Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Vacuum when the baby vacuums and other well meaning advice

This week a very dear friend will become a parent for the first time.  Well, he actually won't do the pushing and squeezing bit, but he will do the equally important hand-holding and positive talking bit.

Childbirth is undoubtedly traumatic for all involved.  

The woman, regardless of plans and expectations (or even distant memories from earlier labour experiences), is forced into an act of brutal physical and mental hell that can't ever be undone.  Whether it's a 3 hour labour, a sneeze and woo-hoo here's a baby; an 8 hour is-this-over-yet-give-me-drugs-now-please; or a scheduled induction or Caesarean delivery - the trauma exists.  What was one becomes two.  Whether labour was fast or slow, you are now exhausted yet flooded with endorphins that stop you from sleeping regardless of how desperately you need to.  The hormones and extra blood required to grow a baby depart at a ridiculous pace leaving you feeling drained and everything feels surreal.  There is a revolting amount of blood and other unmentionable substances everywhere.  And this thing, this living thing that was once within you is now gazing at you and YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF IT!

Spare a thought for the blokes (or the same-sex non-pregnant partner)... they have to watch this trauma unfold and are very limited to what they can do to help.  No matter what books you read, what 'man talk' you have with other guys who have been through it (I'm guessing this conversation would include some grunting, references to not looking 'down there' and copious amounts of beer).... nothing can prepare you for watching the woman that you love in agonising pain.  You can hold her hand, you can tell her she's doing great, you can apply a damp cloth to her forehead, you can tell her to push, you can tell her she's beautiful... but you can't transfer the pain or process to you.  And that must be hellishly hard.  Mummy-endorphins mask the memory of childbirth for most women (otherwise the world would consist of one-child families) but not so the Dads - it's all very real and imprinted in their memory for years to come.  What has been seen can not be unseen.  And this thing, this living thing that was once within your beautiful partner is now gazing at you and YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF IT! 

It is at this point the advice begins.  The well meaning advice from family, friends and strangers.  So especially for my dear friends who will no doubt be dazed but blissfully happy celebrating the birth of their very special first child, I offer you the top three most useless pieces of advice you will likely receive.

1.  Sleep when the baby sleeps.  Does this mean that you also vacuum when the baby vacuums?  Do the laundry when the baby does the laundry?  Cook dinner when the baby does?  You get the picture.  I understand the logic of this gem of advice.  The baby will sleep, and if you're tired this is a great time to grab a nap (unless it's my baby who has not slept for more than an hour or two in total each day since he was born).  The problem is that your body and your mind will not allow you to nap.  I know literally hundreds of women who have kids, and I can count on one hand those that could have a daytime sleep when their baby did.  There is always something that needs doing.  My advice is to kick back and watch some trashy telly and fold the laundry while the baby sleeps, or pop a casserole in the slow-cooker while the baby sleeps, or wash your hair whilst having a 10 minute uninterrupted shower (oh the indulgence!) while the baby sleeps.

2.  You must swaddle/not swaddle your baby.  Swaddle rhymes with twaddle for a good reason.  You can substitute swaddle with dummy or breastfeeding.  Here's the deal.  The reason why the world is such a dynamic, beautiful, diverse and complex beast is because everyone is different.  That means every baby is different.  Some love to be swaddled, some fight it.  Some will suck on that dummy instantly, others will spit it out with such force that it can take your eye out if you're too close.  Some babies feed regularly at 3 hourly interviews, some feed at different times every single day.  Some babies love the booby, some can't or won't take it and need a bottle/formula.  All babies need the 3 C's - care, comfort and cuddles.... and as parents you will try things and establish what your baby needs to thrive.  And just when you get it sussed, they'll change and throw all your routines out the window.  They're good like that.

3.  Gosh he's big/small/short/long... is that normal?  Normal.  Just what every sleep deprived hormonally challenged physically exhausted woman needs to hear... a stranger telling her that her baby isn't 'normal'.  Normal is such a prescriptive word and one completely inappropriate to use when describing a baby.  As I mentioned above, every baby is different - they all grow at different rates and they all look different.  Some have hair, some are bald at two.  Some are always on the small side, some are always larger.  The WHO charts show a weight range from 2kg to 5kg for newborn baby boys... and by the time they head off to school the range extends from 13kg to 27kg!  So I say ignore the 'normal' and embrace the uniqueness... celebrate the idiosyncrasies of your wee bundle, make a point of not just documenting the length/weight/etc statistics but capture the special things. The scrunched up ears, the wrinkly toes, the leg creases, the bald head, the innocent eyes... none of those are 'normal' yet every one is perfect.

