Monday, 14 December 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary Week 24!

Another fortnight of pregnancy flies by!

In some small, intimate way it has been a week of mourning for me.

Maybe first time moms have it a bit easier - they have no idea what to expect. As a third time mom, who has had both an easy bay and a high-needs baby, I know that even an easy baby changes life in so many irrevocable ways. My youngest (4) has been out of nappies for a while, weaned a year ago, and loves getting herself dressed, while my oldest (6) can run a bath, and make tea and sandwiches with the help of a strategically placed chair. They are pretty self-sufficient and keep each other quite busy most of the time, when they're not trying to scratch each others' eyes out that is.

So anyway, my point is that the days of jumping in the car without a whole extra nappy bag and a whole extra hour of preparation are drawing to a close. Also, moments to lie in bed and read, sitting down to a cup of coffee with friends, eating with both hands, leisurely baths, and wearing dresses - these will become luxuries again. (If you're wondering about the dress thing - I don't own any dresses I can breastfeed in.)

I picked an awesome husband who really does see himself as a fully fledged parent, not just 'mom's sidekick'. This means that I have had far more freedom to do my own thing, freedom normally enjoyed by men / dads, and more freedom than many other moms I know, to do things I love, like doula work, writing, singing in a band and things like that.

Two links about this:
Why I’m Done Asking My Husband To Help Me Out
My Husband; Five Reasons I Am Not Lucky to Have Him

I found an animated GIF maker!
Some lightheartedness in
an otherwise sober week.
The other day he was talking about getting involved in a club of sorts and asked if I might also be interested. I was, but I mentioned that I wasn't sure it was an option with the baby coming along. He made the point that no matter how much he helps, there are some things that only I will be able to do - like giving birth and breastfeeding - and some of those things intrinsically limit my options in ways he doesn't experience. He has a deep appreciation for how I fulfill those roles and that does make things a bit easier.

Take doula work for example - he has always supported me in dashing off in the middle of the night to be with birthing moms, which means getting the girls ready for school and then taking over my portion of our parenting duties while I catch up on sleep the next day. But even with that support, taking on clients won't really be an option for at least 12 months, perhaps more. I only started doula work when my youngest was 18 months old and even that was a challenge at times.

I know there are husbands who leave their wives to hold the fort while they go on business trips, but I'm not sure I could justify it considering the amount I earn from doula work, and how erratic the hours can be. Also, breastfeeding and being away from baby is a challenge - I can't guarantee that I'll be able to express for my own babe while I'm helping a mom give birth to hers. I don't think it would be fair to the birthing mom either that I'm not able to be fully present with her.

So that's why I say there's a moment of mourning happening in our house. Of course I know that the moment I hold his squishy body against mine, waves of love will crash over these sand castle concerns, but that doesn't change how I feel now.

I think it's hard for moms to acknowledge these feelings. Surely being a mom is 'enough', who could want 'more' than the privilege of being a mother?


I do.

I love being a mom, more than I thought I would for sure! I don't regret having a third child in the least. But I am not primarily a mother. I am so many other things. It's important for my children to know that. They are not 'obstacles' in my life, but they need to know that this family is a team that works to fulfill the needs and desires of every member of that team - and that 'mom' is not just a name for a glorified domestic servant.

Shauna Niequist puts this far more eloquently than I ever could in the following video - 'Things my mother taught me'. It is just under 18 minutes long, but worth every second. I make a point of watching it at least once a year.

I do realise that this intense period of mothering is just a season and seasons will pass as they always do. Recognising seasons has been pivotal to my 'inner peace'! I'm not going to store up snow in my deep freeze so I can build a snow man in summer, I'm just going to enjoy summer for what it is.

I do love my children fiercely and I find parenting immensely fulfilling, but I don't think it's fair on any child to expect them to be the primary source of a woman's sense of value and affirmation. That responsibility is too great for any person, never mind a child. When I get my sense of value and affirmation from an infinite source, it makes me more able to give into my relationships as wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister.

As Niequist says:
Everyone benefits when women tap into the passions and use the gifts that God has given them. The church benefits, families benefit, marriages benefit, businesses and non-profits benefit. Everyone wins when women discover and live out of the gifts and passions God gave them.

