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The upsides of the massive front side

A few friends are pregnant with their first babies at the moment, which has propelled me into a surge of nostalgia – combing through our newborn photos, and getting teary about little socks that I can’t face giving away. My pregnant friends agree that yes, tiny clothes are gorgeous and perusing Moses baskets online is a worthy cause for reaching their data cap, but they all look at me like I’m drunk at 10am when I say, “and isn’t being pregnant just so wonderful?”

Flicking through my pregnancy diary, there are tales of sore hips, exhaustion, uncomfortable nights, and all-day sickness, but I think Mother Nature suppresses those recollections so that the human race continues. Or perhaps the sleep deprivation after Tilly (my youngest) altered my brain function. Either way, the upsides of having a massive front side are dominating my memories.

The clothes

I loved maternity clothes, that wonderful comfortable world of elasticised waist bands and stretchy tops. Seriously, jeans that appear normal, but with little elastic inserts where no one can see? Genius! A couple of friends had babies just before I did and were keen to offload their maternity stuff, so I suddenly had a wardrobe full of extraordinarily comfortable clothes, for FREE. Gone are the sailor dresses and overalls that our mothers wore – preggy gear has taken some serious steps forward in fashion.

Pro tip: hang on to at least one maternity bra. They’re invaluable for stuffing with socks and wearing to costume parties. My husband wore mine just last week when we both had to dress up as Uma Thurman for a quiz night.

The body

Now I realise this one is contentious, because not everyone enjoys the way they morph whilst growing another human, but I thought it was incredible. After years of endometriosis and infertility I’d been feeling a bit let down by my body, but when I was pregnant I felt like it was finally doing something I wanted it to. And when I exceeded the weight gain recommended by the pregnancy books by roughly double (cough), the aforementioned stretchy clothes covered it all up.

Oh, and the boobs…undoubtedly the best bit. When I was six months pregnant, I thought, “Wow, I guess this is how my knockers are going to look from now on, and I’m not at all disappointed”. I realise now I was deluded, but the perky cleavage was fun while it lasted.

Freaking out strangers

A man on a plane displayed his annoyance at having to get out of his seat after I pointed out that me climbing over him with my gigantic bump was a greater inconvenience to both of us than him standing in the aisle for a moment. He then hogged both armrests and rolled his eyes when I asked for the cassava crisps AND the cookie. So just for funsies I spent the flight sporadically wincing and checking the seat for dampness while shooting him worried looks. I’ve never seen anyone bolt so quickly from their seat upon landing.

Terrifying children

When I was pregnant the first time, a curious little boy asked me what was under my shirt. I told him it was a baby, and he asked to hold it. I explained that he couldn’t because it was inside my tummy. He started to back away, looked at me with wide eyes, and whispered: “you mean…you mean you ATE that baby?” Having little experience with the fragile minds of preschoolers at that time, I let out a wicked laugh as he scurried back to his mother and carried on with my day. Now that I have two little girls who cover their eyes during the giant snowman scene in Frozen, I’d like to extend a formal apology to the parents of the little boy who probably still has nightmares about a baby-eating lady.

Food, glorious food

The list of food to avoid when pregnant is lengthy and disappointing. So the logic I employed was to go carte blanche on anything approved for consumption. Eating for two may be a myth, but woe betide anyone who challenges a pregnant woman at a buffet.

The fact I “showed” from eight weeks probably had more to do with the potato scones and lamingtons I inhaled than any actual baby growth. One afternoon I consumed an entire family-sized bag of jellybeans, which I felt justified in doing, as I was, myself, family sized. Then I freaked out about gestational diabetes and was consumed by guilt for days (now there’s a non-fun bit of pregnancy I do remember – the worrying that you’re doing everything wrong bit).

 

Pregnancy is a roller coaster for some, and a walk in the park for others. Then all of a sudden you find yourself moments from holding your baby in your arms and wondering how you’re going to cope with a newborn. But as I remember, all newborns do is sleep, right?

(originally published in the June/July 2016 edition of Little Treasures Magazine)

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¡Feliz cumpleaños

Ushered Tilly to the ‘Dad’ selection of birthday cards, but she insisted her dad would want this one because “he loves Dora and sparkles cos I love Dora and sparkles”.
Two year olds: proving that they’re in charge, even on not-their-birthday.
(I just added an extra 4 on the card and it totally worked for a 44 year old man)

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Because danger needs sparkles

Me: “What would you like to do this afternoon?”
Tilly: “Let’s do…something DANGEROUS. Wait here, I’ll get my sparkly shoes”

Details of a GoFundMe account for Tilly’s legal fees (and footwear) to follow.

Oh my smug, childless self

I shall title this photo: “Working From Home With Kids Will Be Easy” and file it under: “Shit I Said Before I Was A Mother And Now Want To Punch Myself In The Face For” (it’s a really large collection).

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Giveaway time!

