elimination communication… sort of

Before Ares was born, I was determined to do elimination communication with him straight from birth. We kinda-sorta did it with Raspberry, from four to ten months. She pooped in a little red plastic potty that was perfect for her bottom, as I carried her around our apartment, the sides of potty making deep indentations into my post-birth belly flab. It was so easy to tell when she had to poop — the red face, the grunting, the glassy eyes — but impossible to tell when she peed. Then at around ten months, she went on a potty strike and we went from catching most of her poops to practically none at all. Disheartened, we took a break. A very long break, during which we pretty much stopped EC-ing and she mostly didn’t get on the potty again for almost another year.

So with Ares, I wanted to do it right from the start, especially after seeing how successful April was when she did it with Aruna. Except that I didn’t. I kept procrastinating, saying I was too tired to deal with it. I didn’t relish the prospect of waking in the middle of the night to hold a tiny newborn over a potty. Not to mention, newborn bladder and bowel movements are so terribly unpredictable (I never knew how to catch pees with an older baby, let alone with a newborn). And oh, we didn’t have a potty either. The little red one Raspberry used belonged to my parents — they’d gotten it from Singapore — and we returned it to them a few years ago. In retrospect, it was a perfect potty for a tiny butt, and I can’t find anything like that here or in Canada, for that matter. We were just going to use a bowl or a plastic tupperware, and Lucas brought one home from Asda one day, but we realized the plastic edges would be painful on the baby’s thighs, so that went back to the store quite quickly. We kept saying how we really should get a potty or a bowl, but really, it was just all talk (mostly about how expensive potties are and why can’t we find a good one) and no progress was made on that front.

A few times, I half-heartedly and obligatorily held him over the sink and attempted to cue him to pee with my whistling that mostly sounds like shushing because I can’t whistle. But nothing came of it. There were a few opportunistically caught pees while I washed his butt after a poop, but I didn’t really help him make the association with any cues.

About two weeks ago, after an opportunistically-caught pee (during which I was more excited than anyone ought to be about the elimination of urine), I decided that I really should get my act together and properly start EC. After all, I’d more or less figured out Ares’ peeing and pooping routine now (yay to no more middle-of-the-night poops! Or pooping four or five times a day!), and typically we’re at home most mornings, which gives us the opportunity to do EC a bit more. We still haven’t gotten a proper potty, so I’ve just been holding him over the sink to pee. Yes, this means that occasionally, there’s urine around the taps but hey, at least it’s sterile. Sometimes, he doesn’t mind it as he smiles at our reflection in the mirror, and other times (especially when he’s tired), he absolutely refuses to be held in any awkward position. Oh, and there was the time I accidentally put his bare ass on the cold porcelain and naturally, he really didn’t like that.

We’re doing it part-time at the moment, because I’m not hardcore enough to do it all the time, especially at night or when we’re out. Actually, more than half the time, I forget to take him to the bathroom after a nap. Oops. But I think I’m getting a little better at remembering. I brought him to the bathroom soon after he woke from his nap this afternoon and he peed right on cue. I’d like to think that he’s magically already figured out what to do when I get him in the position, just like he knows food is coming when I lay him on the breastfeeding pillow, but I think it was just a lucky coincidence. Anyhow, onward we trudge as I hope for more lucky coincidences and perhaps soon, we’ll be able to catch some poops (those are some words I never thought I’d say!).

st james’ garden in the sun

The last time we went to St James’ Garden, we did so under grey skies, making the cemetery ever more depressing. Truthfully, it creeped me out a little and I thought that visiting the garden again in bright sunshine might be better, and that’s precisely what we did this week. We met up with Aurelie (who’s into cemeteries) and Loolapop and together, we spent a nice sunny afternoon among the headstones. The kids climbed and jumped off walls and tree trunks and rocks, and Loolapop slashed nettles with a stick. I sought out a good two-stepped rock to nurse Ares on, and waited for the sun to come out from behind a small cloud to do my obligatory Ares-on-a-surface picture.

When it began clouding over and getting cooler, we ventured into the Anglican cathedral and the girls spent a good amount of time lighting candles and tea lights. Aurelie wandered around while I made sure no one accidentally lit themselves on fire. The afternoon capped off with a visit to the cathedral’s gift shop, where Raspberry was itching to spend money that she didn’t have on her, although she didn’t know on what. Loolapop got a chocolate bar with her pocket money and very thoughtfully shared it with everyone. And that more or less concluded a nice afternoon in the cemetery (I never thought I’d ever say that).

calderstones park

The weather’s been getting nicer lately and I’ve been trying to take advantage of it and spend as much time outside and go to as many different places as possible. Of course, it’s a bit more challenging with Ares and sometimes I forget details like needing a place to change him, but I’m determined to go out, inconveniences be damned.

On Tuesday, we awoke with the vague intention to go to the beach, either Formby or Crosby or even Southport. The night before, I’d been Googling and Google Mapping, trying to figure out the distance between the train station and the beach. I kept waffling about where we ought to go. And in the back of my mind, there was always the thought of where I could change Ares’ diaper — a flat, windy beach in early spring presents more than a few challenges when it comes to something like diaper changing and keeping the baby warm while doing so.

So when Aurelie suggested we go to Calderstones Park, I jumped at the chance to be outside, at a park I hadn’t been to before, and practically speaking, one with benches where I could nurse and change the baby. Woohoo!

It’s a nice park, one I wish we lived near. The parks near us are littered with broken glass and dog excrement, a testament to the kinds of people that live in the area. The one thing I do miss about Hamilton is being right down the street from a beautiful park. Initially, that was one of our requirements when we looked for a place in Liverpool, but the large parks are all relatively far from the train station, so we traded our need for a park with the convenience of living by the city centre.

