Monday, December 18, 2006

ZZZZ is for Zombie Mother (Five months)

Dear Tricky

You are five months now which seems insane, because if anyone had asked me if I could survive five months of broken sleep; broken like a broken thing into itty bitty shards and then scattered over a bare wooden floor to be trodden on by soft, unprotected feet, I would have said no way and that sleep deprivation is a cruel and inhumane torture that turns otherwise sane people into the Living Dead. I had heard the horror stories from other new mothers, the tales of screaming and wailing – and that was the neighbours as they bashed on the walls in protest - and indeed the memory of those nights when you wanted to be fed hourly is still pressed firmly into the playdough of my mind. But things have got better, there is light at the end of the tunnel where the Zombie Mother lives, and the last two nights you have actually slept all the way through. I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying to feed you in a more regulated way or because I decided to swaddle you again, but whatever, it worked for two nights and if I have to swaddle you until you’re eighteen I’m prepared to do that if it means we all get some sleep.

Because there’s work to be done! Yes, even though Christmas is bearing down on us like a demented steamtrain with all the festive fun that entails, even though I’m looking forward to our first ever Christmas together, still the deadlines niggle and whirr and click, for both your father (who even as I speak is muttering like a crazy man at his computer screen) and I. So there’s not quite as much festive fun yet, although I know it’s coming because there are not one but two Christmas trees up in the Big House which your cousin O, the youngest of the Naughty Nephews has helped to decorate.

Just by the by, Cousin O is your new best friend now. Almost everyday he appears suddenly by your playmat. He smiles at you and you smile at him and it’s a complete love-in smileathon and then he lies down next to you and allows you to grip his hair and says gently “Please let go…”

Now and then he will dance and sing to you and that’s a treat for everyone, because his version of Rockin’ Robin is so damn cute. C and I pretend to be solemnly clacking away at our keyboards but everynow and then we catch each other’s eye and silently snort into our screens. On very very special days, Cousin O will do one of his world famous puppet shows with all your finger puppets. These are, inevitably, musicals, and I think we can say that Cousin O has a bright future on the stage awaiting him and his twinkle toes.

But perhaps you too will be struck hard with the showtunes stick because of late we have been utilizing Cousin O’s ‘Honeybear’ to help you with your daytime naps.

Honeybear is one of those musical thingys with a string you pull to make him pop up and down as ‘Teddybear’s Picnic’ hypnotically tinkles away. Honeybear is both wonderful and sinister. His soothing sounds put you to sleep but I worry that you will become addicted and that he will become crucial to your Nap Routine. Worse is when you are almost but not quite asleep and the damn string runs out. Someone then has to sneak into your room and pull the string which makes a nasty clack clack noise and often abruptly wakes you leading to accusing stares and Screaming Tomato.

You are fascinated by balls and baubles and your father shaving in the morning. You have started to enjoy your bath which is a relief because your father was determined to make you love the water. In actual fact you seemed to hate it so much we eventually stopped bothering to bath you altogether. But this month, you like the water and you love to kick the shit out of your new bath toys.

You gave up the dummy a few weeks back, not through strict weaning on our part but through general slackness and forgetting to sterilize the damn things or carry them in the change bag. Now you suck thoughtfully on your index finger and I smile at your fetching cuteness and sometimes you suck on two fingers and your thumb at the same time and make yourself throw up and then I frown because Mummy is weary of wiping spew off the floor.

Rolling is your thing. You lie on a rug on the floor and roll this way and that reaching for your toys…a soft ball, a blue giraffe, a stripy monkey, Mr Caterpillar with whom you still enjoy a ferocious tussle and of course Cousin O’s hair. The other day I was typing away and you had gone silent beside me and I looked down at you and you were staring up at me. It gave me a shock at first, you looked like some crazy Midwich Cuckoo baby but then I decided you were looking at me with love not psychosis and that made me happy.

I think maybe this month is the month you actually saw me and knew me as your mother and loved me. There was a moment when I put you into your cradle and we locked eyes and I started to cry because I realised just how much I completely and utterly love you and I knew that you loved me too.

Just in case you think I am being hopelessly mushy here, I'll just add quickly that your father and I have decided to break that habit we have of chewing on your ears. It's done with love and also because your ears are so soft and cute but we appreciate that all that chewing may not retain the softness and cuteness.

So even though they're doubly delicious because of those regular baths you're having, you can consider the ears chew-free from now on.

Your very own

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Baby And Book

There are certain skills that nearly all who enter the wonderful world of the Arts in Australia must own or acquire.

I’m not talking about the drinking or the schmoozing or the on-tour adultery.

I’m talking about the juggling.

At some stage every single actor must be taught to juggle. Usually in drama class, usually while studying ‘street theatre’ or ‘circus skills’ or that most terrifying and loathsome of all acting courses ‘finding your inner clown’.

You dabble in Chekov, you move a little Mamet and then suddenly everyone is handed three bean bags or skittle things or those balls made with rice and balloons and then it’s all about eyelines and balance and G rated gags (unless you’re going to get one of those casino gigs which I hear are very lucrative).

We do this not because we need to understand the ‘coarse arts’ or are about to seriously delve into commedia but because the employment situation for actors is such crap that everyone needs to know how to busk and /or run a kiddy birthday party. Not everyone, I admit, but basically if your name isn’t Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman then you’ve got either an inner clown or a fairy and you’ve accepted money to brightly utter the immortal words “Time to cut the cake!”.

This is possibly why I became a writer.

I couldn’t juggle, no matter how garish my floppy pants were, how bright and cheery my braces. My inner clown inhaled her own rubber nose and died a horrible death and my fairy wafted too close to a birthday candle and combusted in a puff of glitter. This was a relief until I realised early on that writers juggle too. Not rice-and-balloon balls or bean bags, but deadlines which are infinitely heavier and far more spiky and dangerous.

So here’s the thing.

I have a commission to write a book.

It’s based on this blog or at least the bits of blog leading up to this.

There is a publisher. There is an editor. There is a deadline…February 15th

And there’s a whole lot of self doubt and worry and fear but also, also…great excitement.

Yesterday I said to C: don’t speak to me please, I’m working on my book.

There was a slight pause as we solemnly pondered over those words.

And then we both snorted like ferrets (yes, they do snort, some of them. The snorty kind) and silently shrieked because it was too brilliantly jolly.

I wasn’t going to mention it here but the thing is, writing this is becoming a huge part of my life. If I don’t mention it my posts from now on will be limited to Tricky’s burgeoning headsize and his antics with certain stuffed invertebrates.

And I’m juggling just as hard as I can – the book and the baby and a couple of other deadlines besides, but the book and the baby most of all.

I’ve got till February the 15th to complete the manuscript and if I don’t, well let’s just say they know where I live. The publisher sent me a Christmas card yesterday with a whole bunch of pink cupcakes on the cover. It sparked several thoughts, all at once… ooh card, isn’t that nice… sweet mother of god, is it Christmas already, fuck I’m running out of time… cupcakes mmm mmm…actually the gum drops on top of those cakes look like my gnawed leathery nipples…

and finally it reminded me of those long ago birthday parties, those will-clown-for-food-and-spare-change type gigs…

Would write more now but baby is screaming, clock is ticking.

Must go apply rubber nose and get those balls back in the air.

Monday, December 11, 2006

much like the double sided Kandinsky

This morning at 5.45 am I finished feeding Tricky and then put him on the bed.

And first I thought look how beautiful he is, and how sweet he looks fast asleep next to his dad.

And then I thought wow, his head looks really big now, imagine trying to push that through your clacker.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

One Year Ago...

...Hope came charging back into our lives, swished her tarty party skirt, clacked her fancy high heels together and 'bout it?

How 'bout it indeed.

It seems incredible, miraculous, insane.

That this...

And this...

And much more of this...

could lead to this...

Friday, December 01, 2006

She said what?

C and I watched this amazing show last night.

Well in fact it wasn't that amazing, it was just some bog standard crap tv but it was about this woman who claimed to be able to understand what babies are trying to communicate through their array of piercing shrieks and cries.

This seemed ridiculous at first but then she (let's call her Babytalk Lady) explained that she was musically attuned as it were, and when her own baby was born Babytalk Lady was able to remember and recognise the noises he made at different times.

And hence, eight years on, and having closely watched many many babies (slightly unnerving don't you think?), she was able to create a dictionary of baby language which any parent, of any nationality, could use to identify their baby's needs. Apparently they are formed from the baby's physical response to the need.

She shared five of these with us but I am assuming there are many more since she has a dvd to flog somewhere. Here are the five and their meanings:

Neh ..... I am hungry, damn you!
This was a sort of general crying sound but you could distinctly hear a 'n' sound. It is created by the sucking action of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, which makes sense when you think about it.

Ow...(as in cow) Bed! Put me to bed before I have the welfare people onto you.
This is the sound for tired and I have to admit that I had already noticed that when Tricky was tired he would make this mournful owowowow shout.

Eh...burp me, for the milk it is mixing with the air and churning in a hellish manner in my gullet...
This is a sort of short eh eh eh kind of noise. Babytalk Lady says if they make that noise in the middle of the night one needs only to throw bubba over the shoulder and burp him/her before putting back down for restful repose.

Eairh....My tummy hurts, I want to make the bottom burp noise...
This is a sort of longer sound then the noise for burp me. Babytalk Lady says this will not be the quick burp back in bed scenario and probably means you are in for another hour of 'colic hold' ie cycling junior's legs like a pair of egg beaters.

Heh...I'm not happy. My clothes are too tight. I'm too hot, no wait I'm too cold. I'm worried about the proximity of those lemons...
Or "discomfort" as she described it. This noise was a sort of breathless huffing sort of cry.

The babies will often combine sounds because they are cunning like that but eventually one will dominate and when you have attended to that need the next will make itself known and then the next and the next and then you will drop with exhaustion.

