Friday, November 19, 2010

Paternity Leave

I have been thinking a lot in this past week how grateful I am for Paternity Leave.  I have always thought that providing (paid!) time off work for new fathers was a good thing.  I figured it must be so important for fathers to have time to get to know and bond with their new babies.  In some countries, fathers and mothers can share out the leave, so fathers can take up to a few months leave in the first year of their child's life; this is good for female employees, since there is less disparity between mothers and fathers taking time off for children, which makes employers more willing to hire young women. (Aren't I great, I think about everyone!)

But now I see how vital paternity leave is for new mothers as well, if my experience is similar to most, anyway.  Jon has two weeks off work for his paternity leave, and it was able to start the day I went into labour. And let me tell you, I do now know what I would have done without him here--being a new mother is wonderful, but can be overwhelming! Gus is actually a really good baby, but it is so helpful to have a partner in full-time parenting during these first weeks. Jon has been able to sit next to me and provide moral support when Gus's latch wasn't quite right and it was painful to nurse him.  It was really good to have at least one person not in tears!  And even when the breastfeeding is going well, it's good to not have to choose between letting Gus eat undisturbed and getting something for my own insatiable thirst.  Plus, Jon has done almost all the diaper changing!

Even though I love cuddling my little one and generally hate to put him down, there have been times when all this constant contact can just get to be too much.  This usually seems to coincide with the times when Gus won't settle without being held, and Jon is there to take up the reins and get some cuddles in for himself.  Even the simple fact that when Gus wakes up in the middle of the night, Jon offers his support, however I need it, and I can take it up based on my and Gus's needs, without any of us worrying about how Jon will be able to get up in the morning if he helps at night.  Obviously, he will be going back to work shortly, but it is so good to have this time when we are all learning together and sorting ourselves out.  

A couple of days before Gus was born, I read an article in which the author said how necessary it was to hire live-in help the first few weeks of a baby's life.  To be honest, I found the idea rather revolting. I think a lot of that revulsion came from the tone of the article (or that tidbit, anyway) and the privilege that she exhibited without any awareness that this option would be feasible for only a small section of our society.  But from this side of Gus's arrival, I can see where she is coming from. If a father can't get the time off work and there is no other family around, I can totally see why people would find this a necessary expenditure, even to the point of making other financial sacrifices.  The sanity and well-being of a new mother--in some cases, I imagine this could literally be the things that prevents the baby blues spiraling into a more serious condition--is worth quite a lot!  

I am doubly lucky, because my parents arrive for a week's stay the day before Jon goes back to work, so I will have an even longer time with full-time support.  Plus, Jon's family aren't too far away to come over and help out for a couple of hours when needed. But I have been so happy this past week to be able to spend all of my time with the two men in my life as a newly expanded family.  I think all three of us have gained so much from this time together.

But I am interested--what do others do / have done?  Does daddy find some other way to stay at home? Does mom get support from other family, or just soldier through on her own? Any thoughts?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gus has arrived!

What a busy 5 days we have had!  I woke up on Wednesday morning with labour starting, and a mere fifteen hours later, our little one was born. Not a bad day's work, I don't think :)  I am still trying to find time to process the whole event--I really want to have a detailed account of what happened throughout the labour and delivery, but it is so hard to find any time to sit down and write it out. Plus, every day such lovely (for the most part) things happen that I really want to just be able to cherish, and again exhaustion and lack of time prevent me from being able to do much.  My little guy could eat for England, so you would think that would give me an opportunity, but I am not very good at typing with one hand and my thoughts race ahead of my fingers.  At least it gives me plenty of time to sit and reflect on this wonderful gift, though.

