Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Taking a break in 2016 - this Durban doula is with child!

To all potential clients, I just have to let you know that I'll be taking a break from doing the doula thing for a while in 2016, because I just don't feel I have the capacity to do what needs to be done with my own newborn to take care of....

My view of my belly - I can still see my toe-shoes -
joined by the soon to be 'middle child',
Yup, this Durban Doula is expecting her third sproglet in April 2016 - or rather late autumn as I tend to tell people (here in the Southern Hemisphere). No one can ask me 'Is the baby here yet?' if they don't know exactly when baby is due! (Sneaky I know, these are the things you learn third time around!)

While I kept a week-by-week diary with my second - which you can find here - I'll be keeping a monthly diary this time around. I'm trusting you'll enjoy sharing the journey with me!

So we are at 8 weeks now - 8 weeks since the first day of my LMP (last menstrual period) - which means it is about 6 weeks since conception, and baby is about the size of a kidney bean. While a first time mom would think things are taking so long, all I can think is that it is happening so fast!

Last week baby was a little blueberry with a tail and 'arm buds', this week he/she is a kidney bean with webbed fingers and almost eyelids!

"Kidney beans" by Sanjay Acharya
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
I weighed about 7kg more at the beginning of this pregnancy than I did at the beginning of either of the other two, and I still have many of the same clothes, so things are feeling tighter much earlier than they did before!

I'm actually less nauseous than I was before, which is a great blessing as I now have a full time job as well as two preschoolers to look after! It's been quite manageable though, as I'm only nauseous if I stop eating for like, 15 minutes; other than that I'm fine.

Consequently I seem to spend my life eating food, preparing food, or thinking about food! Cravings and aversions seems to change by the minute - not sure if it's a physiological thing, or if it's just me getting the most mileage out of what will most likely be my last pregnancy - but hubby has been doing an absolutely sterling job of keeping me fed and watered - especially when I had 'flu and gastro in the first two weeks after discovering I was pregnant! That was grim. I don't get sick, so pregnancy nausea and fatigue combined with the aches and ails of 'flu and gastro was just horrible!
Our Facebook pregnancy announcement...

The days that I felt only nauseous were good days!

Oddly, I've been craving bitter things - like beer (which I never drink anyway!) and grapefruit juice. That and sour things, and apples, and naartjies (tangerines for non-South Africans). Just yesterday I was craving a good Durban curry - so I think that's what I'll be cooking this evening.

Things like mincemeat / ground beef on the other hand - I just can't! I can't even go in the kitchen while it is being cooked, and my poor husband 's affectionate kiss after he ate some himself left me dry heaving. Fortunately he didn't take it personally! The smell of coffee just gives me the shivers. It's so crazy how this little being just takes over your whole body - even the way you sense and feel things, the way you are in your skin - it all changes. What a precious gift to hold this little person for this time!

As with my previous pregnancy, I struggle a bit with dizziness in the mornings, not helpful when you have two preschoolers to get going - but I've found that keeping up with my iron and magnesium has really helped - that and deep breathing and staying well hydrated. A super-involved dad helps too! As I write he is busy making oats porridge for the girls for lunch.

Some of the other stuff... well, let's just say, I've never tanned at a topless beach before, but I think I know what it would feel like the day after the first time... every day. Um. Yah. Pressing on.

Tired with a
teeny belly
We decided to tell our two girls, A & E, aged 6 and 4, about the pregnancy, because I did need a little extra TLC when I was so ill, and because I'm just horrible at keeping secrets like that about my life. They are very excited, but have very little concept of time so the littlest keeps thinking baby is going to pop out next week - I've got them to understand that baby is only coming out after Christmas, but before E's birthday!

I'm also keeping them updated with my little week-by-week pregnancy updates which they quite enjoy. They are both convinced that baby is a boy. I'm not sure if it's some kind of sibling intuition or wishful thinking - but as we are only going for a 20-something week scan we still have a while to wait!

The general response from family and friends has been very positive. We are feeling very loved and supported by our community! But, I must add, where 4 weeks ago it would have been rude to point out anything about the size or shape of my belly, now I am greeted with delighted cries of, 'Oh, you've got a little bump already!'

I'm tempted to make 'Harrumph' noises, but I guess it comes with the territory. 

I've been doing some pregnancy stretching exercise on the floor of my bedroom which have been great in helping me feel a little more energised (yay endorphins!) and I'm making a plan to get back into my weekly walks once myself and my walking partner are up to it.

So anyway, we are planning another water birth at home, as I did with my second child - incredible birth story here - so while I am looking forward to it, I am also happy to wait until the time comes and just savour every moment of these precious few weeks of growing and incubating this tiny human inside my own body.

