When I was 31 I was adamant that I was never going to have children. I had been through the panic stricken ‘my life is over when I turned 30′ phase and was enjoying spending time with my new partner Julian. That same year during a visit to the Melbourne zoo, I clearly announced (somewhere between the bird aviary and gorilla enclosure) that I didn’t think I was put on this earth to have children, nope I said, it wasn’t my particularly destiny in life. As soon as these words left my mouth and as if by some fateful twist a little two year old girl ran past me, tripped over my feet and fell into a heap. She looked up at me, and started crying hysterically. I took this as a sign that my words were prophetic, no children for me.
Move forward seven years to 38. Why is my biological drive not doing its job and urging me to procreate? Is the maternal desire that women often talk going to somehow bypass me? I visualise what my life in 10 years would be like without children. Probably more money, definitely more freedom and more passport stamps. But how quickly those things seem empty and unsatisfying as we journey through our 30′s, the desire to simply experience life from event to event being replaced by a desire to create, shape and nurture, and a need for family, community and greater connectedness with life. So with that in mind we decide to leave the fate of my uterus to the universe and a digital thermometer and sure enough, the universe responds very quickly. Perhaps that event at the zoo all those years back was a sign of having children after all.
Approximately one month BC (before conception) I visit my mother and spy a painting in her art room. Her art is usually abstract, but this is a little different to her usual work, a stylised sun in the left hand corner with three figures floating towards the sun’s rays. She explains that it was as though someone had taken over her hand as she painted, and that it was Julian and myself and one other. Oddly enough, I had not mentioned baby making plans to her, in fact for many years she had been warned to not expect grandchildren, so I feel this painting is quite significant perhaps a prediction of sorts.
We have only been trying for a month or so but yesterday my period was three days late. Most women wouldn’t think anything of a three day late period. However, in all my period history I have never been even one day late so this means it’s pregnancy test time. Thinking back to when I was 19 and I was convinced I was pregnant to my first boyfriend, the very idea made me feel sick so a negative outcome was a cause for celebration, but of course this time is very different.I knew I would be disappointed to see a “-” but at the same time I was convinced that it was impossible to nail it so quickly so I tried to rationalise the outcome and convince myself not to be disappointed if the results are negative. The ‘+ ‘sign appeared almost immediately. Wow 100% pregnant! I decide to take the test again but there is no mistake. that ‘+’ sign that that I once associated with mathematics now means so much more.
Week 5, 25 April
I have a big secret, there is something growing inside me that is the size of a pin head and I can’t tell anyone about it. However, it doesn’t take long before people become suspicious. Note to self, switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee triggers suspicion.
Week 6, 2 May
I have constant hot salty food cravings. Mostly I fantasize about making love to a hot potato cake. It’s possible that I will gnaw off Julian’s arm in my sleep. How can a thing a size of a tic tac me make me feel so ravenous? End of week 6 and the nausea has kicked in. It’s milder than what I thought and thank God nausea’s constant companion, vomiting, has decided not to join me. There are certain smells that are repulsive beyond words and a trip down the meat section of the supermarket sets me into fits of dry retching. Oddly enough, the owner of the cafe at my work asked me if I was pregnant today, how on earth could she know this? Do I have it stamped on my forehead?
Week 7, 9 May
Well tahini is off the menu indefinitely. This week I decide to beef up on my calcium enriched foods and go straight for the hard core unhulled version. After taking a greedy spoonful of the tahini paste, I decide that eating soap is probably tastier. Tahini is now on my blacklist. Although I feel nauseous I am still extremely ravenous, it’s a really unusual experience. Being pregnant is like smoking pot without the pot, you always have the munchies.
Week 8, 16 May
Planking is the new craze in town but who cares, I really want to eat lime jelly. I had my first visit to the obstetrician today. Turns out that we will be $4999 out of pocket.. yum how much lime jelly does $4999 buy? Went to my friends house for dinner this evening, she too asked me if I was pregnant. Must remember to remove that sign from my forehead.
Week 9, 23 May
First scan today (they call it a ‘feasibility’ scan – how very humanless). I am feeling quite nervous about it all, but feel reassured when I see a little blob thing moving around. Blob’s heartbeat is ticking at a normal 163 beats per minute – more importantly I decide that blob is really more bean-like, a kind of lentil in fact. From here on end, the blob is now called ‘Lentil’. Wow, we are going to be a family, a husband, wife and a Lentil and oh a golden retriever (sorry Gypsy, my first four legged baby!). I can’t wait to tell mum, she will never ever believe that I am going to have a Lentil around Christmas time! Deck the halls with boughs of lentils, Fa la la la la la la la la….
