Friday, November 1, 2013

Beneath the ripples of my secret heart

I hold my baby in my arms, watching the perfection of his sleeping face, listening to the steady peace of his breathing, feeling his warmth, smelling the sweet scent of my milk on his breath. It is 4am. My eyes are heavy, so heavy. This is the seventh time I have gotten him back to sleep tonight and I know that when I put him back in bed, I am only buying myself another thirty minutes. Would it be easier to just hold him? I feel the all-consuming weariness of month after month of shattered sleep.

This is your fault. No one else's baby wakes up eight times a night. You have done something wrong. You must have done something wrong to cause his sleeping issues. It's all your fault. 

I sit in the shade of a tree with a group of new friends and their babies. We talk, we laugh, we watch our babies interact, we share trials and tribulations from this journey called motherhood. I manage to laugh, to smile, to enjoy myself. I share that things are still hard.

Shut up. You talk about the problems you are having too much. Surely everyone is sick of hearing about how many times he wakes up and how tired you are. If they aren't tired of you yet, they will be soon.

The baby naps in his bed, mid morning, after a forty minute battle to settle him. I sit on the couch and close my eyes. I try to rest.

Shouldn't you be doing the things you never have time for? Shouldn't you be folding the washing, dusting the bookshelves, tidying that cupboard? Do you want people to think your house is messy? Keep it perfect, please.

The baby drifts off in my arms after his midday feed. I sit on the couch and hold him, letting him sleep, wanting a respite from the battle of getting him to settle in his own bed. Wanting the closeness, the comfort.

You're making it worse! He will never learn to sleep in his own bed if you let him nap in your arms!
The words of my harshest critic echo throughout my soul. I know who they are now. They have been named and identified.

I am the voice of Post-Natal Depression. I am not a logical voice. I am not a rational voice. But I am a loud voice, and I will be heard. You will hear me, you will heed me, you will feel me consume you with despair. 

I know you now. I know why I have been feeling like the waters are closing over my head. I know why I have felt in the depths of despair, unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps, unable to deal with any extra stress or change. I know you want to take hold of me. Your voice is loud.

But mine is stronger. My voice endures. My voice is buried under yours for now, but I have done this before and I will do it again. I will fight off the darkness and my voice will be the loudest. I will ask for help. I will take my baby out in the fresh air and breathe in the springtime. I will accept that he is a difficult baby with settling issues that are not my fault. I will spend time with friends, old and new, and accept support. I will marvel in the changes I see as my baby grows day by day. I will feel joy as he smiles, an uncomplicated smile of pure delight and unconditional love, when he sees me. I will cry, and cry, and be held by those who love me, and know that the clouds will part. The sun will shine. My baby will sleep one day and I will feel this dark passenger leave. This too shall pass.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Was Treading Water, Now I'm Starting to Swim

It's been a while.

Boy, has it been a rough road. I love my little Liam more than I can put into words, and we have had some amazing and joyful times together, but having a baby with major sleeping issues has been a challenge, to say the very least. Since my last blog post, Liam has been very unsettled. He stopped sleeping in three hour blocks all night and instead started waking up every hour all night long and being very difficult to settle throughout the day. The first time it happened of a night I said to Rob, "Well, that was a tough night. Here's hoping it doesn't happen again." And then it did happen again. And again. And again. And then it turned into weeks, and then months.

There is a reason sleep deprivation has often been used as a form of torture. There were days when I would just cry and cry. There were nights when Rob and I would get into a silly argument at 3am, both so exhausted that we lost all patience with each other. There were times when I felt like I was going mad. I am quite certain that I became very depressed for a few weeks. Having battled depression for the past 13 years, since I was sixteen (there, I said it- it doesn't have to be a dark secret) I can recognise the signs in myself and I stopped wanting to go anywhere or do anything. Simple tasks became insurmountable. 

Through it all, I just kept on going. I got up each morning and cuddled my little boy and tickled his toes and sang to him and watched him grow. I marvelled that it was possible to exist on so little sleep. I forced myself to take a walk with Liam every day in the fresh air. I started attending a mother's group and made some wonderful new friends who have been a great source of support. 

