Thursday, June 23, 2016

Crusty Loaf

I walked into the room.  A young woman lay in a bed recovering from a caesarean section.  Two infant cots were parked beside the bed.  Healthy twin baby boys had been delivered the day before.   

They both had a poor suck from the start so the little ones had small tubes inserted in their stomachs to help with feeding.  That is what I was doing in the room.  As a midwife I was there to help with the feeds.

I could sense the new mother was nervous and unsure of herself.  I started some small talk in an attempt to help her feel more comfortable.  We honestly didn't have much in common with each other and I was struggling for something to say.  Then seemingly out of nowhere she piped up with a conversation starter - the litmus test question for midwives, "So have ya got little ones at home?"

My heart sank.  Despite being asked the same question many times before I still had not come up with a short enough or 'right' enough answer.  So I replied honestly, "No, not yet unfortunately".

The young mum proceeded to offer commiserations and even some suggestions.   "Ya just have to not worry about it.  When I stopped thinking about wanting to get pregnant, it just happened ya know..." 

So much wisdom from a 19 year old I thought. 

A  great man once called irony 'that hard crust on the bread of adversity'.  If only I had a brumby's hard crusty loaf on hand to throw at my wise friend.

Infertility can feel so personal and so, so unfair.  As a midwife the pain sometimes feels so much more acute and the challenge so ironic.  'Her body works like it should, why doesn't mine?'. 

But, in the end we all have holes and gaps in our lives we wish were full.  We ALL experience crusty irony but some of us (read: me) are so much more brittle.  Tests and challenges by their very nature are unfair - but in the words of my 2nd choice husband Mike Rosenberg, "... WE CARRY ON".

Enjoy the music...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Student Midwife Thoughts

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a ‘women’s circle’ as part of an indigenous awareness program.  Our circle of women included an aboriginal elder, midwives, academics and my group of student midwives.  As we brushed ourselves with eucalyptus leaves, removed our shoes and stood in a circle clasping hands, I felt an overwhelming surge of emotion - of sisterhood, of motherhood and of womanhood.  

Once I started crying, it became difficult to choke the emotion that had been released as a flood of tears.  So instead of fighting it, I allowed myself to ‘feel’ my experiences of the last 8 months and to remember them.  To be honest, it was a healing experience for me.   So, in the spirit of a new beginning I thought I’d share a few things I have learnt as a student midwife:

“There is secret in our culture, and it’s not that childbirth is painful, it’s that women are strong”

I don’t think I will ever forget the experience of my first birth.  Everything was so new - it was hard to process it all. 
I remember there was a woman on the bed, giving birth. 
It must have been sensory overload because I didn’t feel a thing, no emotions.
My background in surgical nursing had exposed me to many things, but not THIS.  Namely, a baby’s head was coming out of THIS woman’s vagina!!!  As the head crowned, the baby did a little head turn (restitution) and then all of a sudden a child was born.

Starting out, I believed that women can give birth - that our bodies are designed for it.  In my naivety I assumed that all women felt the same.   It was eye opening for me to come to understand the anxiety and sometimes fear that many women carry.   However, the real education has come in being with these same women in labour and coming to know that they are, in fact – strong. 

-          One woman worked so hard to push her baby out after experiencing the loss of her first child at 6 weeks
-          One woman decided to carry her baby to term and birth him, despite knowing that the likelihood of his survival outside her womb was very slim
-          One woman birthed her baby alone on the couch in her home as her husband packed the car, ready to drive her to hospital
-          One woman waited days in hospital for an induction – and then gave birth within 50 mins
-          One woman, after enduring IVF treatment for years – had a failed induction and an emergency caesarean section

And the list goes on…

What is clear from this list is another truth that I have learnt along the way: the most predictable thing about childbirth is its unpredictability.  Although childbirth is a universal experience, it is also one of the most unique.  No one birth is the same.  Coming from a nursing background where everything is black and white – this required a change in my thinking. 

In Ursula K LeGuin’s science ficton novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Genry comes to a world in which some can tell the future.  He asks Faxe, one of those who can, why he does not use this gift more often:
“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, “the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on.  Ignorance is the ground of thought.  Unproof is the ground of action.  Tell me, Genry, what is known?  What is sure, predictable, inevitable, the one certain thing you know concerning your future and mine?”
“That we shall die.”
“Yes.  There’s really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer...The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next

Another thing I have learnt is that the birth experience is special and watching it unfold is an experience like no other.  After my first experience of birth, I gradually started to see things as a whole.   I cried and I hugged the women’s husbands J I felt angry when some women suffered.  I took photos and then left the couple to experience their first moments as parents together. 