The wisest advice I received and that I offer to you is simple.  It does get better.  This too will pass.  There will be days when you don't particularly like yourself, your baby, your partner, your job, your kids, your house, your dog, your bank balance, your chunky ankles... That's just the way it is.  But it does get easier I promise.  In time, your baby will grow, sleep, eat, crawl, walk, talk, go to school, get a job, fall in love and make you a grandparent.  

Make sure you enjoy every single moment and don't wish it away

Friday, 18 July 2014

At the risk of sounding evangelical (I'll leave that to Brian Tamaki...)

*Spoiler alert - this blog does not contain my usual humorous rant*

It's two years today since I was diagnosed with having cancer.

I know.  Told you it wasn't funny.

Of all the things one can be diagnosed with, it's probably one of the worst - but interestingly enough, it didn't actually come as a shock.  It did to my Doctor and possibly the few friends we shared the news with, but not to me.  It just pissed me off.

A bit of a back story... 

I have 'dysplastic nevus'.  Now this term annoys me.  Having 'nevus' is bearable, but do they have to be 'dysplastic'?  Nothing fun or cool has ever been referred to as dysplastic.  It just sounds tragic and the fact it also rhymes with spastic is not lost on me.

What that means in real words is that I farm moles.  I'm great at it.  In fact, arguably an over-achiever as I have more than 200 of the little suckers.  They are everywhere, always have been and always will be.  So for the last twenty or more years, I've regularly had the odd one here and there removed.  Parts of my body (thankfully largely unseen by the unsuspecting public) now resemble a patchwork quilt.

I've learnt over the years not to worry about the quick excision and biopsy procedure. I've had more than 30 of them and they'd always come back clear... until the phone rang in July 2012 with the news that my latest slice and dice had in fact been melanoma.

The Silent Killer (queue doom filled music)...

I had actually found it by accident... a common occurrence and why it has earnt the silent killer title.  Most people who have melanoma don't realise it until it's too late.  No symptoms and the sneaky wee buggers hide in unusual places.  Fact of the day - Bob Marley died from melanoma on his toe (under his toenail to be precise)!   

Mine was bang on the centre of my spine, on the back of my neck.  Dangerously close to lymph nodes and impossible for me to see unless (as was the case) I used a triangulation of mirrors to check out my 'up-do' before heading out to a posh evening function.  I was pretty convinced that black splodge wasn't normally there, so off to the doctor I went.

Long story short - I found myself having potentially life saving surgery a few short weeks before my wedding.  Three surgeries later I was cancer free and the proud owner of an awesome 'Zorro' scar on my neck.  For those of you under 30, an awesome 'Harry Potter' scar on my neck.

It turned out I was millimetres (or weeks) away from not having such a happy outcome.  It was an aggressive bastard and I was lucky.  Melanoma accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.  At the same time as my diagnosis and treatment, two very special women in my life were also going through the same thing.  Sadly, only one of them is now with us.  And my god is that a hard thing to contemplate on long lonely nights awake overthinking the meaning of life - why me?

At the risk of sounding evangelical (I'll leave that to Brian Tamaki...) this 'brush with cancer' has made me value every single thing in my life.  It's also made me paranoid.  My recent pregnancy created even more angst as I grew new batches of nevus. I'm even more dysplastic than before...  

The moral of this blog is to slip, slop, slap your children every day (not actually slap your children people - that is just wrong! You know what I mean).  Also kiss them every day and remember not to sweat the small stuff.  And check your skin regularly.  And don't be afraid to get an unusual mole or freckle checked.  Ok, so there are a few morals but they're all good ones.

New Zealand, along with Australia, has among the highest melanoma rates in the world. In 2010, the year for which most recent figures are available, melanoma was the fourth most common cancer, with 2,341 registered cases (1241 males and 1100 females). It was also the sixth most common cause of death from cancer that year.  Read more here.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A major milestone... and it ain't what you think

So this week I had my first significant 'moment' since welcoming our wee lad into the world three months ago.  

It wasn't the normal type of moment.  It was a big deep breath, gulp, blink away the tears and harden up moment.

Nor was it a typical first milestone.  He didn't roll.  He didn't sit up.  He didn't say his first word.  He didn't sleep for 12 hours.  

