Monday, January 30, 2012

feeding the baby

when you're pregnant, everyone tells you that breastfeeding is a learned skill, and it can take both mother and baby some time to get the hang of it. i knew this was the case, and yet, i still found it incredibly upsetting when arty and i didn't get it together as easily as i'd hoped.

my supply was good from the very beginning. i had fantastic amounts of colostrum, which we expressed and fed him through a syringe as he sucked on a finger. i just couldn't get him to latch on and suckle for himself. he became so hungry and frustrated that he would scream whenever i offered him the breast, and this just broke my heart. i knew what he wanted, i wanted to give it to him, but nine times out of ten we just couldn't make it happen. this all meant that arty wasn't gaining weight fast enough for the paediatrician's liking, and he suggested we start supplementing his feeds with formula. i really wanted to avoid this, so i got very anxious, and very determined to find ways to get breastmilk into our boy!

our hospital had a breastfeeding room which turned out to be a godsend. there was a lactation specialist on duty there all day every day, and i was in and out of there with arty pretty constantly. towards the end of our stay, one of the consultants gave me a nipple shield to use which helped enormously with arty's attachment. my nipples are quite small, and he was having trouble getting enough tissue into his mouth to suckle effectively. the nipple shield gave him more to put in his mouth, an made it much easier for him to suckle. i also used the breast pumps to express milk to bottle feed between breastfeeds. getting on the boob was still stressing him out, so having a bottle there to calm him when he got too upset was great.

arty having a midnight breastfeed

s has been really encouraging of our attempts to breastfeed, and i have been determined to keep trying. it's been a slow process, but in the last two days almost all his feeds have been directly from the breast, and i am so proud of us. i'm still expressing a bit so that s can feed him from time to time, and because i feel better having some backup milk in reserve in case we take a few steps backwards, but we seem to really be getting the hang of this, and it's such a relief.

from what i have read, we should really be weaning ourselves off the nipple shields in the long term. i am a bit nervous about that, but would like to try. i think i'll wait until we've seen the maternal and child health nurse on thursday and i've asked her opinion about whether he has a tongue-tie (one of the lactation specialists in the hospital said she thought he did) which would effect his latch.

in the mean time, he's thriving.

Friday, January 27, 2012

arthur's birth

arthur is a week old today. i am finding it hard to wrap my head around this fact. absolutely everything in my universe looks different now. time moves differently too. i am a new person now that i am arthur's mama, and that is taking some getting used to.

we knew this would be the case. that everything was going to change. we knew that there was only so much we could do to prepare for something like this. and knowing the birth date of our baby meant we could spend the last day of the pregnancy doing a few last minute things to get ready, which i really enjoyed.
we set up his cot in our room, and made it up with fresh sheets. we set up his change station with nappies and cloths. we took a last photo of my belly...

i had to fast from midnight, so s made us a late dinner of beef and red wine stew to keep me going, and after that we went to bed. i slept for about two hours. i was so excited i just couldn't drift off.

we were due to check in at the hospital at 6:30am, and the caesarian was scheduled for 8:00. the drive there was quiet, and we arrived on time. we were met by our midwife and shown to day surgery, where i was to be prepped for theatre.

i was given a gown, which covered almost nothing, and after putting it on, i got into my bed. s sat with me while we did a little paper work, we had a listen to his heartbeat, and i was given some bitter tasting liquid that was supposed to settle my stomach. then i had some of my pubic hair shaved (the caesarian incision is made quite low), s chose a first outfit for him to wear from his bag, and we waited.

i ended up falling asleep while we were waiting, and as i snoozed, the midwife came and told us that we had been bumped because of an emergency caesar, and that there would be another hour's wait. in the end it didn't take that long. it was only about half an hour before the midwife brought s a set of scrubs, some booties and a hat, and she got all dressed for theatre.

i was then wheeled to a waiting area just outside the operating theatre, where s waited with me. the anaesthetist came and put a canula in my hand, and tried to convince me that the spinal block wouldn't be anywhere near as painful as my tattoos had been. i was sceptical.

when the theatre was ready, i was wheeled in without s. she had to wait outside until after my spinal block was done. it was the one part of the procedure that i'd been anxious about, and i will say that it wasn't particularly pleasant. it wasn't the agony i'd feared, but it was painful. first, i had to sit up on the bed with my legs over the side, resting on a chair. the nurse gave me a pillow to bend my torso over and arch out my spine. then i was given an injection of local anaesthetic, and then an injection into my spine. i could actually feel this so we stopped, did another injection of local, and then did the spinal block again. by the end of this process i'd had a little cry, because i was a bit frightened, but in retrospect, it was bearable, and i was ok.

