Friday, May 30, 2008

A special day

This morning I was called at 1.52am to attend a friend's homebirth (as a witness only) with a mutual friend who is a homebirth midwife. I was invited way back in November, such a privilege!

I zoomed down the freeway to a far distant suburb and arrived at 2.30-ish to hugs and a household full of women. We began folding washing and preparing the bed for postpartum duty. The birthing pool was filling, the house was dimly lit and the labour was stopping and starting.

Around 4am she settled into a rythm of contractions and it seemed it would go quickly, so the second midwife and another friend was called. Naturally things went off the boil, toddlers got out of bed, the mother got chatting and lost her focus, but things came and went.

I worked yesterday and I had had less than three hours of sleep. We all snuggled up in various chairs during the quiet patches, but got no more shut-eye, while the labouring woman found her Zen space in the warm water, and then chatted some more. The contractions spaced out and went off the boil a bit. It was becoming clear many attendants were going to be late for their day jobs. No pressure! We made discreet calls to our co-workers as dawn appeared, the midwives agreed to the maternal request to break the waters to speed things up a bit. Cervical dilation was not as far advanced as we had expected. There was a bit of frustration on the woman's part as this was her fourth birth. The last two had been born quickly! We all had a cuppa and recharged our batteries by taking turns sitting quietly with the woman in the pool, on the loo, and in the shower.

Around 7.30am I felt I should make a move to get to work with traffic, but was reluctant to leave. This was not something one got to take part in every day! By this stage Mum was clearly transitional, but there was a stubborn anterior lip to clear. The woman was mobilising freely in the pool, the midwives tried other positioning but in the end the answer was an internal examination to push the anterior lip back over baby's head within the birth canal. Hallelujah!Fully dilated at last.

Back to the pool. By this stage Granny was getting the others up and ready for school. The six-year old was coming in for short periods and running out like a shot when his Mum screamed with frustration and splashed the water. He doesn't like yelling.

The baby wasn't descending readily - why not? Maybe try semi-recumbent as that position had worked for the lip push-back. Finally there was a bit of movement at the station, and gradually a little head appeared. The lights were low, a torch was being shone (by me, I was delighted to have a tiny job to do) through the side of the specialized blow-up birth pool, casting enough light on the area of interest to see the steady emergence of the head. It stayed there for another contraction. The midwife checked very carefully for excessive cord at the neck - no cord, but a hand covering the left ear! Ahah! The culprit revealed! Finally after a third contraction and a mighty push the baby slid forth, unfolded and starfished up to meet her mother, who scooped her up with a gasp of relief and a triumphant grin.

'Its a girl' she announced to the wide-eyed crowd, who all teared up with delight and a multitude of other emotions. It was 8.05am.

I don't know how much she weighs. It doesn't matter. I suspect around 3.4 kg (edit - 3.5kg) . I left 3 minutes after the placenta was out at 8.20am after a physiological third stage. The cord was still pulsating slightly, providing stem cells for the pink and perfect little girl.

The six-year old thought the baby was interesting, but it had all been a bit loud! The two-year old just wanted to hold the baby on her own lap - but we explained that it was still attached to Mummy's insides, but she could have a hold soon. The four-year old was quite blase about the fact that his Mum had just given birth to a new sister in a pool of water in his living room. Surrounded by three midwives, a student midwife, his Granny and Mum's friend. One thing was for sure - the kids trooped off to school with a very big story for show and tell.

I zoomed back up the freeway to my place, got changed, cleaned my teeth, and picked up my work car, went to work, got my co-worker and went out on my rounds to see 6 clients in a 97km circuit.

Now I'm home . . . and a bit tired to tell the truth. But it was a lovely night and day.

Welcome to the world baby Alira. Your birth was the first homebirth, and second waterbirth I have ever seen. It was so special to be a part of it, however small. Your Mum was brave and beautiful, and strong.

Birth as it should be. Spontaneous. Unmedicated. Responsive. Active. Magnificent.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catch up

OK so I've been a bit busy to blog in any proper sense of the word, but I have been taking a few photos, and thinking of what to blog.

Here is my reprobate son sunning himself in Hollywood on his balcony at a 5 star hotel. Any resemblance to a movie star is purely contrived (but he is a bit good looking). Overlooking this. Poor darling. I wonder what the other poor starving Aussie students are doing? Chances are they were not livin' large (ish) playing Magic the Gathering at a Pro Tournament - which is what Patty was doing! He had dreamed of it since he was 11 years old - this is him and his best mate at age 12, playing Magic. I think Patty is winning their game.His 12 year old birthday cake was a reproduction of a Magic card - a Shivan Dragon!! Good Lord he actually worked at it, and he won the qualifier tournament. He is now ranked 348th in the world (I think). He is capable of buckling down sometimes...I wish he displayed the same discipline at all his studies .... sigh ... although he is improving. He has reached that interesting age where (finally) he is putting in above minimum effort and getting back better grades - Who'd have thought? He is back BTW - with gifts! He's learning!

