For her dad

It was seven years ago today that I looked at a guy I’d known platonically for years, and suddenly realised that I found him completely irresistible. All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of him. And so I plunged headlong into the relationship that would become the most thrilling, eye-opening, rewarding and constant one I’ve ever had with another person.

We’ve had more than our share of impossibly perfect moments together, but it’s not been a fairy tale. It’s been work – at certain times more than others – but anything worth having is worth working for. Our getting, being and staying together has been a decision. We didn’t just ‘happen’ to each other; we’re not together because we’re ‘meant to be’; we’re together because we’re each other’s favourites. We’re best friends; we never run out of things to talk about; we respect and trust each other above everyone else; and I keep loving him more and more as the days and weeks and years go by.

When it dawns on me that, in just under seven weeks, we’ll finally get to hold this baby, who has half his DNA and half of mine, I can barely contain myself.

And I wish for two things: that she’ll find someone who is to her what Dylan is to me. And that she’ll be just like her dad.

 

I was pregnant here. We just didn't know it yet.

 

 

 

 

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You know you’re really very pregnant when …

  • You start feeling really insecure when you leave your antacids at home.
  • You get told by shop-keepers that you’re not allowed to sneeze in their shop.
  • Upon your response that you’ve still got at least 7 weeks to go before being in danger of your water breaking all over their shop floor, those same shop-keepers look at you like you’re insane/deluded/in denial.
  • Instead of interesting fiction, you’ve got a pile of baby-and-childcare books stacked next to your bed, and your Kindle is full of titles that start with ‘What to Expect’.
  • Instead of using that secret little pocket in your handbag for tampons, you use it for Panados and nipple cream.
  • You start needing to use nipple cream.
  • You conduct extended, expensive, doomed-to-fail research to find an alcohol-free beer that does not taste worse than Taiwan Beer (insert the name of any beer you’ve ever had that is shit).
  • You start to feel genuine affection for, and a real bond with, your bottle of Bio-Oil.
  • You upgrade to feeding bras because you don’t want to waste money on new ones that you won’t be able to use after the baby’s born.
  • You’re suddenly a C-verging-on-D cup, having been a small B since you were 16.
  • You sometimes wake up and cry for an hour or two before going to work for no reason you can discern, other than that your life is hard and your body is sore and no one understands you.
  • You can’t bend down – like, at all. Not even to stack the dishwasher or feed the dogs or put your underwear on while standing.
  • You perve the prams that the DILFs are pushing instead of the actual DILFs.
  • You suddenly don’t think that being given seats on the bus or being allowed to go to the front of a queue is sexist/patronising and actually start hoping it happens to you because you’re not sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep standing.
  • You dream about your newborn baby (and it turns into a nightmare when she’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen, with a mouth full of skew teeth, only one eye, and sticky-out ears)
  • You see photos of yourself with your hands resting on your belly and think, ‘God, who is that really-very-pregnant person at my birthday party?!’

30 weeks

On themes and plans

Before we got married, I was asked a few times by people in the industry and a few of my friends what the theme for our wedding was going to be. I’d never thought of weddings as things that needed to be ‘themed’ – what do people choose? Alice in Wonderland? Baywatch? Goths-in-a-forest? I never came up with a good response, but a friend of mine tells people that the theme for her wedding is going to be ‘lifelong commitment’. Which I think is fantastic – that’s what the wedding’s all about.

She’s inspired me to respond to questions like ‘Do you have your birth plan ready?’, ‘What’s your birth plan?’ and ‘Have you given the hospital your birth plan yet?’ as follows:

My ‘birth plan’

1. Check into hospital on the relevant date.

2. Do everything the nurses tell me.

3. Trust the professionals (surgeons, obstetrician, pediatrician and nurses) to do their jobs.

4. Have a healthy baby delivered.

5. Follow the doctors’ advice on how to keep the baby alive.

The end

Some women, apparently, have very specific ideas about what they want to happen leading up to, during and after the birth – like, how many hours after birth they want the baby to latch on to their boobs, when they want the baby to be bathed, how many minutes after birth they want their partners to cut the umbilical chord, the exact distance they want their baby’s crib to be from their bed while they’re in hospital, and which tools the doctors should or shouldn’t use on them and their baby.

