Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Tale of Two Babies – Part 2

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I am one of the lucky ones. All we have to do is think “baby?” and one appears. At least, that’s how it went with both of ours thus far.

I blame my cousin for prompting me to go for take two. At 7 months pregnant she was so beautifully round and radiant and excited and… well, the Little Lion was 1 and just cute and funny and joyful and I thought, “Heck, I can do that again and I can do it right this time – no lounging back on the couch, no sitting for hours on end, make sure that baby is back-to-front for its grand entrance into the world, have my natural cow on all fours birth rather than 32 hours of AGONY…”

So we did. We thought “baby?” and within 5 minutes I had blown out to the size of a small hippo. By four months, people were asking when I was due to give birth to that monster-baby inside me.

There was nothing beautiful about being round the second time ’round. It was just hard work. I was buggered. My back was buggered. My ankles were buggered. My pelvic floor was… well that’s a saga that continues.

I did spend an enormous amount of time on all fours, much to the Little Lion’s joy. Not only was mummy growing a continental shelf upon which he could sit, but she had also, apparently, turned into a horse upon which he could ride, tirelessly, up and down the hallway crying, “CLIP CLOP, MUMMY! CLIP CLOP!” When the Little Lion began crashing into the continental shelf as though it was a pillow, we knew it was time for baby-prep to begin.

I bought every book I could find that dealt with new babies, becoming a big sibling, mummies with babies, sharing with babies, etc etc, but do you think the Little Lion was at all interested? He knew there was a baby in my tummy. We’d talked about it. But he did not want to know about random picture book strangers and the babies that their mummies brought home. Sorry. 

(Warning: Shameless self-promotion ahead.)

So, I made a book: A Toddler Transitions Story that told the tale of the Little Lion and the big adventure he would go on when the baby was ready to come out of Mummy’s tummy. It was complete with photos of himself, of his Mum and Dad and Nanna and Papa and all the places he would go and things he would do. AND HE LOVED IT! It worked like a dream. He read it every night and before long, he was telling us the story of the adventure he would go on when “Bubby” came out.

(I produce them, fully personalised with your pics and details and professionally printed, so if you know anyone expecting, pass it on!  It’s the best preparation for a toddler that I have come across and it’s a beautiful keepsake to look back on too. I also write stories for all the major transitions a toddler may face – moving house, starting daycare, illness, toilet training, changes in family circumstances, etc. So check it out! www.nadineneumann.com.au)

 

OK, self-promotion done, now on with the story of B2.

 

So, when I wet the bed in a big way one night in May, we were all ready. Contractions began the same way they had with LL’s arrival, so I thought nothing of it. I was relaxed and repeated my mantra of “this will pass, here comes baby, this will pass…” I went silent with each contraction and focussed on relaxing my face. Did you know that the jaw is related to the vagina in chinese medicine? So a relaxed jaw = a relaxed nether-region, or so they say. And did you know it is almost impossible to hold tension without holding it in your face as well? So a relaxed face = relaxed body, or so they say. I visualised as well – baby moving down, everything being soft for it’s travel down and out…

I made LLs meals for the next day, I put on a load of washing, I ate some breakfast, I engaged in conversation with the friends who had come in those wee hours to look after our Little Lion, and every five minutes I would excuse myself, breathe and wait patiently for the moment to pass.

A couple of particularly strong ones and I suggested it was time to go. Yes, now. Really. Now.

Two minutes down the road and I declared, “I really need to poo.” Warning bells were ringing somewhere in the distance. Mr D almost stopped to let me take that dump on the side of the road, but thought better of it, gave me permission to crap on the towel that covered the front seat of his work truck and put his foot down. Every bend in the road, every bump was Hell. I couldn’t sit any more and the contractions were coming hard and fast. I kept breathing and visualising and reminding myself that it would pass while bracing against the jolting of the truck. I vaguely remembered something my sister-in-law had said about poo and babies coming, so I tried not to poo in the ute.

