Friday, April 29, 2011

Changing Viewpoint

Having a son is at times a riot (hilarity), a riot (terror and screaming), a riot (being mobbed with people).  He's a fantastic companion, a swell sort of fellow.  He doesn't overwhelm with conversation, but his presence is always felt.  I can't believe how much fuller life feels with him in it.  I can't believe how much life has changed with him in it.

Sure, there were all those changes early on as my body made room for, and just plain made, him.  What I'm referring to here is the way my mindset has changed fundamentally in these last few weeks.

Fashion Sense
I find myself perusing clothing in my closet and in shops with one sole thought:  how easily can I expose my chest?  Coming from a much more modest mindset, it's mildly mirthful to model mainly (come on, I had an "m" thing going) easy access clothing.

Sense of Self
I look at myself not just as a woman now, but as a food source (previously having only believed myself to be tasty to large carnivores like lions and vampires).  And I look at my body differently. I'm now proud of some parts of me that used to be only ornamental to make dresses hang nicer.  What's the deal with boobs anyway?  Why are they such a focus in fashion and life?

As I got ready for a wedding reception, I was running behind and whilst feeding my son, did my face.  I saw myself in the mirror and was amused at my newest accessory, while being slightly impressed that I hadn't streaked red lipstick across my face.  I've tried to do many things while feeding, some more successfully than others.  Sleeping is not a good one of them.  My body has tried it and freaked me out.

Sense of Humor
We now find some things hilarious that never used to be.  The sound of pooping, for example.  A minor facial expression change.  Being peed on.  These are not things that would normally set the ol' funny bone a jiggling.  In fact, the idea of being peed on by anyone else is revolting, but funny when my son does it.  And sometimes, just his poop is funny.  Is that wrong to say?  We were changing his diaper and in the interim, he shot out, getting change table and a large stuffed animal in the face.  I cracked up while cleaning up.

Adequate Sleep
I feel refreshed after 2 and half hours of solid sleep.  The idea of more seems like a myth.  I wake up ready to go or incredibly groggy, and even in groggy moments, go to wide awake easily.  I also fall asleep MUCH easier.  Thank God for that! As well as his many other blessings babywise.  Baby, for example.  I must admit, I do like to get pockets of 2 1/2 hour sleeps together.  I am for three a night.  I usually get one and some shorter ones.

Sense of Contentment
Smelling sweet baby skin, hearing baby goos and coos, even just the light rise and fall of our son breathing.  It's music to my ears, nectar to my nose and happiness ladled on my soul.

Many other things have changed since having our son, not the least of which are his clothes, which get changed at least twice a day lately...  It's an exciting adventure we're on.

And it's just beginning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It Happened One Night

(I haven't finished my labour story for a couple of reasons.  One, I have a three week old.  Life is busy.  Two, it just didn't feel appropriate during Holy Week)

Whilst some women may know instinctively the day and hour when baby would arrive, our son was a shocker to me.  I like to plan things and had many back up plans for this and that and the other thing regarding our child's birth.  There was one small problem with these plans.  All of these plans took place AFTER week 38.  I assumed, as most first time mothers go late, that we'd have no problems before full-full term.

That's another confusing bit that they never tell you til you have a baby in your belly.  9 months of pregnancy is 40 weeks.  Which is 10 months.  But really it's only 38 weeks because the first couple don't count.  And anytime after 37 weeks is term.  Except you're not at term until 38 weeks.

Once my water broke, I sat there in shock.  I was having a baby.  I'd thought about it.  Worried about it.  Dreamed about it.  And now it was happening.  Called the hospital.  They told us to come by before an hour was up.  Dinner was almost done so we sat down to eat.  Eating was oddly mechanical for me.  The tarts truly were fantastic though.  I wanted to wash my hair, so we had a shower and I noodled about attempting to finish packing my bag which had sat open in the closet for a few weeks, gaining a shirt one day and something else a few days later.  We didn't even have a "coming home" outfit purchased for the child.  Thought we had time...

