Ah. Whoops. I didn’t mean to disappear, Roanoke-like on you.
My idea that somehow when I went back to work after maternity leave last year that I would have more time for…well, much of anything at all- proved nothing short of delusional. With hindsight, all I can say to myself is “um, duh.” My own little inconvenient truth turned out to be that there was no time, ever.
I spent most of the past year like one of those dogs chasing her tail on the beach. I went round and round pretty much all day until I fell over, slept a little- then did it all again. Occasionally, wistfully, I would compose a blog post in my head, but I never seemed to have a chance, much less the energy to write it down. So the days went past, turning into months.
Then we decided to sell our flat and uproot the whole family to the countryside. The consequences of that decision have consumed almost an entire year and it's still not over yet- all being well, next week we will finally get into our new house after nearly three months of being between homes.
I'd like to say I'll come back at some point and who knows, maybe it will happen. Experience has shown- never say never.
But I’d like leave with you with this in the meantime: I think we’re having a happy ending. Does the Internet permit such a thing? Because we are happy. Nothing is perfect, of course. But contrary to every expectation I ever had on the subject, I’ve come out of some very bad times entirely blessed with a lovely husband and two beautiful, bright, charming children. At the end of each whirlwind day, I watch the kids rolling around on the floor tickling each other, Botany giggling and Colt flashing his wide sweet smile at everyone. What an utterly delightful surprise he is. I am astonished on a daily basis that I ever doubted whether to having a second child. And Botany has mellowed somewhat into a sweet and kind little girl. She's terrible at listening to directions, prone to having her head in he clouds and sometimes drives us crazy; she reminds me of a lot of myself, actually.
When I was a student I was forever receiving comments from my teachers that my concluding remarks in all my essays were a bit...weak. I suppose winding things up just isn't my forte and I expect this to be no different. I will say this: I thank you all for reading, for being here with me in good times and bad- and I wish you well, until next time.
Oh time, you strange beast. In the last two weeks, Botany started school and celebrated her fifth birthday. FIVE! AT SCHOOL! These two milestones have made me jubiliant and melancholy by turns. While she's still on the small side compared to her peers, she's suddenly looking so grown up, neat and tidy in her little uniform, hair in two plaits, marching obediently into the classroom off to be educated. On her first day, I grabbed her up to give her a congratulatory cuddle and she pulled away, chiding me, "Mummy, I'm too big to be carried now, I am a school girl." Yes, Botany, you are.
It all seems to have happened quite quickly, and yet in other ways time moved like molasses over the past couple years. I recall those endless treacle slow afternoons, wondering how the hell to fill the time with a toddler, the minutes moving backwards as I counted the eternity to bedtime. I remember many evenings when after the grand finale tantrum, I finally was able to stagger to the kitchen to eat my own dinner and tidy up, muttering to myself "just keep going, just keep going, just keep going" and wishing it would start to get easier.
What I didn't fully realise until now is that the getting easier seems to coincide with her growing up and to some extents, away.
To add to the sense of Large Transitions chez Mare, we are also settling Colt into nursery this week. In case I haven't mentioned it before, the plan is that Knox, having profitably sold up his business, has decided he wants to take some time at home, looking after the baby. However, we also think it's a good idea to have the safety net of external childcare resource and given the scary length of waiting lists, we decided not to turn down the rare chance to get the baby into Botany's old nursery. Colt is still going two days a week where they are welcoming him with open arms and a large supply of dribble bibs. As for me, next month, I'm going back to work (gulp) full time.
It all feels like the start of an uneasy passage into the long grass- my main expectation is that in the coming months I am going to experience a constant sense of being harried and pressed for time.
