Pregnancy

Birth

There were two things that surprised me most about the birth: how long it took, and that actually pushing the baby out was by far the most pleasant part of the whole experience (I’ve checked with Liv – she agrees). This is everything I remember about the experience. It’s long, but I know I’m really interested in birth stories now that we’ve done it, so you might be too.

So let’s back up a bit. In my last post I left you as we were driving to the hospital. We got there about 2pm and proceeded to try to find a park in the overcrowded mess that is Middlemore Hospital (actually it’s much better inside, just really really busy). The prices were quite reasonable – $20 a day. They have a special parking section right outside the door for women in labour, but we didn’t qualify so we had to walk for a while.

We made our way to the maternity wing and told the receptionist we were there for an induction. We sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before being taken to our room. I was surprised we actually got our own room – for some reason I expected it to be so busy that we’d be sharing. But it was a comfortable, spacious room. With a TV even! We were going to be here a while so we were glad for that. The downside was it was a bit noisy – lots of people walking past – and it had a shared bathroom that was for patients only so I had to pop down to another level to use a public toilet. Minor inconvenience, though, and I was glad for the walks.

We got comfortable, took a couple of photos and waited with eager anticipation for the next step. A midwife came in about 20 minutes later and checked Liv to see if the induction procedure would work. She confirmed that the baby was in the right position and that Liv was only 2cm dilated, so we were good to go.

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Liv and bump, getting settled in the induction room

The induction process is designed to get contractions started because they’re not starting by themselves. They start by inserting a prostaglandin gel, which softens and opens the cervix. They need to allow six hours for the gel to work properly. If a woman’s waters haven’t broken, they’ll repeat this process three times. So this could theoretically take 18 hours, but for Liv we knew they could only try this once because her waters had already broken. They also had to give her antibiotics at this point because the baby was at risk of infection from the procedure.

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On the monitor. She’s smiling, so obviously this is before the gel kicked in and contractions started

They inserted the gel at 3pm and told Liv to expect contractions to start within the hour. So they did their thing – it didn’t take long – and we began the waiting game. We watched TV, read magazines, played on our phones, ate snacks. Contractions had started but they were very weak at this point.

Waiting got boring so to help pass the time, and to help contractions along, at 4:30pm we went for a 40-minute walk around the hospital. That was actually really fun – we ended up wandering out to the long forgotten depths of the hospital, down narrow, dimly lit corridors that haven’t seen renovations in at least 25 years. These were the original parts of the hospital – they’re offices now – and they had that slightly neglected feel to them, but that’s what made it fun. It was kind of creepy. During the walk Liv had a few decent contractions, but not enough to have to stop and sit down or anything.

We got back to our room and Liv’s dinner was there. I popped back downstairs to get some sushi for mine. Contractions had started getting a lot more painful now. Midwives kept popping in and out to check on us but they never stayed long. It was just Liv and I in the room most of the time. We tried to get a little sleep at one point, but gave up after a while. Liv was moving around the room a lot, not making a lot of noise but definitely wincing and keeling over with each contraction, now about three minutes apart and lasting a minute.

To help distract her I put the TV on the home renovation channel (she loves it). I’ll never forget this: she’s on the bed, crying out with each contraction, but keeping an eye on this show called Beach Flip (attractive people do up a beach house and sell it for a profit). I asked her if I should turn the TV off and put some relaxing music on. “No”, she said, mid-contraction. “I want to know who wins”. This was the point I realised we still had a long way to go. I didn’t know much about labour, but I knew that if she’s still talking during contractions, and seems to recover really quickly after each one, they’re probably still early on. I didn’t say this out loud, but I suspected we’d have to move on to the second phase of induction. Unfortunately, I was right – by 8pm contractions were slowing down, and getting less intense. This was confirmed when Liv was examined at 9:30pm – more than six hours after getting the gel – and they found her only 3cm dilated. After all that, she’d gained one measly centimetre. Liv was gutted. So, on to the next stage we went.

If the gel doesn’t work, they put the woman on an oxytocin drip. Oxytocin is a naturally-occurring hormone, but in this case delivered artificially. The hormone is normally released by the pituitary gland in the brain late in pregnancy, and it causes the muscles of the uterus to contract. When this hormone is delivered intravenously, it causes contractions to come on thick and fast. While the prostaglandin gel is a gentler method of bringing on labour, the oxytocin drip is nasty business.

They moved us to another room for this procedure. A delivery suite, it turned out. I found that weird because I thought we were in a delivery suite. Turns out we were in an induction room, which explains why our care was patchy and a bit rushed. In the delivery suite, they have someone with you all the time, because labour is definitely going to progress one way or another.

So we get in there about 10pm. This room is much better – it’s just quieter and bigger and it’s got its own bathroom (one I can use, no less!). A midwife gets us settled and soon after a bunch of doctors come through on rounds and I can’t even remember why they were there, but it left me with the impression that things were getting serious if a bunch of doctors were interested in us. They left as quickly as they arrived and our midwife put Liv on the monitoring machine to check that the baby was OK. That took half an hour, and they finally started the oxytocin drip around 11pm. We were told to expect the cervix dilation to increase at a rate of 1cm per hour. We were at 3cm at this point, so we were expecting at least seven more hours before pushing time.

It didn’t take long for contractions to start getting serious. Liv got a rude awakening: the contractions she’d been having on the prostaglandin gel were like being tickled with a feather compared to these. They got very painful very fast. I’ve never seen her in pain like this before. It hurt to watch! I did my best to be supportive and coach her through a bit of breathing, but that didn’t do much. The only pain relief she’d had to far was paracetamol, so the midwife suggested she try the gas, but it made her feel dizzy and actually didn’t do much, so she shelved that option. Contractions continued to get stronger and longer, coming every two or so minutes and lasting at least a minute at this point.

She soldiered on like this for 90 minutes before asking for an epidural. I knew she was very open to the idea of pain relief, so we agreed that she wasn’t coping all that well and an epidural would be a good option. And talk about service – about 10 minutes after asking for it the anesthetist comes waltzing in to save the day. He was a polite young man who looked about 14 (we trusted he wasn’t). He gently explained the risks to Liv, who acknowledged those and promptly agreed to go ahead with the procedure. Now, an epidural is no minor thing: it involves inserting a rubber tube into the back and placing it near the spine and injecting drugs which numb the pain. It took about 15 minutes, during which Liv had to arch her back forwards while sitting on the bed and trying to hold still during these very painful contractions. I stood by and held her hand.

The epidural is supposed to numb the pain from the breast to the knees, or there abouts. But about 20 minutes after starting the epidural Liv could still feel the pain on her left side. Her right side was completely numb, though. The epidural was botched, a problem the anesthetist assured us happens to one in 10 women. This occurs when the tube inserted near the spine is pointed slightly towards one side of the back rather than straight down the middle. So he did a little adjustment to try to knock the tube into the middle. But after 20 more minutes, Liv was still feeling excruciating pain on her left side. She was in absolutely agony, crying out with each contraction. She said it was actually worse than before the epidural, because while the pain was numbed on one side, it was like it was concentrated all on the other side, which is far more painful.