We didn't have much of a day one, really, since Gus was born at 11.15 pm. We were lucky enough to be able to deliver at home, so when the midwives left at about 2 am, Jon, Gus, and I were all curled up in our bed, a happy new little family. I should have asked the midwife to take quick photo of us before he left (I know--we had a male midwife!). But, even though I put the camera somewhere that would be easy to find, I couldn't remember where that spot was, so I only have the mental picture.  It is amazing, though, laying in your own bed with your hours old baby (and wonderful husband).  And that feeling just continued all night--probably not the best thing, actually.  I was so overwhelmed with amazement at this little person--whom I already loved so much--that I couldn't sleep a wink!  I thought he must just be too fragile, he can't possibly sleep there in his own bed all by himself. I just laid there for hours, watching him sleep.

Even though you hear other people say it, it is shocking how much you can love this little person, and how quickly.  Jon and I both just sit and look at Gus, since he is just about the prettiest baby ever. Jon is a brilliant father already, although it is still hard to trust that Gus is okay when he is out of my sight, even when Jon is watching over him.

Okay, I am going to stop being so self-indulgent now (although, that is what a blog is for, isn't it?).  Suffice it to say, we have had a very happy 5 days.  There have been some difficult moments already (Gus loves being up from midnight to 4 or 5, which can be a bit trying!).   Maybe I'll have some more insightful thoughts in a few days, or maybe I will just share some more gushing about little Gus with you!

Monday, November 8, 2010


A lot of talk around pregnancy seems to be about intuition and body knowledge.  Natural birth advocates are often saying that a woman’s body knows what to do during labour and birth, you just need to listen to your body and follow what it is telling you.   And to an extent, I do agree: our bodies have been designed to give birth.  It is fascinating to me the differences between human birth and births among other mammals (not that I have witnessed either) and the way that the differences in our bodies (namely, that we walk on two legs but also have big brains compared to other mammals) affects how we can give birth.  Even though human babies are less mature than other primates, for example, when they are born, their relatively huge heads compared to the mother’s pelvis means that our babies have to do special turns and manoeuvres to get through the birth canal.  And no one has to teach the mom or baby how to do these.

But my real question about intuition is this: how do I know that the feeling I am having is intuition and not want I want or hope?  For instance, we did not find out via ultrasound whether this little one is a boy or a girl.  So people always ask me which I think the baby is.  And some people really have strong feelings that their little baby is one or the other, like their body knows.  Off and on during the course of the pregnancy, I have had some inklings that this baby is a girl (although most people seem to think it is a boy).  But do I think that because there is just a part of me that knows that it is a girl, or is it because part of me hopes that it is a girl? (I have this image in my mind that I will have lots of kids—good!—but all boys—scary!!!  I think my wanting a girl this time around is not so much about this particular child, but to ensure that whatever I might have in the future, at least I’ll have one little lady in the house.)   

I went to bed last night really thinking, down to my toes, that labour wasn’t far off now.  Not that it would necessarily be the next day (and it hasn’t started yet!), but that there wouldn’t be too many baby-free days left in our lives.  But OF COURSE this is true!  I have passed my due date—there will only be two weeks, at the most, left with this baby not out in the world.  This isn’t intuition, it is statistics (something I can rely on :) ).

I think this is what scares me about labour—although not really in a bad way, in an exciting way.  I want to be able to “listen to my body” and let it do its thing.  But when have I ever in my life had a chance to “practice” using my intuition and my body’s knowledge?   I feel like I should have been preparing for it in some way—can you teach yourself to listen to your body?  Some probably would say that you could. 

But really, I am probably just over-thinking all of this; which is, of course, the exact opposite of listening to your body and following your gut!  I have quite a mathematical, researcher-y type brain, and I want a simple equation: if x, then yY is that I know that I really would like an unmedicated, intervention-free birth, and I want there to be an X to guarantee that I will be able to achieve that.  If my body and my baby know what to do, then it seems the solution would be just to let the process unfold by itself, not try to insert my rational mind into the equation.  If only it were that simple!

I am really excited about labour, though.  Intrigued about how it will pan out, what will happen.  Will it be anything like my expectations?  (I am pretty sure that answer will be no!)   I think, whether I can follow this intuition thing or not, I am preparing to have a good time with birthing my baby.  And good preparation leads to good results, right?  (Right?!?!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes (volume 1)

Check out more bloggers' Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.