On the upside- and (oh please Baby Sleep Gods, do not smite me down for saying this publicly), Colt seems to have inherited his parents' love of the zzzzs. Roughly around the time I stopped breastfeeding him (on which subject more another time), he started sleeping through the night, bar the odd squeak of protest when he loses his binky. By sleeping through I mean he goes to bed clutching his lovey Flat Donkey around 7pm, wakes or is woken for a bottle of milk around 11pm and then is peepless until about 7am. A couple of mornings, he slept until past 8am, causing me to do that wake/check clock/panic/sprint to baby's room to check breathing thing. He has his breakfast and then he goes back to sleep for a couple more hours. I don't necessarily expect to last forever but in the meantime, it's all very pleasing. So while I may end up running around like a headless chicken in the coming months, at least I will be relatively well rested. When I say "relatively", I mean as opposed to the deranged, sleep deprived zombie mess I was when I went back to work after maternity leave with Botany.
And on that note, Colt is waking up.
Coming up for air- hello, internets!
It seems like we spent most of the last month "transitioning" Botany from nursery to primary school, a somewhat protracted process given that she doesn't actually start the latter until the middle of August.
In my day, there was none of this transition malarkey- or at least not that I recall. My mother dropped me off at kindergarten on the first day and that was that.
And yet here for Botany there are "play dates" at the school, inductions, uniform sales and perhaps most surreal, the actual graduation ceremony from nursery. It's sweet and charming, all the little tots lined up in their caps and gowns to receive a certificate (for what, exactly, I am not sure). But I can't help thinking it's really more about making parents feel better about having parted with vast sums of cash for childcare expenses over the last four years- as if we now have something to show for it other than having survived the time with the rather tenuous work/life balance most of us seem to barely cling onto.
Botany actually has two nurseries- for reasons probably too boring to go into here, she went to one place near my office two days a week. The other was a charming but eyewateringly expensive preschool literally around the corner from our home another two days. This worked well in some ways and less so in others- in particular, I was forever losing track of at which nursery her welly boots were located on any given day and was constantly in trouble for failing to return some odd bit of important permission slip or payment for something. Eventually, I finally wised up and bought two sets of boots and indoor shoes, one each for the respective nurseries, a small step which minimised the chaos just a bit. Then, when Colt arrived, partly because Botany was so settled, and partly because we get council funding for preschool and partly to make the early days with the baby less frenzied, I just kept her in nursery despite going off on maternity leave.
Then, out of the blue, the charming/expensive place announced they were closing-for good- at the end of June. The saving grace for me is that I am still on maternity leave until September, otherwise I would have been completely screwed as far as childcare. As it is, we are simply dropping to two days of nursery for six weeks until Botany starts school. I've sat through two sweet graduation ceremonies and the requisite weeping by staff and child alike on the last day of the place round the corner. We've planned a bunch of fun activities, most of which will be wrecked by the ongoing appalling weather and the remainder by our general inertia at leaving the house. But I am full of optimism that before Botany is bound by the more restrictive school timetable, we will visit the zoo, the beach, the strawberry farm, the movies.
In the meantime, hopefully Colt will start sleeping through (ohHAHAHAHAHA) and I can finalise a plan of Knox and I will get two children from different point A and Bs on different days while I work full time. I guess as long as we are all wearing underwear and our clothes are not inside out when we leave the house in the morning we'll be doing OK. Even if we do have two different welly boots on the wrong feet.
Whoosh. ***Cobwebs on the blog***
I haven't meant to disappear for all these weeks but I seem to be stuck in the young baby version of Groundhog Day. You know, the one which invokes waking at the crack of dawn, feeding, changing, playing, getting to take a nap, feeding, changing, playing...repeat. In the intervals when I am not doing all that, there is Botany and her needs. Lots of needs, constant and relentless. Blog writing evidently didn't feature in the original day (the one I am destined to repeat for the next few months, or at least until I go back to work). Fortunately, showering did, so I am relatively clean in the meantime.
I will however get back to it, eventually- and hopefully sooner rather than later. There's more to say, I just need a chance- and the head space- to say it.
Aside from being terminally busy, I realised that parts of what follows on in Colt's birth story is not entirely...pleasant to remember, so I've been procrastinating writing it. But nettles to be grasped and all that.