What else? I have made Steff a hat. She chose the fabric and pattern. It turned out pretty OK. She's been a bit in the wars lately, with one thing and another, achey here, a lot of podiatry there (weird feet that kid's got!) so this evening she has had an early shower and got settled into the beanbag in her new cat PJs. I'll have to stretch her tendons /torture her again soon. Its no fun.

My roses are nice at the moment. Here is a bunch of those gorgeous Chrysler Imperials that I cut and took to all of my Mums out on the visiting midwife service while working on Mother's Day. The car smelled lovely.

And here is a selection from the garden yesterday, including my new one 'Mother's Love', which I received for Mother's day (the pale pink/white on the left). The apricot one is the new Olivia Newton-John rose, pretty but not very scented :( The large mauve one is a Lucina rose - the midwife's rose. It is one I use as an ID when visiting blogs. I really like the little French Hen that lives on my outdoor table.

You know I promised to be good at the craft fair? Well . . . . I was! I did buy some stuff, but it all fitted into my handbag! Are you impressed? I was. You can see how crowded the craftroom is getting. It looks a bit better currently than it does pictured below. I'm not showing you the worst corner.

I bought a stitchery pattern stating the completely obvious. Can you read it?
It says 'You can never have too many handbags or too many friends'. But of course!

I couldn't resist some little beads from a Chinese bead man. And some fun necklace kits made entirely of buttons. I couldn't decide between the black one or the red one so guess how many of them came home with me?And another bag of buttons that I probably paid too much for but it was my day for making frivolous purchases if I wanted to. Buttons really are quite yummy to play with. I don't know anyone who can resist running their fingers through a pile of them, and sorting them into sets. I saw my sister and resisted buying anything from her stand, although she did make some pretty interesting stamped demo stuff with glazes and such. We did lunch instead.

I saw some yummy bags and patterns, and only bought ONE small collection of fabric - I'm a bit drawn to chocolate and pink at the moment. I'm wearing a lot of pink too. I bought a really lovely deep rose pink / fuchsia colour 3/4 sleeve cardigan a few weeks ago. Yummy. I've worn it a couple of times already.

I have been using buttons a bit lately - I found a handspun, handknitted cardigan in an op-shop recently for $4, yes FOUR dollars. It was too cheap to leave there. Someone had made it with love, and skill, and had taken pride in it, so it had to come home with me.Cream is not really a colour that looks fabulous on me, but I honour its creation. It had very ugly rubber buttons on it, which I removed. I then handwashed it very carefully and replaced the buttons with ones selected by two of my sisters, who had a very pleasant time sorting through my button collection, choosing for the cardigan as well as my niece's bag I showed you last time (she loved it, by the way, its already in use.) I now wear the cardie in the mornings when it is chilly, as I potter about, especially as I sit at the computer reading blogs.

I am in my last two weeks of VMS now. I think I will miss the autonomy of zipping about the suburbs, consulting on my own. I will miss the yummy babies. I have had some completely edible ones lately. Oh, young Mohammed today melted my butter completely, I actually asked his Dad for a spoon so I could eat him all up!!!! I'm glad I get to see him again tomorrow. His four big sisters are unlikely to let me get too far down the street with him though. Sigh. Ooh - he really was adorable. I am quite a connoisseur of babies and he is a very fine baby!

Young Ella last week had us in stitches, unfortunately at her own expense. She was yelling lustily, as most young ladies (and gentlemen) do when being undressed for weighing, and as I put her on the scales she somehow took a fistful of her own hair and pulled. And pulled again. And kept pulling. Poor little mite. I immediately tried to undo her tiny fist, but you know how babies just won't let go? Sigh, poor little chicken, she kept looking very surprised and indignant, and would then pull again - bringing on a fresh bout of screaming! It took about 30 seconds to gently unwind her fist, by which time she had caused quite a red patch on her scalp! OOOOWWWW! Her Mum was fantastic with her. She had had a really easy natural birth at term, was breastfeeding like a champion, very easily and naturally, nipples holding up well. The good news continued as Ella had gained 3oz in a day - which made the scale related ordeal worth it!

