Sunday, June 5, 2011

Half my life

This year, I have been a parent for exactly half of my life.

Wow, what a journey. I am certain it has been the making of me, and I can't imagine my life without them in it, but I'm beginning to understand that daily contact is not necessary!

Our eldest moved away from home last December, 3000km away. Where all the cool people live. (waves at Melbourne). He is back at the moment for my birthday, and it is actually strange having him under the roof again (yes, he still has the same squeeze). No flies on him though - at what age do they stop hoping to cadge free shoes from parents?

When he left home I was a bit of a sook for a while. I figured out that it was because I didn't know when I would see him again. In the past I had had a date on the calendar for when he would walk in the door again. I was quite bereft without him, and was struck by how much I missed his presence, his bulk, his hugs and his company. I realised how unnatural it was for me to not be able to picture where he was. I had given birth to someone who was now a large man, roaming the Earth in a different city, and being all . . . functional and adult and grown up. Someone would see my son walking down the street, and interact with him, appraise him, like him or not, and it was out of my ken. I was not a face in that particular crowd. I was not breathing that same air with him any more. He was not returning to me. I felt the apron strings come undone. I had underestimated the lump it would make in my throat.

Once I figured out that it was a lack of a calendar entry that was troubling me I had to mentally commit to a visit to Melbourne mid-year. The separation then became easier to bear, and I settled down, and could think about him without become teary. I enjoyed my mental image of a confident capable adult son out in the world.

When I arrived home one day in late-March after a super day at work, with TWO births I was as high as a kite and bursting to share the fantastic day I had had. It was also our daughter's birthday, so all in all a great day, with a restaurant meal to look forward to. My key was in the door when I heard an adult male voice talking in the kitchen - he had been brought home on FF points by the squeeze as a surprise for his sister's birthday! He had been in town for 2 days already, lying low for a surprise! He scooped me up in a huge hug, and was really very tolerant of me patting him reassuringly all evening. I was so surprised, and so delighted. It was brilliant.

Our youngest is still home, and likely to stay here for some time, although she is keen to move out, in principle. She is not working at the moment, had to resign her job due to terrible eczema/dermatitis on her hands. Her health has been quite challenging in the last 9 months, with one thing and another, and the appointments are very frequent. We thought we were off all that frequent flyer stuff, but she has had 2 operations and not too many answers, although it is reassuring to have ruled some stuff out. She is doing one afternoon of maths refresher stuff at her level, and other than that sits on the computer/ watches DVDs, plays her music (Glee anything) and obsesses about the cat. She finds it really hard me being out all day with this new job, coming and going as much as I do. She has few friends and doesn't go out much, and is not nearly as independent as most people her age, although that is improving. She really needs to meet a sweet boy, but doesn't go anywhere to meet any :( She has however taken up the challenge of cooking dinner one night per week, which is a help. Now - how to trick her into taking up the rest of the housework! Well, thats not strictly fair, she does do a bit of food shopping as well during the week. However she has NO idea how to plan major stuff, and we are frustrated by her passivity in this matter. If she moved out next week it would be a fast-track to boredom, anxiety and malnutrition. . ..with added cats. We are starting to look into future options.

DD was away for a fortnight in April and we experienced the wonder of the empty nest.

And we want MORE!

Monday, May 30, 2011


We have three layers of skin.

These lie sequentially beneath each other, and collectively they shelter us from the outside world, and keep us from oozing ourselves out.

You can tell someone's age by the state of their skin, especially on the hands and the neck. About a year ago I noticed that my hands were getting a little crepe-y. My neck likewise, at certain angles. Unless it was being held out by fat layers when I pulled my chin inwards while laughing. Or breathing. Or living life. It was surprisingly easy to capture me with a round face and double chins. Did you notice I mentioned that as if it was the past tense? Snort! well, I have lost a bit of weight but there is no danger of my face falling into sheets of wrinkles any time soon, I promise you.

