At the beginning of 2018 our youngest started kindy two days a week. It took about a month for her to settle in, and we had the ability to make that transition slow because after all… I am a stay home mum. Once she was happily settled I suddenly found myself with twelve hours a week that I was off duty. After 5 years of parenting 24/7 I had regular time off. It was…weird.
First thing first, I sat down with my husband to ask him what he would like me to do with the time. After all he had been working full time for those last five years and I believed he had at least half a say in what I got up to. He laughed at me and told me to just chill out (all those bitchy mum days paid off!)
Then two different thoughts began to haunt me.
Fear; what if I have this extra time and I still get absolutely nothing achieved besides parenting and barely keeping my head above water? What if I am still stressed and exhausted?
Guilt; Why should I even have time off, I choose this path of stay home mum, shouldn’t I just be doing that? Or shouldn’t I be working to bring money in? Am I doing enough?
Despite these haunting thoughts the weeks began to roll by and I began to find a new routine. My off duty days were sometimes planned and sometimes spontaneous. I found without much effort I managed to balance the time between things that directly benefited the family and activities that nurtured me.
The result has been pretty beautiful.
When I became a mother many of the puzzle pieces that made me just fell away. Things that I cherished, that brought me joy, that gave me purpose. There is a certain loss that happens in those first few years, and a complete shift in identity. I am not complaining about the sacrifice, I do not mean this to sound negative, but I will proudly admit that it is bloody hard. I say proudly because mothers do not always give themselves enough credit for this shift, this change of self. It’s tough cookie stuff.
It hasn’t happened overnight, but slowly I have began to connect with another part of myself. I have had the time to contemplate what feels good in life, what activities enrich our world, what balance is needed to help create better flow. I have reconnected with friends on a deeper level, been able to be there for them more. I have started to play! I am rock climbing again which makes me so freakin happy. I am loving going deeper into yoga practice and mediation. I love exploring how becoming a mum and all the challenges I have faced effects how I tackle other activities. And I get to the end of the day and no longer have the need to escape my exhaustion and emotions by binge watching Netflix…
What makes me really happy is knowing how this balance, this play, this happiness will ultimately affect how I parent. I have had to let go of a few limiting beliefs when it comes to living this way. Let go of the expectations to be doing something that produces money or completes a chore. Have my time to BE BALANCED and through that balance find my happy place…and not feel guilty about that. I feel like we could all do with permission to let go of expectations and find our true balance.
As the different areas in my life are being nurtured I am excited to take that energy and happiness back to my kids, back to my husband. To share that joy of play, whether its my ‘games’ or theirs. Because this has always been my number one goal as a parent, to have children who can feel happy within themselves, doing the things they love, feeling nurtured and connected.
Now I feel like I can show them the way…well, at least the way their mumma finds it.
From the ever so wonderful Kate from Katesurfs, who I met at an attachment parenting playgroup..and am so darn thankful I did.
Today Margo is two days old. One of the midwives told me to write down everything about the birth while I’m still in the hospital and all the memories are fresh in my mind. To start, Margo is THE cutest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother, all the midwives and doctors think she’s a good looking baby too!
I was 7 days past my due date, but that was ok. There wasn’t much for me to do, I worked up until the 4th of March, and she was due on the 8th… Everyone thought I was crazy to be working right up until my due date, but we really needed the money, and I was feeling fine. I was teaching in a school, which had air conditioning, where the kids were really well behaved, so it was okay.
Work was finished, my due date had come and gone,,, but no baby Baltrotsky! Being late was a very good thing, though. It gave me time to scrub the house and rest! After the whole house was scrubbed (as much as you can clean when you have a belly the size of a watermelon and the occasional gumby legs from someone’s cute little head cutting of the circulation to the lower half of your body), there wasn’t much to do except sit around and wait. So, we listened to music, we meditated, we did yoga, we slept and I just waited for her to come. Even after nine months of carrying her around, it was hard to grasp just exactly what was waiting for me when she came out… I couldn’t imagine what she would look like, or even that I would ever even go into labor. I just had this feeling like I would be pregnant forever!!!