Nope, this milestone, this epic and memorable moment is all about me.

Or to be more exact, all about my method of transport.

My name is Kylie, and I (GULP) now drive a 7 seater people mover.

Gone is my snazzy European hatchback with it's precision handling, low profile tyres, Bose sound system and sporty profile.

Welcome giant pastel blue van.  With sliding doors, plastic dash, velour upholstery and 7 seats.  The only saving grace is that it isn't beige.  

To help you appreciate the seriousness of this transformation, a wee back-story is required.

I'm one of those rare breed of women who love cars.  I'm a petrolhead.  Always have been and always will be.  I grew up in a car-mad family and was participating in Rally events and attending car shows before I could walk.  

I understand how cars work, can do basic repairs, can change a tyre in 5 minutes flat and love big classic American cars (and small sporty European ones).  

I record Top Gear so I can watch whilst feeding the baby, and I've travelled to Australia on three separate occasions JUST to attend Aussie V8 Supercar races.  I read car magazines whilst waiting at the Doctors, and browse Trade Me Motors for fun.

In the past, I have openly mocked my friends who have found themselves requiring a 'family car'.  My teasing was relentless, and often included references to certain religious affiliations and a direct correlation to vehicle size.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

The tipping point came last week when I tried to fit the three children, our 45kg Mastiff, the stroller and multitudinous baby supplies and myself in the VW.  We managed to squeeze in and headed off to the supermarket.  Fast forward 30 minutes and I was faced with a shocking small-car dilemma.  I could fit the kids in the car, or the food, but not both.  I ended up packing the groceries around the kids (not the dog, she can't be trusted) and we made it home.  Unpacking the car was a parody of the 'how many Clowns can you fit in a Mini' gag that has entertained audiences at Circus shows around the globe for generations.  It was a combination of origami, yoga, sweat and tears.  And that was just the dog.

That night, I broke the news gently to Mr Shoe that the time had come for me to consider a slightly more practical vehicle.  And he laughed.  And laughed.  And to his absolute credit, tried to talk me out of it and provided many suggestions of alternatives that we could make work.  Sadly, we had to face facts and car-shopping we went.  

Fast-forward a few days and I now own the aforementioned people-mover.  To give it some credit, it's revoltingly practical, has very efficient heating, and a glass sunroof so we can watch the stars when out driving at night.  See - I found three nice things.  Just.

This year I've said goodbye to my 30s, my waistline, my sleep, my brain, my shoes and now my wheels... surely that's enough?

Monday, 26 May 2014

What The (actual) Fundus!

Twelve weeks ago I was shocked to discover that I had a fundus... and it was shrinking!

I was advised of this startling fact by a lovely (non-English-speaking) nurse at 2am the morning after I'd given birth.  In the midst of my paracetamol-induced-haze the conversation went something like this.

Her: Can I check your fundus? (what I heard - 'kina chook or fondue')

Me: I'm sorry, what?

Her: Can I check your fundus?

Me: Um, I'm not sure what you mean?

Her: I need to feel it to check it's shrinking (what I heard - 'knee ta fool eat ta chook tis shrunken')

Me: Um, ok.  Can I have a Milo afterwards?

So it turns out she was referring to the top of my uterus, to check that it was shrinking back after the expulsion of the boy child.  Praise the lord it was an external exam, not internal (by this stage half the hospital had been up there and I was preparing to install a
'Closed for Maintenance' sign).

I discovered the facts around my fundus from Uncle Wiki .  Not from my midwife or other medical professional (more on this later).  I was initially excited by the name of this medical term, given that the first half of it was 'fun'.  Fun! There hadn't been a lot of fun over the preceding 24 hours so I was buoyed by the potential of something fun.  It was short-lived joy.  In fact, it's a pretty weak use of the term fun as there ain't no fun involved. No new shoes, no disco dancing, no mojitos in the sun on the beach.   Just a lot of cramps, blood and poking.  

The other relevant observation from this 2am exchange was my ability to be easily bribed by a cup of hot Milo.  I had gone from someone who wouldn't get out of bed for anything less than Moet, to someone who would accept an intimate internal examination from a stranger in return for some milky malty goodness.

Back to Uncle Wiki.  Here's the thing that bugged me about the fundus revelation.  Childbirth is arguably one of the most natural and normal things in the world. After all, we've all been born.  And about 40% of the global population do the actual growing a new person inside an old person thing (also known as pregnancy).   So why the need to use overly complicated medical terms that confuse what should be a pretty 'normal' situation?

