Womb to move

Obviously, I wasn’t convinced I was going to die.
I just wasn’t convinced I wasn’t going to.
It all began around week 18…

“You have a low-lying placenta,” my obstetrician said, wiping the gel off my belly. “Probably nothing. We’ll get a better look at your big scan.”
That was two weeks away.
It turned out to be the last two weeks of pregnancy I’d ever get to enjoy.
I settled on to the bed at Women’s Imaging for what would turn out to be the most unsettling ultrasound I’d had.
And I wasn’t a stranger to pregnancy drama.
Early bleeds, gestational diabetes, super huge heads.
I’d worried over everything.
I’d worried over nothing.
And my boys were both fine.
“You have complete placenta previa,” the sonographer said. “C-section for you I’m afraid my dear.”
Ugh.
Master Nine’s birth had been less than perfect.
Induction, gas, epidural, ventouse, retained placenta, surgery.
Undeterred, I took pregnancy yoga ahead of Lil Fatty’s big entrance, even convincing myself I could actually ‘laugh’ my way through it.
But he very quickly became an emergency caesarean.
I’d barely begun to experience the disappointment of another c-section when another word popped into the discussion – ‘accreta’.
“I’m not going to Google it,” I declared to Learner Dad on the way home.
But alarm bells had been ringing in my head from the moment I’d heard it.
Accreta.
I knew that word.
And I knew it wasn’t good.
That night, I Googled it.
‘High risk’, ‘heavy bleeding’, ‘haemmhorage’, ‘hysterectomy’, ‘life-threatening’, ‘transfusion’, ‘rupture’, ‘catastrophic’, ‘maternal morbidity’, ‘maternal mortality…’
Maternal mortality maternalmortality maternalmortalitymaternalmortality…
‘Accreta’ is diagnosed when the placenta is too attached to the wall of the uterus.
There were two more serious varieties – ‘Increta’, where it actually penetrates the uterine wall, and ‘Percreta’, where the placenta eats right through the uterus, often invading other organs, such as the bladder and bowel.
Rates of all three have been increasing in conjunction with the rise in c-sections.
My scan had been on the Thursday.
I wasn’t seeing my obstetrician until the following Wednesday.
On Friday I rang his rooms in a panic.
“Ok, let’s see,” the midwife said in a calm, almost patronising tone. “Don’t get all worked up now. I’ll just scan through your report. Here we go. Placenta previa, suspected percreta…”
Her voice faded away.
She knew she’d told me more than she should have.
“Don’t panic. And don’t get on the internet. The doctor can talk you through the results. In the meantime, you must come straight in if you have any bleeding whatsoever…”
But I wasn’t really listening.
‘I’ve got the worst one, I’ve got the worst one,’ was all I could think.
The percreta was, at this stage, only a possibility.
One thing that was still certain was I had placenta previa.
Previa means the placenta is covering the cervix, giving baby no access to the main door.
This condition also put me at risk – of sudden and heavy bleeding.
I researched both conditions exhaustedly.
I joined Facebook support groups dedicated to them.
Overwhelmingly the women with percreta had had hysterectomies.
Women with previa had occasionally lost babies to premature delivery.
Some talked of months on hospital bed rest and then months in neonatal intensive care units.
They wrote about bleeds so big they’d left the bathroom a crime scene, of late night panicked emergency calls, of being flown from rural towns to big city hospitals by helicopter.
But, despite all the near-death drama, I was a little encouraged.
These were all stories of survival.
Although I had a lot of support around me, only these women knew exactly what I was going through.
Like me, they’d pulled down their pants fearfully every time they went to the toilet.
Or dashed in panic to a toilet every time they thought they felt wet.
They’d had insomnia. And steroids.
They’d faced countless ultrasounds and MRI’s and many a grave face.
They’d sat up late in bed writing goodbye letters to their children (yes I really did this) – just in case.
And they’d tried to contemplate their kids’ lives without them in it.
Everyone’s biggest fear – and I was no exception – was of being put to sleep and not waking up.
The mortality rate (which most of us had frantically searched for at some point) seemed to range from 2 to 5 to 7 to 10 per cent.
A lot of the data was dated.
My obstetrician said much of it emanated from the 1970s, when accreta was largely undiagnosed.
When women did often die.
The fact I was diagnosed and being closely monitored put me in great stead.
But I still felt bleak.
I counted the weeks away with relief.
24 weeks – we called it V Day (for viability).
28 weeks, 30 weeks, 32 weeks, 34.
Sometimes, late at night, I wished I’d just have a bleed and be done with it.
It would force my doctor’s hand and the whole damn thing would be over with.
But I made it to my scheduled delivery date of 35 weeks and four days.
Not one bleed.
My baby girl was born at a healthy six-and-a-half pounds.
Along with her, they extracted my poor spent uterus.
The placenta had eaten its way through, coming to rest alongside my bladder.
I’d be making no more babies.
At age 37 and with two boys and a girl that didn’t seem a huge sacrifice.
Regardless, it was no longer my choice.
These days I look back on my pregnancy and Floss’ birth and wonder if I was being dramatic.
Then I read the posts of my poor diagnosed friends on Facebook and I remember.
When you’re the extremely hormonal home to a human life and the walls are starting to crack, nothing is unreasonable or irrational.

