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Morgan

Morgan

This is my second son, Morgan. He was lifted out of my numbed body through a hole in my abdomen in the early hours of a Friday, three weeks ago. I heard a gurgled cry, and then the surgeon held him up for me to see – a slippery, crying doll-like baby covered in white vernix.

I didn’t labour for days to have him, because I had a c-section. This is a choice I feel really good about. He’s my last baby, and I’m glad I have something other than the memories of fear and trauma from the birth of my first son. I did have a bit of labour, because Morgan decided to arrive early, thus the middle of the night intervention rather than my lovely planned hospital appointment for birth.

His face wasn’t bruised from the squeeze of a vaginal birth, his features weren’t distorted by swelling. I didn’t lose loads of blood or scream with pain and fear as he was born. Although I lay on my back on an operating table, numb from the breasts down with a sheet blocking his view, his birth was beautiful to me. I chose it, I felt in control, and although I trembled with shock a little as I was wheeled into Recovery, I felt positive after the birth.

I held him to my breast and his mouth latched onto my nipple and I loved him immediately, just as I loved my first child immediately.

Now we are four. Four in the home and four in the heart. I have a partner whom I love passionately and two beautiful children. There won’t be any more babies for me, so I’m enjoying this time. Our family is complete. I’m whole.

morganandme

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I am now in my 28th week of pregnancy, which puts me in the third trimester. I am in pain, and uncomfortable, and feeling stressed and depressed. These are familiar feelings from my last pregnancy.

I have pelvic instability, which is very painful and makes walking difficult. I’m having horrible acid reflux and the kind of intense Braxton-Hicks contractions that leave me stupefied and breathless for minutes at a time. I feel like I’m constantly overheating, and every little task feels hard, and I feel helpless, which I loathe.

I grew up with chronic illness, with the ongoing and constant sense that my body was betraying me and I had lost control. Pregnancy reawakens all of these feelings in me. That I am powerless and helpless and have no say in what is happening to me. I love my baby, but I hate pregnancy.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

Alex and I when I was 20 weeks pregnant, pretty much the last time I felt comfortable.

I try to stay focused on accomplishing small tasks, like cooking something yummy or completing one small aspect of a project at a time, like getting the curtains finished for one room. It helps to break things down like this – I am just doing this one small thing, not getting overwhelmed by Giant Energy Sucking Thing. But even this is hard because Sebastian is at a fidgeting, attention-intensive age so I have to wait for his naps or bedtime, but because I’m in pain I’m not sleeping well and often exhausted.

I remind myself that this is temporary, that there is not long to go, that even this is better than last time. But a lot of the time I feel depressed, and quite sad that I don’t enjoy pregnancy the way some women do.

This is my last baby, because I don’t want to go through this again.

Early next year I will have this baby, and I will have joy that he has arrived, but relief that it is over too.

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I knew it. Pregnancy is my baby invading one cell at a time.

Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body […] It is remarkable that it is so common for cells from one individual to integrate into the tissues of another distinct person. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as singular autonomous individuals, and these foreign cells seem to belie that notion, and suggest that most people carry remnants of other individuals.

From the Scientific American, via a tweet from Blue Milk.

 

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I thought that if I had another baby, it would be a planned pregnancy. There is so much shock and worry involved in an unplanned pregnancy that I didn’t want to go through it again. Life had other plans. I’m pregnant again, and while I’m very happy to have another baby, I can’t help but wish it was something that came about deliberately rather than accidentally.

Someone I know once told me that no matter how much you love kids, there’s a certain amount of depression that comes with an unplanned pregnancy. This is true. In fact, I felt so ambivalent about this pregnancy at first that I started to feel terribly guilty – until I remembered that you have to make distinctions between the baby and the pregnancy. That’s where my ambivalence was coming from – I wanted the baby, but dreaded going through pregnancy again. My first pregnancy was horrible. I was unprepared for the overwhelming physical changes, the fear, the panic surrounding my life and lifestyle, the huge financial and emotional changes, the impact on my fledgling relationship… I was about as unprepared as you could get.

