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Eloise birth story

For thirty-eight weeks she grew in my belly. Before she was conceived I was sure our family would be completed by another boy, that we would give her brother a brother and our weekends would be forever filled with rugby and cricket. Yet from the moment I learnt she was there, blossoming from a single cell, I knew I would have the daughter I so deeply wanted.

Carrying and growing her was very different to her brother. The first trimester nausea and the third trimester exhaustion were the same but emotionally I felt inexplicably different: calmer, happier, and more grateful for the opportunity to experience pregnancy, birth and motherhood all over again. Where last time I wished away the weeks, eager to get to the next ‘stage’, this time, I begged time to slow down, to just let me savour it all.

My tummy grew quickly, rounding out, as our baby’s tiny arms and legs lengthened, got stronger, chubbier. And then I felt her for the very first time. A pop. A bubble. A flutter that soon turned into strong thuds and then kicks as her feet pushed through my sides seemingly looking for escape. At night I lay in bed hand across my belly waiting for those kicks, that secret code between the two of us. And as I felt for her I would fall into a contented sleep to dream of our dark-haired brown-eyed little girl: our sweet daughter.

As our baby’s due date grew closer and my belly stretched to bursting I prepared myself for her arrival. In the day I washed and folded tiny clothes, filled our pantry and fridge with food, and cleaned with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. And at night I read and studied the approach of Hypnobirthing*: a generous friend guiding me through the process as I learnt about the enormous power of the mind and the benefits of a calm and natural birth. I was nervous about our baby’s arrival but more than anything I was excited about the experience that would bring her into the world.

Two weeks before she was due my Braxton hicks began to build in frequency and intensity. At times I would find myself leaning over the kitchen bench swaying and breathing deeply as I had practiced. For four days I woke each morning thinking today would be the day we would meet our baby and by days end the tightening’s would have faded and I would be left doubting my intuition. November 5, the day I was sure she would be born, came and went. I cried to Troy that I just wanted to meet our baby, to hold her, to know when it was all going to happen. Patience deserted me as I became increasingly frustrated.

The next day I woke determined not to pay any attention to the Braxton Hicks until I could no longer ignore them. I baked banana bread, built Lego towers with Lachie and mopped the floors. At lunch our friends Laura and Matt and their son came to visit. We reminisced and laughed about Laura’s labour, how she rocked on hands and knees on a busy Brisbane street while I assured concerned passer-bys that she was not hurt but probably about to have a baby.

The afternoon slipped by and as the three of us, Lachie, Troy and I, sat eating our dinner I winced as the pinch of a contraction took hold. “You’re going into labour aren’t you?” Troy asked me. I assured him it was likely another false alarm, that he was tired and should get some sleep. The time was 6.30pm.

We played some more Lego with Lachie and then Troy went to lie down. In between brushing Lachlan’s teeth I timed my contractions, eight minutes apart, one minute long. He chose a story, Tiddler: The Story Telling Fish, and we snuggled in bed. Story read I kissed his soft blonde head goodnight and turned out the light. The time was 7.30pm.

The contractions were coming seven minutes apart, tightening across my lower back and radiating through my stomach. I leaned over the kitchen table rocking involuntarily while I called Troy’s mum, Sheryl. “It’s probably a false alarm” I told her, “but can you come over?” I made my way to the shower, wondering still, if this was it, if we would soon be meeting our baby girl. Nerves of excitement started to build.

I undressed, my swelling belly reflecting at me in the mirror. The warm water cascaded blissfully down my aching back. Aware that baby had been posterior at my last appointment, I leant on the shower screen eager to help her turn. The contractions got closer, longer, harder. Six minutes apart. Standing in the shower I called Sheryl again. “Better come sooner rather than later” I told her. “I’m still not sure it’s the real thing though”, I said apologetically. The time was 8.01pm.

