Friday, December 21, 2007


I hadn't really felt the isolation that other mothers talk about until last week. It was interesting to experience it, so I thought I would share.

Last Monday was my birthday. I am, by my own admission, a pretty 'look at me, look at me' kind of person. Usually my birthday was either celebrated on a school day, which meant many children, parents and colleagues wishing me happy birthday, or on a weekend day, which meant my husband spoiling me.

One year while I was teaching the children in my class organised with their parents to throw me a surprise birthday party. Not bad for 7 and 8 year olds! Another year we had our end of year shared lunch on the day, and the children all made cards for me. So I am pretty used to having my birthday acknowledged by many, which I love.

This year was very strange. I woke and fed Lily in the early hours of the morning. Then my husband woke to get ready for work at 6am. He gave me my birthday card (my present had been given already, a magazine subscription as requested), then went off to get ready for his day. I fell asleep again (hey, it is hard having a couple of wake ups in the night!) He gave me a kiss when he left and that was it - my day was ahead of me.

If I hadn't planned to meet my best friend for lunch, I could have spent the whole day at home, speaking to no one. That was a strange realisation for someone like me. I had heaps of online best wishes - facebook, the forums I visit, emails. And those friends are awesome, but it was different to usual, which takes some adjusting.

So what I have learnt: it is really important on days like your birthday to ensure that you have something organised. If you usually spend it alone then it probably won't matter. But if it is normally quite a special day, spending it at home going about the daily routine with your child has the potential to be quite isolating, no matter how much you enjoy your life at home with your child.

There are wider implications - social people in working life need to make sure that they have networks around their child that will enable them to stay social. Ante natal classes can lead to coffee groups, you can make friends through plunket coffee groups and parenting classes. There is always playcentre or local playgroups if the others don't come up with some regular groups.

I really believe that if you are prepared to have time alone you will be better for it. Your life does change, that is inevitable, but how it changes is up to how you prepare for the differences.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Judging Mothers

I read an article today in the Weekend Herald about a book by Brett Paesel. It sounded interesting enough, but there was one passage by the journalist writing the article that really stood out to me. I wish I had written it myself. I will replicate it here:

Nothing provokes us like motherhood. Nothing divides us quite as violently. Mothers are perceived to onhabit a separate world from non-mothers, a world that's subject to stringent regulation, to harsh judgement, and to close scrutiny by the state, by the media, by the neighbours. We judge mothers constantly - the ones we know, the ones we don't. We judge them on how harshly the do or don't reprimand their children in supermarkets and on buses. We judge themon how much tv we theing they let their children watch, on the kind of food we think they feed them; on how much they swear in front of them; and how flagrantly they use their BlackBerries. We judge them on the name they've burdened their kids with, on the toys they let them have, on the tastes they encourage in the. We judge them for the way the dress their kids, and the way they cut their hair; we judge them on their bugaboos... (Polly Vernon)

Isn't that just the best truth you have read for ages? it really made me think of the ones I am guilty of - for we are all guilty of these things.

But when it comes down to it, which of these is important? And who are we to say how to love your children? Of course we have to act when there is abuse and neglect, but if a child is fed, watered, clothed and housed, surely all that matters then is that they are safe and loved?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dads are NOT Babysitters!

Last night I had a night away from Lily and went to a friend's house to hang out for a while - like the pre-baby days! So that meant that Jim was solo at home, and that led me to thinking about the phrase many dads tend to use when looking after their babies - babysitting duties.

Why is it called 'babysitting duties' to look after their own children?

Am I on daily babysitting duties then?

If so, when do I get my paycheck for it?

Why is if called parenting when I am at home solo and he is out, but not when the other way around? (I am talking about societal naming here, not my poor hubby, he is awesome at looking after Lily!)

I think that it is phrases like this that effect the standing of 'mums' in society. It is an acceptance of parenting being non-equal. I believe we should think carefully about some of the language we use around children and families as it is almost self-defeating in its negative connotations (even stay at home mum implies a soap watching woman, not the very busy people most SAHM's are!)

