Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reality check

Throughout my pregnancy I became very frustrated by how most doctors seemed to have what I perceived as an overly negative view of my health and potential for a successful pregnancy. At 16 weeks one doctor told me I was carrying too much weight to have a healthy pregnancy (a statement he later denied saying but I recorded and wrote about at the time), despite all my medical tests - including blood pressure, cholesterol and kidney function - all being well-within the normal range. The BMI figure seemed to rule above all. The fact I was in my late 30s, got pregnant through IVF and my mum died of a diabetes-related heart attack probably added to their concerns.

One woman I knew said that while she understood my frustration, I should take the view that if the doctors were so busy looking for something going wrong, if something did in fact go wrong, it would be picked up right away. I knew she was right but I struggled not to rile against the fat prejudice - the medical negativity only eased up once I had passed 30 weeks of pregnancy with perfectly healthy blood pressure and no gestational diabetes developing (much to the surprise of nearly every doctor I encountered).

Despite the dire predictions I ended up having the most boringly healthy pregnancy on record; the only medical issues - an iron deficiency, a vitamin D deficiency, and mild carpel tunnel in one hand towards the end of the pregnancy - were conditions common in pregnant women of all ages and weights. I went into labour naturally at just under 41 weeks and had a vaginal birth, albeit with the assistance of drugs and some light forceps work at the end, and delivered an extremely strong and healthy baby.

Three weeks later I decided I was really glad the doctors had watched me like a hawk. Another girl I knew - five years younger, physically fit and with a 'normal' BMI (for what that is worth), who had had a perfectly normal healthy pregnancy, went into labour at a well-known private hospital and things started to go very wrong. Am emergency Cesarean was required, for some reason there was a delay and her baby was born extremely ill. The baby was rushed to one of the big public hospitals while mum was stitched up. A few hours later mum was back for a second round of surgery due to a post-pregnancy complication. For the next week mum was recovering in the private hospital while her child was 20km away in the neonatal intensive care unit of the public hospital. The child is still in intensive care while mum is back home but dependent on others to take her to visit her kid as she is not able to drive due to her surgery.

For all the faults and complaints about public hospitals, they are definitely the place you want to be if something goes wrong. There are always numerous doctors around who can and will drop their non-emergency cases to attend to a real emergency. (That's why non-emergency patients always end up waiting so long to be seen.) I always said that I would rather give birth on a trolley in the corridor of Box Hill Hospital than in an architecturally-designed private hospital room because at least at Box Hill there would be experienced doctors available any time, day or night. Fortunately we live in the catchment zone for one of the best maternity hospitals in the state and during my pregnancy we confirmed that if something went wrong during the birth our baby could be treated in the same hospital as me.

I now fully appreciate that if the extremely rare unexpected birthing emergency after a textbook pregnancy case had happened to be me, having doctors who were constantly looking for something going wrong meant that it would have been picked up very early - and it would have been far less likely for there to be any delays in terms of conducting an emergency Cesarean or transferring a newborn to specialist intensive care.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hannah is One (month)

She blitzed all her four-week developmental milestones at today's appointment with the maternal & child health nurse.

She's gained 480g over the past fortnight and has grown proportionately in length and head diameter.

Hannah is pictured with a teddy bear sent to her from America from her Aunty Kimmy and cousin Isabella (Bella).

Monday, March 22, 2010

It takes two

I have a new respect for single parents. I don't know how they do it. The above photo was taken this morning with one hand - the other was expressing milk. Hannah's father was giving her a feed despite just having come back from the doctor where he had a cyst on his ear drained. This entailed getting a local anaesthetic which was beginning to wear off so he was in a bit of pain. He's trying to look like he's suffering but his love for Hannah still comes through.

Of course a properly organised parent would time the expressing of milk between feeds - but "properly organised parent" is an oxymoron as babies, especially newborns, have their own opinions on when they want to be fed and a baby who has happily gone 3 1/2 hours between feeds for several days will demand a feed at 2 1/2 hours the moment you've got yourself busy with something else.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First roll!

