Monday, March 31, 2008

Things your mama never told you about pregnancy

The other day I was musing about pregnancy with a friend. We were discussing the wonderful sensation of flutters and kicks and that amazing moment in your life when you first hear your baby’s heartbeat. As I hung up the phone, I couldn’t help but laugh that while we waxed eloquent about the joys of carrying a baby, we carefully skipped over all of the ugly bits.

And so, dear friends, let’s discuss the moments in pregnancy that no one ever talks about. For those of you who have never been pregnant, consider it the most honest (and hopefully hilarious) account of pregnancy symptoms you’ve never even heard of. And for those of you who are mamas, this should bring back some amusing memories! This post comes with a warning: these are the detailed and dirty parts of pregnancy. If you have a penis or a queasy stomach, you may want to skip this post!

  • The panty sling: At some point in your pregnancy, your belly will get so big that you will no longer be able to bend down far enough or to curl your legs up enough to put on your own panties. Many of you will adopt what I call the “panty sling.” While holding on to the counter for support, you will use your panties as a sort of lasso, attempting to capture your rogue foot. Once this feat is completed, you must attempt to get the other foot in the adjoining leg hole…only to find out you’ve got them on backwards. (Note: you will at times keep them on backwards because you can’t be bothered to go through the five minute sling process again!)
  • The scoop on poop: Those pregnancy vitamins (that doctors push on you like enthusiastic ghetto crack dealers) will mess with your bowels more than you know. Pregnancy does one of two things to women: either you will go into maximum overdrive and find yourself scouring your office building for a washroom that no one else knows about OR you will become the camel of the bowel world; not needing to stop for days at a time, but feeling the weight of your load. I chalk this up to the crazy vitamins, and perhaps also to the fact that you now have a little human bean sitting on the collapsible pipes.
  • The belly blues: For those of you who have always been slim, you may have never experienced the strange sensation of your belly touching your legs. For me, this was an incredibly bizarre and unnerving feeling. It hit me hardest in the bathroom, when it was most likely that skin would touch skin in this area. Along with the curious feeling of your gut resting on your lap, you will also find that you can no longer see what you’re doing when finishing up in the washroom. Everything below your belly equator will become foreign territory that can only be accessed by groping about blindly. (This is especially cumbersome for those of us who shave or trim in this area. Groping blindly with a razor in hand is not a recommended activity.)
  • Invasion of the body snatchers: Many of you have heard of the brain drain that accompanies pregnancy. We’ve all watched a friend or co-worker devolve from a professional on-top-of-her-game scholar to a forgetful, brain-dead zombie as the baby feeds directly on her brain cells. What you may not know, is that this invasion goes further than the brain. That baby will upset your balance enough that you become an unwilling participant in slapstick comedy. The bruises on your arms and legs, enough to make you look like a human Dalmatian, will attest to your newfound clumsiness. Baby will also hijack your hormones and turn you into an emotional psychopath worthy of any 80’s slasher film.
  • Hound-Dog Syndrome: No, I’m not talking about the desire to hump everyone’s leg (although this tickling desire does overcome some preggos). I’m talking about the amazing sense of smell that pregnancy bestows on you. It’s cruel actually. You will begin to smell the world in a whole new technicolour way just as your stomach begins its revolt against the rest of your body. As you suffer from 24/7 nausea, your nose allies with your stomach to keep you from grocery shopping, cooking, eating or generally doing anything that might put you into the line of fire of any wayward scents your first trimester. Suddenly you will discover exactly who has forgotten their deodorant three cubicles over; who ate garlic for dinner last night and those farts in the wind? They blow right in your face. Lovely.
  • Gaseous Majoris: Because your huge, water-laden figure is not enough to bear, nature also bestows an excess of gas on to pregnant women. You will begin to rival your husband in your ability to clear a room or burp the alphabet. It’s classy and it’s unavoidable. Just go with it and enjoy your grotesqueness.
  • Footatoes and cankles: Ah, my favourite part of being a preggo – the effect it has on the last 12" of your figure. As your belly expands and your body fills with the fluids needed to feed and house your little bean, your legs, from the knee down will transform right before your eyes (that is, if you could see them in the first place). Your once-lovely ankles will disappear so that your calves meld right into your foot. I like to call these cankles. Along with your tree-stump cankle legs, you will develop what I affectionately call footatoes: potato-like extensions where once your foot was located. Your footatoes will not fit into any of your favourite sexy heels nor your kick-ass boots. Instead, you will be relegated to flip-flops, giant rubber galoshes or any other shoe that allows for your footato rolls to expand and does not require you to bend over in order to put them on.