So next time you have some time out from the continuous care of children, don't let your other half say they are on babysitting duties, give them another phrase instead:
- parenting alone
- flying solo
- hanging out with the kids

Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who Needs Sleep?

Just when you think you have it all going well, something happens and the little ratbags change it all again.

Lily slept through quite early on, around the 12 week mark. Of course I didn't sleep through - for weeks I would wake a couple of times in the night and lie there, listening out for the call to feed. It didn't come and I think my body was finally getting used to it - there was one night I didn't wake.

And then it changed. Just like that she went back to wanting a night feed. Gone are my big long stretches even - the longest she manages now is a 7 hour period. Now that is from the start of the feed, not the start of the sleep, so even that isn't a full 7 hours. And not a nightly event either.

It is hard getting used to getting up for that feed again, just when my body had decided to believe that a full nights sleep was on the cards. I am almost feeling more tired now that I did back in the first few weeks! It doesn't help that it is getting harder to fall asleep after a wake up. If my brain isn't whirring around, then it is just hard to get that automatic drift. Boo! I had been loving the breast feeding effect of the quick to sleep hormones.

And of course napping seems less acceptable these days, and less worthwhile. I am never sure how long Lily's day naps are going to last, often they are only 45 minutes, the length of her sleep cycle. I can get a longer stretch from her early afternoon sleep at times, but that means I need to resettle her after the 45 minute wake up, so why bother trying to sleep myself?

Broken sleep is hard work for mums. It would be hard work for dads too, if they were being woken (I know not all do wake). So you have to take care of yourself! For me that does mean an occasional nap, it also means having days at home. I aim for 2 a week, although there are some weeks that I have no full days at home - they mess with both of us!

I used to have insomnia, back before Lily. There would be days of little to no sleep, and I have yet to feel as bad after Lily as I did a few times before. but it does make it harder to stay all 'happy happy joy joy'. So if I have any advice to mums suffering from sleep deprivation, it is to find something that works for you - naps, an hour resting, lying down with a book (NOT an overdose on caffeine if you are breast feeding, that can keep you baby awake when you really need to be asleep), a quiet day at home, some time for yourself when someone else is looking after baby. Find it and treasure it, because the home cannot function when the mother isn't functioning!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A thought about Real Mums

Someone posted this on a forum I frequent, she had recieved it as an email. I decided to post it here as I think that it sums up what I believe so well. We are all real mums, what makes us a real mum is love.

This is for the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up spew saying 'It's all right honey, Mummy's here.' Who have sat in rocking chairs for hours on end soothing crying Babies who can't be comforted. This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and nappies in their hand bags.This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes. And for the mothers who lost their baby in that precious 9 months that they will never get to watch grow on earth but one day will be reunited with in Heaven!

This is for the mothers whose priceless art collections are hanging on their refrigerator doors. And for all the mothers who froze their bums on metal stands at football or soccer games instead of watching from the warmth of their cars, so that when their kids asked, 'Did you see me, Mum?' they could say, 'Of course, I wouldn't have missed it for the world,' and mean it.This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the shops and swat them in despair when they stomp their feet and scream for ice cream before dinner. And for all the mothers who count to ten instead, but realize how child abuse happens.This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the (grand) mothers who wanted to, but just couldn't find the words.

This is for all the mothers who go hungry, so their children can eat. For all the mothers who read 'Goodnight, Moon' twice a night for a year. And then read it again. 'Just one more time.'This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead. This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to play footy.This is for every mother whose head turns automatically when a little voice calls 'Mum?' in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home -- or even away at uni.

This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to school with stomach aches assuring them they'd be just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from the school nurse an hour later asking them to please pick them up. Right away!This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can't find the words to reach them. For all the mothers who bite their lips until they bleed when their 14year-olds dye their hair green. This is for all the step-mothers who raised another woman's child or children, and gave their time, attention, and love... Sometimes totally unappreciated!For all the mothers of the victims of recent school shootings, and the mothers of those who did the shooting. For the mothers of the survivors, and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, hugging their child who just came home from school, safely.