Today I have heard Tricky say Neh when I was taking too long swapping him from one boob to the other, eh quickly followed by him spewing over my lap and owowow at which point I lay him down in his cot and he immediately closed his eyes and went to sleep.

It is both satisfying and also slightly creepy because I've been reading Spot And His Dad and singing Galumph Went The Little Green Frog to him over and over and for all I know he wants Proust and La Boheme.

Sadly, Babytalk lady did not divulge the secret words for... You scare me with your smiling or... These socks with the crocodile face on the toes are not cute they are demeaning or... For the love of God, drink some coffee mama, quickly!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Breaking Up With Kate Bush

Dear Kate

As I’m sure you know, having sex with an ex is always a bad idea.

Too much baggage whizzing about. It’s like a demented British Airways carousel after a horribly long flight with cheap chardonnay and way too much turbulence.

It’s not so much One-More-For-The-Road as You-Made-A-Mistake-Breaking-Up-With-Me-Look-Nah-Nah-What-A-Good-Root-I-Am.

There’s all the recriminations.
The spiteful accusations.
The lame Breakup Lines to try and ease the parting.

It’s not passionate, it’s petty.

I’ve realised that a similar thing occurs when you revisit the music of your past.
That’s Past with a capital P.

Specifically, the music that you played when you were with an ex.

It’s been so many years since you and I were pals Kate.

How I loved your whimsical lyrics (“You’re like my yo-yo…” how craaazy is that?) and creepy whispering melodies, your mane of dark hair and your wild, wild I’m a bit-mad-you-know-eyes.

But those days of flouncy white frocks and one armed swaying and of course the high pitched eeriness of all your beautiful not-of-this-world songs are long gone.

As are the associated men. And that’s a Very Good Thing.

This weekend I was lingering in a music shop and I saw your cd The Whole Story. It had Wuthering Heights and Hounds of Love and all manner of reedy wierdy high pitched creepy whispery hits. I was looking for a cd to play in the car while I drove up north for a weekend away and I suddenly thought what a lovely idea it would be to revisit Kate.

I could one handed sway as I pootled up the Pacific Highway.
I could flip my hair and roll my eyes in a madcap Kate-ish fashion.
I could wear cheesecloth, or at least a blouse that flounced as well as allowing easy access for breast feeding.

And I could sing along of course because all those words were etched indelibly in my 19 year old brain.

And so it came to be. And I sang along and so did my baby and the high notes were met and lo surpassed, although not by me. And the car was fall of floaty, swaying, cheese clothy loveliness.

For about ten minutes.

And then the memories came flooding back.

It was creepy and not in the way you intended.

It was grubby. It was petty. There was a nasty taste in my mouth that I’d prefer not to identify but if I was going to be brutally honest I’d say was regret. Creepy whispery floaty regret.

And that’s why, I’m afraid, it’s over. No really.

It was beautiful while it lasted but I’d rather it stayed a wonderful memory. We've both gone too far down our respective roads, me, married with a baby and you, still floaty and whispery but now doing craazy songs about your washing machine.

We’d spoil it if we tried to start up again.

But don’t blame yourself.

It’s not you, it’s me.

(No Longer Yours)

Ova Girl

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It seems odd...

...that if I'm trying to snatch a few moments sleep in the afternoon and I hear someone using a lawnmower I relax and imagine Sunday afternoons and pleasant cut grass smells but if I hear someone using a leaf blower I want to fling up the window and scream like a banshee:


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sometimes "wrestling the caterpiller" means just that. (Four months)

Dear Tricky

Coming up to this month I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of being your mother.

I’m aware that this is probably a tenuous sensation, like thinking I’ve finally got the gist of semicolons, or finally know how to reattach the wireless router when our internet connection bites the dust. The whole of the me-mother-you-son playing field will shift and change and reset itself mysteriously and without warning, probably for the rest of our lives.

But for this moment of this month I feel as if I really know you; when you’re tired or you’re hungry or you just want to kick Mr Caterpiller’s stripy butt.

Mr Caterpiller is your current favourite Stuffed Friend. Your previous fave was Jingly Cow but soon after we got back from our big road trip around the state you dropped him like a fat stinky nappy.

I’m a little sad on behalf of the bovine, the two of you seemed such firm friends for the whole of that three weeks. He dangled and jingled and you laughed and burbled. He did his special medley of cow-centric show tunes as we made our torturous way through Melbourne traffic during one particularly special day and you, cranky as all get out, fixed him with your Evil Eye and your pouting lower lip, just daring him to stop.

Sing, damn you, you clinking four-stomached ruminant, sing! you seemed to be saying, and so he did right through The Sound Of Music (High on a hill lived a lonely Cow-herd, moo moo moo moo moo moo moo moo-oo), The Rocky Horror Picture Show(Toucha toucha toucha touch me, I want to be milky…), Godspell (Prepare Ye The Way Of The Cow) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus Christ! Super Cow! If you were a dog then you’d say Bow Wow).

And then Mummy collapsed in a heap.

Now it’s all about Mr Caterpiller and his 60cm of crackly, stripy, squashable body parts.

He used to be longer than you but now you’ve caught up and also you’re much thicker than him, not that wrestling is all about who’s taller and fatter. You like to grab him as he hangs off your playgym and then you wrestle his caterpillar arse into the ground.

Your eyelashes are grown quite long and gorgeous and so I’m filled with both admiration and deep envy and you have become the Master Of The Wry Smile, often employed as you ‘posset’ yet again over my clothes or your father sings Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (the Pitjantjatjara version).

At 4 months I am much more aware of how dangerous the world is for tiny wee folk like yourself.

When you were smaller you weren’t aware of the Outside World, you were curled up and cosy in our skins. But now you see the sunlight flickering against the curtains while you feed and you break off (often with my nipple still in your mouth) and marvel at the light and why we still haven’t put up proper curtains despite it being nearly a year in the Big House and the whole hilarious nature thing.

Birds! Leaves rustling in the breeze! Flies!

You reach up and adjust my bra strap or finger the fabric of my singlet top and muse on the strange way cotton is Good because it is so light and breathable yet Evil because as a crop it sucks up so much water.

At this point, one of the greatest dangers to yourself seems to be us, your loving parents.

While we were away you and your father had a special bonding experience. He was holding you in his arms as he shook lemons from the tree and inevitably one fell on your head. It scared you but it scared your father more. I think you both cried. I was in the shower at the time and he didn’t tell me about it for another few hours, all the while “monitoring” you (yay St John’s first aid course).

Later, back at home, I left you on your tummy on the bed, with pillows on each side, as I flittered about trying to clean up the disaster that is our bedroom. I could hear you making protesting noises and I could see you had propped yourself against a pillow but I waited till I had rolled all our socks (because that’s essential, that rolled sock thing, crucial) before I picked you up. Surprise… your arm had gone almost blue.

We feel terrible about these things and we confess them to each other in shocked whispered voices and then we laugh derisively at how horrible and incompetent we are.

When we tell our stories to other parents they nod and then confess their terrible stories; the ill hung mobiles suddenly falling with pointy precision and the chasing of toddlers under prickly vines with a baby in the backpack.

I am reliably told that the most common accident for babies of your age is “father throwing baby in air and failing to catch”.

You forgive us constantly. When we drive for six hours and you sit alone in your car seat facing the back window, nothing to look at but hard blue sky, nothing to listen to but your parents singing Hits From The 80’s. When we get our timing arse about and have you out too late at night or forget to carry a spare change of clothes and you’re forced to wear an emergency crumpled dry sick singlet.

When we drop lemons on your head.

You give so much to us. It’s amazing that this could be so when you are still small (but heavy!) and wake me twice a night (not that I’m complaining) to feed and you don’t even have an email account but it’s true.

You press against us when we pick you up and you smile and blow spitty bubbles in our direction and we feel as if we’ve won the Lotto. It’s like magic to see your father’s mood change when he’s been dealing all day with idiots on the phone and feels stressed and anxious about work. If he picks you up when you’re crying, or need a nappy change or best of all when you have just woken, he can’t help but smile.

When someone you love dies and you emerge from that experience, shaken and transformed, you know how precious time is and how important it is to love each other, to be kind to each other.

And when someone you love is born, it’s the same thing.

The truth is, I know that I can’t protect you from the Outside World (although I can prioritise you over the socks) just as I can’t really fix our Wireless Router (it was a fluke) nor properly; place; semicolons;

But I do know that you encourage us to strive more, to care more, to love more.

You make us want to be better people. And we fail of course, over and over, but any time we despair or despise, if we feel depressed or downtrodden, we look at you and see in your eyes and in your face all the potential, the hope, all the Good in our lives renewed.

Fresh. Clean. Forgiven.

And on we go through the lemon infested minefield that is our life together.

Thankyou for these past four months.


Your very own


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fails Yummy-Mummy Class

I realize that my last post may have indicated that I am exercising like a fiend, or at least like some kind of fit and healthy eastern suburbs yummy-mummy.

Ha! I laugh once, very loudly, at this ridiculous notion and three minutes later my atrophied belly fat is still reverberating with mirth.

When I said “a special exercise class’ I meant it.

Just the one.

Because they’re hard those special exercise classes. Also, when I said I did an exercise with my baby I lied because in fact he was asleep in his pram at the time. Which was a shame because that’s the highlight of the class really. The bit where you lie on your back and roll them about in your legs or dangle them on your knees (all the time sucking in your belly and clenching your lala). No doubt it was a blessing in disguise because Tricky would probably have heaved a gutful of cottage cheese all over my maternity(still) shirt but it was a little disappointing having to pretend I was holding a baby while everyone else had the real thing. At the end of the class he woke and I went to pick him up just to prove to everyone that I had a real live baby lying in the pram and not, say, a sock puppet, and the whole back of his pants was dripping with something that wasn’t gravy, leaving a large and fragrant stain on my stretch maternity (still) jeans.

