November 25, 2010

I'm Pregnant. Really?

Lately, in that strange and fuzzy limbo between sleeping and waking, I've been forgetting that I'm pregnant.

It's just for a split second, but for that tiny sliver of time, I don't believe it's real. This is followed by another micro-second of wondering if I made the whole thing up and have created a phantom pregnancy, my tummy growing with a pretend baby because I REALLY, REALLY wanted to be pregnant.

It is the strangest sensation. I don't remember having it when I was pregnant with Jack.

As reality seeps in, along with the daylight peeking through the blinds, I know it's not true. I am pregnant. With a real live baby. It's not just 43 boxes of Uncle Toby's cereal swilling around in there. There have been ultrasounds and kicks and a heartbeat loud and clear on my obstetrician's doppler speaker. Cereal does not kick you in the bladder.

As if I can have any doubt, I only have to try moving. Each morning I mentally prepare to hoist myself into an upright position and get my feet onto the floor. Like an Olympic weightlifter, I clench my face into a mask of concentration before attempting a personal best, getting the extra 100 grams that have piled on overnight, off the bed.

My legs, creaking slowly in their hip sockets, feel like the rusty corkscrews of a reformed alcoholic, and just as useless, as I take the first few small robotic steps of the day.

My abdomen is tightly strung and I hold my hands under it's weight as I make my way to the kitchen to get Jack's breakfast. The baby does a lazy roll and a foot or elbow causes an extra bump to appear on the left of my stomach. I know the baby is head down and I imagine it settling into the cradle of my pelvis for the day as I move slowly through my day. Kerthunk.

Before long, my joints loosen and my body settles in to itself. I feel less like a 90 year old arthritis patient and more like a weightier, less fit version of myself. With reflux. And wind.

As the day wears on, I waddle from room to room. I've tried not waddling but it's too much of an effort. Easier to make like a duck.

I nest, I nap, I do a little work. I wander in to the baby's room and find it difficult to believe that I will be carrying a newborn to bed in that room in two weeks, maybe less.

And every day, despite the stiffness and the reflux and the mental trickery and all the other symptoms that growing a human being inflicts upon its mother, there is unbelievable gratitude, utter wonderment and a kind of serenity that allows me to transcend the physical and float towards my child's birth day.

For now, I can ignore the doubts, the fears, the outside world full of petty grievance and trivial domesticity, and, just for a little while, let myself be the cat who got the cream.

Image courtesy of

November 21, 2010

Calm Birth. Are You Crazy?

Calm. Birth.

No, that is not an oxymoron. Or a myth. Or a method of giving birth where everyone in the room gets high on drugs and stands around saying 'peace man' to the melodic backdrop of a few Simon & Garfunkel tunes.

It's a method of giving birth naturally. Without pain relief. Are you hearing me right? PAIN RELIEF FREE.

You already know I've gone to the kooky side (with all that communing-with-the-universe and secret baby t-shirt business) so really, it shouldn't come as any surprise that I'm throwing the anaesthetist out with the epidural and going all alternative when it comes to giving birth this time around.

Except that it's not really 'going alternative', it's more like 'going native'. We all know that millions of women give birth in huts and paddy fields as a perfectly normal part of their day to day lives, without medical intervention or pain relief. So why not us? After all, we have the best of both worlds - the ability to birth naturally AND the back up of medical intervention should it be required.

The difference is that we are so used to relying on medical help, we often bypass the natural bit, where our bodies know what to do.

For my first birth, I think it was fear that sent me scuttling to the hospital so early. Fear of the unknown mostly. When my contractions started at midnight one Saturday, I felt slightly panicked. I also had an awful and unremitting bout of diarrhea for hours and was worried about dehydrating. I laboured intermittently through the night at the hospital, but by 8am nothing was progressing. Which led to having my waters broken. Which led to being induced on a syntocin drip. Which led to immediate fast, hard contractions. Which, combined with the intense back pain of a posterior baby, led to an epidural.

Yours truly, mid-contraction, unable to move, holding my breath,
willing the aneasthetist to come NOW!!!
Don't get me wrong, the birth was wonderful. They turned down the epidural just enough for me to push effectively and John and I pulled Jack out of my body together in what was the most intensely emotional moment of my life. But in hindsight, I can see that my fear and lack of trust in my body led to a domino effect of medical intervention.

Now I'm curious about what it would be like to do it another way. With knowledge and faith and courage, instead of fear and doubt and ignorance.

I first heard about calm birthing (or hypno birthing as it is sometimes called) a couple of years ago when one of the girls in my mother's group used the technique to deliver her subsequent babies. At the time, it sort of drifted in one ear and out the other, because at that stage I had made the mental and emotional adjustment of living with unexplained infertility and confirmed myself as a one-baby woman. I was still interested in all things baby, but kept myself detached. As you do when everyone around you is having babies and you can't.