Week 10, 30 May
This secret is really hard to keep and it feels like I have to keep it quiet forever! People really notice everything especially laying off the alcohol. It’s not like I am a big drinker anyway but when you have guests over for dinner and you don’t drink their expensive wine I guess it’s grounds for suspicion. Maybe I should just pour myself a glass of red cordial and pretend it’s Wolfblass Grey label Cabernet Sauvignon instead? I have two weeks to go until the magic 12 week scan. It’s a strange business this pregnancy stuff. Anything could go wrong with the baby and I’m trying to remain emotionally detached just in case something does goes wrong. In an odd way I’m scared to want this child too much so that if the worst happens it won’t be too much for me. But then why do we have to be so scared of our emotions? Why can’t we be over the moon and shout it to the world and then if something bad happens will this really make a difference to my emotions, I doubt it. We decide to spill the beans (or in this case the lentil) to our parents this week. So in typical Katherine and Julian fashion we play a little game. Off to my mum’s first. We show her a close up picture of my positive pee test on a stick and ask her to guess what it is. At first, she thinks it’s some sort of technology gadget that Julian is promoting and filming, then it dawns on her. Why bother explaining her reaction when you can see it for yourself.
Off to my dad’s to share the news, out comes the picture and the guessing game starts all over again. Oh what fun this is.
I know this sounds like a contradiction but when I thought I didn’t want children, the other part of me knew that if I was going to a have a child one day, then she would be a girl. I was sure from the moment I was pregnant that Lentil was a girl. So, imagine my surprise and disbelief when I did an early home gender that claims to be 90% accurate (green means boy and orange means girl) and the results came back green. Julian was convinced that the test was right. I on the other hand still firmly believe that Lentil is orange and the test is wrong.
Week 11, 6 June
On the matter of boy versus girl, we are now adjusting to the fact that Lentil might be a boy. I still can’t accept that I am wrong but at the same time I don’t want to be one of these people that have a preference and then get really disappointed when they find out what the sex is. I know that I ultimately will not care if Lentil is a boy or a girl but it’s just that I have this feeling that Lentil is a girl, how can I be wrong? Julian is already excited about the prospect of teaching young Lentil how to mountain bike, four-wheel drive and climb mountains at the ripe old age of two.
Week 12, 13 June
Well the day of the magic 12 week scan has finally arrived. I almost stop breathing when I see Lentil for the first time (not in blob form) doing a head-stand like a little yoga guru. It’s a very surreal experience. For the last few weeks I have known that a life is growing inside of me but I have not really been able to see it, the scan makes this connection. You can see the little profile, the nose mouth, limbs and bone development. Funnily enough the sonagrapher announces that although it’s too early to tell for sure, she thinks Lentil is little girl! Ha, so much for the stupid gender pee test!
The 12 week scan is done in conjunction with a blood test that is taken at 10 weeks. The results of are matched up to determine your risk of having a Down’s Syndrome baby. I have yet to receive the results of my blood tests but decide to break the news to everyone at work and a few more people in my close circle of friends and family after being told by the sonographer that Lentil is growing beautifully and that all the measurements show no signs of Down’s Syndrome. Then comes the phone call. As soon as the voice on the other end of the phone tells me that she is a genetic counsellor, I know that she is going to tell me that my blood test results are crap. I try to remain calm as she explains that my results estimate that I have a 1/132 chance of having a Down’s baby and although statistically the chances of having a Down’s baby are actually relatively small, I still feel like it’s the end of the world. The counsellor explains that they usually recommend further testing for anything under a result of ’200′ and to call my OB to discuss this further. My OB is very good in a practical and informative sort of way. He explains that I have a couple of options by way of further testing and that I could consider:
1. CVS (ChorionicVillus Sampling) that involves inserting a needle into the placenta which carries a risk of infection and miscarriage but can be performed earlier in the pregnancy than any other type of testing.
2. Amniocentesis which involves inserting a needle into the amniotic fluid to collect a sample. Although this test is safer than a CVS), there is still a 1% chance of infection and miscarriage.
Great, a choice between a shitty test or a shittier test. Not to mention the irony – imagine finding out Lentil is healthy only to have Lentil die as a result of the procedure? Then there is the issue of Down’s Syndrome, what if the test comes back positive? Julian and I had both initially agreed that we would not go through with the pregnancy if that was the case, but then could I really go through with a termination? Or what if I decide not to go through with the test, could I stand not knowing? Dilemma after dilemma. In the end, we decide to find out and then see how we proceed forward so we book the procedure.