So then I had to hastily wheel him out of the room which necessitated annoying some of the thinner firmer younger mothers who wanted to sit languidly on the floor in front of the doorway and chat. Just go around, one of them told me with a wave of her beautifully manicured hand and so, smilingly, I did.

And then I ran over her fingers. (Another lie.)

In the so-called change room, I stripped everything off my child and dropped it into a plastic bag and then, as he lay buck naked on a skuzzy exercise mat, I realised that although I had a nappy I had neglected to pack another set of clothes for him for just such an occasion.

And then he pissed over me.

At that point I laughed gaily and made free use of the paper towels and then, as if the gods had seen me and sighed at my crapness in maternal preparation, they granted me a small miracle and lo, scrunched in a ball at the bottom of my bag I found a singlet.

True it had been sicked on, but the sick was dry and it could only be seen by someone who was really really nosy.

I did mean to go back, I really did, but then I realised my abdominal muscles were actually coming back together of their own accord, albeit a little slower without the flappy metal things and the big rubber balls.

But sometimes, mornings mostly, I reach for my baby and roll him about on my legs and wave him in the air. Sometimes I even remind myself to hold my tummy muscles and clench my lala at the same time.

Also apropos of the last post (ooh, how very ANZAC of me) I realize that writing about getting a lump in your breast, even when you eventually discover that said lump is actually a cyst, is worrying and perhaps even frightening for some who read it in my blog (although these days it appears that’s happening less and less what with all the apparently loathsome ‘mommyness’ my blog now contains).

Yes well I’m sorry about that but guess how fucking scary it was for me?

Sometimes, when bad things happen, I get so worried I actually don’t write about it until it’s over. It’s like holding your breath and putting your hands over your eyes when the monster bit comes up in the movie. And when it was happening, the thinking and the being scared and the wishing I had been a bit less like my mum, I did think that I should blog it because that's sort of what I did when I was going through the infertility shit and it helped so much to just write out the fear and the anger and the completely soul destroying despair. But I didn't, because ultimately I was too scared to write the words I think I have cancer. Instead I rang my sister AJ in New Zealand and she was great and very calm, and just once I said to C in the middle of making dinner I'm scared about that lump and he grabbed me and said oh so am i, so am I.

All those weeks I thought about it and I thought about writing it and I thought about going to the doctor and I did sweet F.A.

In retrospect I realise it's not an effective strategy, all that agonising and procrastinating.

And I now realise it would be far more sensible for me to actually just get the lump checked out immediately and fuck the blogging.

So yeah, sorry and all.

But you know.
No one’s perfect.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Six Degrees Of Abdominal Separation

I blush at the great yawning expanse of time between my last post and this one but there has been, you know, Stuff going on.

My play has come and gone and was all good with reviews and everything. We went away soon after opening night, to Melbourne and various dry dusty interstate places but came back for the final night of the show.

It was evident that stuff had been going on there as well, the actors were so much more relaxed and able to be, well, funny. I mean it’s a serious play and all but there are these sort of funny bits in there, deliberately, and on opening night the actors were being very reverent and solemn about the play and came across as a wee tad uptight and tense. But by closing they were all relaxed and loose and floppy and actually milking some of those high farcical moments for laffs, god love them all.

I can tell time has passed because the muscles of my abdomen are now only a finger width apart.

Way back, somewhere in the first trimester, the two halves of my front torso began to drift apart. We all know those couples who seemed to be joined at the hip for say…38 years and then suddenly decided to go their own way. So it was with my tummy muscles.

It could have been something as simple as ‘She prefers to inject her Lucrin on your side’ but however it started, it got worse and worse and before I knew it there was a line drawn down my centre and a window on my solar plexus and ligaments were all that stood between my intestines and the outside world.

Just after Tricky was born one of the hospital physios checked me out as they do. She discovered that my abdominal muscles had separated far enough for her to fit seven fingers between them. And I’m not saying she had big clumping man’s hands with large sausage fingers but, you know, they weren’t overly spindly digits. Then she made me put my own fingers in so I could feel for myself the void that was once my cleverly contained internal organs. The horror.

The exercises started soon after. Every now and then I would drop into the hospital and meet with J the physio who put me and my pelvic floor through our paces. But gentle paces you know, nothing strenuous. Mostly they involved holding my tummy in and clenching my lala.

When I was about four fingers apart I attended a special exercise class at the hospital, it involved flapping bits of metal and lolling about on large balls and lifting your baby with your legs. I quite enjoyed the work out but the instructor was of the formidable variety, whenever she noted me hesitating over an exercise she would say loudly and a little impatiently: It’s alright, you won’t herniate.
Well maybe I won’t, scary lady, but that still doesn’t stop it hurting because I just had a baby don’t you know.

Anyway whether it was the hurty type of exercise or the gentle type those muscles seem to have crept back together again, last seen meeting for coffee at a local café “just to talk”.

And then, amongst all the theatre stuff and the work stuff and the life stuff there was this lump.

I had noticed it on the right side of my right breast several weeks ago now but I had chalked it up to being one of those pesky blocked ducts. And I would dutifully mash away at it in the shower or while feeding, thinking that it would shrink away or unblock or whatever. But it didn't. And then I thought I better get it checked before I went away because otherwise that would be another three weeks before I saw a doctor.

And I didn't do that either. And it wasn't until a week after I got home that I finally made an appointment to see the doctor and get it checked.

And all that time I kept thinking of my mother and how, when she first found a lump in her breast, she didn't get it checked because she was too busy with Stuff and how, eventually it killed her.

She was 33 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 48 when she died. If I died at the same age my baby would be ten years old.

This week my doctor told me that the lump was a cyst, that I had a number of cysts in my breasts and that I could have them treated after I finish breastfeeding.

It's not bad news, she said to me.


Today, I stopped doing stuff and while playing with my baby, I said “kiss for mama?” and conveniently placed my cheek near his little mouth and I think, I’m almost a hundred percent sure, that the wet gumming at my face was his version of a kiss.

And it was sweet.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Now We Are Three Months

Darling Tricky boy

Today you are three months old and you are also in Melbourne.

When I first sat down to write this you were shrieking and carrying on... in short you had become your evil other self, the Screaming Tomato.

Your father was carrying you around the motel room, making hushing sounds and doing that rhythmic go-to-sleep patting of your bum. He had a forlorn look on his face because he was unable to soothe you or else because you were stabbing his arms over and over again with your teeny tiny razor sharp fingernails.

NO! you seemed to be screaming. NO I WILL NOT BE HUSHED! I want to be AWAKE and PLAY and make the MOO! sound and also GRASP mummy's nipple in my jaws and SHAKE it violently from side to side and then SMILE in a goofy fashion up at her with my mouth full of LIVING TISSUE so that she will be reminded that she is COMPLETELY IN MY POWER. And I will DIG my teeny tiny razor sharp fingernails into your arms and push my matching teeny tiny razor sharp toenails into your stomach so that you will ALSO be reminded that you too are COMPLETELY IN MY POWER.

I'm not going to say that you're growing so quickly but it is wierd suddenly noticing changes. It's small things like... you're more alert now, for longer, and you watch things go by and you clutch at things when they're waved in front of you and you make the stabbing claw hand of sharp pointy doom.

And you smile.

Oh your smile! It stops us in our tracks and reminds us that the world can be a kind place, a loving place, a beautiful and hopeful place despite all the current evidence to the contrary... the worst drought in 150 years and the not so secret nuclear testing and the elimination of Bobby Flynn from Australian Idol.

You chat and chuckle and as soon as we hear your voice your father and I cluster around you and say encouragingly over and over 'mama' and 'dadda' - it's like we're having a tussle your father and I, to see who you name first because obviously then we'll know who you love most.
You giggle and look, bemused, from one parent to the other because you know that the winner of that little contest is actually your Jingly Cow thanks to Nanny Annie who taught you to say Moo.

We're in Melbourne because we're back to see the show that was created by the arts company your father and I work for.

And here's the strange thing:

Last year at this time, we were here, seeing the same show (a work in progress version).

And we were heading off to Adelaide after that to see the first production of the play I wrote, which is now on in Sydney.

And I'd just had my first IVF transfer.
And it failed.
And we were broken people.

And that's why, on Monday night while we were watching the show and I was holding you in my arms, rocking you and hushing you, and that part of the show came on where the audience is taught to sing Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes in Pitjantjatjara, I felt an odd tugging sensation in my heart.

I remembered singing this song last year, still remembered the words, and I looked down and sang them softly to you. And you looked up at me with your bright shining eyes, full of everything good in this world.

It was as if someone, God or the Goddess or the Universe had given us that time over again, except this time, we had you.

You're asleep now, clutching your soft bear to your chest. Your long dark eyelashes fan onto your round soft cheeks, your tiny hands are clenched shut and your fingers curled like seashells. You're so beautiful, possibly the most beautiful thing we've ever seen. And you're ours.

And your father and I smile at each other because we know, it's true.

We're both completely in your power.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This Will Be His First Theatrical Experience

So the play went well! Hoorah, yay and other exclamations of joy.

C had flown in for ONE NIGHT ONLY and of course the plane was late and he arrived home at about 7 and the play starts at 8.15...

But to backtrack a little...Tricky and I had a fairly good day but it's so hot around here at the moment and our part of the house is like an oven. I was trying to do the Feed At 4 Hourly Intervals (as opposed to on demand which worked out at 1 and 2 hourly intervals unless he was asleep) thing but I also gave him cooled boiled water from a teaspoon in between times.

And lo there was much of the screaming.

Oh lord the screaming.

Poor little Hot Cross Current-Bun Boy. In vain did I dangle the jingly cow and speak in the manner of my friend Annie (who I shall call Nanny Annie from now on, on account of her miraculous doings with baby). In vain did I say 'moo' at him. We sat in the cooler parts of the house and he smiled a bit and accepted his pathetic teaspoons of water but what he wanted was milk and when he didn't get it he screamed.