So, where we were? Yes, drugged and snoring. Eventually some time later I wake up, in pain. I am still lying on my left side, clutching the gas and air nozzle, which Knox tells me afterwards I had continued to slurp upon while asleep. The midwives are changing shifts and there are two new ones who arrive to take care of me. I never really learn their names- just an impression of cool hands and a face near mine
I am not doing well. The diamorphine is wearing off, I am disoriented and not able to resume any sort of rhythm with the gas and air. Also- and I have absolutely no recollection of being checked to assess this- but they tell me I am still only at 6 centimetres dilated.
A decision has been taken that I am to be moved up to the labour ward in the main hospital. I wheeze through the gas and air that I don't want to go. I am told, gently but in no uncertain terms that we might be needing some help soon to move things along- that this is taking too long and the drip might be required after all.
I have to get off the sofa and onto the bed- I somehow manage to stagger the few steps between the two and hoist myself up in agony. They throw a sheet over me- since I never managed to get dressed after the birthing pool and then I am being wheeled along a corridor. I keep my eyes clamped shut and mouth glued to the gas and air but the pain is now completely getting the better of me and I hear myself making some very loud moaning noises.
We are in a new, small and dingy room. No flat screen tellys here, sir. I have to shift off the bed over to the new one- I do so, slowly slowly as moving is practically unbearable. A fetal monitor is wrapped around me as I flop onto my left side again. The baby is fine. I am asked if I want more diamorphone and I say yes yes yes with the fervour of a brand new addict. The medication arrives much quicker and soon I am back into floaty space.
I start singing about ham and cheese sandwiches.
Things are garbled in my memory but I am told that the doctor will examine me again in a couple of hours and then if there is no progress, they will augment labour with a drip. If that doesn't work, I'll be given a c-section. It's like the worst kind of deja vu of my life, the nightmare of Botany's birth hanging like a spectre over my head again. I croak through the gas and air that if this is the way things are going, I want an effing epidural. There is no way I am enduring the pain of the drip labour without one. The new midwife nods and says she will get that teed up for me.
Knox is falling asleep in the chair next to me.
I close my eyes and with every contraction I think "open, open, open" to my cervix. Time folds and frays while I float over waves of pain that I can feel but somehow not quite care about anymore.
The midwife comes back and says the anaesthetist is busy in surgery but will be down in awhile. Knox goes off to find something to eat and to alarm everyone with with texts that this is all going to end in a c-section. The midwife goes ahead and puts the vent thing into my hand so that it's all ready as soon as possible for the epidural.
Then a doctor arrives to check me. He says, rather pompously, that because labour is taking so long, it may indicate a problem of some type. Or at least that is what I think he says, because the heroin-addled part of my brain is still singing about ham and cheese. He finishes up his doomsday little speech, then he commences what is possibly the roughest internal exam of my life- it feels as if he is shoving his entire fist up inside me and stirring it about choosing a bingo ball. When he is finished, he announces abruptly that my cervix "is away" and he departs immediately.
Away? My cervix is away? I don't understand. Where has it gone? Have we lost it? I suddenly have visions of my cervix hopping into a taxi with a little valise, on its way to the airport and a nice sunny Greek island.
The midwife translates-I am fully dilated. Huzzah! No drip required! There is quiet rejoicing in my furry head. But I have no urge whatsover to push.
That's OK, she tells me, sometimes that happens. She tells me we can go ahead and try anyway, giving me a quick refresher course on how to breathe. Knox comes back from his food scavenging and is somewhat surprised, to say the least, to find me kneeling against the raised back of the bed, pushing.
I push and push while drawing on the now awful gas and air into my sahara dry mouth. I feel very naked and exposed so Knox helps pull the sheet over my shoulders. I can feel something beginning to happen. On about the fourth push, I am suddenly aware of the most horrid burning sensation. Oh my giddy aunt, it huuuuuuuuurrrrts.
That's the head, the midwife tells me. Easy does it. And then this lovely, calm voice from a woman whose name I never even learned properly, talks me through the next couple pushes- gently, just a little, little more, little more and it's burning but bearable and oowwwweee.