Three months ago, Suzanne Mazzola gave birth to her fourth child.
Like me, she had placenta percreta.
Like me, she made it to her scheduled delivery date of 35 weeks.
Like me, she had a healthy baby.
Unlike me, she never woke up.

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When push comes to shove

A boogie board sits in the carport at the bottom of our driveway.
To anyone passing, we look like a ‘beachy sorta’ family.
The kind that generates a whimsical smile, that makes you wish your own kids weren’t obsessed with the Wii and you weren’t obsessed with sun cancer.
And that you spent all of summer knee deep in either salt water or sand.
But behind that board lies a far different story.
It hides the tale of a six-year-old boy forced to surf it.
Poppy Pete and I had taken Master Six on a trip to St Helens late in summer.
Learner Dad was working and I was pregnant with Li’l Fatty so it was just the one from each generation.
Caught up in nostalgia from my own childhood trips up the coast, we checked in at the same old caravan park and headed off on adventure.
Peron Dunes is an area of seemingly eternal sand, rising randomly into soft mounds and steep hills.
Dune buggies and sand boarders aren’t an uncommon site.
My parents would take my brothers and I there every year to happily steer our boogie boards down the best slopes.
But Poppy Pete was no longer the young dad of our decades-ago family adventures and far from a child, I was now carrying one instead.
So, in our frail states, we had high hopes we could vicariously re-live our holiday adventures through poor little Master Six.
We ignored his cries of ‘sand in my eyes’ and ‘sand in my shoes’ as we battled the wind in search of the perfect slope.
“So you kneel here at this gap and just push yourself forward,” Poppy Pete said, explaining how to launch into a sand surf.
Terrified, Master Six looked down the giant slope at me, sitting and smiling in anticipation at the bottom.
“I don’t know if I want to,” he declared unhappily.
“You’ll be fine,” I yelled out, holding up my phone to film him.
Tentatively he pushed off.
The board hit the sand and ground to an immediate standstill, Master Six sliding a further metre or so beyond on his tummy.
He looked up at me, mouth full of sand, eyes full of despair.
“I can’t do it,” he implored.
We insisted he try again.
“You’ll love it,” I assured him.
After about seven more attempts, each with the same result, we called it a day.
That evening we went fishing.
We bought a line and bait and headed off to a jetty.
I recalled the flathead we’d haul in back in the day, gobbling it up for dinner at our campsite.
“I think I’ve caught one,” Master Six said excitedly, starting to wind in his line.
Suddenly he was pulled violently forward, stopping only moments before he toppled over the jetty.
The fishing line was gone.
We bought fish and chips for tea instead.
The next morning, we headed to Binalong Bay.
Strong winds forced us back into the car so we headed round to our other favourite beach – Beer Barrel Bay.
It was time, Poppy Pete and I decided, to introduce Master Six to the joys of boogie boarding.
He was going to love this!
“So you just wait until the wave is nearly on you and then jump on,” I explained to him, knee deep in the water, as he glanced fearfully behind him, teeth chattering, lips blue.
“Here comes one now… Go!” Poppy shouted.
To his credit, Master Six gave it his best but once his tummy hit the board, both he and it rolled over.
He came up spluttering and coughing.
“You said ‘go’ too late Dad,” I admonished. “He needed to get on it earlier than that. Look, try again honey.”
A few failed attempts later and my father and I had found ourselves in a shouting match.
“He’s got to paddle with his arms.”
“No, he just has to kick!”
“He needs to use his arms to keep his balance.”
“No, he just has to hold on tight.”
Hang on, where was Master Six?
We stopped and looked around.
He was off in the distance, on shore, making sandcastles.
The boogie board was floating out toward the horizon.
Poppy Pete and I looked at each other.
And trudged out of the ocean.
That was it then.
Master Six hadn’t surfed the sand or the ocean.
He hadn’t liked it, let alone loved it.
Had my brothers and I been older when we did it? Braver?
Did we enjoy it more because we had kids with us?
Or had the pressure simply been too much for Master Six?
Whatever the case, I felt ashamed.
I’d always prided myself on not being a pushy mother with the Master.
Even when all the other kids his age seemed to like the swings, I didn’t push it.
Even when all the other kids his age seemed to like bananas, I didn’t push it.
Even when all the other kids at Wiggle Bay didn’t mind getting wet, I didn’t push it.
I let him stand on the side in his dry little togs, content to watch.
How far should we push our kids?
Is there an occasion for pushing them at all?
When we know there’s something we absolutely loved as a kid, it’s hard not to force our offspring into trying it out too.
Whether it’s water slides or watermelon, ice skating or icy poles.
In my experience, they do eventually try – and like – most things.
Master Seven still doesn’t do bananas but he adores the swings.
And he’d dominate Wiggle Bay if I took him back there now.
He’ll probably one day have a crack at surfing.
Or then again, maybe he won’t.
Maybe that first lesson will be enough to deter him for life.