Aurelie and I sat on the grass, catching up and verbally shooing away clouds that covered the sun, while the kids ran off around the playground, blending in with the mass of shrieking children. The park was teeming with families with kids because it’s the Easter break (the primary reason we’re actively avoiding the museums these two weeks). Oh, and there were tons of dogs too, many which decided to mill around the picnic blanket probably because they smelled food. One particularly crafty dog snatched Raspberry’s slice of pizza right out from her hand and I watched in amazement as the slice disappeared in less than five seconds. She was reduced to tears and no amount of consolation could calm her, not even my offer to share a slice of my pizza with her (“NO! I HATE GREEN ONIONS!”). Eventually, she calmed down and inspired by Timo, finished the remainder of her lunch atop a table tennis table.

We walked through a couple of gardens and the kids took turns closing their eyes and being led to various places. I’m not sure if Raspberry really knew where she was leading Neo and Loolapop, but it was cute to watch.

Serendipitously, we stumbled upon an enormous patch of pink petals, fallen from the trees. What ensued was a flower fight of epic proportions and no one was spared, not even Ares. The poor kid, covered in pieces of flowers and crumbs of dirt, ended up with bits of soil on his lips, which I frantically tried to brush off before he started licking it. My camera lens fell victim to a splatter of dirt too, but thank goodness for the filter, which took the brunt of it. Had I not been carrying Ares, I would’ve liked to have bombed everyone else with flowers too.

Raspberry was so dirty by the end of the day — mud-caked shoes, blackened knees on her leggings, dirt-encrusted nails — that I was almost sure it would take an infinite amount of scrubbing to get her clean. “It’s evidence of a good day,” she said. Yeah, that’s what I told her previously and she’s so right.

off to salford

I finally got around to reading this incredible pregnancy and birth story, after having it open in a tab on my browser for ages. I’d actually read an article about this person’s home birth on the Huffington Post just weeks before I gave birth. Because I had wanted to photograph myself in labour and while delivering the baby, it made me think that documenting one’s labour and delivery was entirely possible. In the same vein, I was thoroughly inspired by an image of her, although I didn’t know they were the same person at the time. I wanted to take a photograph of myself like that but knew it wasn’t possible.

I love the images in the post. They’re precisely the kinds of photographs I wish I had taken of myself during my own experience. Of course, that’s not possible, but I use other photographers’ images as inspiration for my own and that’s what these images are to me.

Similarly, when I read good writing, I’m inspired to write more. While reading the post, I was reminded of the little details of the night I gave birth that I’d previously forgotten, and I spent a good portion of last night editing and adding to my own birth story.

I need to get back into the mindset of writing and taking pictures that aren’t just of the kids (incidentally, it’s still really weird to hear and say the word “kids” rather than just one kid). Every day passes in a haze of fatigue and it almost feels impossible to accomplish anything beyond satisfying our basic needs. Soon, I hope. Soon.

the beach in the winter

A couple of weeks ago, Raspberry and I were lured to New Brighton under false promises of sunny skies and warm weather in the teens. They were lies, all lies… damn you, meteorologists. It was cold and foggy, but it ended up being rather fun. The beach was, as expected, rather quiet, with the odd dog-walker here and there (and much to my chagrin, the odd bit of dog poop camouflaged in the sand). We walked in the opposite direction from where we normally go and came across the lighthouse and Fort Perch Rock. We didn’t go into the fort but walked around the perimeter, scaling some very bumpy algae-covered rocks. I wanted to make it all the way to the lighthouse but Raspberry was reluctant. She did, however, have a field day climbing and jumping off rocks and collecting shells and mussels. She found a mermaid’s purse and one, then two, then three (and so on) whelk egg cases and wanted to bring them all home. I’d forgotten to bring something she could put her finds in, so I gave her the plastic bag that held the clean diapers. We went toward where the pirate ship used to be, and found several guys working hard at constructing a new one. One of the guys had a dog, Scooby, who was wandering the beach as he worked, and seemed to take a liking to us. It followed Raspberry around as she climbed and hid among the rocks, drew and dug in the sand. She discovered it seemed to like flying sand and made a little game out of kicking sand up, making the dog jump excitedly. Watching her with the dog, you’d never have guessed that she used to have an almost-paralyzing fear of dogs just a few years ago. The tide was out, and Raspberry wanted to go to the water’s edge but it was dangerous because of the mudflats. There was a warning spray-painted onto the rocks and as Raspberry ran toward the mud, one of the guys working on the ship yelled toward us to come back. In the summer, she’d gotten a little stuck in the mud and Lucas had to rescue her. This time, she said she was a tiny bit stuck but was able to lift herself out.

When the guys working on the pirate ship were done for the day, they said Raspberry could climb up and steer if she wanted, which she did. When the previous pirate ship was still there last summer, she showed little interest in playing on it, but I suspect that might’ve been because it was crowded with kids (and their accompanying adults, ready with their cameras and camera phones). Now, there was just her on this partially-reconstructed ship and she’d be able to play on it without hassle. She pretended to be Pippi Longstocking and I somehow found myself being the horse, who was only allowed to say “neigh.” Ares, snug in the wrap, was Mr. Nilsson, the monkey.

