The tipping point

Weight gain during pregnancy is totally normal and expected. If you’re one of the really lucky ones, you might only gain a few extra kilos. If you’re one of the normal ones, you’ll likely gain somewhere between 5 and 7 extra kilos (that’s over and above baby, etc.). But if you’re anything like me, you’ll pack those extra pounds on.

I was really good in the beginning, through my first and second trimester I was pretty much bang-on with how much weight I should’ve gained, but something went terribly wrong between month six and month nine. All of a sudden I was gaining way too much weight (in my opinion) each week. My midwife was pretty unconcerned, citing the fact that every mom and each pregnancy is different, which of course it is, but that didn’t comfort me.

All in all, I gained around 19 or 20kgs (it’s all a bit of a rough guess because I don’t actually know what I weighed when I fell pregnant). Three days before Fletcher was born I tipped the scales at 88.8kgs. I was moderately comforted by the fact that ±3kgs were Fletcher, another 1kg for the placenta, ±1kg for the extra blood and at least another one for the amniotic fluid, a few hundred grams at least in water weight… So I expected that, after all those things were out of my body (i.e. moments after giving birth) I could expect to be about 7 or 8kgs down, right? Wrong!

Doctors and midwives counsel against expecting weight loss to happen too quickly, reminding us that “it took nine months to gain the weight, give yourself nine months to lose it.” But I – like so many other women – thought that at least some of the weight would magically disappear after the birth. You hear stories of women leaving the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans and you think that’s the norm, well I’m here to tell you, it isn’t.

Look, don’t get me wrong, every mom and each pregnancy is different and I’m absolutely not telling you to diet during pregnancy if you feel you’re gaining too quickly. Most people say they’ll worry about the extra weight when baby is out and that really is the best approach. You can’t put your child’s life at risk because you’re worried about how your body will look when you leave the hospital. All I’m saying is that it takes time, it’s not as instant as you might think. Just because a good percentage of those kilos were removed from your body with baby, doesn’t mean they’re gone when you step on the scale (don’t ask me how – water weight maybe – but through some evil sorcery they’re still there).

For about the first two months of Fletcher’s life, the only pants that fitted me, fitted when I was nine months pregnant. I’d look longingly at my other (neglected) clothes, desperately willing the weight to leave me so I could wear something other than maternity pants! Slowly but surely the pile of things that I can squeeze into (with varying degrees of wriggling and squirming) is growing, but it’s a long, slow road and I’m still miles from my destination.

The big thing to remember is that it takes time, but discipline and dedication will get you there. When Fletcher was about a month old, I signed up at the gym. I started out nice and slow, knowing that my fitness was somewhere left of the u-bend in the toilet. Cycling for 20 minutes damn near killed me, my muscles were weak and my lungs felt like they’d been swapped with a 90+ year-old chain smoker’s. But by week two, that 20 minute cycle wasn’t as taxing as it had been and so I started running on the treadmill. That first day I ran 4kms and was beyond dead when I stumbled off the treadmill 31 minutes later. The next day, in the same amount of time, I ran 4.5kms and already I could feel the difference – my muscles were remembering. The following week I ran 4.7kms, then 4.9kms and by the end of the month 7,7kms. Slowly I was building up my fitness again.

Currently, I alternate my running with either cycling, swimming, indoor rowing, or circuit or strength training and I’m getting there. I still weigh a lot more than I did when I fell pregnant and more still than I want to, but through a combination of good eating and balanced cardio and strength training, I’m starting to see results. Because I’ve never been one to listen to medical professionals, I’ve given myself six months to lose the baby weight – half way in and I’m half way there, so I think I’m well-placed.

The biggest lesson for me was that gaining the weight was a hell of a lot easier than losing it has been, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get your body back, or that “only young moms get their bodies back”. It’s total BS – anyone can do it, you just have to give it time, and you have to want it badly enough.

Who’s your daddy?

Since Fletcher was born, many of our friends and family have asked us questions like “was the dad tall?” or “what colour were the dad’s eyes?” Harmless questions asked with nothing but good intentions. Cognisant of the fact that no-one has ever meant any harm by any of these questions, we’ve always responded as diplomatically as possible – “the donor had blue eyes” or “the donor was over 6 foot,” but the fact remains that Fletcher doesn’t have a dad. For better or worse, he has two mommies.