When we got to the hospital, I crouched on the floor and held the door for Mr D and the bags. Then, 5 meters on, I crouched and waited for the midwife to open the ward door. Then, 5 meters on, I crouched at the side of the bed and apologised for shitting my pants. Then, a minute later the midwife said, “Oh, we’d better call Doctor,” and I said, “There’s the burn” and she said, “Go with it”, and Mr D knelt on the other side of the bed and held my hand and I said, “here we go” and then…

Well, all I remember is one contraction, me shouting like a well-seasoned soccer mum, “COME ON BABY!!!” and that was it. Done. Babe in arms, husband in shock and me, once again, laughing the hysterical laugh of a drunkard. 2hs and 12 minutes. No more than 10 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. Never even made it to the bed. Mad cow on all fours on the floor birth, done. Stitch free.

 When doctor arrived, the midwives were mopping the blood off the floor; I was reclining in a beanbag, pumping with adrenalin and absolutely euphoric; baby was snipped and tied and looking around; Mr D was pacing and repeating “How good is that? How good is that?! HOW GOOD IS THAT?!” to which I replied, “If that’s how good it is, let’s have heaps!” Doctor gave us the thumbs up, declared that he felt a little useless and went back home to bed.

It was like I had been to a late-night movie and won a baby as a lucky door prize. I was fighting fit the next day and within 48 hours I was Clip Clopping the Lion around the maternity ward while bemused nurses tried to remind be that I had just had a baby. He never asked about my tummy. He didn’t need to. Bubby was there. He could cuddle Bubby and he knew that he would visit Mummy and Bubby for a few days and then they would come home.

Blossom has been the perfect baby ever since. Bless her beautiful, relaxed little soul.

Cockroach anyone?

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I am still sick and this head-full-of-snot disease took a rather sudden and unpleasant turn for the worse tonight.

I was quietly sitting watching some crazed woman run into traffic while stricken police tried to stop unaware motorists on one of the myriad of “Reality Police Dramas” that occupy the Sunday night screen when my ear suddenly took up the wail of the police sirens and began to throb. You know, that throb that only an ear can do. The one that pierces your skull, dislocates your jaw and sends you around the twist all in an instant. The one that pops and crackles and makes you certain your ear drum is going to bust right out of your head atop a geyser of puss. Yep, that’s the one.

This was some hours ago now and it has only just occurred to me, as I lay sleeplessly cursing my damned head, why this crackling, agonising ear is doing my head in so badly – emotional scarring. That’s right. I’ve been traumatised and now am absolutely paranoia-stricken.

Some months ago, Mr D was on a bit of a fitness kick and was getting up at 5.30am to go running/cycling. This was great. He was happy and I got immense pleasure out of somebody else leaving the warm bed to exercise, having given over many a morning to the training gods myself. The only trouble with this routine was that, creep as he may, Mr D’s leave of absence was waking The Lion, and so it was on this particular morning, that Mr D crept from the house and Little Lion called out.

I ignored him for the obligatory 10 minutes, then gave in, sat up in bed and in so doing disturbed a small cockroach. I heard it flutter and I jumped, waving my arms madly, as one does when startled by a small flying creature. It landed in the vicinity of my ear and I shook my head like a furious horse, slapping at the side of my head and, to take shelter from this onslaught, the bush-roach crawled into my ear. Yes. INTO MY EAR. Not just into the outer, flappy part. No. INTO MY EAR. Right down deep into to hole.

It didn’t take long for the hapless creature to realise that there was no way outa there and it found itself stuck, quite tight. Well, it thought. This is a bother. I guess I’d best START DIGGING!

 

Yep. I lost it. Big time. It was THE WORST PAIN I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. Worst. Hands Down. Not to mention knowing there was a cockroach burrowing through to my brain.