The bathroom door opened and Troy peered his head in. “You’re definitely in labour” he said, seeing the obvious where I could not. I got out of the shower and dressed, gathering a few last-minute things in between contractions. I rang the hospital to ask if I should come in, nervous not to go too early. Contractions had jumped to every three minutes and I was having to breath deeply through each one. Make your way in they said. “I think we need to go soon” Troy said. “Should I call someone else to come until mum gets here?” he asked. “No, it will be okay” I replied. Another wave hit. “Actually, yes, do”, I said from the ground. The time was 8.19pm

Bags packed in the car and a pile of towels on the front seat we waited for our friends to arrive. I looked in one last time at Lachie, my first-born, my boy who taught me the endless depth of a mothers love. I felt sadness that his world was about to be changed and in the same moment, joy that we were giving him the lifelong gift of a sibling. I kissed his cheek once more and made my way to the car. I found my earphones and selected the Hypnobirthing track I had been falling asleep to each night for the past few weeks. I closed my eyes. As the wave of the contraction built I went to my knees, leaning over the front step as we waited for Emma and Michael to arrive. Pulling up in a bundle of excited energy Michael tells us he couldn’t find his keys, that he had parked Emma in, that they had to get his brother to bring around his car to use. “He went 80 and ran a red light” Emma tells us. We laughed at the unnecessary panic. I hugged and thanked them both and climbed into the car. The time was 8.45pm.

Sitting upright felt unnatural. I wanted to be kneeling, my belly hanging to relieve pressure on my back. But I had to sit. I turned the volume up on the music and closed my eyes. In the darkness there was nothing but my breath, my baby and I. The outside world stopped existing. As each contraction took over I imagined myself walking into the ocean, the cool water lapping at my body. I felt myself floating, weightless as the wave lifted me up. The pain was there but it was distant, remaining on the sandy beach while I floated offshore in the salty water. I briefly opened my eyes as we neared the entrance of the hospital. “This way” I said quietly pointing. The car stopped and I climbed out. Another contraction. I squatted by the entry path, grasping the handrail for stability, bending deep and breathing down into my belly. The parking attendant smiled knowingly and directed Troy where to park. The time was 8.50pm.

Car parked, Troy lifted me from the ground. Enveloped in his arms, we walked toward the entrance and through the glass doors, my eyes mostly closed, only mildly aware of my surroundings. We arrived at the entrance to the pregnancy unit. “Press the button,” I whispered to him as another strong contraction took over and I went to my knees in front of the door. Eyes closed I heard the door open; “take your time”, a kind voice said, “when your ready” she reassured. The wave passed and I stood. Troy told the midwives my name. “How often are the contractions coming?” they asked. “Every minute or so”, he replied.

The birth suite was dark and calm. “I want to have a shower” I said, kneeling by the bed my belly tightening as I went again to my mind and the ocean; breathing deep, my body soft as Troy ran his fingers gently up my back and down my arms. “Just pop up on the bed so we can check you” the midwife said. I climbed onto the bed and lifted my knees as I felt the baby’s head move down, the pressure intensifying, and the urge to push beginning to take hold. I felt a pop as my waters burst with a bang. The midwives and Troy laughed, thankful to have been standing out of the way.

The pressure became even more forceful and in the middle of another contraction a brief moment of desperation took hold, “I can’t do this, it’s too much”, I thought. Rallying, I closed my eyes tighter, breathed deeper and without realising, started to push. The midwife had called for the on call obstetrician but she was yet to arrive. In my head I thought they would tell me to wait, to stop pushing, I was scared that I couldn’t stop. “I. Need. To. Push.” I said softly. “Push then” they tell me.

And so I pushed. Eyes shut tight, music still flowing to my ears; I remembered Lachlan’s birth and how I brought him into this world. This time I didn’t yell or scream but instead focused all my energy into pushing our baby down. I breathed down as low as I could as our baby’s head was born. “Wait” they told me. I waited. “You can push again” they said. So I did. And her body was born. I reached down as they helped our baby through my legs onto my chest. I held her, pink face crying, chubby cheeks covered in white vernix. The time was 8.59pm, Wednesday November 6, 2013.

