I had another piece that I was going to post today (or three days ago, actually) about how wonderful I think it is that Instagram is trialling the hiding of ‘likes’. I had a whole spiel ready to publish but now, it all seems irrelevant. […]
Guaranteed, at least once a day someone will come up to me and ask me, “So is he a good baby?” I cannot tell you how sick of that question I am – not just because I get asked it so often, but because when […]
Samantha Michelle Fishburn and I went to high school together. We were in the same Maths and PDHPE classes together. We crossed paths regularly, saw each other every day, but we were never close, we were never friends. We both sat with different groups of girls, finding our place not only within the school walls but also in the larger sense. It were the days that we spent at Riverside Girls High School that set us up for everything that we had no idea was coming our way.
Since Hunter has been born, Sam has been one of our biggest cheerleaders. Everything that I have posted about Hunter and about motherhood, Sam has been right there, supporting us. When things have been tough, it has been her words that have really helped through. Being a mother has brought me so many beautiful thing apart from my incredible son, and one of them is definitely the new friendship that I have found with Sam. It has also confirmed why I continue to push forward with this site, this brand and the huge goals I have for it; there is nothing more important than having support, love and a community around you.
Samantha had a very different birth story to what I did, and it is the first time that I have really had an insight into what some families go through when welcoming their child into this world. Pete and I are grateful each and every day that Hunter was born without complication. He was healthy, happy and we were able to take him home the day after he was born. Though I feel lucky and honoured and so very thankful every day for Hunter’s health and wellbeing, before hearing Sam’s story I think I was naive about anything else outside of my own experience.
If there is only one post that you ever read on this site, let it be this one.
Thank you Sam for being so vulnerable, open, raw and honest; thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share your story here, today. Hunter and I think the world of you.
“It’s amazing how much one tiny human can teach you about yourself and about life in such a short space of time. When my waters broke at 32 weeks (conveniently in the hospital) and my 3rd and final bubba Alaric Alexander John was born, I don’t think it really set in how much of a profound effect he would have on my life. Alaric was born at 10:55pm on the 3rd of November, 2018. He was due on the 28th of December, 2018 I barely got to hold, let alone lay eyes on him until nearly two hours later. My first real glimpses of him were via text message from my husband who I had sent down to the NICU with Alaric. Whilst he was born a nice 5lb, he was actually quite a skinny little man with his little noodle arms and chicken legs. He didn’t have eyebrows or eyelashes but he did have an amazing head of hair. As every mum thinks of their child, to me, he was perfect. My first time seeing Alaric didn’t even feel real, it was hard to comprehend that a few hours ago I was at home pregnant with at least another five weeks of pregnancy left to go. But here he was.
I think the big thing people don’t understand about having a baby in NICU/SCN, is that even though you can’t physically do too much for them in terms of picking them up and cuddling and loving them, it is more of an emotional roller coaster. It is physically and mentally exhausting. IThe unknown is overwhelming. It is lonely.
I mean, I had so many people checking in and wanting updates and making sure I didn’t need anything. I had my mums group on facebook chatting away in our private group chat, but it was so hard to know what to say – you just dont want to talk to people after a while because honestly, unless you’ve been through this journey (and every prem journey is different), you can’t even begin to understand the emotions that the family is going through. I had no idea what to say about anything to anyone.
We were in our own little bubble; Alaric and I. Having a husband, a hoard of dogs and two kids already at home who needed me, my heart was always in two places. I missed my big kids, but they were okay. Their teachers at daycare were showering them in love and my husband was managing to hold down the fort, so I stayed with Alaric as much as I could.
The big thing though was milk.. despite being tiny, this bubba ATE. He was fed every three hours via tube for the first two weeks before he was truly trying to breastfeed. So, when I wasn’t sitting with Alaric or looking after myself or sleeping, I was pumping milk. For any of you needing to do this, a few key tips that helped me were:
1. A good TV series is a must! It kept me awake and made the time pass a hell of alot faster especially at 2am when I was playing the nodding dog game.
2. Water!! Lots of water – I swear I was part camel with the amount I was consuming.
3. SNACKS!! Nearly 6 months post partum and I still wake nearly every night at 3am and I’m starving!!! You are feeding a human being, you need to feed you too! Screw the diet! If you want pizza at 3am – EAT THE PIZZA!! My personal snack of choice was biscuits – oreos and 100s and 1000s biscuits specifically.
4. The amount you pump and produce is not an indicator of your supply – honestly every drop is awesome. So be it 1ml or 100ml, mama you are amazing.