There is a plethora of literature about pregnancy and childbirth.  Many people have made a whole lot of money by publishing 'childbirth for dummies' self-help books to assist unsuspecting expectant parents navigate their way through the myriad of medical terminology.  And most of the ones I've read are filled to the brim with medicalisation. 

Our six year olds had it figured out without needing textbooks and an understanding of Latin.  In their words, I was going to squeeze the baby out my vee-jay-jay and then my big tummy would go back to normal.  And if the baby got stuck, the doctor would then cut my tummy open and pull the baby out.  And either way, they were going to be good and buy me cake and flowers.

I just didn't need to know about my fundus.  And don't get me started on my Lochia or my Bilirubin... 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Is that your baby?

So today marks 11 weeks since our baby boy forcefully arrived and took his place on this planet and in our hearts.

It's been a hell of a ride.

I won't dwell on the details of his delivery (although I reserve the right to go back there in a later blog), but instead I thought I'd share a few observations from the past three months.

1. People (regardless of age, creed, sex or race) ask dumb questions.  I guess it's because they feel obligated to say something... maybe they get a little anxious about saying the wrong thing, and therefore say a dumb thing.  Without doubt, the most ridiculous question I have encountered since giving birth is "Is that your baby?".  I'm tempted to answer "What baby? I don't see no baby?" or "Nope, just got him from the Baby Factory - he's on a 14 day trial with a full money back guarantee".  What makes this question even more stupid is it often asked whilst my hungry wee lad is partaking of his favourite food (milk-a-la-boobie). Seriously, it's like they think I'm actually just breastfeeding someone else's baby for fun. Maybe I'm trying to reinstate the age old profession of 'wet nurse' as my new career path.

2. People also make dumb statements to fill the void.  My favourite is 'gosh he's got lots of hair'.  Now to be fair, our boy is rather hirsute.  This is a good thing, as it stops him from looking like a skinny wrinkled rat (a common newborn characteristic).  The dumb part of the statement is the way it is presented - like we haven't noticed! So obviously I respond accordingly.  "Hair? Oh that's just a wig, I think it looks good on him."  Or my new favourite, "You should see his pubes!".  That shuts them up pretty quick.

3.  Chanel No. 5 successfully masks the scent of baby vomit, but it is arguably an expensive option. I'm not sure it's what Coco originally had in mind.  However, it works and I'm going with it.  Maybe I should pitch them a new advertising campaign... move over Nicole Kidman, here I come!

4. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  That is, people who have not squeezed a baby out of their vee-jay-jay should not provide advice to those who have.  Especially when the advisee is sleep deprived, hormonal and covered in the aforementioned Chanel scented baby vom... otherwise the advisor might end up having a nasty accident involving their left foot and my left front tyre.

5.  Baby brain does exist.  It has too.  Otherwise, well, the alternative is too scary to contemplate.  To help you, dear reader, appreciate the importance of this point (especially if you fall into #4 above), I will share a few examples of the much maligned baby brain phenomenon.  Dirty clothes go in the washing machine, not in the dishwasher. Milk goes into the cup of tea, not into the sinkful of dirty cups to make the soapy bubbles.  Generally, most people aim to leave the house with matching shoes.  It is ok to misplace your keys, not so acceptable to misplace your newborn baby. 

On that note... where is the baby?

(Read more about the facts behind baby brain here)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Eviction Notice

I have been pregnant for 276 days.  I think that’s long enough don’t you?  

Time to evict the parasite and see what we’ve created.  I’ve enjoyed the unique symbiotic relationship that exists between me and our unborn child more over the last few weeks than the rest of the entire pregnancy caper.  I guess it’s the inevitability of the situation, or maybe just the awareness that the finite gestation period (of 280 days) is almost up and soon I will be reunited with my waistline and ankles. 

Mind you, compared to poor Mummy Elephants (624 days average gestation) or a Mummy Ass (365 days) I suppose I have had it easy.  Ironically enough, I find it easy to compare myself to both these animals at the moment!

It would appear, according to numerous magazines and websites, that my labour is imminent due to a number of ‘non-physical labour signs’.  These include nesting, sleeplessness, emotional fragility, back ache and vomiting.  Four of these I have often experienced after a really good night out – but that’s slightly off topic.  Arguably a couple are also technically ‘physical’ but who am I to argue with birth.com or Google.

