Saturday, 3 December 2011

Poppy's Arrival

I'll start with the ending and then I'll tell the story of how we got here...

Poppy Seren Smith was born at 11.47am on Monday 28.11.11, in Tauranga Hospital, weighing a healthy, but not as massive as anticipated, 8lb 06oz.

And this is how it all happened...

My pregnancy progressed in a happily uneventful way, but by the last couple of days I was feeling pretty tired and of course enormous. I spoke to my Mum who revealed that I had been born 17 days late and decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. So there was drinking of raspberry -leaf tea, eating of pineapple, lots of walking, 'hot baths', 'hot sex' and on the evening of 27.11.11 Ben and I headed out with friends to an Indian restaurant for a much talked about labour-inducing 'hot curry'.

Unfortunately I didn't get to eat the thali I'd been looking forward to because half way though the starter my waters broke. One minute I'm in a restaurant chatting and munching on an onion bhaji and the next I'm sitting in a puddle, with water running down my legs! There was much panic among our dining companions as they desperately wanted to call someone who would "know what to do". But we calmly informed then that we knew what to do and Ben even suggested we stay and eat our curries. Had I not been sitting in a pool of amniotic fluid I may have been tempted but the entirely unfazed "don't worry about it madam, it happens all the time" Indian waiter packed us up a take away and we headed home.

We called Judy, my midwife, only to discover she was already at the hospital with our friend Nancy, who later gave birth to little Eli Adolph (but that's her story to tell).

At about 1am my contractions started and very quickly they were lasting a long time and very close together. It was a hot night and we had all the windows open so I was a bit concerned that the neighbours might think that we were having very noisy sex, but once I vomited a few times I imagine that they realised that that wasn't the case after all! We called Judy again around 4.30am and having been home for an hour and a half's break after finishing a twenty-four hour stretch with Nancy she was straight back out (bless her) and arranged to meet us at the hospital.

At the hospital I got into the birthing pool and the world became a much nicer place again. The water helped massively with the pain and my contractions slowed down to a much more manageable pace. I must admit I was a bit peeved when they started to get really sore and frequent again as I thought maybe I was going to be brave enough to push this baby out without any pain relief. However, it wasn't to be. My contractions were so close together I just couldn't get my breath back in between them and when I found out I was only 7cm dialted (you need to reach 10cm to give birth) I decided to opt for the epidural.

Now in my mind once I decided that I was going to take the drugs then they would just give them to me and that would be that. But apparently that's not how it works. Unfortunately I had to get out of the pool so that I could be prodded and poked about on the bed and being out of the water made the pain much harder to manage. The baby's heart rate had to be monitored for twenty minutes, the anesthetist called, various needles and tubes inserted and that half an hour or so (they tell me that's how long it was) seemed a VERY long time. Fortunately by this time I was puffing away like mad on the gas and air and was completely off my head! I could hear what was going on around me but in my drugged up mind it meant all kinds of weird stuff and had nursery rhymes and computer game graphics from my childhood mixed in with it. Some of the time I was laughing away and at one point I thought we were back in our house. I then became convinced that the doctor was with-holding the drugs from me on purpose and true to form was swearing away at him. Ben tells me his favourite quote is when I shouted out "I'm not a statistic"!

It was immediately apparent once the epidural finally did kick in as I was lying on the bed surrounded by doctors and nurses and I looked up, noticed the time and sent Ben off to call our mates to make sure they'd look after our dog for us! By now I was completely pain-free and after a little cry and apology to the midwife for "taking all the drugs" was feeling great. Unfortunately the doctors were becoming increasingly concerned by my raised temperature and the baby's erratic heart beat. There was some discussion as to what to do and finally the call was made that one way or the other the baby needed to come out now.