At 26 days of age Hannah did a completely unaided roll from her front to back. I wouldn't dare type this except we have external witnesses including my friend Nat who is a maternal and child health nurse and, like most medical professionals who encounter Hannah, was pretty gob-smacked at Hannah's strength and development.

I'd put Hannah on her tummy after a feed and change where she first impressed Nat by pushing herself up on her arms and lifting her head and turning it towards Nat. Then completely unexpectedly Hannah did a roll.

Of course it could be months before she does this again (according to Nat, rolling is a 4 month developmental milestone) but there is no doubt that Hannah is a very strong and determined little baby who has already blitzed her 1 month developmental milestones.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Milkmaid of Hurstbridge

"Breast is best" all the books and midwives and other experts say. What they fail to mention is that "bigger is not always better" when it comes to breast feeding.

As can be seen in the above picture there can be some logistical difficulties for a small baby trying to attach to large breasts - particularly when the nipples have completely flattened out.

So I have been expressing milk out of my breasts with an electric pump and Jeff and I have been feeding Hannah using a bottle.

When even the lactation consultant says “I don’t think it really matters in the end if she never attaches given that you are going so well with the expressing…” you know it’s not just a case of not persisting long enough.

Fortunately supply isn't an issue - we've stockpiled already an additional week's worth of breast milk in the freezer downstairs.

Hannah is very independent and already trying to feed herself.

Did I mention that she is less than a month old?

Birth notice

Published in the Australian Jewish News (Melbourne edition)
Friday 12 March 2010.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Things I never expected

Almost from the moment that I became pregnant with Hannah, she/nature/biology took over my mind as well as my body. Pregnancy, birth and now parenting has been filled with numerous unexpected experiences - many far more positive than I ever expected.

I never expected:
  • To have had as healthy pregnancy as I did
  • To (for the most part) enjoy my pregnancy as much as I did
  • To become so in tune with my body
  • To be so overwhelmed by the physical pain of childbirth - but not care
  • To watch my breasts grow in size from Enormous to Freaky to Gigantic and now just plain Huge (please, let them not reach Inconceivable cup size) yet
  • To have so much difficulty breastfeeding
  • To love Hannah so much from the moment she was born
  • To be able to deal with her poo nappies (something I thought I could never do up until the moment I gave birth)
  • To be able to respond to her crying, yet not feel irritated by it
  • To instinctively know what to do and what Hannah needs a surprising amount of the time
  • For Hannah to respond so positively to me
  • For J & my relationship to be so strengthened by her birth and our joint focus on her, despite the sleep deprivation
  • To laugh more in the first fortnight after Hannah's birth than during the previous two decades
  • To be both changed by parenthood yet remain the same fundamental person
  • To be surrounded by so much love and support from some people, a counter balance to the unexpected lack of interest from others
  • To have my decisions, values and so forth so reinforced by every moment I spend with her.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Is she really only 19 days old?

Jeff and I are struggling to remember a time when Hannah wasn't in our life. Even my pregnancy seems like a distant memory.

Today's pic is Hannah on a blanket sent to her from some family friends (the Gurviches) who I've had very little to do with for several decades. Nonetheless they don't seem hold this against our family, sending Hannah possibly the most awesome blanket ever.

Hannah is wearing a Pumpkin Patch top and Target leggings, courtesy of Sonya, whose daughter is a very convenient 5 months older than Hannah, and is kicking off shoes knitted by mum Margaret.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wish list

If I could give Hannah anything in the world I wish she could grow up in a world where she would be loved and accepted and valued for who she is, where she would have the opportunity to explore all options and be supported in striving to be the best she could be in whatever it is she wanted to do and where things worked out fairly according to merit rather than according to who you know or what superficial appearance you have.

The world, however, is not like that so her father and I hope to give her the gift of resilience and self-confidence forged through unconditional love, clear boundaries, encouragement and support as she learns about the world and develops her skills, a genuine love of learning (as distinct from mere academic success), a love of animals, a clear set of values, and protection from those whose words and actions erode self-esteem.

