about a wireless internet connection, we were told that "guests come here to relax, not stay connected." Not having access to the internet (our phones didn't have reception there) feels ever more foreign these days, but we were able to play by their rules of relaxation for the weekend.

Fortunately what Big Blue Backyard lacked technologically, it made up for in luxury and comfort. Having our gourmet breakfast delivered directly to our private patio was a huge treat. Likewise, we spent two evenings stargazing from the sunken outdoor spa tub. There was a moment of panic when we heard a creature rustling around in the bushes approach the spa tub, but it was only a possum and Mickey shooed him away by flicking water in his direction.
Laney at the vinyard

The weather that weekend was warm and gorgeous and we were able to enjoy as many outdoorsy activities as my condition would allow. We had a wander through a sculpture garden at a winery and took two lovely bushwalks: one around Arthur's Seat and another at Cape Schanck. My slower than normal walking pace served us well when I spotted a tawny frogmouth perched on a branch immediately next to the trail. She was a good sport about posing for pictures while Mickey changed camera lenses.
Tawny frogmouth

We caught up with Kate and Michael briefly in Melbourne before returning to the airport. I'm thrilled that this trip was such a success because it was probably our last one to the tennis for years to come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Year in Colorado

Here it is April and I still haven't shared some photos and memories from our New Year trip to Colorado. Our dear friends Chris and Jess moved there from Sydney two years ago and we'd been keen to visit ever since. So, after Christmas in LA and nearly a week in Ohio, we flew to Denver on New Year's Eve and met Chris and Lee (who had flown in from San Francisco) at the airport.

NYE
It was hard to wait until we got to Chris and Jess' house to tell everyone our news that we were expecting a baby. They were thrilled and it felt like there was all the more to celebrate when we dined out at a lovely restaurant in downtown Denver. We had a comfortable booth and enjoyed a multi course tasting menu that concluded only 15 minutes before midnight. Armed with noise makers and NYE hats from the restaurant, we brought in the New Year with other Denver revellers and fireworks.

The joke of the short trip was that Chris and Jess were running a fantastic, full-service B&B. When Chris picked us up from the airport he had water ready for everyone to prepare us for the altitude. Likewise, they had made our dinner booking for NYE and had organized snow clothing, shoes and gear for our venture into the Rocky Mountains on New Year's Day. We were extremely impressed that they had tracked down three sets of snow-friendly clothes and shoes that kept us warm on a freezing day.

Rocky Mountain National Park
I had never been to Colorado before and found our gorgeous drive into Rocky Mountain National Park to be a huge treat. We found a couple of easy hikes: one around a frozen lake and another through a field and up to the face of a frozen waterfall. I was tempted to walk directly on to the frozen lake as others were doing, but Jess absolutely prohibited me from doing so. The pregnant lady wasn't going to get hypothermia on her watch!

The Stanley
We had an early dinner at The Stanley, the hotel that inspired guest Stephen King to write The Shining. The hotel fully embraces this claim to fame and has movie posters and memorabilia all over the lower floor. The ghost tour was in full swing while we explored the lobby.

Back at Chris and Jess' house, we capped off the first day of 2012 with a soak (or partial soak for me) in their hot tub. On January 2nd we had time for a quick trip to Udi's, the manufacturer of the best GF products I've ever had, and a cute baby boutique before we were off to the airport.

Though our trip was brief, I couldn't have asked for a better New Year's celebration. I highly recommend the McFarland B&B and would certainly stay there again!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doctors and Doulas

I learned the hard way that you should choose an obstetrician based on referrals from friends, not solely on the appearance of their websites.

When I first told my GP about my pregnancy, she gave me a list of local OBs who have offices in the city, but can deliver at the hospital of your choice. This sounded convenient so I googled each and chose the doctor with the best website. The website featured photos and videos of the doctor and there was something immediately familiar about his face. I took this as a good sign.
diaper bag from TA

After waiting an hour past my appointment time to meet with him at his extremely busy offices on Macquarie Street, though, I realized that the person the doctor reminded me of was former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer and this wasn't really a good sign. More important than his resemblance to a disgraced US politician, though, was his arrogance and condescension. The first time I met with him, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and attributed his abrupt style of communication to the fact that he probably wished to put pregnant women at ease. If he made everything about pregnancy sound like no big deal then maybe women under his care would be less fearful, I reasoned.

Mickey accompanied me on my next appointment (to which the doctor was again an hour late), and agreed that he was kind of a jerk and that we could find someone else. Fortunately, our private health insurance allows us to choose our obstetrician and we didn't have any trouble switching. Our friends Dan and Estee highly recommended the doctor who delivered their son Heston, Dr Lucy, so we decided to go with her.