Some people might think that statement is completely ludicrous – how can he not have a dad? Surely, it takes a mom and a dad to make a baby? Yes and no. Yes, it takes genetic material from both a man and a woman to make a baby. But no, you don’t need a “mom” and a “dad”. “Moms” and “dads” raise children. They kiss boo-boos and patch up skinned knees. They do school runs and plan pirate-princess themed birthday parties. They lie awake at night agonising over which school to enrol their kids at, or how they’re going to pay for college. They beam like Cheshire cats at graduation day and snap a thousand photos a minute. Moms and dads raise children.

It may sound trivial, but if I have learned from my time at my current employer, it’s that language matters. Words define meaning and meaning defines experience. If someone describes a delicious meal to you using only bland and benign descriptors, your experience of that meal is tainted. You might go to a “hairdresser” for a boring old cut, but you’d go to “stylist” for something funky and cutting edge. You’d go to a “clothing retailer” for your everyday wear, but you’d go to a “boutique” for that drop-dead-gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, stop-you-in-your-tracks, knockout dress.

So no, Fletcher doesn’t have a “dad”, but he has two moms who love him more with each day, who will dote on him throughout his life.

To feed or not to feed

For many expectant mothers breastfeeding is a daunting prospect – will I produce enough milk to keep him satisfied? Will he be able to latch? Will he be – heaven forbid – allergic to my milk? What if I absolutely hate it? These are real fears for new moms and ones that can, ultimately, make or break your breastfeeding experience.

All through my pregnancy I was adamant that I wanted to do things as close to naturally as possible. My birth “plan” had a heavy focus on the natural – a midwife over a gynae, a vaginal over Caesarean delivery, no pain management over an epidural, etc. – but we don’t always get what we want in life, and especially in childbirth.

Similarly, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed as far as possible. Although, knowing the physical and emotional burden breastfeeding places on a new mom, we had agreed I would express as well so that Becs could help out with night feeds. But when Fletcher went straight to the NICU after birth instead of straight onto my breast, things changed and we had to roll with it.

When the NICU nurse came into our room on that first morning and told me my child was starving panic set in. One of the nurses helped me to express a whopping 1ml, at which point Becs signed the consent to give Fletcher formula. Although the nurses continued to stress the importance of breast milk, if I could get any, and praised the delivery of those “drops of gold”, it had taken something meant to be a beautiful and intimate bonding moment between me and my baby and made it something clinical.

When Fletcher came off the CPAP and I was able to try and latch him to feed, it was still a beautiful moment for me – despite the wires and tubes still attached to my two-day-old baby. But it quickly became clear it wasn’t happening fast enough for him. Having become accustomed to the delivery speed of, first the feeding tube and then the bottle, the breast simply took too long and required too much effort. Still, we persevered.

I expressed three or four times a day while he was in the NICU and when he came home we tried relentlessly to get him to feed. But as time went on, and his daily need increased, he ended up getting more bottle than breast. I simply wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy his hunger – despite the Eglonyl.

I began to dread feeding time. He’d be what we call screaming sad mad (which is exactly what it sounds like), and I’d be desperately trying to aim his wailing mouth at my breast, hoping he’d get a good latch. He’d latch briefly, suck a few times before realizing it was going to require maximum effort on his part. Then he’d start screaming again. And this cycle would continue for up to an hour before I’d give in and ask Becs to prepare a bottle. Some days were better than others, mind you. Sometimes I’d get him onto the breast before he realized how hungry he was and so he’d be sucking before he got “screaming sad mad”, so he’d be OK with putting the extra effort in. But even on those days, he’d need a bottle afterward.

After a month of trying I decided the emotional tug-of-war I experienced every time I tried to breastfeed was just too much. He was gaining weight nicely on the formula and was anything but malnourished, so why was I torturing myself? Guilt. I felt guilty at the thought of giving up because “breast is best” and “they don’t get antibodies from formula” but I just couldn’t do it anymore. My distress at seeing him so frustrated and upset every time I tried to feed him began to outweigh my guilt.