His head comes out. And the contractions stop completely. I lean against the bed, waiting while the minutes tick by. Knox and the midwife are muttering to each other and then Knox is helping me turn around as the midwife says something about getting a little help in here.
The next thing I know there is an alarm going off and about two seconds later the room is FULL of about fifteen people who have appeared from nowhere, unless they had been hiding in the bathroom that whole time. I am flung onto my back and somebody grabs my legs on either side and they press roughly up behind my ears into what I am later told is the "MacRoberts position". And all I can think is "oh my god I AM SO NAKED" as I finally have another contraction and I am pushing and someone is pulling and oh my god.
And he's out.
They put him on my chest for about two seconds. I can't see properly, being flat on my back, so all I have an impression of something small, dark and sticky. Then he is gone, whisked away. He's gone for quite awhile and I think nothing of it, since the same thing happened with Botany. I kind of assume they are weighing him and wrapping him in a cute blanket.
I am immediately euphoric. Whoo hooooooo, I say to anyone left in the room. I did it! I did it without the goddamn drip! Knox goes off to see what is happening with the baby. The midwife gives me an injection to deliver the placenta which comes out without any problem. I want to know how badly I have torn and she tells me that I have just a very minor tear which won't require any stitches.
Whooooooo hoooo, I practically shout ! I am SUPER WOMAN. Knox comes back and I am grinning like a loon. I did it, I did it, I say, I defeated the dreaded drip. I am awesome. Yay me.
"Um, Mare," he says gently, "the baby is not very well, you know".
Well, no. Turns out, I don't know quite a few things about our baby's birth- specifically:-
1. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck.
2. In the minutes when the contractions stopped, he was slowly turning purple, then black.
3. His shoulders were stuck, hence the need for an ER-like intervention with the cast of thousands.
4. His initial APGAR was a five, followed by a seven after being revived with some oxygen.
5. The first picture ever taken of him by Knox as the doctors worked on him is possibly one of the ghastliest images I have ever seen- a small pale fish baby looking very unwell indeed, lying splayed naked, red around the eyes, mouth gaping with the oxygen pump next to him, wearing an incongruous cheery pastel green hat.
I have no idea. While I am now slightly embarrassed at my unseemly show of self congratulatory delight, at that point I am so delirious with glee at being finished with the pregnancy and the birth that I cannot understand what on earth what poor Knox (who is completely freaked out) is talking about.
I have the messiest abattoir shower of my life and then I ask when we can leave, thinking we'd be headed off later that afternoon. It is only when they tell me that they want to keep us in for the night to observe Colt that a tiny seed of worry begins to penetrate my brain. Something? Was? Is? Wrong? What?
There is not much left to tell now. They finally bring Colt to me and I hold him. He is small and sweet, with a very squashed nose. He's still groggy from the stunned shock of his birth and maybe from the diamorphine too because I cannot get him to latch on for a feed. We are moved up to the main ward, Colt being wheeled in the little plastic bassinet as I walk beside him. Knox goes home finally to get some sleep after being up for 34 hours and says he will see us in the morning. I share a room with a sixteen year old girl whose baby is in NICU and who stays up all night talking to her boyfriend. It doesn't matter so much since Colt screams most of the night. I lie in bed next to him, trying to get him to nurse. Colt is checked every couple of hours. He seems pretty pissed off at being born but other than that nothing much seems to be wrong with him. The nurse finally comes in about four am and asks if I have had any sleep. Not in about three days, I tell her, so she takes the baby to let me have for a couple hours of rest. I wake up when she comes back with Colt.
He's got quite a set of lungs on him, hasn't he, she remarks dryly.
Yes. Yes, he has. And I will be grateful forever more that he has lived to use them. Thank god, we've had a happy ending.
Not. Enough. Hours. in a day.
Anyway, where were we on the birth story?
