Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chapter 2-- Mama Guilt

This week I returned to work. 2 days a week. After 12 months at home with Avalon.

I know, I do feel lucky I had those 12 months with her everyday and yet I still have a twinge of guilt as to not being there Tuesdays and Wednesdays from this week forth until... well... I am not sure.

Returning to work was a difficult decision, I could see the pros and cons of returning to work and yet the biggest pro always won out--- the added income.

I don't begrudge working, I honestly don't. I grew up with parents that worked every day, often a 50 or 60 hour week and as the saying goes, 'I am ok.' There is a part of me that wishes I could stay home with my daughter everyday but it is just not viable for our family, we like to be able to 'do' things together, we have a large number of our family overseas who we want to see on a semi-regular basis. If I didn't return to my job we could forget all of that, watch every penny that enters our bank account and not be able to afford things for Avalon that 2 (well... one and a bit) incomes can provide.

I am also aware that if I wasn't working, all financial responsibility for our family would be on Grant's shoulders, and I am just not 100% comfortable with that. Plus, my company offers some great benefits that I think would be hard to pass up.

All that rationale being said-- it was still hard to wave goodbye to my little girl for 18 hours of the week.

I am in the fortunate position that she is being looked after my my Mother in law one day and a trusted friend the next. I also feel fortunate that the great company I work for has allowed me to drastically reduce my hours and still return to work. So yes, I am thankful to be in the position I am.

The week went very well I must say, Tuesday Avalon spent the day with her Granny and had frequent visits throughout the day from her Dad and on the Wednesday she went to Tumble Tots with her friend Owen (and her Aunty Tracy and Uncle Marty) before celebrating her friend Megan's 1st Birthday-- it is possible the girl leads a more thrilling social life than myself. By all accounts, she was fine, no tears, lots of snacks... a little milk and a few naps.

How did I do? If I am honest, I enjoyed it.
It was great to travel on the train into work, having that time to read my book and listen to my iPod... I liked the 15 minute walk to my work, coffee in hand, just as I had done 13 months ago. It was great to see my colleagues and get back into the swing of things--- slowly.... although I think there must be some truth to the theory of 'baby brain.' It will be a slow adjustment.

The best part of my day was walking toward our house at 6pm. Grant and Avalon were in the driveway waving with enthusiasm as I made my way home. I got what I call, 'The Daddy Greeting' and the first thing I did was cuddle up with Avalon on the couch for an extended milky feed.

this song is sex....

Enjoy, lovers....

Avalon's Birth Day

On Monday the 28th March 2010, I saw my estimated due date pass me by.
My only anxiety came from the fact that if I went 14 days past that date I would be 'pressured' with induction at the hospital, thus ending our plans for a natural homebirth. 
With much love and support our wonderful midwife, Helen had assured us that I would not be having this baby in the hospital.
I had what I suspected was a 'show' in bits and pieces over the coming several days and had an appointment with Helen on Thursday the 1st April. She examined me and  said I was 2cm dilated. 
I think that in itself was a huge boost mentally to what lay ahead... 8 more to go and then we would meet our baby girl.
That following night we went to our friends house for dinner, all was well and after a beautiful meal of chilli  fettuccine I started to feel... well... a little odd. 
I couldn't quite figure out whether I felt unwell or not but I just felt strange, jittery and couldn't sit still.
 It was only at about 10pm that night that I admitted to myself this was probably the beginning of labour.

 About 5am on Saturday (3rd) morning I started getting light cramps every  30 minutes, lasting for about a minute, and stayed all day. I felt the cramps (or rushes) come and go ever so faintly, sometimes I wasn't even sure if it was 'anything'. 

Out of curiosity Grant started to time them and we saw a pattern slowly progress. These rushes were by no means painful but we decided to cancel our plans that night with friends and decide stay in. 
I headed to bed that night in the knowledge that I would probably need my stength for the coming day or two
By 10pm the rushes were 20 minutes apart and things really got started at 2am when I noticed they were consistently 7 minutes apart. I let Grant sleep as I knew he would need his rest too and I breathed gently through them, again, they were not painful, and I didn't feel I needed to move around so I  managed to doze lightly but I was too excited to sleep. 
At 5am, I decided that things were feeling a little stronger and I wanted a warm bath while Grant set up the birthing pool in our living room.