My house husband

I walked into the kitchen.
The bench was littered with the remnants of dinner.
Li’l Fatty’s high chair was covered in globs of sweet mashed potato.
Master Seven’s school uniform was a crumpled mess nearby in the loungeroom.
Downstairs the bathroom floor was a chaotic mixture of used nappies and wet towels.
Among the chaos were my three men.
The littlest was perched on the lap of the biggest, arching his back and crying.
The middle one was doing a naked crab dance on the floor, mouth wide open and eyes bulging indicating a state of complete hyperactivity.
“You’re going to struggle next week,” I said to Learner Dad, referring to his upcoming first days of solo parenting.
“What do you mean?” he answered defensively. “They’ve had dinner, had their baths.”
I looked around and sighed.
I go back to work tomorrow.
And Learner Dad becomes house husband, for the two days a week I’m not home.
Make no mistake, he’s had plenty of time alone with his boys.
But the fact I’m the milk supplier has always guaranteed a time limit, a deadline for mummy to come home lest her boobs explode.
On this occasion I’d actually half cooked dinner and run the bath before I left for a one hour jog.
Usually, if I haven’t done this, I’ve at least left instructions – when to feed, what to feed, when to bath, who to bath etc.
So although not physically there, my presence is always felt.
“You’re on your own when I go back,” I said to Learner Dad.
Although it sounded menacing, I actually meant it in a nice way.
I wasn’t going to set out a structure for his time with the boys – he needed to establish his own routine, his own rules.
I knew that by lunchtime he’d be laughing at the simplicity of the job.
Master Seven at school, Li’l Fatty asleep all morning – plenty of time to sit back and relax and enjoy the perks of being an at-home dad.
But then Li’l Fatty would wake up.
He’d be hungry.
Then he’d poo.
As soon as he had a fresh nappy.
Then he’d do it again.
Only this time he’d put his hand in it.
Then it’d be time to hit the shops – because if you haven’t run out of toilet paper, you’ve run out of washing powder.
Or milk.
Then it’s time to pick up Master Seven, who’s always last to leave the classroom, even though you’re the only parent carrying an extremely heavy baby who’s trying to hurl himself out of your arms so he can crawl among the stampede of departing students.
Then, if there’s no after school activity planned, it’s home time.
Li’l Fatty smells again.
Is hungry again.
Needs sleep.
Fights sleep vigorously by standing up in the cot and screaming.
Poos just as he’s about to go to sleep.
Master Seven starts his hour on the Wii.
Time to start preparing dinner.
Fifteen minutes after he finally passes out, Li’l Fatty’s awake.
Crawling around your legs as you balance pots of boiling water, and eating any bits of raw onion you drop on the floor.
Master Seven’s hour is up.
He starts crying.
The six-year-old neighbour comes over.
He’s hungry.
He’s always hungry.
You send him home when the wrestling actually turns violent.
You shovel dinner into Li’l Fatty while Master Seven shovels most of his on to the floor.
Then it’s bath time.
“Can I hop in with Li’l Fatty?”
Sure, why not?
Sounds cute.
After twenty squealing-infused minutes of Li’l Fatty either pulling out the plug or pulling on his penis while Master Seven covers his baby brother’s face in bubbles, bath time’s over.
Then it’s dressing one (who poos the moment his clean and powdered bum is freshly nappied) while urging the other to dress himself (when all he wants to do is jump around giggling and parting his crack at you).
At about this time, Mummy will walk in the door.
Like a magnet, Li’l Fatty will be drawn to her breast.
Baby gone.
Then Master Seven will insist Mummy read with him tonight.
Kid gone.
And then, while Learner Dad scurries about cleaning up the mess in the bathroom and kitchen, Mummy will have to sit and quietly eat dinner alone, with only a magazine or the television for company…
Sigh.
Bring. It. On.