My hands display the scars of careless usage, of play-fights with friends in a high school yard, or at the weekends - turns out her nails were sharper than mine! I bit my nails until I was 12, quite deeply, into the quick, down to about a third shorter than their length now. I stopped through an act of great determination, and with the assistance of a classmate, who was invited to poke me and remove my hands if she saw them stray to my mouth. Bless her. I think it was Mandy Johnson. I can't bear to have rough nails now, I have an emery board in every handbag, my purse, my cars, behind the mirror, in most rooms of the house. I hate to wear rubber gloves, and somehow I am continually surprised that my manicures won't last beyond 2 days, some less than 24 hrs!

The first touch of ungloved hand on intimate flesh is a threshold I never thought I would cross, but I have - willingly. There is an immediacy, a truth in the connection between the parties involved that stretches back through time. Receiving a warm slippery life from the depths of a woman's body, after watching a head emerge and pause, blinking and blowing bubbles, poised between worlds. A final impetus and the baby emerges to claim their own place in the world. My skin sings with the memory of such things.

My skin has known feast and famine. Stretch marks and blows. Massage and sunburn. Kisses and fibreglass rods. Sequins and blisters. Cotton and raindrops. Passion and cold shoulders. Yet it survives.

When I look around at my peers my facial skin is quite supple, aided no doubt by the, um, cushioning beneath. Not dry, still relatively oily really. Some crowsfeet, a few shallow wrinkles, that neck tendon separation thing in the front. Quite a few freckles. Lots of moles (note to self). Laugh lines are visible. Grey hairs too, faster than I can get to a bottle sometimes. I wonder when I will be ready to go grey? I don't think it will be this month.

In terms of thickness of skin, I think mine is pretty tough. I have had a few slings and arrows aimed at me lately, and seem to be doing ok. The odd glancing blow, a bruise here or there, but nothing I need to really worry about. Self-inflicted injuries. . . .well, not too many, on the whole. Skin needs to be thinner in places, its natural, especially around the eyes, otherwise how would tears escape (for escape they must). However I wouldn't like to be thin-skinned all over. Such a raw ended life must be intolerable.

Skin comes in so many shapes and colours. The contrasts are astounding. The deepest blue-black hues, pink bits, creamy cafe-au-lait, lobster red, sallowed and ivory and porcelain. Blue-tipped fingers in the cold, flushing with vigour or first breaths. It is all such a miraculous rainbow, yet skin all feels the same to a blind man.

How is it that we are judged by the state or colour of our skin? By the lines or wrinkles? By the colour expressed by genetic pre-destiny? By the masks we wear? The amount of skin we show the world? The money we spend to tan it, cover it up, rub it back, tattoo it, shade it, repair it or remove it? The scars and marks accumulated by wear and tear, choices and no-choices. It all tells a tale.

I will be happy to drag my carcass of skin around with me for a lot longer. It has given me good service so far. I wonder how many marks it has yet to accumulate?

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Why the blog silence?

Long story.

Short version : this is a very different arena with so much more I would love to share with you, but these things and events must essentially remain unbloggable.

Long version: It seemed a good place to leave things, with me heading off into the sunset (or maybe it was a sunrise) over the horizon.

My life as a midwife has broadened immensely. And so therefore I have so much more to lose should this small world be revealed. Plus I've signed all manner of contracts to that effect.

I am not so vain to assume my meagre life outside my (challenging but rewarding) new job would hold much interest for many. Besides: life outside work? What life outside work?

At this point I am 8 days away from a month long holiday. And I am, shall we say, most keen for this to commence.

This post is to say I have neither forgotten how to blog, nor forgotten any of you. I am reading your blogs, if not quite as voraciously as I once had the time to do, then at least regularly. And I am (oh, slings and arrows) Facebooking much more than is required. Its hard work 'keeping up' with 400+ friends. I have spoken to all but about 10 of them in real life, or online, even so it is a little amusing to think I have so many acquaintances ;) Lets just say that it is both a good and a bad thing.

Lastly, I am about to turn 50. In 16 days time.

I think I feel ok about that.