I flew into action. I knew I had to go to hospital – I had seen a man with a beetle in his ear on one of the myriad of “Reality Hospital Dramas” that occupy the Friday night screen. And the pain whenever the little bastard moved was UNBEARABLE. So I whipped LL out of bed, got myself dressed, made him a snack box and was in the process of getting him dressed when Mr D returned, took one look at my tear-streaked face and thought “Geeze! Lighten up, lady, he’s just out of bed a little early…” 

Then I began to scream and hold my head.

He took over LL duties and I drove, yes I drove myself to the hospital, heavily pregnant and screaming at random moments as though possessed by demon voices in my head. When I showed up in emergency they whisked me in to see a doctor in no time.

Alas, the doctor on duty had never faced a cockroach extraction before. In 2 ½ hours all she managed to do was anaesthetise the roach long enough to rip off part of its wing and it’s backside (revealing that it was, in fact, a pregnant female roach and isn’t that funny – a pregnant cockroach in a pregnant lady’s ear! Yes. Fucking hilarious. Excuse me for not laughing myself stupid…).

So when roach-ette woke from her anaesthetic, she was doubly pissed off. Not only was she stuck in a black hole, but she’d had her wing shredded, her arse removed and her egg stolen. All in all, a bad morning, so best get digging.

After 2 ½ hours of having my eardrum scratched out by a cranky cockroach, a doctor pull and prod and yank at said cocky (each move eliciting a cry of agony, I might add), numerous syringes of water shot into my ear with a force to blast my eyeballs from their sockets but having no more effect than saturating my top, and two attempts at vacuum extraction, the doctor gave up, I cried and she handed over to the next shift.

He took one look. Shook his head. Poured oil into my ear (I think it was olive, but he assured us that canola would do). Killed the sucker dead, dead, dead. Sent for an eardrum surgery kit from the operating theatre upstairs and in two swift movements with the apropriate tweezers, pulled the beast from my ear. It was the size of the top of my little finger. Man how I screamed as he yanked it out. Man how I screamed as he flushed and vacuumed the left-over legs and bits of cocky backside from my battered ear drum. Man, how sick I felt for the rest of the day.

And man, how paranoid of buzzy things near my head am I now?!

PS: Little Lion, by the way, had a fabulous time exploring the hospital’s emergency area. He was a star, everybody loved him and he enjoyed his adventure emense ly. Good for him.

A Tale of Two Babies – Part 1

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This whole birthday thing has made be nostalgic. I’m also sick and illness does a misty-eyed Mumma Nadz make. So I’m going to share a story. A story of plans made, intentions dashed, illusions shattered and second chances. Part 1 goes like this:

(A word of warning for readers who have not yet ventured down the baby path: This post contains graphic information that may turn you off all together. The writer recommends that you defer your decisions until you have read Part 2 of The Story where things get a whole lot nicer.)

I have mentioned before that I was a swimmer. A swimmer who competed at Olympic level. This is not a badge of honour I wear proudly, but a fact I mention here to put my approach to childbirth into some kind of context. Pain? I had been to the extreme of it, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Endurance? I had found my limit and gone beyond it, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Emotions? I had seen the most exquisite highs and blackest lows, willingly, twice a day for the best part of my life. Lack of control? Check. Physical mayhem? Check. Facing the unknown? Check. Check. Check.

Childbirth did not scare me. It was going to be like a really long Step Test, a VO2Max set, a ‘Hell Week’ squashed into one day. I would breathe, like I had done in training millions of times. I would be pushed to the point of delirium and convulsion and I would just keep going like I had done in training millions of times. I watched the videos. I read the magazines. I studies the photographs of watermelon-sized heads pushing through cherry-sized vaginas accompanied by shit and blood and lumpy, white goop. And I had made peace with the thought that I was going to disgrace myself in front of a team of doctors and midwives and my darling Mr D. I was going to have a baby.

Instinct had told me that a birth plan was a stupid idea and my obstetrician had confirmed the hunch. “It becomes nothing more than a list of the things that didn’t happen or a list of the things that stressed you out.” So I had no plan. Only intentions and rough strategies and a clear picture of how it would all go down… No, that’s not a plan, okay?!