But we managed to limp thru the day on a more or less 4 hourly feed cycle. And then, it was time for the theatre. And of course, because this is our life, the babysitter who had said how smitten he was and was thrilled to be looking after him for an hour and a half in the theatre foyer....was missing. C had been ringing and leaving messages all day. Nyet. Nada. Non.

So for Tricky's first ever proper theatre experience, he hung out in the box office with the publicist. He actually slept the entire time. And when we came out into the foyer , he was still asleep. And when I tried to wheel his pram out into open view to ensure he was still breathing, he was still asleep but more, he was now locked in the box office because the publicist was out having a champers (rightly earned) and someone had decided to pull the door shut.

And while I was trying to find someone with a key the Very Important Artistic Director of the mainstage theatre (my play was on in the smaller theatre space) came up to me and told me that he very much enjoyed the play and that I had written a great script. This was thrilling and several things went through my mind. Firstly I remembered that his company had actually rejected my script a couple of years earlier as being unstageable. Secondly I was struck by how much he looked like a friend of mind and perhaps they were twins separated at birth but the overriding thing was that MY BABY IS LOCKED IN THE BOX OFFICE.

Of course I was too professional to wail this out immediately. I chatted about the play and the wooonderful director and the faaaaabulous cast and I didn't say anything about the dire lack of women writers or directors in his new season nor did I say how much he looked like Jo, even down to the kind of glasses they both wore.

But finally I had to say apologetically, there a key about? And he obligingly went off to find one.

And lo, the baby was released. (Still fast asleep)

So all in all a good night. The play was a success. People liked it. Other writers liked it. Other directors liked it. The lady from Currency press liked it. The gorgeous old semi-retired theatre critic from Newcastle who had come specially to see it (and has seen me grow up on stage both acting and writing) liked it as well.

So much like in the room.

But so SO much better than all of this?

He slept for 10 HOURS.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

12 Weeks On...the latest moos.

Tricky was 12 weeks on Tuesday which should mean a jolly little "Dear Tricky here are your milestones" type post (being of course a blogging mother's responsibility) but in actual fact means 12 weeks of me being tired and my brain gradually shrinking to the size of a nut.

And not one of those big nuts either like your brazil or your...well some other large nut but you see? I can't think of one, just go with brazil.

Along with the tiredness comes the irritableness and then the loss of vocabulary (see nut above).

The other day C and I were driving home with baby and there were no car spaces left directly outside house. This meant we would have to park up the road and lug shopping and baby back which is probably no big deal except I was tired (of course) and irritable (mmm yes) and I said, not in a loud way or an aggressive way, just a sort of gently weary way:

You fucking arse cunts.

There was a pause and then C and I both sort of snickered a bit.

Do you think, he said, that we might need to think about curbing our language? Because one day we're going to get a phone call from the school to say "all the six year olds are calling each other 'arse cunts' and we've narrowed it down to your son."

This week the rest of the household are away on holidays and C had to go bush again with The Project and so it was just me and the Tricky boy and then my dad who has had knee surgery wasn't sounding very good on the phone so we packed up and went home to Newcastle for a couple of days.

And this was a good thing because my poor dad was very pleased to see us and I could drive him about for a couple of days rather then him being stuck at home watching bad tv.

And also because my stepmum is a brilliant cook and made delicious (not hot) curries.

And finally because my friend Annie came over one night and played with Tricky and taught him to say moo to his jingly cow toy but also taught me to space out his feeds a bit more and so last night, rather than waking me every two hours to be fed like he did a couple of nights ago, he slept from 8.30 to 1.00 and then from 1.30 to 4.30 and I went back to sleep at 5 and got up at 6 and what this rather boring bit of paragraph is actually saying is that LAST NIGHT I SLEPT FOR 8 HOURS.

Yes they were spread out a bit but I don't care. I see some light and it's not my brain exploding and me being hospitalised and given the sweet sweet relief of ... some sleeping drug I can't remember the name of because after all my brain is still the size of a small nut.

My play opens tonight and while yesterday when asked if I was nervous at the prospect I could say with all honesty I was too tired to care, today there is the potential for caring, what with the extra sleep and all. Tricky is coming with us to the theatre but having learned our lesson in rehearsal he will be snuggly strapped into his pram and awaiting us in the foyer. A friend of C's from work (actually a baby smitten gay chap who, along with a girl friend, is attempting to be a dad himself) is going to sit with him and shake the jingly cow and exchange moo's with him.

(By the way I am not kidding about the moo. Annie did get him to say moo and she also blew raspberries at him and he tried to do that for a while and then cried when he couldn't make the spppppp sound.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lights, Action, Spew

My play which was produced this time last year is having another production here in Sydney. New Australian plays have a tendency to be done once and then disappear into the ether, so I’m lucky to have a couple of bites of this particular cherry (with a third to come in Melbourne next year).

On the weekend C and I went to see a rehearsal – and we took Tricky thinking this might be a good chance to introduce him to the feckless artiste existence of his parents. All very casual, just three people in the audience, opening night still a couple of weeks off. It would be a gradual introduction, like solids.

Some of my friends have brought their babies up in the theatre, they tell jolly tales of their little ones sleeping in the seats at the back of the theatre. Other friends, children of thespians, tell grand tales of having the run of the theatre and being inspired to put on their own little plays, with nothing but an empty chocolate box and a used pair of tights – precocious little moppets that they were.

I love the idea of Tricky being a theatre baby but having cast an eye over our finances we've realised that our best plan for retirement lies in our son becoming a plumber.

Before the run Tricky flirted outrageously with the director and was at his current-bun best. He’s so gorgeous, she shrieked. And I bet he’s so talented.

C and I hung our heads and muttered our modest denials. As soon as she turned her back he exercised one such talent – the Inappropriate Exploding Nappy.

Having dealt with that small crisis, the show began. Tricky sat on C’s lap and watched with interest as the four actors did their thing. Five minutes in however and the heckling began.

Small grunts at first and then tiny high pitched squeals. In vain did his father try to keep the dummy in his mouth. As the volume of the play became louder, so did the volume of the world’s tiniest theatre critic. Squeals became shouts became wailing gurgles. I attached him to one nipple and there was welcome silence. To be broken by snorting snuffling noises. The actors soldiered on.

The play came to an end. We clapped. Tricky vomited, leaving a small spattery puddle on the floor and a large trail of sick down my left breast.
I mopped ineffectually at myself.
Then I gave notes.
Then we left the rehearsal room.

We have decided we will need a babysitter for opening night.
Either that or a plumber.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Attack of the Screaming Tomato


Have just managed to clear head from total brain fog after three nights of hellish Screaming Tomato every hour on the hour from 2am….

Amazing how with just an uninterrupted block of 4 hours sleep a person can go from feeling like maniacal non-coping Mother of Screaming Tomato to calm, slightly bemused, coping-well-enough mother of dear little Current Bun-head boy. Can wash hair. Can wash clothes. Can even tend to blog. Will now stop writing like a demented Helen Fielding character.

Last week C and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary (which is 12 years of being a couple – we enjoyed a long engagement) with a posh dinner out.

Yes! Dinner! Out! Sans Tricky, who was looked after by his Blessed Aunty N.

At 7.30 I mooched up to her with the baby.

What are you doing still here? she hissed, in a quite good impression of Gandalf clinging by his fingernails to the edge of a Morian mine chasm with a Balrog dangling from his knees while the rest of the Fellowship milled about aimlessly, wringing their hands.
He’s been fed, burped and changed. And had a top up. Quickly! Fly you fools. Fly!

And so we did as if all the orcs in Middle earth were at our heels. I left my cruddy maternity jeans on (the only pants that still fit me) but swiftly popped a fresh, slightly fancy top over my less than fresh maternity bra.

In a few seconds I had gathered up my hair in one of those fashionable ‘bed head’ type pony tails and slung on an enormous beaded pendant necklace that would draw the eye down from my dark circled eyes. In the car I applied some lipstick I found at the bottom of the handbag I never use anymore because it’s too small to hold disposable nappies, wipes and a warm hat.

And lo I was set!

C proclaimed me beautiful and after a large glass of wine, so did I.

We tried very hard to not talk about Tricky and we almost succeeded. I told C how my sister AJ had explained when I would know I was a proper mother. The moment would occur when I sat down for a couple of moments peace in front of the telly and suddenly realize I had baby poo under my fingernails. Instead of leaping up in disgust and rushing to the bathroom I would casually pick it out and wipe it on my jeans.

First anniversary is paper, said C in an effort to steer the conversation back to adult topics. What is the second? Wood?

No. First anniversary is paper but second anniversary is diamonds, I explained.

We ate French entrée thingys and salmon and something else that was delicious but too much of a stretch to recall at this point. And desserts. Oh la. The most delicious chocolate cake ever and a rhubarb and ginger cream mille feulle (spelt wrong I believe but too knackered to google).

It was fabulous and too expensive even though a little man did come forth and shave our tablecloth free of crumbs which is always a nice thing to have happen.

The week continued in fine style with Tricky’s 8 week immunization which I believe is for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Hep B, Polio, Poor Fashion Sense and Misuse of Apostrophes.

At the GP’s I asked if I could have breastfeed the baby while she gave him the injections.

She looked at me, confused.
I don’t think that’s necessary, she said.
I think it will help, I explained.
Well, she said. In my experience all babies cry but sure if you want to, go ahead.

So I did.

It is a horrible thing to see an enormous needle plunging into your baby’s thigh. He stopped sucking and opened his mouth wide to scream…and then instantly went back to sucking. There were two tears at most. It was as if he’d been half way through a mouthful of the most delicious, if poorly spelt, rhubarb and ginger cream mille feulle ever ...and suddenly seen the bill. But then without thinking he had shoved another mouthful of rhubarb and ginger cream in, and the bill was miraculously torn up and scattered to the wind.

