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Milky Cuddles: April 2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Zara’s first few days at home

My dad picked us up from the hospital when Zara was two days old. My mum and dad had been looking after our eldest the whole time so my husband could stay at the hospital with me, which I was thrilled about. I know those first few days are so precious - I wanted to share every part of it with him and he didn’t want to miss it.

The day we came home was a sunny afternoon. Nala was over excited to see her sister coming home and a little bit crazy (read: a lot crazy). She refused to get in her car seat so it took a while to load up. My husband squeezed in the car between the two car seats in the back. And I took a moment to reflect on just how full our car is now (and by extension how full our family, lives and hearts are).

My dad had cooked dinner. I can’t actually remember what we did that afternoon at home. I only have one photo and that is of me feeding Zara on the couch. So I guess that’s what I did. And probably played with our one year old. And I would have had a herbal bath (with these herbs), which was part of my birth recovery plan, and drank my breastfeeding tea.

I have photos of the next day, our first full day at home. These are of my one year old trying to climb in the cot with Zara while she was asleep. They pretty much sum up life with the two of them. And the midwife came to visit.

On the second day at home my cousin Claire and her baby came to visit and we sat outside in the sun while the kids played. Then I ventured out to the shops because I realised I literally had no clothes I could breastfeed in. I spent most of the time sitting in one of the changerooms feeding Zara. I was in there for so long! But I did come home with two new tops, so it was a success (and way easier than shopping with a toddler). I also got to sit down and enjoy a quiet iced coffee at the shops, while she slept. I don’t drink coffee while I’m pregnant and this was my first one postpartum, so I was so excited. That night, my brother and his family and my aunty came to visit. My aunty made us all a lasange for dinner.

With my sister in law and niece
On the third day at home we found ourselves rushing back to the hospital. My sister in law and niece had come to visit. My mum and sister in law took Nala to the park so that Zara and I could have a nap. They came back and mum changed Nala’s nappy. She told her to go and wash her hands which she always does with great enthusiasm. She ran at full speed into the bathroom, tripped and hit her head on the ceramic edge of the basin. There was blood pouring everywhere and she was screaming. My husband was out and had taken the car which had the baby car seat in it. Luckily my sister in law had a baby car seat in her car, so we put Zara in that, mum drove and I held Nala on my lap in the backseat while she was screaming. I was holding a facecloth on her forehead to stop the bleeding. I was grateful that I wasn't alone when this happened as I wouldn't have been able to get the two girls to hospital. I probably would have needed to call an ambulance. Nala was so upset that we hadn’t even dressed her, so we turned up to emergency with her in just her nappy. We did have to wait but overall the service at Box Hill Hospital was good, they gave her gas, glued it back together (apparently they don’t stitch kids anymore, they use glue) and bandaged it and we went home. I was grateful that my husband arrived at the hospital to calm her and get her to sit still for the nurses. Nala really is daddy’s girl and she listens to him more than anyone else. 

Not sure why I am smiling here...

And then it was the weekend again. We were supposed to be doing a family photoshoot but we postponed it because of the bandage on Nala’s face. Instead we went on a family outing to our local play café, so that Nala could play and we could drink coffee and cuddle little Zara in peace. Looking at these photos now Zara is such a tiny, gorgeous newborn, six days old. At home we opened a few presents that had been sent for us. Nala is loving presents at the moment, she tears open the paper and says ‘wow, wow, wow’ over and over.

The next day, Zara was one week old, and I took her, in the carrier, to my favourite local café and sat down and wrote her birth story, which was very therapeutic for me. At a week postpartum I was feeling great – I had recovered well (thanks to a good birth), breastfeeding was going well, Nala was exploding with love for her little sister and Zara was a dream baby. I was overwhelmed by how full our family and lives felt and how grateful I was for our new daughter and everything her first week had been. Life-changing and wonderful and special family time.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Welcome Zara – Our wonderful, intense, didn’t-make-it-to-the-water birth

A week and a half before Zara was born I had 10 hours of contractions. I was sure that I was in labour and that the baby would be born that night. I had been timing the contractions since 4pm and they were coming consistently and getting stronger. At 2am I eventually fell asleep, expecting to wake later and rush to the hospital. Instead I slept till morning and woke feeling completely normal. No baby.

