Wednesday 15 February 2012

Hush Little Baby

I hope that my child looking back on today
Will remember a mother who had time to play
Because children grow up  while you're not looking
There are years ahead for cleaning and cooking
So, quiet now cobwebs dust go to sleep
I'm nursing my baby and babies don't keep

I should clarify something before I embark on this very emotive subject.  And it is emotive for a very good reason. I am against CIO (Crying It Out) but I let our two and a half year old cry one night last week.  Both Mister Husband and I had been in to him a couple of times each.  He had done his wee’s, had a drink and what followed after that was pure and utter messing.  For the last ten months, he has been waking up anything from once a night to three times.  Even the baby doesn’t do that.  So we let him cry.  He didn’t cry for long.  He wasn’t even crying, but more of a winding down sound with lots of loud yawns mixed in.  That was our two and a half year old and it might sound like I’m splitting hairs here, but when it comes to small babies, I am absolutely against allowing a tiny infant to CIO.  I get distressed when I read about “sleep training.”  I read once on a parenting website, of a mother putting her small, small, tiny, infant baby through sheer hell at just a couple of months old, to get her to sleep the night.  And guess what? It worked, apparently.  Wrong!  All she did there was teach her small, small, tiny infant baby that no-body would come to her when she cried.  Imagine that?  It distresses me no end when I hear stories like this.  Horror stories of how some mothers will leave their small babies to cry so hard and for such long periods of time, that they vomit on themselves.  A long period of time for a small, small, tiny infant baby is five minutes.  These mothers have admitted to leaving their baby to cry for a whole forty five minutes.  I feel physically sick when I think about it.  I hoped that times had moved on from draconian practices.   I admit, I stood outside in the hallway when Screecher Creature No. 1 was about 7 months old, give or take, and gave the old Cry It Out Method a shot.  It was murder.  I couldn’t do it.  My heart was literally held in a vice grips and every mothering instinct I had, screamed louder than he did to get in there.  Get in there and pick him up dammit.  He doesn’t know any better.  But you do!   I honestly, hand on heart, don’t understand how anyone can stand and listen to a baby crying like that.  Because I tried.  I’ve been there with the sleep deprivation, when Mister Husband and I were almost snarling at each other.  I understand what it’s like to be pushed to your limit, to be so desperate for just four hours of unbroken sleep that you would try anything.  Once I resorted to putting one of our boys in his buggy at night and leaving it by our bedside where I could push it when he woke up.  This went on for about three weeks. Maybe more.  I co-slept for a brief time with another one when he was very ill with chicken pox and a serious bout of teething.  I cried with them but I could not let them cry alone or for long periods of time.   Aren’t we programmed to respond to our babies cries, no matter how small, how tiny?  Look at how our bodies react when there’s a baby crying somewhere in the vicinity. Big, wet, leaky patches on our t-shirts.  If our bodies know, how come our minds don’t?  Aren’t the two supposed to be connected?  Aren’t we supposed to be connected to our babies and tend to their basic needs?  I often wonder is it a genuine desire to “train” a baby or is it as a result of pressure from family members to “get your life back?”   A very short 10 months ago, we all had control in our lives.  The clock said it was 7am so time to get up for work.  Oh look, it’s 11am now.  Put on the kettle and have that Kit Kat.  Here comes lunchtime because the big hand is at 12 and the small hand is at 1.  And the best time of the day, 5pm and home time.  (If you’re lucky!)  Now there is this little being present and not only is the How To manual missing, the clock means damn all to this gorgeous little creature.  Nappy brain is very much in evidence but unfortunately so is the ability to still be able to tell the time.  It is difficult to change the previously hard wired old ways and obey The Clock.  Difficult to give up old controlling ways and be led by another.  But how awful to regret not holding your baby when they’re upset.  How sad to look back on your short, short time with them and wish you had done things differently. Some people go to great lengths to mould their babies into the person they want them to be at a defenceless age.  Sticking rigidly to a sleep schedule, a feeding schedule, not making eye contact with them at certain hours of the night, not picking them up because they will get “spoilt”.  Food spoils, not babies.   Stop reading the books written by those who do not have children of their own.  Read your own baby instead.  They are an open book and will tell you what they want.    In recent times there has been a lot of media attention drawn to nursing homes in the country.  Owners and staff members in certain unfortunate ones have found themselves on the receiving end of the law for their deplorable treatment towards their elderly charges.  It’s a sad fact of life that the very young and the very old get the raw end of the stick sometimes.  The weak and the vulnerable forced to live by someone else’s stiff and unyielding rules and regulations.  I’ve stopped reading about such things because I find them too upsetting.  But then, ssh, wait.  Something odd happens. You’ll never guess but the small, small, tiny infant baby grows up.  Goes to school, maybe college, after that, secures a job.  The small, small, tiny infant baby is independent, more than capable of looking after him or herself but in some cases, it becomes necessary to move back home.  Where they are cared for and looked after.  Meals made and placed on the table in front of them.  A nice bedroom in which to sleep.  Clean laundry and in general a place to stay, to relax where they know they are loved and wanted, secure in the knowledge that their parents would never see them stuck for anything.  It’s a bit ironic but perhaps some babies should be born adult sized because in some cases, as adults they are better looked after than when they were babies.            