Sally MacLeland ran the final of the 100m Hurdles at the Beijing games. Mr D and I stayed up to watch it. She exclaimed in breathless wonder “Are you serious?!” in her post-race interview and The Lion popped his sack. Within 10 minutes the contractions started and from that point on they were so strong I couldn’t talk or stand and breathing was the concerted effort I had anticipated in the latter stages. And they were regular at 5 mins apart. And they didn’t go away completely between them.

“I think I’m having this baby soon,” I said to Mr D and he called the hospital, we went in for a check and they sent me home with some Panadine (that did squat) and the recommendation that I rest up and call back when contractions got to 3 minutes apart.

I did everything right. I spent hours in the bath. I tried walking around the back yard, squatting every five minutes to moan a mantra and breathe. I nibbled on jelly and sipped on cool soups for a second or two in the less intense moments. And I did this all day and well into the next night. A very, very long Step Test training session.

When the contractions hit 3-minutely and my moaning pitch escalated to the distressed moo-ing of a cow, we called the hospital and went in. By midnight they had examined me and declared,

“Congratulations, Nadine, you are four and a half centimeters dilated!”

“Four and a what?! I’ve been… AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH…whooo… whooo… whooo… mmm… mmm… mmm… for 24 hours and I’m not even half-way there?!”

It seems the Lion was back-to-back, back-to-front being the way the little suckers should come out. He was jammed in there like a little champagne cork and he wasn’t budging until he either voluntarily turned around or the doctor got the scissors and cut him out of his packaging. I was no longer part of my body. I needed sleep so badly I wanted to die. They encouragingly told me that I could be doing this for another 24 hours and Mr D came to the fore.

“This is the good advice we said we’d take” and I, incapable of holding myself above the water in the bath, let alone coherent speech, said, “Don… car… nee… slee… nee… slee… nee… slee…. i…i…i…IIIIIII-YAAAAHHHHHHHHH ha-ha-ha-ha-ha… ngggrrr…!”

Epidural. “Whoomp-whoomp-whoomp” of the Little Lion’s heart. Fogginess. My leg fell out of bed at one point and I had to call to Mr D to put it back. Another 8 hours and I was ‘allowed’ to push. But push what where? I couldn’t feel anything, so I pretended. And, it seems I pretended good. In fact, I pretended so good that I catapulted my placenta into the doctor’s chest so hard it splattered his crisp, white business shirt and he fumbled it like a muddy football.

32 hours later and The Little Lion stared at his father for 10 minutes while Mr D cried like a baby. I laughed the hysterical laugh of a drunkard, every single one of my intentions laying shattered on the floor. And we’ve been laughing and crying and laughing again ever since!

Olympics? Piece of cake.

Happy Birth-ing-day

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My favourite café is attached to the organic grocery store near my home. I just love the feeling of relaxed warmth it exudes and I always leave feeling completely energised and inspired to live a ‘connected’ life. Of course, life has a way of eroding that feeling, but I always know I can go back for a top up with a flat white (decaf, of course).

The other day I dropped The Lion off at his one-day-a-week-adventure-at-family-day-care (which he LOVES!) and I stopped in at The Cornerstone. Blossom was complaining loudly that “Two hours between drinks is plenty, thank you!” so I had to get my boobs out somewhere, right?

As I ambled in, I noticed a girl I have met on a few occasions. You know how it is – you’re friendly but not quite a friend; she’s the friend-of-a-friend and you’d love to befriend her but you don’t quite know how to bridge the middle-man?

Anyway, she was there talking with a group of women seated at one of the tables. They were having a raucous laugh and, at a quick glance, I could tell they were all ‘school mums’. I’m still a couple of years off graduating to that rank, so I made the immediate decision not to intrude into what appeared to be the inner sanctum.

But Blossom breaks down all barriers. As I was ordering my decaf, one of the women said “Speak of the Devil! She’s gorgeous! I want another one just like that!” to which friend-of-friend turned, recognised and greeted me with a warm ‘hello’. Inner sanctum reached without graduation. Blossom rules!