So having prepared myself with some robust reading, I am now over-analysing every twinge, movement, ache, pain, flush, cramp, and emotion.   

I have tidied, cleaned, organised, washed, baked, cooked, gardened, planned, and filed.  I have even alphabetised all three bookcases in our home.  I had to force myself to step away from the Dyno Label-maker yesterday as I was about to commence labelling the non-fiction section with Dewey Decimal numbers.

Sleep eludes me which is the ultimate punishment.  Apparently, it’s preparing me for getting up every 17 minutes when the baby arrives.  Arguably it’s Mother Nature proving she is a bitch, as more than anything right now I would love eight hours solid painless deep sleep.   Sleep is one of those things we take for granted… when I was in my 20s I would easily sleep till lunchtime if work wasn’t calling; in my 30s I slept off hangovers and jet lag and lost entire weekends due to prolonged lack of consciousness; and now I’m 40 and I can’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time.  

I won’t bore you with details on the back ache and vomiting, but the emotional fragility is worth mentioning.

I’m not like other girls.  Genuinely.  I don’t get too caught up with emotions, gossip, feelings and stuff.  I get a bit hormonal and moody with regular frequency, but apart from that I’m normally pretty stable and solid.  And now I find myself crying at TV adverts, the news, a sad section of a novel, watching my kids play at the beach, grooming the dog, listening to my husband sing in the shower, the trauma of a full supermarket shop, looking at my beautiful shoes I can’t imagine I’ll ever fit or wear again, and literally spilt milk.  It’s bordering on the ridiculous. 

It also compels me to ponder motherhood, and what kind of mother will I be to this child.
There are many different parenting styles, and every mother is different (Thankfully! Imagine if all mothers were like Kris Jenner or Courtney Love).

I’ve heard it said many times that there isn’t a manual for how to raise a child.  Amazon might offer a slightly different view on that assertion – they currently have 99,055 books listed under Parenting… with 15,329 just on Early Childhood Parenting.  So there are plenty of manuals but I’m relatively confident that none offer 100% guarantee of success.

It strikes me that there are two key different mothers in the world… those that aim to be fair and a friend, and those who are always firm and therefore potentially a foe.  I’m aiming to strike a balance somewhere on that scale.  I want to be inspiring, motivating and passionate.  I want to teach our baby proper values and morals, so they grow up intuitively knowing right from wrong.  I want them to aspire to be anything they want to be and to appreciate the need to work hard to achieve it. 

Speaking of work, I’ve been asked by numerous friends (and a handful of nosy strangers) when I plan on returning to work after the baby is born.  This seems to be a critical determinant in classifying what kind of mother you are – those that ‘go back to work’ and those that ‘stay at home’ to raise a child.  Seriously people - both of these things are work!  I watch my ‘at home’ friends and am in awe at their patience, tenacity, selflessness and attitude.  Returning to the office and leaving someone else to take care of the baby would be a much easier option for many.  I’m going to wait and see how things go – for once in my over-planned and structured life, I’m going to wing it! 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Stand and Deliver

Week 37: My girth has amassed to 130cm.  That’s just over 50 inches or 4 foot in olden speak.

That’s an acceptable height for a small pony, the recognised shoulder height for a fully grown adult polar bear, and the length of a teenage Golden Tree snake.

It’s also just a little ridiculous… my bikini modelling days are officially over.

As we count down the last few weeks to D-Day (cue Europe/Final Countdown), Mr Shoe and I are finalising preparations and have left the three trickiest tasks till last.  Namely; baby names, birth plan and figuring out the damn baby capsule car seat manacle beast with 100 straps and buttons and badly-translated-into-English instructions.

As my waistline has expanded, my patience and brainpower has diminished with an equal and opposite force (thanks Newton, you were definitely on to something there), so I’m just dealing with one thing at a time.

So today is ‘Birth Plan’ day.   Even the title of this task is slightly oxymoronic, as every single article or book I have read on the subject starts by saying that your Birth Plan will likely go flying out the window so don’t get too upset if things don’t happen as you expect.

Now for someone who lives and breathes plans, this is a hard pill to swallow.  I had a checklist for the runsheet for the event plan for our wedding.  I plan time to create plans.  I have Gantt charts to monitor our family activities and I am genetically programmed to refute ‘winging it’… or (heaven forbid!) ‘going with the flow’.