My opinion is that having such detailed, specific ideas on what you want to happen around a highly volatile procedure, over which, let’s be honest, you actually have very little control (even in the most ‘natural’ of births, you don’t know what the baby’s going to do or where it’s going to decide to put its head) is setting yourself up for disappointment. My take on the whole birth thing is that the professionals in the hospital have delivered hundreds and thousands of babies, and they will know better than I, as a brand-new mother, what is best. Obviously, if I take issue with something they do to me or the baby, I’ll ask them to stop, but to set my hopes on things going a certain way seems like a pretty good way to guarantee a sense of failure.

You might think I’m putting a lot of trust in other people, and that writing a ‘birth plan’ will at least give me the illusion of control – but, to be honest, this is one scenario in which I don’t want to be in control. It will be the first time I get a baby lifted out my belly, and frankly, I don’t have an opinion on what will and won’t work.

It’s quite a lot like having very specific ideas about what you want for your wedding, actually. If you are set on having guests all ringing little silver bells as soon as you walk out the church because it fits in with your perfectly coordinated Elegant Silver theme, say, and it comes to the moment and 10 of them are flicking through their photos of the ceremony on their cameras, half of them miss the cue and carry on standing around chatting, and another group of them are trying to brush off the pollen that’s stained one of the bridesmaid’s dresses – when you walk out of that church, you’re going to be pretty pissed off. Which is really, really not worth it, considering that your wedding is only the first in a lifetime of moments with your partner.

And birth is just the first few moments of the rest of your relationship with your kid. I hope to get them out the way as painlessly as possible so that we can get on with the business of getting to know and love each other.

 

The pregnancy paradox

I read this mind-bending thing while on bed-rest yesterday: I like to think of it as the Pregnancy Paradox.

A pregnant woman and her fetus are not one, and not two.

Like, we’re not one and the same person, but we’re not two separate individuals either.

Weird, innit?

 

A painful ordeal

It’s about 2pm on a Tuesday, and I’m at work, and I start noticing a nagging ache around the area of my left hip. By the time I walk out to my car in the parking lot at 5ish, I’m limping, in pretty severe agony, and can barely lift my left leg.

So I call my gynae, like all the books instruct. Before I can finish saying “pain in my stomach”, she says, “Go straight to the Labour Ward. I’ll tell them you’re on your way. You might be going into labour.”

Now, I know for a fact that I am not going into labour – the pain is constant, not cramp-y, and I’m fairly sure that labour doesn’t start in the left hip/groin region. And I’ve seen enough movies to know that this isn’t the way labour works – I’m not screaming, my water hasn’t broken, etc. Plus, the baby’s been moving around as usual all afternoon. In fact, I’m 99% sure that this has nothing to do with the baby, and everything to do with my poor achey body.

But of course, in the Labour Ward, their main concern is the baby and whether or not she’s decided to enter the world 11 weeks before she’s ready. They strap me very tightly into the monitor (and place the little electronic thingy, conveniently, right over the spot that is causing me all the agony) and leave me on the bed for half an hour, in a very uncomfortable half-sitting, half-lying position. The baby’s heartbeat thumps out on the monitor, distorted every now and then by the white-static sound of her movement.

After half an hour, the nurse comes back, tells me that the monitor hasn’t picked up any contractions (yes, obviously) and that the baby seems fine. I ask what she thinks the problem is and she asks if I wee a lot, (I’m pregnant – of course I do), takes a urine sample and tells me I have a urinary tract infection. I’ve had one on and off for pretty much the whole pregnancy (sorry if that’s TMI) so am not surprised. She calls my gynae, who prescribes a one-shot antibiotic over the phone, and sends me on my way.

On the way home, I can barely lift my foot enough to step on the clutch. I get home, take the antibiotic, and spend the rest of the evening in pain. Panados take the edge off for about half an hour at a time. I can’t sleep because of the ache, but keep thinking that the antibiotic will kick in and that it’ll get better.

I take the next day off. My husband stays home with me in case he needs to drive me back to the hospital. The ache is constantly there, but gets worse and worse. We go grocery shopping, and by the end of it I’m struggling to walk. By 5 o’ clock, the pain’s worse than ever, so I call my GP for a 2nd opinion – this is obviously not related to whatever infection I may or may not have down-there.

My GP hears the words “pain in my stomach” and says – yip, you guessed it – “Come in straight away. You might be going into preterm labour.”

So off we go. The GP gives me an internal exam (*cringe*) and deduces that I am probably not going into labour. (*sigh*). He reckons the pain is muscular and from over-exertion. Which is hard to believe, seeing as the most I exert myself is a half-hour walk every evening, at most. But he gives me a sick note for work and prescribes a few days of bed rest. And a Panado every now and then.