And now for something completely different...

After a big lull, there are so many women due around the same time as me! Many of them are births I would have volunteered, nay, begged to attend as a doula. So while I'm sad that I may not be able to walk alongside these ladies in their births, I trust we will be able to walk our baby journeys together!

And the baby?

Apparently baby is as big as an ear of corn now - 30cm long from crown to heel, weighing 600g - and feeling as pokey as if I really had an ear of corn in my belly! A-maize-ing! (Sorry I couldn't help it)

I'm having to do the sumo sit quite often, because if I sit upright with my knees together, baby pokes my belly where it touches the tops of my thighs... Having said that, I really do love the sensation of him moving about in my belly. It's like having a little friend with me wherever I go.

He can hear now too - so the girls are having great fun talking to him and kissing my belly and pretending to listen to his replies. It is very sweet. Speaking of sweet, he is also developing taste buds, which would totally explain my craving for Lindt Strawberry Intense chocolate bars.

I'm looking forward to getting some sorting done when I go on leave next week - we still have stacks of boxes to unpack from when we moved in just over a year ago. I keep saying I want to do it before my belly gets too big, but my belly already feels big!

A note on empathy when talking to pregnant ladies - when a pregnant lady says: 'I feel so big!', the response, 'But you're so small' may not be the most helpful. You are essentially telling her she has no right to feel that way - or that her feelings are untrustworthy. 

In my case, I did ballet for 25 years, and I have a fine tuned sense of where my body is in space, and this little belly feels massive for me. That is my experience.

Some possible alternate responses: 'Are you finding it a challenge?' will draw out what the mom means - is it sleeping or getting in and out of the car or getting dressed that she is finding particularly challenging? And then empathy is always a good follow up: 'Having to deal with two young children and a belly in this heat must be quite something! Either way, I think you're looking lovely! Is there anything I could help with?'

Empathy is a powerful thing!

Rather than feeling invalidated a woman feels heard and understood - something I believe everyone appreciates. 

On that note, bloggers feel heard and understood and affirmed and validated when you comment on their blogs, and especially if you share the posts you feel are relevant to your circle of friends so...

Does any of this resonate with you? 
Have you felt guilty for feeling like there's more to life than being 'mom'? 
Share your thoughts below...

(If you missed last week's installment about clinic visits, camping adventures, clothing solutions and feminist frustrations, you can find it here: Week 22)

Friday, 4 December 2015

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Week 22

And so the downhill stretch begins!

Yay for salad cravings...
This mahoosive bowl of salad: all mine!

I went for my clinic visit at St Mary's Hospital in Mariannhill this week. 

State hospital? Say what?

You've heard me rant about how I feel irritated on behalf of all the ladies paying a fortune to go to private hospitals and assuming they must be getting the very best care available... Well, I've decided to vote with my feet. I've volunteered at St Mary's before during my training, been in theatre for a caesarean and had a client transfer there for a caesarean and to be honest, I'm much happier with many of their policies than I am with the policies of many of our private institutions...

One thing I do appreciate about St Mary's is that they do have individual delivery rooms, and besides that, midwives take care of most of the deliveries, calling the doctor only if needed, and they encourage birth support. Having said that, I am not planning to have to actually go there - we are planning to birth at home as you know - but if intervention becomes necessary, then that's where we're headed. I did call up the delivery ward matron to check that this was acceptable, repeating the words 'planning a home birth' and 'private midwife' a number of times to make sure - and her verdict was that as long as I've been to the clinic for prenatal care, that is fine.

My new favourite Twitter account / Facebook page -
'Top tips for men juggling a successful career and fatherhood.'

And I'm reminded how glad I am that I chose a man
who doesn't see himself as 'mom's sidekick' but
really lives this whole egalitarian vibe on an every day basis.
They are quite serious about their Baby Friendly Hospital certification - there is no default nursery stay or mandatory stint in the incubator. Skin-to-skin for an hour, within 5 min of birth is encouraged, every baby sleeps by mom, breastfeeding is assumed and encouraged and no artificial teats or artificial milk will be used without your consent. (For more info on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative click here to see a pdf.)

