Monday, 22 August 2016

Back to work... (Postpartum Musings)

I have a little obsession with baby toes
My maternity leave ended this week... I'd been approaching this day with mixed emotions. Being able to quantify my productivity is something I appreciate, but I also love being around to cuddle with my little squish at every opportunity. It goes by so quickly. You are just starting to emerge from the fog of the first 12 weeks, and the mini one is showing a real little personality and you're back at work again. (Super Quick Didn't-Make-It-Into-The-Water, Caught by Dad Home Birth Story here.)

My belly on the second day.
So how is little Isaac? Well, he is living up to his name (Isaac means 'he laughs') - he smiles and gurgles and coos at all and sundry, although his dad seems to have been relegated to 'not-the-momma' status as of late. He is a super chunkalicious 7.5kg at 14 weeks, very different from my girls who were quite petite.

While I love my ring sling that I made (using this tutorial), because once you've got the hang of it, it's quick to set up but also functions much like a hitchhiker's towel.  Well, it is no longer comfortable and my stretchy wrap is also just holding on. I have an ABC (African Baby Carrier) somewhere in our house, but in the various 'cleanups' I just can't find it anywhere... The catch-22 is that I won't be able to sort out more boxes without a back-carrier, but I'll need to sort those boxes to find my back-carrier - we'll just have to make a plan until then. Even with all the slings and wraps and carriers, it feels like every day is 'arm day' in our house! Who needs gym?

First time in the sling.
Breastfeeding has gone well. Even third time around I experienced those moments of frustration in the middle of the night, wondering if he was getting enough milk as he got frustrated at the breast, massaging plugged ducts and putting cream on tender nipples. Oh yes, and we survived the growth spurts too! We just took it one day, even one feed at time, and my favourite advice is to never quit at your lowest point. After all that I am pleased to say that even with my usual AA cup, we have not resorted to even one drop of formula. Yayness!

My husband has been incredible as always, waiting on me hand and foot when he could and feeding me through growth spurts, and keeping the older kids fed and watered so I could concentrate on the littlest. I love that he doesn't see himself as mom's sidekick, but as a co-parent. He doesn't do me any favours in the sense that we are a team working together to get our family where we need to be. He never babysits, or looks after the kids 'for me', no, he just parents them, like I do. 'Cos we're both parents. Fancy that!

I'm also particularly grateful that I've been able to go back to work at 6 hours instead of 8 hours a day, and we have someone at home who will be looking after him. I've been expressing a small stash so he has enough while I'm at work. While my supply is adequate, expressing is something I've always struggled with - the most I've ever been able to express was one time I got 180ml from both sides with a fancy double pump, where some women can get up to 500ml from each side. I feel like it's worth it though.

Another struggle is that my milk apparently has high lipase content, so smells 'off' quite quickly after being expressed as the lipase starts digesting the lipids. It doesn't damage the milk, but sometimes baby isn't too keen on the  taste. If I scald it on the stove before I store it then it wouldn't be a problem, but scalding 60-80ml of milk at a time seems pointless, so it just means I'm going to have to be diligent about keeping track of expressing and storing so I don't have to freeze too much.

Dimpled baby sausage fingers...
almost as cute as baby toes!
I just recently took down my birth affirmation posters from around our room. I was thinking of getting "Psalms in Color" to replace them, but I honestly haven't had time to do much colouring in the last three months. Any moment in which I had both hands to myself was usually spent taking care of personal hygiene and food needs. Having said that, it was amazing how many of the affirmations were still relevant... 'The only way out is through' and 'I can do it because I are doing it' being two specific examples.

In terms of physical recuperation I was thankful that my in-laws took the girls to stay with them for five days after Isaac was born. I was able to stay in bed and cuddle with my baby without interruption, and most of all, to rest as much as possible. As I wrote before, I was intending to do as little as possible for the first while, and I really did, until I reached a point where not getting out of the house was more depressing than staying at home to rest. I did manage to watch a whole lot of Netflix documentaries which I thoroughly enjoyed!

I have enjoyed having more energy than I had during pregnancy and co-sleeping has meant that I'm feeling more rested now than I felt during pregnancy. Because I birthed on my hands and knees I was able to control the descent of his head quite well, so didn't have any tearing or even much bruising, so that has helped I'm sure! I tried some belly-binding when I did start to be up and about, and I must say it did help me to feel supported and also to not get tired so quickly.

We have a great church community that brought us meals, and of the meals I cooked to freeze, we used the last one when he was ten weeks old. That was a win for sure. And, we somehow manage to fit three kids in our 5-seater car safely, although the first time I had all of them in there I was quite nervous... Precious cargo indeed!