Then last year when we were contemplating IVF, another friend told me about her experience using the calm birth technique to deliver her first child. Not only did she give birth calmly and naturally, her little boy is, quite possibly, the calmest, most contented baby ever produced. This is another by-product of having an unmedicated birth - seriously chilled out babies. When I met this little dude, he sat on my lap, staring up at me as if to say "Hey there nice lady, wassup? Feel like chillaxing to a few Simon & Garfunkel tunes?" It was all I could do not to plonk him in my handbag and make a fast getaway!

I was fascinated. Pain-free? Drug free? How??!!

I jumped on e-bay, found a second hand copy of Marie Mongan's Hypnobirthing and started reading.

In a nutshell, the whole idea is that we Western women are conditioned to think that childbirth is horrifically painful, a trial to be feared, and that the only way we can possibly manage is via the use of pain relieving drugs and/or having a Caesarian section and avoiding the whole thing altogether. Of course, in many cases, these options are necessary and potentially life-saving for both mothers and babies so I'm all for having those options. But as just that. Options. Not de rigueur.

However, the combination of our education, our recent Western history, the childbirth hell stories we insist on relaying to each other and the portrayal of childbirth in fictional media (the cliched pushing, panting, screaming, husband-blaming labouring women of so many movies) have given us a picture of child birth that isn't pretty and is, in fact, bloody repellent.

All that gruesomeness has engendered a great fear in we women. We fear the pain. We fear any tearing. We even fear the fact that we might do 'number twos' when pushing! (For those who haven't yet had children, be warned, you probably WILL do number twos when pushing. It's no big deal and perfectly normal. Doctors and midwives have seen much worse. Your husband, on the other hand, may need to suck on some of that gas . . . )

All that fear leads to an enormous amount of tension. Tension causes us to stop breathing properly and our blood pressure to rise. We fight against the body's natural ability to bring the baby down. Our body stops producing the natural pain-relievers we need like oxytocin and endorphins, and starts producing adrenalin which sends all the good stuff to our limbs (to flee or fight) instead of our uterus. The result? Pain. Lots of pain.

Put simply, you get scared, you tense up, and it hurts.

So how are the hundreds of thousands of women all over the world who are giving birth calmly and naturally doing it? (Oooh, I'm sounding a bit like an infomercial aren't I?! All I can say is I have the zeal of the converted! Jeez Louise, I hope this stuff works.)

Firstly, we have to let go of all our fear surrounding child birth and completely trust that our bodies know what do to. That child birth is something that our bodies are made to do.

Then we have to learn how we can best facilitate that process, mainly through the use of breathing, which allows all those good hormones to flow, and visualisations, which help us to focus. The result is not only a calm, unmedicated birth, but a calm, unmedicated baby. It sounds easy huh? Would you like a set of steak knives with that?

The internet is full of calm birth stories so if you're interested, read one here . . .

John and I have completed the calm birth course with the beautiful, knowledgeable and yes SUPER CALM, Louise Luscri. You can find details about her and her accredited course here.

She's a proper, real-life midwife too which was quite comforting considering the course was in a room full of pregnant women picturing their cervixes opening and anything could have happened! As if that wasn't enough to recommend her, she also serves Tim Tams and homemade brownies for afternoon tea. We love you Louise :)

So . . . . here we are . . . . 38 weeks pregnant, armed with my calm music, calm candles, calm husband and this youtube clip loaded onto my iPhone (if you watch this clip, you'll understand why I will have the sound turned off - a bunch of Russian folk dancers aren't really part of my whole cervix-opening visualisation scene).

What was your birth experience like? Have you tried calm birth? Would you? What most scares you about child birth? I'd love it if you'd share your story in the comments below.

Wish me luck ladies!


Disclaimer: If the writer succumbs to an epidural, an excellent excuse will be fabricated to justify its use under the guise of creative license!

Image courtesy of cafepress. You can buy this t-shirt here.

November 12, 2010

IVF Story Part 3: Nice Needles & New Attitude

We meet our embryo for the first time on the big screen
just prior to being implanted!

The day I found out that I wasn't pregnant from our first IVF attempt, I sat calmly at my desk, staring out out over the hot red rooftops, through palm fronds swaying gently in the summer sun and wondered 'what next'?

I didn't cry, although there had been some eye-welling and lump-swallowing as I hung up from the IVF nurse. I felt more hope than anything else. I knew we still had a shot with our frozen embryos and we had agreed to have 3 attempts in total, but it all felt so out of our control now. We'd done our bit. All I had to do was wait and look after myself, which meant not giving in to the temptation to go on a martini-drinking, chocolate-inhaling, sorrow-drowning spree.

The nurse had told me we had to have a month in between each attempt. It was now almost the end of January so that meant we wouldn't be able to try again until March, although it would be a much less invasive procedure. No needles or harvesting of eggs. Just blood tests and ultrasounds to determine the right time to implant the embryo, followed by progesterone pessaries.

I sat at my desk, trying to focus on work, but my head was full of date calculations and tiny frozen embryos and what kind of sushi I was going to finally be able to eat in my holiday from IVF.