It was 2am by this point, and Liv was feeling pain that was supposed to have been numbed 90 minutes ago. So a new anesthetist came in and tried to make another adjustment to the epidural. She got Liv to lie on her left side to try to encourage the anesthesia to work its way to that side. It didn’t work. Liv was crying out in agony, begging for her to do a completely new epidural. Eventually, the anesthetist relented and started again. This time, it worked. Almost immediately, the pain was lessened and Liv started to relax a bit. By 3am, she was calmly sitting up in bed as our midwife turned up (she had delivered a baby earlier that evening and was getting some much needed sleep before coming back to deliver ours).

We had a chat with her and she got herself set up, relieving the hospital midwives and taking charge. It was such a relief to have her there – we’d built up a great relationship with her over the past nine months and we trusted her completely, so it was nice to have her there finally. The hospital midwives were great, but it’s just better to have someone you know and trust looking after you.

About 3:30am I decided to get some sleep and encouraged Liv to do the same. She wasn’t feeling much pain at all now, so she was able to get some much needed rest, instead of wearing herself out by working through mind-numbing pain. So I got a shitty hospital pillow, laid back in the creaky old lazy boy next to the hospital bed, put in my ear plugs and drifted off. I’d had about two hours sleep in the past two days, so it wasn’t hard.

An hour later, at 4:30, I woke in a groggy haze to see our midwife getting ready to examine Liv. Still a bit dazed, I pulled my earplugs out so I could hear what she was saying. Remembering how long it took to even get to 3cm dilated, Liv asked her if we were likely to have the baby before lunchtime. She replied that it would definitely be here by midnight, to which Liv sighed, expecting this labour to go on for many hours yet. But a couple of minutes later, the midwife conducted her examination. I watched her face as she rummaged around up there. She raised her eyebrows in a way that told me it was a positive thing. She told Liv she was fully dilated and ready to push. I bolted upright and said, “HOLY JESUS!” Suddenly, things seemed to be happening very fast, even though we’d been there for nearly 15 hours. The midwife told Liv we’d wait another hour before we started pushing to make sure the baby was fully down, so I went back to sleep.

Liv didn’t sleep. She kept chatting with the midwife until about 5:30. I was out to it. I heard Liv calling my name softly and I rejoined the world, albeit feeling a little worse for wear. Right, this was it. The big moment.

I’ll never forget how calm it was in there at this time. It was serene. Here we were, in the early hours of the morning, in a quiet, gently lit hospital delivery room, just Liv, me and our midwife. Liv was pain-free thanks to the epidural. She cheerfully chatted away to the midwife, asking a million questions, while the midwife got everything set up down her end. I even got given a job: I had to hold one of Liv’s legs up because she’d lost control of them due to the epidural. I was excited to help. It was a great position for me because I could face Liv and cheer her on, but also see what was happening down the other end.

Just before six o’clock, she started pushing. The epidural was done so that Liv could still feel the contractions, so she knew when to push. It was three big pushes per contraction. The midwife was constantly feeling for the baby’s head to see how it was progressing. She was also monitoring his heartrate to make sure he was happy. As far as she could tell, he was extremely comfortable in there and in no distress at all.

I can’t believe how fast the next hour went. It was so fun, for both Liv and I. I think the epidural is a big reason for it being so pleasant. Between contractions, Liv smiled and asked more questions, cracked some jokes. I happily stood by, feeling totally relaxed and in control. It was the opposite to how I expected to feel. I thought I’d be stressed and nervous. I expected there to be a flurry of other midwives, maybe a doctor or two milling about checking on things, but no. I was delighted at how blissful this time was, just us three in a quiet room, working together to get this baby out. I loved cheering Liv on as she pushed. She did so well. She pushed long and hard when she needed to, and the baby just kept making his way down. In total, she pushed for just over an hour.

He came out at 6.58am. The midwife pulled him immediately on to Liv’s chest and he started crying. Weak little gaspy cries as he used his lungs for the first time. I cried too. So did Liv as I bent down to hug both of them. After a few minutes, and under the midwife’s guidance, I cut the cord, which was a lot less of a big deal than I expected – it’s like cutting a rope with a very sharp pair of scissors. Then baby stayed on Liv’s chest for about an hour. We smiled, cried a bit more, laughed, sighed with disbelief that this was ours. We discussed his name, but couldn’t quite decide then. Mostly we just gazed at this little wonder, who somehow is us put together, but who seems so strange at the same time. And there we were, our little family, early on a dark Tuesday morning, together for the first time.

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Just a few minutes old
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Our first family photo
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Baby’s placenta. This incredible thing sustained him for nine months. 
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Pregnancy

Last Days

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Sorry, I’ve been a bit distracted with this whole having-a-baby thing. I’ve got a lot to fill you in on. Before I cover the birth, I thought I’d recount how we spent the last few days before that, because it was a strange, emotional time I’d like to remember.


We were due on Saturday 1 July. As I said in the previous post, I’d been pretty stressed since about the 34-week point as we knew he could arrive at any time. By 39 weeks I almost expected him to be here by now. We went out for a lovely dinner a week before he was due, thinking that could be our last outing as a childless couple (it wasn’t, but any excuse to go out for dinner is OK with me). As that last week rolled on, we got more and more anxious, knowing the big day was imminent. I tidied things up at work, expecting (and hoping) I wouldn’t be there the following week. Meanwhile, Liv was on maternity leave and walked more in one week than she had in the past nine months, hoping to get labour started.

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Our “last meal”, or so we thought

On the morning of July 1, we sat in bed with our coffees and the newspaper, our usual Saturday morning routine. We knew this probably wouldn’t be the day, so we set about doing all the things you’re supposed to do to make a baby come – we went for a big walk, had something spicy for dinner, and one other thing that I won’t mention but you can probably guess. The problem with trying them all is that we have no idea which ones worked! But one of them did, because on Sunday morning at seven, Liv’s waters broke. We weren’t really sure at the time if it was the waters or not. It wasn’t a huge gush of fluid like you see on TV – in fact, it wasn’t much at all – but it was enough for Liv to think maybe it was her amniotic fluid.

This was it, we thought. The day had finally arrived! Contractions would start soon now that the waters had broke, we thought. Suddenly, we nested like we’d never nested before – we just had to get the house in order. We vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms, did the washing, and did a deep clean of the kitchen. As I was cleaning the range hood, I knocked it a bit loose so it kind of came away from the wall, so I had to go down to Mitre 10 to get some more wall anchors to fix it. I did not expect to be doing DIY jobs while my wife was in labour, but there you go.

As it turned out, she wasn’t in labour. After our frantic nesting spree, we sat down about lunch time – leftover pad Thai – and wondered when things would start moving along. By dinner time, contractions still hadn’t started but we weren’t too worried. We knew it can take a while sometimes. At bed time, around nine, Liv had another – even bigger – gush of water. I was in another room and I heard her squeal. “Honey, come here really quick!” she said. I rushed in there and she told me what had happened. Ok, now we’re definitely in labour, we thought (Ha! Not even close – we had no idea what was coming).