Post-chipmunk check in, Knox settles in with the tv remote and I commence to what I term my "contraction circuit". It goes something like this: lie on the bed for about three minutes on my left side, turn over for a minute, stand up, lean against the bed, squat down... annnnnd contract for about 45 seconds. Then walk around the room for a couple minute, stand by the ballet barre, squat down... annnnnd contract. Head back to the bed, repeat. Sometimes there is a longer pause before contractions but mostly this gets things ticking along until I am regularly hitting the four minute mark. However, it's not quite the goal we have been told to reach and so I am not exactly unpacking my bags just yet.
The midwife comes back later- by this point it is after midnight. We discuss my progess and she tells me that they will send me home, but that we will need to come back at 8.30 in the morning, and then they will check me- since it's still not clear what has happened with my waters breaking (or not). Sitting on the leather sofa, I sigh and say ok- but before I am done speaking, I have a particularly long and intense contraction, so much so I have to stop and grip the side of the seat. The midwife watches me and I can see her face grow speculative. She asks us how far away we live from the hospital and we tell her about half an hour to 45 minutes (or longer if Knox gets lost again).
Right, she says decisively, I think we should just go ahead and examine you now to find out what is going on with your cervix and the possible waters breakage. She explains it will possibly set the clock ticking earlier as far as needing to put me on the drip to augment labour- but we all agree that things do seem to be moving in the right direction and it's a bit silly to send me home only to have us turn around and come back again. And I contract my way onto the bed, whereupon she checks and announces that I am 3-4 centimetres dilated and my main bag of waters has not, in fact, broken at all. It appears that I've had a hind water break, with a small hole opening near the baby's head but the flow mostly being plugged up as a result of his position.
This is considered good, apparently. It is decided that since things are clearly progressing, we are staying put and then depending on how things are going, she will break the waters in a couple of hours time to fully to ramp up the labour. As I am becoming fairly uncomfortable, she wonders if I would like to get into the birthing pool?
Would I? Oh yes. I thought she would never ask! She fills the beautiful birthing pool with warm water and I climb into the most glorious bath of my life. I bob there quite happily there for some time...and the contractions slow right down. So I eventually waddle out, reluctantly get dressed and resume my now wearisome circuit.
At 4 am, the midwife comes back again and we decide its time to break my waters. She produces the world's largest crochet hook ("don't look" she recommends, then leaves it unmissably in the sink afterward) and with a painless pop, the fluid flows. It's lovely and clear, she announces happily. I am now at about 5 centimetres. And since things are now apt to get speedy on the contraction front, would I like to talk about pain relief now?
I tell her I would prefer to start with gas and air and take it from there. She nods and suggests she hook up the equipment, so I can use it in the pool if I want. I am given a quick tutorial to remind me how it works (inhale at the start of the contraction, bearing in mind it will take some seconds to work, exhale, imitate Darth Vadar if confused.) She hands me the mask/tube/funnel thingie.
From here on in, my memory of events starts to get more than little hazy. I remember stripping off and getting back into the pool pretty much immediately while slurping gas and air with amused pleasure, telling Knox "it's like that feeling you get lurching home from the pub, when you've had exactly one drink too many".
I remember asking him to turn off the telly and to put some music on. For awhile I drift along listening to a Rachmanioff piano concerto, blissfully removed from my body. Then the contractions get stronger and longer and I start to lean more heavily on the gas. It is becoming difficult not to lose the place with my breathing, not to space out completely with each inhalation.
I urge Knox to keep talking to me. Actually, what I say is "be my ground control to Major Tom." I think this is so completely hilarious and witty, repeating it to the midwife when she returns. She sits on the edge of the bed and says encouragingly that I am doing very well- and that she expects the baby to be born by the end of her shift; that is to say, by 9am. If possible, she suggests I deliver him in the pool. I say yes, great idea, although if she'd asked me if I wanted to give birth while dangling upside down by my heels from the rafters, I likely would have agreed right then.
She nods and leaves again. Knox pours in more hot water.
