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She’s so messy.

“She’s so messy. If you open up her desk, it’ll swallow you whole.”

That is what the girl next to me in Year 4 once said, and she was right. My desk was a maelstrom of snapped pencils, drawings, lots of bad handwriting, and dried up pieces of glue.

A few years earlier, my Year 1 teacher pulled my mother into the classroom after school just to watch me try to organise my things from afar. I would become so overwhelmed by all of it, that I would kind of just step back and forth in a dance.

“See? She can’t organise herself.”

In Year 12, I sat an English test. I had to write a monologue for a specific character in a book. I knew exactly what I wanted my character to say, and my fingers couldn’t spew the words out as fast as my mind wanted them to.

At the end, my teacher was splitting hairs about marks that she “could have” given me, pointing out to me smugly that, “If there weren’t three gaps in between the parts of this word, I would have known you meant ‘educated.’ Can you see now why I marked you down?”

Yes, lady. I can see now why you marked me down and I don’t care. 

Now that I’m nearing 30, you only ever see small glimpses of this past-self in my current life. For instance, I have this process where I need to leave my laptop and school bag out on the bench so I know to take them in the morning. If I don’t, I will get halfway to work before realising that I don’t have my belongings.

It drives my wife mad because it’s mess and clutter.

But – my Tupperware is perfectly organised, my handwriting is neat, my bench is clean, and my books are organised. I work to perfect to-do lists.

Why is it that I struggled so much to do those things in the past, yet I am now a neat perfectionist?

I guess the difference is that back then, I felt like it didn’t count. It was easy enough to coast through primary school without a care in the world, and once I got to high school, the divide I felt between scribbling out the fictitious monologues and the exams and the actual real world where you turned up for work, ate your vegetables, and paid taxes just seemed so far.

Put simply, I felt that there was no ‘buy in’. 

I had spoken at length with the careers counsellor and I had no idea what I wanted, beyond wanting to be educated, but the longer I sat in the four walls of my high school, the less educated I felt, the messier I became, and the more I failed.

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now I have one and a half university degrees with distinction (I’m sure that means something to someone, somewhere), a minimalistic, organised apartment, and a crisper full of vegetables.

I am neat. I am successful.

I got all of those things because they became things I wanted, so I figured out how to strive towards them. I tidied the handwriting. I learned to study. I became ruthless with clutter. I watched hours of YouTube videos that taught me how to cook.

Yet, I see adults scowling at the messiness of today’s youth, hanging them by the threads of their inattention, the untied laces of their dress style, their schoolwork, or even their handwriting, and I cannot help but wonder….

Maybe they want it all, but just not now. 

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Maybe a lot of us are artworks in motion and the best is yet to come.

 

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How does one work, study, and parent?

As you may recall, I went back to work last year – starting off with some relief teaching days and moving up to a term-long contract. This year, I’ll be doing two days per week.

On top of that, I also study a masters degree part time by distance and I parent.

People are shocked when I tell them, they hold this up as if it’s the high watermark of all achievement.

It really is not.

The other thing people do is ask how I do it?

I wish I had great advice, but all I can offer is that no matter which way you pitch it, it’s going to be hard. That is my best stroke of wisdom. Other than that, I only have a few other gems that have gotten me this far.

Just do it. 

I was weeks from falling pregnant when I started this degree, my wedding was coming up, I was working full-time and I was still writing my book. Adding one more thing to my plate seemed to be the most fool-hardy, daunting thing ever – and yet, I knew that my 40-year-old self would thank me for starting when I did.

There is never a ‘right time.’ Life is always busy, chaotic, and full.

If you want it, just go for it.

Don’t sacrifice baby-time for study time. 

I rarely study when he’s awake, unless we’ve spent a lot of time together and he’s entertaining himself for 20 minutes. I like to be present with him in the moment, playing, commentating, reading story books, singing… the study can wait until nap-time, bed-time, or before he wakes up in the morning. It’s all in fits and starts, but that brings me to my next point…

Just do a little every day. 

Just a little.

If you have a 3000 word essay due in 30 days, you only need to be writing 100 words a day to make it happen. Don’t procrastinate. A little here and a little there all adds up.

Take the textbook everywhere with you. 

You never know when you’ll get 5 minutes to squeeze in the next few pages. When Soren was really little, I used to read the textbooks to him at the coffee shop. It would put him to sleep. He’s old enough to be bored to tears now, though, so I don’t do that anymore!