I wasn’t even really desperate to get her out, even at a week late. I was really enjoying the pregnancy and I knew that she would come out when she was ready. I didn’t want to be induced, although the obstetrician said it was available. And then finally… the inevitable started to happen…
I was up all night with mild contractions, no sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. I thought for sure I would be in the hospital the next morning and she would be born on the 15th of March, the Ides of March! But, morning came and the contractions subsided a little, I called the maternity ward and they said that was normal and that it could be up to a few days before I went into labor… Art had off that day so we went around town, did some food shopping, and I only had irregular contractions. They were only bad enough that I had to just stop walking and breath a little.
We got home around noon and I made a huge pot of yummy tofu, tomato, bok choy and noodle soup… which we’ll get back to a little later. Took a short nap (I could finally get some sleep!) Then woke up around two I noticed the contractions were getting more regular and more uncomfortable, but I was still suspecting it would be a while before anything happened. The contractions did not subside and got stronger and stronger. I could still walk around in between, but when they came, I had start rocking and completely stop what I was doing. Right around 5pm I thought I would finish off the rest of the soup… big mistake… The contractions kept coming and I went to go meditate to sooth the pain, but the contractions were coming really strong, so it wasn’t really what you would call a deep meditation.
Art was doing his best to make sure I was comfortable, but by around 7pm, I knew things were heating up. I called the midwives and told her what was happening and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw us before the morning. So, I told Art to get in the shower, brush his teeth and pack the car. We didn’t even make until 8pm and the contractions were getting really strong. So, we jumped in the car,,, and Art did his best to hit ever single bump on the five minute journey to the hospital! It was also dark and rainy and a little chilly (end of summer in Australia). There was so much pressure on my abdomen, even when we hit a crack in the road, it felt like we had hit a crater! We got to the maternity ward and I could barely make it out of the elevator or even tell the midwife what was happening. She walked me down the hallway to the birthing room and told me to wait. The room was so big and it was dark out and the maternity ward was quiet and peaceful. Except for the intense contractions, it seemed like I was checking into a high quality vacation… mmm…. sort of….
I’m sure Art hit every pot hole he could manage to find!
The first mid-wife was so cool. Art put a picture of our guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, out on the windowsill and she instantly asked us if that was our guru and how good it was that we meditated, etc. She did a quick check and told me that I was 4-5 cm dilated! She was so proud that I had done so much hard work at home! She said most women come in and are barely 1cm. That made me feel good, like maybe this won’t be so bad after all. We all chatted happily in between contractions and she made us feel really comfortable with our request to have a natural water birth, etc. She filled the tub up, but her shift was about to end.
The contractions were getting really strong now, I had to start doing some breathing to get through them. I had really bad heart burn too,,, that darn tofu, tomato soup! The midwife suggested I get in the shower while the pool filled up so that my muscles could warm up… Art helped me into the bathroom and the second I turned that water on, I barfed up the tofu soup! Not even like I little bit, I mean, like every last drop! It was full on exorcist barfing. Just spewing till there was nothing left! But, oh, did it feel so good to get that out. Art and I laughed in between contractions, and I helped him spray the vomit chunks down the drain. And, oh, the relief! Without the heartburn, now I could really concentrate.
The shower was going okay, but it was getting hard for me to stand up. So, I went to the pool. But, the pool temperature was too hot, so after about 45 min in there, I had to get out because I was overheating and the the baby’s heart rate had jumped. I felt her squirming around in there like crazy! So, the midwife on duty, put me on this stupid monitoring machine. By now it was about midnight and I was exhausted, hardly any sleep in two nights. She then monitored me for something like 5 hours!
This part of the labor was the most intense. I went between the bed and ball for hours, strapped to this stupid machine. It told me the baby’s heart rate and it also showed the intensity of my contractions. It seemed like I was there for an eternity. Eventually, the baby’s heart rate returned to normal and so did my temperature. Art and I were so exhausted, we were both actually falling asleep between contractions! I didn’t want to fall asleep because the sleep was so peaceful and then a huge contraction would come and snap me out of my dozing.
Even the midwife was falling asleep. She was yawning and every once in a while would leave the room for up to an hour and come back smelling like she just had a cup of coffee. They checked my dilation sometime during these 5 hours of hell and said I was 7-8 cm and that they should break my waters to help the birth along. I didn’t want any intervention at all, but I was also exhausted, after 30 or so hours of pre-labor and labor combined, I agreed. After they broke my waters, the contractions changed, they were still as intense, but somehow seemed like they were doing more.