Hence my dilemma.  I have been asked by a wise woman whom I am trusting to bring my baby into the world to create a ‘plan’ for a situation that isn’t likely to eventuate.  And, I quote, “not to get to focused on the details”.  This is like telling Lydia Ko not to worry about aiming for the little flag at the end of the green bit, or suggesting to Greg Murphy that he lets the other cars pass him as they’ll all end up back at the Pit Lane together eventually. 

To help with the task at hand, we have been provided with a series of leading questions that we are supposed to discuss and note our preferences. 

My preference is to unexpectedly sneeze, look down, and have a clean, perfect, dressed and sleeping baby resting between my knees.  Likelihood = zero.

So on to some of the questions... 

What would you like to do in labour?

Answer – not be in bloody labour.  Sitting by a pool somewhere drinking cocktails is apparently not an acceptable response.  Nor was Mr Shoe’s answer of ‘sit at home watching the cricket and have a beer’.   Apparently we should include things like ‘relax by listening to music’ but we could never agree on what to play and seriously, what child wants to be born to a soundtrack of 80s pop mixed with Green Day and Metallica. 

We’ll try another question.

Who will catch the baby?

This one we both agreed upon quite easily.  Dan Carter.  Israel Dagg might have better hands under the high ball, but if any All Black is going to be up close and personal with my girl-bits, then it’s obviously got to be Dan.  And bonus – he’s in Taupō at the moment so I’m sure we can arrange that.

Nailed it, so let’s try another.

Do you want to be mobile for as long as possible?

At this juncture, I had to seek clarification.  Sadly, mobile does not refer to access to my smartphone or tablet so I can keep up with my emails.  Such things are frowned upon in the starched and bleached environs of the maternity ward.  Mobile means active – walking around, bouncing on a swiss ball, etc.  It sounds like they’re sneakily trying to introduce an exercise regime into an otherwise already challenging period of my life, but we’ll go with it for now.

Last one before I need to rest and unashamedly eat cake for my 2nd breakfast (hey, if it’s good enough for Hobbits, it’s good enough for me)…

Do you want to birth in the water?

So I don’t swim.  I splash around the fringes and have been known to snorkel once or twice when on a tropical island fuelled by fruity cocktails.  But I’m open to try anything and have done some homework.  Apparently the warm water is very relaxing and the weightlessness of labouring in water can be smoothing for some.  Others hate it.  So that doesn’t actually help much.  Mr Shoe was equally perplexed by this one.  His biggest concern (and rightly so) was what happens to the baby after it is ejected into a tub of stale water and unmentionable bodily fluids.  But our minds have been put at ease by our wise and seasoned midwife… “it’s just like fishing but with a handline”, she says.  “I’ll just grab hold of the cord and we’ll reel it in!”

On that note, I'm off to find some cake and ponder whether we want to keep the Placenta (mind immediately wanders to Tom Cruise and Scientology) and what we want to do in 'unexpected situations'... do they not realise that type of question will induce early labour!?!?

PS - If you possess a robust constitution, you can read about Tom's placenta-eating habits here.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Having a Paddy...

This week, I decided it was time to start preparing my hospital bag.  Yes, I'm not due for a few weeks yet but I just can't break years of anal-retentiveness and must be prepared. Well in advance.  With a list.

But where to start.  Having had a home-birth with my daughter and limited hospital experiences, I was at a loss.  So I decided to follow the wise advice of my 6 year old, and 'just google it'.

Gosh.  What a revelation.

I am glad my husband has a station wagon - as this is going to be one rather large bag. Maybe a small suitcase.  Who are we kidding - I'm getting the international travel sized monster suitcase on wheels out for this.

Must haves include cheap underwear (seriously, they used the word cheap!), unscented body lotion and a mesh sponge.  I do not own any of these 3 items (and never plan to). What was most alarming was the order of the list - of the 20 'Must Haves for Mum' a digital camera with spare batteries was first, and a copy of the birth plan was last.  I'm not quite sure that I concur with those priorities.

The 'Must Haves for Baby' list is equally riveting reading... the 13 far more reasonable items include clothes, socks, and a going-home outfit.  But no nappies...  

Then we get to the 'Nice to Have' section which includes some new personal favourites such as 'a razor in case you feel like shaving' and a Bikini.  Nice to have when packing for a weekend at the beach - YES, nice to have whilst squeezing a watermelon sized human out your veejayjay - NO.

So now that I have my list I've been able to start collating the various items, and of course use the list as a very flimsy excuse for more shopping.  Which, to be fair, is about the only activity I am still able to undertake with any guarantee of success.