Partners in time

PART ONE
I glanced at my watch.
7.30pm.
Where was he?
He’d said he’d finish late but I’d thought he’d be home by now.
I’d done everything – cooked dinner, bathed Li’l Fatty, read with Master Seven, got both boys ready for bed, all after a full DAY of mothering them as well.
And now Learner Dad wasn’t going to be home in time to do the hardest job of all – get them to actually go to bed!
He was at the cricket.
Working.
After working a long stretch, we’d been excited at the prospect of him having six whole days off in a row.
Of course he had radio commitments on three of them and had to present the TV sport on two of them but those things were only an hour or so out of each day.
But then he decided to work one of his days off because the last cricket match of the season had come down to the wire.
And of course nobody could cover it as well as him 🙂
And then, on another day off, he picked up two MC gigs.
They’d basically consume another whole day.
I wasn’t angry.
His strong work ethic was a huge part of what I loved about him.
He enjoyed his work.
And I knew he was trying to keep us financially afloat too.
But I missed him.
And, at times, I was jealous.
Sure, cricket wasn’t my thing but how nice to be paid to sit with your reporter mates and watch a game you love.
To not be consumed by nap times, grocery shopping and excursion dates.
To get about in a sharp suit, be given a nice lunch and to actually chat to adults all day.
And then to go back to the office and write about it.
I love writing.
But instead I was writhing.
On the floor with Li’l Fatty.
And reading books about Brown Bears and Green Sheep.
And pulling mashed banana out of my hair.
And washing school clothes.
And, oh hang on that’s right, I was watching cricket too.
School cricket.
Yawn.
And then home to juggle peas and corn and bubble bath and home readers and sleep suits and toothbrushes…
This was getting ridiculous.
Where was he?

