motherhood

Birth 

My baby came early and in a way I did not expect nor was I prepared for. It was not the birth I wanted. It was the furthest thing from it! Six weeks on, I guess that gave me an idea of what the truly unique and fluid experience of motherhood would be like.

I wanted a home birth. My pregnancy was uncomplicated and went as smoothly as these things can. I was hardly sick; just lamented the swollen ankles and feet that hampered mobility in the last couple of months. We had gone to the pre-natal classes and those quelled my fears and questions around what I wanted from the birth. I wanted zero drugs so moving towards giving birth at home seemed to both of us as the most natural and logical step. I was in the middle of writing a post about my relationship with pain, inspired by Rhea Dempsey, to help myself come to terms with labour. My choice to give birth at home, although it took into account, was not for any noble purpose. It wasn’t inspired by wanting to give up my hospital bed to a mother who actually had a medical condition that would result in a complicated birth. The main reason was simply because I have anxiety and being at home would enable me to be uninhibited to let my labour flow. I didn’t want to be watched and monitored. I wanted a water birth.

On that fateful night, six weeks ago, I went into labour. There wasn’t the level of pain I was expecting nor was it that regular. But there was a lot of blood. I had to go to hospital.

While waiting in the examination room, I was overcome with despair. It was around three in the morning and she was going to be born soon as I came to accept the pains I was feeling to be contractions. Everything was out of my control. They couldn’t even turn the fucking TV off! I thought I was going to have to give birth while the fucking Thunderbirds played on the fucking thing while lying in the dreariest hospital room. Extreme melancholy.

During my education about what I can expect to happen, I was told any examination done to ‘see’ how dilated you are would not be done with a speculum. But it was. Twice. Because there was too much blood and they couldn’t see (why and how can you tell by seeing anyway??). Eventually, a doctor decided to do it the tried and true way of using one’s goddamn fingers. I was four centimetres already. That took all of two seconds to verify as opposed to forcing an instrument of cruel punishment up my vagina. I resent them for putting me through such an ordeal, but I hate myself more for not having spoken up at the time. I had already resigned myself to passivity.

They moved me to the birth suite. It was a much nicer room. My original midwife had the day off so I had to get acquainted and friendly with the substitute real quick. I mentioned that I had wanted a home birth and this lovely, bright woman gleaned everything she needed to know about my needs through this birth purely from that. She sympathised with me when my waters had to be broken manually because the doctors were worried about possible bleeding within the uterus. My placenta was abrupting. It was calling it a day and baby had to exit the womb. Much to mine and hers too, I’m sure, dismay. After this point, my baby was born in two hours.

The midwife had strapped a ‘mobile’, ‘untethered’ heartbeat monitor to me. She said I could walk around, take a shower etc. She meant well. It was getting increasingly painful with baby’s head in direct contact with my cervix. Honestly, I didn’t feel like walking around. I just wanted to lay there and grit my teeth through the pain. The midwives, who were also pregnant, hoped they will have an easy labour like mine. It just looked that way because I have such a knack for hiding pain.

My partner had gone home (in hindsight, quite a risky move! He could’ve missed the whole thing) to pack a hospital bag, that I had ignored to do, and make sure the dogs were taken care of. He got back just after they had broken my waters which was good because I suddenly felt I needed to take a massive dump and needed help getting out of bed as both hands had cannulas in. But the monitor cut out. Wireless my arse! The midwife started to worry because they had to get it working, that was priority. The only way it would continue to work was if my partner physically held it in place, pressed to my contracting belly. The annoyance I felt from that plus the contractions coming one after the other, over and over again started to become almost unbearable.

It felt like a long acid trip. My face and jaw felt slack and then tight. Like I had done multiple lines of coke and a gram of meth. Then shot up some heroin to bring me down. All that while being completely out of control and wanting it to end and feeling like the end was way out of sight. It was a fucking trip! I wanted off…

I caved. I remember being angry at being put through so many things that I had been so against having done to me that I thought, “fuck it! Where are the painkillers??” In the seconds between contractions I asked the midwife for pain relief. She heard me, but that darling woman chose not to answer. She knew that was my ‘transition’. A second later, I was ready to start pushing. Thanks to her, I was able to at least have that go my way.

I’m not sure now exactly why the midwife had to push ‘the button’. More complications I suppose. But one moment it was just the three of us and the next the room was full of doctors and nurses that seemed to come from nowhere; like they were waiting just outside the door for the moment that button was pushed.

I was hurried onto the bed, on my back and my feet up. Some lady gave me her shoulder to bear down on and kept yelling at me to push. The midwife was telling me to focus on her. My partner held my hand. The doctor was saying some worrying things! I pushed as hard as I could. He said, “Can I cut you?” I had no choice really, but thanks for asking. They had the vacuum out to extract the baby. Apparently they hardly needed it because I had pretty much done all that was needed to get baby out in a hurry. All of that? Lasted less than ten minutes. And then I was holding a baby! In-fucking-tense. “It’s my first time holding a baby,” was the first thing I said to the midwife when she handed her to me. I was clearly in shock and a tad under the influence of that crazy mix of hormones. And I had to learn how to breastfeed.