Dr Lucy's offices are at the hospital where I'm going to have my baby (Prince of Wales Private, Randwick) and though getting to them by public transit is a bit complicated, seeing Dr Lucy is worth it. The first thing she did when we met her was make an effort to say my name correctly. This may seem like a very small gesture, but it indicated that she cared who I was and saw me as a patient and as a person.

Dan and Estee and our friend Shannon also highly recommended that we hire a doula to assist us with the birth of our baby. Doulas are women who couples hire (not employees of the hospital) who provide emotional and physical support to new mothers and fathers during labor and childbirth. Hiring a doula appealed to me because I have a lot of fear of giving birth and feel that anything that can build my confidence will benefit us.

I began my search on findadoula.com.au and weeded out any candidates who seemed to favor an a no-drugs approach to labor. (Doulas assist many women who go this route, but I'm not ready to rule out any of my options for pain relief!) I emailed a couple of my top candidates via the website and was surprised by the lack of response I got. I was amused to discover that the women who become doulas are often hippie types who don't feel constrained by strict time limits (for your labor or for getting back to you!) while the women who hire doulas are yuppie/hippie types who have organised all of their baby needs into a spreadsheet.

Estee and I traded funny stories about speaking to doulas who "would be happy to support you as long your birth didn't conflict with one of her acting auditions" and those who had families of their own and ultimately weren't sure whether they wanted to "make the time to attend another birth." Indeed, it seems doulas get into this line of work because they are fascinated by childbirth not because they have strong business sense, and perhaps that's a good thing.

Our search ended when we met Gaby, an experienced teacher at the Australian Doula College who has five children of her own. Mickey and I take comfort in the fact that Gaby will come to the house when I go into labor and will physically drive us to the hospital at the right time. This is a big concern for us as we're not confident that we'll know when to go to the hospital and we don't have a car! Likewise, Gaby will communicate with the medical staff on our behalf and help decode the looks that the midwives exchange. We're glad that no matter when Dr Lucy arrives on scene or what staff changes occur among the midwives, Gaby will be there on our team.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sharing the Big News

This isn't my favorite photo, but here's the bump
After I'd reached the twelfth week of my pregnancy, we knew the little bean was likely to stick around and that we could share our joy/fear/apprehension/explanation for my strange behavior with Sydney friends and colleagues.

Mickey was eager to tell the world, but I felt much more reluctant. I knew our friends with children would welcome us to their club, but I felt I was somehow betraying our friends without children; I guess I didn't want to tell them that we were leaving their club. However, people have a way of surprising you and defying your expectations.

I was sure that my friend Jennie would have guessed my news because she's incredibly astute and I was sure she'd have noticed that I no longer had a wine with dinner. She hadn't noticed, though, and was delighted. Likewise, our friends Bryan and Lisa (who aren't planning a family) were nearly ecstatic to hear that we were expecting a baby. Their pure joy was quite touching to me.

Telling my boss was a bit of a funny story. We were en route to a meeting when I was feeling very ill. I warned him, "Jack, I might throw up in your car and I've brought some barf bags, but it's because I'm pregnant." He's been very understanding and supportive. In fact, I walked into work yesterday to find a new, fancy chair at my desk. I've experienced some back pain in recent weeks and this ergonomic upgrade couldn't have been more welcome.

Telling my family was still nerve-wracking, but fun. Of course my mom is overjoyed and wants to talk about the baby daily. She's been incredibly good about never once asking us in four years when we would have a baby, though she really wanted to be a granny. My Aunt Tina's reaction was one of the sweetest. She began to tear up and embraced me and said, "I don't want to let you go." She said to my mom, "our baby is having a baby!" I'm nearly thirty, but I guess I'm still their baby.

Telling Mickey's family was different. I didn't feel nearly as nervous because I feel like it was his news to share. I felt like I could sit back and just wait for the words of congratulations. Mickey's parents and sister are really excited for us and I've been grateful for my sister-in-law's advice. She walked us through the baby aisles of Target and explained what all the baby gear is for. Other members of Mickey's family seemed to have a 'we guessed it already' or 'it's about time' sort of reaction. I wasn't thrilled with those responses because they almost cheapened the experience of telling them.

There will always be cultural differences between me and my in-laws, though, and they have a slightly different attitude toward starting a family. For lots of Mickey's family and cousins, having a baby is simply what you do after you get married. Perhaps they viewed our moving to Switzerland and Australia as unusual diversions from a proper life path.

In their own ways, everyone has expressed their happiness for us and that in turn makes me happy. Many people mentioned some really high expectations for our little one. People generously say that our babe will be beautiful, smart and kind. Are they just being nice or do they really believe that? I worry that s/he won't be able to live up to those expectations. If our baby is just average I know that I will still love her, but maybe other people would be disappointed.