Whenever I watch shows like ‘One born every minute’ (the American version) - I cringe.  The women sit there in bed strapped to a machine, while their husbands eat chips and play on their iphones.  The nurse enters the room chewing some gum and checks the clock.  

Where is the celebration of birth as a rite of passage? 

There are so very few things in life that remain unknown – for example:  we don’t actually know how labour starts.  I like that. 

Bridgitte Jordan said:

“…if we consider the sparse ethnographic record, we find that there is no known society where birth is treated, by the people involved, as a merely physiological function.   On the contrary, it is everywhere socially marked and shaped”

Five years ago... when I became an Aunty for the second time :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

On being socially awkward: #forever alone

I can’t do a cartwheel.  Try as I might – I will one day go peacefully to my grave without ever achieving a single cartwheel.   If you must know, there are many fine motor skills that I never picked up on as a child.  

Handstand = impossible.  Hand/eye coordination = minimal.  Ball skills = pathetic.   

The list could go on.  Needless to say I have failed to thrive at every, and all of the random sports I’ve attempted to play both at school and as an adult beginner.   Recently I tried my hand at squash.  I had a few lessons, then started attending a Tuesday night tournament.  I was not only beaten by a 12 year old girl, but also a significantly overweight gentleman and an asthmatic.  True story.  Just goes to show, you don’t have to be an athlete to play squash, just better than me.

I’d never really thought too much about my lack of sporting prowess until a recent conversation I had with my mum when she casually mentioned her parental fail of leaving me as a wee toddler unattended near a flight of concrete stairs.
That would explain my weird shaped cranium.
Then it all came together…
… and I thought it was just in the genes.

I’ve long believed that something is wrong upstairs.  It’s mainly the social awkwardness that stands out like neon lights.  Just to illustrate:  Recently I found myself in a group situation filling an awkward silence with the sweet sound of my personal rendition of ‘kumbayah’.  Not only did my new friends not join in – but my beautiful singing had the effect of killing softy any further conversation.  Maybe they never went to scout camps.  Their loss.

The good thing about having cats as friends is that they never care.   About ANYTHING.  Richard wouldn’t bat a single eyelid if I sung ‘kumbayah’, if I laughed too loud or if I sung ‘sound of silence’ off key.  In fact – he probably wouldn't care AT ALL enough to even be in the room.

So if lately you have been feeling like even the asthmatics are beating you at squash and you fear your socially awkward charm will leave you hopelessly forever alone.  I have two suggestions:

1. Make some cat friends and

      2. Embrace your inner ‘kumbayah’ - (Just like Judith) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ding Dong the CAT is... dead?

I have some bad news to share.  But don’t worry or think the worst.  Richard is not Dead (You can all breathe a sigh of relief now…)

Do you remember in the early years of high school when your friends were your World.  When if one of your best friends crossed you, you would say “You’re soooo dead to me right now!”  And you’d put your hand up like you were directing traffic. 


Well, neither can I.   It must have been one of those catchy phrases of the 90s.  
Maybe the Spice Girls said it.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is that I don’t think I LIKE Richard anymore.  The CAT-CAT LADY relationship might be over. 

It all started when I got a job.  Suddenly I didn’t have time to devote to Him and to write about Him on this very blog.  I must admit the honeymoon was over very quickly.

But I don’t think I’m ALL to blame for this.  About one month after moving in here, Richard started bringing ‘presents’ into the house.  Small birds, field mice, lizards.  

Some of them came in the dead variety, some in the almost dead variety, and some still hanging on.    
I must admit when it comes to little creatures, I can be a bit of a girl about it all.   
Screaming and dancing on the spot is usually how I cope with a creature in the house.  So, needless to say I didn’t really appreciate Richard’s ‘presents’. 

So we talked about it.  I told Him how I was feeling.  He said nothing and stared out the window.

Sigmund Freud once said:  “Time spent with cats is never wasted” 

Breakups are hard.  But I'm sure Richard will get over it soon enough.  After all, cat's have an amazing ability to not care what anyone else thinks.

More importantly, what about me?  How does this affect my status as “Cat Lady”.  
I can’t be a cat lady without at least one cat that loves me…

Spinster.  That’s what I’ll be.  I can knit you know!