Due date today!  No signs of Baby being ready to join us yet, but it is really hard to not expect it to come in the next few days.  No matter how many times I tell myself that first-time mothers typically give birth 10 days after the due date, I can’t help but think baby will be here in the next few days.  Jon has asked baby to not start labour until Sunday afternoon, at the earliest, so he can get two more days of sleeping late this weekend!  No induction would be scheduled for at least two more weeks, so it’s not necessarily quite the end yet.

Jon, bump and I had a photo shoot last weekend.  It was really fun!  I felt that we didn’t have many good pictures from the pregnancy—we never seem to take any pictures—so this would be a good way to get a few photos.  We go back tomorrow to view all the photos.  The sitting fee was only £10, and we get a free 8x6 print with that; unfortunately, that means that they charge quite a lot for electronic copies of the photos (I think the prints are pretty average in price), so I won’t be sharing any here.  If (probably when—see above comment about never taking any good pictures) we get pictures done of the baby, we might find somewhere that at least has an online gallery so we can share them a bit more and family can pick out their own pictures, but this was a really good last minute decision, I think.

Tonight is Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes’ Night.  We celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, in which Fawkes and a group of Catholic rebels (freedom fighters, I am sure!) tried to blow up Parliament and kill the Protestant King.  Mostly it is celebrated with fireworks displays, and some towns still have big bonfires, apparently.  Traditionally, towns would burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and/or the Pope as well, but that doesn’t happen in too many places nowadays.  It always seems a bit weird to me, being Catholic, celebrating an event that has a definite anti-Catholic history, although I do think that it is good they were prevented from killing the entire Parliament and the King, regardless of their reasons.

Anyway, there were some fireworks going off in the park near our house last night, and I could see them from our back yard.  I wondered how the baby might react to all the banging, but s/he didn’t seem to mind at all, really, and they were pretty loud.  I thought I might get a lot of jumping around, but no.  I saw in the paper that a zoo is doing displays of “bang-less” fireworks, good for both the animals and children that are afraid of the noise.  I do not really understand how they can make fireworks that don’t make noise.

P.S. re fireworks: who wants to go stand outside to watch fireworks in November?  Don’t they know that it is cold out there?  Although, it does mean that you can set them off at about 6 and then go back home to your cozy house and a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate.

I bought a little storage unit to put in the bathroom the other week.  It arrived last week, I took all the pieces out of the box, with its 8 different types of screws and dowels and such and 12 different panels to put together, and realised that the assembly instructions were missing.  And there was no way I was going to be able to figure out how to put it together without the instructions.  So I contacted the seller (on ebay) to ask to if he could send me a copy of the instructions, and I am still waiting.  While all the pieces sit on my living room floor.  To be fair, I ordered a second, bigger unit as well, from a different seller, and it is only half-way put together, so maybe I can’t put the entire blame on the seller.  But it would be nice to be able to have this stuff in place before the baby arrives!  Oh well, baby won’t care if we have storage space in the bathroom.  If anything, baby will be more concerned about the completely unfinished nursery (hey Dad, I might have a job for you when you get here!)—luckily baby will be sleeping in our room to begin with, and the crib is put together. See, we do get around to finishing the important things!

Photo of me on my due date: 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Awaiting the wee 'un

I have really enjoyed being pregnant.  It is a funny state of being: an anticipation of an event, but also an experience in and of itself.  It can be hard sometimes to live in the moment during pregnancy, with all the preparations that need to go on for the little one’s arrival.  On the other hand, it is such a momentous thing in and of itself that you feel like you should be acutely aware of the baby growing inside of you at every moment of the day.  Not so much in the third trimester, but earlier in the pregnancy there would be days where I would see myself in the mirror as I got into the shower (for some odd reason the previous owners put a huge mirror covering the wall over the bathtub—a bit disconcerting to see oneself in that way first thing every morning, but luckily the steam from the shower fogs it up quickly enough!) and be surprised to see my growing bump.  Or go a couple of hours without even thinking about the baby, when it is so intimately connected to me.  I would say, “Oh, hello baby!  I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise!”  Luckily I am not too much of a worrier, but the thought would pop into my head: what kind of a mother am I, forgetting about this little one, even for a moment?!