Fun as it was being on a quiet beach, it did get cold eventually. I was thankful that we could go into the Floral Pavilion to warm up. It was also a good place to do a diaper change, something I hadn’t actually considered before making the trip (somehow, I thought I could just change Ares’ diaper on the beach… rightttt. I really need to remember that things aren’t as easy as just having an older kid). Despite the grey skies and not-as-warm-as-we-thought temperatures, I had a nice, slow day, and it was nice to be able to let Raspberry do her thing without having to rush her off because of the baby. And now I can say I’ve been to the beach in the winter, something I’d probably never do in Canada (well, not for extremely long periods of time anyway).

this is ares

This is Ares, born nine weeks ago on January 23rd (and only properly named about five weeks ago). He arrived a day before his due date, but judging from his wrinkliness and incredibly dry skin in the days following his birth, he was probably quite overdue. There’s no way of knowing how overdue he was, but we all know that the estimated due date is hardly an exact science. I’d been hoping he would be born on the 24th, as both Raspberry and I are born on the 24th too, but obviously he had other ideas.

The evening of the 22nd, Raspberry and I came home late from a day out at the Tate with April and Carrie. The interactive exhibition that had been the reason for our visit had been disappointing and I was exhausted and hungry, having lugged my very pregnant, very waddly self through the city centre, running some errands on the way home. I’d actually intended to pick up some more things, such as a sieve that we’d need for the water birth, but held off on account of being too tired. It’d been rainy too, and my feet ached in my rubber boots. As I warmed up our soup dinner soon after returning home, my belly was rather uncomfortable, but I chalked it up to being tired from having been on my feet for such a long time, or hunger since it was dinnertime, or the fact that I had to go to the bathroom. Over dinner, I mentioned this strange discomfort to Lucas and he gave me this look and asked if maybe it could mean that the baby was coming. “Pssht, I doubt it,” I said but then perhaps he could be right, since sitting, eating and going to the bathroom hadn’t made the discomfort disappear. He brought out his watch and timed it and I was surprised by how regular it was — every four minutes, lasting for about ten seconds. Trust the male, non-pregnant person to be right. I’m slightly amused that it didn’t occur to me that an imminent birth might be responsible for what I was feeling, but most of me was thinking, “nooooooooooo!” as I was still feeling grossly unprepared. The birthing pool that Aurelie brought by a few days before was still sitting under the kitchen counter, uninflated because I had yet to borrow a hose from Lucy. Raspberry was induced ten days after her due date and I truly believed this baby was going to arrive late too. I’d been very laid back about the baby’s arrival. In fact, almost exactly a week before, at 39 weeks, I’d gone to Salford and Aurelie had commented that if I was going to travel to Salford, I must be unconcerned about the baby coming, which I was. It was almost like I believed that the baby would stay in and I wouldn’t have to actually go through the process of giving birth. Maybe this had something to do with my already feeling nostalgic for the pregnancy even though I hadn’t yet given birth. Anyway.

On top of feeling unprepared, I was anxious about giving birth because Lucas was to give a lecture (his first time!) the following day and all week, he’d been willing the baby to stay in long enough for him to do so. Also, there was the whole thing about the 24th. I didn’t have much dinner that evening despite having been hungry earlier. In retrospect, I didn’t have much dinner either the evening before Raspberry was born. In combination with going to the bathroom twice with an almost diarrhea-like feeling, I knew my body was emptying itself in preparation for birth.

Because I’d been so chilled about the baby’s arrival, we didn’t have a just-in-case hospital bag packed. I brought out the suggested packing list in my NHS notes, and Raspberry decided to use that to make her own checklist, while Lucas tossed a few diapers, baby clothes and some of my clothes in his large backpack.

After dinner, I sent a message to Aurelie on Facebook, asking if what I was feeling might indicate the baby’s impending arrival (thank goodness she was online; I didn’t want to painstakingly tap out a text message on my lame cellphone). She said it sounded like very early labour and that it could be a one-off thing, which was quite reassuring and what I was really hoping for (I did wonder, however, if I could tolerate that feeling for another day or so, should the baby actually arrive on the 24th). She also suggested a bath and paracetamol to see if it’d help the discomfort. I went for a shower, but as much as I wanted it to, it did little to help. The contractions became more irregular in both their length and duration between them and they gradually became more intense. Thinking that there was a very high possibility that I wouldn’t still be pregnant the next day, I took a couple of pictures of myself in the mirror. Unlike what my practically obsessive documentation of my changing body while pregnant with Raspberry, I hadn’t taken that many pictures of myself in the preceding forty weeks, so it was a bit like a last ditch attempt to document my swollen belly.

I spent the evening at the computer as usual, my digital watch that I haven’t used in ages lying by the mouse, timing out the contractions. Exhausted from the day and the contractions, I went to bed early, around 10:30pm, hoping that sleep would make me feel better. Although I really wanted the baby to be born in the 24th, I couldn’t imagine myself enduring twenty-four or more hours of contractions.

I lay in bed, my watch strapped to my wrist, fading in and out of sleep as I woke with every contraction. I gripped the side of the mattress and dug my feet into the comforter and mattress, feeling the large springs through the thin fabric. I remember thinking how much it was like when I had contractions with Raspberry, when I was lying in the hospital bed, so drowsy from the Nubain but digging my feet into the bed with every contraction. Being sleepy and having contractions is a terrible feeling. You desperately want to sleep but the severe clench of each contraction prevents you from doing so. The nurse who said the Nubain would take the edge off was such a liar. I think it just made it worse. Hence, this time I was determined that this was going to be an all-natural birth in every possible way.

The contractions were irregular — 4 minutes, 9 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes apart. I was hoping that they’d get further and further apart and eventually ease up so I could sleep but that was just wishful thinking. I remembered from watching a labour and birthing video days before, that lying down doesn’t help with advancing labour, as the baby’s head isn’t pushing down on the cervix to stimulate more oxytocin to create a positive feedback loop.