So by 7:20 pm we were at the hospital.  The midwife on the phone had asked me if I was having contractions.  I tried to determine if I was.  I thought there was a tightening ever few minutes, but it was slight.  At the hospital, they checked me out to see how we were doing.  At 8 pm, I was already 2 cm dilated.  The machine claimed my contractions were 6 minutes apart, and I could mildly feel a tightening, but it wasn't painful.  The midwife assumed we had a long way ahead of us and told me that if I hadn't gone further by the next day, I'd be induced.

Adrian and I settled in for a long night.  By 9 pm I was feeling some pain.  We'd wander around the hospital, stop for a contraction and I'd wiggle my hips the way they taught us in antenatal class and sing songs to help the baby come out.

By 10:30, I was making pained sounds with contractions.  They kind of feel like bad cramps, the worst gas pains ever and like fire has ripped through nerves.

The lady checked me again.  3-4 cm dilated.  By midnight I was in hard labour.  I tried to walk around.  Adrian talked me through contractions and kept me sane.  I showed my love by biting him and hurting his hand.  Hard labour is not a misnomer.  My contractions soon came right on top of each other and my birth plan flew out the window.  As transition came, I tried to suck in nitrous oxide, but often screamed instead, writhed around in agony.  Seriously.

Then my body needed to push.  I tried to not.  The midwife said to go with it.  She said I was fully dilated.  Transition was the part I had feared the most, and I was shocked to hear I was through it.  It's not something that just appears on a screen "now entering transition" or that you know how it's going to progress.  Apparently I perked up quite a bit when I heard transition was done.  Almost got cheerful.  They took away the gas, and the midwife told me I couldn't scream anymore.

Fine.  Then I pushed for half an hour.  This was hard and bad and then Adrian looked at me and said "the head's out".  And then it was done.  His body came out fine; the placenta took a few minutes more to come out, but I barely felt it, with my son on my chest.

I did feel the stitches though.  You'd figure they wouldn't flash it in front of your eyes like that.  Adrian and I cried and held our son.  We smiled and beamed and worked out his middle name.

Previous to labour, I have wondered what labour would feel like, how much it really would hurt.  I'd had an ailment some years previous that was quite hard to bear.  Would it be like that?  Would the pain be the same?  Could I cope?

That's the interesting thing about pain.  It's hard to describe and once gone, difficult to quantify.  I can say without any doubt, that childbirth was the worst pain of my life.  But it was worth it.  And honestly, the pain doesn't matter.  This little man beside me does.

The pain doesn't stop with childbirth.  We'll get to more of that in later posts.  But right now I'm going to cuddle my bundle of joy whose dramatic entrance will forever be etched in my heart and mind.  The man who cut my agony with a perfect slice of happiness.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Early Signs of Labour and Confused Conversations

Sometimes people don't understand me.  I would choose to believe it's my Canadian accent confusing the Australian psyche,  but that would negate the many confused conversations I've had in Canada.  And we wouldn't want to do that!

They happen at the grocery store when I ask where to find poppy seeds and the lady thinks I've asked for Barbie.  And they happen when I'm trying to be a good mommy and learn how to best eat for my child.

Yesterday at parenting group, I asked if I should eat nuts or other things that are on the high alert allergy list as babies aren't supposed to have them for the first year and we are breastfeeding.  The woman responded confidently saying, "You can feed your child solid foods from six months on and from five months if they can sit up unassisted and support their own neck."


But I did say I would talk about labour and the pain that goes with it, so today we're going to talk about early stages of labour.  I had a short labour, so here is what I interpret to be the early signs.  You can print it off as a kind of check list if you desire to.

1) Extreme clumsiness.  I'm fairly clumsy, but last Monday I was walking into doors, opening things into my hand, and generally being a harm to myself.
2) Extreme cravings.  My cravings during pregnancy were very light and infrequent so it came as a shock to us when I needed a cheese and onion tart for dinner.  And of course my water broke when they were in the oven.
3) Odd pains in the tummy region.  I assumed anything weird in feeling was just standard for the last bit of pregnancy as it's generally considered to be uncomfortable.
4) Not asking my husband if I was in labour.  Periodically through pregnancy I would be kicked or whatnot and I would turn to Adrian and ask if I was in labour. Didn't even cross my mind.
5) The waters "breaking".  Possibly the most embarrassing feeling in the world.  And I was at home.