But I thought I would work out any potential issues I had with the big 5-0 by talking to the Universe. And that's where you come in.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Last days

Snapshots from my 'place of birth'

A final week of madness on the ward. The hospital is in crisis mode, with a serious bed shortage and a staffing shortage to boot (I have not offered to work an extra shift this weekend).

I was lucky enough to work the same 4 rooms for 4 days, and saw 9 different women through those rooms, and 5 different babies. Some babies were in the nursery, some hadn't come out to play yet. All but one of the babies were great feeders, with sensible practical mums. It really makes a difference.

I can't tell you how many bells I answered, but it was a LOT. I have a sore foot currently and am limping alot of the time, which makes my other hip and my back sore. I was not pleased with frivolous ringing of bells, but I did take a certain pleasure in seeing that I would not be answering bells next week. Just mobile phonecalls.

I had my last late-early split. Bliss. I am well aware that I will be on call and I may long for the life of a rostered day off, but just let me enjoy this tiny fantasy, will you?

I worked a late, early, early, early, and was in a meeting from 9.30-1.40 today. Hubby was away on business and I had to walk/limp to and from work all week as I have no parking permit at work, and I live pretty close anyway so its not worth taking a car for an 8 minute walk. Unless you're limping. This part of the week DID suck.

Word was still spreading about my departure, so I have broken the news and said goodbye to many people all week. I have enjoyed much goodnatured ribbing about people making me hand-embroidered placenta bags if they'd known (my reply? Frankly my dear I'm bloody insulted you hadn't already wrapped it ready for me, what's the holdup? You've had 4 weeks notice!).

I have had 2 avo teas, with cake, wherein I received a lovely gift from my home ward, and many many good wishes, acknowledging my long-held desire to work in this field. Students and former students professed to have enjoyed birthing and working with me, saving lives with me, and laughing with me. I cried. I laughed. We hugged. I assured them I would not be far away, and would not be a stranger to them.

This morning I handed in my uniforms to the cheerful Julia in the hospital laundry/uniform section. She asked where I was heading and was delighted to hear that I was going to be a homebirth midwife. She regaled me with tales of her mother giving birth to 12 babies at home, including one caught by Julia herself when she was 13 years old. Her brother had come really fast and her dad was still away fetching the midwife!

This afternoon I had a final engagement with labour ward. Over two hours staff staggered in and out and asked for information about my next job. Some of them almost seemed to be giving grudging permission for this career move, but were greatly outweighed by those assuring me I would love it, and that it would be a great fit for me. There was much discussion about knowing me, and my capabilities, and knowing that I would understand their expectations if transfer occured. There was more ribbing about me phoning in to transfer primips who had been pushing for 7 hours (c'mon girls, you KNOW my minimum time limit before transferring is 8 hours) and much curiosity about details, which I was largely unable to furnish, as I have yet to be oriented. I caught up on the gossip, who was pregnant (3 of them), who was planning to be and who had got new roles. It was great to touch base with these fantastic bunch of hardworking and talented midwives again. I have missed them over the last 6 weeks and was a little sad not to finish up with them on Labour ward. But I am sure I will see them from time to time, and I know it will be a warm welcome.

Lastly I handed in my security pass. I cried again, suddenly, and couldn't speak as the man took it from my hand, and I left the building with tears rolling down my face for the umpteenth time that day.

The tears are ones of recognition of the importance of that place in my life. Of gratitude to my colleagues who have taught me and shared so much. Of grief to be leaving their daily lives. I have been delighted to work there, to become the midwife that I am. My tears are also of pride in my accomplishments so far. The tears of transition.

Most of all, over the last 4 weeks, I have been humbled by the warm support of mentors. They have been open in their joy for me. I am certainly standing on the shoulders of giants. I mentioned before that I felt like I was at Everest base camp, still with one heck of a climb ahead of me, but Oh! The view!

Who knows what sort of midwife I am yet to become?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In safe, strong hands

Today my husband's hands have opened presents.

They have eaten chocolate. And spooned porridge.

Fetched hot chocolate at swimming. Pressed timekeeper buttons at the competition.

Massaged the back of a swimmer.
Recorded a personal best time for our daughter.