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful, and now pray they come home safely from a war.What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby, cooks dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time? Or is it in herheart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time? The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 A.M. To put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby? The panic, years later, that comes again at 2am when you just want to hear their key in the door and know they are safe again in your home? Or the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a child dying?The emotions of motherhood are universal and so our thoughts are for young mothers stumbling through nappy changes and sleep deprivation...And mature mothers learning to let go. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.This is for you all. For all of us. Hang in there. In the end we can only do the best we can. Tell them every day that we love them. 'Home is what catches you when you fall - and we all fall'.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oh so tired...

I haven't posted in a few days because it has been one of those weeks where you are just so lacking in energy. Funny thing is that the more Lily sleeps, the more tired I feel - what is that about?

It makes it pretty hard to get things done when you have no motivation and no energy. So I pretty much did nothing all week! I stuck to looking after Lily and heading out to all our different things we had on (now that in itself will make for an interesting post). I achieved nothing at home, although I may have emptied the dishwasher... anyway, did it matter? No! Did the world fall down around me? No!

So mums out there, if you are tired, REST! Don't drive yourself into the ground because that will achieve nothing!

Of course I am still tired today, but thanks to Jim taking care of all the washing and the vacuuming yesterday, I can still concentrate on Lily - yay! And I had just enough energy left over to post this.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Birth Story - part 3

Because of the heart rate dipping with pushing, they had to check that she was ok, so that meant drawing blood from bubs scalp to check lactic acid levels. They showed she was ok, so they let me push more. Another hour of pushing and what do you know? Nothing. She would come down a little, then go straight back up. They could tell (somehow? They are clever) that she was OP and chin up, so in the worst position (other than breech) with her head at the biggest size she could possibly make it.

It was decided that she was getting too stressed, and another blood test showed an increase in lactic acid levels. This, along with no descent from 1 3/4 hours pushing, and an accelerated heart rate meant that they needed to look at getting her out quicker.

It was decided to try an assisted delivery using ventouse, then maybe forceps if the ventouse got her down far enough. If that didn’t work then I would have to have a cesarean section. I was prepped for surgery. This meant turning my partial epi into a full block – bizarrely you lose all feeling in your legs. There were loads of people coming to see me from the surgery team, they really explained everything and the order it would happen in well and I had to sign consent. Even so things moved fairly fast. Jim had to go change into operating theatre clothes – very cool! He felt like something out of Grey’s anatomy, which was further enhanced by the relative youth of the surgical team.

I went into the surgery room and had to be moved onto the surgery bed – fun! They had to roll me onto the board thing, shift me to the bed and roll me off. I giggled a lot at this as I found it really amusing for some weird reason! They put your arms out like a starfish and legs up in stirrups, which was fine. Then they tried the ventouse to get her out – you have to push when they feel the contractions coming, though you can’t feel a thing.

No deal. She wasn’t interested in coming out that way so after 3 goes it was abandoned and I was prepared for surgery. The whole time the staff talked to me and introduced themselves if they were new. I felt really, really safe and Jim felt that I was in great hands. As it was now bang on 10 pm, there was a changeover in some staff, but even that didn’t feel alarming at all, due to the professionalism of the team.

They don’t put up a screen to shield the site from view, though I couldn’t see anything as the bed is tilted and you are lying flat anyway. They cut into me and began the job to get bubs out. You don’t feel any pain, but you do feel tugging and pushing and pulling. It is a weird sensation, that’s for sure. I have read up on the procedure so I know what they did, but you have no idea what is going on, then all of a sudden they will say something so you do know. In my case it was something along the lines of ‘That is a big head; there is no way that was going to come out any other way!’

So, at 10.28pm, Lily was officially born! 3910 gm (8lb 10 oz), 51 cm long with a head circumference of 36 cm. She tested a 9 on the Apgar immediately, so that was all good. Jim went off with Lily to the other part of the room where they do all the checking of everything – I presume she was suctioned as there is no other way to remove the mucous for a c-section bubs to get breathing sorted. I knew she was fine as I could hear her – certainly nothing wrong with those lungs! Jim cut the cord and once Lily was sorted out he got to hold her. They brought her round for me to have a look at her before this though, so that was nice.