He slept through his first visit
to the beach
Our cloth nappy stash seems to be holding up well. I loved having the newborn nappies for those early days, but he outgrew them quicker than I expected! We have moved onto his OSFM (one-size-fits-most) nappies, many of which I used with his older sister. We only just used up the disposables I got at my baby shower. Yay for budget babies!

I did get intensely lonely at times while on maternity leave, so I got involved in a moms group that meets once a week, and also met with some other moms on an ad hoc basis, some I had known before and others I had never met previously. In some ways I am sad that I won't be seeing them every week, as it feels like we were just getting over the small-talk period of a friendship, but with some we have arranged to meet up again, so I'm looking forward to building those new friendships.

One thing I discovered in the last two weeks which I'm sure will help, is something called 'Adventure Clubs' (On Android here)- it's a South African app you can download which shows you 'adventures' in your area, based on your GPS position. You can also sign up to lead adventures. It's been a lovely way to find relatively cheap things to do with my girls during their school holidays, along with other moms.

Taking advantage of the moms and tots parking!
About the girls, they just adore their little brother, and I haven't experienced any huge signs of jealousy with them. The younger of the girls especially loves hugging and kissing her baby brother, and it is beautiful to see how they are so loving towards him, gushing about how adorable he is and how they just love him so much. Long may it last!

Fortunately hubby has been able to take them to school in the mornings, so I have had that time to be with baby, but with the new school term starting again this week, I've had to be up for work too. Afternoon school runs are a challenge with different finishing times and various extramural activities, and in typical third child fashion, Isaac gets dragged / worn along to everything, from school plays to ballet concert photo shoots, sports days and many and various birthday parties.

The beginnings of that gummy grin.
As much as you try to be kind to yourself, life doesn't go on hold when you've had a baby, and while I've been on maternity leave, we've been dealing with some serious family health struggles, relational conflict situations, organizing kids' birthday parties along with unexpected financial setbacks - aren't they always unexpected though? - and another little person in the mix does seem to eat into one's capacity. I feel simultaneously less capable and more capable all at once.

He is a pretty easy baby, and even then, 
One getting teeth and the other losing them...
I must admit I'd forgotten how time consuming these little ones are. Having had a horribly colicky baby and a reasonably easy baby, I feel like they take similar amounts of time and effort physically, but the time spent on an easier baby seems less fraught while the more challenging baby seems to take more emotional energy. But that's just me. It could also be that my brain has blotted some parts of those early days with baby #1 out as some way of ensuring I would actually consider having another one...

I've given up eating dairy products with this little one as he started showing signs of colic / reflux. (I already eat a totally wheat-free diet) and it made a significant difference, as it did with my second child. I just wish I'd known with my first baby that dairy protein (specifically casein) can pass through breastmilk and cause colic and reflux, and even eczema. I think life would have been a bit easier way back then!
Drinking coffee on my own while Isaac has his trial with his carer.
I even wore a dress that I couldn't possibly breastfeed in.
Like coffee, bittersweet.

So after all that, even though I think I've had a well-supported, well-planned postpartum period, having done this three times now I can say for certain that those first few months after giving birth are always intense... From aching joy to biting loneliness, from the heights of pure delight to feeling utterly overwhelmed. 

It's amazing how you can feel full to beyond bursting point and echoingly empty and depleted within split seconds of each other. I'm not sure there are any emotions you don't experience in that first while. 

And so begins that long process of separation, from utter dependence to adamant independence. From that moment of the severing of the umbilical cord we're preparing them for a big wide world. The messy and fierce and squishy and rocky path of nudging them towards that independence that breaks our mother hearts even while we know that this was the point all along... 

What was your postpartum experience like?
Is there anything you would do differently if you were to have another child?

Anything you'd like to know about what to expect in the postpartum period?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Isaac's Birth Story - Our quick, intense, didn't-make-it-into-the-water home birth...

Announcement by Sarah-Jane Photography

Isaac Johan's Birth Story

Another great home birth with our fantastic midwife!

The last you heard from me was my pregnancy diary at 38 weeks. Since then I finished off my last few work tasks and enjoyed some fun time with the girls while they were on school holiday. We went on a picnic one morning, and to the beach another day. It was great to have a few days where my time was (mostly) my own! 