The morning of the procedure, I crack a joke about how great it would be if the specialist says everything looks fine and there is no need to go ahead with the procedure. However, I really never expect this would be the case. Essentially our very clever sonographer/doctor talks us out of the procedure. This is especially surprising given we live in such a litigious society these days and can sue a doctor for accidentally shedding an eye lash during a routine check up.
The doctor is running almost two hours behind time for our appointment and this makes me even more anxious. When it’s our turn he shows no signs of pushing us through quickly, a good sign. He patiently explains everything to us, what the stupid blood test numbers mean, why the blood test system is not a very good measure of Down’s Syndrome, and how it is only used in this way here in Australia. The doctor also explains the risks of undergoing the procedure and finally he performs an extremely thorough ultrasound to check for the signs of Down’s Syndrome – not only does he recheck Lentil’s measurements again, but also checks for specific heart wave patterns and everything appears to be just fine. Julian and I with mutual relief decide that we don’t want to go through with the CVS. The doc has basically told us that there are no signs of Down’s Syndrome and that is good enough for us.
Week 13, 20 June
Things are back on track now. As much as that whole Down’s Syndrome thing stressed me, it also made me realise something very important, that I could never go through with terminating a pregnancy unless there was a major problem and even then I wouldn’t know if I could go through with it. After seeing a little life growing inside of me there would be no justification for terminating a Down’s baby. I now refuse to interfere with how Lentil is supposed to arrive into this world. Besides, there are so many other problems Lentil could have for example, Lentil could be autistic, dyspraxic, or even worse, Lentil could turn out to be an arsehole.
Week 14, 27 June
Water works week, I cry every day and everywhere. Going to a birthday party is a huge mistake. My senses go into overdrive, the music and talking is amplified by my screwed up hormones, I desperately need to escape so I plonk myself on the couch with a bunch of women in their twilight years thinking that it would calm my mind. The Flintstones are on television, what more could I ask for? Clearly it is not meant to be the escape I had expected. A lady with dementia asks me why I am not mingling with the crowd. When I explain that I am pregnant and tired, she nods her head in sympathy and five minutes later proceeds to ask me the same question, even suggesting that I go find myself a nice young single man. After the fifth time she asks me this question, I keep my eyes focused on Fred Flintstone and just nod my head politely. Then the other women join in, looking at my sympathetically as though I have some sort of disability asking me if I want this or that, some food or drink perhaps. NO! I just want to scream, tell them to shut up and leave me alone in peace to watch Fred and Barney bowl but it just keeps getting worse and worse until it happens. The lump in my throat forms, my eyes swell – shit I am about to lose it in front of all these people. The tears erupt in front of a bunch of strangers on the couch. At that moment I just want to go home and I tell Julian that I just want to leave, but his friend who’s wife is having the birthday insists we at least stay to cut the cake. Under ordinary circumstances, this would be a reasonable request but on this occasion it was like asking me to swallow 100 safety pins and to be honest that would have been the preferred option. There is no way I am going to stay a minute longer. I am a cataclysmic wreck for the entire week. I even cry when my mum tells me that she remembers the name of the doctor that delivered me, Dr Lorna Lloyd-Green – thanks to google, it turns out that she was a pretty remarkable women and quite the pioneer… where are my tissues?
Week 15, 4 July
Lentil is growing in my tummy and I realise that although pregnancy is common, it’s still an extremely amazing , mysterious and miraculous and very personal experience. I feel like the first pregnant woman!
Week 16, 11 July
Thanks to Lentil, I have my first cold in years. Lentil must be sucking all the vitamin and minerals out of me like a little leech.
I go in for a 16 week interim diagnostic scan and bring mum along with me. I think she would get a buzz out of the experience, particularly because there were no such scans availability in the 70s when she was pregnant with me. Although we were told at 12 weeks that Lentil is probably a girl Julian remains unconvinced and this time around the sonographer is confident that she can identify Lentil’s sex if she (or he according to Julian) is in an ideal position. So we decide to ask the sonographer to write down the sex of the baby on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope. The plan is to go out after work, have some dinner and open the envelope. But when the sonographer announces that she can easily identify the sex of the baby our plans for waiting until that evening to open up the magic envelope fly out the window and we ask her to tell us there and then. “Can you see what this is?”, she asks pointing to some obscure body part. Is she kidding, there is no way I can distinguish Lentil’s arm from her leg let alone realise that she is standing on her head like a little yoga guru (again!) and so the sonographer has a clear view and announces that Lentil is a girl! Ha, I knew it. Apparently,Lentil is developing just like a baby out of a text book. Normally the idea of any text book would bore me to tears but in this case, these words are very reassuring.