I was given the option of trying to deliver naturally or opting for c section and said I wanted to try to push her out. Because the chance of needing an emergency caesar was so high if I couldn't push the baby out I was prepped for surgery and wheeled though the corridors into theatre. Once in there I seemed to be surrounded by a whole fleet of scrub-donned doctors, nurses and students and being naked with my legs up in the air I did wonder if the audience of about fifteen people was entirely necessary, but to be honest I had other things on my mind. (Ben was so impressed with the comment that someone made about him looking like George Clooney in his scrubs that he stole them and brought them home!) I think some of the doctors were pretty keen to go straight for a section but I'm eternally grateful for the fantastic support and encouragement of my midwife and the hospital midwife and their calls of "Let's get this baby out!" So with Ben counting me through my contractions, despite being able to feel very little of what was going on down there, I managed to push my little girl far enough down for her poor little head to be grasped by giant salad servers and Poppy was rudely dragged into the world.

Ben tells me he was somewhat horrified by the tiny, bright blue, bug-eyed, slimy creature with a cone shaped head that was dumped on top of me and his first thought was that I'd given birth to an alien! She was whisked away as she wasn't breathing and Ben went and watched whilst she was encouraged to take her first breaths and then he cut her cord (he's still got the scissors).

So that was how Poppy came into existence and she spent the first day of her life lying naked on my chest while I was stuck in bed waiting to be able to move my bottom half again. And that was five days ago. I stayed in hospital for three nights and apart from the to-be-expected crappy food have nothing but good things to say about the whole experience. The midwives were amazing and I honestly feel that I've learned more in the past few days than I have in the past few years. How to breast feed, how to bath a baby, what a hungry face looks like, how to hold a baby without breaking 'it' and most importantly of all, what it means to be a mother.

During one of my nights in hospital I had something of a profound experience. It was late at night, I hadn't had much sleep, I'd managed to settle Poppy and I was lying in bed trying to get some rest before the feeding cycle started again in just a couple of hours time. My body was relaxed and tired but my mind was filled with a deafening chatter, chatter, chatter as everything that I had just been though whizzed around and around my head. I took some deep breaths and tried to bring myself back to the breath, ground myself in the present and quieten down the all noise (all that good slightly hippy stuff!). I then experienced a feeling which was like I was being wrapped up tightly in a big, warm 'blanket of well-being'. I wondered to myself "was that just in my head?" Because it felt like a very physical sensation. A little later I felt my boobs filling with milk and as they did so all my insides tightened up and started to move back into place. It didn't hurt, it felt like a strong hug or maybe wearing some of those big 'Bridget Jones' pants. It's very normal to feel very emotional as your milk comes in as you get a big surge of hormones and it often makes people cry, hence the term "the baby blues". And here I was lying in bed crying my eyes out (quietly so the lady in the next bed didn't hear me) and all I could think was "I'm SSSSOOOOO happy, I'm SSSSSOOOOO blessed, this is what I was meant to be doing!" I know... it sounds pathetic and I'm at a loss to explain how I feel about my baby girl without resorting to the same old cliches. But "blessed" is not a word that is frequently used in my vocabluary and it's not being used lightly here. I truly feel blessed :0)

Ok, so enough with the gooey stuff. We're home now and already the whole labour experience is slipping from my mind, which is why I really thought I should get it out now. The same cannot yet be said for Ben though. He was incredible throughout the whole experience and having him and Judy there meant I felt completely safe the whole time. However it seems that witnessing the event was more traumatic than actually feeling it (and to be fair he did have a lot less drugs!), so with mention of "the next one" Ben's response was "You don't have to do it again Babe, we can just have puppies from now on".

From the first moment he saw Poppy Ben has been smitten (well not counting the whole alien thing), he can't stop looking at her and is already well and truly in love with her. The poor thing has already had her picture taken a hundred times! My bond has been growing more gradually. About three days in I said to Ben "Is she getting cuter and less Gollum-like now or am I just more used to her?" He showed me a picture of her from her first day with her scabby misshapen head and forceps marks down her face, "she's definitely getting cuter".