Liv phoned the midwife, who told us to try to get as much sleep as we can because contractions wouldn’t be far away, and to call her when they started getting quite close together. Needless to say, I didn’t really sleep that night. I think I nodded off around midnight but kept waking constantly throughout the night. I may have got a couple of hours sleep. Around 5:30 I was awake and Googling ‘should I go to work when my wife is in labour?’ I actually had no idea. This could go on for ages, I thought, so I should probably go to school. On the other hand, her waters broke nearly 24 hours ago and things should really be moving by now, and she’ll need me around. In the end, I decided not to go to work, and I’m glad I didn’t.

So I didn’t get much sleep, but Liv, on the other hand, slept like a log! I couldn’t believe it, and neither could she when she woke at seven the next morning to find she still wasn’t in labour. We phoned the midwife again and she told us to come in. We packed our hospital bags just in case we weren’t coming back home. At 10am the midwife confirmed that yes, the waters had indeed broken, and we’d need to induce labour. This was because after the waters broke the baby lost that vital protection the amniotic fluid provides, and it’s susceptible to infection. Turns out this is a pretty rare thing to happen – only 10% of women have their waters break before labour, and just five percent don’t go into labour after they’ve broken, so we’re by far in the minority.

The midwife rang the hospital to book us in for induction that evening, but they asked us if we could come in earlier, say 3pm. We eagerly said yes, desperate to get this little guy out. We rushed home to tidy up a couple of loose ends and arrange for the dog to be picked up by a friend. Then, on the way to hospital, we went to McDonald’s for lunch. We thought that with a potentially long labour ahead of us, a big meal would do us good. I don’t know if it did or not, but I love McDonald’s so I don’t care. It was just this fun thing we did on Labour Day. Our last little outing pre-baby. It was a delightful little date.

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Our actual last pre-baby meal

Finally, we were going to hospital. I had run this scenario through in my head so many times over the past few months, imagining myself driving quickly – albeit carefully – while Liv laboured painfully lying across the back seat. So it was weird driving there without being in labour, but knowing we would be soon. We were calm. We were happy. We were excited. And nervous. Giddy with the knowledge that we’d meet our son in a few short hours.


Listening to: The Fragile Deviations 1 by Nine Inch Nails

Reading: Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Watching: Planet Earth II

 

 

 

Pregnancy

Anxious Anticipation

Nine months is a really long time. Or at least it is when you’re waiting for your first baby. It seems like an eternity since we first glanced at that pregnancy test and saw those two happy lines on its window. Life since then has been agonisingly slow, and it seems to be getting slower every day. It must be worse for Liv, who’s stuck at home trying to keep busy while I get to be distracted by work. But actually, I’m not distracted by work – the baby is distracting me. Big time.

Normally at work I ignore my phone but now every time it vibrates I have to check. Today Liv called me about something random and said when I answered, “don’t worry, I’m not in labour!” As we reach the final days I am particularly on edge, knowing it could happen at any time.

The final weeks of this pregnancy have stressed me out way more than I expected. I’m sleeping terribly. Exhausted. Having odd dreams (the most recent: I bought a new car but got home and realised the car seat was still in the old car back at the dealer!) My right eyelid has been twitching. My tummy has been upset. People at work keep asking me if I’m OK. I nod and smile and say yes, yes I’m fine, but actually I don’t know if I am. I just can’t be bothered talking about it sometimes. It’s draining.

I haven’t heard anyone talk about how men deal with pregnancy, which is partly why I wanted to write this blog. When we first got pregnant, I expected that once we’d actually conceived, my job was done and I’d blissfully skip through the next nine months waiting for the big day. For the first 34 weeks-or-so, that’s pretty much what I did. But at about that point, I started to carry a mental weight that wasn’t there before.

I think it started with a little scare we had. Liv was worried that the baby wasn’t moving much, so we popped up to the maternity hospital and she got hooked up to the monitoring machine just to make sure things were OK. They were, nothing to worry about. And just to check, we got a growth scan done. It was at this scan we learnt our little guy was measuring 3-4 weeks ahead of average. So at 34 weeks, he was measuring what most unborn babies are at 37 weeks. I think the medical term for this is a Fatty Pants.

Because he was measuring big, we immediately jumped to the conclusion that he must be coming three weeks early. No one really told us this – in fact, the sonographer and our midwife both said gestational size doesn’t have much to do with when he’ll be born. However, we were stuck on that 37-week thing. Surely he’ll be here soon, we said.

Based on this incorrect assumption, I started expecting from 37 weeks that he could arrive at any time. This is true, as 37 weeks is considered full term. But it means that I’ve been on edge for three weeks, and that’s not good because I’m not super fun to be around when I’m stressed. If our boy is Fatty Pants, then I’m Grumpy Bum. And I have been pretty down lately.

There’s no logical reason for me to be down – pretty soon I’ll have a son! I should be stoked about that. But I’m more nervous. Not about being a dad or about the labour or anything like that. I’m nervous because I just don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m someone who likes everything to be planned out and scheduled. I like to know what’s coming up and to be prepared for whatever that is, so when something’s completely out of my control, it’s hard for me to deal with.

We had another little scare last week – Liv called me about midday, as I was teaching. She was in tears, and said she’d had a car accident. I froze for a moment, and then asked if she was ok. She was – she’d rear-ended someone on the motorway at low speed. Ok, it’s all right. She assured me she would make it back home all right, so we left it at that and I went back to teaching my class, albeit a little edgier than before. But she called me again shortly after, saying the midwife wanted her to go to the hospital to go on the monitoring machine.

I felt pretty panicked. I told my students and colleagues that I needed to go and I pretty much ran out the school, worried about Liv and the baby and wanting to know that everything was all right. We got to hospital, got the monitoring machine going and everything seemed fine. And it was. But just to make sure, Liv had to stay hooked up to the machine for three hours. Better safe than sorry, they said. Obviously, we were relieved that nothing was wrong, but it was just another little thing to add to my ante-natal anxieties.

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The CTG machine. It measures the baby’s heart rate and contractions. The bit on the left is his heart rate, and the horizontal black lines in the middle are when Liv feels him move. 

Our dog Rocko’s feeling it too, I think. He’s been acting weird lately. He’s shaking a lot, and sometimes not clinging to us like he used to. Like, he’ll actually stay put if we leave a room – previously he’d be at our heels with every step. It might be something else, but dogs are pretty intuitive. I suspect he knows something’s up.

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Rocko the anxious dog, with his wicked side-eye

 

So, pregnancy can be rough on dads (and dogs) too. I’m not going through nearly as much as Liv is, I know that. I am so proud of her for what she’s put up with, as this pregnancy has been awful for her. But we should also acknowledge that there is a pressure on dads, and they feel it. For some men it’s different – a colleague of mine, who’s also recently become a dad, said he felt an increased pressure that he was now the main breadwinner. Personally, that’s not bothering me, but it just shows that different men will experience different things.