These friends were marking one of the women’s “birthing-day”. Her daughter was turning 12 and they were celebrating that incredible rite of passage that all mothers have to go through. And I thought that was pretty great, so I tried it last week end when my Little Lion celebrated his second year.

It was beautiful to just ponder how clever I am, to have a glass of wine and congratulate myself (and Mr D, of course) on our parenting. Whether good or bad, we always try to come from a place of what is best for our kids and, having done two years of that, it was really nice to pat ourselves on the back. I’ve been to the Olympics and trust me, raising kids is bloody hard!

It also reminded me how, on her birthday, my mother always sent her mother a bunch of flowers to say “thanks for having me”. My sister, being naturally sentimental and always the thoughtful one, carried on the tradition. It often made me feel like I was being selfish for not saying “thanks” in the same way on my birthday.

But now, in becoming a mother, I have realised that it’s not about getting a “thanks for the effort” on your child’s birthday. It’s about remembering the incredible gift we have been given as women; the privilege, the effort and strength inherent in becoming parents.

We get so engrossed in making the birthday a magical time for our little ones, a time to show them how glad we are that they came into our lives, that we forget the role we, as parents played in that event.

So, when your little charges next mark another year of growth and development, take some time to celebrate the miracle of motherhood, the journey of fatherhood and that stupendous moment when that little being entered the world and took their first breath.

Just think – YOU DID THAT!

The Olympian has been defeated

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That’s it. Three strikes. I’m out. Michel’s Patisserie is in.

My Olympic spirit, my tenacity and determination not to let two small setbacks crush my hopes, my inner fighter, my gumption, my willpower, my guts have all been defeated by what can only be described as The Most Useless Piece Of Shit Oven On Planet Earth. Good luck to it. I hope it gets all it deserves. I’m not bitter. I’ll just bide my time. The day will come – I will get my own back and That Oven will plead for mercy, will beg to be saved from the tip.

That’s right, you will rue the day you crossed me and my lion cake tin, triumphant one. So enjoy it while it lasts, you Piece Of Crap.

See “Patt-a-cake II” image for an idea of my third attempt. FUCKING OVEN I HATE YOU!!

Over and out.

Patt-a-cake Take Two

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For those of you interested, I consulted with The Little Lion and he agreed that marbling was a bad idea, that an angel vanilla cake would be fine and the emphasis is always on the decoration. So, with his help I had another go.     

Lion tin greasing went without a hitch – I’m bloody good at it now! Emptied packets into mixing bowl – check. Neighbour visited at this point and LL tried to explain that he was baking a cake, so either come in and take part or come back some other day. By the time our chat was over, he was frantic to get on with the mixing.     

Added water to mix and turned electric mixer on – LL finally satisfied that the action had begun. Re-read instructions to ensure correct procedures were being followed. Turned mixer to medium and proceeded to mix (on medium) for 3 minutes. LL decided it was more fun to turn the mixer on and off and on and off and on and off… for 3 minutes, so I made it 4, just to be on the safe side.     

Poured mix into lion tin and placed into pre-heated oven, set alarm to remind me to check oven’s contents and proceeded to clean up. Little Lion helped by pre-licking all utensils and we were packed up and feeling satisfied within 10 minutes. It was at this point that I opened the fridge for a cool bottle of water – baking is thirsty work, I tell you – and swore loudly. The two eggs I was meant to include in the mix stared at me from the fridge door like two horror-stricken eyes.     

I figured 10 minutes in my oven was not enough to set any baking in motion, so I whipped the lion tin out, poured the contents back into the bowl (being careful not to disturb the greased surfaces), cracked the two eggs in and started up the mixer. Little Lion thought all his birthdays had come at once – Who would have thought? Not one, but TWO episodes with the “noi” (translation: “noise” = any electrical tool or appliance that makes a noise, ie: noi bruh = electric toothbrush; mummy noi = electric mixer, eggbeater, food processor, etc; daddy noi = drill, saw, sander, etc; noi mohr = lawn mower).     