If the GP was impressed she didn’t show it but I like to think she may have learned something at that moment. I felt vindicated. I had successfully comforted my baby.

Even with clean fingernails I felt like a proper mother.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

C had to go to Canberra this morning.

Canberra is a strange cold wet fish of a city where trees grow in strict formation and politicians come out to play. There are certain laws binding the rest of our sweet nation and ensuring our moral and physical safety that need not apply in this city - it’s that special and magical.

I am insanely jealous of course, not because of the Canberra thing but because C is there for two days and thus guaranteed at least one night of uninterrupted sleep. That is, unless he succumbs to Canberra’s unique charms and spends the wee hours trawling the streets for Xrated porn and firecrackers.

Something I read, or maybe someone told me, or possibly an angel visited me in a dream and proclaimed it so, was that having a baby often makes bad relationships worse and good relationships pretty much stay the same.

C and I are best mates and have been together for many years, laughing at each others crap jokes and taking it in turns to make the porridge (except when C discovered a new and vastly superior porridge making method and then do you think I was allowed to go within two metres of a rolled oat?).

And certainly when I had to do that Will I Kill My Baby? Test they make you do after 6 weeks or so, I ticked all the right boxes (although I paused over the Are You Ever Afraid Of Your Partner box when I recalled his frightening obsession with the porridge).

But still, the truth is things have been getting a wee bit snappy around here of late.

We’re both tired and there have been more terse words and less cuddles than say 8 weeks ago. And there’s been little or no Special GrownUp Naked Time, not for want of trying. It is oddly difficult to get down and dirty when the other hand is occupied with rocking a cradle. A slight soiling is all we’ve really managed.

The other day we decided to go out for lunch with the baby.

Naturally in the car there were tears and the screaming tomato face but this time it wasn’t Tricky. We tried to talk in an adult fashion about the snappiness and the grumpiness and the Too Busy for Special GrownUp Naked Time.

I miss you, I cried.
I miss you too said C. It’s like we’ve both fallen in love with someone else.
Someone tiny, brown and incontinent.

When we got out of the car we stood in the street and kissed.
And said how much we loved each other.
And how sexy we were, even with spew on our clothes and poochy tummies.
And then, in lieu of Special GrownUp Naked Time we decided to eat cakes even though we knew it was bad and would add to general poochiness.

We wanted to go to our favourite bakery and eat their cakes but several thousand Sydneysiders had decided to do exactly the same thing and it was packed. This saddened us. But across the street was another café, a café that had been the height of grooviness and brimming with popularity until the coming of the bakery. Now it was nearly empty and looked lonely and sullen.

I felt a stab of sympathy. This café knew only too well the bitter taste of rejection.

Let’s go there, I said. At least they’ll be happy to see us.

I waited outside the ex-groovy café, rocking the pram as I watched the bakery queue across the road go round the corner and down the street. After a moment C came out with a face like a slapped arse.

They said no, he told me.

No? I repeated, confused.

No, he said more loudly, they said we couldn’t bring the pram inside and I’M NEVER COMING BACK TO THIS SHIT HOLE AGAIN.

I looked at C’s outraged face and in at the once groovy near empty café that wasn’t into prams and I started to laugh. Then we crossed back over the road and found a couple of orange milkcrates outside the bakery. I sat on my crate on the footpath while C joined the queue. When an old woman, passing by exclaimed that Tricky was like a beautiful apricot I smiled and agreed.

A few minutes later I held a Styrofoam cup of Belgian hot chocolate in one hand and a strawberry and chocolate tart in the other. My beautiful apricot baby lay in the pram to my right and my sexy funny porridge-fascist husband sat on an orange milk crate to my left.

And the traffic zoomed by, and the sun shone, and satisfied customers walked past with fragrant loaves wrapped in brown paper under their arms…

And life was good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


When I was 4, I lived with my family in Penang and on one memorable day I nearly died there too when I happily flung myself into the Grownups Pool at the Chinese Swimming Pools.

My parents and little sisters were eating lunch by the fountain. No one saw me run off in my kiddy brown skirted swimming costume with my Hiawatha rubber ring under one arm and by the time they realised I was gone I was hovering, suspended in greenish water, eyes boggling, lips firmly pressed together, marveling at the way the filtered sunlight played against the tiles.

In this moment there was no panic, more a sort of curious calm.

The world’s volume was suddenly switched down, reduced to the faint gush of the distant fountain, the rush of water in my ears and my own heartbeat. After what seemed like years I looked up to see a Brown Man in Batik Togs squatting on the edge of the pool, watching me.

I raised my arm and he lifted me out and that was that.

It’s been nearly 8 weeks since Tricky was born and that means I’m nearly all out of Ecstatic Birthing Hormones. This is the good stuff, the stuff that makes you ignore the tiredness and the ravenous hunger and the rectocele (yeah, go on, google that, I dare you) and the sore back and the flabby belly because you’re floating happily on your Hiawatha rubber ring inflated with pure motherly doting goodness.

It’s not that I’m out of the Motherly Doting Goodness, because I’m not, I’m reeking with the damn stuff – it’s splattered all over my bedroom floor, it’s just the other bits are starting to catch up with me.

On Thursday night the short film I wrote last year had a screening at a local cinema and I was there with C and Tricky and most of my family and a whole bunch of other people too and my face nearly fell apart with all the smiling and my head nearly exploded with all the convivial social chatting.

Because with the tiredness comes the shrunken vocabulary and the inability to focus.

I hear the voices, the questions, the conversations, but they seem oddly filtered, like through smoke or water.

Also, when standing about, I have a tendency now to rock, not in a groovy frayed denim and electric guitar kind of way, but in a bobbing boat kind of way – even when I’m not holding the baby. I noticed this for the first time when C took Tricky for a walk around the park and I stood holding the pram and after a few minutes noticed that I was rocking my handbag to sleep. (My friend Michelle tells me that I will find myself rocking the empty shopping trolley next.)

And then also there’s the soft haze of incredulity, the lordy lordy, My Whockety cloud of astonishment each morning when I wake (after two hours or perhaps three and once or twice five!) and see that lovely rounded currant bun face and those blue/brown eyes (colour yet to be finalized) and that worried wrinkled brow.

In the first week I could see my baby’s face everywhere, in the shadows on the blinds, the rolled up sheets on my bed. I saw his almond eyes in the grain of the wooden chest of drawers, the ceiling beams and in the whorled skin on my own fingertips. It was like being perpetually stoned on joy. In this state I can forgive all my shortcomings, the baby vomit on my cardigan, the breast milk drips on the bedroom floor, the failure to respond to text messages and emails.

Or, maybe, I just forget.

I have taken to carrying a notebook around with me because finally I got way too embarrassed to ask my dad for the tenth time when he was going in to have his knee operated on and what Grumpy Grandad’s new address was at the retirement village. I’ve still got a script deadline in October (and one in December and one in February) and it’s like squeezing blood out of a stone (or any number of constipated scenes, see previous posts) trying to get these written with my fuzzy blurry brain.

Eight weeks since I jumped into this wide wet pool of motherhood and my head is still below water.

I am still marveling, still mostly calm and curious, the light is still captivating, but those outside voices are getting louder.

Quite soon I will need to lift up my head and breathe.

I can’t wait to rejoin the land of the living, recover my brain and my body too, but I’ll also mourn the loss of this hovering underwater place, this soft focus, warm haze, babylove world.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The First Father's Day

Dear Daddy

Today is Father's Day. Woo hoo!

Wasn’t that excellent this morning when we went to the Bourke St Bakery and you sat outside on a milkcrate holding me while Mummy was inside buying croissants and then all those people stopped to wish you Happy Father’s Day?

It’s odd the way people in this city don’t generally like to make contact with strangers but when you’re carrying me in your arms they often smile and stop to chat. I did think that it was because of me but when we went through the park the other day I noticed people doing exactly the same thing except with dogs.

You don’t seem to swaddle me as much anymore which I’m frankly a little relieved about.

If you could have a word with Mummy I’d appreciate it because she has become a complete swaddle fiend. Sometimes I like to wave my hands in the air, you know, to express my masculinity and also to poke myself in the eye. And if I’m feeling a little peckish I like to suck on my fists. It’s very difficult when they’re lashed to my sides.

By the way, I also like it when you play your guitar for me.

You used to play guitar all the time for Mummy, in your courting days, and she really loves those three songs. I like them too but if we could extend the playlist I think that would be good. Sometimes when I’ve been “restless” and Mummy says in slightly strained tones Go To Daddy Now, you pop me on your lap and start to strum your guitar and I think that’s just lovely.


When I make those screaming noises it’s actually me trying to jam along. For instance I like to throw a bit of seemingly hysterical hiccupping in now and then for a syncopated rhythm effect and that abrupt puking noise is my version of the famous gated drum sound as used so prominently on Phil Collins’ anthem In The Air Tonight and subsequently in much of the recorded pop drum sound of the 1980s.

I’m six weeks and five days old today and just this weekend I’ve started to really focus on your faces and also make little burbling gurgly noises now and then, as if I’m thinking about how much I love being your baby or else impersonating a teeny tiny drainpipe.

My farting is still cause for amusement and I’m trying to perfect a sort of lilting trumpet that could come in handy for those guitar/hiccup jam sessions.

I’m looking forward to growing up and playing with you and learning from you. Hey, won’t it be fun when I’m bigger and we gang up on Mummy together! Hee hee! What a cak. Ooh do you think she knows? Let’s not tell her, let’s just think of heaps of hilarious tricks we can play on her. Won’t she be surprised?

I knew we would be great friends the very first time you held me. It was just after I was born and I was lying on top of Mummy’s tummy. She gave me a little cuddle and then asked you to pick me up.