I feel like I could write a book on this stuff and go on forever! Have you got any tidbits of observation from your pregnancy that you'd like to add?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Check yes or no!

I am the victim of my own schoolgirl crush these days. I’ve unnervingly found that I have a full-on, giggle and blush crush on Jamie Oliver. For those who don’t know him, he’s a young British chef who focuses on real food that is prepared and presented almost peasant-style. Now Jamie is an attractive enough guy, but he’s totally not my regular man-crush type.

I’ve tried to make sense of this crush, but to no avail. I don’t know if it’s the way he caresses and then roughly manhandles his chicken. Or the way he seems to impart tenderness and respect on random vegetables. Perhaps it’s his down and dirty British accent or his devil-may-care style and hair. Part of me wonders if it’s the simple fact that he’s a man who loves to cook and also tends a beautiful, though wild garden.

Last weekend I found myself eating extra turkey and stuffing (deliciously prepared by my mother-in-law) fuelled by the thought that it was Jamie’s recipe and he may be eating the exact same meal…truly bizarre stuff. Now don’t fear, I have no inclinations to begin writing him fan mail or taking trips to England to hunt down his garden and steal sprigs of rosemary as a remembrance. I’m content with admiring him from afar through the Food Network. And I may just buy one of his cookbooks (confident that it’s his home-style meals and not his adorable lisp that stimulate the purchase).

I do think that my husband has noticed my slight infatuation. I barely managed to suppress a slight squeal when I found the W network was rerunning the Naked Chef series. I caught Adam’s raised eyebrow when I sighed in pleasure while Jamie prepared pork chops in my living room. But he’s smart enough to know that this latest crush may just result in some new delicious meals on the table so he says nothing. Good lad.

So Jamie, do tell: Do you like me too? Check Yes or No!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The fireworks of love

The story of how Adam and I met and fell in love is filled with fireworks. He is one of the rare men left in the world that understands that the way to a woman’s heart is through romance.

When I finished college, at the tender age of 23, I decided I need to take a break from writing. My two-year journalism degree left me feeling creatively empty. I serendipitously took a job as a waitress in a new restaurant in town, Café Francesco, to restock both my financial and creative banks. This café employed only two cooks and two waitresses to run the show (along with a very colourful owner who tried his hand at both of these things when the mood suited him). My partner in waitressing drudgery was a striking young woman named Virginia. She was still in high school and earning some money for college, where she wanted to become a nurse.

Virginia and I became fast friends. We relied on each other every day to juggle the many demands of a small operation. When business was slow, we divided our tips equally to balance out the good and crappy tippers. When business was overflowing, we passed off making salads and bussing tables to keep the flow smooth for the customers. (Now bear with me – Virginia plays an important part of the romantic tale.)

Every morning, a member of Virginia’s large family (4 kids) would drive her to work and drop her off. On one particular morning, her brother followed her into the café to sample our delicious but expensive coffee. He was dressed in grass-stained jeans, a dilapidated hat, a ripped and stained shirt and his face was bristling with a weekend beard. He sheepishly ordered a coffee from me and was back out the door without so much as a glance (though he did leave a dollar tip on a $2 coffee). I noted his gorgeous blue eyes and buff build but soon got busy with the demands of opening for the day.