 

And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

Pregnancy

Antenatal classes, Part 2

In my last post I extolled the joys of antenatal classes and learning about pregnancy anatomy and the stages of labour. The last few classes, which I’ll cover here, actually were more mind blowing to me. The biggest topics covered were feeding; the interventions that are sometimes needed to deliver a baby; and where to birth. Oh, and I got to find out a little bit of what it’s like to be pregnant (hint: not that fun).

Some people got upset from my previous post where I commented that I hadn’t known exactly what the uterus or placenta were for. Well, as it says in the subtitle of this blog, I am literally clueless when it comes to babies, so that shouldn’t really come as a shock. But really, if it offends you that a guy doesn’t know even the basics of babies and birth, this probably isn’t the blog for you. I am absolutely as ignorant as someone could possibly be, but trying my best to change that, and that’s the entire point of this blog. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Wearing the pregnancy belly

I’ll start with the fun bit: finding out what it’s like to be pregnant (well, sort of). Each week one man in our class had to wear the pregnancy belly. It’s just a big heavy bag (14kg precisely) of something with straps and you put it on and it’s supposed to simulate what it’s like to carry a baby in your belly. I tried it for one class, and it really was pretty tough. Liv was delighted: finally I got to experience the agony she’s going through! Here’s what you definitely can’t do while wearing it: tie your shoe laces; get up off the ground; roll over while lying down; pick anything up; stand in one place for longer than five minutes. So, it gave me an appreciation for how tough it is for women late in pregnancy, and made me extra vigilant about helping Liv with things like tying her shoe laces and picking stuff up off the floor.

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Liv was delighted at my discomfort

I was a little apprehensive about wearing the belly because my back has been a bit dodgy lately and I didn’t want to put it out. Well, I put it out. The next morning, I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom and my lower back just jolted and spasmed and I had to get on the floor and get in the downward dog position because otherwise my back was cramping and it just hurt so much. I was like, ARGGHHH, I can’t go to work today! And Liv was laughing at my misfortune (in a loving way, of course). But honestly, I couldn’t move! It was freaky. And then I cursed myself for wearing the stupid belly because I KNEW this would happen and here I was on the floor wondering how the hell am I going to get up?

Eventually (after 10 minutes, so yeah not that long) I managed to sit up and then stand, and after a while it actually came right so I went to work in mild discomfort, but nothing major. Still, it was a good reminder to do the back exercises the physio has given me because I don’t want to be an old, unfit dad lying on the floor because he carried his son wrong, or something. I’m getting old, I guess.

 

Feeding

One of the things that surprised me most about antenatal classes is how neutral they were. I expected a bunch of anti-medicine, pro-breastfeeding propaganda pushing the Ministry of Health’s line that Breast is Best and anything else is the devil (ok that last part I added on, but it’s how I perceive it). Of course, breastfeeding is amazing and the ideal and we all want that, but when feeding was covered in our classes, I was surprised and relieved at how balanced the information was.

Our educator started by giving us the basics on formula: what it is; why you might use it; how to give it to your baby; and what equipment you need to formula feed. Some of the reasons to formula feed included not being able to breastfeed (a relative minority of mothers); difficulties breastfeeding; and just not wanting to. All reasons are valid, and this choice wasn’t made out to be an inferior one. I really liked that our educator just presented us the facts and didn’t try to push us into breastfeeding. It’s nice to think that we can make an informed decision based on facts rather than having other people telling us what to do.

The second option is mixed feeding, where you give the baby some milk from the breast and the rest from a bottle containing breast milk. The argument for this is that it gives mum a break and dad can help out, but the argument against is that baby can become confused between teat and nipple and have problems feeding.

The third option is exclusively breastfeeding. We did spend most time on this, but mainly because it’s so complicated. I had no idea how technical breastfeeding is and how much you have to get it “right”. Firstly, it’s breastfeeding, not nipple feeding. The baby does not suck on the nipple – the nipple goes all the way inside the mouth and towards the back. Also, if it hurts, you’re not doing it right. Those are the main things I remember. In class, our educator got the mums to go off to another part of the room and talk about God-knows-what while she got all us guys – about seven of us – together to teach us how to breastfeed. The idea is that we would then teach the mums, and bring that knowledge home so we can help out a bit more when we haven’t got someone there to tell us what to do. I really liked this technique, because it makes me a bit more involved in a process I’m otherwise excluded from.

Personally, I like the idea of mixed feeding because it will give Liv a break, and give me some time to bond with the baby in this way. We know breastfeeding is the best option, but we’re also open to other options in the name of making life a bit easier for us. I also don’t think formula deserves the bad rap it gets. Many babies are raised on formula – myself included, save for a couple of weeks at the start – and don’t suffer adverse effects. As I suggested in a previous post, the pressure to breastfeed can place unnecessary pressure on a mum and cause mental health issues, so it’s best just to let people do what they want to do.

Where to birth

This was a big dilemma for us. We have two options: birth at our local maternity hospital, or have it at Middlemore Hospital. To help us make this decision, our antenatal classes included a tour of our maternity unit. We’re really lucky to have a birthing hospital in Pukekohe: it’s five minutes from our house; it’s not overly busy so you can stay a bit longer than the standard three nights if you want to; and the staff and facilities are pretty good (or so we’re told). We got a really good vibe from the place from the time we spent there – it’s kind of in a rural area so it’s super quiet and peaceful with sheep grazing in a paddock right outside the main building. It’s an interesting unit in that it’s also a rehabilitation unit and a hospital for the elderly. So you’ve got people beginning, and ending, their lives at the same place. They’re in separate parts, of course, but I appreciate the juxtaposition.

There are drawbacks to a maternity hospital, though, mainly to do with the lack of medical interventions available. If you’re birthing there and want an epidural, or need something more dramatic like a c-section, they have to whisk you up to Middlemore. That takes 25-40 minutes depending on the traffic, and Liv isn’t too keen on an ambulance ride if there’s something potentially wrong with the baby.

I love the idea of birthing at our local maternity unit. It’s a lovely place and it would be just so convenient to take a quick drive down the road when we know the birth isn’t far away. However, Liv’s peace of mind is the most important thing here – she is, after all, the one having the baby, and she must feel good about it. A full hospital like Middlemore provides the security of doctors and the interventions they can provide if needed. At the end of the day, that trumps convenience for us. We’ll still head back to our local maternity hospital once the baby’s born and Liv can recover there and learn to feed and all that. This could all go out the window if labour progresses really fast, of course, but this is our plan for now.

Interventions

This section could also be titled ‘what could go wrong and the horrifying ways to fix them’. Yeah, a spontaneous, natural birth is ideal, but the reality (and the life-saving magic) of modern medicine means interventions are relatively common. Our childbirth educator took us through a bunch of things that might be used during the birth of our kid, and none of them are terribly desirable, to be honest.