This time, while many things are different, some things are the same. I had a list of goals to achieve before a second pregnancy. Be fitter and stronger and healthier (which I was working on, but wasn’t where I wanted to be). Have moved to a bigger house (which we were planning to do soon anyway, but moving while pregnant sucks). Have been employed long enough to get paid parental leave (I think I’ll just qualify, but I’m not sure). Have saved some money (um… no). Go on a holiday (we’re still planning a holiday, but it probably won’t be the tropical escape I was dreaming of).

On the brighter side, I feel like I know what is coming this time, so I can be a better advocate for myself. So much of my first pregnancy was filled with uncertainty and illness and physical disability and fear. I had crippling pelvic pain that made it very difficult to walk. Sebastian was an ENORMOUS baby (a condition called Macrosomia), eventually weighing 10lbs 2oz when he was born, and that was a week early – so the final few months of pregnancy I was a swollen blimp in constant pain from him bumping my cervix and putting pressure on my weak and painful pelvis. I had doctors telling me contradictory and frightening things – that there was too much amniotic fluid, which could cause neural tube defects, that surely I MUST have gestational diabetes (even though I tested negative over and over again), that macrosomic babies were invariably premature.

Throughout all of this, nobody would tell us what should be done. I kept having late term ultrasounds that made the ultrasound technicians very worried, because the baby was so big, and yet nothing would happen. Ironically, there’s a procedure in place if a baby is so large because of gestational diabetes – they induce before the baby gets too big. But because Sebastian was big for no reason, they just waited. Which I believe resulted in his potentially life-threatening shoulder dystocia when he was born.
I know all these things in advance now. I can already feel my pelvis starting to twinge, but I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for pelvic adjustments. If that doesn’t work, I’ll keep seeing other practitioners. I refuse to be crippled again. I know this baby will be big, but I also know I’m entitled to a scheduled C-section – which I’ll gladly have, thankyouverymuch, if it will save me and the baby from the shoulder dystocia (him) and tearing and losing  a litre of blood (me).

I’m going to take care of myself this time. When morning sickness kicked in, I went and got the medication straight away, rather than faffing around trying to grin and bear it like I did last time. I know how to manage the hunger and headaches and cravings better. I’m more relaxed, even though this week we had a potentially high-risk result from our ultrasound screening for genetic abnormalities. I mean, that was frightening, but I knew which questions to ask, I knew how to speak up for myself, to deal with the information. And everything is fine, further testing showed I’m actually very low risk, and I felt like Alex and I dealt with the situation pretty well, all things considered.

We’re having a little boy, a brother for Sebastian, and looking at the 3D images on the ultrasound I wanted to cry, because as much as I hate pregnancy, and I wish it were planned, we’re having another beautiful baby, and that’s pretty amazing. It’s a tiny person, who at the moment looks a lot like an alien, but will slowly grow and develop into someone we will hold and love and teach and play with. Isn’t it fantastic, that we can grow a person inside of us and take photos before he is born?

Cute or weird? 13 week ultrasound.

That’s the main thing that is different about this pregnancy, I suppose. Before Sebastian was born, I didn’t know how spectacular and joyful and terrifying and wonderful being a parent really is. This time, I already know how I’ll fall in love with my child and love him more and more each day. And I can’t wait.

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I remember being 38 weeks pregnant and asking an obstetrician, ‘So I’m in labour, right?’ And the answer: ‘Kind of.’ Pregnancy books do not prepare you for this. In fact, there is a lot that pregnancy books don’t prepare you for. For example, being 38 weeks pregnant and in a labour a bit. The long answer to my questions was something like, ‘You’re having contractions and you’re 1cm dilated, but things are going too slowly. This is pre-labour, or light labour.’

Nothing I had read in preparation for giving birth had prepared me for pre-labour. I’d gone to hospital because I was having some infrequent, intense pains that did not match the description of labour I’d been given – the pain was too sharp and too localised, low in my pelvis – and some blood spotting. Eventually the doctors and I figured out it was the baby bumping my cervix repeatedly, which you’re not supposed to feel but oh boy, did I ever. However, this trip to hospital ended up with me undergoing some fetal monitoring and some increasing anxiety from the midwives and, later, the doctors attending me. I was having long surges of Braxton-Hicks contractions along with the pain, and fetal monitoring was turning out to be less than successful – every attempt to monitor the baby’s heartbeat showed that he would be normal for long periods of time, and then suddenly spike into a ridiculously, dangerously fast pulse. I was admitted and moved from ER to a maternity ward.