I discussed my feelings with Becs, who was wonderfully supportive and told me all the things I needed to hear – “he gets so frustrated” and “you did your best babe” – but despite all that, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made as a mother and I do still feel guilty about it. But every time I see him calmly have a bottle before drifting into that contented sleep that only comes from having a full belly, my guilt is somewhat assuaged.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it. I’ve spoken to moms who diligently breastfed and they all agree, it was the hardest, most physically and emotionally draining thing they’ve ever done. If you get it right, power to you, but if you don’t do not feel guilty. No one has ever been asked at a job interview if they were breast or bottle fed. As long as they’re getting the nutrients they need and they are loved, what more could you want?

“Undocumented”

Our son is a month and one day old and the poor, little soul is undocumented, that is to say he still doesn’t have a birth certificate. “Why?” you may ask. Well, quite simply bureaucracy and systems that haven’t kept up with the times.

Fletcher was born during the festive season, meaning that Home Affairs was closed until January. This meant that we had to come back to the hospital early in January to register his birth and apply for his birth certificate, or go to Home Affairs ourselves. Anyone who’s ever been to Home Affairs knows that would just have been silly – taking a newborn baby to stand in the queues at Home Affairs for hours on end. So we opted to come back in January.

Armed with all our paperwork, we arrived at the hospital to meet the Home Affairs rep on 9 January. Two certified ID copies, one certified marriage certificate copy, a letter from the doctor who performed the IVF to say that the donor (or “father” as they like to call him) was anonymous and therefore unknown to us “in terms of the National Tissue Act”, all the necessary forms, signed and stamped by our gynae, the hospital and the nurse who completed the form, as well as the completed official registration of birth form from Home Affairs. We thought we were totally sorted. And so did the Home Affairs rep, who optimistically told us we would be able to collect his birth certificate the next day.

When Becs arrived the next day to collect the certificate, however, she was greeted with a look of incomprehension from the Home Affairs rep, who simply said, “Didn’t they call you?” When Becs responded in the negative, the Home Affairs rep went on to explain that someone from “head office” was supposed to have phoned us to tell us that the birth certificate wasn’t ready. But no one had. (And incidentally no one did.)

When we enquired as to why it wasn’t ready, the Home Affairs rep told us that when they put the second ID number onto the birth certificate and it registers that the second parent is also a woman, it breaks the system. And there is only one person at head office who can manually override said system, to change “father” to “parent B”. And she is on leave for another two weeks. WHAT? Are you flipping kidding me?

In a country where same sex marriage has been legal for over a decade are you seriously trying to tell me that the system cannot handle an exception to “mother” and “father”? Ludicrous! But there you have it. Our wonderfully antiquated system cannot compute a same sex relationship, even in today’s day and age. Basically, “computer says ‘no’.”

So, the moral of the story is, if you are a same sex couple, expecting a child, (a) make sure you’re married first or your partner will have to legally adopt the child (which requires social worker visits and a shitload more paperwork) and (b) make sure you have some time before you need the birth certificate for anything. (Oh, on the off-chance that your child has to be admitted to the NICU, as ours did, and you need to submit a claim through medical aid for said NICU visit, there is a way around this birth certificate debacle. After over an hour on the phone with Discovery, I was finally able to register Fletcher on the medical aid as “Baby” until such time as we get his birth certificate, which means they are at least able to process the NICU claim.)

The first four weeks

Nothing really prepares you for motherhood. No amount of books or blog posts, no-one’s advice or help can ever really prepare you for what lies ahead. There’s something to be said for the unknown – it’ll either bring out the best or the worst in you (usually in equal measures) and we have seen some of the best and worst of each other over the past four weeks.

Our first few days as parents were entirely surreal. Fletcher was in the NICU hooked up to all kinds of machines, so we weren’t able to hold him, I wasn’t able to breastfeed him and we weren’t able to establish any sort of routine or rhythm with him. By the time he was discharged, it had been two days since I had been discharged – so we’d spent the last 48 hours back and forth between home and the hospital (and over Christmas, no less).

Our first night home was an interesting one. Fletcher was bombarded with hundreds of new sounds and smells, totally overwhelming him. He fussed and cried for hours on that first night, eventually settling around midnight. But after that, he slept well (albeit in 3 hour stints).

The next day he had the first of his peeing episodes, during which he peed all over himself and me. During his first bath, he peed on the towel. A few days after that he peed all over himself, his onesie and the wall behind him (all while I was trying to change his nappy and dispose of one of the biggest, nastiest poos I’ve ever seen). Subsequently, he’s peed on the wall, himself and us a few more times, but on the whole he’s not a serial pee’er. Thank the gods.