I had a little fellow last week who wasn't doing so well. Mum's third baby, she was nearly 40, her milk was taking a while to come in, his poo hadn't changed colour at four days of age. When I weighed him he had lost heaps of weight on day 5 of life (12.5%), and hadn't started gaining yet. I sent him in to the hospital to be checked out, as babies must be examined if they lose more than 10% of birth weight (most lose around 6-7%). It may indicate a heart condition, or a tongue tie that means they can't remove much milk from Mum's breast. I followed him up today and found he did have a tongue tie, and was only transferring 4mls of milk at a feed! That's why he hadn't been pooing the right colour - it was barely getting through! Yet Mum's breasts were full of milk. She started pumping to remove the milk for him, and shoved it down his neck with a teat that delivered it more easily into his mouth. He is to have a frenotomy next week (where a surgeon nicks the frenulum under the tongue) and will be reintroduced to the breast after that, when it should be much easier to move his tongue effectively. I feel bad that I missed it when I saw him on two visits. He wasn't damaging the nipple, so I wasn't looking for it, and when I observed attachment he was moving and sucking in an apparently effective way, and I observed swallowing too! I'm glad he is turning the corner.

I've learned heaps in visiting midwifery. Its a matter of putting it all together, which I feel I am getting better at doing. I've had student midwives, and today I've had a graduate midwife with me. We toss around ideas, and at each house (as we drive away) I ask them if they would say or do anything different, and we discuss the things we have just seen, or houses we have been at!

There are so many delightful families out there in parenting land from all different cultures. Pets getting to know the new baby, siblings squirming for a front row seat at the action, or by Mum's side as she feeds the new one. Half naked men answering the door sleepily, and leading us back to their bedrooms, where we then ALL roll about on the bed, observing feeds, feeling the fundus, checking out the stitches, weighing breasts in hands, with the man in bed too, helping them all to understand the new family member, encouraging a love-in in the early days that will hopefully carry over to a harmonious family life. Its an intimate job.

I love it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


A is for ants.

I would like to know why ants seem to love my study and computer area. As I sit here there are a few busy little ones wandering around, singly or in straggly pairs, sniffing out morsels and molecules of goodness. There's a few in the kitchen too, and they leave the sugar pot alone, but last night they got into a fresh cake on a plate by sneaking under the plastic wrap.

When Steff had a bottle of lemonade in here yesterday they went crazy! (big surprise). I noticed the trail - from the windowsill, down the wall and the phone wires, apparently through the printer, down the side of the shelf, across the mousepad and keyboard - was much more substantial than usual and followed it to a capped bottle, with hopeful ants swarming around the sides. Yelling was involved. And swishing aside of queues of ants - no flyspray, just removal of the source of the frenzy.

Today there are still a few tiny hopefuls sniffing around, waiting to get lucky again. I am about to take my empty cup OUT again! Hold on...

Right ... back again. OK.

B is for bag
Are you surprised?

I found the pattern I needed for a big bag the same as I made for myself and my sister in 2006. Have I shown you these before? These are the originals of my 'sister bags', that spawned my pouches. I am unable to find a link to the patternmaker/supplier, sorry, but it is a Fair Mades pattern FM15 called the Gypsy Travelling Bag.Her daughter wants one, and she ordered creams and light beiges, maybe a bit of blue. My sister was here for a few days in early May and approved this pile of ingredients for the bag. So off I went. The palest creamy beige-suedette. The fine baby corduroy with the slate blue paisley print is actually a recycled skirt, the cream elements are obviously crocheted doilies, plus a selection of buttons, and a gorgeous creamy fine jaquard check for the lining. The young lady receiving this bag is a stylish filly, with very expensive tastes in bags, but she apparently is keen to have her own Aunty Janey bag, which is very large and roomy. You can fit a lot of ballet shoes and leotards in it! I felt the pressure not to have it look too much like a crafter made her a bag with doilies and yo-yos! Its not usually my style, but the yo-yos are part of the pattern that she professes to love.

I often make my own patterns for bags, and am fairly fussy about my fabric combos, but this pattern is fairly easy in its construction and I quite liked the colour/fabric choices here. So here it is. Drumroll...
Ten hours of work later. I could never sell these and get a fair price for them that recovered a decent hourly rate, but I am satisfied with it. It has a big jacket zip in it, that closes a placket at the top or sits opened flat against the sides. (Ooh - it matches my sofas! And my floor.)
Each one I have made I have quilted and decorated a bit differently from the pattern. I like the range of buttons. I love the lining fabric. The wrinkled doily application is deliberate. I'm pleased with the slate blue colour. This is the back.
Ducks and pearls (featured on the buttons) have a special significance. It is even monogrammed in a discreet location.