Surround yourself with encouragers or other Mums who study – or connect with other Mums who have walked your path and made it to the end

They can be hard to find, but they are out there.

Of all the ways I have made this work for me, this last point has to be the most important…

Study something you love. 

Completing study when you have a baby is already going to be hard. Don’t make it harder by studying something out of obligation, or studying something you’re only half-interested in. I definitely owe a lot of my success so far to the fact that I’m studying something I absolutely live for, which will give me the opportunity to do a job I enjoy in the future.

Then, it isn’t a chore to read page after page after page after page after page (yes… there is a lot of reading at masters level..)

I know my ‘wisdom’ isn’t much, but I hope it offers some encouragement.

You can do the thing!

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All I want for Christmas is ewe!

It’s very interesting how people predict what your life will be like after having children.

The hypotheses start when you tell people you want a baby.

Smugly, they’ll say, “No more sleep ins for you!” This one never bothered me because I seem to be incapable of sleeping past 5:30am at the absolute latest – which frustrates me, but it is what it is.

Or – “Do you really think you’ll be able to study/work/exercise with a baby?” as well as my all-time favourite, “Kiss the travel life goodbye.” 

Now, to be fair, my lone travel-style pre-Boy was particularly feral. I would plan it all on the fly, trudge 5km from train station to Air BnB carrying broken luggage in a non-English-speaking country, roll the dice on $7 a night accommodation in New Delhi, do 32 hour Greyhound bus trips from one American state to the next, eating nothing but service station food for days on end….

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I get that it will not be like that again. That’s probably for the best. 

But this travel life with a baby in tow, is a new challenge in itself.

When we boarded the plane to our first tame destination – Queenstown, New Zealand, it was all seeming to go fine. He boarded the plane without much more than a grizzle, ate a yoghurt, drank a bottle, and then passed out to sleep.

Sweet.

Then, 30 minutes later, the air crew made an announcement that was LOUD AF.

Toddler awake, let the adventure wriggling begin!

We tried all the usual tricks – singing, playing, cuddles, seeing if he would listen to music on the entertainment system….

Then the lady in front of us, who looked oddly like Tove Lo, started rolling her eyes…

So we sang a little louder.

Then we arrived!

Carrying a 13kg toddler through the airport was hard, but we eventually picked up the pram and made our way to the vehicle pick up.

Except, there were no vehicles. Just a phone on the wall.

“Oh, it’s always one of these!” my wife said sarcastically, and she’s right.

In my quest to get the best bang for my buck as our ‘family organiser’, I usually choose services that occasionally inconvenience us in some small way. Still, they provided a little mini bus for us that took us to pick our car up…..

It wasn’t all bad.

During our holiday, we met real New Zealand sheep, drank in an ice bar, walked a LOT, did Park Run in Queenstown, went on a gondola, did a 4 hour round trip to Te Anau to ride swan boats, ate a cheese board in a cheesery (didn’t know this was a word?)……

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We had the time of our lives.

When our trip finally came to a close, our flight was changed so we had to do Queenstown-Auckland, Auckland-Brisbane. It was a long day but he slept on some of the flight back. I tried to watch a documentary and contended with little fat fingers that kept trying to pull my earphones out of the socket…..

Well, I guess you can’t have it all. 

We landed in Brisbane, completely satisfied but tired from the travel time. As we passed through customs, I declared the food items I wanted to bring home (such as a wheel of Brie cheese).

It was then I realised that I’d left a day-old lunch inside my Bento box. 

Needless to say, the customs worker (who looked oddly like Cher), was not at all impressed.

What can I say? I believe in love after love…. and travel after babies!

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First year, done.

Just like that – the first year of our little man’s life is now water under the bridge.

Everyone says it goes so fast, and it’s such a cliche, but it is true.

We have learned so much in the first year of our son’s life, and I would love to share this, if only to keep a record.

1. I need to use my time wisely. 

Back in the day, I used to get to work at 7am every morning. I would buy a coffee on the way in, get some solid planning or paperwork done, stuff around in the staffroom, and then start my teaching day. After work, I would go for a run and ponder about things, like what I might cook for dinner….

I had oodles and oodles of time, and yet, I got nothing done. Well, nothing life changing, anyway.

Now? It’s absolutely nothing like that. 