Of course, there are also the moments in the day where baby starts to squirm around (do its exercises, I like to call it, taking after its da and working out those muscles!), and I just feel such overwhelming love for the little thing.  This is my baby, a complete little person growing inside of me! At those times, part of me wants to stay pregnant forever, not let the little one out into the world, not have to share these special moments with anyone—even Jon!  It is just so amazing to be a player in the creation of a person, someone with a little soul that will live forever.  This little life will never end, but its beginning was right here inside of me!  What an overwhelming thought.  At those times, I just feel so close to God and seem to have a little inkling of the love that He must feel for every one of us, His creations, and I pray so fervently for my little child.

Obviously, I can’t wait to actually meet my little one, face to face.  I think that human gestation is probably just the right length, because at 38 weeks, I definitely wasn’t ready, psychologically, for the baby to be born.  That may have been related to the fact that I didn’t feel that all the preparations were in place at home for the baby to come, and now those things are (more or less) completed.  But in the past few days, as my “due date” approaches (tomorrow!), the baby has been getting heavier, my whole body has been aching more and more, and those lovely little squirms are turning into painful jabs in the ribs and hips more often!  Physically, I am getting ready to be done with pregnancy itself, which definitely aides in the psychological and emotional preparation.

There is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks: the labour and birth itself (I am so excited and intrigued to see what it will be like and how my body will do its thing!); those first moments with the baby, which everyone says are so lovely; getting to know our little child and what s/he is like; watching Jon be a new father.  But I am definitely trying, in these last few days (weeks?) of pregnancy, to really savour these moments and not wish them all away.  God willing, we will have more children and similar moments will come, but I’ll never hold this baby in my womb again. (Plus, I don’t know that you get as much time to “savour the moment” for subsequent children—the toddlers I know don’t seem to appreciate quiet time the way adults do!)  How lucky I am to be able to take this time out for my baby and me!

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I have been thinking about starting a blog for some time now and have decided that maternity leave is the perfect time to do so.  Can you tell that I haven’t yet had the baby, thereby thinking I am going to have lots of time to do some blogging?!  

Writing is not something that I naturally itch to do—some people have a need to write, but that is not me.  Instead, I am the type of person who will read something and then have discussions in my head all day long about the topic.  It is these thoughts swimming around in my head that just can’t be contained any longer.  And, after a month of leave from work where the majority of human interaction I get has been with my husband Jon, I think maybe it will do both of us good for me to have another outlet for my ramblings.  So I decided to share those internal discussions with the world--possibly more for my benefit than yours, but we’ll see as this little experiment goes along!  

I read a variety of types of blogs and have not yet really narrowed down what kind of topics I want to cover, so this will definitely be a bit of an eclectic mix, at least at the start.  We’ll see if I find some focus somewhere along the way.  Mainly this will cover my new and exciting mommy-ventures from a Catholic and/or feminist point of view (one day I’ll write about how I fit the two together, but I have to build up some courage for that first!), hopefully with a bit of food (baked goods are my weakness) and pregnancy/birth health thoughts (I am a health researcher by training and becoming a bit of a birth junkie) thrown in for fun.

About the blog title: not very exciting story, actually.  This is the name of a song that we occasionally sing in church.  While I quite like the melody, I think the words are kind of silly, as they include the phrase "and the trees in the fields will clap their hands", multiple times.  Firstly, fields tend not to have huge numbers of trees, and secondly, I just always thinks of Ents clapping, as trees don't typically have hands.  However, joy is one of my all-time favorite words.  I think of it as almost onomatopoeic: just the sound of the word makes you feel joyful.  So anyway, this phrase really speaks to me because that is what I try to do, both in my life and, hopefully, with this blog: spread joy in the world. 

Thanks for joining me--let's see where we go!