Around 12:30am, I made my way to the couch, so as not to disturb Lucas every time I writhed around in bed. He had been still awake through the first few contractions when we first went to bed but he’d since drifted off into deeper sleep. I sat in the dark living room, my head resting on the cold couch cushion, catching a few winks here and there, groggily pressing the button to faintly illuminate my watch at the start and end of every contraction. When I was pretty certain they were about every five minutes and lasting about a minute or more (I actually barely remembered this and had Googled it earlier in the evening), I woke Lucas and mentioned that I was going to call Aurelie. I went back to the couch, double, triple-checking to make absolutely sure of the timing of the contractions before I called. I didn’t want to be that person to wake her midwife up unnecessarily at one in the morning and be the source of eternal cussing. I went through one contraction while on the phone with her and she said she was coming over in about 40 minutes.

The next 40 to 60 minutes felt like the longest minutes ever. Without the birthing pool inflated, I decided I wanted to give birth in the tub. This had actually been the plan before we switched midwives to Aurelie (before the free access to the birthing pool) and the NHS midwife seemed reluctant to have me do it in the bathtub, citing that she had to be able to have easy access to check me. The hot water heater had been turned on, albeit too late, and we drained it before the water in the tub could cover my belly. To make up the difference, Lucas boiled water in the kettle repeatedly, and back and forth he went between the kitchen and the bathroom, while I laboured in the bathtub, wishing for either or both Lucas and Aurelie to be there.

Through each contraction, I delusionally kept thinking that Aurelie’s presence would somehow magically make things better. Perhaps it was me just wanting a professional around. She finally showed up and I could hear her whispering to Lucas in the hallway so she wouldn’t wake Raspberry. I was incredibly relieved that she was finally there. She had on an adorable pair of navy blue socks with foxes all over — she said she’d been saving them for the birth. How awesome is she?!

I don’t remember much after that while being in labour though. Aurelie said the water in the tub had to cover my belly in order to provide effective pain relief and she poured water over my back through the contractions, which helped tons. There was one contraction where I was gripping the sides of the tub, almost pushing myself upward and I remember her telling me that it’d be better to relax my shoulders instead of tensing up. I had to actively remember to control my breathing — slow, controlled breaths in… and out just as slowly. If I’d bothered to get through the entire hypnobirthing book and CD, the breathing might’ve become second nature, but instead, I’d only managed an obligatory read of about a third of the book and didn’t even get to the CD.

I asked Aurelie if she knew how long it’d be until the baby was born, and instantly felt stupid for asking and apologized. Previously, she’d told me how many of her patients ask if she knows how long labour will take and obviously, she doesn’t know as every woman is different. Caught up in the intensity of the contractions and of course wanting them to be over, I’d forgotten what she’d said before.

There was one point when I felt quite nauseous and Aurelie asked if I was going to be sick. Lucas fetched a container for me to puke in, just in case, but thankfully I didn’t need it. Days later, I mentioned this when I was talking to Lucas and I said I was surprised that she knew I was nauseous and he said that I did look like I was about to hurl. So much for me thinking that Aurelie was just amazingly intuitive. Haha.

I think Aurelie listened to the fetal heartbeat only once but beyond that, there was minimal intervention, which I was perfectly fine with. I trusted that she knew exactly what she was doing. At one point in my life, I was one of those people who would’ve been comforted surrounded by medical technology, doctors and the sterility of a hospital. But having gotten crunchier since Raspberry was born and having experienced the sheer isolation of being in a hospital ward with a newborn, I now felt that a homebirth was a much better option for us, for me. I will admit, a little sheepishly, that I did toy around with the idea of having a hospital birth only because I thought the kind of pictures I’d be able to take in a hospital setting would be more interesting than what I could take at home.

Time seemed to pass so much more quickly once Aurelie was there and when I felt the urge to push, she told me to just go with it. I went from labouring in an upright position to being on all fours while I pushed. At some point, she told Lucas that it might be a good idea to wake up Raspberry, who didn’t want to miss the birth. I heard Raspberry in the bedroom, groaning about how she was really tired, but when Lucas mentioned the baby was about to be born, she perked right up. I don’t remember hearing this or being aware of much else around me for that matter, as I was so focused on the contractions but from what I was told, Raspberry was practically shaking as she stood beside the tub. Lucas asked if she had to pee, but she said she was fine and just really excited. I don’t remember this but Avy came into the bathroom to see what all the commotion was about. Lucas says it’s because the bathroom door was shut and because it never is, she was curious about what was happening. Aurelie took a picture of her on her hind legs, peering into the tub. She said female cats are more interested in birth than male cats are.

Raspberry got to feel the baby’s head as it was crowning. Aurelie asked if I wanted to do so too, but I was so caught up in the contractions and pushing that I declined. I’m not sure how many times I pushed, how many times I screamed and grunted while pushing, but I was so glad to be past the ring of fire and pushing the head out. It was such a relief once the head was out and even more so once the baby was completely out. He was born at 02:34 on 1/23. Not the 24th as I’d so hoped, but the sequence of numbers is cool enough.

All the pain I had while labouring simply vanished and it still blows my mind how quickly it disappears. Yay for endorphins perhaps? Initially, I thought I would catch the baby but when I was actually in the moment, I’m not sure why but I didn’t want to. I think part of me felt obligated to do so because it seems like the maternal thing to do but I didn’t really care that much for it. Aurelie did and handed the baby to me.