(And if you're confused because you thought his name was Johan Isaac, and now my blog says Isaac Johan, your memory is correct! That was our original order, but over the last week, we have just felt that Isaac 'sticks' better – we, parents and grandparents, just seem to be gravitating towards using Isaac as a first name, Zack for short, so we made the change.)


We were kind of hoping that baby would come before Easter weekend. And considering that it was my 38th week, and baby #2 arrived at 38 weeks on the dot, it wasn't too much wishful thinking. Easter weekend just seemed an awkward time for everyone. My folks run Fever Tree Guest House in Hluhluwe, just over 3 hours' drive away, and my friend Shelley, who agreed to be my doula was going to Underberg to spend the weekend with family from Joburg. We had known there would be a clash of dates from the beginning, and all just had to be okay with the idea that things might not work out how we want them to and get on with it. 


I wasn't going to stress myself out – while washing dishes on Friday morning I felt God acknowledging that I spend so much of my life accommodating the needs of others, this time I just needed to let things be for me – whether things happened soon or not, I didn't need to stress. I felt free!

A friend had the girls over the play on Friday morning so Hans and I, despite all good intentions to clean the fridge and sort the pantry, went and had brunch, just the two of us. I even got my 'push prezzie' in advance – little did we know!

After my little revelation over the dishes, I shared some other thoughts about the birth with Hans – I didn't want to be bugged with 'How far are you?' and 'How much longer do you think it will be?' questions while in labour. Asking questions of a lady in labour aren't helpful for that ideal 'labour-land' brain state so typical of true physiological birth as they activate the language centres of the brain, the 'higher' brain. 

Questions about time also add in the whole idea of pressure and performance which can also distract from the task at hand – so I gave Hans the firm instruction to field those questions and comments for me, because we did have the reality of people travelling from up to three hours away to join us. In retrospect it was odd that I felt so adamant about these things right at that moment – but maybe I knew something was going down. Pardon the pun.

I honestly hadn't had any prelabour symptoms this time – no loose stools, no 'show', no major burst of energy – and I was kind of grateful about that. With my second birth I had a rather exhausting bout with prodromal labour that I wasn't keen to repeat. I think that being diligent about getting enough magnesium in really helped prevent that!

So that afternoon I coloured in another of my birth affirmation pages – and just went on with life as usual.

Some more colouring!
At around 8pm, lying in bed watching Netflix, I had what felt like a slightly uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks (BH) contraction. Now I'm a veteran on downright painful BH contractions – I know they aren't supposed to be painful, but mine sometimes are – so I didn't stress too much. Halfway through the program I was watching, I realised I'd had three of them at seemingly regular intervals, so I half noticed the time and true as nuts, ten minutes later I had another, and then another ten minutes after that. I told hubby on Skype - 'OK!' he replied and came through to help get things ready in case.

I let the midwife know, because we both know my history, and I told her I was going to get in the bath to try calm things down so I could get some sleep – because that was what I did for a whole week before my second little one was born. I also let my birth team know – just so that if it was for real they would have some warning.

By the time my bath was over, surges were 5 minutes apart, and definitely not BH anymore!

So we gave the go-ahead for those coming from far away – Hluhluwe, Underberg and Pietermaritzburg… Our midwife Arlen was the first to arrive, then my hubby's folks. Fortunately the girls were asleep by that stage and I was directing last minute details between surges – checking we had a bucket for laundry, making sure the birth pool was ready, putting birth supplies out so they could be found easily, getting some labor-aide mixed and ready – and a myriad of other minor tasks that needed doing. It was a warm evening so I was pacing and doing my thing in my undies while all the action happened around me.

Molly keeping an eye on proceedings once baby was born...
Arlen took my blood pressure when she arrived, and checked baby's heartbeat – all good. We had agreed, as with my previous births, that we wouldn't do internal checks unless necessary, so it wasn't even suggested. Internal checks can only tell you how dilated your cervix is at that moment, it gives no indication of how long it took to get there, or how long it will take to reach full dilation. I've had clients go from 6cm to baby in 45minutes, or 3-10cm in an hour, so really – to have to lie down so someone can examine your cervix via your vagina, to get information that may or may not be helpful, just felt unnecessary to me. But that's just me!

I was in labour and that was all I needed to know! Each surge was slightly more intense than the last and I absolutely had to keep moving through them – they were getting longer, stronger and closer together, so we knew things were progressing. At this stage I was doing lots of figure 8's with my hips – that felt amazing!

I honestly felt a bit like cat in labour - I was pulling all sorts of crazy stretches. Later on Arlen said she had never seen anyone in labor do stretches quite like that. If you know anything about dancing – think very slow, gentle 'bouncing' in a wide second position, knees out, body forward, back arched, left elbow on knee, right hand pushing right knee out, then lunging side to side in that position as needed. 