I did have to supplement Alaric with formula for the first 48 hours as I was beyond exhausted and the lack of sleep combined with everything else, my boobs went on strike until I looked after me. From then on though, it was as my husband dubbed it “Bessie-the-Cow” time every 3 hours. I am very pro breastfeeding, but at the same time I also am in full support of ‘informed is best’. As long as you have the correct information for the different options that support your choice then no one should judge what you choose. All babies need to eat and as I’ve witnessed, breastfeeding isn’t always possible for everyone. We were allowed to cuddle Alaric once a day for a short period – prems often have trouble regulating and holding their body temperature, so you are encouraged to embrace kangaroo or skin to skin cuddles which also helps build a bond. I lived for these moments; just the peace and serenity, the amazing newborn smell – everything. I let my husband enjoy the first cuddle because he was on limited visiting time as the hospital was a 45 minute drive from home and his work schedule was jammed packed. But when my time came it was beyond worth the wait.
The hardest thing I ever had to do though, was go home empty handed.
Nine days as an inpatient at the hospital, I had stayed beyond my allowable days and since we were considered local (yep, 50km one way is local), it was time for me to head home and make the daily trek to see Alaric and drop milk off until a place at our local closer hospital became available now that he was older and more stable. I remember bawling my eyes out because as I was leaving the hospital there were other families wheeling their babies out of the ward and to their cars. I remember waving to my ward mate who was heading home with her third little girl as our cars crossed paths. It felt weird – I walked in pregnant and I was leaving not pregnant with no baby. I knew it wasnt forever but it was definitely one of the harder things I have ever had to do.
Despite not having a newborn at home, you don’t get alot of sleep as the parent of a prem – continually missing him, thinking and worrying about him and expressing milk, mixed in with the daily grind of being a mum and chief dog wrangler. I was relieved the day that we were transferred to a smaller nursery in our local hospital which was only 20 minutes from home. This meant that in the six hours between breastfeeds (we started at one breastfeed a day then gradually progressed to two tube feeds, to one suck feed to two suck feeds to a tube, to alternate feeds to all suck feeds) I was able to pop home, do housework and get groceries, whatever was needed. It also meant that I could go up to the hospital after dinner when the other kids were in bed. We managed to introduce some kind of balance and routine going where I didn’t feel like the entire burden was on my husband.
One of the many perks of this unit were that there were fewer nurses so you got to know them and they pretty much became your other family, the other mums that were there became your people and you’d make small talk and celebrate the successes no matter how small. I introduced the phrase of “think fat thoughts” when it came time for weigh-ins so we would be forever willing each baby to be just a bit heavier every weigh. I was blessed to make actual friends with two other mums in the nursery – one who was actually next to me in the bigger hospital with her twins and another whose little boy was born three days after Alaric. It was good because they had been living the same life so we were able to trade stories of bad food to embarrassing labour issues. It made the days much more enjoyable and we still talk and catch up now.
It’s just so amazing seeing how much they’ve all grown and changed. Miracle Babies Organisation also run local playgroups which we are a regular fixture of and it’s so amazing seeing so many little fighters flourishing. I always look forward to going because it’s a place where being a preemie is totally normal. The nurses in this unit encouraged us to be hands on and cuddle our babies and learn as much as we could so we were confident coming home. We were taught the daily supplement routine and how to give them pentavite (NOTE TO ANY FUTURE PREEMIE MUMS – PENTAVITE STINKS!! You will NEVER forget the smell) and we were given power to make decisions in regards to things like top-up feeds etc. They were really trying to give us our control and confidence back so we were ready to handle anything once we were discharged.
At 35+3 weeks, or 24 days old, the doctors discharged us from the hospital.
I burst into tears and continued to bawl for 20 minutes upon hearing this. He was tiny, only weighing about 500g heavier than his birth weight and I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was beyond terrified. I was used to big chunky babies, not this tiny human who pretty much fit in the palm of my hand. I really didn’t feel ready to leave the safety of the hospital and the nurses – hell, we had only become wire-free 24 hours earlier. I was scared of the outside world, its germs and the people. My nurse of the day, Kerrie, just kept handing me tissues telling me I could stay if I wanted, they weren’t kicking me out. I knew though that my kids wanted their baby brother to come home. My husband wanted more than a 50% wife, and I was over expressing and the constant travel. I wanted to be able to stay in my pyjamas all day and just cuddle my baby on my couch. So home we went..
The day after he was discharged we had his tounge tie revised and released and a general visit with the lactation consultant who was empowering and made me feel like I had a handle on this. Every day got a little easier, every day the anxiety lessened as Alaric continued to gain weight and grow. Oh and for any preemie mums – the explanation as to why your baby is so tiny despite their age becomes a second nature conversation as well as the comments about the chubby cheeks that most seem to get. I cannot go anywhere without soneone commenting about my little chubba bubba’s cheeks.