The monitoring went on for quite some time, and the obstetricians who attended me continued to hover somewhere between ‘mildly alarmed’ and ‘freaking the fuck out’ every time the baby’s heart rate spiked. He moved constantly too – I had a 4.6kg baby rolling around in my huge belly, constantly knocking the monitoring belt off and making it hard to get a clear reading. I remember this happening fairly clearly:

Doctor: We’d like to induce labour by perforating the amniotic sac. (She holds up a very long, thin needle with a hook on the end. Alex and I discuss briefly.)
Me: Uh. Okay? Now? I’m having the baby now?
Doctor: That would mean you’d have the baby fairly quickly, yes. (She starts arranging the terrifying needle with some gauze and absorbent pads all around me.)
Me: Okay. We’re having the baby. Okay!
Doctor: Okay, let me just go check with a senior colleague. (She wanders off while Alex and I deal with identical holy-shit, we’re-having-the-baby-right-now, we-didn’t-bring-the-hospital-bag reactions. The doctor returns with another doctor.) So I’ve consulted with my senior colleague here, and we’ve decided we won’t induce just yet. Instead we’re going to sedate you, in order to sedate the baby, to try and get a clear reading of his heart rate. Okay?
Me: Um. Okay then.

And that’s what happened. I got doped up, so the baby got doped up, and they finally got a clear reading of his heart rate and decided that everything was fine after all. I slept in the hospital bed and Alex slept on the floor beside me. Despite being in ‘light’ labour I was sent home (with the general consensus that things would pick up soon). That was four days before I actually gave birth. I remained in ‘light’ labour for that whole time.

Books about having babies do not tell you how quickly things can change, how one minute you can come within one long thin needle’s length of having your child a little early, and how much of that decision is based on your doctor, their opinion, and whoever’s opinion they happen to seek out. Books don’t tell you that the line between Braxton-Hicks and real contractions can sometimes be pretty damn blurry.

Here’s a quick list of other things I didn’t know anything about, but happened to me anyway during the birth of my child:

-The hospital can, and will, send you home, even if you’ve been labouring all night, because of ‘lack of progress’. I got sent home at 8am and was back at midday. What a waste of damn time.

-No matter how much I dreamed of an intervention and drug-free birth, and even bought into the Calm Birth ideal, I was not prepared for how horrendous labour can be when you haven’t slept for about 50 hours. Yes I wanted the drugs. I sucked down that gas like it was the cure to all ails. It made me feel sick and dizzy and disconnected from the world, and I hated the bath I was in, so I asked for an epidural.

-An epidural does not always work. Three epidurals do not always work. A senior anesthesiologist may be wiggling that tiny needle around in your spine, but she can’t guarantee pain relief. In which case, when they offered Fentanyl, a drug that had previously been on my No Not Ever list, I was delighted. Despite knowing it was on timed release, I hit that little drug release button over 100 times.

-Apparently your cervix can have a ‘lip’. I had never heard of this. It meant an injection of pitocin, to try and dissolve that lip. When suddenly I was really really REALLY ready to start pushing, the midwives kept telling me not to because of the lip. It was like trying to stop gravity.

-The sight of a group of midwives and doctors having a whispered conference in my room was a bit terrifying. When they finally, finally presented me with a form allowing intervention, I remember I didn’t actually read it, I just try to look coherent while I signed so it was legal.

-Those forms aren’t for specific intervention, they allow any sort of intervention. Which is why when I was moved to an operating theatre, I wasn’t terribly sure of what was going on most of the time. I mean, I didn’t end up having a C-section, although it was a near thing, but I did end up having an episiotomy – the doctor didn’t really ask me, he just told me I was having one, and while it and other maneuver actually saved Sebastian’s life when shoulder dystocia occurred, at the time it was just one big surprise to me.