Actually I nearly did do that once -
this was me in labour in hospital with #1.
I'm smiling because even then
I thought all those wires were ridiculous...
If I had been birthing in a place where you are expected to stay in or on the bed, I think I might have begged for drugs of some kind. Not that there would have been time. I honestly can't imagine how women do the labour thing without being able to move about. Actually I can, because I did it with #1 - but never again!

During this time hubby and mom-in-law were filling the birth pool. If it was a 'normal' home birth, the timing was perfect for getting in to the pool, just as the surges felt like they were starting to become overwhelming, the warm water of the pool would do its endorphin thing and I would be set to go for the last stretch… but my body seemed to have other plans.

I was getting down onto the floor with each surge. The cold tiles were just what I needed as the room was quite warm. What seems crazy is that I distinctly remember checking the time to find out if he would be born on the 25th or the 26th. When I checked my phone it was 12:04am

On what must have been the next surge after checking the time, I got down on the floor again only to feel an intense downward pressure which continued with each surge following – not an urge to push, but rather a sense that my body was pushing something anyway.  Actually, it felt more like gravity had concentrated itself tenfold in the area of my pelvis, as if that part of me was being pulled down with a G-force I could do nothing to resist.  I was doing low cleansing breaths with each surge – making 'hah, hah, hah' sounds – it just seemed the right thing to do. It was distinctly uncomfortable and then pop! - my waters broke. Oddly, it felt so good!

At this stage I wasn't getting up between surges, just lying with my face down on my arms and my butt in the air because that seemed to relieve the intensity for a few seconds. Graceful mental image I know, but it felt great! At some stage we put a bright pink towel under my knees. The pool was ready, and had been ready for a short while, but there was just no way I was moving anywhere. I remember reaching a similar point in my previous labour, and having the mobility and awareness to get in the pool, and I was so glad I did, but this time seemed considerably quicker and much more intense – like a condensed version of the previous labour. So I stayed put.

My Friday afternoon colouring.
I started to feel that unique sensation of a baby navigating his way down the birth canal. I can't imagine choosing to miss this part of labour as it seems to be the moment where you and baby are both working towards the same goal as he wriggles along with the rhythmic massage of those powerful uterine surges. I remember instinctively reaching down to be there to meet him, and saying, 'Baby's coming!'

As I remember it, I would be on my hands and knees and allow the pressure and stretching, but as soon as it felt too much, I would duck my head down and put my bum up to relieve the pressure a little. I think I did that through the pushing stage (in which I didn't actually do any pushing) until his head emerged. Every now and then I felt his little head moving this way and that as we worked together to bring him through. Other than that, it was just me and my hands guiding the process – so empowering! By this stage Arlen and Hans had set up some towels and linen savers behind me on the floor, Hans on his knees, waiting to catch his son. 

Once his head was out we waited for another surge, while I felt his shoulders turn in preparation for the emergence of the rest of his body. That was somewhat more uncomfortable than his head actually as I remember saying, 'Don't pull!' No one was pulling – it was his shoulders moving through. So with a sound of rushing water and great sense of relief, our little boy made his way into the world. 12:16am, 12 minutes after I last checked the time. He took a few moments to gather himself together as we welcomed him with enfolding arms and encouraging words. I sat back as they passed him to me and wrapped us both in towels. He gave a little roar of indignation to announce his acceptance of our welcome.

Within a few moments, I felt strong enough to get into the water and Hans joined me. It was lovely to sink into the warmth and weightlessness of the pool. We could get a good look at our newest family member without worrying about getting him getting cold, and my somewhat fatigued body could get a little rest too!

Our eldest passed out on the bed after saying hello.
Things get a little blurred after that, you would think it would be the other way around! I remember relaxing in the water together for a while, with an extra contraction or two every now and then to get the placenta moving, and I remember him rooting about looking for my breast, and latching quite strongly and decisively when he found it! Peaceful and unhurried – just beautiful. 

I remember Hans getting out the water at some stage – our girls were brought through, in a sleepy stupor, to come say hello, after which they promptly passed out on our bed. My mom-in-law came through, the photographer arrived, as did my parents and my doula – though I don't remember the order. I was grateful for the water then as it forced us to stay put and kept things warm and private. There was a great atmosphere of celebration throughout!