I have very little spare time, but I try to make it all count. I started my masters 6 weeks before falling pregnant, and I released my book on the day I had my IVF transfer. I wish I had a ‘secret’, but all I can say is that I don’t stuff around anymore. I get up early if I need to, I study in waiting rooms, when Soren is sleeping, on my lunch break, at night, or in the car – I set up Siri on my phone so I can record ideas for my essays on the drive to work. My only rule is that I don’t study around Soren, although I did read some of my semester one textbook to him before I made this rule.

I’m not super-Mum, I’m just super organised…. mostly (except for right now – I’m actually meant to be studying).

2. You don’t know what you don’t know. 

Before I had my son, I had this plan of staying home full time for at least 3 years, then including some relief teaching work down the track. About 6 months in, I was losing my head, to the point where I ended up taking on some relief, then a full-time contract for a short while. I felt immense guilt for not being the stay-at-home Pinterest Mum, but with time, I realised that finding the right balance was what was required – not for me to fit myself into someone else’s truth.

For me, that means part-time work and part-time Mum. And that’s okay.

3. I needed to have a few test-runs of the first birthday cake, and then forgive myself for over-catering on the day. 

I really wanted his first birthday to be amazing, so I did practice runs of his first cake. It’s fortunate that I did, because the first one fell to pieces when I took it out of the oven. My best advice is to find yourself a cake-making friend, if you can, and pick their brain (but not to pieces).

I realised, too, that I bought way WAY too much food. I may have gotten a bit ambitious with Instagram and their targeted birthday food ads….

But it’s all good. We made it, with cake in tow. 

Our first overseas trip together is the next adventure on the horizon…. more blogs to come – after all, I can’t procrastinate without an audience.

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Is he a good baby?

As a new parent, this is the question I am asked the most. 

Yes, Soren is a good baby. But you know what? All babies are good babies.

In fact, I would suggest that all children are good children. Some are born with challenging traits or placed into situations that ultimately lead to the development of less adaptive coping mechanisms, but that does not make a child ‘bad’.

They are a product of their genes and environment, both of which are out of their control.

They are coping with the situations in their lives, with the brain wiring they were given at conception. 

For example, some babies seem to sleep well from day one, whereas some babies are all-night ragers.

Some babies and children need a lot of reassurance, whereas other babies need less, or ask for it in different ways. 

Some babies cry a lot, others don’t cry unless they’re completely overwhelmed. 

‘Well, what’s wrong with saying he’s a good baby?’

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When we think about good versus (bad?) babies, it’s important to think about our language. “Good” implies that a baby or child is capable of making considered, moral choices. The opposite, of course, is “bad.” 

This has never sat comfortably with me. 

In my studies last semester, I completed a unit on child abuse and neglect. One of the core aspects of the curriculum in this area was about risk and protective factors. In the first year of life, one of the most significant risk factors for child abuse and maltreatment is the child’s temperament. 

So – a high-needs baby with colic and a need for reassurance is more likely to be physically harmed, ignored, shaken, or emotionally maltreated. 

They are vulnerable. 

This doesn’t mean it will happen, but the higher stress levels brought about by challenging temperaments and behaviours can create conditions where maltreatment is more likely. 

In my mind, to then label babies as ‘good’ places the blame on an infant for stress brought about by higher needs. In a very small and implicit way, it blames a child for how others respond to them. 

In any event, babies just need our love – and when they challenge us, they need it even more. 

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Attachment theory and attachment parenting are not the same thing.

I have received many comments as a new parent, so sometimes it is useful to separate the wheat from the chaff.

When I was in the midst of sleep regression, Soren had stopped sleeping through the day. I felt like a failure as a parent because the only way I could get him to sleep was by feeding him on the breast. When I’d gently place him in his cot, he would scream. Pat-shush didn’t work, we weren’t interested in co-sleeping, and lullabies were not helping us.

A few people blamed breastfeeding – apparently, he was using me as a dummy. The child health nurse suggested that ‘if feed to sleep works, keep going with it.’ So I would feed him to sleep, then be planted on the couch or the floor for an hour.

Another person suggested that I had cuddled my child too much and too often, causing him to lose his daytime sleep independence.

“That’s all that modern attachment parenting.” 

Except – it wasn’t.

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At the time, I was knee-deep in a subject of my masters degree that focussed on attachment theory in the context of healthy relationships, child abuse and neglect, and protective education.

Attachment parenting and attachment theory are two different things.

In attachment parenting, you are encouraged to co-sleep, do skin-on-skin, breastfeed for an extended time, and wear your baby.