The moral of this story is, I guess: things don’t go according to plan. There’s no way of knowing what will happen, no way of anticipating all the variables, and the process of labour isn’t as clear cut as it is in the books. And that’s fine. I think the best way to approach the matter is to be prepared for how unprepared you’ll feel when the time comes. I mean, ultimately, any birth that ends up with mother and baby alive at the end can be classified as ‘normal’, no matter if it’s vaginal, Cesarean or executed with laser gun.

Another thing the books don’t tell you is the massive endorphin high you get after giving birth, which is a major plus, and you feel it surge to life every time you look at your newborn.

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I fell pregnant unexpectedly when I was 25. Although I had known my partner, Alex, for years, we’d only recently started dating. I was naturally terrified. We both lived in shared houses (not together), I was a student and Alex had intended to go back to study the following year. He’d been working as a bartender and within a few weeks had taken a panic-job at a digital media company, where his role consisted of editing gay porn (as far as I could tell). It made him horrendously unhappy during the brief few months he was there.

Pregnancy and parenthood can be hard at any point in your life, but having an unplanned pregnancy can be downright traumatising. We were poor, and I smoked and took medication, and did not have private healthcare, and we ended up moving in together in the ‘burbs when I was five months pregnant and my pelvis began separating unevenly, causing horrible pain. Our furniture was (and still is) a mismatched combination of hand-me-downs, cheap Ikea units and op shop finds. While financially we did manage to scrape along by the skin of our teeth, we also had to prepare for a baby. It is ridiculous that the baby bonus is only paid after you have the baby, because most of the major purchases need to happen in the months before hand – we were lucky in that Alex’s brother had twins who were outgrowing their baby gear, so we were given a cot, high chair and change table, toys, clothes and other baby gear for free. Family members also contributed things like a swing, a bassinet, a car seat, first aid kit, clothes, blankets, electric thermometer, soft toys, newborn nappies, etc.

I will probably write more about my pregnancy and birth experience later, because it still sits in my mind as a thing I was completely unprepared for, in spite of all my diligent preparation. I did not enjoy pregnancy, or felt like I had some mythical glow or had found the meaning to life and was hiding it in my uterus. I felt guilty about that, but finally crystallised in my mind that loving my unborn baby and hating the process of growing him were two separate things.  And the birth was a nightmare of pain and failed epidurals that ended with me giving birth flat on my back with my legs in my air in an operating theatre with an audience of medical staff under fluro lights. It was not the beautiful scene of meaningful pain I triumphed over while angels sang in the background that I had been led to believe. Sebastian was born, and put on my chest for about 30 seconds while my hands were still too full of needles to hold him properly, and then he was taken away while my ordeal continued as I was stitched up.

I did not properly hold my son until about an hour after he was born, but when I did, it was exceptional. I was lucky enough to be one of those women who felt an instant bond with my child. I say ‘lucky’, because I know it is not always this way for women, and sometimes takes time and help for that bond to form, and some women finding that initial bond and some women not seems to be down to chance. We have a video my father took of me holding him, an enormous 10lbs 2oz (4.6kg) of fat, bloody, mewling baby. I held him to my chest, skin to skin with a blanket around both of us, rocking him as he made little baby noises, and I was in love.

We took him home a few days later, after a brief but stressful hospital stay. Being home with your newborn, I learned, is 90% panic and 10% furtive glee. We learned. Our whole lives had changed with the arrival of Sebastian, and money was still tight, and Alex had indeed gone back to study for a year, and I was being a stay-at-home mum. Within twelve months we had started dating, gotten pregnant, moved in together, nested, and had the baby. Sebastian was three months old when we went away together for our one year anniversary.

We still do not have a lot of money. Alex works full time, and I was working part time but that seems to have died off and I am job hunting again. We plan to get married, someday. We live in the country now, in a little cottage on my parents’ property in the Dandenong Ranges. Sebastian will be turning two in July (two!), and Alex and I will celebrate our third anniversary in September, and we are muddling along, making a life for ourselves, trying to keep a hold on what we love to do and how to make it work with a family.

The answer is yes, by the way. We do love each other.

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