This second mix was a short burst on high speed, a lightening pour back into the tin and I whipped that puppy back into the oven. LL had a second helping of batter from all utensils as well as a bonus puddle off the bench where the lion tin had missed the mixing bowl.     

An hour later it was looking fantastic.     

An hour and twenty minutes later, we had done it! It was ready!  

Words cannot describe the feeling…    

At least it tasted good.

 

Whenever you’re feeling down, like the odds are stacked against you, as though the light at the end of your tunnel just went out, look back on this moment and smile – at least you can make a goddamn packet cake, right?! 

As for me, I’m going to lie down.

Patt-a-cake, Patt-a-cake…

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My Little Lion will be 2 on the weekend. I currently have a practise cake cooling on the rack. Go ahead and laugh, I’m not offended. If you could see what is sitting on the kitchen bench, you would understand.

Last year I made the fatal error of outdoing myself with his first birthday cake – you should have seen the piping on top! Masterchef eat your heart out! It was a lion, naturally, covered in shades of orange and brown icing, with a textured mane, chocolate nose and the cutest whiskers you’ve ever seen. It was a masterpiece. But now the bar has been set. WAY too high. And The Lion is destined to have a lion cake forever because I want my money’s worth out of that cake tin!

So this year, as I did last year, I have decided to practise. Fortunately, too.

I am a dreadful baker with an oven that is so inefficient it took an hour and a half to bake the cake that the packet said would take 50 minutes. Yes, it’s a packet cake, so shoot me! I considered the real deal for about 40 seconds before I visualised all that could go wrong. Alas, I was cocky after last year’s packet success and decided to get a bit creative.

The idea was to mix one packet vanilla cake and one packet chocolate cake, then stir it around with a skewer so it became marbled. No, it never occurred to me to buy marble cake mix. Sorry. And the marbling idea was not enough. No. I decided to throw in a few milk chocolate chips into the vanilla mix and white chocolate chips into the chocolate mix. Imagine the effect! A speckled, marbled, scrummy cake in the shape of a lion! A bit of two-tone icing, maybe some coconut and chocolate sprinkles… Genius!

So I greased that tin for all I was worth. Last year’s birthday cake stuck so badly, Mr D had to do a midnight run to Woolies for another two packs of butter cake because I was so frantic that he knew I wouldn’t sleep without a lion cake cooling on the bench. I learned my lesson. I poured the two bowls of mix in with extra care and swirled the two together. I licked the bowls with due diligence (ok, the spatula and egg beaters too, but let’s talk about my exercise and diet regime some other time). And into the oven it went.

I didn’t even burn it. I checked it with a skewer, like you’re meant to. And when it was ready, and only when it was ready, I took it out. It smelled DIVINE! and looked like Betty Crocker had baked it herself. I let it cool, as per directions, for five minutes. I pressed the sides gently to ensure it would just drop out of that well-greased pan. I tipped, gave a little jiggle and lifted the tin.

Nothing.

Wouldn’t budge.

Shook with a little more enthusiasm.

Nothing.

Shook and pressed edges simultaneously.

Movement.

Movement.

Movement.

And there it was! Whole… except for the two centimetre layer that was still casing the bottom of the lion tin. That’s right, the part that makes the strange shape actually look like a lion because that’s where the mane and tail and paws and face and stuff are imprinted!

  

Actually, I lied about the “whole” bit too. The minute it was no longer held together by the tin, it fell apart into eight cakey chunks.

What went wrong?

You mean apart from the marbling that turned vanilla into a grey-looking mush because only after the event did I realise that they required two different baking times?

Or do you mean apart from the chocolate chips that sunk straight to the bottom and made a two centimetre thick smear of putty that couldn’t even be passed off as self-saucing pudding?

Gee, I don’t know.

I’m just glad I have a couple more days to practise.