Sunday 12 February 2012


River Phoenix             31 October 1993
Princess Diana            31 August 1997
Dermot Morgan          28 February 1998
Corey Haim                10 March 2010
Amy Winehouse          23 July 2011
Whitney Houston        11 February 2012
Can you remember where you were when you heard the above had died?  I was watching some telly when my sister burst into the sitting room announcing River Phoenix had died.  She heard it on the 6 o’clock news.  It was Sunday morning and I was having a lie on in Mister Boyfriend’s (now Mister Husband) granny’s house when he woke me to impart the news that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash.  Both he and I were on our way home from Cavan when the news was broken on the radio that our own Dermot Morgan had passed on.  I read about Corey Haim’s demise on the internet.  Our four Screecher Creatures were being christened when my sister came to our house shouting the news that Amy Winehouse was dead.  I waited for the punch line, thinking it was one of her jokes.  This morning a small person appeared by my bedside at 6am to tell me he’d had an accident.  I was loading the washing machine when Mister Husband told me that Whitney Houston had been found dead in her hotel room.  Oddly I haven’t stopped thinking about her all day.  I can’t claim to have been a fan, but I did like some of her stuff and I always thought she was beautiful.  I remember being transfixed by her in the video to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”  I was hugely impressed.  That hair, the mad 80’s make-up.  Then she appeared, heavily pregnant in the video “I’m Every Woman” with Chaka Khan.  She glowed, she bloomed, and she really was all woman.  Sadly in most recent years, she succumbed to drug abuse and it took its cruel toll on her.  We all have our demons and can only deal with them in our own way.  She was a mother, a daughter, a singer and a wife.  And for all of five horrible, vomit making seconds today, I thought Screecher Creature No. 2 was going to meet his maker as well.  Both he and his older brother have a strange habit of collecting those little sizing squares that fit on clothes hangers when we’re walking around a clothes shop.  They followed me into the changing room and as I was putting my clothes back on, I heard that awful choking and gagging sound behind me.  They probably heard me down town.  Tears were streaming down Iarla’s face and, half undressed, I shook him and slapped his back. At one stage I pointlessly, lifted him up and down off the ground, anything to dislodge whatever it was that was blocking his airways.  It was all over in about 5 seconds but it was long enough for Mister Husband and the girl outside to come running in.  Iarla was fine, highly indignant at the rough handling from his mother and a bit embarrassed with all the ruckus.  But I was sick.  I honestly thought I was going to puke.  Both with relief and fright.  He is at this moment in time, asleep in his bed, none the worse for his ordeal.    I hope wherever Whitney is now, she is at peace.  She had more than one moment in time.  Sleep well, Whitney. 