During some of his finer nighttime antics he’s had both Becs and me in tears, thinking we’ll never get him to settle. On one particularly bad night, Becs had been trying to settle him for a good while and came back into the room sobbing, asking me to “please just take him,” which I duly did. Eventually I managed to settle him, but nearly had a panic attack when I realised we’d have to go through the whole process again in a matter of a few short hours. But, then the sun came up, and everything seemed less daunting than it had the night before.

As dusk began to fall that evening, fear settled over me like a thick fog and I turned to Becs, voice shaking, and said, “It’s nearly nighttime.” She immediately knew the source of my fear and the two of us huddled together on the couch – absolutely dreading the dark hours that lay ahead. But, then the sun came up again, and everything was fine. And so we settled into something of a pattern – night would fall and so would our spirits, but as the sun began to rise, so our fears lifted. It was like being stuck in some kind of bad horror movie loop.

Until it wasn’t anymore. After three weeks, Becs turned to me and said that she suddenly felt like he was an old hand at this parenting thing, like she’d been doing it for years. It seemed that in 21 short days, we’d formed a habit – the habit of motherhood. We still have crappy nights with Fletcher – last night was another night when he only settled after midnight, but then slept until 04:00 and again from 04:30 until 08:00 – but on the whole, we’re much better at parenting than we were four weeks ago. OK, maybe we’re not better, but we certainly feel less panicked about it and that’s the main thing.

Oh, and as I type this I have a trail of milk vomit down my back. Yup, motherhood is awesome.

A “birth plan” you say?

All the books and blogs tell you to draft your birth plan well ahead of time – to make sure your wishes are clear for all concerned on the big day, to get everyone on the same page, so to speak. And that’s all good and well, but let’s be realistic for a second here – you don’t honestly think you have any control over what happens on said big day, do you?

Let’s take my experience for example – I had a pretty thorough birth plan, one that included a couple of “in the event of” clauses, outlining what we’d like if we had to have a Caesar, or if he had to go to NICU. And you know how many things on my “birth plan” we got? Zero. Not a single one. OK, he wasn’t circumcised, but that’s it about it.

amateur-mommies-birth-plan

I did not have a natural birth. I did not manage to avoid a spinal. I had to have a Caesar. We did not get delayed chord clamping or skin-to-skin time after birth and he ended up on formula almost immediately because my milk only really came in on day 3.

That said, I’m all for recording your thoughts on how you’d like things to go, just remember, it really is out of your hands on the day. With that in mind, my advice would be to put together a birth wish list. Although my birth plan had built in contingencies for Caesar and, on the day, we were pretty flexible about things (and we had to be), not getting what we’d hoped for out of the experience could easily have spiraled and contributed to post-natal depression. So it’s really important to remember that, ultimately, it’s not you who is in control, it’s your little bundle and consciously ceding that control is the only way you can hope to avoid feeling a bit like you’ve failed when things don’t go the way you’d hoped.

The grand arrival…

Before I get into this post, I feel the need to warn sensitive readers of the slightly more graphic nature of this post. Just so we’re all entirely clear, what follows details my labour experience. If that’s not up your alley, turn back now. Read this post about Becs’s experience at Antenatal Class, or this one about things not to say to pregnant women. If you’re ok with the slightly gorier details… as you were.

What was that?

At about 04:00 on Thursday, 22 December 2016 I woke up needing to pee – as most 39-week pregnant women do. When I wiped, it felt a bit… well, slimy. I know, not the most attractive thing, is it? But not much about pregnancy is. About 20 minutes later, Becs’s running alarm went off and she quietly (and in the semi-dark) began changing for her run. Not having been able to get back to sleep, I opted to read my book for a while and turned on the lights.

Shortly after Becs left, I needed to pee again – nothing new really – but once again, when I wiped it was slimy. This time, however, there was enough light for me to see what I’d wiped away. A mostly clear, slightly pinkish streaked snot, with the consistency of egg whites. Uhm… Ja, that’s definitely not part of my normal peeing routine.

