Month: January 2015

Sweet Surrender

My new little Australian

“You’ve surrendered,” someone observed of me recently. And it was true. I felt a lot better over the Xmas / New Year period than a month or so back and a big part of it was accepting the inevitable: The new baby is coming. Soon.

The concept of surrender is a good one to practise when you’re about to give birth because, without getting into too many gory details, the whole process of delivering a baby tends to involve giving yourself up to the physical and letting it happen. Of course it doesn’t always go smoothly. But that’s the ideal.

After I wrote about feeling so down with Antenatal Depression and being afraid to give birth, I did some good things. I asked for help from various sources and I received it, for which I am very grateful. One extremely useful thing I did was “reach out” to some of my amazing mum friends, all of whom have given birth more recently and more often than me. I found their advice so useful in pulling myself together and writing up a birth plan that I’d like to share some of their wisdom here. I hope they won’t mind me so.

EMBRACE IT

  • Worry surfacing in late pregnancy is natural and obviously not feeling comfortable (in a foreign country) is going to elevate that.
  • Listen to yourself: your fears first, which lets you get to your strengths.
  • Every birth is different but the principle of surrender and embrace really helped me… I realised that with my [first] birth it was more painful when I was (not always consciously) holding on or fighting the pain but I had a fast transition when I started to give in to it. So with [my second baby’s] birth I did this from the beginning. When I had contractions I stood and circled a bit and said yes yes yes to try and embrace them. Don’t get me wrong there was yes yes NO yes times but I think this made it happen faster and in the end a lot easier than I imagined.
  • It is painful but focus that between contractions you’re not in pain. I was laughing joking apologising for yelling. For me an ipod of music got me through in my own world.
SECOND BIRTHS
  • It is a good idea to get a birth plan together but the whole thing will almost certainly be better second time round.
  • I was DREADING contractions as they were so awful when I was induced with [my first] but I found it much more manageable with [my second] as it built up slowly and only had about 2 puffs of gas and air during the whole thing – mainly cos it all happened so fast!
  •  In the end [my second birth] was very quick and I ended up on the birthing unit with [my husband] and a student midwife. It was intense but gas and air really helped me and I was totally up for considering other pain relief (and had asked for some) but [the baby] was just too fast and arrived after about a minute of pushing.
  • I had a terrible time with [my first] and ended up in theatre in a blind panic and having forceps and an epidural. This time my plan was very simple… try and if it feels awful, have an epidural. And that’s what I did. [My second] was born quickly and I felt enough to know when to push but no pain.

DRUGS

  • If planning pain relief gets you through the worry now then you should plan for that or at least acknowledge it as a possibility that is totally fine and acceptable.
  • A natural birth doesn’t have to mean totally drug free.  I’m totally for it but it’s not about being a bloody hero or a martyr.
  • I wouldn’t rule out anything, you’ve got to do what feels right for you. I hate all this stuff about giving birth a particular way – I think it’s just designed to make women feel rubbish at time when you are particularly vulnerable.
  • “[For my second] I decided that I wanted to go for the same again (water birth) but I was definitely much more open to the idea of drugs both when I was thinking about labour beforehand and during labour itself!
  • I asked for an epidural and no-one was shocked or judgmental (as I had feared). It was incredible. I felt calm and happy because the pain had been taken away and I had mental clarity because it doesn’t affect your head. I chatted to the midwives and [my husband] and he kept asking me when the drama would happen…and it didn’t.
  • In my case the natural birth choice was (imagined) pressure and once I’d realised it wasn’t really the decision for me I felt really liberated to have the epidural if I wanted it. Don’t get me wrong, I totally respect a natural birth, but it wasn’t for me. Who remembers in the long run anyway?
  • The good side of being in Zurich is not only quality chocolate and alpine air – you will also get the best healthcare. No short supply of drugs and no shame in administrating or using them.
  • You know however you decide to do this, I’ve totally got your back.

IT’S AMAZING

  • It sounds mad but I would do it all again (both of my different labours) in a heartbeat, even with the pain – it is so wonderful to hold your new baby in your arms that I would love to go back in time to hold them again when they were so new.
  • [My third] birth was painful but I knew I could do it and in the end I’m so glad I did. Over 4kg with no intervention no stitches… Good for both of us.
  • My birth second time around was brilliant. It was such a happier experience than with [my first] and it some ways it felt quite cathartic to have a good birth.
  • My two goes at giving birth are two of my proudest moments. I love thinking back on them.

 AFTERWARDS

  • It’s brilliant how quickly you can change a nappy from day one, not panic about them crying, know the signs of wind, overtiredness  etc. You haven’t got the chance to obsess over pointless things like the colour of his/her nappy because you have a lovely toddler to hang out with. Your life doesn’t really change because you’re already in a kid routine and they just tag along.
  • I was very anxious throughout my [second] pregnancy. Once [the baby] arrived though I felt loads better, and actually enjoyed it more this time round.

My new baby S arrived a week ago after a relatively quick labour with a natural birth. We are both doing well 🙂

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Missing You

TAMARA DE LEMPICKA (1898-1980) LE TURBAN VERT

I miss her funny fingernails

The way her hair sits over her ear

The angle of her head when she laughs that shows the gap in her teeth (you don’t really notice it other times)

Her slightly protuberant eyes

Slim fingers that look like they could bend all the way back

Soft brown freckles that dapple her entire face

Non-symmetrical stains on her teeth and a hint of lazy eye (both add to her prettiness)

The skin-tone mole to one side of her cleavage

The way the makeup collects in the corners of her eyes because she laughs until the tears come

Nose rings – when will we give them up? Circles and sparkles

The lines around her mouth that have deepened but her skin looks finer

The red patch of excema on her arm, half hidden by a sleeve

Smooth, thin hair in a shiny black ponytail with a sparse fringe

Curly, thick hair that needs an undercut to be manageable

Eyes of aquamarine, true blue, dark blue, liquid brown, chestnut, greeny hazel

The slight lisp, enhanced by a tongue piercing

Her little feet in wedge heels. So busy!