And you did, you held me and sniffed my head and loved me. And I stared up at you with my bright blue grey eyes and wrinkled my forehead and scowled and loved you right back.

I didn't make you a card due to my current lack of fine motor skills. I hope you're not disappointed. (Although Mummy did think of tying some paint brushes to my arms, propping me up against some thick paper and activating my startle reflex to create something bright and original.)

Still, it won't be long. In a couple of years I’ll be able to make you a Father’s Day card with funny stick figure drawings and wobbly handwriting.

I might even accidentally write Happy Farters Day like you did, in all innocence, to your own father when you were just a little boy.

But instead, this year, I made you a Father.

Happy First Father's Day Daddy.

I love you.

Your Son

Monday, August 28, 2006

And Then My Watch Melted And My Giraffe Caught On Fire

The other day, while breastfeeding, I made a decision not to pluck the long hairs growing from my nipples because I liked the way they curled around my baby’s nose and made him look like Salvador Dali.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ESCAPE From St Hellacious!

Various events have conspired to delay the writing of this post, the biggest of which seems to be sleep deprivation. Using a combination of extreme willpower, sharp pointy bits of wood and the journal I kept at the time I have pieced together the following…

On what was to be my third and final night at the hospital I wrote these words:

Just woke after a three hour Panadol/Voltane sleep thinking it was morning! Refreshed. Delighted. This morning we’re going home! And oh look there’s sun outside. But then…strange… how cold I am. Pick up mobile phone, planning to ring C am astonished to see time – it’s not even one oclock.

Because I have given birth a couple of days previously to writing the above, I am knackered.
My body is awash with strange hormones. I have hemorrhoids, abdominal muscle separation, a fucked back and what feels like an entire embroidered tapestry of one of those creepy weeping clowns stitched into my perineum.

Also I have a baby.

This makes me very happy, very tired, very sore, very excited, very fearful and very ambivalent about cross stitching all at once. I am a badly blended cocktail of emotions, served with a bowl of salted mixed metaphors. In short, I am mere snotty putty in the Evil Midwife’s hands.

For the first two days there is no sign of Evil Midwife. Instead, a parade of bespectacled Reasonably Nice Midwives with English accents and sensible shoes march in and out of my room. Half of them are barking mad but all of them are cheerful.

On the first night, a few hours after my baby is born, they tuck me into the post natal ward, send C home (apparently his work is now done) and leave a sheaf of helpful How To Be A Mother type notes on my bedside table. The Reasonably Nice Midwives, much like School Prefects in an Enid Byton book, tell me everything I need to know to ensure I do well at St Hellacious; the mealtimes, the classes, the best way to fold a nappy. I tell the Reasonably Nice Midwife From Cornwall that I feel like I am in an English Boarding School and she smiles politely as she smoothes down her pigtails and waves her lacrosse stick about.

Let’s humour the post partum woman, her smile seems to say.

Early on it seems that I am going to fail Breastfeeding 101 or at the very least have to do Breastfeeding Detention.

Throughout the day the prefects come in and encourage me to squeeze the bejesus out of my breasts. A few tiny golden drops of colostrum appear but they wouldn’t feed a gnat let alone a baby. One prefect tells me, comfortingly, that for now baby will get his nourishment from the brown fat between his shoulder blades. This is both disgusting and fascinating and probably the only time anyone thinks kindly of backfat.

On the third night, I realize that man cannot live on backfat alone.

Moments after writing my impressions of experiencing a full night’s sleep in just three hours a new midwife entered the room. She seemed Cheerful. She seemed Blyton-esque. She didn’t have an English accent but she did seem Reasonably Nice. I told her how well I had slept and how good I was feeling. She admired the baby, told me his jaundice would clear up soon and expressed surprise at his birth weight - quite substantial despite his Nearly Four Week premature status.

“He doesn’t look premmie at all” she said. I told her that I wanted to go home the following day and she did a double take.
“But he’s jaundiced” she protested. “And, he’s premmie.”
Like my MS during the birth, the prematurity of my baby will be brought up whenever I attempt to do something the midwives don’t agree with. Something strange and radical like…going home.

Probably in an effort to gain approval and a Get Out Of Hospital Free pass I then agreed to “have another go” at breastfeeding. Perhaps oddly, this wasn’t something I had worried too much about. I felt fine. I was sure it would happen soon, I just needed to practice a bit more. I also told myself that if I couldn’t breastfeed I wasn’t going to freak out about it. Yes I wanted to breast feed but if for some reason I couldn’t that was ok. In fact, I had decided, formula feeding wasn’t the end of the world.

After all, I had a baby. He was healthy. He was absorbing his own backfat. Yes he had jaundice and a little sticky eye and tiny furry ears but to me he was lovely. Everything else was gravy.

In retrospect I can see that this was to be my final ‘happy thought’ at St Hellacious.

The breastfeeding coaching session begins at 1.15 am. It goes for an hour and a half. In this time I go from feeling “fine” to feeling “completely and totally fucked.”

Breastfeeding was not something I would learn with practice, it was a mystical and highly technical science which I should have started preparing for at the age of six. Like playing the piano or learning ballet, I had missed my opportunity and now I and my malnourished, jaundice ridden, hairy little sticky-eyed monkey baby would pay the price.

Over and over again I tried to coax him to latch on, over and over again he would mash my nipple into a variety of intriguing shapes. All wrong. All completely hopeless. The midwife tutted and clicked her tongue and asked me stupid questions like: How does that feel?

How does one answer a question like that at 2am? I have never breastfed before. I have never attempted to breastfeed before. How does it feel? I want to say "it feels like the worst foreplay in the world" but I am scared that this sounds pervy and weird, not to mention impertinent, and be grounds for taking my baby away and giving him to someone with proper nipples.

Finally, after yet another attempt, I realise my nipple is bleeding. A small bloody gobbet hangs from my son’s lip. I stare at the damage, aghast. I am so obviously incompetent I don’t even realize it when a section of my nipple is destroyed by my baby’s equally incompetent technique. We both suck.

The midwife asks in an incredulous voice: couldn’t you feel that?
My mouth opens and closes I can’t think of anything to say.
Yes of course it hurt but how am I meant to know that it was the wrong way to feel?

We try both breasts, we try different positions. I try and stay calm. Finally she decides I need to hand express into a little cup because otherwise my baby will starve.

She does the expressing and I try not to feel like a cow. She manages to get two and a half mils but then loses almost half when she tries to draw it up into the wrong syringe. I stare at the precious golden drops wasted and grit my teeth. Unsurprisingly he spits half of it out. At this point I ask about whether I need to supplement with formula. She hums and ha’s and purses her lips. She tells me that first of all the baby’s blood sugar level will need to be checked. She also says that we should have another breastfeeding session at…oh, five o’clock this morning.

I agree to this because I am starting to get scared about my ability to look after my baby, because I am tired and emotional, because I am intensely hormonal and because she is an Evil Midwife with special Mind Powers no mere mortal can resist.

Around 3am, a second midwife enters. She is also Evil and may even be drooling a little and sporting fangs. Vlad The Impaler is tall and stern and here to check my sleeping baby’s blood sugar level. She grabs a foot and pricks his heel with what can only be a rusty bayonet left over from WW1.

He screams and my heart nearly stops. I have never heard him scream. I have never heard him cry like this. I am paralysed with horror. What in God’s name have I agreed to? Vlad squeezes his foot hard and remarks on how little blood he seems to have: Most babies have a lot… she corrects herself…Normally babies have no trouble…. She smears some of the blood on her hand as she tries to make it register on her little Torture Machine. Mmmm, no, no good, I’ll have to try again.

She grabs his foot again and I leap out of bed. I beg her to try the other foot. Vlad scowls at me. I was going to stay on one foot in case we had to go again… oh whatever… She grabs the other foot and pricks him again and he screams again and cries and cries… and again there’s not enough blood to register. She picks him up, puts him over her shoulder, and I, shrinking, desperate, utterly miserable say to her in a cringing little voice: maybe I could…and gesture at him.

Vlad seems to find this offensive and flounces out of the room calling over her shoulder as she does I’ll have to send the head midwife because I’ve done it twice now and it hasn’t worked.

I am shocked. The only crumb of comfort is that in my arms my baby calms down again and some residual spark of myself shouts in a tiny defiant voice: you see! I managed to calm my baby. I am a GOOD MOTHER. You are a CUNT.

In comes the Head Midwife, not Evil per se and possibly even Reasonably Nice in other circumstances. She speaks pleasantly, she warms my baby’s foot, she manages to get more than enough blood in one prick and his blood sugar level is 3.3 which is perfectly fine. Now, finally, I burst into tears. My baby has enough blood. Not only that, his blood sugar level is “fine”.

Vlad the Impaler hovers by the door. Did you have ‘problems’? she calls out. His feet were cold says Head Midwife shortly. As I seem to be incapable of doing anything other than quietly weeping on my wailing infant’s head, HM leads me back to bed, tucks me in and herds Vlad out of the room. I sit up in bed with my baby pressed against my skin until at last he falls asleep.

The time is 3:15 am and instead of trying to sleep myself I am so distressed that all I can think of doing is digging out my journal and writing the whole fucking awful thing down. And I do. And I do feel a bit better. And I even get to sleep.

And at 5am in comes Evil Midwife 1 and the whole breastfeeding session starts all over again.

This time she manages to milk another syringe of colostrum from me. She also has to leave, her shift is over but she will send Another In Her Place to continue her dark work. There is no word of encouragement, no ‘keep going, it’ll get better’ or ‘you’re doing a great job, don’t give up’. There is no more said about the supplementary feed and I wonder why my baby was subjected to Vlad The Impaler in the first place. I’m left feeling fifty sorts of shit.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…finally a new midwife appears. She is slightly warmer but perhaps this is because the dawn has finally broken and the truly Evil Midwives must return to their underground crypts and hang by the toes until midnight strikes once again.