PART TWO
He glanced at his watch.
7.30pm.
He probably wasn’t going to see his boys tonight.
He felt stressed.
And stretched.
In many directions.
He’d spent the whole day working at the cricket.
An incredible match, fantastic ending.
Now he was on his way back to the newsroom.
Tired and hungry but still with a whole story to write for tomorrow night.
He didn’t know what to do – go home for an hour or so and then come back?
Or realise family time was over and just stay at work until he got it done?
What would she want him to do?
He’d been busy lately.
He felt guilty.
And worried that his absence was why he’d slipped way back into second place at home.
Master Seven lately met his boy’s time suggestions with a shrug and his own suggestion that ‘mummy play too’.
And Li’l Fatty – well he just watched his mother’s every move and grizzled to go to her the moment she walked into the room.
How could he compete when he was at work all the time?
How could any man?
He thought of his future wife, at home in her pajamas watching My Kitchen Rules after a day of trackpants and TV, strolls in the sunshine, coffee with friends and cuddles with kids.
How nice that must be.
To be able to devote so much time to the baby, sunbake or watch TV during his sleep, and be there to pick Master Seven up from school.
Every single day.
In the end, he went home.
A quick goodnight to his two tired and grumpy sons and a cold bowl of pumpkin soup later, he was headed back to work.
All so he wouldn’t have to leave them again tomorrow.

THERE IS NO MORE IMPORTANT PARTNERSHIP IN LIFE THAN PARENTING.
LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER FOR HIS OR HER CONTRIBUTION TO THE FAMILY, WHATEVER FORM IT TAKES.
YOU’RE DOING A BEAUTIFUL JOB LEARNER DAD x

Li’l Fatty goes for gold

A milestone for me today – this is my 50th blog.
So I thought I’d celebrate with a recap.
It was a flurry of activity on my first post, which introduced an imperfect but hopefully realistic version of the modern day tribe.
Throughout the past two months, I’ve exposed my gorgeous fiancé, Learner Dad, as an iPhone addict, potential strip club fan and a poor imitation of the Tooth Fairy.
I’ve revealed his secret baby names list and his distaste for green vegies (earning him the nickname ‘Ol’ Nine Beans Costelloe’).
I’ve forever scarred his sister by mentioning her brother and the word ‘sex’ on the same page.
And I’ve forever changed his gift giving habits with my rampage against men and ‘pink Kmart crap’.
But there are two other littler men in my life.
I’ve exposed Master Seven as a fan of the ‘f’ bomb and Li’l Fatty as a Baby Bomber.
And I’ve been told I’ve brought tears to eyes with my ramblings on Master Seven’s relationship with his new dad.
Lilfatty.com has got a mention on Learner Dad’s Saturday morning radio show.
And Li’l Fatty himself had his nappy changed live on air – yes you read that right, ‘nappy changed on radio’, hmmm.
Then there’s me.
I’ve shared my own embarrassing history of being dumped.
I’ve admitted to leaving my baby in the car.
And I’ve admitted to re-gifting (at the expense of every present I’ve handed out since).
I’ve shocked readers by continuing to see a doctor who likes to talk about dying babies.
And I’ve turned many female readers off ever getting an IUD.
I’ve unwittingly spoken ill of the dead by writing about self-professed ‘baby whisperers’, using a made up rellie I called ‘Great Aunt Beryl’, only to find out, on Learner Dad’s side, there really was a Great Aunt Beryl.
My more serious spiels on pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding have generated a surprising and usually touching response.
I’ve plagiarised a bunch of quotes from a book called Yummy Mummy and I’ve sent readers constantly over to blog hero Mia Freedman.
I therefore thank her for filling any silences.
Thanks also to my regular Facebook sharers – Audrey, Alice, Jan, Gerrarda, Alysia, to name a few.
Regular commentators – Janelle, Kerri, Amy, Hanna, Jo, again just a few.
And my subscribers – I’m pleased to say there are now too many to mention.
A little thanks to Evie for her initial encouragement (and her book Blogging For Dummies).
To Master Seven and Li’l Fatty for being great little muses.
But mostly thanks to Learner Dad – for saying stupid things, and for putting his pride aside to share my blog every single day.