Wednesday 1 February 2012

My VBAC Story

After the birth of our third son, via emergency section, the thoughts of having another baby were somewhat daunting. I knew our family wasn’t finished but I was very nervous about “going again” due to the drama surrounding Liam’s birth.  But one sunny summer day in 2010 saw me looking at a positive pregnancy test.  I knew my body could handle another pregnancy and a birth but my concern was how my caregivers would “ handle” me.  My GP had already told me that should I fall pregnant again, I would be given a “trial of labour” and at 6 weeks post delivery, I knew straight away I would have my work cut out for me trying to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean Section).
I was mildly surprised then, at my first ante natal appointment to be asked if I wanted to “have the baby myself” and when I said yes, I want a VBAC, I was told this was the best decision.  Things were looking very positive indeed and I geared myself up for a natural birth. 
I was convinced from about 8 months that I was going to have the baby early.  He was very low down and I was getting regular and quite painful Braxton Hicks.  All of my clinic appointments were great.  I was receiving great support from the midwives and the consultant about my VBAC and I was full of confidence and very much looking forward to the birth. 
Then things shifted slightly.  I was on the final stretch and my previously ok’d birth plan was now looking like a school report.  The ground underneath my feet was beginning to feel decidedly shaky and I could feel my VBAC being taken away from me.  This was a blow to my confidence and to make matters worse, at one of my third trimester appointments, the consultant felt that my fluid levels were a bit low and I was sent to the hospital.  This happened again a few weeks later, but this time I was kept in overnight.  All of this only served to confuse and frustrate me.  I had been told that because I had already given birth myself twice before, the odds of me doing so again were high.  But every time I attended an appointment they contradicted themselves and made me feel like a number.  
Having been convinced that this baby would arrive on time or early, suddenly I was gone past my estimated due date and found myself at yet another tormenting clinic appointment.  I wasn’t a bit surprised to find it was the same scenario, in fact I was probably expecting it.  Each time it seemed to be getting more serious and again the fluid levels were found to be low. Lower in fact than the previous week. This time the consultant was finding it hard to get a reading of 4cms. He wasn’t even getting, he said, four proper pools of fluid. He thought it best that I go to the hospital on that Friday morning for ARM. (Artificial Rupture of Membranes)
I was still all this time, getting cramps and there was lots of show so I was hopeful things might happen of their own accord. The anxiety of that pending Friday morning interfered with my sleep so I was able to add tiredness to my stress levels. Everything in me and all I believed about Mother Nature doing her thang when she was good and ready, convinced me that I would not need any interventions at the eleventh hour.  So when I was examined on Friday and found not to be favourable for ARM, I didn’t know what to do. The doctor decided a sweep might help things soften and I would be assessed again the following day. Against my better judgement, I agreed to be “swept” and then Mister Husband and I were free to walk to our hearts content. We spent a lot of time walking the hospital grounds and I could feel the baby’s head in my pelvis. It was quite uncomfortable, kind of a bone against bone sensation and I had to stop frequently to catch my breath. Cramping was also slightly stronger but nothing to write home about.  It wasn’t lost on us that this was the first time in, we couldn’t remember when, that we were able to have several uninterrupted conversations.
The following morning saw me sat, waiting alone in the labour ward for the ARM assessment with just Matt Cooper on headphones for company. Oh, and the poor lady in active labour across the hallway. Nervous? Anxious? Me? You must be thinking about someone else.
This time it wasn’t so nice; not quite as comfortable as the day before. Of course, it didn’t help that the doctor was quite serious in his approach. None of the other doctor’s cheery banter and very politically incorrect comments to take my mind of things. I was also fixated on the plastic implement he kept waving as he spoke. I can’t look at a plastic ice-cream spoon in the same way anymore! I was very posterior so there was a lot of digging and pressure as he attempted to “pop” my waters but there were none forthcoming.  To be honest I was a bit relieved, thinking they were obviously correct about the fluid levels being low. From that moment on, however, I was officially on hospital arrest. I was to be constantly monitored which meant no lovely walks outside in the hospital grounds. I would be lucky if they “allowed” me to walk the hallways. There was to be a cannula inserted and I was fasting also. That put paid to the cappuccino and chicken tikka panini I had great plans for. I was ravenous and it was only 11am. I drew the line at being “gowned up” and wearing the paper knickers the midwife produced. My own granny knickers were seriously unsexy but I was wearing my own clothes, thank you very much! 
I made a quick phone call to Mister Husband who arranged care for the boys for the afternoon and he hot footed it to Kilkenny. When he arrived I was back in the labour ward and hooked up to the monitor. This ball and chain remained tightly secured to my swollen belly until I gave birth. I was sitting on a gym ball and contractions were still not doing anything much but they were definitely there. I alternated between standing at the side of the bed and bouncing on the ball. At about 4ish, our lovely midwife, Maria, asked if she could examine me. I was still very posterior and she wasn’t able to tell how dilated I was without really getting in there. I asked her not to do so and she said she would go in search of a midwife with nice, small hands. I had stated in my birth plan that I wanted VE’s kept to a minimum. The next midwife managed to move the baby’s head and on finishing the exam, there was a release of water. Seconds later followed by another. (A day later on reading my notes, it made for interesting reading to find that I released “copious amounts of fluid” and I continued to do so regularly for the next few hours. Hah! I thought, so the fluid levels weren’t low after all. But I digress.)