I was never an attachment parent.

With that being said, I pat him to comfort him, I did 9 months of breastfeeding (until my hair fell out), and I cuddle him within his comfort levels. When he cries during play time, I pick him up – when he wriggles, I put him down.

These are natural behaviours. Soothing a child’s heightened emotional state and sharing in their happy state helps them to feel loved, safe, and secure. This is supported by attachment theory, long-term studies, and natural science.

It does not make a child ‘clingy.’

In fact, being securely attached to a parent is one of the most protective factors a child can have in developing resilience, independence, and positive long-term outcomes.

However, like anything, there are lots of ways you can achieve a secure attachment, and it doesn’t need to involve attachment parenting.

9 months on, I still respond to my baby’s cues and comfort levels in a way that makes him feel safe and he reacts positively to new situations, people, and settings, which suggests that he is securely attached. He has a safe base that he can return to in the face of threat or discomfort.

While some people may label this as ‘modern’ parenting, it is highly supported by science. Read more here

Interestingly, a securely attached infant is less likely to experience avoidant, insecure, anxious, or ambivalent behaviours when separated from their caregivers, which flies in the face of the assumption that responding to an infant’s natural needs will make them clingy.

The flip side, of course, is that I want my child to have power over who touches his body. At 9 months, it is just a matter of me reading his cues and body language, but in the future, I intend to teach him about consent – another way he can feel safe and secure.

Protective education (making a child the boss of their body) is the first way you can make your child a hard target for predators who are looking for easy targets who won’t tell on them.

It’s all a balance with the same end goal – making your child feel safe.

So what’s the difference?

Attachment parenting is a style of parenting that encourages maximum contact, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing in the hopes of nurturing the parent-child relationship.

Attachment theory is the scientifically supported study of early relationships between children and their primary caregivers that focuses on a child’s innate need to have emotional states soothed, to be close to their caregiver, and to feel secure. It supports two-way interactions, appropriate responses, and the dynamics of early relationships that lead to a child feeling secure. Avoiding a child’s early attachment needs by ignoring them or only responding sometimes can cause a child to feel anxious upon separation, clingy, ambivalent towards their caregiver, and in the long term, poor at interpersonal relationships.

 

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No prizes for first place? Hogwash.

I was reading this article about schools going ‘reward free’ in the name of tackling a ‘lack of resilience’ in the up and coming generations.

As a teacher, parent, current over-achiever, and former under-achiever, I must respectfully disagree.

Let me tell you my story. When I was at my first primary school – a Catholic affair – I was labelled ‘the naughty kid’ from the very start. In grade 1, I started having horrific religious dreams about Jesus crucifying me, nailing me to the carpet, or calling me an evil child. My grade 1 teacher used to smack me and put me in the back room to get rid of me. By grade 3, my teacher made me complete my school work in the office and I had to stay back after school.

This was not violent behaviour on my part, mind you. Just impulsive silliness. Flushing apple cores down toilets, staying out in the rain, occasional backchat. Still, my education did not start off on the right foot. What I really needed was a firm teacher who could build a relationship and get inside my head.

Once I changed schools, I experienced that. When I did the wrong thing, I was reprimanded; but when I did the right thing, I was praised. My teacher believed in me and I improved out of sight.

A few years later, I still had behavioural problems but I had started to develop a talent for academia and sports. I played soccer and touch football skilfully, and competed in athletics and distance running, often making it to district and regional trials. I also achieved in the top percentiles for English and writing competitions.

Fancy that – a naughty child who is also academically skilled!?

Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t – but it didn’t really matter because at the end of the day, I was only racing against myself.

When I did win, I would get the chance to receive a medal or ribbon on assembly. For me, the naughty kid, it helped my teachers and peers to see another, more positive side of me.

In some schools I’ve taught in, there have been rewards days for behaviour, attendance, and effort. These are areas that anyone can achieve highly in.

I have absolutely no issue with seeing children rewarded for hard work.

For some of the children we teach, this may be one of the few things they can feel good about.

No-one is suggesting we should give out medals for last place – but a little bit of encouragement goes a long way in motivating some children. There are certainly some children who may only get their time to shine on the sporting field or in the world of academics, so it makes no sense to take that away from them.

When did we become such a nation of scrooges?

As a child, I received ribbons for places and medals when I won. As an adult, I still race against myself, I set the bar high, and I still have the box full of trophies and medals I received in some of my brightest days. I certainly don’t lack resilience.