After over an hour in the water I was ready to get out – so the cord, now limp and white, was clamped and cut and littlest was placed in his father's arms. We delivered and checked the placenta, got me cleaned up and dressed. Arlen took all the vitals and did all the newborn checks - I was quite chuffed that after needing a few stitches with my firstborn and her 33cm head, I managed this 36cm head with nary a graze! Go me! He weighed 3.56kg - my biggest baby by nearly 300g, and was 56cm long, so also my tallest baby.

We had everyone come in for a little name announcement, beause as you know we had kept our final choice a secret until he was born. Once all that was done, I got him back on my chest, skin-to-skin, covered with a few extra blankets, where he stayed drinking for the next while, and we all went through to the lounge to have tea at nearly 2am in the morning! It was lovely!

Morning meetings...
The girls have a good cuddle with
their baby brother for the first time.
You can see the pool in the background.
The girls slept on mattresses in our room as their rooms were occupied for the night. I watched as the eldest woke up and I got to see the realisation on her face as she remembered her baby brother had been born. They just couldn't get enough cuddling and snuggling in and it seems they still can't! They argue over who gets to hold the baby next, and are already stars at collecting all the bits necessary for baths and nappy changes and the like.

I've got some other thoughts to share on the whole postpartum experience - but I'll leave that for another post.

Thanks for reading...
Please add any thoughts, questions or queries below!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Welcome to our newest little Jansen!

He's here!

Johan Isaac Jansen made his glorious appearance just after midnight on the morning of Saturday the 26th of March
, weighing in at 3.56kg, my biggest baby yet!

Labour was quick and intense, starting with surges ten minutes apart for about an hour at 8pm on Friday evening, I took a bath to try make them go away, which usually worked in the past with annoying prodromal labour, but to no avail! 

Hello little one!
By the end it was so quick I couldn't even get up off all fours to get into the pool that was filled and waiting - further details will follow in a future post!

So dad got to do the baby catching and we jumped into the pool afterwards for some bonding time - it was so special! Little Jo (or Jo-Zac, or Hansie - we haven't picked a 'noemnaam' yet) latched like a pro and stayed that way for a number of hours. 

In a little whale nappy because
he was supposed to be born
in the water!
The big sisters said their sleepy hello's, and promptly passed out again.

I think he's been practicing!

As you can see, we're all resting well!

I am grateful to our midwife Arlen Ege for being wonderful as always, and to all the grannies and grandpas and extras who did their low flying to join us... it was such a peaceful birth, and so special to have such generous support.

Like I said, more details and pics to follow...

Monday, 21 March 2016

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Week 38

So yes, we did it, we fetched the birth pool...And no, we haven't had the opportunity to make use of it yet!

After last week's crazy times, things have definitely improved. For starters I went for a full body pregnancy massage with Alison Strauss here in Westville, Durban. It was so good to be able to lie on my belly and just be pampered for a bit! I loved that it felt like she was truly working tension out of my muscles, but didn't hurt me at all. Heavenly!

Birth pool in my car today...
We may struggle to fit three car chairs in,
but we can fit the birth pool with ease!
I know she also does fertility massage, inducement and postpartum massage too... I'm trusting I won't need the inducement version, but a postpartum massage sounds like it fits right in with my postpartum plans!

I think what got to me this last week was being confronted by all my 'deepnesses' - my innermost fears and weaknesses. I remember reading a book once where the author suggested that many women struggle simultaneously with being both 'too much' and 'not enough':

I know I’m not alone in the nagging sense of failing to measure up, a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I’ve ever met feels it - something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy. - Stasi Eldredge

My younger daughter's contribution.
With a little (requested) help from mom.
For me the 'not enough's would be: not energetic enough, not consistent enough and not strong enough, among others, and my 'too much's would be: too passionate, too emotional, too deep, too sensitive, too intense, and for a touch of paradox, too strong...
(As you can see I struggle more with the 'too much's.)

It has been especially difficult to find that my 'too much's and 'not enough's have caused pain to those I love.

Something in me wants to say I don't need affirmation from anyone, that I'll decide which of my lacks and excesses to embrace or accept or change, but as much as I believe in autonomy and independence, I am also passionate (there's that passion again!) about interdependence and empathy.

I'm grateful for a wonderful husband who gives me space to feel all my feels - the highs and the lows, the poignant and the glorious - accepting that every emotion is valid as an expression of my experience, and when I am able to express them without judgement, I am also freed from having to defend them and hold onto them to prove how justified I am in feeling them.

Once all my turmoil is acknowledged and accepted, then I can start to see through the mist and perceive more accurately what is going on - which are my genuine lacks and excesses and which are merely a matter of perspective?