Week 17, 18 July
I have a little book that I use to scribble down notes and things and a page is dedicated to baby names. As I think of possible names, I just scribble them down. Boys are very difficult, so far I like Griffon but Julian tells me ‘Griffon’ does not sound good with ‘Carson’.. apparently there is a ‘ON’ and ‘ON’ problem. Well at least we don’t have to worry about boys names, although I think I should have a boys name up my sleeve just in case! As far as girl’s names go, I am quite fond of Ginger, Ruby, Alice, Annaleise, Annabel, Lilly, Miranda.. hmm nothing really feels right though. Then one day, the name just comes to me – Matilda Maeve Carson. Matilda, of German origin means ‘powerful battler’ and Maeve, Irish in origin means ‘the cause of great joy’ or ‘she who intoxicates’. Of course German and Irish names have really nothing to do with my Greek heritage but there is no way that I am going to call my child, Toula Voula, Fatoula or Soula (sorry mum). We also toy with the idea of having Maeve as the first name but come to the conclusion that everyone would think we have named our daughter after a colour and she would be forever known as ‘Mauve’. The thing I love about Matilda is that it is one of many of my favourite books written by my all time favourite children’s author Roald Dahl, the character Matilda is a little girl with extraordinary powers. All seems quite fitting to me!
Week 18, 25 July
So we have come up with a boy’s name (like I said just to be on the safe side). Zachary Alexandar Carson . Of course it’s such a clever name because all of the first letters of each name spell Zac and Alexander was my grandfathers name (Alexandros Maniatakis).
Week 19, 1 August
Feeling flutters in my tummy, and not the kind of flutters you feel when you are going on out a first date, I think these are Tilly flutters. How awesome!
Week 20, 8 August
Ok this is definite Tilly movement, my tummy is starting to pop out now but my clothes still fit. No maternity clothes yet, wahooo! My 20 week scan reveals that Tilly is a little wriggle worm and is thankfully growing according to plan. Oddly enough she looks exactly like Julian, or is it just a coincidence? Julian worries that Matilda will inherit his big nose, one can’t help but worry about physical attributes such as big noses at a time like this!
Week 21, 15 August
Another cold! Two in a matter of months, this is all new. It seems to be a pregnant thing, from what I have been reading, pregnant women complain about all sorts of things like bleeding gums, haemorrhoids, varicose veins so I should be happy with just a cold. It’s also been said that the second trimester is supposed to be the easiest. I have given up with ‘they say’ and have come to the conclusion that everyone has a unique pregnancy experience. Put headphones on my tummy – get an instantaneous wriggle reaction from Lentil, she either loves jazz…or hates it!
Week 22, 21 August
I am convinced that my tummy is getting bigger although Julian reckons it looks like I have just been eating too many chicken dinners. Humph, what would Julian know anyway. My friend Amber’s baby girl, Stella Rose arrived on the 24 August. This is a really special time because it’s the first time I have shared a pregnancy journey with a friend and when little Stella arrived, it feels like a part of me had given birth too.
Week 23, 29 August
My dad has been dishing out some very interesting pregnancy advice. Apparently I should drink lots of milk to ensure that I have enough breast milk to feed Tilly. Quite clearly if one sat down to do the numbers, it would be obvious that drinking lots of cow’s milk does not equal lots of breast milk. That’s the type of advice I would expect my grandmother to give me along with her old gems that chewing gum sucks all the blood out of your body and that butter heals burns. My mother is overly doting and affectionate and has created a ‘count down’ calendar which is stuck to her wall and gets crossed off each day. Each week mum emails with much excitement to tell me that Matilda is now this many weeks old. Mum’s just a little excited I think.
Week 24, 5 September
Matilda’s room is well underway. In typical Katherine style, I decide to avoid a nursery that looks like it’s come straight out of a magazine with matching everything. Besides I don’t think Matilda is going to notice that her white cradle does not match her timber change table. It’s true what they say, don’t go out and buy baby paraphernalia because as soon as you tell people you are pregnant, you get literally showered with baby stuff, cots, bedding, cradles, clothes, clothes and more clothes. Our bank balance thanks us! Figuring out what to buy is a very confronting experience, especially making a decision on a pram, whoever thought buying a pram could be so difficult. Perhaps I can just wheel her around in a wheelbarrow instead? People say that having a puppy is good practice for having a baby. Rubbish I say, how many dogs do you see being wheeled around in prams? Have you ever changed a dog’s nappy or installed a doggy seat in the back of your car?