Meanwhile they started the much longer part of the operation – sewing me back up! This was more uncomfortable than the first part. It wasn’t helped by the fact the epi started to wear off on one side – the side they were doing all the tugging and pushing on. (I have always processed anaesthetic and stuff like that quickly). So they had to top up my epi, and while that was waiting to take effect they gave me the gas – OMG – fun! I really enjoyed the few minutes I had on the gas, it was a great feeling! I can see how it would help in a natural birth too. They inserted a drain just above the wound site – apparently I bled more than usual during the operation, but not enough to need a transfusion. The wound was sealed with staples – rather bizarre but effective it would seem.

Finally they finished everything and we were taken to recovery. While there they latched Lily on for a feed – she had no problem sucking or anything and was very alert, showing no signs of anything from the drugs I had to have for the operation. They also checked for the block to be wearing off, as I had had extra they thought it would take a while, but no, it was already moving down the body (told you I was efficient at metabolising the stuff!) By now it was about midnight, or just before. A pethidine self administered drug thing was attached to the epidural site for pain management.

From recovery we were taken to our own room. There I was monitored every half hour (BP, pulse, alertness etc). Jim and my friend went home about 1am. Lily was kept in bed with me, which I felt fine about as they wedged her in with pillows and stuff so she couldn’t fall out. At about 4 am they got me up and I walked around – got to brush my teeth and my hair, both needed it! It wasn’t too hard walking as the pain killers are pretty strong – of course as I had been lying down I had not been using the pethidine, so the trip back to the bed was pretty sore and I pumped away at the pethidine for the next hour (you can only use it every 20 minutes) to get a base level back. The most awkward thing was managing all my bits and bobs – the pain box, the catheter and the drain container!

So that was the long tale of how Lily finally got out – hope it didn’t send you to sleep (unless you have a newborn, in which case you need all the sleep you can get so you should be thanking me!)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Birth Story - part 2

Day 2 – 2nd July 2007

Another internal in the morning found that while things were looking (or feeling) better, they felt more gel would be the go. So more gel, another stretch and sweep and another morning of waiting. The tightenings returned although not as strongly as the previous afternoon and evening.

The afternoon exam showed that the gel had not had a huge effect, so it was decided to rupture the membranes. They do it with this long plastic crochet hook – a really bizarre looking thing. It didn’t hurt, though like all things in that area, it was uncomfortable. No gush or anything, there was very little fluid that came out.

My MW arrived and I was walked to the birthing suite (around 3 pm). I settled in there with the monitor attached to my tummy meaning no more movement allowed. The drip and fluids were inserted into the thing in my hand (finally it was getting used! This is good as it was the most uncomfortable part previously.) Well that syntocin really, really works and works fast. I went from nothing worse than a tightening similar to period pain to full on 2-3 minute apart contractions instantly. Oh. My. God. I am so pleased that we had already arranged for the nice epidural man to come and see me as soon as he was free. Not being able to move due to monitoring meant that I had no way to cope with the pain.

I had about 3 or 4 contractions before the epi man showed up. They were just awful. Going from nothing to full blown was a huge shock to my body. I went from normal to breaking out in a huge sweat and feeling a huge amount of pain in a matter of seconds. If anyone has the syntocin and does it without any pain killers, my hat off to them as it was the worst pain ever.

Anyway, the epi man arrived and began preparing me for it. They give it to you sitting up on the side of the bed, slouched forward. I had one contraction in the middle of it and the difference in pain from the ones I had lying down to the one I had sitting was substantial – shows how important movement and gravity is if you can use it. I know they say it can take time for the epi to work, but it didn’t seem to take that long at all. It also did not hurt at all going in. You feel the local, sure, but that is just a needle. The epi itself is not bad at all. You kind of feel it graunching against bone while they get into the right place, but it isn’t uncomfortable.