I am incredulous. I am in serious pain, and not one of the three professionals I’ve dealt with can give me an exact prognosis.

So I go home and spend the whole of the next day in bed. And when I get up – would you believe it – the pain has totally disappeared. And I feel like a new person.

Little face

I am probably biased, but I think this is about the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Here’s the result of our (free! Chris Barnard hospital has already exceeded my expectations!) 4D scan from today.

As with all previous scans, the baby had her hands covering her face pretty much the whole time. We got some (more) great pictures of her feet and hands, but this was about the only decent one we could get of her face.

There’s a photo of Dylan taken when he was five days old, and I swear he had the exact same scrunched-up, open mouth. But I might be imagining things.

Either way, it was utterly, utterly incredible to get a glimpse of this little person’s tiny, adorable face for the first time. How lucky we are.

On being a dairy queen

From the end of March to the end of July I’ll be on maternity leave, and after that I am Going Back To Work. This wasn’t ever really a decision for me – I enjoy my job, get on with my colleagues, and am really happy with where I am in my career, and I can’t imagine giving that up. Even if I wasn’t *that* happy at work, I’m sure that after four months at home with the bundle, I’d be really looking forward to putting on nice clothes and going somewhere to have lovely conversations about things that are not related to poo or burping or rashes.

Basically, I’ve never considered being a stay-at-home mother, even for a year or two. Ever. But now suddenly I’m starting to get these little niggling doubt-y thoughts that feel a lot like … well, guilt.

Especially when I think about breast-feeding. My plan is to breast-feed for three months, and to spend the last month of my maternity leave weaning the baby so that by the time I’m back at work, she’s 100% on the bottle. This seems like an excellent plan to me: give the baby the physical advantages of breast-feeding, and myself the emotional advantages of bonding with the baby that apparently comes with breast-feeding when she’s all new and tiny, and when she’s three months old, getting her onto formula so that I can be leak-free at work and not have to sit in my car (our offices do not have a ‘milk’ room – do *any* South African offices?) every lunchtime to express milk.

But then, everyone who’s ever breast-fed tells you to keep doing it for as long as you can. Books tell you to try to do it until your baby ‘gives you up’. To these mothers and authors and advocates of Breast is Best, having your boobs leak during a meeting, or having ache-y boobs if something comes up at the office and you can’t pop out to express at your usual time, or having to spend however long it takes in your car in the 1st floor parking lot manually pumping your boobs every day, or not being able to have any caffeine in the morning or any medicine other than Panado (the restrictions from pregnancy prevail during breast-feeding, but are even *more* stringent, if you can believe that) and not being able to have a sandwich for lunch because you’ve had to cut down on wheat and dairy because they don’t agree with your baby – these are all teeny tiny sacrifices that you should make for the health of your baby, which is, of course, the most important thing. (Never mind the fact that feeling pressured to breast-feed if you don’t really want to will only make you resent the whole process, and even the baby, which would, frankly, be detrimental to your *and* her health).

My issue is this – if I were going to stay at home and be nothing but a full-time mother, these are sacrifices that I would absolutely make, because that would be my job. I also wouldn’t have to deal with office stresses or timetables or traditions, so I’d probably manage these sacrifices a lot better; and some of them would be non-existent, like the sitting-in-the-car-to-pump problem. But as it stands, I cannot reconcile my roles as income-earner and office-worker with the sole-source-of-food-for-my-baby role. I know people that manage this with relative ease, but I’m afraid I don’t think I can be one of them.

To me, it seems like the perfect example of the modern woman’s quandary – yes, here it comes, the common gripe – we’re so empowered that we can work full-time on a par with men with no one batting an eyelid, but at the same time, we have to keep fulfilling our traditional roles of mother, provider, nurturer, care-giver. To my mind, if I’m going to be bringing home the free-range, ethically-reared bacon together with my husband, then while I’m doing that, my body gets to be mine again, to be used for my own purposes (like having a cup of tea when I get to work in the morning, and wearing regular-woman lacy bras instead of feeding bras stuffed with disposable breast pads), just as his is his. Because we’ll be equal in our roles – we’ll both be full-time working parents.

So, in short, my choice to go back to work means stopping breast-feeding relatively early. My head understands this perfectly, so why do I feel so guilty admitting it?