So does she look more like me or Ben? Who knows? She looks like a baby to me. Have a look at the photos and see what you think. Ben's Mum says she thought she looked like Ben as a baby, but then when she had a look at an old photo she realised that she doesn't at all! My Dad thinks she looks like me, but then I guess he would. She's got fair hair (it's too early to tell if it's ginger!) and big blue eyes, like Ben (but they might change colour yet), she's got the Smith long legs but not the big head. So I guess we'll have to wait and see. Of course we think she's the most beautiful baby in the world but I think we can blame instincts for that!

It's lovely being at home. Twpsyn is coping with all the changes after getting over the initial disappointment that the baby wasn't actually a treat for him to play with! When he first saw me, or more to the point smelt me, he went a bit loopy licking and rubbing himself all over me. Even I can smell the breast milk so it's no wonder he can. I don't know whether he was trying to make me smell familiar again or lay a bit of a claim to me or what, but he's already completely settled down  and lies watching me breast feed. I've got no doubt he's going to be a fantastic "big brother". The cat however, hmmm, maybe not. Poor neglected Dotti :0(

Ben has been amazing, running around after me as I spend hours confined to a chair with a baby on my boob and Erin has been fab too. Poppy, so far at least, is a very settled baby and is making it all seem pretty easy. Plus I'm still high on all the hormones! Last night I had another big hormone rush which was so strong it made me feel all 'blissed out' and giggly. And just to prove that it's not all in my head, despite the fact I didn't move or make any noise and was just lying in bed in the early hours of the morning, as it happend the dog completely uncharacteristically came running in from the next room, tail wagging, all excited and was all over me, no doubt joining in the hormone party! Now I don't know how long this stuff lasts for, or more to the point how to prolong it, but I'm definitely enjoying it whilst it's here. If this is the pay off for the bruised nipples then breast-feeding really is the best thing in the world and maybe I'll turn into one of those slightly disturbing women who has a five year old still attached to her tit!!

So that just about brings you up to date with the happenings of the past five days. It's hard to believe it hasn't even been a week and now the whole world is a completley different place, or at least it seems to be. I know everyone tells you that having kids changes your life blah, blah. I knew all that. I knew there would be sleepless nights and dirty nappies. I knew I'd feel confused and overwhelmed. I just didn't get how much love I could feel. I was worried I wouldn't love the baby as much as I love the dog. But it turns out I still really love the dog I just have a whole heap more love in me than I knew about.

Okay, I'm going to stop now as I'm starting to make myself feel sick!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Tauranga 2011

We've been particularly slack about keeping the blog up to date and it's been almost a year since I updated it. But then I guess that's real life rather than exciting travelling adventures. Mind you, that's not to say that life has been boring, or that we haven't had any adventures, they've just been the more stay-at-home sort of adventures!

Last Summer was a pretty hectic one. It started in November with Ben and I heading off on our first road trip for a while :0) We went down to the Taranaki region, which is the bit that sticks out on the west of the North Island, and really the last part of New Zealand that we haven't explored at all.

We started with a few days in New Plymouth, the highlight of which was doing some hiking on the mighty and picture perfect Mount Taranaki. Even in Summer the extinct volcano top is covered with snow and you can see the majestic peak for miles around. We camped in a gorgeous spot over-looking the sea and relaxed in the sun.

We then drove around the 'Surf Highway' exploring the wild, deserted coastline and ended up in the city of Whanganui. After that was the big adventure where we headed off on a three day canoeing trip through some of the most unspoilt rainforest in New Zealand. We hardly saw another soul the whole time and canoed by day and stayed in huts built by the side of the river by night. One night was spent alone in a Maori marae, in the middle of nowhere, which felt like a real privilege.

The whole trip was a fantastic experience, but I must admit we were pretty happy to see the guy who came to pick us up waiting on the side of the river on the end of the third day, and even happier to be driven back to civilisation for a hearty pub meal.