First, I needed some statistics to reassure myself that an intervention isn’t likely, because ideally we wouldn’t need one. In 2015 (the most recent data available), 68.7% of women had a spontaneous vaginal birth; 16.3% needed the help of some sort of an instrument (not a saxophone – that probably wouldn’t help much); and 14.9% needed a c-section. Fewer than 6% needed to be induced. So, phew! Encouraging numbers. Here’s some of the options for intervention:

  • Induction: This is trying to get labour going if it hasn’t already started. One of the common techniques is to artificially rupture the membrane that holds the baby, breaking the waters and prompting contractions to begin.
  • Forceps: They’re basically huge BBQ  tongs that the doctor puts inside the mum, up behind the baby’s head, and they just yank the baby out pretty much. They can leave some marks on the baby’s head (I was a forceps baby, and I still have a little dent in my head, but no big deal).
  • Ventouse: This is like a vacuum cleaner that attached to the baby’s head, and when it’s turned on it sucks the baby out.
  • C-section: They literally cut the baby out. This requires a few weeks of recovery, as opposed to a few days for a vaginal birth. If there’s enough time, they will give the mum an epidural and she can be awake for it, but if not they have to do an emergency one which usually involves her going under general anesthetic. This is a bad result because mum can’t experience any of her birth, and even dad has to leave the room usually.

These are some of the more common interventions mums will need, and our childbirth educator made a really important point about them: if you have one, in no way does it mean your birth was less successful or meaningful. As I said in my Supermums post, there’s a lot of pressure for women to birth naturally now. Some midwives even push the natural birth line to the extreme, avoiding interventions even when they would significantly decrease the suffering of the mother. These stances are unhelpful and belittle the experiences of women who must have interventions. I’ll never fully understand, but I like to think a woman can have whatever she needs to get through birth and not feel like it wasn’t a “real” birth. She should feel proud and accomplished no matter how it happens.

Basically, our birth plan is this: have a baby. I’ve been told many times to avoid having a rigid plan because babies don’t follow one, and the likelihood is it’s going to go out the window anyway. So being flexible seems like the best way to get through it, however it happens.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Listening to: Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017 remix) by The Beatles

Reading: Running Blind by Lee Child

Watching: House of Cards Season 5

Pregnancy

Antenatal classes, Part 1

We did antenatal classes recently, and it’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be. And also a lot more informative. For example, I learnt that the baby goes INSIDE the uterus. And also that the baby does not, in fact, reside in the placenta at all. Who knew? We covered so much that I’ll write about it in two parts, so here’s the first one.

I’ll admit – I’m totally clueless when it comes to this stuff. Most guys are, I think. And perhaps it’s because we just don’t talk about it. At work the day after this particular class, I was filling my male colleagues in on my new-found knowledge about pregnancy anatomy, and my remarks were received with disgust by some of the men, and surprise by the women, one of whom said she’d never heard men talk about this before!

I don’t know how the other men at antenatal class felt about all this, but I was fascinated. My only concept of pregnancy was that somewhere inside my wife a small human is growing. That’s about it. I hadn’t even thought about what the umbilical cord is attached to! (Spoiler – it’s attached to the placenta, which comes out AFTER the baby is born).

Our instructor also got all the men to practice changing a nappy, and I learnt that when you’re changing a baby when they’re lying down, and you open the nappy from the front to see if they’ve done anything, you should immediately put the front of the nappy back over their bits because the cold air makes them wee. Awesome advice! So that’s how you avoid getting pissed on, apparently.

That was our first class. The second one covered labour, and it’s nothing like I thought. In my head I always imagine I’m at work when Liv goes into labour – I’m in the middle of teaching a class and my phone vibrates and I look at the text and it’s Liv saying COME HOME NOW THE BABY IS COMING and I tell my class Sorry guys, my son is on his way, gotta run! And they clap as I dash out the door and rush home and Liv is standing there with the bags ready and we rush to the hospital and the baby comes 10 minutes later.

Well, that’s pretty unlikely. Labour has stages and the average is 24 hours! Apparently in the beginning the contractions are really small and Liv will just keep on doing whatever for a while and have a bath or something until they start to get stronger and more regular. And that’s when I should come home – if indeed I AM at work – and we just potter around the house for a while (I imagine) until the midwife tells us it’s time to go. Our antenatal instructor said the stages of contractions are like waves at the beach – they start out being like Point Chevalier, tiny little irregular waves, then progress to Mission Bay, where they’re a big bigger and more regular, and finally graduate to Piha where they’re huge and violent and coming all the time. That’s a good way to visualise it, I think. Anyway, I’m happy just knowing a bit more about what we can expect, maybe.

To give us men an idea of what labour is like, we had to practice having contractions. This involved finding something in the room to lean on, and then rocking back and forth while making a mooing sound. Apparently this is what a woman in labour sounds like, according to our childbirth educator. Then we had to find a chair and kneel towards it with out heads down, again making the mooing sound. The girls all thought it was hilarious, of course, but it gave us a taste of what it might be like for them.

IMG_0870
Me in labour, probably a bit more jolly than Liv will be when her time comes!

So, I’m really glad we took this class – this is all stuff I probably wouldn’t have bothered to find out myself and we’re with a bunch of other people in the same boat. I think it’s that there’s just so much information out there about babies and pregnancy that you don’t quite know what to believe, so you decide not to find out anything at all. That’s me, anyway. Other men have told me they found antenatal classes a bit boring and pointless, that is’ all common sense. Maybe ours was just different, but I loved learning more about what Liv is going through and what actually happens during pregnancy.

 

 

 

Pregnancy

When people make your birth their business

People are really intrusive when it comes to babies – even unborn ones. And I’m not talking about family here, I’m talking about strangers feeling like they can come up to Liv and comment on her belly, or even touch it. She hates it, and I completely get it. You wouldn’t walk up to someone with any other physical anomaly – like a missing leg, or something – and just start touching it, or even talking about it. You’d give that person the privacy they deserve and let them talk about it if they want to. But when it comes to pregnancy, all bets are off. It’s like Liv is wearing a sign saying, “Hey, I’m pregnant, feel my belly and ask me a million questions!” Most of this comes from other women, of course, and Liv’s often too polite to say anything, but it would be great if people could hold back a bit and give expectant mums a bit of space.

The bigger issue, though, is the pressure that comes from other mums. It’s a pressure to birth – and care for your child – in a certain way. These are the mums who think natural drug-free birth is the only option, and would never even utter the word “formula”. I call them “supermums”, because that’s the perception they’re trying to portray, I guess. A colleague told me that after she’d given birth via caesarean, some lady asked her if she felt like less of a woman because of it. That sums up the supermum mentality – it’s an underlying message that “I”m so amazing that I did the whole thing naturally and you’re shit because you needed help”. It’s so wrong.

Most people are great, of course, and we haven’t been subject to too much of this pressure directly. But it is there, bubbling away in certain circles and it has to stop. This pressure creates an expectation in mums – and their partners – that there is a “best” way to birth and anything else is a compromise. The worst thing is that this pressure comes from a minority – just a third of women are fortunate enough to have a spontaneous natural birth without being induced, or needing an epidural. Certainly most people we talk to have had some sort of intervention in their birth, sometimes to save the baby’s – or mum’s – life. Of course, a normal, natural birth is what we all want, but we shouldn’t judge women for needing – or wanting – an intervention to make things a bit easier. Obviously, I can’t even imagine the trauma women face going through childbirth, but I do know that pressure to do things naturally can be harmful.