After my bath, at about 6am, my rushes were about 5 minutes apart so I started using the TENS machine. 
I am not sure how effective it was in terms of pain relief but it was definitely a distraction. They were feeling stronger but not much more than menstrual cramps. Ironically, Helen, our midwife was arriving at 9am for a scheduled appointment  but she had wanted a call when we were about 5 mins apart as she lived close by and could 'arrange' her day. Grant phoned her at 7am while I was breathing and rocking with the TENS on my back.
 I didn't feel like breakfast although I attempted a piece of toast.
I rocked on all fours on the couch and paced while Grant filled up the birthing pool.

 When Helen arrived at 9am I was having a particularly quite strong rush that was lasting over a minute, I cannot remember if I was humming or not but she entered the living room saying, 'That sounds promising!' She asked me whether I wanted to be checked to see how far I had dilated... I ummed and ahhed but decided to go for it, I was 2 cm dialated when I had seen her the previous Thursday so felt things were moving along nicely. I was so excited when she said I was 6cm dialated. Great news! It felt so good to know I only had 4 more to go and that also I could use the pool- that warm water looked so inviting.

Sinking into the pool was absolute BLISS and even more effective than the TENS. I seriously cannot recommend it enough. After 9 months of feeling so heavy, the weightlessness and warm water was beyond what I had imagined. 
We lit candles and listened to classical music (up until this point we had been watching sky news (?) Grant sat beside the pool while I wallowed; we chatted and I ate pineapple (SUGAR!), drank water and Helen stayed in the dining room writing notes and drinking coffee. 
I loved that our midwife was completely hands off and respectful of my space. 
This was all about our baby, Grant and I. Just as we had imagined- She was there if I needed her but she left us largely to ourselves.

I guess as the rushes or waves got closer together my recollection gets a little hazy. 
I continued with the breathing techniques I had learnt in yoga class; visualisations and most effective, counting the contractions. 
I had read Marie Mongan's book on Hypnobirthing and found it a great resource. I counted out loud through each wave as a distraction when I was having difficulty focusing on visualisations.
Grant was an amazing support and birth partner, he helped me remain focused and reminded me of my breath. 
My yoga instructor Cathy said at every class, 'When you finish a contraction, forget about it, you will never have that one again and you are one step closer to meeting your baby.' I kept that as a mantra running through my head.

Helen checked me again (with my permission) about midday and I was 9cm dilated. 
Ironically, this is when I went into transition and also when I decided to use the entonox. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't. I had actually forgot that I had it available to me as pain relief until it was suggested by Helen at my protests of 'I can't do it.' 
All in all, I used it for 20 minutes before I decided to push. The rushes during transition felt like waves on top of each other but again it was manageable, the warm water and my husband got me through that 20 minutes.
Somewhere previous to this a second midwife, Kealy, had been called (as is law in the UK) and she arrived just as I began to push. In hindsight, I think I was trying to push before my body was ready. As I said, I decided to push instead of just letting my body do what it needed to do.
 At this stage my waters still had not broken.
 I had a lot of difficulty with pushing. I felt like I wasn't 'getting the hang of it.' I know that I had difficulty feeling the rushes at this point (transition/entonox?), I believe this may have been because Avalon was transverse so I wasn't feeling the progression of her moving down. 
This was without a doubt the most difficult part of my labour, emotionally and physically.
I kept changing my positions in the pool to try to get her moving. I even got out for 5mins and tried to push on the toilet at the recommendation of Helen. Before getting back in the pool, I lay on the couch and Helen broke my waters I could feel Avalon's head with my hand. 
I felt what I remember as a sudden drop as I was getting back into the pool... now HERE was an urge to push!
I shut my eyes and breathed her down.
To my surprise it felt more natural to me to be sitting back in the pool and gripping the sides with Grant beside and behind me for support.
The sense of relief was indescribable when I felt her head emerging. All I kept hearing Grant say over and over again was 'Oh my God... Oh My God!" 
I wish I had looked down but I was so in the zone to get her in my arms. 
I can honestly say I did not feel pain as she was crowning and as she entered the pool. That oxytocin has a lot to answer for! (not to mention the water and the perineal massage I had spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy doing.)
Before I knew it, she was in the pool.
I did it.
I was sort of dazed and Helen said 'Take your baby' but I didn't really hear her, I am not sure where I 'went' for the moment but Helen had to scoop her up and put her on my chest. She was born at 2.15pm on Easter Sunday, the 4th April 2010, weighing 8 lbs 9.