My eldest daughter's contribution
to my birth affirmation wall.
Something that also helped me this last week a mental image I had of myself in our swimming pool, holding onto the edge with both hands, as if about to start swimming backstroke. It was tiring and not fun at all, and I just pictured myself pushing off from the wall to float out into the middle of the pool - to surrender to the support of the water. I've never been able to float in 'real life' but my daughter explained to me that you 'make your light parts heavy, and your heavy parts light'. Sounds like good advice for life too.

The baby station - changing mat,
clothes, nappies and blankets
with socks, hats and little bits
in the hanging thingie.
Birth supplies, hospital bag
(just in case) and
baby bag on the floor.

The impending birth of a baby seems to bring out all these deepnesses quite relentlessly. Even my husband has been struggling this week with a sense of something prodding right at the heart of his own perceived and real weaknesses. We've been able to recognise it for what it is, and I've been able to hold space for him to feel and express, just as he has held that space for me. After all of this, I do feel somewhat more ready for this birth. About time too!

I'm officially on maternity leave now which is wonderful, although I do have one or two work things to finish up next week. I really loved having my mom here to help gather some last supplies and finish a few projects,  Previously when my mom-in-law was here we managed to make some king size linen - we hadn't been able to afford enough initially - and with my mom here we managed to make a ring sling and a 'donut' - a padded floor cushion for baby.

The quilt so far - just needs three more strips.
BonBon approves!
I also got some more shirts from the thrift shop to cut up for my bedroom rug, and got my sewing machine fixed so I can finish the quilt. I've made peace with the possibility that the quilt won't be done in time - but you can see the pic to see how far I've managed to get! I just need three more strips like those you can see and then I'll have enough.

Yup, that's me
with the hobbity
looking feet :-)
I also saw Arlen again this last week - when I went to go fetch the birth pool. It is always so good to see her and talk through options and ideas. That is one thing I love about midwifery care - appointments are long enough to build a relationship of sorts. She can become familiar with my priorities and strengths and weaknesses, which means that the care I receive depends as much on who I am as it does on numbers and the measurements related to this pregnancy and birth, rather than being predominantly 'numbers' based as I found with my first baby.

With a belly this size, everyone wants to know when I'm due - I just say I've a few more weeks to go. I keep it vague because people usually don't remember the exact date anyway, and I also want to maintain my own headspace of letting things happen as they happen.

Me and my girls...
I had a chance to meet with some ladies to chat about our upcoming births - including things we had struggled with previously, as well as our expectations and fears for the births and babies we are currently awaiting. It was great to meet with like minded ladies to share encouragement and be encouraged!

So the question on everyone's minds is, 'When will this baby come?' It would be nice if we knew, but it's also refreshing that this is one of those times where you just have to wait. At my last checkup baby hadn't engaged yet - perfectly normal and expected for subsequent pregnancies - but my belly has dropped a bit since, and I get the oddest 'burrowing' sensations in my pelvis, so in that sense things are moving on.

I'm also getting some reasonably strong Braxton-Hicks contractions through the day, and some that wake me in the night, but again, nothing concrete.

My second baby arrived at 38 weeks on the dot, after a week of prodromal labour, but my first came at just past 40 weeks, so really, who knows!

So yeah, we just have to wait and embrace the process!

Finally finished this one!
Make sure you are following me  on Facebook at Giving Birth Naturally
or on Twitter at @DurbanDoula so you don't miss any announcements!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary Week 36

Crazy two weeks!

'While I breath I hope'
A little custom made pendant
I ordered from Tanja at Whatnots.
So glad I had it this week!
Thursday and Friday were utterly horrible days for me - big ugly crying in front of my eldest daughter's teacher, with youngest daughter in tow, after having her teacher tut-tutting and shaking her head at eldest daughter's being late again, bursting into fresh sobs while dropping youngest off after making her late by taking time to compose myself before going in, trying to get through the shop with bloodshot eyes and blotchy face, missing eldest one's race at the gala and sitting in the sun with swollen belly and ankles for two hours before realising it, and wading through puppy poo at home while trying to create some semblance of productivity. I was really struggling to maintain any sense of dignity, all the while fighting off a sense of terror as I wondered how I was going to manage with three. 

I'm not a person to wish days away, but by the time it got to Friday afternoon, I was shattered. I usually also detest complaining about the weather - but it has been so hot here the last few days, and I have really been struggling with not being able to keep cool - and I'm sure that didn't help my state of mind. Actually, I'm convinced that was part of the problem - the heat and sweat and stickiness, and construction happening at work and at home, along with a pack of puppies about to leave for their forever homes making a noise and leaving little gifts down the passage all seemed to contribute to total sensory overload. 