Alaric is, as of the 3rd of May, six months old or four months corrected. In the short six months of his life, he has been through more than most adults – CPAP, two rounds of phototherapy for jaundice, countless blood tests, lumbar puncture, two further hospital admissions – one for meningitis entrovirus and one for CMV -IVs/cannulas of varying natures, visits to various specialists including a paediatric Opthamologist in Sydney (we have a review in June to see if he needs glasses).
He loves bath time, his siblings and our big pointer, Romeo. Bibs are our fashion accessory with the continual reflux issues. We started in 00000 and now fit 000 and a few 00 pieces despite weighing nearly 8kg (no idea where it’s hiding). He has just started to roll and has the most amazing smile, it literally makes everything better no matter what. Me as a mum and as a person, I have grown and learnt so much about myself. I am consistent with my daily meds now, whereas before I could be a little sporadic. I know the routes to the hospitals like the back of my hand, more medical terminology than I’d like and I’ve learnt that even the smallest beings can teach you about strength and bravery, and that preemies are true superheroes. I’ve learnt patience and that babies (and kids) do everything in their own time and not before. I’ve learnt kindness, love and compassion from total strangers. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that I can handle more than I know and that I’m actually a strong person even when I feel completely broken.
To the mama sitting with their baby in the NICU/SCN – it does get better, you are amazing and you have been blessed with your own little superhero. It is okay to cry, even those big, heaving cries.
To the baby in the nursery – keep on fighting, you are loved more than you’ll ever know.
Thirty-eight weeks today. It doesn’t seem real, while at the same time it definitely feels like the pregnancy should be over and done with. This last month has been the most challenging and the most incredible period of time for so many different (and completely opposing) reasons.
From the thirty-six week mark onwards, there is this feeling of, “any moment now” and although that feeling is so freaking exciting, it is also such a cruel form of torture that is utterly inescapable. Every moment is one of anticipation and disappointment because, in every moment there is the potential of going into labour.. or not.
On Monday, I had my first minor contraction. The only way I could think of describing it is: you know the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland?
Well, imagine his smile reaching from one side of your belly to the other and that is where you feel the movement. Then, imagine his straight teeth and that is where you feel the pressure and direction of the contraction pain. I excitedly called Pete and told him that I had experienced my first one and waited patiently for the second one. For the rest of the day right up until this very moment, each of the contractions that I have felt have not been too clear, have been varied in intensity and irregular.
Later that day, Pete messaged me and told me that he was so distracted by everything that he was going to come home early from work. He has been home from work all week – bless his little heart. The emotional toll that these last few weeks has had on both of us is full on and not what either of us were expecting, Pete especially. The desire and want of meeting our son is all-consuming. And, even though you try to distract yourself and not think about it and be patient, you can’t help but imagine the moment when you go into labour and when you are holding your little person in your arms. It is full on and exhausting.
We ended up going to hospital the other day because I hadn’t felt our little man move for a number of hours. Not only that, up until then he has had a very distinct pattern of movement. Every midwife that I have spoken to has said that as soon as a baby’s pattern of movement changes, you need to be aware of it and monitor it. I was concerned that I hadn’t felt him so we headed into hospital and I was hooked up to a monitor that recorded his heart rate and his movements. Of course, as soon as I lay down on the hospital bed the little scallywag woke up and couldn’t stop kicking me. His heart rate and the scan was all perfect and everything is fine.
As torturous as the last few days have been, simply because of how madly in love we are with our baby boy and want to meet him and kiss his little butt cheeks and smell his head, Pete and I are both so incredibly excited. Even if I go full-term, his arrival is only fourteen days away. FOURTEEN. It is just that with everything ready (pram sitting in his room, car seat in Pete’s car, hospital bag packed and in Pete’s car, all of his little washing done), the reminder of his imminent arrival is unable to be avoided. Every time we sit down to watch a movie one of us will say, “Not long now until our little man is lying down here with us”. And it’s so true, it isn’t far off at all but that doesn’t make the longing of it any easier.