We are fortunate to live in a country like Australia where everyone - especially those on the way to owning their own home and earning at least the average annual income - have enough to survive materially. No matter how much one has, there will always be someone who has a bigger income, more expensive clothes, a nicer house, and so forth. The path to true happiness is when one learns to be happy and make the best with what one has rather than always wishing for more.

Our family has benefited enormously from the generosity of others, particularly other parents who have passed on clothes and other items that their children no longer use. As Hannah, at the grand old age of 17 days, grows out of her first lot of clothes we box them up for the next family who will be able to use them.

While gifts are not necessary for Hannah, we know that we have friends and family who want to mark her birth and support us as parents. So while we are not expecting anything from anyone, the following is a guide for those who want it.

The most useful gifts are the practical ones such as:
  • Huggies nappies (size 5-11kg)
  • Huggies wipes (the refills - we have a dispensing box)
  • Gift vouchers for Target, Kmart, Big W and the like (we always seem to need to pick up something else for Hannah from one of these stores)
  • Gift vouchers for Baby Bunting and Toys 'r' Us (which we can put towards the purchase of larger items as required as she grows)
Or gifts that reflect Hannah's heritage and/or support lifelong learning such as:
  • Hebrew/Yiddish letter puzzles, toys and Jewish books (such as a good English-language children’s version of the Old Testament, children’s Hagadah, guide to the Jewish calendar/festivals, etc)
  • Classic children's books (although her bibliophile parents have already built up an impressive collection - maybe run titles past them)
  • Quality educational toys
Or a donation in Oxfam in Hannah's honour will go to those who need it most and we will get much more joy from this than another unwanted gift:
  • Visit Oxfam Unwrapped and select wish list 622. Oxfam will automatically advise us that you have made a donation in Hannah's honour and you'll receive a receipt that you can use as a tax deduction when you complete next year's tax return.
Thank-you very much but thanks to the generosity of friends Hannah already has plenty of:
  • newborn clothes - if you want to buy her clothes, please purchase size 00, 0 or even lager (she will grow into them). Pure cotton 'grow suits' with press-studs at the front are the best & she (or her parents!) love bright purple and pinks. Clothes marked 'Low Fire Danger' are preferred - please avoid anything marked 'High Fire Danger' (which we've seen disturbing quantities of at various baby stores). Please don't spend a fortune on a designer item she will grow out of in a matter of weeks or months.
  • Sleeping/Grow Bags
  • Blankets
And in obvious news, please, no tacky 'novelty' items such as:

Monday, March 8, 2010

A growing girl

Hannah is 14 days old and already growing out of some of her 0000 outfits. She has her father's long torso, as well as his colouring, but we think my relatively long legs. She is very strong and feisty.

Here is a pic of her in an outfit given to her by Charly of ixchel bunny fame.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's in a name?

Choosing a name was the easiest part of having Hannah. It took us some time to conceive and we ended up going down the IVF route. But very early on we'd decided that if we had a girl, we'd name her Hannah Gitl.

We wanted a biblical name that would work equally well in the wider secular Australian society. We both liked the name Hannah and settled on it after checking there was no nasty story associated with the name. (I always wonder about parents who name their daughter Leah, although not as much as about those who name their daughter Tamar - just Google 'Tamar in the Hebrew bible' to understand why; there are two Tamar's, neither of whom has a story fit for a G-rated blog.)

Hannah was a prophet and mother of Samuel; her name also apparently means beauty and passion. If she'd been a boy we would have named her Benjamin , a name we selected long before some other friends welcomed their son Benjamin into their lives. After Hannah's birth these friends told us that if they had had a girl, they would have named her Hannah! Which just goes to show that great minds think alike.

The Gitl part of her name comes from her late maternal grandmother. Gitl, meaning good, was a popular girl's name amongst Yiddish-speaking European Jews. The diminutive of Gitl is Gitl-lah (meaning 'little Gitl') - much like in Australia where a child may be called Debbie instead of Deborah or Cathy instead of Catherine.