About two hours later, a clean-shaven, impeccably dressed, drop-dead handsome man entered the café. He ordered a coffee and we exchanged some flirty banter before work got in the way. He left with a smile and a wave and I immediately reported the incident to Virginia. I had no idea who he was – which was rare in our small town where everyone knows everyone. She assured me that she would keep a look-out for this hottie.

Later that afternoon, the café phone rang and Virginia answered. I could tell by her tone that it was someone in her family calling. With an exasperated voice, she bantered back and forth on the phone for a few minutes before hanging up. With a smirk, she turned to me. “I know who he is,” she proclaimed. Then added almost disgustedly, “It’s my brother.” I was happy to know the identity of the mystery man and also pleased to know I had an inside scoop as to who he was. Before I could ask her anything, Virginia placed a hand on my shoulder and assured me “I told him you weren’t interested.”

Now at this point I was flabbergasted. She knew I thought he was attractive, why would she kibosh this potential summer fling? Granted, I had just come out of a rather serious three-year relationship where I was badly burned. Perhaps she didn’t want her brother to be my “rebound romance.” Virginia didn’t wait long to explain, “I know you just broke up with someone and you’re vulnerable. My brother is a complete dog. He’s a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of jerk. He’s had so many girlfriends over the past year that I can’t keep count. And he never keep them around for long.”

Perfect! I thought. All I want is a bit of loving to boost my self-esteem. The last thing I was looking for was any semblance of a relationship. This “jerk dog” sounded like just the kind of medicine I was looking for to help to mend my wounds. Virginia was truly hesitant and must have told me a dozen stories of why I should avoid her brother at all costs. Despite her arguments, she relented and revealed that he was calling to find my number as he wanted to take me out that night. Virginia insisted that we double-date so she could keep her rogue brother in line.

Adam picked me up in a dusty, stick-shift sedan later that night. He came in and met my parents (a rule in our house – even for a co-worker’s brethren) and surprisingly, made my mother all blushy and giggly with his banter (this is a woman who can see cow-flop from a mile away and treated most of my potential dates like they had just escaped from prison). He opened my car door for me and was a gentleman right from the start. Given that I knew about his “jerk-dog” history, I kept an ounce of scepticism about this chivalrous behaviour. We stopped for gas and while he was paying, I took a moment to look around his car for clues to his personality. I found no rogue panties from past conquests – check. Found no porno mags peeking out from under the seat – check. And hmmmm....what's this book left on the back seat – A JOURNAL. Now hold the phone Alexander – this boy writes for pleasure?! We may have something here. Being a writer myself, I was caught off guard by this random find. The scepticism took a step back.

Adam returned and we soon picked up Virginia and her beau. We drove to Toronto, and I have to admit that Adam’s rather aggressive driving (which hasn’t changed by the way) had me white-knuckled the whole way there. We parked about a block from Ontario Place and sat on a patch of grass to watch the Benson and Hedges Fireworks Display. It was breathtaking. We could just hear the music and had an amazing view of the sky. At some point during the night, Adam took my hand in his and I noticed how strong and large his hands were.

When the show was over, we piled back in the car and drove back home. Adam dropped off Virginia and Darren and we continued towards my house. He asked if I’d like to go and get a drink somewhere but I declined. When we pulled in my driveway, we sat for a few minutes chatting. I could tell he was sizing me up for a kiss, so I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek (and I couldn’t help but notice just how wonderful he smelled and how smooth his skin was). I said goodbye and left him without having even taken a base. Mama didn’t raise no fool and I knew that to truly hook that fish, you had to leave them wanting more.

It worked. We went out the next night and two nights after that. On our third date, we returned to my house and sat on our back swing until the morning birds started to chirp. We talked about life, love and our wildest dreams and desires. I was snuggled closely to him for warmth and to breathe in his scent. As the sky began to lighten, we exchanged our very first kiss. It was a toe-curling, novel-inspiring, electrifying kiss that lasted forever and yet, not long enough. He was gentle and firm, holding my head tenderly in his hands like the leading man in a chick flick. It was the second time in our short romance that I saw fireworks.