I’m running a little competition over on the McPikelets Facebook page. If you’d like to win a copy of ‘Music Box 2016’ (a collection of songs from this year’s Children’s Music Awards) then get yourself over to Facebook.com/mcpikelets or click hereMusicBox-2016_Cover-Art.jpg

The wedding is OFF

Amy told me in the car this morning that she never wants to get married. I launched into a lengthy monologue about how we’re fortunate to live in a country where marriage is a choice, so she absolutely never has to get married unless she really wants to. Equality was discussed. Freedom to parent outside the realms of traditional marriage was also covered, as was the freedom to decide never to be a parent. There was a long pause while she took it all in. I took a moment during that pause to marvel at this little girl who so clearly knows her own mind, and to be grateful for the society we live in. I wondered what political or economic topics we should cover on the drive home. I may have teared up a little.

Then: “Yeah, I don’t want to get married because I never want to get my ears pierced. Oh wait, is it earrings you do when you get married, or is it rings on your finger? If it’s rings on your finger then I might. Are we nearly at school? I need to go to the toilet”.

Endometriosis and Motherhood

I always knew I wanted to be a mother.

Right from when I was tiny, I fed, bathed and bedded my dollies and teddies, and wouldn’t let anyone do up the top buttons on their tiny clothes in case it choked them (this could have been an early indicator of OCD, in hindsight). I gravitated toward anyone with a baby in their arms, and when my parents finally delivered on a sibling for me when I was 11, my poor little brother essentially had three parents all over him, all the time. I even attended antenatal classes with my parents, and remember thinking “this will all come in handy for me one day.” There were many things I wanted to do in my life, and having babies was always part of my grand plan.

Despite practicing for “becoming a woman” long before my time (generally by trying on Mum’s bras and stealing from her boxes of Tampax so I could watch them puff up in water), I was completely blindsided by puberty. Health class showed us pictures of girls swimming, running, wearing white pants while hanging out with their friends, laughingly passing each other itty-bitty tampons from colourful cases in their bags, whereas each month I was a miserable mess, huddled over a hot water bottle, sleeping with a towel under me and wondering how I could get out of PE. Our wonderful family GP understood my plight and put me on a high-dose pill, which meant that I could skip periods and just deal with them every few months. The downside was that the hormone overload sprouted me hips and took me from a B cup to a D cup almost overnight; a process that left angry pink stretch marks in its wake. Teamed with pimples, no real understanding of fashion (I still lack in this area), and accidentally getting The Worst Short Haircut Ever, my early-to-mid teens were a particularly awkward and unattractive time.

The pain I experienced each month got worse as I got older…

to the point that the simple act of going to the loo could cause me to pass out or throw up. My GP sent me off to a female gynaecologist when I was nineteen, thinking I’d be more comfortable seeing a female specialist. She was a cold woman who said I might have something called endometriosis, but to just take painkillers and put up with it until I was ready to start a family, and go back to see her then. Helpful.

A year later I was nannying for the gorgeous little boy of a family friend during University holidays when the mother clocked the hot water bottle stashed in my bag, asked me a few questions, then told me of her experience with endometriosis. She urged me to see her specialist. The next month, after being scooped up off the bathroom floor by my Dad one particularly bad day, I set off to see Dr Mark Insull. He was A-mazing. He made me feel so at ease and understood, and slotted me in for a laparoscopy as soon as possible. As it turned out, his expedient approach saved my ovaries…the laparoscopy showed that my insides looked as if someone had gone crazy with a hot glue gun and soldering iron. When you have endometriosis, rogue cells that should be in your uterus bleed and create scar tissue each time you have a period. The cells can be anywhere, but tend to be in the pelvic area. The scar tissue that had been growing with each cycle inside me had stuck things together that definitely shouldn’t be stuck together and had grown over my ovaries. I was somewhat horrified to be told that the sensations I’d described as feeling like something was splitting and tearing inside me were, in fact, attributed to scar tissue splitting and tearing inside me. That surgery altered my life for the better.

Eighteen months later I had a tune-up surgery after a few niggly pains resurfaced, and elected to try out the Mirena IUD. Following that, I became one of the all-swimming, all-laughing, white-pant-wearing girls who had just itty-bitty tampons in her handbag (it was the early 2000’s, so I can be forgiven for the white pants).

I’d been gently warned not to leave having children until I was in my 30’s…

But I was wildly optimistic at 29 when my husband and I started trying. Quite frankly, I was a bit put out when the first pregnancy test I did came up with one line instead of two. I’d planned how I was going to tell Jeremy and how we’d announce it to my parents and everything! So began the first of many, many disappointing moments after weeing on white sticks in the bathroom. I wish I’d bought shares in Clear Blue and Crystal Clear tests. Each month I’d nonchalantly buy a test, telling myself I’d wait until day 28 before using it. Day 24 would see me impatiently ripping into the box after re-reading the bit about how the test is so effective you can test up to four days early. Days 25 to 28 would see me racing back to the chemist to buy more.