I had also expected to be really motivated during this month and a bit that I have off before Bub arrives. I imagined myself writing and going for swims and going for long walks. Well, I can tell you that that pretty much hasn’t happened. My brain is so consumed with trying to NOT think about going into labour that there is little to no room for creativity. I am so exhausted that the idea of writing makes me yawn (I am forcing myself to type this right now). And the heat has been far too much for me to handle that I can’t go for a walk without giving myself heat stroke and if I am out in the sun, in a pool or the ocean, my skin is so delicate at the moment that I will burn to a crisp. Instead, I have felt the overwhelming desire to clean the house every day. I know, weird. However, my house is super clean. Most days I have spent like this:
Breakfast at the cafe for about three hours
Grocery shopping/few hours of cleaning the house and chores
Sit down on the lounge to read/draw/watch something
Watch a movie with Pete
Sleep (not really)
That is about all I have energy for anymore. My fingers have swollen andI had to dramatically yank off my rings before they got stuck, and my knees and ankles and feet have also become a tad more engorged than usual. It’s all very glamorous, really.
Anyway – I don’t have a whole lot to report on other than that. I have read a lot of books and am yet to post the reviews of them. I have wanted, so badly, to create so much in this time but what I have realised and learned is that you need to pay respect to this last bit of pregnancy. It deserves all of your attention and love and care and it has really taught me how important it is to look after yourself, not just when you are mere moments away from pushing a kid out of your vagina, but always.
Hopefully, the next time I have the energy to write to you all, I will have my son in my arms.
All my love x
Tomorrow is my last day of work before I not only finish up for the year, but also before I head off on maternity leave. It is a weird feeling. I mean, I think that finishing work for the end of the year always feels a bit strange, but add the fact that I am not coming back to my workplace and that in a short seven weeks I will be giving birth to a baby boy – well, I think it is definitely fair enough that I feel a little out of sorts.
People have started to ask me what I plan on doing while on maternity leave and it left me feeling both excited and a little bit wary. My boss says that I will find that I will sleep a lot – especially in the afternoons. Everyone has been telling me that from now on I should sleep whenever I can because soon enough, I will be up with bub. Honestly though, the idea of being up with him and not having consistent hours sleep doesn’t phase me in the slightest. What I am coming to understand though is that I will be sleeping for a lot of my leave. It gets to 2pm and all I want to do is close my eyes for half an hour or so – and I have NEVER been a keen napper. Ever.
I am excited for leave because it means that this next phase has well and truly begun. Pete and I have reached the final stretch of the pregnancy and are all but waiting to meet our little man. All the hormones are also making me want to just nest. Leaving my house of a morning is hard simply because I want to be home, and doing anything outside of work is near impossible for me to get excited about because all I want is to be home. I can’t even explain why or what it is about home but I have been reassured several times that it is completely normal at this stage to rarely leave the house – which totally works for me.
I am also excited for maternity leave for the obvious reasons. It is almost summer and I can spend my days doing the bay walk and going to Drummoyne pool and the beach and eating ice cream at Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. I am actually SO EXCITED for ample cleaning time every day and I realise how lame that sounds but I do love cleaning our house. I am looking forward to learning how to make and use royal icing and extending my cookie making and decorating skills. I plan on experimenting a lot more in the kitchen and making use of the extra meal preparation time I will have. I really want to nail a miso eggplant recipe above all else. So good. I am keen to read a lot of books – including some children’s ones out loud to the little guy because I am starting him young – and also attempting to make my way through the seemingly endless list of television shows and movies people have given me ahead of maternity leave.
The (Oblivious) New Mama is going to be able to be my main focus for the next month and a half and I am finally going to have the time to do and create everything that I have wanted to for this site, but haven’t had the time or the energy to do whilst working. If anything, that is what I am most excited for – really making something of this website, of my words and sharing as much knowledge, baked goods and book reviews with the world. I am absolutely determined to make this a successful and profitable endeavour. I want to live and work through my passion and I am able to run this site from anywhere, and I can do so whilst still being the hands-on, available and attentive mother that I have always wanted to be.
The only thing that I am a bit anxious about when it comes to maternity leave is the fact that it will be the first time in my life that I am not earning an income. I have some money saved for my own spending and we will be receiving the parental payments from Centrelink as well, and financially, we will be fine, but it feels so weird and foreign. I do feel that I will experience a fair amount of guilt while I am off during the weeks before bub arrives. I think that surely, that’s natural for first time mothers? I know that I will need to find a way to make peace with those feelings and really lean into the comfort and safety of the fact that I am in a committed and loving relationship and that this is all part of it. It is also why I think it is so important that I remain focused on my little side projects (that I believe will eventuate in a full year’s salary eventually) as well as everything that makes up who I am. I don’t want to lose my identity. Instead, I want to use this time to really flesh out my passions, throw myself into them and make them into something really special. I want to do all of this first and foremost for myself, but also for my son and for my family.
Bring on maternity leave, I say!
Also, it’s really hot at the moment and everything is harder. So yeah, it will be nice to spend some days on the lounge, in front of the fan with a bowl of watermelon and nowhere to be.
And no clothes.