The rest, they say, is history. But it’s my history. The pages of our love story are filled with these tender moments and tear-jerking crises that make us who we are today. From many Valentine’s days, birthdays and everydays filled with thoughtful gestures that would make Harlequin quiver, to the day he proposed in the most perfect and lovely way, Adam has made my life one fit for a fairytale. Indeed our wedding day was exactly that. But that, my kiddies, is a story for another day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kicken' it!

Last Saturday, I took my sister out for her birthday with my cousin who was visiting from Ottawa. We went to an amazing country bar in Kitchener and had a blast (they even has a mechanical bull that I dearly wanted to sling myself onto but sanity put it's foot down).

I haven't been out dancing since before Hayden was born (that's over two years for those of you keeping count). A funny thing seems to have happened in that time: I have lost the need to drink before getting my groove thang on. I'm not sure whether this stems from no longer caring what people think or from an overwhelming need to dance that didn't allow me to stop and booze first...Whatever the case, I two-stepped from the moment we got there to when we left (around 2:00 - not bad for a bunch of 30-somethings). It was such a release (and a workout) and I had an absolute blast! We've all vowed to do it again soon - and not wait two years to do it! Thanks Ang and Jos! You were great pardners in country!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Could’ves

Being a mum can be a terrifying thing. Being a mum to a little boy only amplifies that. There have already been a few times in Hayden’s short life that he’s given me a soul-shaking fright. The first was of course his birth: That terrifying moment when they enter the world and you have to wait for a second that feels like an hour until they cry. After his dramatic entrance with a whole resuscitation team on hand and an emergency vacuum extraction, that paralyzing feeling was quadrupled. My heart clenched and then overflowed in the space of a second or two that day.

The second time Hayden tried to stop my heart was when he was about seven months old. He was still sleeping in our bed, even for naps. And although I was on mat leave, Adam’s job no longer allowed him to be Super Husband and do all the housework. So I would put Hayden to sleep in our bed, surround him with a barrier of pillows, and then go about my housework, carrying the monitor with me and listening carefully for the first sounds of waking. As soon as I heard that first whimper I would race up the stairs like a shot to get him. For you see, Hayden could crawl and had no concept of the edge of the bed. This routine worked flawlessly for quite some time. And then one day it all changed.

I was in the basement changing over the laundry. Over the monitor I heard his telltale whimper that meant that he was waking up. (And here is where I made a mistake that I still kick myself over.) I decided to just finish throwing the last few pieces of laundry into the dryer before racing up the stairs. It took all of 15 seconds to do it and the whole time I was yelling up to him that I’d be right there, just hold on two seconds. I flung the dryer into action and then made record time clearing two flights of stairs. I opened my bedroom door to see him perched on the edge of the bed, a big smile on his face. He saw me and crawled forward to greet me – his little hand coming down into nothing but air. I threw myself at the bed, but I was a second too late. He flipped off the bed, landed square on the top of his head and tumbled over onto his back. For a moment, he simply lay there, still and quiet. My heart leapt into my throat and my head whirled. I’ve killed my baby. I killed my baby just to finish a load of stupid f@#$@$ing laundry! He’s snapped his neck. My precious baby, my world, is gone so that the laundry would be finished faster.

And in the next second, his legs curled into his tummy and he let out a heart-wrenching wail that was at once the most horrible and the most wonderful cry I’d heard since his birth. I scooped him into my arms and joined him in sobbing. So close. So close to losing him. So close to being able to catch him. So close to having to witness my angel’s final moment and it being entirely my fault! I cried for a good hour and relived that horrifying moment in my dreams for many months.

It wasn’t until nearly 10 months later that Hayden gave me my next emotionally scaring moment as a mother. He was 15 months old and an accomplished walker. We had just moved into our first house: a two story brick Victorian. For weeks, I had been nagging my husband to get a gate for the top of the stairs. We had one at the bottom but all of our baby gates had a piece across the bottom that would spell certain doom at the top of a curling, wooden staircase! Finally, Adam relented and installed a great swinging wooden gate.