Grant was behind me outside the pool and he also wrapped his arms around me and her. We cuddled and I cannot even describe that moment and how it felt ♥
... and then there were 3 of us ♥ ...
It was at least 5 minutes before we even knew if we had a boy or girl as we were too mesmerized with her to even look.
 She came into the world when she was ready and certainly in her own way, we knew she was transverse as every time the midwives listened for the heartbeat they had to keep moving around my stomach as she kept changing her position. Helen described it as she was 'corkscrewing' her way down and of course, she never turned as she came through the cervix.
 She was born on her side with the biggest part of her head coming through. I had a 2nd degree tear  but didn't need any stitching. 
I ♥ being at home.
Because of the tear there was a lot of blood in the pool and on the advice from Helen she wanted to see what was happening so I was given an injection to get the placenta out. This, like a couple of other mentions, was not part of my birth plan. 
We waited for the cord to stop pulsating and then Grant cut it.
The placenta still has pride of place in our freezer. 
At the time I had no clue what I wanted to do with it but I knew I couldn't throw it away. We thought of encapsulation but as time got away from us we have decided to use it to make prints on canvas (just waiting for Avalon to be old enough to join in the fun) and then will plant it.
I was pretty dazed in the hour after her birth, I guess through blood loss and what my body had just been through, I felt quite dizzy when I first fed her and was shivering too. 
Breastfeeding her for the first time was amazing, little did I know it was so much more than just nourishing her with food. I was in love instantly. 
Grant made me honey on toast and some sweet tea and the shiverying/dizziness calmed. Helen left to attend to other commitments (she would return a few hours later to see how we all were) I chilled out with Avalon whilst Grant had the task of emptying the pool.

I cannot underestimate how good it felt to be at home. 
I was so much more relaxed than I would have been in the hospital and I can remember earlier that morning thinking I am so happy I don't have to get in a car and get to a hospital right now, instead, I am wallowing naked in a warm bath.
I very possibly would have given birth with the aid of forceps, or faced a C-section if I had been in hospital. Thankfully, I avoided intervention.
Every woman is different and everyone views birth differently, I had a few reasons why I chose to birth at home but primarily it was finding a place where I would feel most relaxed, safe and secure. For me, that was in our home.I really feel there are no words to describe how amazing the day was. I felt calm, in control, supported, loved and empowered. This day defined who I am more than any other event in my life, from it not only do we have the blessed gift of our daughter but I have found my passion in supporting and empowering women through their childbirth choices. 
For me, choosing to homebirth led to the path of natural and instinctual parenting and in my research of birth choices and discovering my best birth I have met some of the most supportive and amazing women I could ever encounter whom share the same ideals and passions as myself ♥
I felt incredibly calm; this in itself surprises me as it is not a personality trait of mine but I was so determined for our child to be born in a calming and 'warm' environment. 

I honestly felt 'no fear' throughout and I guarantee that my experience would have been so different emotionally had I been in the hospital. In that sort of environment, I do not doubt my memories in terms of pain and experience would have been so different, and nowhere near as positive. 
But that is just me.
I cannot believe that Avalon is almost 1.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girl... we love you to the moon and back xx

The Tao of Motherhood

Everything which endures can
only do so because Eternal
Consciousness gives it a sentience.
A mother who gives herself
completely to her infant meets
herself in the dark and finds
In the hours between midnight
and dawn, she crosses the
threshold of self-concern and
discovers a Self that has no limits.
A wise mother meets this
Presence with humility and steps
through time into selflessness.
Infants know when their mothers
have done this, and they
become peaceful.
Who, then, is the doer? Is it the
infant who brings its mother
through the veil of self-concern
into limitlessness? Is it the
mother, who chooses to hold
sacred her infant's needs and
surrender herself? Or is it the
One, which weaves them both
through a spiraling path
toward wholeness? 
You can sit and meditate while

your baby cries himself to sleep.
Or you can go to him and share
his tears, and find your Self.