I cleaned myself up, dashed back to the bedroom, grabbed my phone and almost – almost – dialed Becs’s number. But, it was just before 05:00 so she’d likely be on the road already, or at least out of the car and away from her phone and seeing a missed call from me when she got back to the car would only send her into a tailspin of worry. I put my phone down, rationalising with myself that it was only an hour and not much was likely to happen in an hour.

I picked my phone up again and – far more calmly – opened Safari and typed in “what does a bloody show look like?” (Yes, I’m one of those people who actually ask Google questions instead of typing in keywords.) Having read the article on Baby Centre that described the bloody show as a “blob of blood-streaked pale, creamy-pink snot”, I was pretty convinced I’d had my show.

Armed with knowledge, and the assumption that it wasn’t likely for anything earth-shattering to happen in the next couple of hours, I continued reading my book and intermittently visiting the loo. When Becs got home some time after 06:00, I asked her (as calmly as I could) how her run had been. She responded, but quickly realized there was something else on my mind and, in a voice dripping with concern, asked what was wrong. I told her – once again, as calmly as I could – that I thought my water had broken and explained the symptoms and my reason for not calling her at 05:00 (which she thanked me for) and we agreed we’d message the midwife at a more decent hour and let her know what was going on.

Carry on regardless…

At about 07:30 I sent our midwife a WhatsApp to explain that I thought I’d had my show and that my waters had broken. She asked a few questions about the colour of both the show and the subsequent fluid and told us to keep her posted on any changes. Knowing the movies absolutely lie about how quickly these things progress, we decided to carry on our day as normally as we could. We headed down to Pick ‘n Pay to get some things we needed for Christmas lunch, went for breakfast with a friend and for coffee with another. All the while I continued to lose amniotic fluid but without a contraction in sight.

At around midday, the midwife sent a message to say we should come in an see how things were progressing, which we duly did. Sadly, things were not progressing – I had only dilated to 2cm and without contractions wasn’t all that likely to dilate further. She gave me some homeopathic pills and a solution of some or other medication to be taken every 30 minutes, to help bring on contractions.

Once one’s water breaks, the baby – and I suppose the mother too – are more susceptible to infection, because the door is essentially being left open. This meant that, if my progress was still slow by 16:00, I’d need to go onto antibiotics. We agreed to be back at 16:00 for another check-up and headed home.

At home, we tried everything: I walked up and down the passage and garden, I bounced on the pilates ball, I did lunges on the stairs, I even did squats! Nothing. Well not nothing, per se; I had contractions – about a 4 out of 10, pain-wise and roughly 10 minutes apart, progressing to about 6 minutes apart by 16:00 – but still not quite enough.

All that build-up, and then… nothing

At 16:00, we went back to the midwife and she said I was still only 2cm dilated. Not a great start. 12 hours into “labour” and no more dilated than I was 4 hours ago. Then, as if to cap it all off, my contractions suddenly, and for no reason at all, stopped. We sat around the midwife’s consulting rooms for another hour or so, waiting to see if the contractions would resume, while I continued to feel like an enormous fraud – like I’d made the whole thing up. And, to be honest, if it wasn’t for the amniotic fluid leaking out of me, I’d have been convinced it was all in my head.

But it wasn’t in my head. My water had broken, of that there was no doubt, which meant that I’d have to go onto antibiotics. Once admitted, I was hooked up to an IV and, along with the antibiotics, I was given a stronger solution of the contraction-inducing medicine.

About half an hour later, the contractions started up again, and they’d grown. Now about a 6 out of 10, pain-wise and coming every ± two minutes, for about 30 seconds. We agreed that the midwife would check my dilation again at around 20:00, until then I should continue to time the contractions and walk. And so, we walked. With my IV bag on its little trolley, Becs and I did laps of the hospital ward, announcing every time we walked past the room how many contractions I’d had on my last lap.

Time for some meds, and not the pain-relieving kind

At 20:00, I was still only 2cm dilated and, much to my dismay, the possibility that I wouldn’t dilate further was becoming more of a reality. I was starting to get a bit despondent but I was trying to keep positive, hoping that next time she checks, I’ll be more dilated and then it’ll go quickly. But, it was not meant to be. At 22:00, we checked again – still only 2cm, but with contractions now coming every ±90 seconds and lasting about a minute each time. They’d also climbed the pain-scale and were tipping 8 by now. Each time my body was wracked with another contraction, I clutched Becs’s hand and – breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth – counted my out breaths until it passed.