The baby cried soon after emerging and for some reason, I was so surprised that he did. Yes, of course they cry, I told myself. It was like I expected him to be quiet, like his fetal self.

The baby was wrapped up so quickly for fear of being cold that I didn’t even think to see if it was a male or female until a few minutes later when someone (I’m not sure who) asked if it was a boy or a girl. I’d had my suspicions that it was a boy, but for a while, especially early in the pregnancy, I thought that it might have been because I was reading a lot on gender politics, boys in pink, that sort of thing. I had read that a mother’s intuition is a fairly accurate predictor of the sex of the baby and I was kinda hoping for a girl, so I kept hoping that my intuition was wrong. In fact, late in the pregnancy, I was almost ridiculously trying to convince myself that I really was wrong. Ha. It was almost like I feared having a boy. When I realized the baby was a boy, I felt a strange mix of excitement and disappointment — excitement because it’s such a novel experience to have a boy (not that I believe they should be raised any differently from a girl), disappointment because it wasn’t the girl I’d hoped for.

We stayed in the bathtub for quite a while, in the bloody water, Ares nursing while wrapped in a wet previously-white, now meconium-stained towel. I don’t know how I didn’t get cold from being in there so long. We were in there for almost a good two hours, all of us — Lucas, Raspberry, Aurelie, another midwife named Carrie (who was called because she had Aurelie’s scales), Avy, Ares and I — crowded in our little bathroom, waiting for the placenta to emerge. I’d read about how the contractions prior to delivering the placenta can be as strong as the ones that help push the baby out and I dreaded potentially experiencing such pain again. But the contractions never came, and at that point, neither did the placenta. We eventually got out of the water and made our way to the couch. It was quite a monumental task, me holding the baby with the umbilical cord still attached, waddling from the bathroom to the living room, with the midwives holding a disposable incontinence pads between my legs, the towel draped over my shoulders partly falling off. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall looking at that sight.

I eventually delivered the placenta, which had been in my vagina, about two hours after giving birth, right into our gigantic metal bowl, the one I laughed at Lucas at for bringing home but has proved invaluable to us since. It just slid right out with a push. I’d forgotten how large they can be. Aurelie examined the placenta and I thought how cool it was that you can see the blood vessels within it — two arteries and a vein. Three vessels. No more, no less. She did a large placenta print for me, showing the membranes and the umbilical cord. It’s hanging in the bedroom now, at the foot of our bed. Raspberry got to cut the umbilical cord — Lucas declined, stating he had already gotten the chance when Raspberry was born — and it was surprisingly tough, even with sharp scissors.

I didn’t have a major tear, just a second degree one that Aurelie didn’t think I really needed stitches for unless I was concerned about aesthetics, which I wasn’t. It hurt like hell while she was checking the extent of the tear though, and I had to have some gas. I was highly amused by the squeaky, accordion-like sound I made as I inhaled, the long, drawn out whines getting more frequent as I hyperventilated through the pain. I didn’t get that light-headed sensation you’re supposed to get, so I’m not sure how much it actually worked. It wasn’t that bad when she checked my anus to see if I’d torn that much, but even gently touching the tear made me howl. The tear resulted in me walking like a cowboy after peeing, a good week after I gave birth. Fun stuff, although I’m extremely glad the unwanted episiotomy I had when I had Raspberry would never happen (The Ottawa Hospital, I’m looking at you).

Ares emptied his bowels twice more onto me in the time I was holding him on the couch. I can now safely say (not proudly though) I’ve been shat on. It took a bit to get him cleaned before putting him on the scale to be weighed. For that matter, I think there was still dried meconium in the crevices between his little feet when he finally had his first bath eleven days later.

Carrie gave me disposable crepe paper-like underwear with a maternity pad. “Classy,” I laughed . It had a crappy, thin elastic and barely stayed on me. I got out of it as soon as I could.

Lucas sat on the kitchen floor, texting his advisor to let him know he wasn’t going to be in that day. Aurelie filled in the notes documenting labour and the birth — an Apgar score of 10, 70mL of blood lost, that sort of thing. I was thoroughly impressed she was able to estimate how much blood I’d lost since it was all mixed in with the water. It’s quite a skill. When all was said and done, the paperwork filled in on the iPad and on paper, the soiled towels and pads unceremoniously tossed in the garbage bag, Aurelie texted April to let her know the baby had been born, part of the whole chain-of-texting everyone had established at the blessingway.

It was close to 6am when Aurelie and Carrie left and we had the joyous task of doing a quick cleanup — draining the tub and cleaning all the blood and meconium off the couch — before finally crashing in bed almost an hour later. Raspberry had been so hyper just a few hours before, declaring that she was going to tell people she was six because it was only a month before her birthday anyway, that I was surprised she was able to fall asleep. We all slept in until well past nine, and it was rather surreal to wake up with a baby in bed. It was wonderful to have Lucas and Raspberry around after the birth, as one of the major issues I had with the hospital birth I had before was how isolating it was, since there was no way Lucas could’ve stayed with me overnight. This time, we were able to settle in nicely just hours within the birth. Lucas and Raspberry went to the market and Ares and I took a long nap. It was bliss.