Driven us safely home.

Eaten a picnic by the beach, and drank wine.

Done the fruit and veg shopping at the market.

Unloaded the dishwasher. Hugged our son.

Packed a suitcase to take him away for a brief business trip.

Opened the door for the cat (umpteen times).

Later, they might get lucky ;)

But wherever those hands travel, I feel safe when I see them. They are strong. They are dependable. I love to hold them, and be held by them.

They held our babies many years ago, and continue to do so. Safely.

We are very lucky to have them.

Happy Father's Day my love.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Everest Base Camp

I have had one hell of a week. In a good way.

I had a job interview on Monday with a publicly funded homebirth program, one that has led the way for their model of care, one that has been replicated across the country. It has always been my goal to work for them, when I had enough experience. I was encouraged to apply. I applied with my fingers crossed. I thought 'well, if I get an interview I'll be pleased, and I might be a chance, but I will be hysterical if I truly get it'.

I got the job.

Yep. You read it right.

I got the job, my dream job.

And now the climb, the steep learning curve really begins.

I am skipping with happiness.

I wrote my resignation letter, and handed it in person to all my managers. Then I howled on and off about leaving all my lovely workmates that I have shared so much with. Each day since, I have broken the news to a new set of people. Its very exciting.

And then, yesterday to top it off, and just when I was lamenting that I would not catch another baby at my hospital, one of my women on the ward went into precipitate labour while I was at tea. I returned to hear her distressed behind her curtain in the shared 4-bed room. She nearly clawed my arm off and it was clear she was nearly ready to push. Which was a bit of a shame ... because only 2 hours before she had signed for a repeat CS, especially if she laboured. I notified the coordinator that we needed to move, like NOW, and returned to her with a pair of gloves, just in case. She was in the throes of another contraction. She clung to the coordinator, who talked her through it, then she allowed me to examine her - wa-hey! Fully dilated and a breech close to the world. Seemed a shame to waste a perfectly good CS on a baby who had plans for exit via an alternate route.

We ran with her on the bed to LBS and shanghaied a passing consultant as we skidded around a corner. I found the first empty room and we pushed the bed through the curtain, pulled a warm baby blanket bundle out and threw it on the heater. Then I changed gloves and returned to the woman still on her ward bed and peeked under the sheet - and there was a breech on view. She crawled across onto the birthing bed. I waved my ward coordinator goodbye, and volunteered to stay as the only other midwife around was having her first day at work. The LBS coordinator assembled a team of paediatricians and spare hands, and I urged her to ignore everyone else and focus on me, which she managed really well, and I spoke quietly and encouraged her to go for it, and praised her to the eyeballs. The consultant stood next to me, and talked me through the birth, giving a small hand here and there. And so . . . . I caught my second VBAC breech baby! All pretty textbook. This one was close to term so the maneuvres were harder than last time, but it all went smoothly. I would have preferred a hands off approach, but in that setting it was never gonna happen, and honestly it was an excellent result.

I was utterly thrilled! The woman was shocked but delighted. I handed over to the afternoon staff and tottered back to the ward to pick up the threads of my day, after a very adventurous 90 minutes away! The staff were all agog, it was the talk of the hospital that a midwife had done this birth! The young doctors were high-fiving me, and were delighted to have seen a vaginal breech birth. My manager came back from lunch and told the tale, only to find out it had happened to one of her ward patients with one of her midwives! She then got the full story straight from the horse's mouth.

I saw the woman again today and she is glowing, just radiant that her body worked and that she could give birth vaginally, and that she could be up and about and so well, rather than recovering from surgery. Baby was in nursery for a day or so, but he is nearly ready to come up to the ward! 2.35kg nearly 36 weeker. We congratulated each other on our cleverness, and had a big hug. She is such a darling, and was so brave during her 'amazing experience'. My sixty-ninth baby. Her second. Unforgettable.

I'll miss this place, but I'm looking forward to exploring the big world outside and I know that whatever the setting....I love being a midwife.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And the winner is Syd-dnee! (now with added dugong)

Uh-oh. How did it get to be August already?