The next exciting even was the arrival of Ben's sister Zena, her husband, Ian and their kids; Freya and Charlie, to stay for Christmas. they had a fantastic time exploring the North Island in a campervan and we loved having them to stay. It was a fun, chaotic Christmas, with much laughter shared by all. The kids best bit seemed to be hanging out with Twpsyn (our dog). He followed them around the whole time and they all fell in love with each other :0) I think the kids loved body boarding on the beach nearly as much though!

Shortly afterwards my folks arrived and again the dog was centre of attention! It was lovely to have Mum and Dad see our new house and for us all to relax in the garden in the sunshine. One family outing was a trip to the local horse races, which is called "the trots". The horses pull their jockeys in little carts and are not allowed to run - only trot. We put on lots of one dollar bets and it seemed that Mum and Dad won every time, whilst the rest of us came away skint!

We're definitely more settled now and have made some wonderful friends. Erin and Rebecca are particularly close and have both come to live with us at various times, so we've all spent a lot of time together. Some of the fun stuff we've all been involved with include; a big music event, a trip to Auckland to visit Maree and an agricultural fair (they're a big deal over here!), where I fell in love with the piglets even though Ben wouldn't let me bring one home :0( We went to a particularly tragic festival, which despite our best efforts to have fun just couldn't live up to the 'Smoothie Summer'. Also we've taken the dog away camping a few times and have been on countless 'pack walks', with as many friends with dogs as we can muster!

Mind you, when it comes to Twp it hasn't been all fun and games. Unfortunately he's got problems with his joints (trust us to pick a defective pup!) and had to have an operation to put some pins in his knee to stop it dislocating. He may need to have the same op on his other back leg at some point, but hopefully not until we've had time to save up for it! He's still a happy, bouncy, not-so-little fella and we love him loads. He's grown into quite a handsome dog, although he does have a grumpy old man face :0)

Dotti the cat has got a bit braver and will at least occasionally walk past the dog, or will sit half way up the stairs and glare down at him whilst he whines at her. But despite Twp's best efforts they're a long way from being friends. Maybe in another year or so!

Unfortunately we received some very sad news at the beginning of the year that Ben's Dad was unwell. Ben was able to fly back to the UK for a few weeks to spend time with his Dad and the rest of his family, before Peter passed away. We are very sad to have lost him but grateful that Ben had the opportunity to say goodbye and to pass on our very happy news, which we know meant a lot to him.

Our happy news being... We're having a baby :0) So it's all change from here. She (yes, we know that "she" is a she!) is due on the 28th November 2011, which makes me six months pregnant and getting bigger by the day. We've been gradually acquiring everything we need including a bigger car so the dog has been demoted from backseat to boot travel and I've become a second-hand-baby-stuff bargain finder extraordinaire! But most importantly we've been getting used to the idea of becoming a family. Ben is very excited and now I seem to have passed through the denial and terrified stages, with the assistance of my happy hormones, am really looking forward to meeting our daughter too :0)

I've only got 12 weeks (and counting) left in work and am taking a year off. In fact I may not go back at all as my only option may be to go back full-time. But that's a long way away yet so we'll see what happens. Nancy, a good friend from work is also pregnant and we'd like to go back on a job share, but who knows.

Ben's postcard business is going brilliantly and his images are for sale virtually all over the North Island now and soon to be expanding into the South Island too. He's worked incredibly hard and it looks like it's starting to pay off. Plus he's got some geek work for a local web development company, which is great as obviously my income is going to come to an end soon.

Pikitia Postcards - New Zealand Postcards and Photography

We've got lots to look forward to, including another visit from Ceri for the Rugby World Cup next month, and we've all got tickets to go and see Wales play. Then of course we'll be caught up in the whirlwind of new parenthood, followed by the next round of visitors. So I'm sure 2012's blog updates will include plenty of photos of the little one (one of the advantages of having a photographer on hand!) and we look forward to sharing some of the highlights of the next chapter of our lives with you