Time passes, in folds and wrinkles. I don't know how long I've been in the pool. The gas and air is now making me very thirsty and a bit nauseous. The contractions are coming every minute or two now and I am becoming very, very uncomfortable. I'm also now getting very tired- I've been awake for over 24 hours, with only four hours sleep the night before. I don't breathe properly during every contraction and the pain is becoming overwhelming. The gas and air is no longer touching the sides. I find myself leaning over the side of the pool, moaning uncontrollably. I decide, suddenly and urgently, that I need to be lying down on my left side to endure this. I ask Knox to help me get of the pool. I stagger unsteadily up the steps, whimpering. It feels like nine naked miles to walk the two steps over to the pulled out leather sofa bed.
I collapse downwards, saying weakly to Knox that I don't want to do this anymore.
The midwife appears again and there is a short discussion, somewhere above my head, about getting me some stronger pain relief in the form of diamorphine. She had mentioned this earlier during our little pain relief talk, describing it as an option of an injection which would possibly make me somewhat sleepy but "just take the edge off". What I don't realise- and Knox explains to me with amusement later on- is that diamorphine is basically medical heroin. But no matter. I am in no position to refuse anyway- I am so, so tired and rapidly coming unravelled with the pain, panicking through the wave of each contraction.
The midwife goes away to find a doctor to prescibe the drugs. She is gone for what seems like six days, then finally comes back and injects me in the backside with the diamorphine. Afterwards, I lie there, floating somewhere near the ceiling and totally disconnnected from my body and the pain of the contractions- though certainly not letting go of my grip on the gas and air. And I then fall asleep, snoring.
To be continued...
Shhh...do you hear that? That is the sound of a baby not crying, for a change.
In the last week or so, things have improved somewhat. I'd say that we have turned a corner, except that every time I have written or said that to anyone recently, we immediately experience a day from hell. Lest the colic gods smite me yet again, I will just say that we are perhaps slowly making our way out of the labyrinth of Colt's first three months.
With the smugness of an experienced parent, I had blithely assumed that I would breastfeed Colt, just I had done with Botany and that it would prove the primary weapon in my arsenal of soothing. From day one, however, the course of nursing my second child has not run quite as smoothly. While he has a beautiful- indeed, I would describe it as textbook- latch, he doesn't always manage it right away. Frequently, he flails away at it for a few minutes before giving up and shrieking in frustration. Which is not such a big deal in the daytime, but rather disconcerting at 3am. Then of course, he struggles with my fire hydrant spray of oversupply. In particular, I have one little bleb thing I cannot seem to fully clear and it continually comes unblocked in his mouth, leading him to pull off in a frantic choking manner while a geyser of milk shoots into his face, into the pillow, across the room before I manage to grab a cloth.
Finally, once he finishes feeding, he often commences wailing anywhere from immediately to within half an hour. Or, sometimes he merely looks a bit worried, then vomits copiously all over me or Knox. Today he puked like an experienced drunk, calmly leaning over Knox's arm and spewing onto the living room carpet. He is usually much more cheerful afterwards, lying on the changing mat grinning and kicking happily.
In short, it is far from a blissful and relaxing experience. And unlike Botany, nursing him down to sleep has proved just about impossible.This flummoxed me initially until it finally dawned on my sleep deprived brain that we needed to try something different.
Instead, we finish up the last feed of the evening, keep him upright for a bit, let him do whatever regurgitation he might wish together with any general witching hour screaming. Then when he starts to yawn and glaze over, I pop him into his sleepyhead pod (a fantastic bit of Swiss invention) with his binky and I put on the sound of the surf on the white noise Ipad app. Sometimes he writhes and squeals for a bit, and I hold his hand. Then he shuts his little eyes and goes to sleep for six or seven hours. It is, frankly, amazing. I don't exactly expect it to continue but so far, either Knox or I can do it and compared to the endless nursing down of Botany, it is a revelation. And as I begin to regain some baby free time in the evening, I will eventually get around to writing the rest of the birth story, hopefully before his first birthday.
I interrupt the colic wars to bring you a further birth story chapter.
Now, there are two bits of backstory you need for this part, both relating to Botany. The first is that on my due date, her nursery shut for a two week period over the Christmas/New Year holidays. So by the time my labour pains began, we'd been in each other's company for the better part of a week already. The weather being dreadful, we hadn't been out much and it's fair to say cabin fever was setting in.