I was still strapped to that stupid machine and would rip off the heart monitor that was strapped to my finger, every time I had a contraction. They also said I was dehydrated and would need an IV! As soon as I heard that, I started drinking like a camel. After each contraction I needed a huge gulp of water. Art’s almost sole job for 5 hours was just to keep filling up my water bottle. With each contraction, I was breathing so heavily, and that’s why I was getting so dehydrated! Anyway, it was one way of keeping Art awake, he was the water boy!
Finally, around 5am, the midwife checked my dilation again, 10cm! Now I could push if I felt the urge, although the midwife seemed reluctant to really let me give it a go. I felt like she would be cheering me on or something.. but no.. she just sat there and did nothing… It seemed like she wasn’t sure if I was fully dilated and the doctor wouldn’t be around for several hours. For some reason, I felt really pissed off at her because I felt like she was holding up my labor because she seemed uncertain. I was probably feeling very unsure of what to do at this point and very very exhausted. She was okay, but I didn’t really feel so comfortable with her, the whole night… (I’ve always heard that babies will not be born if certain unwanted people are in the room).
The pool was still warm from when they first filled it up. After the initial over-heating, I had lost all interest in the pool. To be honest, I couldn’t even imagine that this baby would ever be born! I just thought I might sit there for the rest of my life in labor! The whole experience was surreal. I felt like I wasn’t even there. I could feel the sensations, and I was coherent, but I was in this zone. Who am I? Am I even experience this pain? What is happening? Where am I? It went on like this for hours. Anyways, after they broke my waters, that feeling subsided slighty and I asked if I could go back in the pool because my legs were killing me. My whole body ached. Each contraction required 100% attention and strength from my entire body.
So, into the pool I went. It felt much better and because of the reduced pressure from them breaking my water I felt like it might be over soon. The idea of ‘over soon’ was so vague to me. Would over soon mean that I would have a little baby soon? They kept saying, ‘oh, just wait to you get to see your little treasure’. I still couldn’t imagine holding a baby in my arms, or even picture what she would look like or that an actual baby was going to come out of me! All I wanted to do was to go to sleep! I kept having this thought, ‘I can’t wait till this is over and I can sleep’…. and then I realized what a stupid thought that was… I was going to have a newborn… how was I ever going to sleep?
I spent nearly another 3 hours in the pool doing this wimpy pushing. The midwife told me, when you feel an overwhelming urge to push, do it hard… Well, that didn’t really mean any thing to me, I had no idea what she meant! I really didn’t like her that much, especially now. The sun had come up and and at this point I hadn’t slept much in over 36 hours. I was exhausted and so was Art. In fact, second to dealing with the contractions, my second most strong thought was how bad I felt for Art! He sat there through the whole thing, there for me ever second, whatever I needed. One second he would help me to stand up, the next, I would swat him away when he tried to rub my shoulders… poor thing… he was exhausted too and had to sit through me going through this insane experience! He was really amazing, I can’t imagine having to go through that with anyone else. He was just incredible… what a lucky baby to have a father like that
Anyways, 8am rolls around and we have a new midwife. Thank GOD! Her name was Margaret Mary, in her fifties, very stern, but really sweet looking and all business. I liked her right away. She seemed so in charge and I could tell she really knew what she was doing and (as almost all woman in labor for the first time feel!)! Well, I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t really see her too well, but I could tell that she was my savior! Seriously! I am so lucky that she came. (In hindsight, now I know how incredibly important it is to have a midwife or duola present at your birth, one whom you can trust and whom you know! I often wonder how much faster my labor would have gone if I had had someone there that I trusted).
Olympic sized birthing pool!
She watched me have one contraction and saw that I was not pushing hard enough. I specifically told her that I needed her help and that I didn’t know what to do. So, she told me that the baby was posterior and that I literally had to push you so hard that I turned you around to get you out! She said, ‘Right, here’s what we’re going to do, you’re not going to like it, but it’s what you HAVE to do’. You’re going to get out of that pool and go to the toilet. You’re going to push like hell and on the toilet you don’t have to worry about anything coming out and you’ll be in a better position. Get up now, take big steps and let’s get to the toilet. So, drill sergeant Margaret gets me up and walks me to the toilet.