I kept going. I was treading water, barely staying afloat, but making it through the days.

Through it all, we started to ask for help. I acknowledged the situation to my mother's group and received sympathy and support. I admitted how hard it was on Facebook and found friends with and without children reaching out to me to offer encouragement and advice. My parents returned from the island at long last and were an instant source of help. We asked and asked our Child Health Nurse for more assistance. She was compassionate to some degree but kept telling me that he was waking up so often because he is a big baby and needed extra feeds. I knew it was more than that. We tried to get in to see some of the support staff at Walker House. Calls were not returned, requests for referrals were not deemed necessary. "No one will help us!" I sobbed to Rob in utter despair.

Finally we went to see my GP- my lovely GP Paul, who has been my doctor since I was eight years old. He listened, he asked a few questions. He wrote a referral to Walker House and diagnosed Liam with reflux. Reflux, the cause of many babies being unsettled and waking often. I felt terrible that my little boy had been uncomfortable and in pain. We were given medicine to try and managed to work out how to get Liam to swallow it so that I didn't end up coated in it. 

Slowly, so slowly, things started to improve. Liam started sleeping in his bed during the day for short sleeps- though it was a battle to get him down and involved Rob or I holding him for up to 45 minutes. He started sleeping in a few 2 hour blocks during the night. Rob and I started tending to him in shifts so that we each got enough sleep to get by. I took longer shifts as Rob is handicapped by not being able to breastfeed. 

It was still difficult. I was still exhausted. I was treading water, looking at the shore which was now in sight, keeping my head above water. 
Finally, Walker House got back to me and a child health nurse called Gaylene arranged to visit us at home on Wednesday of this week. I was relieved, anxious and nervous, all at once. Things had started to slide backwards again with more night wakings and I could feel myself starting to sink again. 

It was a difficult day. Gaylene was lovely, kind and supportive but very no nonsense as she told us that though the reflux had led to Liam's frequent wakings, he had gotten into the habit now and we needed to help him learn to go to sleep on his own- without being held in our arms or nursed to sleep. This, she assured us, would lead to him self settling through the night and sleeping for longer. Together, we tried. I stayed strong as she taught me to stay with Liam and support him as he cried in bed by patting, shushing and soft singing. My heart broke watching and hearing my little one cry for me to pick him up. I kept telling myself that I was doing this for him, to help him, to give him the gift of good sleep habits. I reminded myself that he must be just as tired as I am and needs my help. We stayed by his side, her hand on my shoulder when she knew I needed a little extra strength, and I watched him grow calm and begin to soothe himself by sucking his fists. 'How do you feel about a thumb sucker?' she asked with a smile. 

We nearly got there. We were very close, but he was due a feed and she advised it best to get him up while he was calm, feed him and try again next time. She left us with the promise to return the following week. 

I had been sure that Liam would feel hurt or betrayed, but he was as cuddly and loving with me as usual. As soon as he seemed tired again I popped him in bed, kissed his cheek and told him to have a little sleep. I left the room. He grizzled for a minute or two then was silent. I peeked in to see him busily playing with and sucking his hands. Normally he would be crying by now and I would be in there picking him up. A few minutes later I peeked again- to find him fast asleep, arms stretched above his head, the picture of contentment. I could not contain my joy and amazement. 

This morning I stood looking at my settled baby, again peacefully snoozing on his own. I marvelled that he had slept for a three hour stretch last night. I felt proud of him. I felt overwhelming love. 

We have still had a few times today that have been difficult. I am sure there are more difficult times to come. He is still learning to settle. But he has come so far already. I can see now that if we persist we will get there and we will all enjoy more sleep. 

I am starting to swim now. My head is above the water and I am making for the shore with strong, clean strokes. I was treading water, now I'm starting to swim. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beautifully Busy

 Well, I started writing the following on the 23rd of July and am only just now getting back to it...which sums up how busy it is having a newborn!

I turned 29 yesterday. One more year as a 'twenty-something'. It was a lovely day spent with Rob and our little Liam, who is now 6 weeks old (the other children are with their mother). I told Liam that all I wanted for my birthday was a sleep-in. He interpreted that to mean 6am instead of 5am- but hey, I can't complain, as Rob took him out to the lounge room after I fed him and I stayed in bed for a few more hours, which was heavenly. 