the spinal block took effect very quickly. i felt a warm, tingling sensation travel down my legs, and had to get them back up onto the bed before i lost all movement and sensation. the nurses then set up a screen over my chest so i couldn't see my belly, and the anaesthetist tested to see if i could feel anything below my breastbone. i couldn't. they inserted a catheter (i'm glad that happened after the spinal block!), and i was ready.

s was allowed in at this point, and she sat by my head and reassured me while the procedure began. 

i had been told that i would feel 'tugging and pulling' as they performed the operation, and i really, really did. it's a very difficult sensation to describe, and even though i knew i was safe, it was also very unnerving. i could feel pressure on my diaphragm with each tug and pull, and this altered my breathing. i could feel myself being moved about without being able to identify exactly where the movement was coming from. i just kept saying "woah! this is weird!" which wasn't particularly profound, but it was true.

and then, suddenly, there he was...

they showed him to me as soon as he came out, and then the paediatrician checked over him quickly, and weighed him. s cut his cord, and then he was swaddled and put on my chest. i held him, and we named him, and crooned over him as dr r finished the procedure. 

i was then sent to recovery to be checked over, and s stayed with arty. i didn't like being separated from him, even though it was only for a few minutes, and i was very, very glad when one of the midwives brought both he and s back to me. then we were taken up to the maternity ward. for the first day i was confined to bed. i still had the catheter in, and i was on iv fluids, but by the second day these were removed and i was able to get up and move around. i was on good medication, so i didn't feel much pain at all. plus, i was completely high on our beautiful baby.

the next few days in hospital were spent getting to know our boy, introducing him to excited visitors, and getting the hang of breastfeeding, bathing, swaddling, changing, and all the rest of it. i found our time in hospital to be very positive, and i felt safe and supported, with s at my side and a team of experienced staff on hand if we needed them.

on tuesday, we came home, and began the rest of our lives as a family of three, with our precious new addition:
arthur atticus
friday, 20th of january, 9:20am
9lb, 5oz ~ 4.25kg
20in ~ 51cm

Saturday, January 21, 2012

he's here

arthur atticus was born at 9:20am on friday the 20th of january, 2012.
he is utterly perfect in every way, and we are delighted with him.
the surgery went well, and i am sore but fine. i'll write a full birth story shortly, but right now we're just revelling in the moment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


this photo of s and i was taken at her brother's wedding in april 2011. we didn't know it, but a couple of weeks later, fruiby was conceived, and our lives would begin to change forever.

we've had the best part of eight years as 'just us', and it's been brilliant. we've been each other's everything, and that has been so good for us. and now it's time for each of us to be everything to a new life, and i feel like we're ready for that (as we'll ever be!).

i feel a sense of calm elation at the idea of meeting my son, being his mama, and caring for him in every way that he needs me to. a big part of that feeling of readiness is the knowledge that i'm going into it with the most wonderful woman i know. my best friend. my partner (in the truest sense).

she is going to be the best mother. she is so tender-hearted, he will always know that she undertands when is is hurting or sad. she is so intelligent, he will be raised with mindfulness and wisdom. she is so funny, she will teach him to laugh at us, the world, and himself.

we will set him the best example we can for being a good and loving person, by loving each other more than ever, and loving him too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

so close...

our bags are packed and ready to go.

this is fruiby's bag (which is special, and you can read about it here).
it contains:

  • 6 onesies (mostly 000, with one 0000 just in case)
  • 6 singlets
  • 1 tee shirt and pair of pants (not because they're necessary, just because we love the outfit)
  • 6 wraps (5 muslin, 1 cotton)
  • 1 hand knitted blanket
  • 3 pairs of booties 
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of don't-scratch-your-face-off-you-silly-baby mittens
  • 3 little hats
  • 2 hand-knitted cardigans
  • 4 burp-cloths
  • toiletries for his first baths (the hospital provides these, but we wanted to bring our own organic ones)

my bag contains:
  • two pairs of loose fitting lounge pants
  • two pairs of loose fitting pj bottoms
  • 6 nursing tops (singlets and tee shirts)
  • 3 cardigans to wear over nursing singlets
  • 1 nightie
  • slippers for shuffling around the ward in
  • 6 pairs of enormous nanna undies (the kind that won't cut into my caesarian wound)
  • 1 packet of disposable breast pads (i have reusable cloth ones for when we get home, but this isn't practical in hospital)
  • 3 packets maternity pads (again, i'll go back to cloth when we get home)
  • 4 maternity bras
  • toiletries
  • boomerang pillow for nursing
  • eye-mask for potential day-naps (if fruiby lets us!)
  • my own pillow and quilt for comfort
  • cameras
  • laptop (the hospital has wireless, and i'll want to check in with the internet when i feel up to it)

i'm feeling calm. i am excited, but not in an ansty, bouncy way, just in a positive, happy way. 
i'm not feeling worried or frightened at all. 
i feel confident in the skill and experience of the doctors and nurses who will be looking after us, and i feel comforted by the fact that i understand what is going to happen to my body. 
more than anything i feel so very ready to meet this little boy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

this time next week...

