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.