Quilt offcuts - my brain feels like this right now!
Furthermore, I have been experiencing the reality of pregnancy porridge brain - making totally random and utterly silly mistakes that I wouldn't usually make. I really felt that someone should just lock me away - preferably in a room with padded everything and Netflix and Magnum Chocolate Ice Cream - because the combination of absent mindedness and lack of patience just wasn't helping anyone.

I feel like the lack of patience and acute vulnerability is also partly because I'm dealing with some intense stuff inside - acknowledging this big transition about to take place, but leaving space for things to happen in their own time and in their own way - I've just felt somewhat emotionally depleted and where I would usually have a lot more patience with my girls, and a lot more empathy for people around me, I've just found I don't have the emotional resources for much more than self-preservation - which has made me even more grumpy as I don't see myself as an impatient person.

Blue fluffies for the baby!
Saturday was somewhat redeemed when my in-laws came over to help us with some DIY tasks around the house, and then of course there was my surprise baby shower. It was so lovely to see my circle of ladies and I was thoroughly spoiled. When I was sorting out some of the clothes we'd received with hubby later that evening, he was freaking out just a little bit as it seems to bring home the idea that there will be another little person to take care of soon.

I think the fact that we've had one or two (or three or four) large unexpected expenses combined with some financial setbacks in the last couple of weeks, as well as increased work pressure in some areas, might be weighing on him too, so we just keep reminding each other that everything is going to be OK.

Quilt sections ready for sewing...
If my overlocker hadn't given up the ghost I might finally be able to show you my finished bedspread, but it looks like I'm going to have to go manual on this one... Watch this space for next week though!

I think my in-laws could see I was quite tired on Saturday evening, so they took the girls to stay with them for two nights which was really great for us as it gave us a little down time after the hectic week we'd had. On Sunday afternoon, I managed to get the energy together to do a little retail therapy and get some bits and bobs that we still needed after the baby shower, as well as some supplies for our home birth - linen savers and the like. I used Sunday afternoon to sort out our 'baby station' - a wardrobe without doors in our room that will be a changing station and storage area for the baby - so I am feeling a bit more ready for things now.

Sneak peek from our maternity shoot with Sarah-Jane!
My gorgeous girls looking so angelic, even though the oldest had been
vomiting since the night before... Oh the joys!
So yeah, like I said, it's been a crazy couple of weeks - my inner introvert is making herself known, so I'm really looking forward to maternity leave... I'm trusting for an easier couple of weeks after a very vulnerable and emotional last two weeks.  Other than that, baby is fine! Growing and keeping me awake at night with his happy feet... What a privilege to grow a little life inside your own body! 
We're also hoping to do my belly cast this weekend, just hubby and I. Watch this space!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Durban Doula Pregnancy Diary Week 34

The weeks just seem to fly by!

I don't feel like there's much to report at this stage. even my weekly pregnancy update emails from BabyCentre seem to just tell me that baby is growing by half a block of butter a week - 230g to be precise. It's not quite as exciting as hearing that baby has just grown fingers, or baby can close his eyes, or that baby has a functioning four chamber heart, but good news nonetheless!

Having said that, we have finally decided on a name. We've had the basic idea in place for a while, and we're even expanding to include a second name - neither myself nor hubby have a second name, and neither do either of the girls, so it's something new for us. (English teachers are welcome to correct my 'neither-nor' grammar on that one if necessary!)

Like I mentioned in a previous post, we wanted reasonably old fashioned names with appropriate meanings, that could be easily pronounced in English and Afrikaans. So unless we get some writing on the wall, we've settled on a name, but we'll only announce the name once baby is born - so make sure you follow us on Twitter at @DurbanDoula or on Facebook at Giving Birth Naturally to keep up with any potential announcements!

Some wall decor I collected from the thrift shop
and some end-of-range specials.
Part of the birth photography prize I won a while back includes a mini maternity shoot - so I met with the photographer, Sarah-Jane from Sarah-Jane Photography, and we chatted about our various expectations for the birth, and ideas for the maternity shoot this coming week. I'm quite excited about it - it's amazing how each pregnancy and photographer and circumstance so far has resulted in two very different maternity shoots, so I can't wait to see how this one is going to turn out!