Week 25, 12 September
Totally given up on reading books pregnancy books, I don’t need to know anymore about preeclampsia, premature labour, birthing plans and breastfeeding plans. Why bother reading ‘What to expect when you are expecting’, when Roald Dahl is far more interesting to read out loud to Matilda. Sleeping is like an Olympic sports event, turning over in bed is like running a marathon and there is a world shortage of pillows because I have them all and tuck them under my various body parts.
Week 26, 19 September
I used to really enjoy our daily hill walks, now I find them equivalent to hiking up the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I remember on the first day of our Mount Kilmanjaro trek, our guides showed us how to walk poli poli (slowly slowly). At the time, I thought walking at snail pace was ridiculous but I soon learnt that this was the best way to tackle a mountain in high altitude. Who ever thought I would be applying the poli poli principle to pregnancy but hey it works and I can still manage to walk up those hills and plan to do so until the very end.
Week 27, 26 September
Matilda is clearly enjoying resting her butt on my bladder, maybe this is her way of bonding with me? I counted 15 trips to the toilet in one day, quite impressive. Getting really sick and tired of pulling my pants up and down, maybe it’s just worth wearing nappies instead, at least that way I can get used to how they work.
Physically I am still feel pretty good although some days I feel a little NQR. My OB says everything is as it should be – normal blood pressure, Tilly is growing as she should be and the occasional twinges and jabs that I have been complaining about are normal. My favourite pain is the one where I experience a hot poker like sensation under my right rib cage, it’s so bad that for a few seconds I can’t breathe.
Beware the internet, it’s full of contradictions, sleep on your left not your right the wise sages online tell us, but my OB assures me that I can sleep anyway I want. This sleep thing is getting even more impossible, I went out and bought a body pillow to try, now it looks like there are three people sleeping in our bed instead of two!
Week 28, 3 October
Initially I was excited about having larger boobs as a result of being pregnant, that was until my tummy outgrew my boobs and now it’s no longer a novelty. What I find strange about having larger boobs is that often when I am drying myself after a shower they stick to my tummy when I bend over- weird. Spring cleaning is at the forefront of my mind, now that it’s getting warmer the sun is shining though our house and I notice the dust, spider webs and dirty windows. How can I be a fit mother if I can’t keep clean windows? This week I have a dizzy spell and nearly faint when Julian drops me off at work, quite scary but the OB assures me that this is quite normal, especially in the third trimester with all the blood gushing around and what not. Apparently I am producing double the amount of blood or something insane like that. Thank God vampires don’t really exist. Tilly, you will be glad to know that mummy does not have the onset of gestational diabetes and her vitamin D levels are good. The only thing is that mummy’s iron levels are a bit on the low side but that is OK, apparently it’s common for iron levels to drop in the third trimester because you need all my vitamins…OK I take it back, there are such things as vampires!
Week 29, 10 October
This week the shortness of breath, indigestion and fatigue have kicked in. I suppose it doesn’t help when Julian and I argue about ‘the walk’. It all starts when I suggest we go for a leisurely walk but make it quite clear that I want to walk the short circuit. We invite our neighbours to come along and when it comes time to turn the corner and make our way back, Julian asks whether we should extend the walk a little. At that precise point I should have shoved my pride up my pregnant belly but I was too embarrassed to say no even though I knew this was going to be a tougher walk. So I shut my mouth and keep walking, the tiredness gets worse and the anger builds with every step, especially up that last hill. Poli Poli doesn’t even save me. By the time we get home 1.5 hours later, I am fuming but so exhausted that I put myself to bed at around 7.30 pm. The next morning I am so grumpy and tired that all I can manage to do is sit on the floor and cry and this leads to a hormonally charged fight with Julian because naturally ‘the walk’ was all his fault. Constantly finding fault with your husband is yet another pregnancy symptom.
Week 30, 17 October
Feel like I have achieved a milestone, I have some sense of safety and relief knowing that Matilda has a good chance of survival if she is born now, although she has been ordered to stay in the tummy until she reaches full term. I feel as though I have been pregnant for a life time.
Week 31, 24 October
How peculiar, washing and preparing clothes for a baby that has not yet arrived. Her little socks are so small that they get stuck in the rubber section of the front loader. Julian and I attend a breastfeeding course, the highlight of the course is when a hippy couple speak about their preference to raise a nappy free child. This creates visions of racing down the hallway holding a butt naked Matilda while Gypsy our Golden Retriever trails after us waiting to feast on some baby poo. Um, no thanks. I’m convinced that Tilly went to a rave party on Saturday night and took some speed, she jiggled around all night and kept me awake.