There’s pressure to obey the “pregnancy rules”, too. Rules like no coffee, no sushi, no deli meats, no cheese, no shellfish, no poached eggs, etc. The list goes on forever and ever. Some women weigh up the risks and decide it’s actually not worth it – the risk is actually pretty minor and something like sushi is a small joy in an otherwise difficult pregnancy. If a woman wants to be cautious and avoid all of these things, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t then judge others for not doing the same. Liv has had this a few times, mainly when she’s eating sushi. Other women can’t believe it. She’s careful, and makes sure it has been made fresh, but they still freak out. What business is it of theirs, though? Unless a pregnant women is swigging Jack Daniels while doing lines of cocaine and smoking a pack of Marlboro reds a day, leave her alone.

Then there’s breastfeeding. Yeah, breast IS best, but at what cost? No one seems to take into account mum’s mental health here. I speak with absolutely no experience, of course, but I will find out soon. However, it’s the same as with the birth pressure – it’s a woman’s choice what to feed her baby and none of your business, actually. We were told that if we tried to mix feed – offering him a combination of some breast feeds and some bottle feeds using expressed milk – that he might get confused between nipple and bottle and not feed properly. But the evidence doesn’t back this up. And giving Liv a break and allowing me to feed him a bit seems like a good option. That’s the plan, and could change of course, but the principal is the same – don’t judge us for whatever options we choose.

The pressure to breastfeed can also lead to postnatal depression. A recent study showed women are more likely to suffer depression after birth if they had intended to breastfeed but found they couldn’t. It suggests greater support for breastfeeding mothers, although it’s a British study and as far as I know, we have excellent breastfeeding support here in New Zealand. But the main issue still stands, that if we build  breastfeeding up to be an “all or nothing” option, there are bound to be negative consequences for some women. So instead of “breast is best”, how about “feeding your child is best”, and however you do that is up to you.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


 

Reading: Babies by Dr Christopher Green and Einstein by Walter Isaacson

Listening to: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

 

 

Pregnancy

Pregnancy: Stereotypes vs Reality

When we first found out Liv was pregnant, I had an idea of what pregnancy would be like: she’d be throwing up every morning, sending me out in the middle of the night to buy something weird and delicious from the gas station, and standing around doing the “pregnancy pose” that so many women seem to do (you know, where they kind of arch their back forward and put their hands on their hips and wince in discomfort). I now know that reality is far different – at least for us. I have discovered that my conception (no pun intended) of pregnancy was influenced by two things: my mother and TV.

Stereotype: Morning sickness is just that, and it lasts for the first twelve weeks.

Reality: If only! I remember mum throwing up a lot when she was pregnant with my younger siblings, so I automatically assumed that was normal. Of course, all women are different and some have the misfortune of not having morning sickness at all – they have all day sickness, the kind Liv got. For months she felt queasy most of the day and was throwing up morning and night. And if she wasn’t throwing up, she was exhausted or sad or just fed up with our little parasite (well, he is, technically) leaching all the goodness away from her. To be fair, I don’t remember much else about my mother’s pregnancies because I was too busy being a kid, so there was probably a lot more going on than I realised.

Stereotype: Husband driving around in the middle of the night trying to satisfy his wife’s crazy cravings.

Reality: Movies and TV – especially commercials – are definitely to blame for this one. There’s this stupid BP ad where two guys are at the gas station late at night, both carrying treats, and one guy looks at the other and says, “So how far along’s your missus?”, or something, and they laugh. Ha ha ha (not really). I assumed things like that must be based on some sort of reality. But as far as I can tell, they’re not. Liv has definitely developed aversions to certain foods – particularly anything too fatty, or bursting with flavour – but she hasn’t had any strong cravings. I certainly haven’t been sent out into the night to get an emergency McFlurry or anything. And that almost disappoints me, because I expected that I would and I was totally ready for it. Well, there’s still five weeks left, so you never know.

The aversions are almost weirder than cravings, though. She pretty much couldn’t eat vegetables in the first trimester. Once I tried to get her to eat a couple of bits of broccoli and she cried. Another time, I tried to make Julia Child’s fish head soup and Liv took one bite, gagged, and left me at the table. Her brother was staying with us that night – he politely stayed with me and choked it down, pretending it was delicious. It honestly wasn’t that bad, though – sure, I probably shouldn’t have used salmon heads because it was super strong, but that was all the supermarket had! There were other delicious meals I made that Liv just couldn’t eat – mushroom soup, some amazing grilled beef salad thing. Or maybe my cooking just isn’t really that great? I’ll continue blaming it on the pregnancy until I get more concrete evidence to prove otherwise.

Stereotype: Pregnant women’s bellies are huge.

Reality: Nope. Well, yeah, but not until relatively late in the pregnancy. On movies and TV, pregnant women are always really pregnant. Like, basketball belly pregnant. But it’s only in the last few weeks (we’re 35 weeks now) that Liv’s belly has been particularly large. For the first two trimesters, Liv wasn’t noticeably bigger than before, but that’s probably partly because she has hardly gained any weight because she can’t keep much food down. I, however, have been packing on the weight. I’m up 5kg since the start. Partly this is because Liv is eating such tiny portions that I’m eating her leftovers – and not complaining about it at all. She’s also really liking plain, white food that’s white carb-heavy and pretty calorific, so I’m getting that too, and not complaining about that either.

knocked-up-movie-anti-valentines-day
From Knocked Up: Katherine Heigl looked like this for pretty much the whole movie.

Stereotype: you can always feel the baby by putting your hands on a pregnant woman’s belly.

Reality. Nah. It was ages until I felt it move – probably 25 weeks, and even then it was super faint. Only in the early third trimester did I really start to feel strong movements, and that was cool. Now, any time he moves Liv quickly grabs my hand and puts it on her belly, and he stops. Every time. I remember us watching an episode of Shortland Street early on, and in that episode there was a woman who was 12 weeks pregnant and her husband put his hands on her and said he felt the baby, which is obviously rubbish. But again, these are the myths portrayed by media.

Other things worth noting that don’t fit into my stereotype/reality thing:

Liv’s emotions have gone pretty crazy since she’s been pregnant. She’s normally extremely even emotionally, and isn’t prone to many ups and downs. She’s normally just happy and easy going, which is one of the reasons I fell in love with her. But clearly, growing a human inside you plays havoc on your hormones, and Liv has been a different person at times. I was kind of expecting that, though. She’s had a few break downs – a couple of big ones – but mostly she’s just been more up and down than usual. She feels sad sometimes for no apparent reason, but it doesn’t usually last that long. She’s also had super weird dreams, most of them about me leaving or cheating on her. Apparently this is normal, from an evolutionary perspective – it’s a response to a woman’s worry that the baby’s father will run off and leave her to take care of it herself.