Time for a new cocktail

Although the induction meds had worked as far as bringing on contractions, they had failed to dilate my cervix any further. We thought little man’s head would do it, because he was well-and-truly engaged! But unfortunately, that hadn’t done the trick either, so it was time to add something new to the cocktail of meds – a muscle relaxant jab to the bum (the site of which, by the way, is still sore, almost two weeks later). We’d give the muscle relaxant time to do its work and check the dilation again at midnight, if it still wasn’t progressing, we’d have no choice but to call the gynae and go for an emergency Caesar.

With the gaps between contractions now sometimes as a short as a few seconds, I was completely exhausted. Throw a potent muscle relaxant into the mix and I was about as useful as an Orthodox Jew at an all-you-can-eat pork buffet. I continued to have contractions, which, according to the machine I was periodically hooked up to, weren’t increasing in strength (although it felt like they were), but they were coming more frequently, but my cervix still wouldn’t dilate.

Time to call the cavalry

By midnight I was still only 2cm dilated and, after 20 hours of labour, we pulled the plug and called the gynae in for an emergency Caesar. My drip was shut off, meaning my contractions immediately began coming less frequently, but after 20 hours, I was completely shattered and feeling them with increasing veracity.

At around 01:00 on 23 December 2016, I was wheeled into the operating room, closely followed by Becs in all her finery (read: scrubs). I’ve never been more thankful for Becs than I was at that moment because I was as high as a kite and barely able to string words together, much less a coherent sentence. The anesthetist was explaining the procedure, what he would do and how the spinal would work. I was trying really hard to follow but finding it difficult to keep my eyes open, much less follow what he was saying. I was presented with consent forms to sign, which I think I signed (whether it was legible or not, who can say), I was moved over to the operating table, where two needles were inserted into my spine: first a local anesthetic and then the spinal block. The anesthetist explained that I’d feel a cold, tingling sensation in my legs and although I’d feel pressure, I wouldn’t feel what was actually being done.

At about 01:20 the Caesar got underway and the first cut, which wasn’t the deepest, certainly was the smelliest. Caesars are done with an implement that cauterizes as it cuts, which means there is a gut-wrenching stench of burning flesh while the cut is being made. It was like a car accident. I couldn’t take my eyes off the surgical lights, because, if you looked closely, you could see a reflection of what was going on “behind the curtain”. I watched them slice through layers of skin, fat, tissue and muscle before all three doctors joined forces to “eject” our son from his home. With the anesthetist pushing down from behind the curtain, the assisting doctor pulling from one side and the gynae pulling from the other, they were eventually able to pull our son from my womb at 01:36 on the morning of Friday, 23 December 2016.

Welcome to the world little man

His screams cut through everything else – our perfect little bundle was here, screaming his tiny lungs out! To say the sound is overwhelming is beyond an understatement. I’ve never felt emotion like I felt in those moments, fleetingly seeing the tiny human I’d grown for the past 39 weeks before he was whipped away to be weighed and measured. He was briefly placed on my chest before being taken to the NICU. The paed was worried about fluid on his lungs, so he needed to be placed on oxygen. Becs went with him and left me in the capable hands of the surgical team for closing up.

After I’d been closed and taped up, I was taken up to our room to wait for Becs to return. I don’t know how long I waited, but I fitfully slept while I did – unable to keep my eyes open anymore. When Becs came back at around 03:30, she explained where he’d gone and why and where she’d been. She told me he was OK. I cried some more and fell into a drug-induced, but brief sleep. Shortly after 08:00 that morning, we went up to the NICU to see our son.

So you’re ready now, are you?

are-you-ready-to-have-a-baby

The short answer for that is no. No, we are not ready. How can we possibly ready for sleepless nights and a December holiday waiting with baited breath for baby to arrive and turn our whole world upside down? Not to mention finding extra money each month just to get through. No. Not ready. Excited and terrified, yes!