At 8am I wander forlornly into the meal room to have my breakfast. I tow my child behind me in his plastic sided bassinet. I have already rung C to tell him that I can’t come home after all, I am incapable of feeding and our baby is sick and nearly didn’t have enough blood. My mobile phone is bathed in snot as I blubber incoherently to him.

I continue to blubber all through breakfast which is substantial because I am starving. While eating my third bowl of weetbix I overhear a woman talking to another new mother about leaving the hospital today and I realize that this is someone from the Home Midwife Service. I nearly bathe my baby in breakfast cereal in my haste to catch her. Yes I should be able to go home today (previous midwives had assured me there was no way I could go because I hadn’t ‘booked in to leave’), she would get someone to see me this morning.

When C arrives I am able to tell him the saga of the previous night. N also arrives. Her advice is that I must come home and not be subjected to any further bullying and fuckwittery. I will have access to the Home Midwife service, I can hire a Lactation Consultant, there is nothing more I need from St Hellacious. I must say, firmly, that I am leaving at five that afternoon and would they please arrange the paperwork to suit. The 'please' is optional.

From here, I turn a corner and drag my way back up to normality. The HMS midwife is more than nice, she’s actually helpful and encouraging. I have a list of things that need doing before I leave, tests, checkups for me and for my baby. The very act of writing a list makes me feel better. C and I also attend a half hour lecture by a neonatologist. He talks about the biology of breastfeeding, the evolution of human childbirth – it’s interesting, stimulating and…I take notes. Again, the act of writing stuff down is incredibly comforting. When we speak to him following the lecture he looks at my baby and agrees that I should go home if I want to. He also gives me the phone number of a Lactation Consultant.

Finally I can face the St Hellacious midwives and ask (politely but firmly) for my paperwork, for a physiotherapist to assess me, for the pediatrician to check my baby (please).

They try to thwart me by citing his jaundice, his premmie-ness, his sticky eye and lack of latch. They try everything but his tiny furry ears. I prepare to launch myself at them and beat them about the head and pigtails with their lacrosse sticks but finally they relent.

And at five oclock I am finally released. It’s pissing with rain and freezing cold but I am nearly faint with joy and relief.

If it wasn’t for my piles, stitches, fucked back, and weak stomach muscles I would do a little happy dance in the lobby.

Instead, like in all good Enid Blyton books, I settle for a chocolate brownie and lashings of hot chocolate in the café, to build up my strength up for the long three minute drive home.

And the following day, my milk comes in and there's more latching than an entire girls' boarding school worth of dormitory doors.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Letter to A 39 Week and 4 Day Old Ex-Embryo Or Alternatively a 3 Week Old Baby

Dear Tricky

We’ve got this weird timeframe thing happening where you turned three weeks today but you’re not actually due till this Friday.

Also, when we were walking home from the physio appointment today I saw the moon, all round and getting ready to be full and that took me right back to just before you started making your grand entrance.

But then maybe this is just the effects of sleep deprivation because holey dooley that sleep three hours, get up and feed, go back to bed, get up an hour later thing is quite a headspin.

We’re doing a demand feed thing with you at the moment, so when you demand, I feed and my, for a small boy you can be quite the demanding little muppet. (That should probably be ‘moppet’ but with your cute round head and your little dark shiny eyes and blobby little nose you could get a part on Sesame Street any day. Also, who has time to fix typos? I’m a mum! And I’m tired! And I’m feeding on demand!)

Your father is completely smitten and sniffs your head constantly.

I allow him to do this because I think it’s a good way to get rid of house dust or skin flakes that may have gathered on your scalp. He learned how to swaddle you at the hospital and has since developed this to a fine art, wrapping you tightly and binding your teeny limbs to your body. At the moment you seem to enjoy this, you settle down and often fall asleep, but I’d like to see him try it when you’re, say, thirteen.

Sometimes your father takes the swaddling too far, like on the second night at home, at about three in the morning while I was waiting to feed you and trying to stay awake and he was saying…let’s try this new swaddle, now how did it go again… and I felt like screaming FUCK THE NEW SWADDLE JUST GIVE HIM TO ME. He’s calmed down a bit now but I still hear him muttering to himself “swaddle, swaddle swaddle” and catch him wrapping bits of cloth origami style about your tiny self.

Each day I try to achieve small goals such as returning emails, or writing a blog entry (!) or perhaps trying to edit one of my previously rejected scripts. Today’s goal was to try and gently extricate an unsightly piece of dried snot from your left nostril and guess what? I succeeded!

Meanwhile, your goal seems to be to daily increase the volume of your screaming. Hey! It’s working! Also, the velocity of your pooing. Today you almost managed to hit your father in the chest but he sneakily leapt sideways and instead you hit the door and the floor in one explosive farty squirt.

And then there's the scowling! Magnificent! You furrow your weeny fuzzy forehead and beetle your tiny brows and attempt to focus your little shoe button eyes and direct tiny laser beams at those who incur your displeasure. As a baby, I too was a furrower and a scowler and it makes me proud to see that you have inherited these disagreeable qualities. The explosive poo thing though…that’s completely your father.

I’m both horrified and jealous at your power to excrete. A week after we came home from the hospital, the combination of no walking, lots of fine cakes and especially, NOT ENOUGH WATER saw me staggering about the bathroom in agony. I have never been so constipated in my life. It was hell. It was worse than giving birth and it lasted three days. In the end I had to use those squirty up the bum things AND drink gallons of water AND march up and down Bondi promenade AND eat a coffee meringue before there was happiness again.

When I mentioned this to various friends and family who have had babies they all recalled the same thing happening to them. “It made me cry”, “It was horrible, I was too afraid to push”, “I nearly put a fist through the wall” “I was crippled” I was aghast that no one had seen fit to share this with me.

Yes, I was told to drink lots of water while breast feeding but no one actually said: because if you don’t you won’t just ‘shit a brick’ you’ll be shitting the entire wall, the bloke who built it, his ute with the blue heeler on the back, and his esky. Yesterday a friend said that, although truly appalling, once the constipation was over, it was forgotten and that's why no one had thought to warn me. There's just too much other stuff going on.

I suppose that all this other stuff is just part of the strange new territory that C and I have entered.

This place called parenthood.

We’re kind of scared, I have to admit. Sometimes we watch you sleeping and you look so tiny and cute and fragile and our hearts just overfill with love and love and more love for you.
And it’s sweet, but it’s painful too because how can we protect you from all the ghastly horrible things in the world? There’s just no swaddle big enough or strong enough for that.

So it’s scary yes but most of all it’s wonderful. And C and I gaze at you and then turn and look at each other and make “can you believe it?” hand gestures at each other and raise our eyebrows quizzically because, frankly, we can’t believe it.

But then here you are. Neatly swaddled and blissfully asleep on our bed. So it must be true.

Your full moon arrives tomorrow night. Let’s watch it together during that three o clock feed. We can toast it with breast milk and a large glass of water.

With love.

Your very own OvaGirl

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Because he was Tricky going in and Tricky coming out...

His name is Tristan Patrick...

...also known as Tricky.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Moonrising (The Birth)

Two days earlier it had been a full moon.

As we drive home along the ocean I watch it hanging, hugely round and golden, above the waves.

Maybe the moon will bring the baby I say to C and we laugh because we had been told that the full moon does bring the baby and so, lacking any better idea, we had planned around it – our pre-baby holiday away, the baby book reading, the writing down of the birth plan, my sister AJ booking her ticket from NZ for the full moon - two days before the due date, the last minute intensive antenatal class…all scheduled before the full moon.

The next full moon.

You’re one lunar month away, says my sister in law N later that night and I think about the time we have left and the time that has passed and how much has moved and changed within the ocean of our lives and still the moon rises, and still the waves crash and suddenly, shockingly there is no more time.

On Thursday, C goes back to Northern NSW, and I potter on at home. On Friday morning I wake, back cramps, waves of period like pain, bearable but uncomfortable.

And… confusing. This is… early.

It’s the gnocchi, I think.

Earlier I babysat the Naughty Nephews and we had dinner together. The pasta was a month past its use by date.

I, on the other hand, am a month early.

The pain continues, regular, unsettling, and in the morning I ring the Birth Centre to see what I should do. Take Panadeine, they tell me, and rest and ring again if they continue.

I do, and they do, and I ring again.

Come in, the midwife says, but if you are in labour we can’t take you because you need to be 37 weeks at least. You’ll have to go to Delivery.

I am horribly disappointed and when later N and I arrive at the Birth Centre, a midwife steers me back down the hall to the other doors.
No, I want to say, I can wait, please! I can do better. I can hang on. Give me another chance. But she’s gone.

And all through Friday the pain continues to wash over me, stops while I am in the bath where I sway and sing the world’s a big blue marble through my contractions and the warm water slops over my belly rising like an island from the deep.

And we wait and we wait and we wait…should I stay, should I go, should C fly home now, or next flight, or last flight, or drive, or wait, N is waiting with me, calmly updating C, giving me arnica but no, stay don’t rush, don’t panic, not happening, don’t go….

Fifteen minutes after C’s last flight leaves the midwife examines me again. I am 1cm and fully effaced. I’m not going anywhere.

C swears loudly and exclaims delightedly within the same breath. He will pack up, drive back, be here in about seven hours – about 1 in the morning.

My youngest sister K arrives from Newcastle, her fiancé has driven her the two hours and will drive back again immediately. You look after your sister, he tells her. Don’t leave her alone at the hospital. K is nervous, excited, didn’t read Active Birth - she did order it from the bookshop but it didn’t come in time…

No time, no time…

That night I am given strong doses of Panadeine and a couple of mild sleeping tablets and I have three blessed hours of pain free sleep. I’m still 1 cm on Saturday morning so we’re sent home again.