Let the children celebrate their wins and support them through their disappointments.

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I just want my finishing medal and my beer, damnit!

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The joy of travelling alone

Ever since I can remember, I have had the travel bug. It probably started the first time I watched Madeline; I always had a deep desire to stretch my wings and walk on the roads less travelled.

As I grew towards my adult life, my parents encouraged me to ‘wait until I had friends who wanted to travel.’ As I started to meet new friends, I realised that our styles would be completely incompatible. My friends wanted to drink and party with Contiki, I wanted to travel at my own pace and to do so quietly.

When I was 20, I booked my first trip alone to Tokyo, Japan. My parents begged me not to go, but I did anyway.

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My only big mistake was that I nearly missed the flight back because I assumed a flight from Tokyo – Osaka – Brisbane started as a domestic flight, therefore, I only had to be there a half hour early.

Oh, well. I made it in the end.

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The next year, I took a teaching trip to Hangzhou, China and visited Beijing and Shanghai when I was done. After that, I thought I could conquer the world….

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…. then I visited India. At the ripe old age of 22. Probably one of my poorer life decisions, but I have no regrets.

I did the golden triangle – Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra – where I saw rats the size of cats, experienced real Indian accommodation ($7 a night and no running water), and had gastro out of both ends.

I also had a taxi driver who tried to scam me out of money after I’d run out, so I had to distract him and run into a hotel.

Smooth.

In 2012, I came out of a three year relationship so I spent the slush fund I’d had tucked away for a European jaunt with my ex and spent 3 months travelling in Greyhound buses on the west side of the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Some highlights included couchsurfing at Richmond Arquette’s guest house, meeting survivors of Jonestown, and hanging out with lots of internet friends.

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Greyhound Buses – where hope goes to die

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Before I left, so many people got busy telling me why I shouldn’t travel alone, but I did it anyway. The only downside was when I got bronchitis in Las Vegas on New Years’ Eve and ended up spending it in Sunrise Hospital, Nevada. So many drunks.

Good times.

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Christmas Day was good, though. Spent the day skiing and nearly crashed when I stupidly took on the steep mountain.

Right before Soren was conceived, I travelled to Sri Lanka, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia on my own.

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Sri Lanka was an adventure from start to finish, with dirt-cheap Air BnBs, crowded trains, hot weather, and about 21km of walking most days.

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The high point was when Natalie joined me for Christmas and we spent the day surfing.

From there, I left my love and went for my first trip to the Middle East – Qatar.

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It was there in that dusty corner of the world that I learned the value of drinking tea, enjoying extravagance, and being left alone.

On New Years’ Eve, I boarded a flight to Azerbaijan. Most people I spoke to would raise their eyebrow and say, ‘Where the f#*k is Azerbaijan!?’

In case you wanted to know, it is part of the far-Eastern-European part of the world and a former Soviet nation. It is untouched by tourism, full of stray cats, and cold as anything in January – so much so that it started snowing flurries when I went for a run.  The highlight was definitely catching two buses to a place out of town and finding an eternal fire – very valuable in the cold weather. You can also buy 75c Russian vodka in the supermarket – also good for keeping warm.

From Azerbaijan, I took the no-frills overnight train to Georgia. It was somewhat confronting to cross a border in the middle of the night, especially when the uniformed customs officers spoke very little English.

In Georgia, I got a $50 tattoo and also ended up in a bath house after catching a random bus. I had no idea what was going on when the lady running it took me into a locker room and told me to ‘strip!’ I obliged, and she took me into an underground shower room filled with 20 other naked ladies, all different ages. The water came from the Earth and was boiling hot. In the corner, an elderly lady was being washed by her daughters with a rag on a stick. It was oddly beautiful. 

I took another overnight bone-rattler from Georgia to Armenia, where I finished my Eastern European jaunt. It was beautiful from start to finish.

Some people fear travelling alone, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. You learn to love being alone, and to solve problems independently. My goal was to get to 30 countries by 30 and 10 of them, I have done as a solo traveller.

No regrets.


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The best parenting advice.

When I first fell pregnant, I received so much well-meaning advice. Some people couldn’t seem to accept that when I said a particular idea wasn’t really for us, it didn’t mean it was a bad idea.

Take attachment parenting, for instance. Some families love bed-sharing, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing. For me, the idea of having my child attached to me day and night makes me anxious. Therefore, we’ve never used any of these strategies.