Welcome to motherhood, Dil!

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‘Like A Queen’ by Constance Hall – A Review

Usually I would persevere through a book, especially if I intend to review it. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish this particular book, or more so, skipped large parts of it as it wasn’t my cup of tea. Self help books have never been my thing. The striking feature of this book also being that it reads like a bunch of blog posts strung together; there is story, but it is jumbled and parts, I think, that should have been discussed more in depth, weren’t. So I will pass it on. 

I can see what Hall is trying to do and the message she’s trying to convey. It is a good message. But the way she words it in her book is sometimes contradictory and can be a bit dangerous. 
Mum called me her little princess when I was little; I hated it. But that’s because she would use it in a condescending way such as to suggest I was acting like I was too good. There’s concern now around calling little girls princesses as it puts a gendered stereotype on them, so why would a grown woman want to call herself a Queen? I guess I’ve always forged my own identity and enjoy being separate from the rest. But I found my crowd in the heavy metal scene which is increasingly inclusive of both women and men. But, as I enter motherhood, I’m in need of more. I was given this book as a baby shower present and I gave it a go. I must admit being a little reluctant to write this as it could be construed as ‘putting a Queen down’, but I believe in voicing ones opinion and sparking intelligent discussion about the points Hall has raised in her book. When you write a book and it is published, of course there should be discussion about it! It’s not like it’s the Bible, right?

There were parts I liked reading, such as Hall’s portrayal of her mother. She seems like an awesome woman. I think being able to, and putting into practice, the art of putting oneself into another’s shoes is an admirable quality. But a lifetime of it can send you a bit mad; taking on other people’s problems can have that effect. It’s a quality more people should strive to attain. This is a quality I don’t think Hall has been able to develop yet herself through reading her book. This became a concern when Hall wrote a blog post about refugees, children in particular, and included this in her book. Hall compared her own son to the drowned boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. I do not believe that little boy “would have been excited too, putting on his sneakers that morning, wondering what wonderful possibilities this new land might bring”. No. He would have, since the moment of his birth, being born into a war torn country, known fear. Adult fear. The kind of fear no child should ever have to go through. His parents would not sugar coat it, they can’t, when it is all around them! Trying to relate them to children born in Australia is a false image. It takes away the urgency and the understanding we need to acquire to see them as people in dire need. 

Another point I found to be contradictory to her unifying message was her belittling of men, namely her husband Billy. There are overtones of the ‘us and them’ mindset and a need to hang onto the ‘mother’s club’ mentality. This is detrimental to any effort to create equality among men and women, especially when it comes to their roles as parents. No one should be put down, man or woman, to raise the status of the other. It goes against any push towards a fluid identity or parental role. Hall seems to be of the opinion that men cannot do what women do when it comes to parenting. There is zero support offered to dads. There are no father’s groups or daddy clubs. There’s very little male/dad specific resources. All they have is the way their father’s were. We know their father’s did not have the pressure to be ‘equal’. 

Sisters no longer have to do it for themselves.

 The majority of men that I know are great fathers, partners and hard working examples and they balance all of it just like their female counterparts. They cannot, as far as I know, read minds so the only way to get across what you want them to know is to tell them! They might not have the same emotional intelligence as you do, but instead of throwing your hands up, learn how to communicate in a way that unlocks their own ability to express emotion. 

Women have beautifully complex brains. 

Put yourself in their shoes. Encourage and give men room to express their innate compassion and love for their children. Speak to them with respect if you want to get the same back. This, I thought, was just part of being a decent human being. Lead by example as well, that is, speak to him the way you want to be spoken to. They are not the enemy. Stop accepting gendered behaviour. There is no such thing as blokey behaviour anymore. If he does no work around the house and stays out all night, neglecting his responsibilities, ask him why because it is not normal behaviour. Children are smart and look to you for life lessons. If you set an example of mums do this and dads do that, they will pick that up and perpetuate it. Your daughters will sit by, complaining to her girlfriends while her husband’s out all night. Your sons will work too much and have little to do with raising his own children. That is neither going forward nor backwards. That is staying exactly where you are, in your “shitty space, but at least your best girlfriend will be there with two bottles of wine”. 

‘Like a Queen’ wasn’t helpful for me on my journey into motherhood. But this is because I prefer to read factual evidence and sourced writing to get my information about pregnancy and motherhood so I can then form my own opinion. Rhea Dempsey and Sarah Buckley are two Australian authors and mothers who have helped me develop. Hall’s offering fell short for me.