As you read this list, did you think "yes, that's me"?  If so, ask yourself "am I pregnant?"  If you answer "no", you probably aren't in labour.  But you might have an inner ear infection/problem (1); a shortage of a vitamin or mineral (2); gas or have swallowed a large crustacean which is now dancing on your intestines (3); a normal afternoon (4); or peed yourself (5).

So we went to the hospital.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Boys

Last Tuesday morning at 3:32 am, the most wonderful little boy was born to my husband and me.

It was not comfortable.  I'll probably spend a few blog posts on how truly uncomfortable it was.  But it was worth it.

It was a fast, hard labour, and I wouldn't have gotten through without my first boy to help me.  The most wonderful man out there.  He comforted me, helped me and got me through the most difficult time in my life.

I've spent quite a bit of time these past 6 days thinking of the blessings of my two men.  I've also spent quite a bit of time weeping with joy that they are mine.  That Adrian gave me our son.  The love that pours out of me for my little family grows exponentially minute by minute, even when I'm cleaning up messes.

And now I hear our son making sounds.  He's probably fine, but its about time to stare at him anyway.

I'll post when I can and you will read in depth gross details of great joy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Healthy Hymnody

I lead the choir here at the church.  It's a joy to get to lead people to learn more about the amazing instrument that is the human voice.  More than that, it's a privilege to choose music for them to sing.  I only wish I had more skill so we could sing some of the more beautiful sacred fare out there.  But there is something to be said for simplicity.

There are a few seasons of the church year that are have abundant stores of song to choose from.  The musical selection is immense.  Advent and Christmas are littered with options and styles that are quite well known and received.  Lent and Easter have a prolific store as well, and unfortunately don't always see the same amount of usage. It's easy to choose songs that are easy to sing, and neglect the words and rich musical forms that are out there.  Often the wealth of word and meaningful accompaniment is incredible in some of these Lenten/Easter songs but they aren't used.  

Say what you will about the tunes that accompanies these hymns.  The word "hymn" refers to the lyric.  It's a shame that some hymns are thrown away or neglected because they don't cause an emotional response/charge.  A hymn is so much more than just something we sing to feel good and to break up a service.  It teaches us.  It's part of our conversation with God as part of the Divine Service.  It has a depth to it, a tangible quality that lasts across centuries.  There's something fantastic about knowing that you are singing the same words as Christians across time.

Phos hilaron (Joyous Light of Glory) jumps to mind as a great example of that.  The church has carried it for 17 centuries.  It hasn't lost meaning; the crux of our salvation is older than that song!

The words of healthy hymnody stirs my soul.  I'd like to share some with you.  I hope it creates a time of reflection for you on all that we celebrate and remember at this time of the year.

My song is love unknown: my Saviour's love to me, love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be. Oh, who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?
Text: Samuel Crossman, c. 1624-83

If my sins give me alarm and my conscience grieve me, let your cross my fear disarm, peace and pardon give me.  Grant that I may trust in you and your holy Passion; if his Son forgives anew, God must have compassion.
Text Sigismund von Birkin, 1626-81; tr. August Crull 1846-1923, alt.

All this for my transgression, my wayward soul to win; this torment of your Passion, to set me free from sin.  I cast myself before you, your wrath my rightful lot; have mercy, I implore you! O Lord, condemn me not! Here will I stand beside you, your death for me my plea; let all the world deride you, I clasp you close to me.  My awe cannot be spoken, to see you crucified; but in your body broken, redeemed, I safely hide!
Text attr. Bernard of Clairvaux 1091-1153; Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76

Behold, behold the wood of the cross on which is hung our salvation. O come, let us adore.
Roman Catholic Good Friday hymn
-- This one I find astounding as we often speaking of coming and adoring at Christmas.

How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son and make a wretch His treasure.... Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer.  But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.
Stuart Townend.

Do you recognize any of these words? Post titles in the comments.