So much change in such a short space of time

It feels like only yesterday that I was handed a (not-so-little) little baby. 25 weeks later and I no longer have a little baby who only slept, pooped, cried and ate. She’s bright-eyed, curious about the world, chatty, smiles so much.

It’s easy to not see the changes because I’m with her every day. To me, she’s just Juno and she’s a constant in my life. But she has changed so much. And here are the pics to prove it.

Has it been five months already?

Really? As they say the days are long but the years are short. We’re not up to years yet but the months are flying by.


Oops.


Nnnnnooooooooooo!! Not more photos mum!!!


Maybe if I hide under here, mum won’t find me and that’ll be the end to the photos.

Lies they told me

To infinity and beyond!! Juno being super cute, even while asleep.

So, you get pregnant and pretty much right from the start you get asked if you’re going to breastfeed. You get told repeatedly that it’s a wonderful, bonding experience that you really must do to give your baby the best possible start in life. The other thing you get told repeatedly is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.

I wish someone had been honest with me.

I wish that, while I was still at the hospital, more than one midwife had the decency and the guts to say it’s gonna hurt. The basic biological purpose of breasts may be to feed a baby but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel painful, strange and overwhelming – especially for a first time mum.

Pretty much every other woman I’ve spoken to who has breastfed has said the same thing: breastfeeding freaken hurts! The let down hurts. The baby latching on hurts. But none of the breast-feeding advocates ever seem to say this. They all speak about how amazing it is, how natural it is and spend a lot of time lamenting the lost art of breastfeeding.

This isn’t helpful in the least when you’re in the middle of the blur (and panic) of having a new baby.

It wasn’t bad at first. While I was in hospital it was okay, even though I had the bizarre experience of being “milked” by a midwife the night after my c-section after Juno wouldn’t/couldn’t latch on and she really needed to get some colostrum into her. I had another midwife whose idea of teaching me how to breastfeed was to grab my boob with one hand, Juno’s head with the other and bring them together with some force. Not that helpful really.

After the c-section I was pretty determined to breastfeed because I felt that I’d missed out on that initial bonding experience. I wanted to breastfeed her. I knew it would potentially be quite difficult, being a large busted woman but I really thought it would be okay. After all, how hard could it be? I did nearly every feed during the day in the breastfeeding room so I could be near the midwives. I was told how good I was doing, how calm I was about it, how lucky I was with Juno being big because big baby means a big mouth and an easier latch. (“My, what big teeth you have.” “All the better to eat you with” said the wolf.) My efforts were praised and I was pretty much left to my own devices. I didn’t speak up about the difficulties I was experiencing because I thought other women deserved more help then I did.

Well, it wasn’t okay.

Before leaving the hospital, I had cracks in both nipples but didn’t really say anything about them (I know, I should’ve). They got significantly worse once we were at home. The skin was so raw and broken. Every time Juno latched on, she rubbed the raw skin. It got to the point where I dreaded feeding Juno. I would drag it out for a long as possible so that I didn’t have to deal with the pain. It got so bad that one night I was sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to feed a screaming Juno who was understandably hungry and just sobbing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to feed my baby without experiencing a huge amount of pain.

This isn’t conducive to a good bonding experience. My determination to breastfeed was actually damaging the fairly fragile bond that I felt that I had with her. I couldn’t enjoy my baby because I so dreaded feeding her. I wanted to stop – I so desperately wanted to stop – but I felt that I couldn’t because I’d bought into the whole thing of it being what was best for Juno. I was consumed with guilt because I hated it so much when all I’d been told was how wonderful breastfeeding was and how it would make me feel so close to my baby. It didn’t. All it did was make me resent her which then made me feel even more guilty.