The other thing is that during this time, Botany had developed a fascination- or more accurately an obsession- with a certain set of DVDs featuring a trio of highly irritating, helium voiced animals. Chipmunks, to be precise. At first it was something of a blessing, because the film could be relied upon to entertain her for at least a solid hour while I took a zombie nap. She watched it once, occasionally even twice, each day.
Then, if she was not watching the actual movie, she began talking like a chipmunk. Constantly.
You know how some women have whale songs in the background as they labour, or the soothing noise of ocean waves? Well, the soundtrack to my extended early labour was...singing chipmunks.
By the time Botany finished the first film that morning, she was in full blown squeaky mode. Perhaps she also sensed something was occuring but she was cranked up to the nines for some reason and would not sit still for a second- or more to the point, would not give me a moment's peace, hanging on my arm or trying to climb on my non-existent lap. By midafternoon, I was in a certain amount of discomfort- bearable but wearying- and in an ideal world I would have excused myself to go out for a walk but it was raining in a kind of bleak sleaty sort of way. I managed to lie down and doze for maybe half an hour before the contractions woke me up, still coming at about seven or eight minutes apart, and not increasing in duration.
It was around 1pm that I began to wonder what, in fact, was going on with the continual trickle of fluid that seemed sort of like waters but not remotely gushy as I had previously experienced. Eventually I decided it warranted a phone call up to the hospital for some advice. I rang the midwife, explained the 8 am pop and the inconclusive flow since then. She muttered something about maybe it being "hind waters" and suggested I check back about 5pm to see how things were progressing. The afternoon dragged by, my chipmunk voiced daughter sang, I contracted with depressing slowness. I finally rang the hospital again at 5, but there was no one available to speak to me. Someone took my number and said they would call me back.
Three hours passed.
Finally, after an interminable saga of trying to eat some dinner and getting Botany to bed (and reading a chapter of the Narnia books with pauses for contractions about 6 minutes apart), I phoned the hospital again at 8.30pm. Clearly no one received my earlier message so I explained it all again. The midwife said I should probably come on up to the hospital and they would take a look.
"Bring your bag," she said, "in case we keep you here".
And so we threw everything in the back of the car, leaving Botany with Knox's mother holding the fort and set off, not knowing if we would be back or not that night. Based on my prior birth experience, I fully anticipated this would be the first of several journeys back and forth.
The hospital is located on the outskirts of the far end of the other side of town, about a half hour to forty minute drive away, depending on traffic. On this occasion, it took considerably longer since Knox managed to get completely lost. Admittedly, the signage is appalling. At one point we ended up driving around what looked like a dark cornfield until I told him to pull over, for effsakes, so I could grab the sat nav out of the bag. Whereupon we realised we had forgotten it. In desperation we logged on to the chronically slow and erratic mobile internet via Knox's mobile, and Google maps with its annoying little pushpin system, following an arrow pointing us in the right direction. Or not, as the case may be when we made turns in what we thought was the right route, only to find out we were getting colder, colder, colder not hotter. Fortunately, the contractions did not choose this time to ramp up, but it was some relief when the hospital- and the maternity wing car park, came into view at about 9.30 pm.
We entered a deserted maternity triage/reception area, where an odd collection of people (none of whom looked particularly pregnant or even female) were seated. By now, I could tell Knox was a bit disconcerted because when he went to hunt down a midwife and hand over my file, he announced loudly that "Mare Maiden Name" was here.
"Knox?" I said, "I changed my name two years ago. You know, when we got married?"
"Oh," he said, "I wasn't sure".
So we sat there for another half hour or so, nothing much happening on the contraction front. Finally, a pleasant looking midwife appeared and without further ado ushered us through to the hospital's lovely new birthing facilities. As we exhanged some initial chitchat, a contraction washed over me and I had to catch my breath for a second. The midwife eyed me.
"That," she said, "is a big bump."