One hit wonder

“Heeeeeeeee’s…… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa….. wobble dobble dobble from wobble town…
“A wobble dobble dobble from wobble town….. He’s a wobble…. and a dobble…..”
Composed by Learner Dad, and accompanied by a frantic knee jiggle, this little ditty got the first full belly laughs from our Li’l Fatty.
Overtired and overstimulated at the time, he laughed like a crazy boy.
Chest out with pride, Learner Dad put his happy son to bed that night secure in the knowledge he was officially the funny one – ‘fun dad’.
Early the next morning, I woke to the strains of “… he’s always wobbling…. wobble dobbling…..”
When I went upstairs, Li’l Fatty was staring at his father as though he were a lunatic.
“He’s a bit cranky this morning,” Learner Dad muttered, putting him back on the rug.
That night he tried again.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeee’s……… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa….. wobble dobble dobble from wobble town….”
Frowns turned to smiles, then frowns again as Li’l Fatty tried to work out what this singing bouncing man was all about.
‘Laugh,’ I willed him silently. ‘Laugh at your father.’
Nothing.
Now I haven’t tried the wobble dobble ditty myself.
That’s because it’s Learner Dad’s thing (actually it’s really because I’m afraid he won’t find me funny either).
Although the laughter’s dried up for now, its echoes have nonetheless convinced Learner Dad he’s the expert on making his child laugh.
But apparently that’s not his only area of expertise.
“He really likes being held this way,” he instructed me recently, cradling Li’l Fatty face down in his arms.
I bit my lip to stop myself from telling him I already knew this.
I mean, did he not realise that, in the nine hours I spend alone with Li’l Fatty each day, I’ve tried holding him every way there is, including upside down by his big toe, in a bid to keep him happy?
Just because I’m the SAHM (Stay At Home Mum) and just because I’ve had a baby before, doesn’t mean I’m the only baby expert in the family, right?
Surely Learner Dad’s insight counts for something?
So when he said to my mum recently that Li’l Fatty was on the verge of crawling, I again kept silent.
Mum, to her credit, did too.
I mean, sure, Master Seven was off to a pretty early start when he took off at seven months.
If Learner Dad thinks Li’l Fatty can do it at four, who am I to argue?

Tooth Fairy or Tooth Fairly Expensive?

Master Seven has finally lost his first two teeth.
After 10 wobbly days and the daily jibe from Learner Dad that he’d tie string between the tooth and an open door before closing it (believe me, this gets old quickly), the first one finally came out.
Being his mother, I figured I’d be there for the groundbreaking moment (I mean aren’t I there for all the less exciting stuff?) but of course the first bottom tooth casually left its cavity in the back of his poppy’s car.
Learner Dad and I were at a wedding when we got the news.
“So how much does the Tooth Fairy pay these days?” an in-law asked, when I told the entire table.
“Hmmm I’m not sure,” I said, mulling it over. “A dollar I guess.”
They looked horrified.
“A dollar?” one asked. “Is that all?”
“I told him they pay $20 per tooth,” Learner Dad grinned.
“Great,” I replied. “Then you can pay for Li’l Fatty’s entire set.”
So I got to thinking about one of the world’s biggest mysteries, as all mothers do: What’s the Tooth Fairy’s going rate?
Sure, I got $1 myself as a child… add inflation and all that… but how can I put a note in a glass of water?
“They don’t use glasses of water these days,” I was told by a friend.
“You find other special places, like putting a $10 note under the pillow.”
$10?! Was she serious?
I put the question out on Facebook – what does the enamel enamoured fairy pay anyway?
Some parents suggested $2 for the small teeth and $5 for the molars.
A non-parent suggested $100 and an iPhone. Good times for his future children.
My favourite response was: “$2.30, because when you tell people how much you got, it sounds like ‘tooth hurty’.”
$1, $10, I knew Master Seven wasn’t going to care. It was really about the tiny winged creature visiting his room when he was asleep after all.
He came home from his Poppy’s house with a water bottle containing the tiniest little tooth I’d ever seen nestled in its dregs.
He sold it to the Tooth Fairy that night for $2.
As for his second tooth?
It also came out at his Poppy’s house but this time he put true meaning into the term ‘lost a tooth’, by swallowing it!
That ignited fresh debate: does the Tooth Fairy still come?
Or, as Naughty Nanna suggested, does mummy need to sift through Master Seven’s poo to find it?
In the end, I told him the Tooth Fairy wasn’t a charity and was only in the business of buying teeth.
It didn’t matter, there are plenty of teeth to come (and it sounds like the back ones could be quite costly!)