In the end I hired a breast pump and saw a lactation consultant. The consultant had good advice and tried to be helpful but on the day Juno did the perfect feed – latched on easily and comfortably – so the consultant couldn’t really see how (badly) our feeds normally went. I did listen to her advice and some of it did help. But what really made the difference was deciding to try bottle feeding with expressed milk. Thankfully Juno took to the bottle straight away so we began a routine of her having half of her feeds out of a bottle instead of from the boob. It meant I was attached to a breast pump three or four times a day but it did give my nipples a chance to heal, making the times she did feed off the boob less painful. I could sit on the couch, cuddling Juno while she drank her bottle, look into her eyes and feel peaceful. I could hold her close and not be consumed by how much it hurt to give her the sustenance she so desperately needed.

Making this choice – which so many breastfeeding advocates would disagree with – has totally changed my relationship with Juno. I don’t regret it for a second because if I hadn’t, I’m pretty sure I would’ve stopped breastfeeding all together and Juno would be a formula-fed baby by now. We’re even back to the majority of feeds being off the boob which is something I didn’t think would happen. I’ve also breastfed in public which I thought I’d never have the confidence to do. I’ve even expressed milk in public!

But I have to admit that I’m still more than a little ticked off by the lack of honesty when it comes to breastfeeding. I really wish someone had said to me that there was a very good chance that breastfeeding was going to hurt more than I could possibly imagine but that it would get better, that it’s not the end of the world to switch to bottle feeding, that I’m not a bad mum for doing what I did. I really wish midwives and other breastfeeding advocates would acknowledge what appears to be a common experience for women when it comes to breastfeeding – that it hurts – because them not unintentionally makes women feel like failures when it does. I know I really felt like I was a failure and I thought that I must’ve been doing something so terribly wrong (but now I don’t think I was).

I’m a big believer that knowledge is power. But when it came to breastfeeding I can’t help but feel that I was seriously let down by the people who were supposed to help me get the knowledge I needed. I had to work out how to solve this problem on my own. It was so hard to work out felt was right for me and Juno and it’s a solution that some would disagree with. Still, I have to not care because this mix of boob and bottle is what works for us. And that’s what matters in the end.

Four months old and could you be any cuter?

Nope, I don’t think you could be.


Lengthy dithering over this photo because I couldn’t decide between the colour version and the black & white one. The wanna-be, try-hard photographer went with the b&w.

Miss J either doing her best Elvis impersonation or trying to tell me she’d had enough. (It was the later. Or maybe both. I don’t know…)

Three months

Lying in bed, looking at the silhouette of you sleeping on your daddy’s chest. The world is quiet and you’re so peaceful.

It’s so clear in my head that you don’t care about routines or schedules. You don’t care about any of the things that the “experts” say that we should be concerned about. According to so many of them we’re doing the wrong thing, creating a dependency by letting you sleep with us. We’re letting you manipulate us into doing what you want, catering to your every whim. You’ll never be able to go to sleep on your own without us, that we’ll live to regret it because you’re going to turn into a spoilt little princess.

But I don’t care.

You’re so little. Only three months old and still so new in the world. You need us. Right now you need us in a way that you never will again. We give you familiarity, comfort and safety. You give us smiles – huge gummy smiles that light up your entire face – which is more than a fair trade. At the moment the world must be a confusing, noisy and scary place for you so it’s our job to make you feel safe and comforted. Sticking to a schedule won’t do that, trying to force you to fit into our lives so we don’t have to make changes won’t help you. One of us cuddling you will. Letting you sleep on us will.

That’s not you manipulating us, that’s us giving you love.

You’re going to grow up. You won’t remember this time. You won’t remember sleeping on your daddy’s lap while we watch TV. You won’t remember afternoon naps with me, curled up in my arms. You won’t remember all the funny faces we pulled to make you smile. You won’t remember tummy time on your play mat. You won’t remember the chats we had, all the things I told you. You won’t remember lying on your daddy’s chest, both fast asleep and looking so peaceful. But we will.

It seems to me that it’s more important that you grow up feeling loved rather than micro-managed. You’re not a little robot to be controlled or a tyrant to be overcome. You’re our Juno, our little baby girl. You’re fine the way you are, doing what babies are meant to do which is feed, sleep, develop and grow. You don’t need a schedule for that.

Enough with the photos already!!

Enough with the photos already!!

Two months

Two months oldIt’s hard to believe it’s been two months. Two months since you crashed into my life with a suddenness that was overwhelming.