We have now finished our 6-week long antenatal class, along with 7 other first-time parents-to-be, and apparently we now have all the information we will need to go out into the world and be great Moms. Well shucks, I can hardly remember what we learned in the first week of class and now I’m supposedly ‘ready’. We were given various pamphlets at each class, had a talk from a paediatrician, a psychologist, a nurse and safety official, a pilates instructor and an occupational therapist, all to arm us with all the info we need. We learned about breastfeeding and the various birthing methods, how to bath and care for a newborn and watched some scary videos. But none of this is any good to anyone until the baby is actually born. And how this little baby is going to enter the world is out of our control. We can plan all we like for a natural birth but if he doesn’t turn head down this ain’t gonna happen.  How we are going to feed him (bottle or breast) and whether we will get him to sleep in his own cot from the very beginning is also out of our control. We don’t know if he will need OT, if we will be at the paed every week or if we will both end up with postnatal depression. With the vast amount of information we received during antenatal classes, from the amazing baby apps on Barbs phone, baby books and advice from friends and family, we still have no clue how we will be as parents.

But there are some things I do know. I do know that we are each others’ world. I do know that we want this little baby so much and he is already so loved. I do know that we will try our very best to be exactly what he needs and exactly what each other needs, every day. We will do it our way. Maybe not the best way, but “our way” works for me. Sure, you may come and visit us and the dishes might not be done, and we might both look like the Wreck of the Hesperus and have had nothing to eat but lasagne for two days, but we will be happy. A happy little trio. That much I do know. Ok, so maybe we are ready 🙂

So do I sit with the Dads or the Moms? Some antenatal hilariousness, by The Other Mommy

So being the “Other Mommy” of Little Spot has had some fun moments already. I am clearly not growing a baby in my belly but I am mentally preparing for becoming a Mom. It’s surreal to say the least but I am amazed at this little being already, and so damn grateful to Barbs for everything she has done to get us so close to becoming a family of three. EEEEKKKK! Ok just breathe.

They tell you that in antenatal classes… just breathe. Everything will be fine. We had some interesting moments getting the baby in, and now it seems we will have even more fun getting the baby out.

At our first every antenatal class, having arrived all bright-eyed and ready to learn about our darling bundle of joy, we took turns introducing ourselves as couples and parents-to-be. The very excited dad in the front row introduced himself and his wife, the nervous couple in the back did the same, followed by the couple sitting next to us – who had definitely not figured us out yet. When Barbs introduced me as her wife and the dad from the next door couple’s eyes just got bigger and bigger. I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “so how did they actually get the baby in there??? And they are both girls – how on earth did they possibly make a boy???” Mind absolutely blown.

The following antenatal class was a lesson on exercises for the moms-to-be to keep the muscles supple and strong. The midwife asked all the dads to go and wait outside while the moms did their exercises. So where should I go – outside with the dads (probably to talk about rugby and how glad they are that they don’t have to do exercises – sounds rad) or stay with the moms? The midwife said I should stay with the moms. OK cool, she knows way more than I do, so I better listen and stay with the moms. The pilates lady came in and did a little intro to all the moms-to-be and kinda looked at me suspiciously as if to say, “lady, I can see you’re not pregnant, what are you doing here?” And probably thinking, “shame maybe she’s a bit cuckoo and thinks she’s pregnant… let’s leave her alone and help her with her fake preggie exercises.” So there I was, in amongst all these preggie bellies learning to control my pelvic floor muscles, stretch my abdomen, hold the muscles around the baby and of course… breathe. And try not to look at Barbs too much because I’ll definitely laugh.

The lesson ended with the obligatory, awful natural birthing video, made in the 90’s, complete with a perm. The man next to us (who after two weeks still hadn’t quite figured out how we got this right) was turning more and more green as the video went on. When the placenta made its appearance he said loudly “WHAT is THAT?!?!” He and his wife didn’t arrive at last night’s class, I think the whole thing was just too much for him.

As we learn more about this little bundle we are going to look after ALL OUR LIVES (showee about that breathing thing) I can’t help feel that we are the luckiest people in the whole world! The wonders of the 21st century and modern medicine have helped us to become what all little girls dream of – a Mommy. Well not yet, 3 months to go and I’m sure more fun and games with antenatal class on the way soon!

The top 10 things I will never say to a pregnant woman again

Before falling pregnant I was one of those annoying people who laughed derisively and said things like, “that’ll be you soon” every time we saw a new parent struggling with a bawling child. But as I enter my third trimester, I have come to realise just how irritating those people – and those statements – are.