Horses for courses.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” was another gem that also made no sense to me.

So – will the baby study when I study, or work while I work? How do I find time to do my tasks if I’m sleeping every time I catch 40 minutes?

I do want to share the best advice I was given, though, in the hope that someone else can use it.

Save up nappies/wipes and other consumables in the year before you have a baby.

8 months in and we still haven’t used all of our packets of wipes and we only ran out of nappies after a couple of months.

 Save up your baby’s 1st birthday items in the months before their birthday.

This saved us going out and buying packs of Batman plates, cups, and accessories all at once. Very useful.

Buy an umbrella stroller for overseas trips.

Enough said. 

Use Gumtree/Ebay/Buy swap sell for baby brand name clothes.

You spend so little and get so much!

Take time out for yourself.

Whatever that looks like –  it’s absolutely essential.

Most of the advice is chump change in the grand scheme of things, but these were my three most valuable pieces.

What were yours?

 

 

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That’s now how it was supposed to be – my experience of birth trauma

Before my birthing experience, my midwives asked me to draft a ‘birth plan.’ I thought the idea of planning something so unpredictable was completely absurd, so my plan was to take nothing off the table. In my head, I secretly wanted to give birth in a warm bath with nothing but a bra on, but this wasn’t to be.

On the twelfth day of December 2018, I decided I had been pregnant long enough. I was four days past my due date and becoming increasingly anxious about what was to come. The very next day, I went to the hospital. They felt my belly and told me the baby’s head was in an odd position, so an induction would be required straight away.

I hadn’t even brought my hospital bag.

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Nevertheless, they took us upstairs to the ward and inserted a balloon catheter, while I waited for labour to start. Many hours later, it had not commenced. My waters were broken under laughing gas – which was definitely the high point of my birthing experience. After, a hormone drip was injected and my contractions started.

I laboured peacefully for a few hours and dilated on schedule. After awhile, I requested an epidural to numb the intense contractions brought on by the artificial hormones. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours, until the epidural wore off. That was when things started to get tricky.

The nurse observed that my dilation had regressed from 8cm to 7cm, his head was still displaced, and I was running a fever of 40 degrees. It turns out I had an infection.

At this point, the doctors called time on my “natural” birth and I hastily signed the consent forms for a c-section. The hormone drip was then removed. As they wheeled me to theatre, I screamed as I experienced a half hour contraction.

When I was on the surgical table, the spinal block would not go in. They explained the need for a general anaesthetic and before they injected the cannula, I yelled, ‘Don’t let my wife find out the sex of the baby until I’m awake!’ Then, it was lights out.

During the surgery, I lost 2.5 litres of blood and needed to be stabilised with tubes down my throat. Fortunately, he was completely fine throughout.

I woke some hours later, with a baby on my chest.

‘He’s perfect!’ I remember saying, as I blacked out again.

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When I woke the next time, his nappy was being pulled down in my face – the closest I came to the ‘it’s a boy’ moment.

In the days following the birth, I couldn’t get out of bed nor care for my baby as I would have liked. I needed a lot of assistance from nurses as I was on an anti-biotic drip and couldn’t get out of bed unassisted. It was awful to feel so helpless.

Being trapped in the house for six weeks also made my life difficult. In the early days, I caught a bus to rhyme time but felt so overwhelmed by the amount of people in the library that I sat outside in the park and sobbed.

Over time, I experienced quite a lot of distress over how it all went down. At first, I felt like less of a woman because people would say to me, ‘Well, I knew someone who laboured for 36 hours with their first baby.’ Or they would talk about how few interventions they’d had with their own births, like all of this is the high watermark of womanhood.

I grieved everything I missed; the ‘it’s a boy’ moment, the cord being cut, seeing the placenta, hearing him cry, and experiencing the first breastfeed. Any time I hear about someone else’s “natural” birth, I get triggered, knowing I will never experience this for myself.

I struggled through the first few weeks of breastfeeding, desperate to hold onto the last lingering shred of connection I had to a natural birth of my son.

It sucked. Knowing I would never give birth again also didn’t help.

But in the months following, I have reflected, contemplated, and grown through all of this. I realise that births happen in many different ways and what was completely unorthodox was still beautiful, in that it brought life into this world.

I am no less a woman because I was induced, used an epidural, or because I had an unconscious c-section birth. Although I am grateful, my birthing experience was devastating, scarring, and isolating. Being able to make sense of it takes away some of its darkness.