We plonked our stuff and ourselves down in what looked like quite a posh hotel room, albeit with a very large and beautiful birthing pool in the middle of it. It was all subtle lighting, a large flat screen TV on the wall, a pull out leather sofa bed, a delicious mushroomy beanbag chair, a ballet barre for pregnancy plies and a bed with designer looking cushions on it. In short, it was fabulous and exactly where I had been hoping to give birth.
We discussed the 8am pop and the trickling fluid in some detail. The midwife said that it sounded like maybe my waters had broken but the problem with examining me would be that it set the clock running as far as potentially introducing an infection and if things weren't moving along, we would then definitely need to augment labour with a drip within the next 12 hours or so after that. In view of my feelings on the drip, she suggested holding off on poking around for now and given that my contractions were coming about five minutes apart by then, what she proposed is that we make ourselves comfy and hang out in the lovely room for a few hours to monitor progress.
"I want to see your contractions coming every three minutes and lasting for a minute each," she said before bustling out to fetch us cups of tea and sandwiches, "and if not, we'll probably send you home again. Women tend to labour better at home anyway," she added.
Knox stopped fiddling with the tv remote while I paused in stroking the designer cushions. We looked at each other for a second.
"Have you met my daughter, the chipmunk?" I asked the midwife.
To be continued....
I really do want to get on with writing the next chapter of the birth story but we're slightly off the rails here just now. Colt seems to have three main operating modes:
* awake and cooing/smiling delightfully
* awake and screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaming.
Guess which one he does most often- and primarily all night long? Uh huh.
After trying all the normal stuff- you know, over the counter remedies, expensive mail order probiotic drops, swaddling, a swing, white noise, various feeding positions, wearing him in a sling, a pacifer, goat sacrifice- I finally bowed to the inevitable and cut all dairy, soy and wheat out of my diet in an elimination experiment. That was a week ago. It's made a bit of difference, perhaps, but not much so far enough to be sure it's an allergy/intolerance problem. Given that I am starving continually from breastfeeding, it has also taken a certain amount of Herculean willpower not to break down and guzzle a entire box of chocolates daily. I miss hot buttered toast like a mournful jilted lover. I am miserably unsatisfied with fruit.
Yesterday was our 6 week baby check, with both the health visitor and the GP. Naturally, Colt was in top form at these appointments- he smiled gummily at the health visitor, waving his arms adorably and made sweet baby noises (he has the most delicious dove-like coo). However, my GP is a good listener and notwithstanding evidence to the contrary in front of her, she didn't dismiss our concerns. What she did do was prescribe infant gaviscon on the basis it may be silent reflux.
My instinct is that it is not reflux. He does have some occasional symptoms-there is a bit of back arching, for example- but he is quite happy to lie flat much of the time, he feeds well, and he doesn't spit up much at all. But then again, I could be wrong. He does get a hoarse little cry sometimes when he is full blown screaming mode, and he stiffens like a plank rather than bunches up. He does like being upright in the sling. In all cases, he releases bullet-like farts, which make him cry and then seem to ease the suffering. So we tried the infant gaviscon anyway last night in a frantic bid to calm him. I had no expressed milk left in the fridge and wasn't much up for trying to pump any at 1am, so we stupidly adminstered it with a syringe which was was a complete nightmare and left him with a distended belly full of wind with no relief whatsoever. We might try it again in a bottle, if I can bear it.
In short, it's pretty much hell and we don't know why. Initially I was quite composed about it all but after night upon night of virtually no sleep- I am just freaking exhausted. We tried at one stage to take it in shifts though the night but Knox 's sleep cycle is very easily thrown out of kilter. It reached the point where he was staying up until dawn, then needing to sleep during the day to recover- which is not exactly much help either as I still have to get up and deal with Botany most days. And I would like a nap too, if someone could please take the baby off my chest for an hour. Knox is also finding it harder than I am to remember this is probably just a stage which will eventually pass soon. I have virtually no reserves left to console him as well. And right now, relief is taking its slow and not terribly sweet time.