I didn’t end up taking pictures while in labour and giving birth, much to my disappointment. Looking back, I don’t know how I could have though, as I was so focused on the process that I wasn’t even aware of some things in my surroundings. Perhaps if I had actively planned to, rather than just being laissez faire and only thinking about it with no real action. Aurelie took pictures with both my cameras though, which I’m eternally grateful for. There were so many moments when I wanted to take pictures, like when Raspberry was cutting the umbilical cord or when Aurelie was checking the tear, but it wasn’t practical because I was holding the baby. Honestly though, these were the moments I really wanted someone else to hold the baby just so I could take pictures. It’s terrible, I know, and I didn’t want to come off looking like a bad parent who didn’t want to hold her baby. I know Lucas would’ve shaken his head at me if I did. That said, in the weeks following the birth, I was really into birth photography, looking at all these professional pictures and wondering what kind of images I could have made. Despite this, I had the kind of birth I wanted and am completely glad for it. On the extremely off-chance that we have a third child, I’d do this all over again… and definitely plan more meticulously if I want to be the one taking pictures. Ha.

march 2008 – january 10, 2014

After almost six years of cosleeping, Lucas and I finally have the bed to ourselves… temporarily. With the baby coming (four days to its due date!), it’s simply impossible for two adults, one kid and one baby to sleep in our double bed. Actually, even with Raspberry, Lucas and I, it’s a tight squeeze. I was the buffer who slept between them, because Raspberry seemed to like kicking Lucas in his crotch in the middle of the night. She’d also roll into me, so I’d be skull-to-skull with her or I’d have a kid skull buried in the middle of my back. Good times. Really, if we’d found a two-bedroom apartment when we moved here, she would’ve had her own bed a year ago.

It’s kinda funny because when we first had Raspberry, we’d never intended to co-sleep (in hindsight, other than having the sling and breastfeeding, we had planned more conventional methods of parenting at the time… ha, how things have changed). Rather, we had a moses basket beside our bed but as anyone who’s had a newborn knows, once you put a sleeping baby down, they wake right up. Lucas often says the cat spent more time in the bassinet than Raspberry did (“it was furry!”). We used to have to put stuff in the basket so Avy wouldn’t jump in. But really, the real reason why she ended up in bed with us was because I absolutely dreaded waking in the middle of the night to nurse. I used to sit there, propped up against the wall, practically falling asleep while newborn Raspberry night-nursed. Then Lucas suggested we bring her into bed and while I was hesitant at first (“I might squish her!”), it worked out amazingly for all of us and we all managed to wake well-rested. Of course, at that time I didn’t know that our foray into co-sleeping would last this long.

Saving us the headache of finding a bed, April lent us a single bed that she got for her friend’s temporary stay in the UK and last month, Raspberry picked out her own sheets during a rare trip to Ikea and voila, we were all set. She was quite excited about getting her own bed, particularly about the fact that she’d be able to have any number of her stuffed friends there with her, an impossibility when she slept with us.

Raspberry’s only been in her new bed for ten days, and she’s still transitioning. Sometimes, she’ll wake up in the middle of the night and say she’s lonely, even though we’re in the same room as her, our beds separated only by a nightstand. In the mornings after Lucas has gotten up, she’ll often come into bed with me. I find that having her in bed with us calms her. One night last week, she woke up crying a number of times, saying her ear hurt because I’d just cleaned her ears that day and perhaps accidentally did so a bit roughly (oops!). We brought her into bed with us and she was able to sleep through the rest of the night. Last night though, she came into our bed and with Avy sleeping by Lucas’ head (now that there’s enough room, the cat has made her way back into bed with us), there was definitely little wiggle room. In my groggy, half-conscious state, I’d figured that with the baby coming any day now, it was all right to have her in bed for one night, as we won’t be able to do that with a newborn.

I’ll admit that although I relish the extra space, I do sometimes miss snuggling up to Raspberry, so I certainly don’t mind her being in bed with me in the morning. Oh, and not to mention the extra heat a third body creates too. Anyway! I should just enjoy the temporary cosleeping break for now, as I’m not sure how long it’ll last for. It’s nice to be able to stretch out… well, as much stretching out as one can do with a almost fully-baked fetus!

hello, birmingham!

She worked hard on this plane (complete with a pilot!) while I did the dishes yesterday. I’m impressed she did it, as she’d only seen the one example William did maybe two months ago. This morning, she made teeny little envelopes for teeny little books and pretended to be a mail carrier in the airplane delivering them.

I dragged Raspberry all over the city centre to run errands today, picking up food and trying to find the best prices for some of the things we still need for the baby. We only do this occasionally (going to a cafe, that is), but I figured after all that, a hot chocolate from Leaf was in order. Oh, and rather expired mince pies from Tesco.

brains (and other sciencey things) in manchester

Aruna, who just turned two a few weeks ago, seemed to only just notice my bump today at playgroup, even though I see her about once a week. She stared at it and I explained how there’s a baby growing in there and she’ll get to meet it very soon. She kept wanting to “see the baby” and I gladly obliged, repeatedly lifting up my dress so she could feel it with her little hands. I gave her a rough idea of where its head and arms and legs were, and she seemed intrigued by where its face would be and would bend down to point at it. At one point, she rubbed my belly and said, “your baby is so beautiful.” Awww, I just melted.

switching midwives

I switched midwives this week. Yeah, at 37 1/2 weeks, I traded my midwife for another. I’d previously been with an NHS midwife, even though I’d heard about one-to-one midwives back in the early fall. The difference between them is primarily continuity of care — you see the same one-to-one midwife throughout pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period, but with an NHS midwife, you generally get who’s on call at the time, so you may not necessarily get the midwife you’ve been seeing when you deliver the baby.