At the local supermarket I purchased 3 packets of maternity pads.  

[Men Warning (gosh - I could go anywhere with that headline - note to self for future blog topic): You might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs as it will completely destroy the mystery that is feminine hygiene.]

The first little shock was that I had to crouch down and discreetly snatch the pads from the bottom shelf.  Now, I understand retail display tactics - you put your biggest sellers with the highest margins front and centre.  But seriously, if you are needing to purchase maternity pads, chances are your bladder control isn't at its peak.  So squatting in the middle of a busy supermarket aisle (accompanied by the requisite grunting) is not ideal. I'm confident that the Head Merchandiser for Countdown will read this blog and take some action.  

The second little shock is that they are huge.  Actually, beyond huge.  They are monstrous.  To be precise, 30 cm long x 10 cm wide x 2cm deep (yes I did get the ruler out and measure).  They are bigger than my shoes.  Up until this point, I had been very relaxed about the whole giving-birth thing, but now I'm freaking out due to the size of the pads. How many litres of blood are we expecting here?  Google tells me that I can expect to go through between 30 and 40 of these giant absorbent planks in the first two weeks.  Bloody hell (literally!).

[Men - you can rejoin us now].

So in pondering the enormity of the product, I have come up with five alternative uses for Maternity Pads;

1.  Shin Pads.  Whether it be cricket, soccer or hockey, these puppies will cushion your shins and stop the bruising... and with their unique self-adhesive backing you can even use them without the obligatory knee-length socks.

2.  Chemical Spill Cleanups.  With all this kerfuffle over deep sea oil drilling, I have the obvious solution.  A floating ring of pads around each of the drilling rigs will be sure to soak up any escaping oil.  And at less than $5 a packet, that has to be cheaper than the traditional methods.  

3.  Gumboot Liners.  Nothing worse than getting damp feet at your annual gumboot outing (also known as "visiting the Fieldays to demonstrate you're a 'real' kiwi").  Stuff one of these beauties into each of your Red Bands and not only will they absorb the sneaky water that finds its way in through the teeny crack you didn't realise was in your left boot, but they will also provide some lovely cushioning as you trudge through the mud.

4.  Building Insulation.  A disclaimer - I haven't checked fire retardancy of the product. However, logic would say that maternity pads would be awesome insulators.  Stick 'em to the outside of your hot water cylinder.  Wrap them around your pipes.  Climb under the house and adhere them to the underside of your floor.  The options are virtually endless.

5.  Teenage Baby Repellent.  There is much dialogue about how to reduce unwanted teenage pregnancy in NZ (see footnote).  I think compulsory maternity pad wearing is worthy of trial.  Simple enough - all young teenage women must purchase and then wear said product. Ideally, the wearing aspect would be undertaken whilst on every date.  Let's see how far things progress when that little treasure is discovered.

But for now, it's back to the Hospital Bag List for me... maybe I'll go bikini shopping just to scare the salespeople...


In the early 21st century New Zealand had one of the highest rates of teenage births of the high-income countries in the OECD. The rate of births for women aged 15–19 years was 28.4 per 1,000 women in this age group, exceeded only by the US (41.9 per 1,000). The New Zealand rate was similar to the rate for the United Kingdom (26.1).

Rates of births to younger women were lowest in Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. These countries all had rates of six per 1,000 or less, despite reported youthful sexual experience in Scandinavian countries.
While the rate of teenage pregnancy is high in New Zealand relative to other OECD countries, the percentage of all births that are to women under 20 years old has dropped dramatically since the 1970s.
Source: UNICEF, Child poverty in perspective: an overview of child well-being in rich countries. Innocenti report card 7. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2007. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Welcome to Middle Life...

In 14 days I shall turn forty.  I have successfully reached middle age. 

Some optimistic folk (you know the type, the ones always sharing twee motivational messages they've pilfered from someone else on Facebook) would say it’s the beginning of an exciting new chapter in my life.


I think it’s the zero.  Not that I have anything against zero but it seems to trigger some sort of repressed fear.  It makes me a bit anxious.  I’d be happier to be 41 – that’s not a significant milestone birthday that forces one to reflect.

I struggled with 30 too.  In my mind, I was about 23 whilst in reality it was ‘time to grow up’.   So I've spent the last decade growing up.  Got married (actually, did that twice as I’m an over-achiever), bought a house, started a business, built a solid professional reputation, traveled to experience other cultures, and gave to those less fortunate than me.  I think I’m probably doing ok on the grown-up scale.   A solid pass mark anyway.