It was only a few days later that Hayden and I were upstairs putting away some toys. The gate was securely fastened and Hayden was having a blast exploring this new space without mama holding his hand. When we were finished, I picked him up and attempted to unlock the gate. Not being used to the lock yet, I found that I couldn’t do it one handed, so I put Hayden down while I manoeuvred the mechanism. I turned to the left to pick him up again and as I did, Hayden came around my right side and pushed on the now-open gate.

It was reliving the bed incident all over and in a much worse way. With my arm outstretched and my fingers just brushing his shirt, my angel boy did a full somersault down the first three wooden stairs into the wall. He then barrel-rolled down another horrifying ten unpadded stairs to land on the ceramic tile in our front hall. The whole time I was a step behind him trying desperately to catch him without tripping and falling on top of him. I think I was actually screaming “No, no, no” the whole way down. When he landed, a pile of arms and legs, face down and still, I was sure he was dead. If not dead, then knocked unconscious or broken. Again, there was a second of nothingness. Silence that filled my head and my heart as I took those final steps behind him and kneeled beside his crumpled form. And then from that little body came a big breath and a high-pitched cry that at once pierced me and relieved me. I carefully cradled him and carried him to the couch where I lay him down and checked him all over for broken bones and split skin. When it was clear that he was in one piece, I held him to me and took what seemed to be my first breath since I left the upstairs landing.

Again, I cried the sobbing cry of a mother who has seen in her head what could have been. What seemingly should have been after such a huge fall. I very nearly watched my baby die. Very nearly caused that death by my fumbling nature. Once the worst of the sobs had subsided from both of us, I checked him over again and noted the angry red marks on his head.

I tried to call my husband and took at least three tries to get my shaking hands to dial the right number. He was calm and reassuring as always and did what I needed him to do without asking: told me that it wasn’t my fault – it was an accident. There was nothing I could have done. He made sure that we were both okay and then promised to be home soon. I then called the wonderful people at TeleHealth Ontario (who have saved me quite a few times) to see if they thought I should bring him to the hospital just to be sure. They asked a gazillion questions and then told me to watch him carefully for the next 48 hours, but not bother with Emerg.

Hayden stayed in my arms for much of the evening, snuggling away his traumatic experience. We then slept in my bed together for the first time in months so that I could monitor him for a concussion. I dreamt horrible dreams of losing him, of him drowning, being stolen, hit by cars…all while I was just an inch too far away. Every time I would startle awake to feel his sweet, even breaths on my face and hold him a little closer. I still get a sour stomach and tears leap to my eyes when I think about it. As I type this message, my heart rate is that of a sprinter while I relive those moments in words. Hayden awoke the next morning with only two yellow bruises – one above his eye that mimicked his eyebrow and one on the back of his head. Amazing…

You know that your child is the world to you. And yet it takes those close encounters for that fact to truly strike home. Faced with the thought of not having them there, the temper tantrums and power struggles and sleepless nights seem so insignificant. I know that as he grows, I’ll have to endure more of these “could’ve” situations. These moments where the world stands still and you’re a millisecond too slow. They are something that I would never, ever want to relive again, but I am thankful that they gave me clarity to appreciate, truly appreciate what I have.

Motherhood uncensored

I stayed in the hospital for two days after Hayden was born. He had a cone-on-cone head from the vacuum and his face was pretty bruised, but he was perfect and he was mine. I learned how to change a newborn diaper (things like using the hospital-supplied facecloths for getting the tar off his bum instead of expensive wipes), how to nurse him (although for the first day all he wanted to do was lick my nipple) and how to distinguish his cry from the other dozen babies in the ward. I slept best when he was in my arms – which would become the norm. We had many visitors and I healed quickly and almost painlessly from the tearing.

The day we brought him home, it was drizzling and cool, but it was all sunshine to me. My mum was waiting at home for us and my husband surprised me by finishing Hayden’s nursery. He had spelled his name out with wooden letters and put some pictures from those first few days in the hospital in frames. It was a wonderful, thoughtful gesture and sent me into a flurry of tears.