this time next week we'll be in hospital, getting to know our little boy. we will have spent our first night as parents, watching over him while he sleeps, soothing him when he cries, changing his first nappies, tying to work out how to feed, dress, understand him...

my mum sent me this photo the other day. that's her in hospital, holding me just after i'd been born.

this time next week, we'll all have moved up a generation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

week 38: leek

yay! fruiby is as long as a leek! i love leeks!

we had an ob appointment this week, and dr r informed us that my iron and vitamin d levels are much better now. my blood pressure is also more than satisfactory, and fruiby's heartbeat continues to be strong. it looks like the rate at which he's growing has settled a bit, which is good. he's still getting bigger, but not at the crazy pace he was earlier in the trimester. dr r gave us a copy of my records to keep in the hospital bag, ready for if i go into labour early. and lastly, we signed the consent for the caesarian, which felt like a very momentous thing to do, so i took a photo (which dr r thought was hilarious).

c-section consent form

neither dr r nor my gp (who i saw yesterday) are happy with my anxiety levels, so we're going to increase the dose of my meds to what i was on before pregnancy. i think this is for the best. adjusting to being a parent is going to be hard enough without the added complication of crappy brain chemistry.

i think i have finally had a few braxton-hicks contractions. my belly goes very tight, and feels almost solid to touch. this is sometimes accompanied a little crampiness on the underside of it, but overall it's painless, and i probably wouldn't notice unless i was touching my belly (which i do a lot because it is so marvellously round).

my stretch marks have been really itchy and a little bit sore this week. it's been very hard not to scratch and irritate them. i've been moisturizing my tummy multiple times a day, and i'm hoping that will help things settle a little bit, because it is really quite uncomfortable.

i've been pondering the idea of a nesting instinct this week. if i have one at all it hasn't kicked in yet. the house is pretty much as it always is (read: pleasantly chaotic), and i haven't felt the urge to scrub the bathroom, clear out the attic, or anything like that. the most i have done is pre-wash some of his nappies and clothes. what i have felt is a strong urge to round up my pack. several of my closest friends and family members have been away over the last month or so, and i have been feeling very much like i want them all home, and close by for when this happens. i'm happy because nearly everyone is back, with the exception of my youngest brother, and he assures me he'll be in town by the 18th.

a load of fruiby's brighter clothes, just out of the wash.

we got the baby capsule fitted this morning. we hired one from 'hire for baby' because it's much more economical than buying one. annoyingly, our car is actually quite small inside, so now that it is fitted, it's impossible to sit in the front passenger seat (there are literally about two inches between the seat of the car and the glove box). this means that one of us will have to sit in the back with the baby and the other will have to chauffer us all around. it also means that when we have a second baby, and thus two car seats in the back, our current car will be completely useless. annoying.

one week to go! eek! i've made a countdown thingy so we can see how long it is in days, hours, minutes, and seconds til the birth. it's here if you want to see it.

p.s. blogger have finally enabled threaded commenting, so i will be able to reply to comments much more easily now! hooray!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

maternity photoshoot

the other week we spent a couple of hours with the lovely sarah collins, who took some maternity photos for us.

she was so warm and chatty, and she put the two of us at ease really quickly (no mean feat, as s and i both get relatively uncomfortable when there are cameras pointed at us!). if you are in the melbourne area and you need a photographer for any kind of event, i can't recommend her highly enough.

here are a couple of my favourite pictures...

we're going to get together with sarah again after fruiby is born to take some family photos. if this lot are anything to go by, they're going to be pretty special.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

this is me: part 3

it's taken me a while to get around to writing this third and final instalment in this series of posts (see also: part 1 and part 2). i have been mulling over it a lot, and wondering what needs to be said, and how best to say it.
it's also quite tricky because at this point everything is speculation. at the end of the day, nobody knows how parenting is going to pan out for them, whether chronic illness is a factor or not, so before you're thrust into the situation, everything is just crystal-ball-gazing, and projection.

that said, the fact of chronic illness in my life means that i am approaching impending parenthood from a specific angle, and i have a certain set of worries, challenges, and strengths that i bring to the table because of this.