~Vimala McClure

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can you feel it?

The air is crisp (not cold!)... the sky is cloudless,bright blue with the odd jet-stream shooting across it... The daffodils are out... the days are longer and pasty white men are shirtless in the streets and in the parks... We will drink Pimms in the afternoon... and listen to the birds...

This is the Great British Summer.

Shall we celebrate?

Sssssssh! Mama's sleeping....

I have been very open with all who know me about our 'sleep' situation.

Our beautiful girl is still waking frequently through out the night, as well as ready to start her day anywhere from 3-5am. It is quite frankly, exhausting (this blog post comes to you bleary eyes, coffee beside me at 5.15am.) We do not have a 'typical night', but Avalon usually goes to sleep about 7-8pm, then will be up about 10pm... 12.30am... 1.30am... well, you get the point. I think we could deal with this night time waking if they were short periods but sometimes she is awake for a good 40 minutes at a time, sometimes she is distressed and crying, sometimes bright eyed and 'bushy-tailed' smiling and chatting- ready to play.

For 11 months now we have soldiered on (is there any other choice?) and just hoped for a day when things will get better. I have watched our friends with babies get increasingly more sleep than we do and it is hard, and maddening at times. We just cannot see why it is so different for us, and have come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, Avalon doesn't 'need' as much sleep as some. Kind of like Einstein... or Thatcher. We are hoping she is following the former.

Please, don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge our situation- totally. As physically tired as I am I still feed her as she needs at night, Grant will frequently rock her until she falls back to sleep, we still co-sleep/bedshare for the most part too, but have decided that I need a night (or two) of 8 hours rest.

I truly cannot remember when that last occurred, certainly not since Avalon was born and possible it was very early in pregnancy as I wasn't sleeping by the end... so yeah, let's go with 18 months since I have had a full nights sleep. I have felt my physically health has been affected by this and certainly my sanity.

Now I don't want you to think I am a victim, I know others who have a similar experience (sometimes for much longer) and often they relish their role. But I have got to a point where I am not doing myself, Avalon or my husband much good- my mood has been affected hugely by this deprivation and it is time to act.

I have been very vocal about the fact that we will only consider what we term 'gentle' approaches to getting more sleep with Avalon; I don't know what else to say except methods such as CIO (crying it out) or Sleep Training are not something that we would consider.... You must stay true to your instincts when parenting, and both of those methods go against what we hold as natural and intuitive to us as parents. Letting her CIO has been suggested many a time by friends (and health professional) and I get they are just trying to help, but it is not for us.

So where do we find ourselves? Well tonight Grant is going to take Avalon and stay with his Mother. I know. Even as I type these words I feel parental guilt creeping in but I NEED this. Last night Grant was begrudgingly sent to the spare room to get a good 8 hours sleep as to prepare for tonight (and maybe appease some of my guilt about missing a night from my family.)

I am absolutely secure by the fact that she will be in her Daddy's arms, being comforted and fed through the night as needed and hopefully tomorrow will feel like an even brighter day for all of us.

I am going to miss her terribly tonight. I have no doubt of that, but I am forever grateful to Grant for understanding that I need this time to rest.

So... my sweet girl, I wish us both a night of rest and I will see you in the morning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Sunshine

Farnham Park... Cemetery... Play ground


Just the two of us.... it was perfection.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Your love... is better than ice cream"

Alice Holt Forest ~ 19th March

So Summer is certainly almost upon us, yesterday was an amazingly sunny and crisp day; jet streams across the blue clear sky and only a light coat required. These are my favourite days.

We started the morning in Guildford with coffee and newspapers at Jo Clarks, a long-time local establishment. As Mother's Day is fast approaching, Grant and Avalon took to the shops in search of something for me- I think my heavy hints of expensive jewellery fell on deaf is, but that is ok, anything they could pick for me is all I could ask for and more.

In the afternoon we headed out to Alice Holt Forest, I went there a few weeks back and thought it was amazing and wanted to show Grant this treasure on our doorstep. He loved it as much as I and a great day was had by all 3 of us.


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