Week 32, 31 October
I had such bad calf muscle cramps during the night that I thought I was going into labour. Then I remembered that labour cramps start in the uterus and not the legs! This week my tummy is so hard that I am contemplating whether Tilly is in fact a rock rather than a human. I call my OB in panic thinking that Tilly’s rock like behaviour is abnormal but he assures me that I am having Braxton Hicks which are normal contractions that are keeping my uterus in good condition. I feel relieved to hear that Tilly is not a rock after all.
Week 33, 7 November
All this energy and what to do? Julian is exhausted so we think that somehow Magical Matilda is transferring my symptoms to Julian. My OB, assures me that Matilda is on track and things are looking tip top and Matilda is now head down – that’s my girl.
It’s always the same conversation with my OB.
OB: So how are things going?
Me: Good good.
OB: That’s good, any vaginal bleeding?
OB: Good, good
OB: Let’s check your blood pressure – Good, good very good, OK let’s check your tummy – measurements are perfect, heart beat good.
OB: OK so we will see you soon, have you got any questions?
Me: No, not at this stage
And that is what we pay are $5K fee for! But let’s face it I wouldn’t want the conversation to ever go any other way.
Week 34, 14 November
A growth scan reveals that Matilda is going to have a lot of hair but it’s certainly no surprise given that I was born with a luscious crop! Apparently she is going to be fairly small – in the 25th percentile which means that 75% of babies are bigger than her. The sonographer reports that her tummy is a little on the small side but can’t work out whether it was because she is squished and distorted. This is my last week of work. I have been gearing down for a while now but this week is exceptionally hard. I feel like I have been in limbo, a cross road of sorts, leaving one world to enter another world and have really no idea what the new world holds for me (except a baby with a fine crop of hair). After much contemplation, I decide to host a ‘baby shower’. I dispense with the traditional games and inject some meaning into the event instead. My friend Lisa conducts a little baby blessing as a type of initiation into motherhood and we all sit in a circle and pass an orange around (not just a piece of fruit in this case but a symbol of fertility and new life). Everyone is asked to hold the orange and share something with me, an experience about pregnancy or childbirth or just expressing good wishes for the birth of Matilda. The highlight of the event is my mum who never fails to entertain, you just never know what to expect from her colourful personality and she certainly delivers a brilliant performance. During the gift opening session she unveils a giant box with a trillion presents and proceeds to spend the next 30 minutes explaining each item in great detail to the guests. The box is bottomless, not only does it contain items for Matilda but also items from when I was a baby (I love the fact that Matilda will be wearing my retro 70′s baby clothes). Mum saves her pièce de résistance until last, a painting for Matilda’s room that she had been working on for months. Did I ever mention how excited my mum is about the arrival of her grandchild?
Week 35, 21 November
The lady of leisure time (maternity leave) officially begins and I am already feeling relaxed even though I have made a ‘maternity to do list’ that is a mile long. But it feels different then having a week or two off because this time I know there is no great rush to do everything. The conversation with my OB is a little different this time around as we speak about Tilly’s tummy issues. He explains that she is in the normal percentile in terms of overall growth but her stomach is in the 5th percentile which means she needs some monitoring to make sure she is growing properly. He takes no time to get onto the phone and books me in the very next day for heart rate monitoring as well as an umbilical and placenta check at Monash Hospital. Matilda certainly puts on a show during the heart rate test, wiggling and jiggling and writhing around like a little worm, I think she has gone insane but the midwife seems pleased with this level of activity. All the tests are normal so far, next week I am booked in for another growth scan so hoping that this will tell us more about the state of Tilly’s tummy but I don’t feel especially concerned and this is not like me at all. Usually I am the one that googles and stresses about these things but I have learnt there is no value in doing so. As I said earlier on, I can’t stop how Tilly chooses to come into this world. Furthermore, I can’t stop when she is going to come into this world – so I better put the Xmas tree up in case Santa decides to add one more name to his list!
Week 36, 28 November
I am truly in holiday mode. Normally my tasks are undertaken in an orderly and efficient manner, that is I start from home and move onto the next destination aiming to complete everything as quickly and painlessly as possible without taking any unnecessary detours. Not anymore, it’s now a leisurely affair. Some days I drive to the shops, return home, pick up the dog, go down to the cafe for a latte and sandwich, drive back home, drop the dog off, go back to the shops, visit mum, I just drag out the activities for as long as possible. Mostly, it’s because I don’t want to get bored, I realise that I need to keep moving and I can only sit on the couch and read a book for an hour or so before I get restless. I don’t have much desire to sleep, I once had an afternoon ‘nana nap’ but felt terrible upon waking so nana naps are now officially banned. Matilda is again ‘foetal monitored’ this week. Everything is normal – I like normal for once.