Somehow I have not posted since June. Oopsie. Its not that nothing has been happening. Shall I recap? June 23 - we all headed to Sydney. We bagged a superb apartment that we all wanted to move in to permanently, right near the town hall. It was drizzly but we didn't care.

We wandered out to Darling Harbour in the dusky gloom along a street that somehow contained all the hiking shops, every chain, every supply you could want, holding our umbrellas against every pissing awning - and there were plenty of 'em!

We walked across the Pyrmont bridge and into the Aquarium which we essentially had to ourselves. It was wonderful. Much bigger than when I had last been there in 1988. The displays were enchanting, and really easy to photograph too if you had a steady hand.

There was a special dugong exhibit, with a pair of dugongs lolling about quite mournfully at one end of the pen and slowly crossing the tunnel above our heads and returning to the wooden pier where they would try to hide in a corner. There was nowhere to hide. Yet it was still entrancing to watch these creatures, even though I had a clear impression that I was intruding on their privacy. Excuse me, maam.
Another tunnel contained a shark pool where the toothy crowd were a bit more lively and numerous. Nothing scary, just ...Establishing Respect.

The upstairs exhibits were fantastic, but the big tanks really were stunning! When I say big I mean BIG! HUGE! probably about 5m deep and at least 15m in diameter, all landscaped and populated with reef fish, or deep sea fish, or sharks or rays, Nemos and Dories, just fantastic and surprisingly entertaining. Great big fish looking mournful. It was wonderful, I'm so glad we went.
We then walked past the damp World Cup Soccer Village all the way to the other end of Darling Harbour and into China Town where we had dinner in a very chaotic restaurant. I have no idea what we had but it was delicious, and there seemed to be a LOT of Taiwanese people in there, enjoying a ridiculous gameshow on a big screen. Fascinating place. Couldn't for the life of me tell you what it was called, sorry, but it was popular.

Slept like logs in our sumptuous rooms. The apartment had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a laundry, a full kitchen and a huge living and dining room, big TV, all brand new and modern, with 2 balconies overlooking the rooves of churches and in eyeline with skyscrapers. We were on the 27th floor! It was brilliant.

The next morning my cousin arrived. Katharine is my youngest cousin (of 23 first cousins), I was 17 when she was born. She is living in Sydney now after being brought up between England and Perth. She is just lovely, and I wish I could see more of her. We stayed with her Mum in 2007 in London. K is very arty and has recently directed her first short film. She works heaps in the arts scene and we were delighted to catch up with her and be shown around the Sydney Opera House backstage - we even had coffee in the Green Room, and saw the Sydney Biennale on Cockatoo Island. The art was thought provoking and really evocative, and often really out of left field. There was a plywood model of the Hubble Space telescope, that seems like a steampunk had had a hand in it! I also enjoyed the piece with a car flying overhead in a shower of sparks. Cockatoo Island is the site of old naval shipyards and the buildings and spaces made me feel the presence of my Dad, who was a mechanic. The smells of oil on a dirt floor, and the industrial spaces and the rust. Being with his sister's only child. I'm sure he was with us as we wandered about that fascinating site, or maybe, just remembering him makes it seem that way. It was a gorgeous day and the free ferry ride was an added treat. Stephanie saw where Dance Academy was filmed, we went under the bridge, it was all good.

I've never spent long in the Circular Quay area before so it was such a treat to really see it, and wow what a place. It deserves the reputation as one of those locations where if you sit there long enough, the whole world will walk by. It is not only physically beautiful, in the sense of water and coves and clean air, and buzzing atmosphere but the man-made environment (i.e. the Bridge and the Opera House) is also gob-smacking. I hadn't expected to enjoy it so much but it truly was superb.

K also works at the Museum of Modern Art, right on the harbour, so we had spent the day in her environment. It was so enjoyable. She joined us for dinner back at our place, where we waited for the slowest Indian food delivery I have ever experienced. It was a bit average, but we talked and talked, and it was nice to just hang out with a family member I hardly ever get to see.

The next day - Taronga Park Zoo! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010