Anyway, the epi worked and slowly the severity of the pain began to subside. It isn’t a full block so you can still feel the contractions, which is very reassuring. They also changed the monitoring from external to internal – not so nice for bubs to have things shoved in her scalp, but more efficient for seeing what is really happening. One side effect of the epi started around now, I started shivering, though not constantly (yet!)

Meanwhile the trace (fancy name for monitoring) showed that bubs heart rate was pretty high, so they tried to fix that by getting me to lie on my side. It didn’t really help, so an obstetrician was called in to check things out. It was found that I was fully dilated (about 2-3 hours from membrane rupture) so he decided I could push. So for the next 45 minutes I pushed about every 1-2 minutes, 3 pushes each contraction. Nothing happened. She didn’t move at all.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Birth Story

Thought I should post my birth story. Of course it is mega long, so I won't do it all at once.

Day One
It all began at 7.30 am on Sunday the 1st July, 2007. We went into WAU (womens's assessment unit) at Auckland Hospital for an induction. Somewhat naively we anticipated holding our baby by that night…it was not to be quite that way.

I had an examination which found that my cervix, while perhaps 1 or 2 cm dilated, was still really long, so they were unable to do anything other than insert gel at that stage. They also prepared the lure (I think that is what it is called?) in my hand, for any fluids or the syntocin drip they anticipated I would need. Gel was inserted and we began the wait. And we waited, and waited and waited. About the only thing to happen was I developed some back pain (oh joy). There weren’t even really any tightenings or anything. So we sat in the room, listening to music, ate, went for walks down to the shops and cafĂ© (great chai latte and yummy pies), I bounced on the Swiss ball, we read trashy magazines – you get the picture.

Meanwhile they monitored bubs about every hour for 20 minutes to check that there was no distress.

At about 2 pm they did another internal and surprise! Nothing had happened (I could have told them that). So another lot of gel was inserted, and a stretch and sweep performed. This one was a lot more successful. There were lots more tightenings and the wheat pack was really helpful at this time. Otherwise the afternoon was a replay of the morning…

Another VE at around 8pm showed some success- the cervix was shortening – hooray! Unfortunately I had had the total amount of gel I was allowed that day, so it was decided to let me sleep that night and kick things off in the morning. I jumped in the bath for about an hour and a half as the tightenings were still uncomfortable at that time. That was really nice. My friend went home to get some sleep and Jim settled down to sleep in the comfy armchair in the room.

About 2 am I found Jim asleep in the bathroom on the floor – that side effect of pregnancy meant my snores had driven him away! So I sent him home to get some sleep with the promise that nothing was going to happen all of a sudden!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Super Mum!

Some mornings everything goes so much better than other mornings. Just have to say that today Lily woke just before 7. She also went down about an hour and a quarter later - awake! (Huge improvement on yesterday). While she slept for an hour (through the evil sleep intruder, hooray!) I folded up the washing, put on another load and got that hung out, plus I finally planted the two tomato plants, zucchini and capsicum plants that have been waiting for 2 weeks on the kitchen bench!

Of course I am about to spend the rest of the day at a catch up with friends and their babies, gossiping and eating, but a girl has to have balance in her life!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bad Mummy

I was going to post my birth story today, but then I had a rubbish start to the day and I know in my description of this blog I mentioned that Real Mummies make mistakes. So here's one!

Lily woke at 5 for a feed, earlier than usual (after a last feed at 11.30) but she has been a bit funny with feeds lately. I fed her and returned her to bed, hoping for a good stretch and a sleep in for myself. My husband left for work around 7, moving the monitor next to me so I could easily hear Lily when she woke.

I thought I heard her stirring around 8 and said - just one more hour (remind me to get my iron levels checked! I am very tired feeling at the moment even with decent amounts of sleep). Then went back to sleep.

At 9 I thought - yay! I got my extra hour! Then I realised that the monitor had come unplugged and I couldn't hear Lily through it. But I could, if I tried hard, hear her screaming from her room.