It’s the day of the baby shower which is now postponed although a couple of girlfriends turn up and we have tea and cake and lavender oil back massages and the day passes in a beautiful blur of love and sugar.

And the waves keep coming and I am starting to turn into myself, getting into the zone.

By Saturday night the waves are much harsher, I hang off the walls and breathe, N is telling me to float above the waves and indeed at the height of the pain I do see myself floating above… something dark and far away, a canyon, impenetrable, mysterious…and then the wave recedes and I find my feet on the other side.

Minute after minute, breath after breath, hour after hour.

Walking down the hallway to go back to the hospital, I have to stop and breathe and float on the walls directly outside the Naughty Nephew’s bedroom. Vaguely I am aware of their bright eyes, their curious voices.

Earlier Naughty Nephew the 2nd had asked his father about why it was hurting so much and he began to explain…well the baby has to come out through her vagina… NN2’s eyes goggle. His mouth dropped open. Struck temporarily speechless he covered his cheeks with his hands.

After the birth he will draw a card for me showing a picture of me “dilating” and “being dilated by K”.

After a gruesome but mercifully short drive on my hands and knees in the back of the car, we reach the hospital where they discover my bladder has hugely distended. I haven’t been to the toilet all day. I’ve been in the zone and also I’m a bit iffy using any toilet other than my own. I resolve to get over this bit of fastidiousness but in the meantime the midwife uses an in out catheter to draw off a litre of urine.

K, N and C carry dish after dish to the sink and drain it away.

Sometime during the night will come the first of many discussions concerning my multiple sclerosis. Could this have caused the bladder retention? No, I say, in between breathing and floating, nothing to do with it. The MS comes up again and again and underlying the questions is the Potential for Problem and hence the need for intervention.

I breathe and float and argue.

They examine me and disappointingly I am only 3cm dilated. The contractions on top of a full bladder have made me seem far further progressed than I actually am. This time I get a shot of Pethedine to let me sleep.

Again, a few hours of respite, a few hours to catch my breath, clean the slate, start again. Until now Pethedine was on my list of No Thankyous, but I have changed my tune. This early in the labour it is Pethedine that is giving me strength.

By Sunday nothing has changed and I am sent home again. This time we will have no visitors, nothing but quiet and nourishment and breathing and rest. I am given the Panadeine forte and the sleeping tablets again but this time they do little, perhaps allowing me to doze between contractions, little more.

And once again my bladder starts to shut down, although my sister K is by me all through the night with a little bowl to help me relieve the pressure.

And so on Monday afternoon , I am back at the hospital. The pain is not so great but I don’t want to make the same journey I made on Saturday night. This time they tell me my bladder is retaining again but not like the night before, 600 mls instead of a litre. (Are you sure this isn’t the MS?) So now I’m going to have a catheter throughout the labour.

I ask if I can have more Pethedine which means another examination. This time a midwife suspects I could have a bladder infection (Could it be the MS?) so I will have to go onto IV antibiotics during the labour. They put a canula in the back of my hand in readiness and throughout the labour I will snap at people who clutch or press at it.
Stop it! My hand, you’re pressing my hand!

I am aware of voices and murmurings around me but by now I am pretty much into the zone and time which seemed to be so short before has now become slippery and elastic and I slip and slide in and out of now and another state, a more liquid state of consciousness, full of strange imagery and half dreams.

A midwife breaks my waters and they gush hotly down my legs.

Somewhere in there the obstetrician has reappeared, more MS discussion, concern that this labour is taking so long, I am now, after all this time, only five centimeters and he is concerned because…..because…because…

… the voice weaves around me, he is talking Syntocin to hurry the labour along and I think of how this will throw me straight into the deep end of these crashing wave contractions and I know I am not ready.

I ask for Pethedine, let me sleep, let my body try and finish the job.

My support team are around me, rock solid, N has come home early from work and I have asked her to stay for the birth, K is holding my hand, C is with me and around me whispering to me you are so beautiful, you are doing so well, you are so strong…

They work tirelessly, massaging me, applying heat pack and whisking it away when I screech too hot too hot on the eve of each contraction. I am silently congratulating myself for not swearing, for staying calm even though it is patently obvious that the massage is all wrong that the hot packs are too hot and then in the wrong place, that K’s hands are too small and in the wrong place

C tells me later that I would snap out instructions and the three would roll eyes and smile at each other and patiently work on around me.

You said that K’s hands were too small and that they were like monkey paws, he tells me and I gasp at the meanness and cry with laughter at my cranky shitty labouring self, forgiven over and over again.

And eventually I am given an ultimatum.

Pethedine, yes, but then in two hours, I’ll be reassessed, to see if Intervention Is Required to Speed Things Up.

two hours only…

time, time, so little of it, so much of it, not yet, not yet, not yet

C and N withdraw to restrategise.

They are aware that I am rapidly being seen as A Problem, there are tight little knots of staff discussing me, they hush up as K walks past. C and N create their own tight little knot while K stays with me.

The pethedine only lets me sleep between contractions, and these are getting bigger, the waves are rushing down my body from head to toe, my back arches up in between. In these moments I moan and sigh and think yes, I understand why women choose epidurals, I understand fearing and hating this pain, I understand elective caesarians and my little sister despairs as I whisper all my fear to her.

I’m scared, I’m scared, I can’t, I don’t want, it’s not fair…I’m scared

But in between these moments I am drifting at the entrance of that dark world, that strange half life, illuminated by pain. Flickers of face and image and strains of music and words. I have never seen that image before I say to myself, I have never heard those words before…

And later we say that may well have been transition, the doorway into Stage 2 because when I am finally examined, exactly two hours later, I am fully dilated.

Fuck your syntocin I think.

In stage 2, fully dilated, the door to our world as fully open as it can ever be to the baby squeezed deep within my body, a light in the darkness, a path to follow through the incessant squeeze and writhe and push…

Push, I hear people saying, it’s time to push…

…and I do, for nearly two hours, with nothing to show for it. I hang from my husband’s arms, my sister rubs at my legs and squeezes my toes, my sister in law rubs at my back and stops and starts and talks me through, her voice is a clear bell in the storm brewing about my body.

Here now is the dark place, the black place, the canyon I floated over during earlier contractions. The world has split wide open, full of stars and the bright lights of faces I can’t place or properly glimpse.

All love and all hell rests here and I see, suddenly how thin the veil is that lies between us. Only women glimpse this place, I think. Only women see this power.

The shock of this.
The sprawl of this.
The intense terror and beauty that winds me through this landscape, winds this place to me, marked by the painful waves crashing against me.

Push, I hear the voices saying, and I push and I push but I know it’s not enough.

We’re running out of time, the obstetrician says…that word again…

With each wave I push with my first breath, push hard at something but when I break to gulp air and push again it’s as if whatever I’m pushing against has slipped further from my reach.

…the time…the obstetrician says. His eyes are like green orbs, they seem sorrowful and fanatical all at once and I hear him saying ventouse but then also forceps and maybe even emergency caesarian and I think no, that’s not fair, after all this, that’s fucked…

So, push again, he says…your baby’s head is flexed, I ‘ll try and turn it now, but if this doesn’t work we need to look at the options, it’s been two and a half hours now… do you understand?

Do I understand?

I do, but I don’t. I understand the logic but I don’t understand the enormity, the power of what I’m experiencing.

He reaches into me and twists and I scream and I hang and clutch and berate and groan from the arms and hands of people who love and support me, until my body, my vessel, slides further into the heaving waters of this new ocean, this new storm…

We’re running out of time…


And the time it takes is one breath, perhaps, or the combined heartbeat of me and the child trapped within me, or one hour, or one year, but when the next wave hits me, deep inside I suddenly scream.


Get the baby out. Mum!




Muuuuuuum! Get the baby Mum. Please.



But there’s nothing. And then time stops.

The obstetrician asks: the ventouse?

And I open my eyes and see N’s face. I know she had the ventouse with her second child, Naughty Nephew the 2nd has told me about how we was “hoovered” out of his mother because he wanted to stay inside and play football “with the bones”…

She nods. Yes. The bell in the storm.

And I say yes.

And bang! the room fills with staff who seem to have been hovering in the hallway waiting for the word.

C tells me later how it became suddenly a room full of people, busy, swift, efficient. He knew and N knew but my sister K didn’t and she was scared.

I’m told to get up on the bed, the doctors are waiting and I mutter the doctors can fucking well wait as I heave myself up onto the bed. I am tired beyond tired and sore beyond sore.

And now, a new kind of scream, a new kind of sensation.

But it’s all part of the same water, the same journey, the same road that led me past that huge golden moon so many years ago.

The ventouse is slipping and the baby’s heart rate is dropping but here now perhaps is where my mother is able to do her own intervention, or perhaps it’s luck, or love, or skill or all these things, or nothing but suddenly I hear people say:

Here comes your baby’s head!

And I feel that burn, that stretch, that I have read about, heard about…and now the head is out…and now, impossibly quick after all that has gone before, the rest of my baby comes slithering out and suddenly there is a new person in the room, a new soul… and people are laughing and gasping and my sister is sobbing.

It’s a he.

And he’s on my belly, large and wet. And his bright eyes look at me in amazement.

And I stare back, in amazement, this is you. This is you.

We saw you being put into my body, in the end of a pipette.

We saw you sparkle in the night sky of my uterus, a star beside your sibling’s smaller weaker beat.

We saw you alone, a tiny dancing baby, shimmying beneath the ultrasound.

We saw you at 20 weeks, still moving and dancing and bigger and bigger…

We saw you pushing and batting at my flesh…

We saw you coming from far far away.

And we thought we loved you then.
But we were wrong.
Because now you’re here, and so the world has changed.
And the stars have wheeled and turned.
And the moon has come and gone.
And time has stood still for you.
And the oceans have run dry and refilled for you.

And my love. And your father’s love.

For you. Our son.

And things will never be the same again.