to begin with, i had to confront questions about the wisdom of having kids at all. to me, this was never a debate - no matter how hard having kids could be, it could never outweigh the grief and regret i would feel at not having a family at all - the questions came from other people. i tried to see them as expressions of honest concern rather than patronizing, but at times they hurt and frustrated me. did people seriously think we had not considered that this would be harder for me than for many other mothers? did they not imagine that the decision to parent with chronic illness was something that we had talked, thought, and worried about? especially as a same-sex couple - it wasn't like getting pregnant could be anything other than a very deliberate, well planned, and considered decision for us.
some people advised me to wait until i was "better", without understanding that it is very likely that will never happen. i wasn't going to risk leaving it too late while waiting for my body to maybe get its act together.
so from the beginning i've come into this with the knowledge that i've been judged reckless, naive, and irresponsible by some people. and i have to be ok with that, because all i can do is what's right for me and for s. i can't control what other people think.

parenting with cfs is going to be hard (i am particularly apprehensive about being able to keep up with an energetic toddler in a couple of years!). i am going to be tired, and i am not going to be able to rest and self-nurture in the ways i do now. but i am going to do the best i can. in the beginning i am going to sleep when the baby sleeps, and we're going to have lots of lovely snoozy cuddles and precious dozy moments. i am going to make sure i ask for help when i need it, and i am going to continue to be grateful for s who is the most supportive and wonderful partner, and is just going to be the best mother (babies adore her). knowing we are doing this together makes me a lot more confident.
and i think there are some ways in which cfs has uniquely equipped me for parenthood. i imagine most new parents are quite shocked by the levels of exhaustion they experience, when they are used to feeling energized and capable. i am so used to being exhausted, and finding ways to get on and cope when i am feeling rubbish, that i may well deal with it brilliantly.

parenting with an anxiety disorder is going to challenge me. all parents worry about their children, and this can only be compounded when you're a pathological worrier. i hope i can have the courage to love my child fearlessly. i hope the anxiety management strategies i've learned in therapy, and the medication i'm taking, will help me keep this disorder under control. i am going to do my best to be mindful of my thought processes, and keep them as positive as i can. i'm also going to do my best not to beat myself up when i sometimes fail at this.

depression is, as i've said previously, more of a secondary problem in my current life, but it's actually the thing i am most concerned about with regards to parenting. i grew up with a primary carer who suffered from major depression, and i saw how difficult she sometimes found it to be ok for my brothers and i. i also remember the sadness and sense of failure i felt when loving her with all my heart wasn't enough to make her ok. i don't want my child to experience that.
but having said that, growing up with first hand experience of mental illness has made my siblings and i more empathetic and emotionally literate than many of our peers. and though it was often difficult to see our mother so very sad, we never ever doubted that she loved us deeply - she instilled that knowledge in us from the very beginning of our lives, and continues to do so. at the end of the day, that is the most important gift any parent can give their child, and mental illness can't stand in the way of that.

so, yes. these are my challenges to face on the parenting journey. they are not trivial, but neither are they insurmountable. i am an intelligent, resourceful, well loved, and well supported woman, and i am going to trust that these facts are more than enough to help me through.

this post is part of a three part series: part 1, part 2.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

week 37: swiss chard

this week fruiby should be the length of your average piece of swiss chard.

we had an ob appointment (we're up to weekly visits now) where we had all the routine checks (my blood pressure and his heart rate were both good). dr r felt my tummy to ascertain his position, and confirmed what i had thought might be the case: he has dropped/engaged. i'd suspected this because my lower back pain has increased in the last week or two, and because the pressure i'm feeling on my bladder and in my pelvis has increased dramatically too. i feel like i need to pee all the time - even when i know there's nothing in my bladder. the pressure his head is putting on my bladder is triggering whatever mechanism it has that tells my body it's got to go. after she'd felt his position dr r asked me if i'd had any contractions yet, but i haven't - not even mild braxton hicks - so even though he's engaged, we're not considering his arrival immanent just yet.

after our appointment s and i went to koko black, because i have been craving chocolate mousse for the last three weeks, but haven't found any that was remotely rich enough. i finally got my wish.

i'm still having trouble sleeping, or getting restful sleep when i do drop off. it's starting to make me feel a bit run down. i've developed a cold sore this week, which is something that happens to me when i'm overtired and/or having a cfs flare up). i'm trying not to feel anxious about starting motherhood as a zombie who hasn't had a proper night's sleep for over two months. i'd always thought that sleep deprivation was a post natal thing. oh well!

speaking of sleep, we assembled fruiby's cot this week. it's not installed in our room yet, because we've assembled it without one of it's sides (don't worry, it's structurally sound) and we're going to 'sidecar' it to our bed for cosleeping. i don't want to be clambering around it in these last couple of weeks, because i am too giant and ungainly for that, so we're waiting till the last minute to move it into our room. if i am too sore to climb around it after the caesarian s and i will swap sides on the bed until i've limbered up again.

there isn't much other news - he's still kicking and moving about a lot, which is great. s is getting to feel him more often, and that makes all three of us happy.

two weeks to go!