We get to the toilet and she sits down right next to me and starts bossing me around (and, I liked it). Take a deep breath, hold it and you’re going to bear down like you have to take the biggest poo of your life. You’re pushing your baby out literally with the muscles in your diaphragm. As soon as she told what I had to do, I immediate got pissed off at the last midwife who might have been able to tell me that information a few hours ago! Then, I thanked Margaret for telling me what to do, I pushed, and my God, I finally felt your head start to make it’s way down! I was like ‘YEAH! This is it! This is how I get my baby out!’ So, she kept talking me through each contraction. ‘Wait for it to build, now push, hold your breath, and push, like this, for ten minutes.’ Finally, I felt some progress. It burned so bad, but I knew it was finally happening! I reached and could just feel the top of your head.
Oh, and a little comic relief walked in at this point… here I was sitting on the toilet, naked as the day I was born, and in walks the OB, Dr. Doolabh, who was going to deliver the baby. He was doing his morning rounds, all dressed nicely. ‘Oh… hello’, I said, all smiley, in between bearing down with a contraction. Margaret Mary said, ‘she’s doing awesome, she’s had no drugs and don’t go far because this baby is about to come out.’
Then, drill-seargent Margaret Mary said, ‘Right, you’re not going to have this baby on the toilet, you’re going back to the pool!!!!! The pool felt like it was three miles away. How could I WALK to the toilet with a baby’s head practically hanging out of me!? ‘I can’t do it!’. I said. ‘Oh yes you can,’ says Margaret Mary. And, you’re going to take BIG steps to get there! She was awesome. She we walked to the pool and I got in and laid back. Did I forget to mention how much it burns to have a baby’s head coming out of your vagina?! She told another midwife to call back the OB because this baby was coming out!
I laid back in the pool so content, yet, in so much burning pain. Then, Margaret Mary gets out this big flashlight and Art gets his camera out to take some illegal video. She talked me through a few more contractions, telling me to listen to her, and not push all at once. I could really feel her head now. I just wanted to push her out, but I was listening to Margaret Mary. One more gigantic push and her head came out and oh what a relief! I could see the back of the little head with all of this goopy stuff floating on it. She was submerged under water. I was in bliss,,, don’t ask me how you can be in bliss with something the size of a melon hanging out of you,,, but I was. The rest of the body had to come out though.
They said to wait for the next contraction. It felt like 5 minutes went by, although, it was probably only 30 sec. I really really wanted to push her out! But, there was no contraction coming! I kept asking, can I just push her out? They said, to try and wait for one. But, nothing was happening! Finally, Dr. Doolabh, in his friendly Indian accent said, ‘just give a small push and see what happens….’ I gave a little push and she came flying out!
Dr. Doolabh just helped me a little to catch her and bring her above the water and there she was! Right in my arms! The cord was a little short and I wanted to bring her right up to my chest, but she was a little stuck at the water line. And, she was soooooo beautiful. Her eyes were wide open and she was looking all around, so alert! I wanted to wait to delay the cord cutting, but it was so short, and I think they were a little concerned… so they clamped it and Art cut it. Then, we could really see her and I brought her up to my chest. I couldn’t believe how perfect she looked! I took a quick look at all her little body parts, and all I saw was this beautiful baby! It was incredible. I was just crying and laughing, the past 36 hours didn’t mean a thing!
I had so much energy right after. I climbed out of the pool, not even using the stairs with the cord still hanging out and the placenta needed to come next. I hoped on the bed where they put her on my chest, all covered in mucusy bloody stuff and she was just divine. I did consent to getting a shot, which helps to deliver the placenta faster, and helps to stop bleeding… I was so over being all natural at this point! She was so alert and so content. We sat there for about an hour just staring at her… infact, at the time of writing this, she’s about 4 days old and we are still sitting around and staring at her… She did the whole breast crawl thing, that was amazing! We took a good look at the placenta, that was really cool. I was just smiling and crying, we were all doing great. Even her little head, that had been squashed for hours to get through, was in perfect shape. All the midwives later that day kept asking if you were a caesar, and proud me, said, ‘Nope, waterbirth’!
After all that, we had our little Margo and we were in love! She was gorgeous and healthy. My whole body was aching from hours and hours of labor and I had a little bit of grazing (think gravel rash… eww…), but no tearing. But, no matter how long and crazy the labor had been, I would do all again if I had to.