I needed to clear my head so I threw on a cossie and ran down to the local ocean pool, rushing through ten laps of freestyle in an effort to clear my head of all that chatter and making myself take joy and revel in a body that, unencumbered by the fragility of pregnancy, was capable of exercising and sweating and drinking chardonnay and taking hot showers and getting cross with people turning right from the left hand lane. All those things you dare not do when carrying a new baby that, despite all evidence to the contrary, might fall out.

Afterwards, I rolled on to my back and stared up at the hot January sky, floating aimlessly, my mind finally clear, all control relinquished.

Perhaps it's true that, in order to open up to the real truths in life, we need to empty our minds to clear the way. Because that's exactly what happened in that moment.

It suddenly hit me that I had been mentally and emotionally holding myself back from conceiving. Those thoughts I'd had all through the first attempt now seemed so negative in hindsight.

"Oh, if it doesn't happen, that's okay, at least I'll know we've tried"

"Doesn't matter if it doesn't happen first go, we still have 2 more attempts left"

"If it doesn't work, it's because of my age/my fibroids getting in the way/some other excuse"

"What will be, will be"

In trying to shield myself from disappointment, all I'd done was set myself up for failure. It was like I was inviting what I DIDN'T want into my life, rather than what I DID want.

I then remembered a friend telling me about a book that helped people to change their mindset from limitation to abundance. Something about the law of attraction and how you can attract what you want into your life.

Now I am normally the world's biggest sceptic. I'd always prided myself in having both feet firmly planted in REAL LIFE and BEING PRACTICAL. I'd rather play poker than read tarot. Heaven and hell? I don't think so. Elvis lives? Get real.

But now I felt I had nothing to lose in changing my mindset and embracing some of the hocus-pocus, universe-will-provide stuff. Maybe it wasn't all hocus-pocus. What if it worked?

The book was called The Secret. That afternoon I found a lonely copy of the hardback in my local second hand bookstore (meant to be??) and started reading. I finished it that night and then jumped on The Secret website and read some more.

I'm not going to go all evangelical on you here, or try to convert you. This is not an ad for The Secret. You can read the book yourself and make up your own mind. As with anything of a self-help nature, we take what we need from these texts and discard the rest.

I, however, found I needed a lot of it and decided to give it a go. I began each day being thankful for all the great things in my life. Just listing all those things in my head and saying thank you. That, on its own, was a really lovely way to start the day.

Then, following the mantra of "Ask, Believe, Receive" I asked, every single day, for a healthy baby. That was it. It felt a lot like praying, but without the guilt and self-reproach.

I wrote exactly what I wanted on a piece of paper and kept it in my desk drawer. I closed my eyes every day and imagined a baby in my arms, how it made me feel, pretending it was real. And, at the risk of sounding like a complete kook, I even bought a tiny baby t-shirt and kept it in my underwear drawer where I would see it every day.

And then this funny thing happened. I actually began to believe it was going to happen. That it was out of my hands completely and that, no matter what the statistics said, I was going to fall pregnant and deliver a healthy baby. I relinquished all control to God or the universe or whoever (which, for people who know me, relinquishing control is the true miracle!) and put all my faith in that belief.

I also started acupuncture, once a week, with a dear Chinese woman in Manly. Every time I saw her she would say "We keep the baby in, yes? We keep the baby in" and she would rub my tummy and smile with her eyes and tell me not to eat ice cream (something about the cold!).

I don't know if it was my new found belief in myself, or the universe saying "What the heck, give the kook a baby", or the weekly acupuncture needles, or Dr Bowman hitting the right spot, or the non-eating of ice-cream, but on April the 2nd this year, I pulled my car over to the curb to take a call and a nurse told me I was pregnant. I was one of the 28% of women aged 40-43 who fell pregnant using IVF! Yee har!! My hand went automatically down to rest on my belly, tears filled my eyes. It was real.

So thank you husband, thank you Dr Bowman, thank you Ping in Manly, thank you universe and thank you 'ball boys and ball girls' (family, nurses, friends, the magic folk in the faraway tree)!

And most of all, thank you baby, for hanging around for 37 weeks and proving that it's okay to have a mother with a few bats in the belfry!

We can't wait to meet you x

19 week scan in 3D - nuzzling Freddy the Fibroid

November 3, 2010

So Bump, how do you feel about having 2 dads?

In the last month I:

  • Made a filing cabinet from IKEA (with a screwdriver and everything)

  • Swore at said IKEA filing cabinet

  • Put WD-40 on the bathroom door hinges to stop them from squeaking

  • Took the garbage out and had a yarn to the garbo

  • Watched Top Gear

  • Drank beer

If I wasn't 8 months pregnant, wearing a skirt and worried about getting my roots done before the baby comes, I would say I'm . . . well . . . a man.

I may even be growing a beard.

It's not all oestrogen and Kleenex moments with this pregnancy business people!
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