While I liked the idea of a one-to-one midwife, I felt bad about ditching the midwife I’d been seeing. But it’s not like my experience with her was amazing. In fact, it was just sub-par. She was nice and easygoing and laid-back, always saying we could go with what I wanted. But while she was definitely more personable than the somewhat snotty French-Canadian obstetrician I had while pregnant with Raspberry, during my appointments, the midwife often had her head down, busy filling in paperwork for my binder (I still don’t get why things can’t be done on computer). I also remember that at my very first appointment with her, she had to briefly deal with someone who’d just had a home birth and she made a passing comment about what a pain those were. Hmm.

Anyway this past week, Aurelie, who’s a one-to-one midwife, offered to take me on, if I so desired. We’d only met in mid-December and we both lamented not having met sooner. I mentioned to her that I’d love to go with her but felt bad about leaving my midwife. However the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me to switch. I was only having an average experience and if I had the chance to change things so I could have a better experience, why wouldn’t I do it? Moreover, not only do I prefer going with someone who knows me personally, but Aurelie’s values and beliefs are closer in line to ours — she’s an unschooler too (which is how we met) and lives more naturally like we do. While I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure the NHS midwife is likely more mainstream.

After talking it over with Lucas, I decided to make the switch and yesterday, Aurelie came over to fill in all the information and talk over the birth plan. I love that much of what she does is evidence-based and that she’s able to cite reasons and studies for everything. She was very open and straightforward too, and talked us through all the logistics of having a water birth. Did I mention she’s going to provide us with a birthing pool for free too? How great is that? I’ve always really wanted a water birth, but the rental cost of a pool was a primary deterrent. I thought about maybe using the bathtub (especially after we got it re-caulked and it’s now mold-free!), and while doable, it’s not entirely ideal because it’s up against a wall. Now with the guarantee of a pool, I’m definitely doing it. At the blessingway on the weekend, Aurelie had mentioned that she’d love to take pictures of the women giving birth and I got excited about that, because I could certainly use someone else taking pictures, in addition to myself (yes, I still do want to take pictures during it all). The only kicker is that her camera is being fixed, and she’s not sure when she’ll get it back. But that’s obviously not really a big deal in the context of everything. She also has placenta bags, which means I don’t have to locate giant ziploc bags to store the placenta, and she so graciously brought over some A1-sized paper for me to make placenta prints as I’d previously asked her about how large the paper needs to be to accommodate a placenta.

The baby is at 38 weeks tomorrow and based on the appointment with Aurelie yesterday, its head is engaged and everything’s good to go. We’ve still got some stuff to pick up, like the extra towels needed for the birth (who knew even cheap towels could still be so expensive? Gotta keep looking around). I’m still mentally willing the baby to stay in a few more weeks, but of course they’ve got minds of their own so anything goes. Yeah, but really, kid, two more weeks, okay?

the surprise blessingway

So unexpectedly on Sunday, I found myself smack in the middle of a blessingway… for me. Just before Christmas, April had asked me over for Sunday on the pretext that we could spend a child-free afternoon together. We’ve been talking for ages how we ought to do something like that, so there was nothing suspect about her asking me to come over sans kid.

Of course, this meant that when I walked in (late, nonetheless!) and saw a couple of other people — Aurelie, Megan and Lucy (Carrie was to arrive later) — sitting in her kitchen, I was a bit surprised. Not taken aback, but just a tad surprised. “Oh, I’ve just invited a few people over,” April explained nonchalantly. Oh, okay. I actually thought that maybe I’d been overly presumptuous and assumed it was just going to be the two of us when at no point did she really mention such a thing (um, I think). Soon after I got comfortable in the kitchen, she explained her ulterior motive: the blessingway. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and feeling a little embarrassed because I dislike being the centre of attention (“part of the reason why I haven’t gotten married,” I joked to Carrie later).

But it was a very lovely afternoon, where we all indulged in various foods everyone had brought (I’d only brought a little bit of banana bread, as I thought it’d just be April and I) and revelled in delightful conversation about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting (the things we all had in common) and tangentially, bureaucracy. It’s funny, but all the older kids wanted to come when they found out their moms were going to a party of sorts. Raspberry had wanted to come too, but that was only because she wanted to see April, since we didn’t know about this surprise blessingway. April made some pumpkin soup and fried up some kale, which was delicious with goat’s cheese on bread (up to that point, I’d never had a good relationship with kale, which we got in our CSA share once and didn’t really know what to do with it, so we ended up tossing it in a stir fry when it was pretty old and wilted and it was just meh).

The actual blessingway saw everyone reading poems, passages or quotes relating to childbirth and stringing together a bracelet of beads they’d each brought. April gave me a foot massage with aromatherapy oils from Aurelie’s extensive kit (the combination of smells she picked evoked something very familiar, but I couldn’t place exactly what it was) and Lucy performed reiki on me. I can say with absolute certainty that I’d had neither until that day. Lucy said she’d never performed reiki on a pregnant person before and that she felt an incredible amount of energy/heat emanating from me. Interesting. I’d heard of reiki, but I didn’t really know anything about it until she explained it. We also did the binding of the wrists with some amazingly soft red merino wool yarn, which I could stroke all day, and we established some system to let everyone know of the labour and/or birth. Carrie said that they’ll bring us food in the days following the baby’s birth to help us out and checked if there was anything we don’t really eat (just beef).