Trying for a baby was a funny thing…

At first it was all wistfully looking at baby shops, plugging dates into due date calculators to work out when the possible baby would be born, happily laughing about All The Sex, and thinking about the sort of parent I would be (I’d make all their food from scratch! There’d be no TV watching! I’d never yell at my children! I’d get back in shape really quickly and never stuff chocolate in my mouth while hiding from the kids in the pantry! Now, quite often, I want to smack the pre-baby me really hard in the face). Then after months of disappointment I was still wistfully looking at baby shops, but I was also frustrated, wishing time away – particularly the second half of each cycle so I could hurry up and find out if we’d been successful, spending too much money on ovulation and pregnancy test kits, and saying incredibly loving and sexy things such as “I don’t CARE if you’re tired, it’s DAY FOURTEEN, get your pants OFF!”

Without the aid of an IUD or the pill, I noticed that endometriosis pain was creeping back. I tried to ignore it because I didn’t want to be out of circulation and miss any baby-making opportunities, until one evening I found myself clutching the walls in a restaurant loo to stop myself yelling with pain, and decided it really was time I went back to see Dr Insull. He whisked me in for surgery and found that endometriosis was running rampant once again. If I had miraculously fallen pregnant, it would have been very painful when all my organs started moving around to accommodate a bump. I was sent home to recover, with a plan in place to go to Fertility Associates in a few months’ time to get the fertility show on the road.

With no baby in immediate sight, we decided to crack into renovating our house, had a trip overseas with our best friends, and I took on a few extra projects at work.

One morning, the month we were due to go to Fertility Associates, I picked my way over the plywood and tarps that were standing in for floors in our demo-zone house, did a test out of pure day-28 habit, and watched in ecstatic disbelief as a plus sign appeared. I ran back to our room yelling for Jeremy, and we sat on our bed staring at the stick, until he went all pale and whispered “what have we done?”
1458586_10151770046626078_1539389153_n.jpgOur friends and family were thrilled for us, and despite revolting all-day sickness until nearly five months, I absolutely loved being pregnant, and constantly felt a combination of grateful, excited, and nervous that something would go wrong (thanks to an unnecessary scare at the 12 week scan, but that’s a blog for another day). I loved the baby from the second I saw that plus sign, and the moment that our beautiful Amy arrived (crossly protesting) Jeremy fell head over heels for her, too. We fall more in love with her every day. Well, most days.

We adored our obstetrician (Paul Robinson at Origins) as he was completely fantastic, understood Jeremy and I as a couple, and was well versed in endometriosis himself. I felt very safe in his care, and actually really missed him after the 6-week post-natal check. My mother in law said we should invite him to dinner, but I said there’s probably some sort of rule about that, and, anyway, I generally like to limit the number of people who’ve seen me with my knickers off to one in any given dinner party setting.

Given the time involved in Amy coming to be, we decided to charge into trying for a second baby when she was about five months old. Feeling a little more pragmatic and a little less naively optimistic this time around, I sought the advice of our GP after several unsuccessful months. Subsequent blood tests indicated low fertility levels, so off we went to Fertility Associates. An AMH test (which indicates how many eggs are remaining) revealed that I had a drastically depleted egg reserve, probably due to the scarring over my ovaries from years of endometriosis. We were advised that IVF presented our best option for conceiving another baby, and, armed with the knowledge that time was not in our favour, we decided to give it a try.

Our team at Fertility Associates was made up of seriously great people. Dr McChesney and his nurses Juanita and Miranda were pillars of both knowledge and support. I think it would have been a different experience without them.

I remember breezily thinking in my twenties, “oh, I could always just do IVF if I don’t get pregnant naturally.” The reality of IVF was a little more intense than I anticipated.

**To be Continued**

(blog originally appeared on ifonlytheytoldme.com)

Baby Shower (no actual showering involved)

The two year old was devastated I wasn’t taking her with me to a baby shower (because, seriously, unleashing Tornado Tilly in the home of an uninitiated mother-of-twins-to-be just seemed cruel). Luckily the five year old set her straight on how mundane the event would be:
“Tilly, you don’t want to go to a baby shower. It’s just a whole lot of women together, and they help the pregnant lady to have a shower, then they all take turns giving each other showers all afternoon. Bor-ring.”
Great. So then my husband was suddenly interested in coming along, too.

She’s learned from the best

Told Tilly it was time to eat her toast and get out of her pyjamas so we could get going.
“But I can’t have toast and go anywhere!” she shrieked as she pushed her unwashed hair out of her eyes, “I’m still giving my baby a bath and then there’s SO much cleaning to do!” A series of grumbles and frustrated grunts followed.
Isn’t it just so beautiful when you hold a mirror up to your child and see all the best parts of yourself reflecting back? #JustLikeMama 13717264_1073057872775530_8764793574253344781_o.jpg

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