Probably the most unexpected aspect of this pregnancy has been how rough it’s been on Liv. The second trimester was the worst, I think. But it seems she’s been ill the whole time. She puts on a brave face so other people may not notice, but it has been a tough few months for her. It’s also made me feel utterly useless at times, because apart from foot rubs, back massages and warming up the wheat bag in the microwave, there isn’t much I can do to make her feel better. I wish I could take some of this and share the load. It’s not fair that the man’s job is so easy, while the woman has to spend months and months feeling like rubbish. But that’s nature, and all I can do is be as supportive as possible.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Reading: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Watching: Catastrophe Season 3

Pregnancy

Our House is a Death Trap!

We went to a baby first aid course, thinking that’s what responsible parents do. And it was good – I definitely feel more aware of all of the things that can end my child’s life. Here’s a few ways he could kill – or seriously injure – himself, according to the little booklet we got. He could:

  • Be smothered by plastic bags
  • Hang himself (inadvertently, obviously) with the cord from a hoodie or a hat
  • Choke on dog food
  • Drown in dog water
  • Pull a bookcase on top of him
  • Eat some or all of the medicines
  • Consume household cleaners
  • Eat a poisonous plant
  • Choke – on pretty much anything
  • Burn a hole in his esophagus by swallowing a button battery (these things are lethal!)
  • Climb out the window
  • Stick his fingers in a power point
  • Jam his fingers in the door
  • Get bitten by dog
  • Pull something hot off the stove
  • Climb over the fence
  • Get in the car
  • Drive to Hamilton

Ok the last two I made up, but it really does goes on like that, for pages and pages. It’s really detailed. So basically our entire house is a death trap. But is this being just a bit overly cautious, though? Because kids survive a lot worse than growing up in a relatively safe, suburban home in middle New Zealand. Yeah, he’ll probably swallow something weird every now and then, or fall of the bed, or something. But he’ll most likely be ok if we’re around. So I’m not too worried, although knowing me I’ll probably be a helicopter dad, hovering over the poor boy every time he coughs or splutters. In fact, that’s definitely how I’ll be. However, I know that kids get hurt, usually not seriously, and that’s an important part of growing up and learning what you can and can’t do with your body. For instance, as a kid I learned that if you push your little brother off the coffee table he’ll break his leg. He sacrificed a lot for me to learn that lesson, my brother did – six weeks in a cast and no swimming that summer. He never held a grudge though, bless him.

But actually no, it’s not being over the top. According to ACC, a quarter of kids that are run over are hit by a car in their own driveway, doorways are the cause of most hand injuries, and 40% of New Zealand homes have tap water that is too hot, leading to about 60 kids being hospitalised every year. In total, more than 60,000 kids are injured at home every year, costing $33 million in ACC claims. So, it’s serious stuff, really.

Being safe is one thing – knowing what to do if your kid is in danger is another. This is the part that really freaks me out. Choking absolutely terrifies me – whenever we’re with my brother and his family and my one year-old niece coughs I automatically assume she’s choking and I freeze, eyes bulging (mine, from terror), thinking that someone’s going to have to do the baby heimlich maneuver, but she’s always ok. Apparently if they’re coughing it’s all good. It still has me on edge, though. So this is what you do if they really are choking: lie the child face down over your lap, head towards the floor, and give them a good proper whack between the shoulder blades. It’s supposed to both dislodge whatever’s stuck in there, but also hurt a bit so they’ll cry and somehow that clears the pipes up. The heimlich is not recommended for kids – this method is apparently more effective.

Then for the no-breathing situations, there’s CPR. It’s different now to when I learnt it about 10 years ago. I vaguely remember doing a first aid course and learning that you’re supposed to find the bit where the ribs join, put your palm just below there, and pump away. But now it’s simple: for adults, find the nipples, come to the middle of the chest, use your palms and just go to town (not literally – this would be a bad time to go to town, ok?). For infants or babies, just put two fingers in the same place and do the same thing. In adults you should hear ribs crack, but in very young children you won’t because their rib cage is still pretty soft and can move around a lot. You should do 30 compressions for each breath, and do it to the beat of Stayin’ Alive (or Row Row Row Your Boat). This is about the right rhythm.

The other important thing I learned at first aid class was that kids are supposed to be in a car seat til they’re 12! Or thereabouts. It goes by height – 148cm specifically (or 4”8 for our American friends). That’s despite New Zealand law requiring them to be in car seats only until they’re seven. Car seat should also be rear-facing until they’re two, at least, and booster seats are of limited merit when it comes to safety. That’s what we were told, anyway. We haven’t actually bought a car seat yet but I’ll post about that when we do.

What interested me about the first aid course was the spread of people there. Of the 14-or-so people there, we were the only couple who hadn’t had our kid yet. Everyone else there had kids aged from three months to two years, and some were grandparents. For some reason I assumed everyone else there would be like us, young-ish and preparing for a baby that hasn’t arrived yet. In any case, it was good to be reminded that the way we’re doing things isn’t exactly “normal”. That indeed, there is no normal, and everyone’s doing what they think is best at the time.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Watching: Silicon Valley Season 3

Reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Listening to: Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan

Pregnancy

Why we broke the 12-week rule

There’s an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t announce your pregnancy until you’ve hit 12 weeks. We decided early on that we would break it, and I want to explain why, because I think the logic behind this rule is a bit off.

The 12-week mark isn’t an arbitrary cut-off point – the risk of miscarriage significantly declines with each week during the first trimester, from about 10% at six weeks to less than a percent at 12 weeks. The 12-week mark is also the point where genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome may be discovered and some parents may want to terminate the pregnancy then. There’s a whole bunch of other risk factors that come into play, such as the age of the parents, but usually if you’ve reached 12 weeks, there’s a good chance things will be OK. Before we even got pregnant we were well aware of the statistics, so when we did finally conceive we knew we had to wait before we told people.

Easier said than done. We may as well have put it in the newspaper! (Spoiler alert: Liv and I are not good at keeping secrets).

Those of you who’ve gotten pregnant (and wanted to) will know the joy of finding out you’ve started new life. You’re giddy with excitement and want to tell the world immediately. You don’t even consider the possibility that this little life may not survive, even though that’s a relatively realistic eventuality.

When we got our first positive pregnancy test result, we decided we’d keep it to ourselves, knowing we at least had to double check that it was accurate. But I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut – I was just so excited. The next day I told a close friend at work. He reacted as if I’d just confessed to a murder, or something. He leaned in and said, “Should you really be telling me this?” I snickered and said yes, it’s fine, I want you to know. He, too, was aware of the 12-week rule and couldn’t quite believe I was breaking it. But he was delighted at the same time, and promised to keep it quiet. I knew I’d been naughty and confessed to Liv that night that I’d spilled the beans, but no more! (Yeah, right).