I looked up to the man who helped make this beautiful little human: joy and love pouring from every inch of me. He smiled at me; kissed my head, told me he was proud of me, that he loved me. “Thank you” I said to him. For everything. We both looked down at our sweet baby. Our dark-haired, brown-eyed girl: our darling daughter.

birth story

* My lovely friend Caitlin from Mother Down Under guided me through her Hypnobirthing course. I can’t recommend Caitlin enough, she helped me achieve the natural, calm birth I wanted and I am so very thankful to her for that.

The Monster & Me: Lighthouse and boy

For six years of my childhood I celebrated Australia day overseas. In the middle of the United Arab Emirates to be exact. And every year, my parents, along with our Australian neighbours, would arrange an all-out Australia day party. There would be imported Vegemite, Violet Crumbles and home-made lamingtons. While the gigantic marquee set-up outside our house would be filled with hay bails, akubra’s, whip-cracking and the sound of John Williamson.

Beyond Australia day our parents read my sisters and I Australian themed bedtime stories and sung us Waltzing Matilda in thick outback accents. They recounted tales of their days as a flying doctor (mum) and vet (dad) flying across central Queensland and the Northern Territory, from remote cattle stations to one-horse towns. Every two years we would make the journey half-way across the world, back to the land of green and gold. It was summer and so my experience of Australia was always of long hot days at the beach, mosquito bites and sweet mango juice dripping through fingers. And so I grew up with this idea of what it meant to be Australian without actually having many concrete memories of the country I was born in.

Eventually we did move back. I learned that most Aussie kids would never admit to liking John Williamson, never mind sing along with all the words. I found that most coast-living kids didn’t own an akubra, know how to crack a whip, or throw a boomerang. And that Vegemite and Violet Crumbles were not an annual event but just part of everyday life.

Since those days I have been fortunate to experience many places around the world. And so I have seen how others live, and the places that they make their lives. And there is much to be desired and admired and yet each time I hand my passport to the Australian customs officer, mixed in with the twinge of holiday-end regret, there is gratitude that it is Australia I get to return to. Australia is not perfect. We have our challenges, our problems. Yet when I think about this country of ours, I can’t help but be incredibly thankful. For our freedoms, for our people and for this most beautiful of lands we call home.

Wishing you all very happy Australia Day! And for you fellow Aussies reading along, what does it mean to you to be Australian? I’d love to know.

Favourite Five Birthday Wishlist

Next week I will be celebrating (probably very quietly) my 28th birthday. I don’t need for anything of course but there are few little things that I would like. So let’s just call this edition of Favourite Five what it really is: a not-so-subtle hint to my husband.

1| The Little Veggie Patch Co: How to grow food in small spaces
2| Talulah Moon Star Dress
3| Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens
4| Gorman Earrings
5| Stand-up paddle boarding (I’d love to try this one day)

The Monster & Me: Wedding photo

Four years ago today I walked through a sandstone garden path to the man I would marry. To the rest of my life.

And there is no-one in the world I’d rather share this life’s adventure with. No-one I’d rather talk things to death with. Or celebrate our child with. No-one I’d rather argue with. Or have press my buttons in the most exasperatingly annoying way. No-one I’d rather be there for through the ups and downs. Or have pick me up off the ground. No-one I’d rather have make me laugh until I choke. Or laugh at me when I trip. There is no-one I’d rather.

And so while I look back at the last four years with a heart full of happiness, I’m know the coming years hold just as much promise because there is no-one I’d rather have by my side.

My darling husband, thank you for four years full of wonderful life*.

*and for putting up with my odd bit of cray-zay.

Mother and child photograph source unknown

As a mum there is a certain sense of selfishness in the excitement of a friend announcing their first pregnancy. Of course I am genuinely happy that they are creating a family with the person they love, that part is a given. But then there is the other congratulations that is not said and that is “I’m so happy that you are going to be a mum, too“.

I’m so happy because now you will ‘get’ what this whole thing is about. You will ‘get’ the endless sleepless nights. And the heart-aching love. You will ‘get’ the obsession over why a toddler won’t eat his dinner. And the overwhelming responsibility of raising a child. And when I tell you that I’m struggling to know how best to discipline, you just ‘get it’. Because you are there too, or have been, or will be. Our friendship finds a new level of commonality because we are now both in the thick of motherhood, with all its challenges and triumphs.

