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.

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 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.