Liv went to her GP (who also happens to be a trained obstetrician) at five and a half weeks, shortly after the positive test, and the doctor pulled out her little scanner to have a look and yup, there it was. A little dot confirming Liv was indeed pregnant. There was no heartbeat or anything, but there was a little black spot and apparently this is where everything starts.

The next step was getting a proper scan done. We did this at about seven weeks, and this time there was a heartbeat. I wasn’t prepared for how I’d feel at hearing that little heart thumping away. It was unbelievable. A huge smile broke across my face as I listened to that sweet sound of our baby. I found (and still find) it hard to imagine that one minute there is no heart, and then suddenly, at some point, these cells just start pumping and there you go, the baby factory is in full swing. Anyway, I’ll never forget hearing that for the first time – it was even more amazing than actually seeing the baby at later scans.

Seven-week scan
Our baby at seven weeks

We’d planned on keeping our news secret until nine weeks – that was Liv’s mum’s birthday and we thought the news would be a nice birthday surprise for her. However, at seven weeks we told someone else. One of Liv’s close friends was staying with us and it just came out. We just couldn’t keep it in any longer! Soon after that, we called my parents for a random chat and my mum (who seems to have some sort of psychic ability when it comes to babies), asked if were pregnant before I’d even said hello! She’d had a dream that I had told my dad we were having a baby. So we shrugged and confirmed that yes, yes we were. And since my parents knew, we gleefully called Liv’s mum and dad told them and her brothers too. It felt good to tell the people we loved that they’d soon be grandparents, aunties, uncles, etc.

Other people we just had to tell:

  • Liv’s brother’s partner, who was staying with us at the time, because it explained why Liv was feeling so rough;
  • Liv’s boss, also to explain why she was feeling so rough;
  • an old friend of Liv’s, who joked over breakfast at a cafe about when we were going to have a baby. “In about six months”, Liv replied, stone-faced. Her friend eventually clicked that it wasn’t a joke.
  • Some other close friends of mine, just because we wanted to tell them.
  • Liv told a friend at work.

At this point our families knew, and a handful of close friends, some people at our jobs, and that was it. We weren’t going to tell anyone else until we’d had the 12-week scan and knew for sure that everything was OK.

And this is why the 12-week rule is a bit silly – the reason you don’t tell people before 12 weeks is in case you miscarry, so you don’t have to go through the awkwardness and embarrassment of telling people you’re not pregnant any more. But I think the rule should be amended to: don’t tell everyone you’re pregnant before 12 weeks – just  the people you trust.

If we had miscarried, we would have wanted all of those people we told to know. We’d seen a family member go through the pain of miscarriage not long before this and we knew that we’d want to be able to talk about it with some of the people closest to us if it happened to us. The support of those close to us would have been vital.

Miscarriage is also something people find it hard to be open about, so I can understand why you just wouldn’t want to even entertain the thought of having to tell people. But perhaps this is also a societal hangup we need to get over – discussing uncomfortable things like this can bring comfort to people who have gone through it, or who will in the future. One-in-four women are affected by miscarriage, so keeping it quiet may be doing more harm than good. Men, of course, are affected too, and should feel comfortable talking to at least some people about it.

Our 12-week scan went well and everything looked great. Considering that, we made our news public on Christmas Day, about the 13-week point. We put it on Facebook, because of course nothing is official until it’s on there. It was great to be able to tell the world and not hold anything back.

Pregnancy announcement
It’s not official until it’s on Facebook

So, those are our reasons for breaking the 12-week rule. They may not work for everyone, and I totally understand why you might want to keep it to yourself until things are more certain, but I do think there’s good reason to let some people in on your wonderful little secret in those early weeks of pregnancy.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Pregnancy

Getting Pregnant

People don’t talk much about getting pregnant. It almost seems taboo. So when we decided to start to try for a baby, I had no idea what to expect. Would we conceive right away? Would it take months? Would it be stressful? Would we need help?

Having kids was always something we’d talked about often, and we planned to have them sooner rather than later. It was one of the reasons Liv changed careers – the hours (and atrocious pay) in journalism were just too hard and unfriendly for a new mum, really. So she found something better in September 2015, and it was about that time we decided a baby was probably on the cards for us soon. Things seemed to be falling into place – we both had stable jobs, a nice little house, an adorable little dog. A baby is the obvious next step, we thought. But Liv wanted to be in her job for a while first.

The plan was to travel to Samoa in April 2016 and start then. But with the Zika virus floating around the Pacific we were advised to hold off for a few months, just in case we were infected through mosquito bites. To be extra cautious, though, we stocked up on insect repellent loaded with deet. I’m still not sure exactly what it is, but apparently it’s the good shit. So we practically bathed in this stuff for the whole week we were there (and it’s potent stuff, really) and didn’t get a bite. But to be safe, we decided to still wait the recommended three months, or something, until we started trying.

I was really gutted about this. I desperately wanted to start trying to conceive at the earliest opportunity, and felt the risk of Zika was overblown (there weren’t any cases in Samoa at that time, although American Samoa had a few). Still, in hindsight it doesn’t matter and it was the safe thing to do. So July was the time, then.

I learned a lot in this time about the fertility window – the relatively brief time each month when a woman can actually conceive easily. And it’s small – just a few days. It’s different for every woman, of course, but it’s roughly the second week after her period starts. So if her period comes on the 1st of the month, the fertile window is probably around the 7th to the 14th, and there’s two days in the middle there where your chances are really good. So we aimed for those days and went for it.

We were gutted when Liv got her first period after that. I knew the odds were extremely slim that we’d conceive the first month, but there was still hope. But we didn’t conceive the next month after that, either. Or the month after that. Suddenly it’s September and it’s been four months and Liv’s freaking out that it hasn’t happened yet and we’re probably going to have to get some help, or something.

But then, in mid-October, she’s late. I try not to get my hopes up – could just be a weird one. But then it doesn’t come the next day either. Ok, this could be it. Another day, and nothing. Now, you’re supposed to wait a few days before getting a pregnancy test, and these were a very long few days. We were just dying to know. Liv knew, though. She said she felt different. She couldn’t explain it, but she had a feeling.

After three days or so we did the test. Negative. But how could that be?! She was so late! Maybe we tried the test a bit early. Also, it was like the cheapest test you can get. So we got a more expensive one, waited a few more days, and tried again. Liv made me watch the stick to get the results. The two lines came up. I showed her. We hugged and cried a bit, then did another test just to be sure. Yep, positive again. Finally! It was an incredible feeling.

dig
The tiny green dot is our baby at five weeks. So handsome.

We often talk about how lucky we are to have conceived within four months. Some people wait years. I can’t imagine the agony. We thought four months was a long time, and now I feel ridiculous about that. I guess the point is that it takes as long as it takes, and for some people that’s a pretty long time. But most people conceive within six months of trying.

So, here’s what I learned:

  • Keep track of the fertility window and utilise it (read: shag like rabbits then)
  • Getting pregnant is harder than they make it out to be on TV
  • Don’t buy shitty pregnancy tests

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Currently…

Reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Listening to: Everything and Nothing by Hammock

Watching: Silicon Valley season three