Every day is a new adventure. You’re never the same. It seems that each day you’re doing something new, exploring your ever-expanding world. You eyes seem brighter, more focused. You watch me now, look at shadows, stare intently at the ceiling and I can only wonder what you’re seeing.

Your hands are still constantly curled into a fists and I wonder when that will stop. However, you are starting to use your hands more, curling and uncurling your fingers. You’ve started kicking your feet when you’re excited. Or upset. You poke your tongue out all the time, like you’re trying to taste the world. Best of all, you’ve started smiling. If I’m lucky, you give me a huge smile in the morning when you wake up and realise I’m standing at your cot, ready to pick you up. And it’s nice. It’s nice to be smiled at when previously all you did was frown at me.

I watch you with your daddy and it’s such a beautiful thing to see. You smile at him, almost silently laughing. You’re so peaceful when you’re curled up in his lap asleep, your head on his chest. His hand reaches right across your tiny back and it seems like for you it’s the safest place in the world. Eventually – and probably earlier than we think – you’ll be too big to curl up in our laps and go to sleep. We won’t be able to make you happy by simply holding you close. We won’t be your safe place in the world.

Right now there’s so much I don’t understand about you. So many times I’ve struggled to make you happy because I don’t know what you need and you can’t tell me. I feel so out of my depth. This is something I never expected I’d do. I never thought I’d have a child. Other times I feel that you deserve someone better than me to be your mum. So often it feels like I’m doing the wrong things with you. I’m so unsure that what I’m doing is okay, that I’m not somehow already messing you up.

I guess all I can do is give you my time and love. If I can do that, then I think you’ll turn out okay.

Four weeks on…

41 weeks pregnant and at France Perry, waiting for my medical induction to be started.

Some times things don’t go to plan. Really don’t go to plan and you find yourself in a situation where you have to make what amounts to a life-changing decision very quickly. That’s how it went for me with Juno’s birth.

Two days before my due date, I had an appointment with my obstetrician who had just come back from a conference. Initially she had been okay with letting me go over by two weeks but in this appointment, she had changed her mind. I knew I was always considered a high risk pregnancy because of my age and I wasn’t at all surprised when she brought up medical induction – to occur at 41 weeks instead of seeing if I would go into labour spontaneously. Spontaneous labour and a natural birth was the ultimate goal but I was sick of being pregnant so I agreed to an induction on the following weekend (which would’ve put me at 41 weeks pregnant).

I spent the week waiting to see if anything would happen. I had two acupuncture sessions and was taking the most foul tasting herbal mix, full of stuff that is meant to bring on labour. But nope, nothing happened. In the end, I tipped the herbal mix down the sink because all it was doing was making me feel sick (which wasn’t helpful).

So, on Saturday 25 April at 3pm, I was at Frances Perry House to start my medical induction. I was put on a CTG monitor to see how the baby was doing. After about an hour of monitoring, the obstetrician (one of my OB’s colleagues) arrived to give me the prostaglandin gel which that was meant to get my labour started. More lying around and eventually we were allowed to leave at 6pm to go have some dinner with instructions to return by 9pm for even more monitoring.

So, I got to have one final dinner out. Such a small moment in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I’ll always remember because it was our last dinner out where it was just the two of us. My last meal as a woman without a child. (Also, it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back there!) Then it was back to the hospital and even more CTG monitoring with a super active baby. (I probably shouldn’t have had profiteroles for dessert.) After two hours of monitoring and me getting decidedly jack of it, I was finally allowed to go home with instructions to come back at 7.30am the next day.

7.30 the next morning and we were back at the hospital with more monitoring to see how the baby was doing. My OB arrived at about 8.30 and gave me a second lot of prostaglandin gel as it turned out for all the cramping and general discomfort I was in, nothing was happening. Then we waited. For six hours. To see if anything would happen.

Which it didn’t.

At about 3pm, I had a very apologetic midwife come in and ask if I minded giving up my room in the birth suite because they had a woman who was desperate for an epidural and getting pretty close to giving birth. Whereas I had nothing happening at all except some cramps and mild back pain. Another visit from my OB to check on what was happening which turned out to really be nothing.