When my grandparents migrated to Australia in the 1950s, my mum's name was recorded on all the official paperwork as Gitla. It wasn't until 40 years later that she finally reclaimed her real name, telling colleagues that the 'a' was silent. Part of honouring her memory in our daughter is ensuring that her name was properly recorded as it should have been rather than as Gitla - the legal name she was saddled with due to a misunderstanding by an immigration officer all those years ago.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hannah Gitl - Knitwear model

Wearing Baby Surprise Jacket and matching hat made out of Zarina Baby Print

Wearing jacket and matching hat made out of Wooltopia's worsted bamboo/cotton blend

Wearing 5 hour baby sweater knitted in Dream in Color worsted visual purple

Wearing silk jacket knitted by Mel/womaninashoe

Wearing Saarjete's booties knitted out of Shiloah silk wool

All photos taken 6 March, 2010 when Hannah Gitl was 12 days old.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Never a nuisance

Like all new parents we are going through a steep learning curve as we get to know Hannah and try to anticipate her needs. This is not always easy, especially as her only form of communication with us when she is unhappy is crying. The crying can mean anything from "I'm hungry" to "I'm lonely", "I'm cold and wet (yes, somehow I managed to pee on my clothes despite the fact I have a high quality disposable nappy securely and correctly attached)", "My bottom is sore and tender", "I need to burp/fart", "I want a cuddle", etc, etc.

Earlier this week Hannah cried almost non-stop for 3 hours and no amount of nappy/clothes changing, food, cuddles, walks around the house, etc could really settle her down. Then finally she lets out a MASSIVE fart and promptly falls asleep. It was just gas pains. And I had just learnt not to assume she was gas-free just because she'd had two major burps after her feed - she is a tardis who can fit in more gas, poop, wee and food inside than the outside of her body suggests.

Later that day in an email I mentioned that it had been a challenging day with Hannah - and that's all I meant. I received a response from someone who will remain anonymous:

Sorry to hear that Hannah's a nuisance, but she's obviously well and I'm sure you'll learn to accept the "minor problems" of parenthood, like all other parents (groan).

I was flabbergasted. Hannah's behaviour was challenging, but Hannah herself is wonderful and perfect just the way she is. Her crying per say doesn’t upset me; I just hate it when she is unhappy and I can’t work out why. In many ways she is like a cat; when I cuddle her to soothe her, she ends up soothing me. She is just so bright and alert and responsive to us; she may have Jeff’s colouring but she definitely has a lot of my expressions and attitude. Hannah's behaviour has her challenging, difficult and even frustrating moments but she herself is never, ever a nuisance.

Matchmaker, matchmaker

(Posted on Facebook on Monday 1 March 2010)

Hannah is less than a week old and her father is already contemplating potential matches for her amongst the under 5yo sons of friends. If you want your son to be considered please note he must be physically strong (just to cope with Hannah's strength), intelligent, an independent thinker, and a lover of cats and other animals.

So far we've had two responses, both from parents who have two sons of the right age. Phill merely noted that he 'liked' this status and commented 'hummm...'

Sonya was more forthcoming:

Well we have two eligible batchelors to choose from. One likes star wars, lego and reading books. The other enjoys Thomas the tank engine, painting and cooking. Both are trained in the domestic arts (dishes, washing, dusting) and have a sister who will continue to pass on her hand-me-down clothes.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Born 22 February 2010
Defying the naysayers since conception

Weight: 3320 grams

Length: 48 cm

Head Circumference: 32 cm

Full-term (40weeks + 6), vaginal delivery (forceps assisted), discharged from hospital with mother 3 days after birth

Mother’s BMI 50, age late 30s, family history of Type 2 diabetes, IVF-assisted conception—but:
  • No gestational diabetes,
  • Healthy blood pressure throughout pregnancy
  • Healthy thriving baby & healthy thriving mother

“The doctor uses statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of an individual patient...Because results are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular patient. No two patients are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary greatly.”
(US National Institutes of Health)