So yeah, back to that clinic visit: despite arriving late, and during lunch hour to boot, it was mostly painless. Apparently I was supposed to have been there by 7am, but I got my book and paid R50 for my appointment (I'm not in their official catchment area). Waited at the ANC (ante-natal clinic) desk for the staff to come off lunch and redirect me - was redirected to the HIV testing station, then to another queue and another room to have my blood pressure, weight and pee-stick checked, then to another queue and room to have blood taken for further antenatal testing, and then in to see the resident midwife who did the usual data collection (previous births and pregnancies, health issues etc) and belly palpation.

One of my new outfits...
If I had come on time, my blood results would have been ready for collection before I left, but as it stands I'll need to collect them at a later stage. Two and a half hours altogether - and despite some signage mishaps i.e. not knowing where to go next, the staff were all very helpful. As I said, mostly painless. 

Get on my belly!

Some other great news this week, which has alleviated much of my daily frustration, is that I bought a bag of second hand maternity clothes from someone on Facebook... What joy to have pants that just fit and shirts that are comfy without being too snug! I'm not sure how I managed pregnancy without maternity clothes before! Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some of my outfits. It really helps to feel confident and comfortable in what you're wearing.

Speaking of Size

Apparently baby is about the size of a pawpaw / papaya  - 27 cm from crown to heel and 19 cm from crown to rump - so a small pawpaw by Durban standards! The midwife I saw at St Mary's said it seemed like fundal height was showing as 24 weeks (i.e. the height of the top of the uterus), and the sonographer also thought baby was looking a bit bigger than average. I'm not too stressed - I'm sure of my dates as I keep track of my cycle, so even with cycle irregularities taken into account I can't be more than a week out, and even if baby is a little bigger than the last two were, I'm sure I'll manage!
Wikimedia Commons 

I often hear of women reporting back from their gynae appointments with something along the lines of 'I'm 28 weeks but the gynae says that the baby is measuring 30 weeks' or that their due date was brought forward again. Now that doesn't mean that your baby time-traveled somehow and became 31 weeks mature all of a sudden, all it means is that compared to the average baby at 28 weeks of gestation, your baby is the size of the average baby at 30 weeks gestation. About that... ultrasounds are not considered reliable late in pregnancy. Even the machine manufacturers say that macrosomia (big baby) cannot be diagnosed with enough certainty to indicate a caesarean, and even then, caesarean birth is not necessarily the best choice for so called 'big' babies. (An excellent link on this here.)

Feminist Frustrations

Maybe I'm being oversensitive, but the reaction to 'We're having a baby boy,' seems disproportionately enthusiastic. We really are and were truly indifferent to whether we were having a boy or a girl, but everyone seems to assume that we must automatically be super excited that we're having a boy after our two girls, as if we would somehow be missing out if we had had another girl. But then I may be the one overreacting...

Camping Adventures

A couple of weeks back I thought it might be nice for us to take the girls camping, before I get too big, and before we become a family of 5 with no space for camping gear in the car... We picked a spot nearby, at the beach, packed the camping gear we had, borrowed some bits that we needed, took a day of leave and headed on our merry way. The first evening was great, if slightly cramped with all four of us in a four man tent - who made up those sizes anyway? There is no way 4 men could fit themselves and their bags in that tent
A little something like this...
comfortably unless they were in the snow and needed to keep each other warm... but anyway.

Besides the wind it was ok. The next day though, it started raining. Fortunately hubby's folks were joining us at the resort, but were staying in one of the apartments on the property. We ate with them that night even though we had planned a potjie - what should have been a  stew cooked in a three legged pot over hot coals became a stew cooked in a stainless steel pot on a regular stove. It still tasted good though. Anyway, they could only get a 6 sleeper apartment - which was just as well, because we discovered our tent was leaking in 7 different spots, and it rained the second and third nights... So we were grateful for the warm dry beds!
The girls had a great time though, and I really appreciated the heated pool - I am such a wuss when it comes to cold water! Not sure when we'll attempt the camping thing again soon though - we'll definitely need a bigger car next time! I was stowing food under the chairs and fitting shoes in wherever there was a gap... It was quite something!

Other than that, not much to report here, other than that we are happy and healthy and expanding in all directions!