I raced down there straight away to get her up and reassure her, she was so upset! I never leave her to scream and I felt just terrible that she had had to go through that. It took quite a while to calm her down too, poor little bubba.

So we have had lots of cuddles to help her (and me!) feel better and she is now napping - thank goodness she went down without a problem after the horrible start to the day. And she certainly seemed very happy once I settled her after getting her up, so hopefully she won't remember how awful it was when in therapy in 20 years time...

See - Real Mummies do make mistakes! Not the first, won't be the last.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tiger Lily

Pretty much every mum likes playing dressups with their baby, don't they? I thought I would use the excuse of Halloween to dress Lily up today.

Just a bit cute really.

Sharing Parenting With Your Partner

I chat with quite a few people on various parenting forums and I have really noticed that for a lot of them a big problem is the involvement - of lack of - of their partners. It seems that so many women are with their children all day, running the house, then do pretty much everything when their partner is home. Oh - some men do the bathing, usually so the woman can cook tea uninterrupted.

Now I know that I am very lucky with my husband, Jim is incredibly supportive and very involved with Lily's life. Part of that I put down to his nature and upbringing, having a hands on father himself. Part of it I put down to the fact he had to do everything straight after the birth as I had an emergency Cesarean section so was confined to doing very little for a while. Part of it I put down to my expectations.

When you have a child and one of you stays home to look after the child, then the child becomes the job. I am a Stay At Home Mum, not a housekeeper. My main role is to look after Lily, some days are easier than others, just like any job. I don't get regular free breaks - I have to take them when I can - and getting to the toilet can take some negotiating, but generally I focus on Lily, with a bit of washing and cooking thrown in.

The way I see it, my hours of work are the same as Jim's. When he is home from work, I am home from work, and we are both involved in parenting our child. There are some things that he can't do of course, as I am breastfeeding, but for everything else is open to both of us to do. And yes, I cook dinner while Jim baths Lily and puts her to bed, but he changes nappies (even the pooey ones!), plays with her, settles her when she gets upset - anything that needs doing.

Mums don't get stats, they don't get weekends off and they don't get 4 paid weeks a year. The least they deserve is the knowledge that when their partner is at home, he (or she) will be as involved in the raising of their children as they are. And if you do have to ask your partner to do something to help out it should be done happily, not with a sigh, a cry of 'but I just got home from work,' or a grumpy mood. Children need both their parents to be involved in their lives - if you have the good fortune to have both parents under one roof then children should know that what they get from their mother they can also get from their father.

Except for breast feeding a-la Meet the Fockers. That is just wrong.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Real SAHM!

Well, I did it. I would never have thought that I would, but on Thursday last week I became an official Stay-At-Home-Mum.

Lily is nearly 4 months old now and with the end of the year approaching I decided that it was time to make a decision one way or the other. I know my boss was planning staff for next year, so it was quite timely.

I have been teaching for 7 years, in that time I have moved up quite quickly, with my position at the time of going on maternity leave being a senior teacher with a team of 6 other teachers. It was quite a demanding role, in a rather progressive school. I would often work from 7am until 5 or 6 pm, and still have some work to do at home. There were many meetings and a lot of professional development. All very exciting and stimulating when you are passionate about your work, which I was.

And then my passions shifted. This little bundle came into our lives and changed everything. Thinking about putting her into daycare cut at my heart (amusing really, as previously I worked for a daycare that took children from 3 months), and my husband felt the same. (Actually, he was probably even more against the idea than I!) We looked at the money situation (not great, but we can get by for a while) and the decision was made.

So...I visited school, showed off my daughter to the staff and children, then let my boss know that I wasn't coming back. I know I am not irreplaceable, so I wasn't worried about letting them down. Letting them down would be me not telling them of my intentions until the last possible minute. This way they can plan for next years classes and make the best staffing choices they can.

And now I embark on a new adventure. Last week I was a mother on maternity leave. Now I am a real stay-at-home-mum. Quite a change.