(Find our week 12 diary here.)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How I explained menstruation to my daughters (aged 4 & 6)

The birds...
I think I have an unfair advantage on this 'Birds and Bees' thing with my girls. I'm a doula so the words vagina and placenta and sex and discharge (etc!) are all part of my daily vocabulary, so my girls have always grown up with (mostly) the correct terms for everything, except we've adopted the term 'yoni' to name their 'private parts'.

We use the term yoni as the term vagina technically only covers the bit you can't see i.e. the internal bits. In truth, you can't really wax your vagina, 'cos getting wax inside there would be both difficult, uncomfortable and unnecessary. The other term for the whole area, including urethra and vagina, is the pudendum, which literally means 'shameful place' - also not a term I'm happy using. Yoni seemed like a great alternative as it means 'sacred space', with the implication of being a place of creation, rather than 'sheath' which is what the term 'vagina' means...

Menstrual Cup
(Upside Down!)
I use a menstrual cup for my monthlies, so when my curious 5 year old found it and wanted to know why she couldn't play with it, I took it as my chance to make this into a learning opportunity. So this was how I explained menstruation to my then 5 year old:
You know when a baby grows inside a mom's belly, it grows in her womb? Womb sounds like room doesn't it? Well, the womb is like a room for the baby. (Many giggles trying to say womb and room as she struggles with her R's.)  
What is in your room? A bed? Well mommies' bodies are so clever that every month they make a bed in case mommy and daddy make a baby there.  
What carries food and life around our bodies? Yes, blood! (We had this discussion before.) So our clever bodies make a special bed out of special blood to feed a baby just in case. But if we don't put the baby there, then the bed gets old, and it has to come out, so then the blood comes out by your vagina, but it isn't bad blood like when you get hurt, it's very special blood. So we use the cup to catch the blood so it doesn't make a mess, isn't that clever? Then next month mommy's body makes a whole new bed in the womb / room and it starts all over again. Isn't that amazing? So when you were a baby in my belly, you had your own room, my womb! And you climbed into the bed my womb made and that's where you grew and grew and grew, getting your food and oxygen from my blood until you were big enough to come out. Aren't you glad there was a bed ready for you? 
To be honest, she was happy with that, and on that occasion she didn't really want more information about how babies get put there, although we have previously had a discussion about how dad puts a seed in mom's womb, and then the egg and the seed together make a baby, exactly how that happens she hasn't asked, but I think she has an idea. Once you know the anatomy, the mechanics are pretty obvious!

...and the bees.
(Who thought of that anyway?)
And the girls both know they came out of my yoni, so that part is also easy!

Speaking of anatomy, we have a lovely big kids' anatomy book with accurate cross section diagrams, so we have studied genitalia along with all the other parts and organs, which has really helped it to be less awkward. In general, I think if we are unfussed and matter of fact, they will be too. Or maybe this is one thing we can learn from them?

Like with menstruation, even now I can tell my girls that when the old bed is coming out it can sometimes be a bit sore, so on those days I take extra special care of myself, and I tell them that one day when they start having a period every month, I'll take extra special care of them on those days too. There are some lovely gift packs you can get to celebrate a girl's menarche or first menstruation - something I'll definitely look at!

I don't want menstruation to be a case of, 'Here are some pads, don't let your brother see,' but rather a celebration of our capacity to bring forth life out of our bodies. Our Western culture seems to see women's bodies as inherently 'unclean': natural birth is and amniotic fluid is 'gross' rather than glorious, breastmilk is a seen as a biohazard with working moms being told they can't rinse their pump parts in the office kitchen sink. But any old cow's milk is fine. Um. No. I recorded this YouTube video on that topic - take a look and let me know your thoughts!

I know women who were told that their vaginas were essentially putrid, seeping wounds, and while the experience of many may not be quite so discouraging, I think it comes close. I'd like my girls to see their vaginas as powerful channels that facilitate both pleasure and procreation. So for example, if a daughter is presenting her gorgeous yoni to the world, where another mother may say, 'Sies! Put that away! No on wants to see that!' I've tried to rather take the line that our yonis are so special and precious that we only show them to people we trust, people who know how special and precious they are - which leads on to a whole discussion on what we can do to protect our children from sexual predators, but we'll leave that for another time.

So with menstruation and intercourse and childbirth and various stages of a woman's life, I have a sneaky (but pretty well founded) suspicion that if we approached the process with less shame, we might experience less pain, and consequently more pleasure.  I certainly have found that my struggles with menstruation closely match my prevailing mental state, and my experiences of childbirth have also largely mirrored my confidence in my body's ability to give birth without mishap. As for my girls, ask me in 6 years!

How were you taught, or not taught about menstruation? What helped you the most in coming to terms with your changing body? Share your thoughts below!