My mum was our saving grace during those first few days. She fed us and helped us clean and took care of the thousands of details that go out the window when you’re new parents. She helped to keep me sane as my hormones adjusted and taught me all those things that you can only learn from your mother. When she left, I bawled at the thought of having to be a mum without my mum there to guide me. And being the great mum that she is, she told me that I was already a great mother and I’d be fine. And if ever I wasn’t, she was only a phone call away.

Hayden was not the easy-going baby you see in commercials or in the carefully edited Baby Story shows. He cried often and needed to be held constantly. After some research, we determined he was what the experts called “High Needs.” Dr. Sears had phenomenal information on how to help these sensitive babies to adjust to the world outside of the womb. Lots of love, lots of contact and responding to their cries as often and as quickly as you could.

One of my girlfriends bought me a sling as a gift and it is quite possibly the thing that transformed my relationship withHayden and his relationship with the rest of the world. With the sling, Hayden got that close comfort he truly needed and I got the necessities done (like brushing my teeth and eating)! I became quite adept at doing just about anything with a baby strapped to my chest.

About three weeks after I brought Hayden home, I began to break out in boil-like lesions all over my thighs. It started with one and within a week I had a dozen of these painful b@stards. After a trip to the doctors and a subsequent trip to the ER, I was diagnosed with MRSA: a highly contagious and drug-resistant infection that comes from the hospital. Somehow I had been infected when I gave birth to Hayden. I had to wear a portable IV drip for a week to get the massive doses of antibiotics into my body. It was truly awful. On top of tending to a wonderful but high-need baby, I now had tubes coming out of my arm, very painful open sores on my legs and I had to go back to the hospital with my newborn (who was nursing almost every hour) every few days to get the lines checked and blood work done. Every day the VON would come to change my dressings and change the IV bag. Really, it was a very stressful time. I look back now and wonder how I managed to get through it all. I think I was just numb. Numb and also blessed with a very caring and supportive husband.

Adam did everything for me and for the house after Hayden was born. He cooked, he cleaned, he did laundry, he gave me pedicures, he did the banking and the shopping, everything. All he asked me to do was to take care of Hayden. Adam gave me license to just love that little baby all day, every day. I spent every waking minute just tending to his needs and not worrying about anything else. It was wondrous.

Hayden and I slept together after a few weeks of failed cradle attempts. With him safely nestled in the crock of my arm, we could both fall into a secure dreamland. My poor husband had to learn not to throw his arms around in his sleep, as per his usual routine. While it only garnered me a painful knock on the head, his giant arms could do a lot of damage to a newborn. For this reason, I also slept in one position all night, keeping Hayden safely away from Mr. Flaily.

But I have to admit that sleeping with Hayden was one of my favourite things. Listening to his tiny, quick breathing, smelling that baby scent and feeling his warmth against me fulfilled my every hope of what motherhood would be. He lay ever so still when he was in my arms. Together we would sleep for hours on end until his belly told him it was time to eat. By the time he was a few months old, he was sleeping for up to five hours straight a night (though this wouldn’t last). Co-sleeping, as the experts call it, was one of my favourite parts of being a mum. Until he was a year old, we cuddled all night and I breathed in his fresh baby smell as I drifted to sleep.

The grand entrance

He came into this world on a cool and rainy day, two weeks before his due date. The night before his arrival, I excitedly timed mild contractions as I came to the realization that unlike previous experiences – this was the REAL THING! I waddled into the living room around midnight to alert my husband that I was having regular contractions and he may want to get some sleep. I went back to bed and tried to sleep myself, which was nearly impossible as the thought of actually becoming a mum dawned on me. Around 3am I woke again as the contractions strengthened and found Adam’s side of the bed was still empty. Again I penguin walked to the living room and told him to get the hell off of the computer and come to bed. I punctuated this order with the thought that this would be the last time he slept for a couple of days so he’d better take advantage of it. I then took my own advice and fell into a fitful sleep.