I was very spoilt by my lovely man...I am now the proud owner of an iPhone, for one thing. For the past few years I have been saying "I don't need a fancy-pants touch screen phone! I'm happy with my little Nokia which has actual buttons!" Then a few weeks ago Rob got an iPhone and I became immediately jealous of all the games and apps. I suspect the real reason Rob bought me one was because he got tired of me saying "Can I have your phone so I can play Words with Friends?" 

We had a lovely lunch at the Cataract Bistro, though times have certainly changed...while I ate my lunch I was holding a child instead of a glass of wine and trying to juggle breastfeeding with eating gourmet pizza!

Back to today...things are good though full-on. Liam is currently going through his 8 week growth spurt and is therefore waking every two hours through the night for a feed, which is draining to say the least...I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by a few four, five and even six-hour stretches of sleep! Seeing this face makes it all worthwhile, however.

I have lots more to say but my little man is calling me, and I want to hit 'publish' before I leave this post for another few weeks! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I didn't realise

I didn't realise that one tiny person could create so much extra washing.

I didn't realise that I would come to view 3 hours in a row at night  and 6 hours all up as a 'great sleep'.

I didn't realise that I would learn to do so many things one-handed while holding a baby...eating dinner, brushing another child's hair, sorting washing...being a mother is the true definition of multi-tasking.
I didn't realise that I could love someone so very much.

I didn't realise how amazing my body was to grow this little person, push him out and now nourish him every day.

I didn't realise that seeing my baby boy smile at me would make my heart fill full to bursting with joy and bring tears to my eyes.

I knew being a mother would be amazing and exciting and tiring and difficult, but it's so much more than I expected. It's the most wonderful thing I have ever done and nothing has ever felt so right.

I promise I will write some longer posts when I have more time...having a newborn certainly does fill the day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Birth of Liam

I had a wonderful doula, Cherie, to support me throughout my pregnancy and birth. A few weeks ago I wrote my birth story for her website and have decided to post it here also. It's quite long but I wanted to get down all the details of the most amazing day of my life.

My Birth Story
 (originally posted here)

I first heard about doulas three years ago and knew that I wanted to have one when it came time for me to have a baby. Soon after my partner Rob and I found out that we were expecting, we started researching doulas and organised a meeting with Cherie. The minute she left we agreed that we didn’t need to meet with anyone else as we had found our doula. We both found her to be warm, supportive and informative and were thrilled.

My partner is visually impaired and we knew that having Cherie at the birth would not only provide support for me but for him as well as he would be kept informed of everything that was happening. Cherie also let us know that she would be happy to drive us to hospital when the time came, which was a load off as I had had visions of having contractions in a taxi!
Throughout the pregnancy, Cherie came to our home several times to discuss the birth and provide information and support. These meetings were invaluable to set my mind at ease regarding any concerns I had, and Rob and I both felt so comfortable with Cherie that we were able to tell her anything and feel like we were talking with a trusted friend.

The week leading up to the birth was fairly difficult. My due date had come and gone and I was uncomfortable, sore and sleep deprived. We had an appointment on the Monday for a stretch and sweep and learnt that I was already three centimetres dilated. However, my blood pressure was also high and an induction was booked for the coming Sunday, when I would be ten days overdue. This frightened me as I had always been very clear that I did not want to be induced. I felt it went against everything I had been learning in my prenatal yoga classes and would not give me the calm birth I wanted. The next few days were somewhat stressful as Sunday started to loom closer. Cherie was a rock during this time, offering support and encouragement over the phone and by text, and it was wonderful having her to talk to. Rob was also amazing at putting up with my mood swings!

My waters finally broke at 12.45am on Friday morning and Cherie arrived to take us the hospital for a check up at 8am. Imagine my dismay when the doctors were not convinced that my waters had actually broken! The doctor also seemed of the opinion that the scheduled induction was a certainty, which was not helpful. Cherie was quick to allay my worries and with the help of her and Rob, I focused on the positives and the fact that it was my body and that I knew that my waters had broken and that labour could not be far off. We returned home to get some rest with Cherie checking up on me throughout the day.