So we had the serious discussion about options. I was almost maxed out on the gel but could have tiny bit more. I could be stay overnight to see if anything would happen. Then in the morning, we’d have another chat about what was happening. And possibly (probably) need a cesarean anyway. Or I could have a cesarean that day.

It’s a really tough and strange situation to be put in. You have to make a life-changing and to be honest life-threatening decision and it has to be made reasonably quickly.

First cuddles for me after my unplanned cesarean section.

At 4.15pm I told my OB my decision – to have the c-section – and at 5.14pm she was born. It was all so quick. Once the decision is made, there’s no messing around. I was taken to a share room where I could change into a hospital robe and I signed the consent forms. The anesthetist came to talk to me to explain what he was going to do. He put a cannula in my wrist and gave me some antacid. Then about 15 minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room where he put in my spinal block.

Nothing can prepare you for a spinal block. The first needle is a local anesthetic and it hurt so much. I couldn’t help it, I flinched on his first effort so he had to do it again. It was at this point, the fear really set in and I wanted to make it all stop, say I’d changed my mind and that I’d wait but it was too late. It’s a frightening, isolating experience to be in an operating room with strangers, all dressed in operating scrubs so you can’t see their faces. I did feel panicked, especially so when my legs went completely numb and I realised that I was trapped there, incapable of moving or doing anything. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even roll over if I wanted to.

The surgery itself was over relatively quickly. I could feel things being moved around, bits of me being tugged on but there was no pain. Then all of a sudden, she was out with comments of “she’s a healthy size!”.

A baby abruptly appeared in my field of vision, looking very blue and not crying or making noise. Her arm flailed out and she hit me in the eye and wiped goop all down the side of my face. This is not an ideal introduction to your child because naturally enough, I flinched and pulled away (as much as I could). Richard went with her for her first measurements and immunisation shots. I was lying on the table, wondering what was going on and why she wasn’t making any noise. She cried when she got one of her shots so at least I knew she was breathing okay. They brought her back (cleaned and wrapped up) and placed her on my chest so I could finally see her and kinda hold her but that only lasted for about 10 minutes because I had to get her taken off me as I felt like I couldn’t breath. Turns out my spinal block was creeping up my chest which why I felt so strange.

It takes over half an hour to stitch a woman up again after a c-section and then you spend time in the recovery room so you can be monitored. On your own. With only medical staff around and no one you know. It’s not a fun time. I wasn’t aware that I would start to shiver uncontrollably and violently – which I did. My nurses were lovely and caring but all I wanted was someone that I knew to be there which wasn’t allowed. We had always planned that if I had a c-section, Richard would go with the baby and get some skin-to-skin time with her because I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. But I didn’t really think about what would happen to me.

It was hard being on my own. I hadn’t considered how traumatic a c-section would be. I hadn’t really thought about how I would feel at all. I guess I thought I’d just cruise through it all and everything would be fine. I didn’t expect the complex mess of emotions I would feel and how hard it would hit me.

Juno at three and a half weeks. Doing a face that always makes me chuckle.

Juno at three and a half weeks. Doing a face that always makes me chuckle.

I’d never though that a c-section was the “easy” way to have a child but I know there is a preconception in society that it is. Right now I’m telling you it’s really not. My uh… girly bits might be in better shape and I have a pelvic floor that still works like it did before but now I have a stomach that looks like a half deflated pool toy (thanks Olivia Wilde for that description!) and a pretty large scar as well. I think it kinda gets forgotten that a c-section is major abdominal surgery. I had three layers of stitches. I have a scar that’s about 12 centimetres long – although technically it’s still a wound as I don’t think it’s healed 100% yet. It hurts when I sneeze and it feel irritated pretty much all the time. Still, it gets a tiny bit better every day and to be honest I’m a bit too distracted to think about it that much.