I'm expecting the little one to be born red and squished like lots of newborns. I imagine my biological instinct/hormones will help me love the little alien creature right away, but that she might grow cuter to others as she gets fatter and less red. That's my hope anyway. 

I refer to the baby as 'she,' but I do not actually know the sex of the baby. Though Mickey would rather know now, we'll be surprised when it arrives.

the Big News

Reserved parking outside one of Google's buildings
I've ignored this poor blog for too long because what I most wanted to write about (my pregnancy!), I wanted to keep a secret until I had shared the news with friends and family in person. But now that the word is out, even on Facebook, I can describe the journey that I've been on for the last 21 weeks.

Mickey and I had been married for four years when we finally decided, yes, now might be the right time to try for a baby. It was a tough decision because, fortunately, our lives as a couple felt content and fulfilling. We have good jobs, friends and enjoyed our relatively carefree lives in Sydney. On the one hand, the question as to why we should interrupt our lives involving travel, dining out and spontaneity with the challenges of raising a child was a good one.

On the other hand, I think Mickey and I both have a lot of love to give and have always wanted to build a family together. When you have nearly everything you could want, sometimes you want to push your luck and explore what else life has to offer.

So, we began trying for this babe in May, knowing that if it worked right away, we'd bring the little one to Nic and Kat's wedding the following May. If it didn't work right away, we were hoping we could eventually get lucky and I'd show up to the wedding pregnant. Of course, there were a couple months of conflict and that's when this babe decided to stick around. My due date is literally the day before Nic and Kat's May 27th wedding and there is no way we can attend.

I've shed a lot of tears about this, but nothing can be done now. I'm grateful that Nic was extremely generous and understanding; he's really happy about his niece/nephew and not mad that we cannot make it.

Week six of this pregnancy marked the beginning of a devastating daily battle with "morning" sickness/nausea. I've put quotes around 'morning' because initially I felt awful at all times of the day and then settled in to feeling worst in the afternoons and evenings. I told Allison my news right away because I knew that she'd find a way to help me.

In a matter of hours she had called her pharmacist in Virginia and asked them to send her last refill prescription for Zofran, a powerful anti-nausea/vomiting drug designed for chemotherapy patients, to California. CVS filled it right away and I began taking the drug that afternoon. It's unfortunate to admit that I'm still on Zofran, but I've dropped the dosage way down and am feeling worlds better than I did. It cost Allison only $10 for a bottle of 24 four mg tablets. I pay $54.95 for a packet of 10 four mg tablets. And we wonder why health care is a bit of a problem in the US!

Unrelenting nausea is a strange and miserable feeling. Dealing with it for days on end felt a bit like depression: you stop caring about everything else because you can only focus on this crummy feeling. From an evolutionary perspective, nausea makes little sense. When pregnant moms most need nutrition, they experience food aversions and in some cases cannot hold food down.

Cravings make a bit more sense to me; the mom's body sends a signal to her brain indicating what the baby needs. I was far too sick to crave anything for a while, but now cannot get enough fruit and fruit juice. I seem to crave food and drink that are sweet, but haven't desired desserts (cake, pie, ice cream, chocolate) as I once did. I suppose that's healthy!

When people complimented me on looking great for being X number of months pregnant, I would lean over and whisper, "my secret is the vomiting." It doesn't make for pleasant dinner conversation, but it was true. Now that I've improved, I've gained a bit of weight (probably 10 lbs.) and am sporting a fashionable bump.

I bought some maternity clothes to outfit the bump and recently my friend Estee loaned me a huge bagful of hers. I was grateful to add more variety to my wardrobe, but am now concerned about where to put all of my old clothes, the ones that won't fit for a while yet.

In fact, space issues weigh heavily on my mind these days. We live in a furnished two bedroom apartment with limited closets and storage space and no garage. Where is all this baby stuff going to go? I've always been a tidy person with little tolerance for clutter and I think that a big part of mentally preparing for baby will involve accepting my space with a lot more stuff in it.

It's amusing that first world babies "require" so much gear. Indeed, most new moms and dads these days cannot imagine life without diapers, wipes, cribs, strollers, baby carriers, bottles, pacifiers, walkers, bouncers, swings, high chairs, etc. We watched the French documentary Babies over the holiday and were reminded that billions of people raise bubs with almost none of that gear. I can't get over the image of the Namibian mom in the documentary wiping her baby's dirty bum on her knee and then cleaning her knee with a corn cob. Ah, so there's one substitute for diapers.

There's much more to tell, but I'll leave it for another post.