Week 37, 5 December
My OB is happy with Matilda’s growth and explains that her brain probably developed faster than her stomach and her stomach is now catching up. I tell Julian that I probably overloaded her brain with too much reading and music. For some reason my dad dismisses the fact that Matilda’s name has been carved in stone and suggests other names like Nicole or Jessica because they are far ‘sexier’ than Matilda. He has also believes that Matilda will be born on the 17 December, hopefully he is not right otherwise I might just have to think of changing her name to something sexy!
This year, I am certainly getting into the Christmas spirit and baking. Well I am not sure if rum balls are considered baking, but for me this is a unusual. I am also getting all crafty and have purchased some owl swap cards from the 70s and have put them in a frame for Tilly’s room. Hmm owls and ‘nesting’. Interesting pun!
Oddly enough when people find out that the baby is due around Christmas, the first thing they say is ‘Oh, I hope she doesn’t come on Christmas day because that means she will only get one present each year’. I think this is a strange thing to say. Firstly, who cares what day she arrives, as long as she is born healthy. Secondly, who really cares about the present thing? It just goes to show how truly westernised we are. Why are we so ‘presents’ focused? Most people in the world get nothing, western society is indulgent so Tilly, come out around Christmas, it just means that Santa adds you to the top of his list!
Week 38, 12 December
One year has come and gone in a flash as Julian and I celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. In a blink of an eye so much has happened. Usually December is the time that Julian and I take some extended time off work, and fly off to some exciting or exotic holiday destination which also means that we escape Christmas duties. This year is just a little different, obviously we have a duty of a different type that we can’t avoid but instead of an exciting holiday package we get an exciting baby package!
My dad is going a bit nutty and insists that we ‘Greekify’ our child by sending her to Greek school and Greek dancing lessons. I decide to zip my mouth until he announces that the Greek priest is going to find it problematic when he converts Matilda’s name into a Greek one during the baptism ceremony. My mouth zipper breaks when I tell him that we are not baptising our child and all hell breaks loose. I guess this happens when two people from different cultures have children but I never expect my father to be so passionate about all this Greek stuff. After receiving a dose of ‘you should be ashamed of yourself for not baptising your child’, I firmly explain to my dad that Julian and I are not in the least bit interested in upholding this particularly tradition because we never attend church, and believe christening our child is hypocritical. Furthermore, it’s quite offensive going to church, lying and falsely pledging our allegiance to God and this would actually be the shameful thing to do. I provide the opportunity for my dad to defend his position but he can only respond by gibbering on about the blessing of God and renouncing the devil. Ridiculous I say, the devil comes in later, when they become teenagers!
During the pregnancy most things have been fairly controlled such as the routine obstetrician appointments and scans but now that I am nearly towards the end of the pregnancy journey and entering birthing territory, I realise this part will be totally out of my control. I have always maintained that I will have an open mind about the delivery process because I have no idea how it will happen or when it will happen. If I am able to have a natural birth, great but if I need to have a caesarean, that that will be OK too. I just want Matilda out safe and sound. Physically I’m still kicking butt but I’m a little on the podgy side due to mild fluid retention.
Week 39, 19 December
Not sure why I expected an early Tilly arrival given she is not due until 26 December, but I guess I am getting rather impatient now and would like to finally meet my little girl. Julian is now off work and is busily making a ‘to do list’ that is vastly different to the one I had prepared. His duties consist of things like grout front porch tiles, wash and clean cars, stain porch steps, paint pool area. I guess this is a male’s version of nesting although Julian strongly denies this and says this is what he does anyway when he has spare time.
21 December….Something awesome this way comes
Oh wow! Remember when I mentioned that the how and when is totally out of my control? Well the how and when is here now – 39 and half weeks into my pregnancy and my waters break. It’s right after Julian and I have watched a horror movie titled ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ and I wondered if Tilly wriggled a little too much during the scenes where the bad creatures wanted to eat the little girl’s teeth…
The hospital advise me over the phone that there is nothing that I can do until I start going into ‘real labour’ and having contractions, it’s best I go back to sleep they say – sleep!! You have got to be joking – I have never been more alert and awake in my entire life. I guess it’s a matter of time before something happens so I wait in anticipation thinking that it wont be long before I finally know what a contraction feels. However, nothing happens with the exception of trickling and sometimes gushing of my amniotic fluid with an occasional pink tinge of blood just to add things to the mix. I ring the hospital in the morning and they tell me to come in to check and make sure Tilly is OK and make a further assessment.