‘Dead to me’
-The expression of such utter distaste for a person or object that it calls for the personal denial of its worldly existance. Can be used to express disintrest, hatred, or something/someone that has gone out of style.

“Torn jeans are so last season. They're dead to me.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Short History of CATS (and a guinea pig)

It turns out that I was already into cat attire by the mid 80's...

(Note, I was also into cutting my own hair)

(Here my older sister seems perfectly happy with the idea of my brother stabbing her with a knife.
Me: I'm a little nervous about it all)

Even though I could dress like a cat by the time I was 3, I don't recall ever OWNING a cat back then.  
We had a goat and a dog.

The biggest hurdle to becoming a cat family was my dad.  He hated, hates and will forever hate cats.

One time we actually convinced the parents to take in a stray, but a few months later she mysteriously 'disappeared', never to be seen again.  I'm sure dad will confess one day.

Around that time we owned a dog and some guinea pigs.

Which brings me to this next photo that I've entitled: 


I'm probably 10 years old in this photo.  Note the red puffy eyes and tears on my cheeks.  Yes, the guinea pig is dead.  It was just a baby.  We thought that 'Nike' and 'Reebok' were both girls, but it turned out that they could produce some babies.  

I had gone to the hutch to check on the pups before heading off to school when I made the grim discovery.  Then the emotional breakdown happened.

It was like a family member had died.  I didn't feel like I could go to school.  I begged mum to take a photo of the little thing so we could remember.  

When mum looks at this photo she remembers trying not to laugh at me. 

Such are the feelings of a future cat lady.

The closest I got to lots of cats during my teenage years was at my cousin's house. They had Doozer, Louie, Beverley, Felix and Squishy.

Here's Felix hanging out in the cupboard:

After years and years of share-housing with no pets, I moved again and now have Richard.

One of the best things about being a cat lady is that I'm never alone.  Which is why the cat lady criteria exists.  People who are in any kind of relationship just don't qualify.

When I'm at home studying I don't feel lonely and it's always nice to have the cat to talk to.

I teach her Spanish words.  Which is nice... 

                                                   ...  because we all know that talking to oneself is just a LITTLE bit weird.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CAT attire

Unpacking a few things this week I discovered some treasures.  Namely - these amazing cat earrings:

That same day I decided to wear one of my favourite t-shirts with said earrings...

Not so classy, but the common theme pulled the outfit together.

So then I started to think about how a REAL Cat Lady should dress. 
Is it appropriate, as Dal and Lissy suggest, to don a cat unitard?

As a new Cat Lady, am I staring down the barrel of a lifetime of bathrobes and pantyhose?

Like with all other questions of import, I went to the internet for answers and this time was sorely disappointed.

I searched for:

"What would a cat lady wear?"
"Cat attire for people"
"Cat apparel"

The best I got were websites trying to sell t-shirts with cats on them.

Etsy and Frankie had some cute cat accessories and clothes.

But let's be honest.  Do you think a REAL Cat Lady would ever wear this dress?

I didn't think so.  (Not at least without some pantyhose).

I didn't have any hopes of getting to the bottom of my cat attire question until I discovered this video:

Question answered!  Real cat ladies wear RED LIPSTICK!

Did you notice how clean her bathrobe was? and that headpiece... very classy.

What a relief.  Thank you Youtube.

It seems that REAL Cat Ladies dress for comfort AND style...

                       ...unitard NOT excluded.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I remember the first time I heard the song 'Seventeen Years' by RATATAT.  It was while I was living with Renee and Nathan.  Nathan had a record player and the new vinyl album.

The song begins with "I've been rapping for about seventeen years ok..."  Back then, the song just made me want to DANCE!!!

Have you ever put a song on when no one is at home, cranked it up loud and just danced?

Inspired by Lissy's comments from last weeks blog and Hannah's favourite book 'Dancing with Cats'  (see below),  this week I felt I could step up my 'home-alone-dancing' and INCLUDE Richard.

I wanted to become a 'home-alone-rocking-out-with-a-cat-dancer'.  But.... did Richard share my dream?

The short answer is: NO.  I discovered that this cat doesn't have a dancing bone in her body.

Despite Richard's lack of enthusiasm for the project, I managed to get a few shots of me living the 'home-alone-rocking-out-with-a-cat' dream (artistic licence may have been used).

"Crouching cat hidden something"

"Cat  surprise!!"

"Crazy cat lady"

More awkward dance moves to be found here...