From then on there was a noticeable change in the contractions. They were more frequent and increased in strength. I stood at the side of the bed for the next hour and a half and filled my head with a home video of the three boys and played it over and over again. I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing right down and with Mister Husband standing behind me, I swayed and rocked gently.  Gravity is the labouring mother’s bestest friend.  Stand, walk, walk some more, keep standing, sway those hips and your body has no other choice than to allow the baby to move downwards and out into the world.  Mister Husband had his arm looped around my neck and I was able to put my face in the crook of his arm and inhale him. It was lovely. It really was. I kept visualising the kids, in particular our then youngest who was 21 months old.  I imagined his smell, his messy hair at the nape of his neck, the way he would wrap his legs around my waist when I hugged him, his mad grin. I shut the whole world out except for my home movie.  I rocked and swayed and at times felt Mister Husband stroke and kiss the side of my neck. I felt so safe, secure, protected, supported and loved. It was lovely. I remember whispering to Mister Husband that I was sorry for not talking to him and he said “you’re in your zone. Stay there.”
I had a cramp in the back of my thigh which was annoying and every so often I would sit on the gym ball to relieve it.  I noticed when I did this, the contractions stopped straight away. But I needed the odd break and didn’t stay seated for long. Once I stood up again the contractions picked right up and I felt each and every time, a nice trickle of water being released. I could feel the baby moving downwards all the time. It was almost time for Maria to finish her shift and a quick peak at the clock told me it was after 7pm. Just three hours after true labour began.  Maria said she felt our baby would be born in an hour and as if to give me a boost, she opened the birth pack and turned on the heat lamps. She asked to examine me again and found I was still very posterior but she reckoned I was more than 4cm, possibly 5 or 6. Mister Husband kept telling me it was just a number and reminded me that this was proving to be the very same as our second son’s birth.
It was hard to hear I was 4cm but I was starting to make different sounds and I knew I was in transition. Maria had left after a quick squeeze of my hand and a kiss on my forehead, and the new midwife asked me to tell her if I was feeling pressure. I was but not in my bottom. She told me not to worry or focus about this, to let another contraction or two do its thing and then she would examine me again. On doing this she said there was a bit of a lip and I needed to give it a couple more minutes. I was almost there.
At this stage the contractions were difficult to manage and thoughts of the epi began to make an appearance. I was covered in a thin sheen of sweat and shaking a little bit. I was definitely making birth sounds and finding it hard to focus. I had to really concentrate to calm down. After about 20 minutes or so there was different pressure and the midwife asked me to climb up onto the bed when the next contraction ended. I think she thought I was going to give birth standing up. To be honest so did I!! I didn’t think I was going to be able to get up on the bed but I somehow managed it and the midwife declared me ready to go. As if I didn’t know!!!!!!
I rolled onto my side; my leg was unceremoniously and without care, hoicked up into the air. The pressure was animal, unreal and I was so aware of the ejection reflex. I let out an almighty bellow that seemed to come from deep down inside me and with one push I felt the head being born. The cord was wrapped and there were lots of shouts and roars at me to “pant, pant”. I couldn’t hear a thing so they had to shout. There were two more incredible pushes and our fourth son, all 8lbs and 13 oz of him was born after four hours and nineteen minutes. I kept saying “I can’t believe you’re here, I can’t believe you’re here” and then “I can’t believe I’m not pregnant anymore,” much to the amusement of the midwife. He latched on straight away and oh god, the rush of adrenalin. The power, the return of the control I thought I had lost over the previous few days. It was amazing. It was so intense.
I “opted” not to have pain relief for the simple reason pethidine makes me sick and gas and air just burn my throat. And I can honestly, hand on heart, say that I didn’t need the epidural. Yes, transition was bloody tough. Very tough indeed and there was a definite “oh crap, I can’t do this” moment. But I regained my focus and did my best to let my monkey do it (Thanks Ina May). *
A little over four years ago now, I made my first enquiries about hypnobirthing, in particular, Tracy Donegan’s home course. (Birth Hypnosis Programme. Gentlebirth CD’s.  The Secret to a Positive Birth). This was when we were expecting our second son.  Fast forward to our fourth born nine months ago, and I can confirm with absolute certainty and delight that it truly does work. Forgive the irreverence but I recall saying to Mister Husband afterwards, “that shit really works. It really does!” This time round I found it nigh on impossible to listen to the CDs on a regular basis. In fact it was only in the three weeks prior to giving birth that I made a strong and conscious effort to listen to the VBAC affirmations. I used to put the CD on in the kitchen and try to listen to it over the shouts and roars of the three boys, but I did, however, manage to listen to it at night in bed. I do realise that this was my fourth baby and my body, having been there before, was nicely tuned into how to give birth.  But even with a first baby, your body knows what to do.   I am also of the firm belief that hypnobirthing helped me during a very frustrating and anxious few days when all I could hear was a very definite underlying, “well, we’ll probably end up sectioning you anyway.”
At the end of the day once you and your little bundle are delivered safely, that is all that matters. But I believe it is also very important that we as women are listened to and allowed the chance to birth our babies the way we want to. The way we are able to. I wish each and every pregnant lady reading this, the very best of luck and that you all get your heart’s (and your body’s!) desire.
If you are still reading, thank you and I hope my story serves some hope and inspiration to you all.
Some books I found to be of immense help to me are mentioned below.  If you decide to read any of them, I hope you find them as interesting as I did.
*Ina May Gaskin’s “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”
Tracy Donegan's “The Irish Better Birth Book” and “The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide”
Marie Mongan “Hypnobirthing:  The Mongan Method”