Motherhood has definitely come as a bit of a shock. No one can prepare you for it. You can read every single book ever written on it but all the words in the world simply can’t convey what it’s like, how utterly life altering it is. I’ll be the first to admit that the suddenness of Juno’s arrival has affected how I’ve bonded with her. Being smacked in the eye by your baby isn’t exactly a great bonding experience.

There have been so many what have I done? moments. I’ve cried more in the last four weeks than I think I’ve cried in the last four years. At the moment it feels like the hard stuff is outnumbering the good. But the good moments are cute, adorable, funny. She may drive me mad sometimes – having a baby screaming into your face for two hours can be wee bit wearing – but I am glad she’s here. I’m holding on to the hope that it will get easier and better as she grows.

I guess the other thing that’s thrown me completely is that I did expect to be a different person once she arrived – who I thought I’d be, I have no idea – so it was a bit of a shock to realise I was exactly the same as I was before. I’m not sure yet how to incorporate the of idea that I’m a mum now into my identity. I often think I’m not doing a very good job because I feel so conflicted about the whole thing but it’s too late. It’s not like I can give her back or anything. She is my responsibility and I have to do what’s best for her.

It’s been an overwhelming, confronting and relentless experience thus far. I’m still struggling to find my feet but there are moments I look at her or she does something that makes it worth it.

Ta dah!!

Introducing…

Juno Marion O’Keefe Sievers.

Came into the world:
On 26/4/2015
At 5:14pm
Via cesarean section
Weighing 4.23kg
With a head circumference of 37cm
and 54cm in length.

Yup, we grow ’em big in my family.

Counting down…


So… 38 weeks. Feeling huuuuuuuuge!

38 weeks means it should be only two weeks to go. We shall see. However, it’s very rare that babies actually turn up on their due date so I have a feeling I’ll be going over (according to my mum I didn’t want to come out and was quite late).

But it’s okay – kinda – because my OB is on leave for ten days and won’t be back until two days before my due date. Being over isn’t necessarily a bad thing – except of the fact that I’m going to be really uncomfortable. Eh… that’s nothing new.

At least this is a temporary discomfort. It’s been seven months since the accident and my arm still hurts. Obviously nowhere near as much as it did but it kinda sucks to wake up every day and have it twinge and ache. And sometimes it just flat-out hurts. But apparently it’s all part of the process of my arm healing.

On the upside, I’ve made huge progress with my physical therapy. I have a very good physiotherapist who I’ve been seeing weekly for about four months now courtesy (mostly) of TAC. I can lift my arm above my head to nearly the same point as my right, undamaged arm. Sideways I can nearly get to the maximum reach point but it still hurts when it gets above my shoulder. Backwards reach is still not great and it hurts but really, how much do you need that particular motion? I can dress myself so there’s not much point getting worked up about. It’ll either come back or it won’t. I was told that I would never recover 100% mobility so I guess the backwards reach is it for me.

When I reach sideways, I can feel it pop and creak so there’s still a fair amount of weakness in my shoulder which will only ever be fixed by me doing exercises – of which I have plenty. It’s more important at the moment that I focus on being able to lift things up as very soon I’ll be lifting a little person who’s only going to get heavier. So I guess she’ll be helping with my rehab.

There is only one small upside to breaking my arm. It’s made me realise that labour won’t be anywhere as scary as it’s made out to be. After all, I went through four weeks of severe pain with nothing to show for it except a dodgy arm. At least with childbirth, it’s worthwhile. There will be this amazing little person who will make it worthwhile. It also won’t last anywhere near as long 😉

It’s suddenly a bit more real now

We had a growth scan on Friday and for once she didn’t spend the whole time turning away from the scanner. So we got to see her face. It’s getting a bit squashy in there so it’s hard to judge what she actually looks like. But she has perfect, pouty lips. We could see those clearly.

She’s currently measuring in the 80% growth percentile. The one thing that is worrying me a little is that she apparently has a big head, which could make labour… uh… interesting. But, of course, all the measurements in scans are mostly best guesses so I’m hoping her head measurement isn’t actually accurate.

Not long now – five more weeks – and we’ll get to see her for real.


Squishy little face. D’awwwww!