The next morning I was thrilled to find that I was still having contractions. I ate a big plate of leftover Chinese food for breakfast and picked through my hospital bag to make sure I had everything. Around noon, we called everyone to let them know that labour was in progress and we’d soon be heading to the hospital. By about 2:00, my contractions were strong enough that I had to breathe through them so we packed up and drove to the Queensway Carleton. Once we arrived, we found out that with every contraction, the baby’s heart rate would drop dramatically. Even though I was only a centimetre dilated (WHAT? Only ONE centimetre after 12 hours of labour?!?!), they admitted me so that they could keep an eye on the baby.

We called my mum as soon as we were admitted. And God bless that woman: despite the fact that she had been up all night with my nephew the night before while my sister moved, she hopped in a car to drive for five hours to be by my side.

The next six hours were absolutely brutal. My progress was so slow that sometimes I thought it was going in reverse. The pain was so intense that I was losing my mind. I recall flopping around that hospital bed, moaning and wailing and not caring that my ass was exposed to anyone who walked by. My husband kept himself entertained by playing solitaire and occasionally asking me if I was okay (Note: this is not a question to ask a woman in full labour.). For whatever reason (nerves, fear, who knows), Adam was not a very successful labour coach. Thank goodness I had the forethought to ask my mum to be there too!

After the longest quarter day of my life, the nurse announced I was three centimetres dilated and could have an epidural if I wanted. Seemed like a dumb question to me. YES! The difference after that wondrous medical intervention was like night and day. While it took me six hours to move the first three centimetres, after the epidural, I expanded to seven centimetres after only an hour. I had to call my hubby and tell him to hurry back as my nurse assured me that I’d be ready to push in no time (he was off letting the dog out while my mum kept me company).

In the next hour I went another two and a half centimetres till I was nine and a half. My nurse was practically giddy as there were six of us admitted to give birth and I was progressing the fastest. This observation must have been a jinx as things just stopped at this point. Hour after hour, she would check me and report no progress. She would then evilly tell me of another woman down the hall who was pushing. One by one, those other preggo’s beat me to the punch until I was the last one left. All I could hear as I waited were tiny cries as they delivered their precious cargo into the world.

Finally my nurse had had enough and told me to try and push past this little lip. We easily managed to bypass the last of my cervix and I spent the next two hours staring in a mirror at what must have been someone else’s disfigured private parts. No matter how red my face got or how hard I squeezed that little gaffer, he refused to budge. The doctor came in after two hours to assess the situation.

She casually asked me how I was feeling and felt around my belly and vajiji while we chatted. She then looked at the baby’s heart rate print out and her face went stony. She turned to the nurse and asked for a Paed RU (or Paediatric Resuscitation Unit – how I know this, I can only guess that it was my constant TLC watching). She calmly explained to me that we needed to get the baby out now and she was going to employ a vacuum. If it didn’t work, they would have to do an emergency C-Section. I had a momentary thought of “Oh great, now my belly and my vajiji will look like a war zone” before coming to my senses to think that whatever it took to keep this baby alive is what I would do. A flurry of staff and equipment piled into the room as they attached the vacuum to the baby’s head. With the doctor and nurses encouraging me, I pushed with all my might and sent healing, surviving vibes to my baby. As they wrenched on the vacuum with what seemed like excessive force, my baby was pulled and pushed into the world after only two contractions.

I was terrified that the baby would be purple and lifeless. But as they cut the cord and took him to the warming table, I saw that he was pink and he gave a tiny little cry. My husband, who was supposed to announce the sex, was speechless. The doctor waited a beat before warmly smiling at me and telling me I had a beautiful son. They placed him gently on my chest, he was red and whimpering and blinking madly at the bright lights. My mum, my husband and I all had tears running down our faces as we gazed for the first time at this tiny perfect being who grew inside of me for ten months. We named him then and there – Hayden William.