I had a bit of a wobbly thinking about all of this over the weekend. But now I’m just going to stop worrying about it until the baby’s actually here. Whatever happens, whether it’s on the boob or on formula (with which amazing advances have been made – it might not be breast, but modern formula is a wondrous thing), I know that our baby will be loved and provided for and kept healthy, and I’m hanging onto that.

[Note: I asked Dylan if he would consider being a stay-at-home father if I made as much money as he does, and he didn’t even need to think about it before saying that he absolutely wouldn’t. And he doesn’t feel guilty about it at all, because, in not being a stay-at-home father, he’s obviously not denying his baby (what is considered to be) the best source of food for a growing baby. Dylan’s at least as much of a feminist as I am, and, until now, everything in our household has been shared equally, and this is the first thing I can think of that we can’t divide between us. Other than mowing the lawn – that’s a man’s job, obviously.]

27 weeks

Shit suddenly just got real: at the 27-week scan on Friday, we set the date for the C-section: 4 April! Which is actually only 2 and a half months away. Which, somehow, sounds one hell of a lot sooner than 3 months, the default length of time I’ve had in my head whenever I think of how long we’ve got to go until the baby’s arrival.

And it’s no wonder I’ve suddenly started feeling really pregnant lately – the baby had an incredible growth spurt over December. It must have been all the ice cream and tanning over the holidays that did it (babies born in late summer tend to be bigger and taller than others because of the increased amount of Vitamin D their mothers got when they were at a crucial stage of development, apparently). She now weighs about 1.2 kgs and is longer and heavier than most foetuses are at this stage. Definitely not a Ryan baby – she’s all Edwards! Only the circumference of her head is about average – so, if I was up to trying to push her out my fanny, I’d be really grateful that at least she doesn’t take after the Edwards’s when it comes to size of heads.

Thanks to the growth spurt, I’ve had to go and buy one of those awful-looking Preggy Roll things to support my back and tummy while I sleep. It’s pink (the only other colour Baby City had was ‘flesh-coloured’, a revolting beige, so my choices were very limited) and curved and enormous and feels like having a third person in bed. But shit, is it comfortable. It’s so totally worth it, but it does get hidden away in the cupboard when I’m not using it, so I’m not constantly reminded that my lovely marital bed has been taken over by a dusky pink pillow with a stupid name.

Massive 27-week bump

So, now the (frighteningly brief) countdown to 4 April begins. Really must get us enrolled in an antenatal class. Must.

 

So THIS is how it feels to be 6 months along…

Gaaah! All those things you read about but don’t believe will ever happen to you are happening to me!

Such as:

I can’t touch my toes! I can barely bend down. This must be what old, fat people feel like all the time! Do their husbands have to put sunscreen on their feet, too? Do they have to rely on beauticians to keep their toenails neat? This is a whole new world of dependency for me.

My belly-button is turning into an outie! It freaks me out.

Spicy food gives me really bad heartburn! Not that that’s stopping me from eating it.

I can’t sleep for more than two hours at a time. The sticky-outy belly keeps getting in the way. I want one of those naff 5-foot long maternity pillow things (but don’t, really).

I am feeling SO HOT. Not just because the weather’s been really warm lately: I usually deal with heat quite well. Now the summer temperatures make me want to pant, like a dog, and lie naked, belly up, under a fan. Thank the Pope for our swimming pool and my purple pool noodle.

My feet are bigger! Like, at least a whole size! So I suppose I’ve got to go out and buy a whole lot of new practical, flat shoes that Dylan will have to put on my swollen feet every morning. Luckily he loves me a lot.

I can’t get enough ice cream. I’ve never liked Magnums but suddenly I can’t think about anything but Magnum Mint for minutes at a time now. It’s getting quite serious.

I can see the baby moving around, through my clothes, even! Usually when I’m reading in bed, and it gives me a fright every time.

I am really absent-minded. Like, I was going to make this another thing that is a new and scary and only-half-expected development, but then I promptly forgot what I was going to write.

Oh, yes. I remember. My hips hurt. A friend told me when she was pregnant that she could feel her hips moving wider apart. I don’t feel anything that specific, but they do ache. So do my knees and heels and shoulders. I don’t think my frame was ever meant to carry this much extra weight – I’m only about 3kgs heavier than I was before I got knocked up but, bloody hell, it feels like much more. I’m so full of aches and pains and sighs and groans that I feel like myself fast-forwarded by fifty years.

But on a happier note, my hair is growing really fast. That’s a good thing, right?

  • What’s been on My Bump

  • Behind the bump