Up until then I had assumed that the birth would be similar to my first – which was a precipitate labour that you can read about here. These contractions made me think that this birth might be quite different and I wondered if I would cope if it was a much longer, slower birth. With my first I had put a lot of things in place to ensure it was a positive one – I organised a doula, hired a TENS machine, had acupuncture, practiced hypno birthing and pressure points with my husband etc. This time I hadn't organised anything, I was just assuming it would be ok, and the 10 hours of contractions made me nervous. We couldn’t afford to do everything we did last time, so out of all of the things I had to choose. I decided to choose a doula as I felt we needed all the support possible and because having a doula last time made us feel so positive about the birth, both in the lead up to it and afterwards. We organised a student doula through the Australian Doula College, which is much less expensive than booking a fully qualified doula. It’s lucky we went for this option because for the second time the doula didn’t actually make it to the birth. Even though she didn’t make it in time I don’t regret having a doula because you never know what type of birth you will have. You just have to plan for the unknowns as best as you can and be prepared for anything.

Knowing my first birth had been so fast and with such little warning I had started staying close to Box Hill Hospital at 37 weeks. This was not something I did with our first baby, as I had assumed that labour would start slow and gently and give me enough time to get home from wherever I was. Staying close to home, made the waiting very real, it made me constantly think that our baby could be close. But I was feeling great right up until the final day of my pregnancy so I started to think, maybe this bub is still a while away.

The day before I gave birth was our wedding anniversary. It was a sunny day and mum and dad had our eldest daughter. We went to a beautiful nursery café in Warrandyte with a view. We sat outside in the sun and took some time to reflect. We went for a walk along the river. We took photos of my belly and I realised that it was absolutely ready to pop, that it was the hugest belly I have ever seen. We sat by the river and talked about our baby. We prayed for her and wrote letters to her. Sitting with the man I love and doing this brought me a great deal of peace. I very much felt that as a team we were ready to welcome our baby and become a family of four.

Sunday morning was the end of daylight savings so my daughter woke at 5am. When she woke us up I noticed that I was having cramps. This wasn’t unusual for me though, as I had been having cramps / contractions / prelabour on and off for about 5 weeks. They weren’t strong so I didn’t think that anything was happening. I started timing them and realised that, though they weren’t strong, they were coming consistently about five minutes apart. I was still in denial though as my previous contractions had been a false alarm. Still we started getting ready for the hospital just in case – packing the last few things, putting the bags in the car, tidying up the bedroom, bathing our daughter and doing her hair for a party she was going to that afternoon. At 8:20am I messaged our doula and asked her to come. I said I wasn’t sure if it was going to go away or progress but I asked her to come anyway. By 8:50 the contractions were getting stronger and fast. I realised that we weren’t going to have time to finish bathing our daughter. Luckily my dad was there so I quickly asked him to get my daughter out of the bath and dressed and we ran to the car.

I remember getting in the car when I was in labour with my first and how dramatic it had been, how I was screaming and kneeling and holding back her head. This time it was all very easy and calm. We drove to the hospital and I was able to discuss the best place to park with my husband. We found street parking. I jumped out, leaving my husband to park the car, and walked alone into the hospital, up the lift and into the birthing ward. The midwife who greeted me later told me I was so calm that she thought she was going to check me and send me home.

But as soon as I got into the birthing suite the contractions started coming thick and fast. I leaned on the table and swayed my hips to get through them. My husband arrived with our bags. The contractions were ramping up and the pressure was building. I remembered the feeling of pressure from last time. I tried a number of different positions and ended up on all fours on the bed. When I arrived I had told the midwife I wanted a water birth and she had turned the water on. I wanted to get in the bath but it wasn’t full enough. The contractions were so painful that I was now screaming through each one. I was grateful though that the contractions were coming and going so I was getting a break between each one to catch my breath. My first birth had been so fast that I didn’t have contractions, they just rolled on top of each other without a break for an hour and a half. Now that I remember the intensity of the pain of birth, I wonder how I did it with my daughter, how I got through it without the break between contractions. With my first birth I actually blanked out as I was birthing, so I blocked the memory of the pain. This time I was much more aware of it, I was feeling every little bit. I was becoming terrified of the contractions because I felt they were too much for me. As I felt them coming I said 'oh no, oh no, oh no; because I didn't feel I could face it. I felt I had too much pain and no path through, as though the people around me couldn't and wouldn't help me through. I asked for the bath and I asked for gas but I wasn't able to use either.