Sometimes I think her hair is blonde, other times quite brown

The thin-etch of her teenage tattoo

Steady gaze from behind sparkly spectacles (but they aren’t glitzy)

Her compact competence

Have I ever seen her without eye makeup? Otherwise her face is bare, but it looks right

The angle of her chin, somehow like a lizard (not ugly)

Strawberry blonde hair, cornsilk, straight

Eyebrows

The cluster of her earrings

Her chubby cheeks: that expression when she grins but looks a bit unsure

She wears eyeliner flicks always. Except if she’s really tired or has a cold

Her gums above her teeth

The pout and curve of her lips, no longer pierced but you can still see the divot

A sibilant emphasis when she says certain words

Those teeth

Her nostrils

Her voice. All their voices. The words they use. Their accents

I ache to be in the same room for an hour with even one of them

My beautiful friends

 

 

Tips for Not Drinking

Snow Martini, tea or water

So it’s a new year: 2015! And lots of people will be keen to cut down on the alcohol. But I’m way ahead of you… because I’ve had nine months’ practice of trying to avoid one of my fave activities.

I may not have been entirely successful at cutting out drinking (ahem!) but I have learned a few tips and tricks, which I’ll happily pass on to you – and no doubt to my future self! I read this guide to Women Cutting Down on Alcohol in the Guardian today but I don’t think the tips are specific or practical enough. So without further ado…

Claire’s tips to stop or cut down your boozing

  • There’s a peak-craving time. If you get through it without taking a drink, you’re in the clear. Eg: I often start thinking about wine around 5-6pm and I’m stinging for a drink until 7 or 8ish (usually while preparing dinner). After the meal is eaten and I’m into the evening, I don’t care anymore. So the trick is: get through the craving period, perhaps by…
  • Fake it. I’ve recently discovered that putting a non-alcoholic drink in a wine glass really helps! I wish I’d realised this at any point in the past 9 months because I could have avoided many cheeky glasses of wine but hey ho, better late than never. Fizzy apple juice is working well for me right now but even water will do. However, if you’re like me…
  • Water is boring. Don’t get me wrong, I drink loads of water – definitely 8 glasses a day, sometimes up to 2 litres of the stuff – and it’s probably my favourite drink. But by the time I reach the evening, I’m pretty sick of water. At dinner time, wine feels like a reward, a treat, and/or a nice marker that the kid’s in bed/work has finished and I’m finally “off the clock”. So when tucking into a meal, particularly if it’s a special one, there’s there’s usually nothing fun about guzzling down YET MORE H2O. Therefore it’s worth getting yourself something different – cordial, juice, fizzy drink, milk, coconut water, tea, whatever. And…
  • Buy up. Even if, in general, you think of fancy waters or silly juices as an indulgence, at this tough time, it’s not. Treat yourself to San Pellegrino, Voss, coconut water, almond milk, Innocent Smoothies or whatever you want. Spend the money you’ve saved on the wine you’re (supposedly) not drinking!
  • Don’t tell. If you’re out at dinner or the pub, get yourself an alcohol-looking drink (eg: a short glass of lime & soda or pint of ginger beer) and let everyone assume you’re drinking vodka or Real Ale. This is something that works particularly well in early pregnancy before you want to announce it. But it would also work for people going dry, quitting or taking a break. I’ve found people in general hate to see you not drinking when they are (or maybe it’s just my friends, family and work colleagues ha!) so it’s often easier if they don’t notice. Once again, there’s a crunch-time involved. Buy yourself the first few drinks of the night and make them softies-that-look-hard and no questions will be asked. After that, people are too drunk to notice or care.
  • Sober socialising is hard. You get tired quicker and – surprise! – drunk people are boring. A bonus is, it’s easy to slip out early, especially if you’ve been drinkfaking it as advised above. Here’s a good blog by a Scottish woman Rachel Black with some tips for socialising sober.
  • Beware the enablers. Unfortunately, I seem to find myself often reading Modern Drunkard as well as being around people (my husband included) who are constantly reaching for a bottle, which makes it difficult, if I’m honest, for me to cry off the sweet stuff. I’m not saying it’s their fault, I’m conscious I have to “own” my own behaviour. But you have to be strong to resist a glass or two when you see others merrily quaffing away on a nightly basis. I don’t really have a good solution for this but you can employ…
  • Short pours and Water into Wine. If you feel like you simply can’t say no, you can try to negate the effects a bit by watering down your wine (note: this does not mean you can have twice as much!) If you’re making cocktails, give yourself the short pour while being extra-generous to the other drinkers. Yep – throw those dirty alcos under the bus if it protects you!
  • Tea is good. If you do find yourself drinking and craving more… or if by some miracle you’ve been good all night but get a sudden late urge, tea is an excellent “cap-off”. For me, a cuppa in the evening sends a message to myself of: that’s it, booze-time over, warm drink and bed is next.
  • Brushing your teeth can have a similar effect to a cup of tea.

Good luck, enjoy not being hungover and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS: Got any more practical tips for laying off the sauce? Let me know in the comments below…