The nesting thing hasn't left me, I'm working furiously on my quilt that I started before I was even pregnant with my first. I was working on it when I went into labour with my second and I haven't done much on it since. We're not intending on having another baby, and as much as the pink duvet cover we've had since we were newly married has served us well, I think it's time for a change!

Besides that, I've been trying to cook up double and triple batches of dinner whenever I can, and freezing them for after the birth. To be honest though, we've already used a couple of them when I've had a particularly draining day - but I suppose that's what they are there for!

We have a local butchery that sells oxtail for a fraction of the price of the regular grocery stores, so I've been cooking up this most delicious recipe in my pressure cooker:

Slow Cooked Oxtail and Beans

I brown the meat first then add all the extras and pop it in our automatic pressure cooker for 90min, instead of the 10 hour cooking time recommended here. I also only add 1/3 of the water to the stock, and even that still feels like a little too much, so I have to cook some off, but it is truly delicious, and very nutritious! And it freezes well too!

Another recipe I've referred to before is my 24hour chicken soup recipe - actually I have two, this one:

The Healing Recipe - Chicken Soup

I use this one more often than the next one, just out of habit, and once I've taken the chicken bones out, I liquidise it with all the vegetables still in it, and my girls who are usually picky about vegetables absolutely love it - I can't seem to keep up! They call it swamp soup. (#momwin)

And this one:

Heal-all Chicken Soup Recipe

I love the lemony light flavour of this one but I've had problems with bitterness the last couple of times I've made it - but I think I'll give it another go. (Update: Got it right this time! Not sure what the difference was but it worked!)

With both of these soups, I try to keep portions in my freezer at all times, so that as soon as anyone reports feeling even mildly ill, I've got some ready to go. You can see why these chicken soup recipes are the obvious choice for postpartum healing too...

My other mainstay is a bolognaise sauce recipe that I learned from my mom, that she learned from my Italian godmother. I'm sure it's changed somewhat over the years, but I absolutely love it on some gluten free pasta, or in a gluten free lasagne (made with zucchini or aubergine layers instead of pasta), with a little parmesan cheese over the top it is super yum! Although, I am generally of the opinion  that many dishes are improved with a little parmesan cheese on top! I keep promising myself I'll write the recipe down, and when I do, you'll be the first to know.

I'm also researching some other postpartum healing and nourishing recipes, so if you have any good ones, or good sources, please do pass them on!

I'm actively trying to plan for a healthy babymoon period this time. I think many cases of postpartum depression, and postpartum fatigue, are the result of insufficient rest and recuperation after birth. I understand that in our current social climate, the option to have a good rest after birth is a massive privilege, but I feel it should really be part of basic healthcare because it can have such far reaching consequences.

In some cases I think it is mothers themselves who accept the pressure to act and appear as if they didn't just have a human being emerge from their bellies - because that is so often what people fixate on in the postpartum period - "Oh, you don't even look like you just had a baby!" comments abound, where magazine headlines point out the tiniest postpartum bump, or laud the mothers who lost their babyweight and were seen pumping weights at the gym within a week or two.

It's all part of a culture that often sees children as an inconvenience to be managed, rather than little people, and mothers as liabilities to the economy, rather than guardians of a future generation.

Well, where I can, I will start making that change in my own life. Having recovered from Adrenal Fatigue after my last pregnancy, I've learned the value of self-care.

So hubby and I have chatted about ways for me to stay in bed as much as possible in the first few weeks, even with two older children around to be fed and clothed and lifted to school and back. That will look different for each person, but for us that includes investing in a little more healthy convenience food than I would usually buy, and some quick trail mix type snacks for me, setting up a baby station in our room, and making use of herbal baths and herbal infusions on a regular basis. I'm also making sure to put up a school run schedule that another family member or friend could collect them if necessary, as well as a list of 'chores' aka service opportunities for any visitors...

Community makes all the difference!

Obviously the cooking ahead also helps, as does the fact that hubby is great at packing lunches and getting kids to school. Fortunately we do have some external help with laundry and cleaning, and a great family and church community around us that we can call on for help where needed. Hubby will be in charge of setting and enforcing visiting hours - even though we are having a homebirth, and perhaps especially because we are having a home birth. 

Maybe if moms and potential moms and their families see the benefits of an intentional babymoon, they may be inspired to make space for themselves and others to do likewise...
Many cultures around the world have mandatory periods of rest before and after birth where the new mother is fed special nourishing food, massaged and looked after, and her usual household duties are taken care of so she can save her energy and attention for herself and her baby. I think we could learn a lot!

Beyond that, shoelaces are evil. Catch you next time!