Saturday morning I awoke at 4.30am feeling strange. Moments later I had my first contraction. I walked around the lounge room until 5am, breathing through a few more contractions, before waking Rob at 5am and telling him I needed him. We sat together in the lounge room for half an hour as Rob slowly woke up fully, with the contractions now 5 minutes apart and growing stronger. As they increased in strength I found I needed to be upright and leaning forwards and found myself kneeling and leaning over the arm of the couch. A shower helped relax me but it was difficult having contractions in the shower with nothing to lean on or hold onto so I returned to my place on the couch, rocking and circling my hips with each surge. I also began to get sick after each contraction. In between looking after me, Rob contacted the hospital at 6am and Cherie at 6.16am to let her know what was happening. Over the next hour the contractions increased in strength and duration until by 7.30am they were two minutes apart and about 30 seconds to a minute long. I was starting to find it harder to cope and Rob rang Cherie to let her know that I would like her to come over now. When Cherie arrived at 8am she brought with her a sense of calm and I felt new energy. She sat with me and timed several contractions, and gave me a cloth with some essential oils to help with the nausea. From the time Rob had woken up I had realised that I didn’t want anyone asking me any questions during contractions, which he also realised quickly from my first ‘Shush!’ As I laboured on the couch, one of my cats jumped onto the chair directly in front of my face and meowed at me in an undeniably questioning way, right in the middle of a contraction. I have to say I reacted by pushing her off the chair with a hand to her face! 

Just after 8.30 I felt that it was time to go to the hospital. It was four hours since I had woken up. The contractions were getting even stronger and the pain was starting to move down my back and legs, and there didn’t seem to be much ‘recovery’ time between them. I let Cherie know that I was ready and she and Rob started getting the bags organised. I nearly made it to the front door before being hit by another big contraction, which had me leaning forwards over my desk. Cherie started rubbing my back with firm, calm strokes which felt wonderful and definitely helped ease the pain. We made it to the car and I got into the back seat while Rob and his Seeing Eye Dog, Jasper, sat in the front with Cherie. The car trip was one of the most difficult parts of labour as I was hit by several contractions, which were agony when sitting upright. Cherie advised me to sit on the floor behind her seat and lean over the backseat, which made the journey bearable. 

We made it to the hospital and after another contraction next to the car with Rob holding me up, we headed inside. I knew I didn’t have long before the next surge and so moved as quickly as I could towards the labour ward, at one point almost leaving Rob, Jasper and Cherie behind. I made it to the doors and Rob rang the bell and let them know we had arrived, just as I was hit by another surge that had me leaning over some chairs in the corridor. The midwife who had been assigned to us, Mel, came out to take us through to a delivery suite. I felt relief when we entered the room as I knew I could focus now and not worry about going anywhere else. Mel wanted to hook me up to the monitor to check on the baby, so while she did that Cherie calmly moved about the room dimming the lights, putting on instrumental music and putting some new essential oils on a cloth for me. Mel left us to it for a while and Cherie and Rob helped me get my nightie out and put it on, which made me feel a lot better. I knelt up on the bed leaning forwards over the bed head, and when Mel returned I asked for some gas and air. This definitely took the edge off the contractions somewhat, though they were still difficult. Rob asked if I wanted my sister Lisa to come to the hospital and I replied with a definite yes, so he called her to let her know we needed her. 

By 9.45am the contractions were growing even stronger and I was in a lot of pain, though still fairly silent. Cherie was wonderful at getting me to focus on the music and the sound of the gas and air as opposed to focusing on the pain. She also suggested a heat pack which Rob held on my back as I knelt next to the bed leaning forwards. Mel knelt down next to me and said that she didn’t want to worry me but the baby’s heart rate was going up and down a bit, probably as I was dehydrated from being sick all morning. She said they wanted to give me some fluids but could try getting me to drink some cordial first. By 10.15am my sister arrived. She came into the room as I was breathing through a contraction, so it took me some time to acknowledge that she had arrived. I felt so surrounded by support from Rob, Lisa and Cherie and it was such a calm atmosphere in the room despite the pain I was in. 