But now it’s time for another decade.   Is this one about slowing down? Speeding up?  Trying harder or trying less?  Live to work or work to live?  Survive or thrive?

The first hurdle of this new middle aged era is the imminent arrival of ‘The Baby’.  (It requires capital letters as for some strange as-yet-unexplained reason, humankind elevates a foetus to a status deserving of its own hashtag.)

I am pregnant.  At the time I blow-out all those damn candles I’ll be 36 weeks along the delightful journey that is pregnancy.

Times have certainly changed.  Back in ’74, the average age for a first time mother was 24 years.  It’s now closer to 31.  Older mothers are on a trendline that continues to extend, in part due to medical intervention and in part due to lifestyle choices.

As a young child, I had a school friend who had an ‘older mother’.  In hindsight, I’m thinking she may have been in her early 40’s.  Definitely no older.  The other mothers used to look at her with pity that bordered on scorn.  I remember her having greying hair and wise eyes.  My friend never said she was embarrassed by her noticeably older Mum, but I always felt that she was acutely aware that her family dynamic was somehow different. 

I too will be an older mother, but statistically I’m still within the bell curve and hopefully our child won’t feel ostracised because of my age (I make no promises about our child not being ostracised due to my inappropriate behaviour or fashion sense however).

So far, pregnancy has been great.  I've loved every second of it.  Said no one.  Ever.  I've lost my ankles, my memory, and my bladder control.  Oh the glamour.  I’ve gained 14 kilos and I caught myself grunting in public last week.  Actually audibly grunting.  I've been voluntarily wearing the brown shoes because they 'comfortable' (oh the shame!).  The 20 weeks of morning sickness (the ultimate misnomer by the way) just flew by, and I’m not missing sipping on a refreshingly chilled Pinot Gris on a balmy summer evening at all.  My super-sized granny knickers are sexy yet comfortable.  And going to bed at 8pm in order to then get up four times a night to pee is excellent. 

My husband has been trying very hard to do the right things.  If only my befuddled mind could establish what the right things are, I’m sure he’d be finding it a whole lot easier.  He has been diligently reading up on various pregnancy / birth books and has built numerous items of nursery furniture in anticipation of the big arrival.  He asks me 20 times a day if I’m ok and if I need anything.  It really is rather a selfish condition, this pregnancy lark.  If I could share it with him, I would.

The single biggest revelation from my confinement (I love that term - obviously relevant and descriptive in 1814, but in 2014 I am barely confined to my office chair, let alone the boudoir) is the desire of random strangers to caress my body.  I feel a little like a pole-dancer except I’m not getting wads of cash shoved into my undies.  It truly is a phenomenon to behold.  People who usually wouldn’t even say hello suddenly feel at liberty to ask a series of personal and private questions accompanied by a rub of my belly. 

"Yes, I’m having a baby.  Yes, it’s due in February.  Yes, I am rather big - thanks for commenting.  No, we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl but we’re hoping it’s one or the other.  No, we’re not just saying that, we are having a ‘surprise’ like people did in the old days.  Yes, we obviously had sex to make the baby.  No, I can’t remember the exact date, time or position.  No, it wasn't planned, I was probably drunk.   No, you can’t rub my tummy.  Oh too late, you have already totally invaded my personal space and are doing it anyway.   Now piss off before I punch you in the face and blame it on hormones."

As well as unrequited physical attention, I've also been lucky to receive wise words from the many and varied women in my life who randomly impart such gems like ‘I had an extended forceps delivery with my second, ripped me to bits and I had to have reconstructive surgery to rebuild my vagina.  Took a year to get it looking normal again.’  Excellent.  Just the topic for Christmas Luncheon.   

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know how absolutely blessed we are to be with child.  We are lucky to have conceived without medical intervention.  I have had a moderately normal pregnancy with only the standard array of discomforts and issues to attend to.  There are many I know who are desperate to have a baby and I remind myself of that everyday.   We are thankful and we are fortunate. 

I am also acutely aware that I will never be considered a MILF.  My milkshake will not bring the boys to the yard.  My forties will not be spent travelling the world, building a global corporate empire, driving a sportscar or living in the house of my dreams.  Instead it will be nappies, playdates, practical shoes and basic survival.  Doing what is arguably the most important job in the world. 

Not sure I’d want it any other way.