I love my childless friends just as much as those who are mums. Their company is often a welcome break from the all-consuming world of motherhood. A chance to revert back to just being me, to talk about everything else that makes up life. And there is so much of it. Careers, travel, relationships, adventures. And if I’m truly honest, sometimes I like to live vicariously through these friends, and their careers and travels and adventures. Because frankly it’s a bit more exciting than changing endless nappies and wiping half-eaten food off the floor.

The truth of it is, however, our lives are very different now. Where we shared the highs and lows of school and university, first relationships and travel, suddenly our paths have taken vastly divergent directions. So, when a non-mum friend announces her impending mamma-hood, internally I get excited that we will again be on the same page of life. That I will be able to empathise with the “I’m-so-freaking-over-being-pregnant-get-this-baby-out-of-me” feeling. The “I-have-no-idea-why-this-baby-won’t-stop-crying” breakdown. And the “I-love-this-little-person-so-much-my-heart-my-just-explode” moments. I will nod my head and ‘get it’ because I am there, or have been, or will be.

So to my beautiful non-mamma friends, know that if and when you decide to go down the motherhood path I will be absolutely elated for you but also, selfishly, quietly, happy for myself.

image source unknown but found here

The Monster and Me: Native Flowers

.. the mornings have been early and the nights far too late. I’m figuring out how working from home fits in with mothering a demanding two year old accustomed to his mammas full attention. It’s challenging but rewarding, even beyond the monetary sense. I can feel my mind flexing and stretching with each day of thinking beyond the realms of managing toddler behaviour and what to cook for dinner. I like it. I feel more grounded, more myself. Certainly more tired but something has to give, right?

There has still been plenty of time for life in-between website writing and business card designing and endless emailing. And I think I’m appreciating it more. From the native flowers bought at the Saturday farmers markets brightening our table with springtime hues, to experimenting with flourless berry muffins, and impromptu riverside picnics.

Life is full. And really quite wonderful.

We Heart Life : I heart my body 2012

I’ve never been besties with my body. You could say we’ve had somewhat of a dysfunctional relationship. For most of my life all I’ve seen when I looked in the mirror is flaws: all the imperfections in how my body looked. At 13 it was the flat chest and the ‘pancake’ nickname from cruel seventh grade boys. At 17 it was the extra padding around my middle, the embarrassment in a bikini, the holding arms over my stomach at every beach outing. At 21 it was the spreading spider veins in my legs, the self-consciousness in shorts, the worry about impending cellulite.

Over more than fifteen years I punished myself for every one of these imperfections (and so many more). The punishment was mental: a constant internal barrage of reprimands over food eaten and calories not burned and disappointment at never looking a certain way. And when the mental punishment wasn’t enough there was the physical: the obsession with exercise and the salad-only diets. And finally there was the psychological punishment: the two years of binging and purging and hating myself for every moment of it.

Then, three years ago, things started to change. I began to see my body for what it did rather than how it looked. Because in the last three years it has done some pretty amazing things. That stomach with the extra padding round the middle, it grew my son for 39 weeks. The flat-chest (which wasn’t so flat for a while there), for 15 months, it nurtured and comforted my baby with milk. And those spider-veined legs, they have had enough energy to keep up with a highly active toddler as well as maintain a well-loved home (most of the time).

So these days, I’m learning to look past the flaws. I keep the self-punishment to a minimum: and try to replace it with respect. I do my best to look after this body that has given me so much. I nurture it with exercise and good food (and a good dose of chocolate) and more than anything some love for all that it has done, all that it does, and all that it will do.

Now when I look in the mirror I see strong legs that can run after a two year-old known to sprint toward a road at a moments notice. I see hands that have stroked my baby’s soft head and held my husband’s hand and made the food my family eats. Mostly though I see someone finally happy in their own skin.

The Monster and Me: I heart My Body

**The photo above is from our family holiday to the Whitsundays earlier in the year. The little one in the pink stinger suit is Lachie, don’t ask.**

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