I’m incredibly touched by everyone’s generosity and that they threw this blessingway for me. I wasn’t actually familiar with blessingways, until April mentioned a long time ago that she’d had one before Aruna was born. But it’s not unusual in natural parenting circles. Carrie, who often admits that she’s more mainstream than the rest of us, had never been to one either and when she mentioned it to someone else earlier in the day, they said, “oh, you’re not all going to get naked and sit around eating granola, are you?” Haha, good one! Although, there was some mild nudity, if you even call it that, when Aurelie showed us her fantastic back tattoo of a placenta and Fallopian tubes, and I had to take my tights and leggings off for the foot massage. We didn’t get around to doing belly painting, which would’ve been fun, but that’s all right. Actually what I’d really like to do is trace the veins on my chest and belly with a marker and take a picture. Maybe I’ll get around to it later this week. Anyway, I love the sense of community that unschooling has brought us. I don’t think I’d have experienced anything like this anywhere else I’ve lived (granted, circumstances were different), but I’m very much grateful for it all and wouldn’t have it any other way.

37 weeks…. eep!

Well, we’re inching closer and closer to the due date. The cashier with the slicked back hair and bracelets at Lidl (I think his name is Jamie) commented today about how I’ve been going there for ages and that I hadn’t popped yet. No kidding. As of yesterday, there’s three weeks left. Three! Holy shit! We’re still unprepared, although perhaps less unprepared than we were before. There’s still things that need to be acquired (Change mat! Drawers! Towels! Pads! Diaper pail! Baby wash! The kitchen sink!), and Raspberry’s new bed hasn’t arrived yet. The latter is a source of niggling concern for Lucas, but even though I know you can’t fit all four of us into a double bed (not to mention it isn’t safe for wiggly Raspberry to sleep in the same bed as a newborn), I’m not as worried as he is about getting the bed on time. We’re slowly getting our act together. Did I mention how cool it’d be if the baby arrives on its expected due date of the 24th? Cool, because exactly a month later is Raspberry’s birthday, and exactly a month from that is mine. Yeah, that’d be wild.

There’s been traces of glucose in my urine the past few months when I’ve visited the midwife, and despite the fact that I did a glucose tolerance test and came out of it with flying colours (if you can say such a thing about such a test), I was still a little curious and concerned. The midwife, who’s pretty laid-back, wasn’t too worried and said I could get a random glucose test done if I wanted. So I did that, just a few days before Christmas. I also wanted to get a blood count done, to see if the iron pills were working too. It turns out, my hemoglobin’s up, and my glucose is fine, so yay. At times though, I’ve still been feeling a bit winded from just doing perfectly unstrenuous activities. Lucas says that’s probably just because I’m 37 weeks pregnant. Ha. A few days back, I think I had some Braxton-Hicks contractions while I was doing the dishes. I say “think,” because I’ve never had them before so I wasn’t really sure. But they disappeared after I paused to change my position, so maybe they were.

At the appointment with the midwife on Thursday, she felt around and wasn’t sure if the baby had turned yet, so I had a presentation scan done at the hospital yesterday. It was the shortest medical appointment I’ve ever had, and we even got three free pictures out of it. They’re all of the baby’s face close-up (or at least two are), so it’s hard to make it out if you don’t know what you’re looking at, but I still like that we have grainy pictures of it. The sonographer pointed out the baby’s facial features and an arm, and Raspberry emphasized that we didn’t want to know the baby’s sex. Anyway, I wasn’t too worried if the baby hadn’t turned yet because there’s still time but apparently, it has. No worries about a breech baby then, I suppose. It’s been kicking a lot on my left side since yesterday, but I think it’s been doing that for a while and I’ve just noticed it more since I now know it has turned. I’ve definitely noticed it’s harder to sit in certain positions, like sitting leaning forward (and the baby still doesn’t like that and never seems to have) and sometimes, even now, I forget that I have the belly and that it precludes me from moving certain ways. Yeah, it’s weird, I know.

I’ve been trying to get a decent video of the baby wiggling around but every time it makes some visibly significant movement, I don’t have my camera handy. Like the one morning I was lying in bed with Lucas and some body part just stuck right out like a mountain. That was awesome, but of course, the camera wasn’t nearby. It seems to like moving around a lot when I lie on my back, like when I’m at the midwife’s or the ultrasound, or even when my friend Aurelie (who’s a midwife) came over to lend Raspberry some midwifery supplies and books, and was showing Raspberry how to listen and feel for the baby. Those seem to be the times when the baby decides to move, not when I have the camera trained on it. Figures.

I’ve been having the worst time sleeping. It’s reminiscent of the month before Raspberry was born. I remember waking up really early — like five-ish — and not being able to get back to sleep, so I’d just get up, since five is a somewhat reasonable time to get out of bed. The time however, I’m waking in the middle of the night — we’re talking three, four, five o’clock — and I lie there for an hour-and-a-half to two hours on our shitty mattress with the springs digging into various bodily crevices, trying desperately to get back to sleep but just can’t. Argh. Lucas suggests I should just get up to do something and then go back to sleep after, but I don’t foresee that working out, as once I’m up and about, I think it’ll just be harder to shut my brain up to get back to sleep. The only way I seem to be able to sleep through the night is when I’m utterly exhausted, like after we went to Birmingham a few weeks ago, but that’s an expensive (albeit, fun) way to ensure a good night’s sleep. It’s probably something to do with the baby that’s keeping me up, although I’m not sure what exactly, and I would certainly like it to stop. I can’t keep spending two hours awake every other night and waking up zombified. It’s terrible when I’m excited just because I slept through the night.

Despite my griping, I’m still going to miss being pregnant and it’s been a relatively easy pregnancy. I can’t believe it feels like it’s gone by so quickly. This is the part where I’m nostalgic for a pregnancy that hasn’t even concluded yet. The same thing happened the last time, and it’ll probably happen again after the baby’s born. Anyway, still some stuff to do in the few weeks left, and we should get our asses in gear just so we can at least not continue freaking out about being unprepared!

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