The decision was made to put a line in to give me some fluids, so Dr Kate arrived to do so. Sitting still during this process, during which several contractions occurred, was not easy. Once the line was in I resumed my position kneeling over the head of the bed, with Rob sitting next to me and Lisa and Cherie taking turns to rub my back. I felt so focused on the contractions that I wasn’t always fully aware of what was happening around me, only that everyone was supporting me. I remember opening my eyes to see Rob sitting next to me and saying “Hi baby” as he had been hanging back while the doctor worked on putting the line in so I didn’t feel overcrowded. Lisa left the room twice to keep my parents informed over the phone as to what was happening. They were waiting on Maatsuyker Island to hear any news and were very tense.

At 10.50am things felt different. I felt an immense amount of pressure and the urge to push. I groaned that I wanted to push and Mel told me that I needed to wait a little longer and breathe through a few more contractions. This was not easy as the urge was growing stronger and stronger, but my team kept encouraging me to just breathe. Apparently at this point, Jasper became anxious over the noises I was making and tried to come forwards from his place in the corner. It took some reassuring words from Rob to get him to settle down again. 

Finally, at 11.30am, I was told that I could start pushing, which I immediately did so with the next contraction. Another midwife, Janet, was brought in to assist with catching the baby and I realised that the end was indeed in sight. I continued kneeling up over the bed while I pushed, resting my body forwards onto the pillows between pushes. My legs were starting to feel very shaky, weak and tired. I could hear the voices of the midwives, Cherie, Rob and Lisa encouraging me which gave me something to focus on. Cherie left the room to call my mum and tell her that I had started pushing and that the next call would be to tell them that the baby had arrived, which made Mum very excited and emotional. At 11.50 I was asked to turn onto my back for an internal examination. I immediately felt more comfortable and it gave my legs a rest, though I expressed concern as I had wanted to give birth in an upright position as I had learnt in yoga. Everyone reassured me that whatever felt the most comfortable was the right way, and Mel confirmed that I was pushing better now that I was propped up on my back. The internal confirmed that all was well and Mel told us she could feel the baby’s head. I continued to push, focusing on the voices of my team, holding Rob’s hand and feeling the support all around me. Rob stayed by my side, feeling through my hand and the tension in my body as I pushed and telling me how well I was doing, especially after the big pushes. Lisa praised me for not wasting energy by making noise and at 12.05 the baby’s head crowned. I reached down to touch him and felt overwhelmed that I had nearly done it. Rob also felt the baby’s head and found it a wonderful experience. As I prepared to push again, Cherie calmly told me that the next part would be painful but that I could do it. She was right; it was an intense and different kind of pain as I pushed as hard as I could and felt my baby’s head and body slide out of me in one contraction. I was overwhelmed that he was here and so quickly, and kept repeating “Is he here? He’s here!” as my beautiful boy, Liam Craig, was brought up onto my chest for skin-to-skin contact. With his arrival came a whole new chapter in our story. 

I am so glad that I had such a supportive environment during my labour and delivery. My sister was a wonderful support and it was a comfort to have her there, my lovely Rob was a tower of strength from start to finish and I will definitely be asking Cherie to be our doula again next time as she brought such serenity, knowledge and encouragement to the birth. She knew what I needed without me having to ask and usually before I knew I needed it myself. Rob also appreciated her coffee-making skills! With her help I had the calm, empowered birth I had wanted all along and it was a day I will never forget.

Liam is now three weeks old and I am so happy that he is finally here. We are still resting at home together and I am loving being a mum. My world has changed, but definitely for the better.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Welcome to the World

Welcome to the world....


Liam Craig

Born on the 8th of June 2013 at 12.12pm after an 8 hour labour, weighing 8 pounds 8 (3.8 kilos) and 55cm long.

I am thrilled to bits with my little one. We spent four nights in hospital and are now settling in at home. Life is a blur of feeding, changing and cuddles and very little sleep but I have never felt more like 'me' in my life. 

I will post more on his arrival soon when I have had a bit more time to recover.