I was very brave and 'steeked' the doily to cut it into segments. Piece of cake - I'd do it again!

Now that it is photographed and blogged it is heading to Melbourne! Its certainly a custom-made 'one of a kind'. I hope she likes it!!

C is for craft.

Its the mega craft and quilt show this week in my neck of the woods. A travelling marketing circus, with stalls and stalls of temptations to overfill my stash even further. Yikes!! I have attended these things religiously for about 10 years, but missed out last year due to night duty and a foot injury. Boo-hoo. I don't think my stash or my wallet missed it too much ;P

However I am going today! I finished 6 days straight of driving around the far reaches and beyond of our metropolitan sprawl, and I am pretty exhausted. But today is the day without my daughter at home, and I should take advantage of the opportunity for exercise and walk around and get inspired/tempted/sell my soul to the devil for the latest thing/broke at the fair! Another of my sisters is working on a stamping stall at the show. I should be safe from that temptation, although you never know....

Comfy shoes? Check. Ankle braces on? Check! Painkillers in pocket? Check! Empty hand made bag for purchases? Check!

I'll try and be good!
P.S. B is also for Big Baby Boy! Did I tell you my son (the semi-professional card player) is in Hollywood and hasn't called me to let me know he arrived safely? That's a whole 'nuther story!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Boobs are my bag

Ooh I have just read this post from Lisa. I am so envious. How inspiring.

Somehow I have forgotten to attend any conferences or workshops this last year. I am aghast, as I love going to those things. I wonder if its because of the rostering hassles of being a rotational midwife. I move around a lot, each 8 weeks or so, and am constantly unsure of whether I will be on nights, or whatever. I am also a bit vague and unorganised about making roster requests in advance, especially when I don't know the area I will be working in, or its a new area for me.

Its a big hospital, I am often a long way from where I must go to make the request (if I remember to do it). I am often tired. I don't have access to the computerised in-house rostering program either - what a nuisance. Some areas make rosters 6-8 weeks in advance, some only 2 weeks in advance. Its one of those health system workforce things that I haven't quite adjusted to yet. I am such a slow learner about some things. Sigh.

Anyway I have resolved that i will make roster requests to give myself ONE day at home per week with no 'kids', which means Thursday currently. Unfortunately, given that visiting midwives tend to need continuity of clients, that means that out of the last 8-9 weekends I have worked 6 of them - both days! Groan. I start again on Friday and work 6 days straight, then get a week off, including my first weekend in a month! There has got to be a better way! I have made requests for my first few weeks in LBS for mid-June. Lets see what I get!

Its fairly self-inflicted, and think of all the money I get working on weekends. Anyhoo.... I think I have finished whining about that. You're probably very relieved. (This is my daughter in 1993).
I have had an interesting couple of weeks on the road, and met some interesting families. I have seen some incredibly large and engorged breasts!!! They could easily be feeding twins, but they each had only one small baby to deal with all that milk! Then later in the day I would see other scrawny babies whose mothers were a bit half-hearted about feeding them diligently, who were not gaining weight. I could have put them in my pocket and taken them to the next house and put baby to the breast of that over-supplied woman! If only I could do that! Or feed them myself!

I have noticed that I am experiencing let-down again while on VMS. I used to get it on the postnatal ward, especially when I first started in midwifery. Its never really left me, even after more than 18 years since I last breastfed a baby. (ooh there it is again, just thinking about it). I don't mind. I don't leak or anything, but I still experience it. I feel it means that I am just very connected to this field, and that it means that my body is passionate about breastfeeding too! See what I mean - body and soul!! I am coming to realise that I know a lot about this area.
The photos throughout this post are mostly of a much younger me, from 1989, when I was breastfeeding my daughter. Above is our first mother-daughter photo - she is about 8 minutes old and I am having a quick cuddle before she went to intensive care. (Yes, I am on the floor. Yes I am naked. Be grateful I cropped out the cord hanging out! TMI?) She was born with a cleft palate as part of a syndrome, so was unable to feed directly. In fact she never went directly to the breast. Below is the breast pump I used in hospital - this photo was taken when Steff was a few weeks old, and we were still living in hospital together.
I am moved to see this photo of Patty, age 3, with his sister aged 3 weeks. Still being nursed on her stomach as all babies with her syndrom are (Pierre-Robin Syndrome). It was pretty hard for him to lose his Mum to this strange little sister. Maybe not much has changed in 19 years.This one, with me being sooky, is of my last express, when she was 29 weeks of age. I always cry at big occasions. I was sad but triumphant, and baked a boob cake to celebrate my achievements. (My hair is pretty bad here, I had just got up, and it was shorter as it had all fallen out postpartum. Did that happen to you too? I always lost my hair after giving birth.)