Looking back this is the time I would have appreciated having our doula with us, who could have made some practical suggestions to get me through, who could have advocated for me, updated me on where things were at, explained what was happening and why.
I asked the midwife if she could see the baby’s head. Although you might think it would be obvious whether the head is out or not all I could feel was pain without being able to identify exactly what that pain was. Luckily, the birth was quick, and before long the baby was out (she was born at 9:30, half an hour after we arrived at the hospital). I was so relieved. I had birthed, again, without intervention or any pain relief.

It is often assumed that a quick birth is a good birth and that it makes it easy. I can’t count the number of people who have said how lucky I am. And while I am grateful to have had two quick births, it is true that short labours are characterised by contractions that are continuous or extremely long and intense. In both births I had no options for pain relief, despite experiencing pain that was more intense than I can find words to describe.

I didn’t see it but I was told my daughter was born in the sack. I wish we had got a photo of that but the midwife popped it straight away and my husband was too busy caring for me in that moment. Within seconds she was placed on my chest, naked and wet and messy, and we were covered in warm towels. She was here! 

My husband and I had named her a couple of months earlier – Zara Lethu – a name that means ‘our radiant dawn’. I held her close to me and was overwhelmed that she was here and by just how blessed I am to be the mother of two daughters. I looked at my husband, I remembered the first night I had vomited at a restaurant and suspected I was pregnant nine months earlier – what a journey it had been to becoming a family of four!

I was lucky because I had no tearing or problems with the birth. With my first I had had internal lacerations which took weeks to heal. This time the recovery has been much easier and much quicker. I believe that this is birth how God created it to be – with breaks between the pain, no damage afterwards and a quick / easy recovery. Having not anticipated feeling so good afterwards I was amazed, amazed at how the body can repair itself and how it can bounce back from something as momentous as birth. I personally am in awe of just what a woman’s body can do.

So now my second daughter is here, and I’ve just embarked on the crazy, amazing and no doubt life-changing journey of being a mother of two. Welcome, little one. 

Zara's birth photo
Zara's first photo - moments old.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

How to create a baby mobile from old cards

I love the occasional creative project. When I was 8 months pregnant with my first, my doula and I sat down and mapped out the final weeks of pregnancy. Day by day we made a calendar of things to do while I prepared and waited - write a letter to my baby, do yoga, have lunch and a walk with a special friend. 'Make a mobile' was written on the calendar for the day I reached 39 weeks. It's lovely to schedule some special things to do while you wait for your baby, but you might not get to do them. At exactly 39 weeks, my daughter made her appearance, and the mobile was long forgotten.

So this time around I started a bit earlier and I'm happy to say made the mobile in time. Here it is.

DIY baby mobile

DIY baby bird mobile

I went for a bird theme and I made it out of old cards that my mum had saved from when I was kid. Some of my first birthday cards have now been cut into bird shapes and transformed into this mobile. I very much enjoyed looking through the pile of cards mum had saved. The same names appeared year after year. How special to look back and see cards from my aunties from when I was born, turned 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. 

What I used to create the mobile:

- a box of old birthday cards. 
- a circle for the top that I bought from Spotlight
- white ribbon that I twisted around the circle and super glue to secure it
- gold string, bought from the craft shop
- an assortment of beads that I have collected over the years
- the circle part of a keyring, used to hang it
- a bird shape template that I found on google images

Old birthday cards used to create the baby mobile

I went with a bird theme, but you could choose any shape, colour or design you like. Once I had gathered all the bits and pieces I invited my two closest friends around to help. I decided it was a great excuse for a creative afternoon, a catch up with friends, and a time to drink tea and eat cake.

Here's what we did:

- Decided on a design and colour theme. I decided on a multicoloured / patterned bird theme, but again, you could choose anything you like.
- Covered the top, wooden circle. I did this by wrapping it tightly with white ribbon (secured with super glue at the start and end)
- Using a template to ensure each shape is the same, we cut out the shapes. For each bird we cut out two shapes (back and front of each bird) and two wings.
- Before we glued the back and front of each bird together we layed out each string of the mobile. We treated the beads and tied knots to secure them on either side of the birds. We then glued the back and front of the birds together with the string between them. We made 8 strands, each with three birds. Some were short with the birds close together and some were long. 

paper birds for the baby mobile

- Tied each strand to the circle at the top.
- Tied four strings of equal length to the keyring circle and then tied the other end of each string to the white circle (equally spaced around the circle). Now when I held up the keyring I could see that it was ready to hang.

baby craftanoon with friends.

And, voila, just like that, we'd transformed old cards from my childhood, into something special for my baby. 

.... Now my baby is born and here she is enjoying her mobile at 3 weeks old.