Based on my experiences over the past couple of months I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things I will never say to a pregnant woman again. This will no doubt help you avoid future unpleasantness, deep eye-rolls and sarcastic responses from the pregnant women in your life.

Ah shame, you can’t have this can you?

Whether referencing a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon, a giant plate of sushi or a binge at the cheeseboard, it’s excessively annoying to be reminded of the things you cannot have. I know I can’t drink and I know I can’t have that salmon sashimi or delicious Camembert, but that doesn’t change the fact that I bloody-well want to! Having every Tom, Dick and Harry remind you of the things you can’t have (which, by the way are innumerable) is enough to inspire most hormone-soaked women to commit homicide.

Jeeze that kid can scream – hey, that’ll be you soon

Probably, yes. Do you really think it hasn’t crossed my mind just how completely inept I’m likely to be as a parent? That I’m unlikely to know what my new born or three-month old wants when he starts screaming his head off in the middle of a crowded restaurant? That I haven’t considered that I’m likely to annoy the living hell out of every living creature in a 50m radius by virtue of my total lack of experience? Because I have. I’ve spent countless sleepless nights worrying about the type of parent I’ll be, whether I’ll even know how to hold my child properly, never mind be able to soothe him when he’s upset. I’ve spent innumerable hours agonising over the sheer lack of experience in my parenting resume and I really don’t need to you to remind me of it.

I bet you’re dying for a drink?

No shit. I’m fat, I’m bloated, last time I sneezed I nearly peed myself, I have the world’s shortest fuse and I haven’t had a drink in months. Of course I’m bloody dying for a drink. Idiot.

So have you had to buy maternity clothes yet?

No, of course all my clothes still fit me. I’m 10kg heavier than I was six months ago, what do you think? Moron.

So, are you ready for this?

No I’m bloody not – would you be? Is anyone ever ready to become a parent? If we waited until we were ready for these things, we’d never do them. Do you think your parents were ready for you when you were just a bundle of poop and vomit? Of course not. Even if you were the 5th kid, they were not in any way, shape or form ready for you. No one is ever ready to give up sleeping for the next 18-to-25 years, to relinquish their freedom and to sacrifice their body. What a stupid question.

Hope you’ve caught up on your sleep

You do realise that – barring when you actually have your little bundle of joy screaming at all hours of the night – during your pregnancy is probably when you sleep the least, right? There are so many things that contribute to a person’s inability to sleep during pregnancy – you can’t get comfortable, you have another human lying on your lungs, you have literally a million new things to worry and stress about, and we all know stress and sleep are inversely proportionate. Just the idea of catching up on sleep, or storing sleep – like there is some kind of magical sleep bank – is completely absurd.

OMG, where’s the baby?

It’s in there, I promise. I can feel him. He’s been riding my bladder like a pony all day. He kicks my ribs and twists my insides into the most incredible positions – trust me, he’s in there. Just because I haven’t literally spent the last 7 months eating for two, does not mean this baby is anything less that flipping huge in there!

Ah, your tummy is so…

My tummy is so what? If you’re going to finish that sentence with “huge” or “round” or anything even remotely similar, don’t. In fact, when it comes to pregnant women, don’t say anything about the size of their tummies because I promise you, nothing you say is what they want to hear.

Can I touch your—

No, you f*cking can’t! Unless you were there when this baby was put into my tummy, you may not touch it. What is it about pregnancy that makes people lose all sense of propriety? I don’t walk around grabbing people’s crotches or fondling their breasts, so why do people automatically think they have some sort of right to your body when you’re pregnant. It’s hard enough sharing your body with another human being, but to have total strangers feel they have the right to touch you – no, just no.

Shame, at least we can drink through this, you have to be sober!

Yeah, thanks for the reminder. A-hole.

Having experienced all of these situations first-hand, let me assure you, pregnant women don’t want to be reminded of the things they can’t do, the things they’re worried they won’t be able to do, or the things they should be doing. If you value your life – and let’s face it, around hormonal pregnant women, you really should tread lightly – don’t make these mistakes. Even if she jokes about catching up on sleep, or how she’s dying for a drink, don’t jump on the bandwagon. Smile, laugh even if it’s appropriate, say something like, “shame, I can only imagine” and move on to a less contentious topic – like world politics or religion.