I did try to express directly into her mouth one time, but as she had a gag reflex from hell and thought every attempt to put anything into her mouth was a threat/an attempt to kill her, she retched and vomited straight away after the first few drops, losing far more nutrition than those drops had given her. Sigh. It was too confronting and directly wasteful/punishing to see this milk wasted in this fashion, and she threw up so much on a daily basis that her growth was severely compromised anyway, so I didn't try it again.

This photo is from one of those rare times when Stephanie actually fed orally in a coordinated fashion, where she cried with hunger and accepted her mouth being filled (delivered from from a soft-sided squeezy bottle because she couldn't generate the suction to get it from a bottle like regular babies), then swallowed - without gagging. It was a miracle to us to see her do it, hence the photo.

She only did it 7 times in her first year of life. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of those sessions.

So to see half a dozen little babies daily, attach at the breast and suck for all their lives are worth, and do it every two hours! Wow, what a miracle. What a privilege to feed your baby that way. I know ... I did it for nearly 18 months with Patty. He fed heartily, lustily, frequently until that time, and was still feeding to sleep most times, and waking to feed in the night when I decided I'd wean so I wouldn't be getting up in the night to him just to feed. It seemed like a good idea at the time. If I'd known that it would be the last time I would have a babe at my breast I would have gone on.....

I have breastfed two children. In very differing fashions. My only reason to have another child would have been to have another beautiful period of feeding. I did love it so. I think I did it well. This photo is from 1996, Patty 10, Steff, 7.

So this is another aspect of my life that I can bring to my practise.Its not about me, and I rarely mention it to any mothers I care for, but when they are pumping to establish or boost supply I can genuinely identify with their task.

I remind them that growth spurts happen, and to let them happen, and to surrender to it. These are the periods where the baby wants to feed constantly, a mother will say 'I have no milk' or 'my milk dried up'. We hear it a lot. But with the right information and support from her family, and only if she wants to (because some women don't really mind whether they feed or not, and I'm not gonna force them) our imparted knowledge will mean that she knows how to maintain and boost her supply, and the lactation bond will continue.

I like boobs. And babies. And bumps. Lucky I'm a midwife, hey?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Game queen and random clouds.

You may not remember this post. But I have just reached a new highest score of 44! Previous best - 8!

I started on Twiddletails (link on right) and clicked and clicked 'next blog'. I saw a dozen or more languages - warning - I passed through a pretty strange and graphic Indian adult site (although all featured normal looking women I must add), and finally met my match after a Czech site (how do you spell that?).

Anyway...I remain the queen of my weird little game. Feel free to clear your throat and wonder what planet I am on. I won't hear you.

You may have noticed that this is the third in a series of short, random little posts. Sorry... feeling observed and hassled when spending time on the computer lately...its a bit inhibiting. I toss and turn at night and think of work, blogging, stresses and strains, being in pain from getting old, my to-do list, cutting roses for the Mums I will see on Mother's Day (but sadly not mine!) ...many random things. Plus its been a bit hot at night. Maybe its menopause. Sigh.
Would you like to see some beautiful clouds I snapped a few weeks ago? Here...
Gorgeous huh? I have no idea if it will go bigger if you hover on it, but you can try.

The meaningful midwifery-related posts will return when I have my next day off. Its been an interesting week. I'm learning (and remembering) heaps.
Happy Mother's Day to all, especially those who are less remembered and spoilt than others, but who deserve to be just the same. You know who you are.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A teacher's tale

Check out this blog post.

I am humbled to be on the (long) blogroll of this woman. (As much as I would love to have all those my blogroll list me on their blogroll, they don't all. I'm happy being a cyber-minnow). But I digress.

Frogdancer is a secondary teacher in Australia. What a magnificent job she does.

Go back a few posts too. She's just the teacher you want all your kids to have; firm, warm, clever, funny, insightful and very much on a roll. And she can knit cute baby hats too.

I don't even know her actual name but I'd be proud to know her. I'm a fan. Take a look.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Days off.

Hmmm, I love to wake up at my own pace. Not to the alarm, not to my bladder, just when I am ready to awaken.

Why do I feel so refreshed after that simple act? I must have slept really well last night. I wore a long sleeved nightgown, and a pair of soft stretch-knit pants too, and I took a wheat bag to bed as well. It wasn't that cold, but I was feeling cold, so I rugged up for bed and slept like a log. I know I turned over a few times, I remember moving the wheatbag from under me, but I went straight back to sleep.

Aaaah, I do like to be warm and cosy in winter.