It’s been 11 hours since my waters broke and I have experienced only mild and irregular contractions. On the way to the hospital, ‘Tonight’s the Night’ by Rod Stewart is playing on the radio and I look to it as a sign that Tilly is on her way. According to the scan Tilly is as calm as her usual self and the midwife calls my OB who advises me to wait until 7.am the next morning to see if l go into labour otherwise I will have to be induced. Far out, it’s only 9.00 am which means I have to possibly wait another 22 hours (32 hours all up since waters break) for Tilly’s arrival – maybe Rod Stewart is wrong after all?
More waiting, Julian and I kill some time and go out for lunch. In the meantime the irregular contractions continue. I wish I could just order a ‘bring it on’ contraction sandwich.
I am lying in bed waiting bed….waiting waiting for Godot and wonder if I will be induced tomorrow morning. I ask my cervix to dilate (very politely of course). And then low and behold my cervix responds, my contractions feel a little more intense and regular than before. In fact, the pain is not that bad, what’s all the fuss about? I embrace the pain and even manage to laugh my way through each contraction, ahhh such naivety, I have no idea how bad this is really going to get.
I think Rod Stewart is right, tonight could be the night after all. The contractions are regular and at least 10 minutes apart, in no time they are down to 7 minute intervals. I am in excruciating pain and any laughter has been tortured out of me. I call the hospital hoping to hear that I should come in but no, they advise me to stay home until my contractions are at least 3-4 minutes apart. Are they nuts? I live at least 35 minutes away and I could be heading into the hospital in peak hour traffic. I go outside and talk to my neighbour to distract myself and pause the conversation only when my cervix bursts into a zillion spasms forcing me to the ground on all fours.
By this stage there is no comfortable position to be had, I have spent most of the time on the bed listening to my 90s trance and dance music to try and psych myself and Julian has been timing my contractions, which are now averaging four to five minutes. The only thing that seems to help is my breathing – thank God for pre-natal yoga and deep breathing experience. I lay on the bed on all fours as Gypsy the Golden Retriever wonders in, wagging her tail wondering what all the carry on is all about.
To hell with staying at home any longer. I call up the hospital and ignore there stupid ‘how far apart are your contractions questions’ I firmly insist that I am on my way. The 35 minute car trip is unspeakably torturous and during each contraction I shut my eyes tightly and hold onto the grab handle with both hands grimacing like a maniacal mad women.
We try and time my entrance into the emergency in between each contraction but to no avail as I collapse on all fours in the foyer – talk about a grand entrance! It’s a little embarrassing so I manage to sneak in an apology remembering how important it is to be polite during labour.
The journey from emergency to the delivery room is a bit of a blur but the mid wife CC, is the only one in attendance. Where is the cavalry? CC looks fairly young (around 24) and I wonder how on earth, this yearling is going to get me through the delivery. CC examines me and announces that my cervix is fully dilated at 10cm. I am not sure if I hear right, perhaps the pain has driven me insane but CC repeats herself and happily explains that I have completed the first stage of labour at home. This means Tilly is clearly on her way but the hard work is nowhere near over because stage 2 labour is a totally a new kind of pain and exhaustion. CC advises me that I will not require any pain relief because I am so close now and ‘doing really well’. Far out, I am really going to experience a drug free labour! Something that fills me with excitement and dread.
60 minutes later CC asks Julian if he wants to see the top of Tilly’s head, she has dark hair he tells me. During each contraction I need to breath three times, hold my breath and bear down and push but I can’t seem to get the rhythm going and at times I let out pathetic little puffs or let out my breath before pushing. I can vaguely hear the mid wife correcting me but I’m clearly in my own little world and there is no correcting to be had, I just have to do this my way.
Each rest phase lasts a minute or two, I both welcome and dread each rest phase because I need the time to rest but also I need to psych myself up for the next big push and it’s both physically and emotionally taxing. I am pretty sure I have released my bowels a few times but this is no time to worry about my dignity. Later, Julian tells me that he could clearly see every tendon and muscle in my neck and arms tense during the pushing process, take that Mr Universe!
My OB turns up and I feel a sudden injection of motivation because I know I am nearly there. I dig deep and push a little more until literally the ‘crowning moment’ . My OB tells me that I am going to feel a stinging sensation and I need to stop pushing but the stinging is nothing compared to the last five hours I peer between my legs and see a little black mop – her head is out!! Julian tells me that Tilly is peering around comfortably face down as though she is waiting to slip out into the world… and then she does…
A number of simultaneous things happen when you give birth. Paperwork, APGAR score testing, injections, weighing, the delivery of the placenta, stitches, more paperwork. But when you are holding your baby girl in your arms these flutters of activities are meaningless. Welcome into this world my precious baby, Matilda Maeve Carson. Santa has a new name to add to his list this year!