January 18, 2015

A life lived in fear is a life half lived

One of my favourite movies as a child was Strictly Ballroom. It came out when I was about six or seven, just when I was starting to become interested in dancing. My mum was a dancer when she was a kid, and into her teenage years, so it was soimething she was keen for me to do as well. The film made me fall absolutely in love with the idea of ballroom dancing - the glitz, the (faux) glamour, the whole deal. Unfortunately, ballroom classes for six-year-olds in the suburbs of Melbourne were pretty much non-existent. I had to settle for ballet, jazz, and tap dancing. Which were fine, I enjoyed them, but what I really wanted to do was dance with a partner.

So when I found out Strictly Ballroom was being reimagined as a full-blown musical, I was beside myself. I had to go, no matter what. So imagine my surprise when I was invited this past Thursday to a short preview of some of the numbers, as well as the oppurtunity to interview the cast and Baz Luhrmann himself! I jumped at the chance, and entered Her Majesty's Theatre that morning with my heart thumping. I couldn't believe it.

On entering the theatre itself and trying to figure out where to sit, I was a bit overexcited and ended up sitting in the second row - because really, when will I ever have the chance to be that close ever again? It paid off, as I got to see a lot more detail than I would have from the "cheap seats". The costumes and sets are both glorious - a real credit to four-time Oscar winner Catherine Martin, who has worked with Baz (her husband) on all of his films and shaped a lot of the style his films have become famous for. You really feel as though you're right there in the dance studio, the patio of Fran's house, the Pan Pacifics final...

My camera sucks, so I ended up using my phone to take photos.


I must admit that at one point my stream-of-conciousness notes devolved into "OMG BAZ LUHRMANN IS SITTING LIKE RIGHT THERE OMG I AM NOT WORTHY"... But I got better. The man himself seems to be a wonderful person to work with, and the banter between him and his cast shows the obvious bond they have. From Baz "vamping" while the techies got some things set up, to him joking with the cast that they'd have to perform a physically demanding number five more times for us (with "no holding back"), there was a lot of levity around. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

They're so cute and silly together.


The first previewed number went by so quickly, I didn't manage to take any photos or notes during it. So sadly I don't have much to report about that one specifically. It was very flashy, very camp, and everything I could have hoped for the beginning of the show. It was a wonderful way to sweep us up into the Ballroom world.

The second number we were shown was Time After Time, one of my favourite parts of the film. I was glad they ran it through twice, as during the first run-through I couldn't tear my eyes away from the leads. Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos are so perfect in their roles as Scott and Fran that I actually started tearing up. It was wonderful.



After some more banter and a short Q-and-A with Baz, we were again swept up and carried away into A Life Lived In Fear, the scene in which Fran's family show Scott how to take the passion of the dance and translate it into his life. I was once again almost unable to take my eyes away from the stage as I watched.

Typically when I'm watching people dance, my eyes tend to be drawn towards the women as I find them more visually interesting, This scene, for me, was all about the strength of the men. So much so that I didn't even notice most of the women on the stage were dancing as well until the second run-through. That's not to say they weren't interesting - they were amazing - but the raw power flowing through the men was captivating.
I didn't get any decent photos of this part, so here's a production photo from the official website. I think credit for this goes to Jeff Busby but I'm not sure. Most of the other production photos have been credited to him and this one is has "JB" in the filename...

On the whole, I can't wait to see the full show as soon as I can. I would highly recommend anyone in Melbourne while it's in town go see it - even if I end up in the "cheap seats" I'll be happy.

Because even the seats are gorgeous.


Strictly Ballroom opened on January 17th at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne.

October 02, 2014

Faded.

Most days, it fades into the background of my life. I have become desensitised to it. I can look at his photos and not feel the immediate pain of grief. It's like an old friend now, someone I used to know intimately but lost touch with slowly, in a way that gently set me down and on my way. He's always on my mind, I feel his presence there, but I don't mourn how I did then.

But then I'll watch a slideshow of his photos, I'll listen to "his" songs without distraction, I'll spend a quiet moment to poke at the hole inside me... And it blooms into colour again. I see everything I lost when he left, everything I would have, everything I wouldn't. It blinds me. It confuses me. His sisters - who wouldn't be here if he was - they wear his face, his eyes, his nose. They make these features their own, but don't know they were his first.

How do I not see these things everyday? Have I blocked it out? Did I do that intentionally? Baby boy, I promised never to forget you - but how do I separate the joy of you from the agony of your death? Will I someday be a better mother to you - to your memory - or will you fade away from me?

June 01, 2014

The year of giving

Somehow I've managed to spend a great deal of the past month or two preparing for and completing various charity events. I walked for breast cancer research in the Mothers' Day Classic on May 11th, and on the 24th I did an hour on a treadmill as part of Team Heartfelt to raise money for Very Special Kids.

Coming up is a bigger, slightly more permanent "challenge". SIDS & Kids Australia are running a "Dare to Care" campaign for Red Nose Day this year, and I'm participating. While some Dares are a bit more... well, daring, mine will be staying with me for quite some time. I'm dyeing my hair the colours of the rainbow. Say goodbye to my lovely (ha!) blonde locks, from the 26th of June, I'll have the seven-colour spectrum in there!

As it stands right now, I'm not on the individual leaderboard yet; but due to a lack of teams so far I'm single-handedly coming third on the team leaderboard. I'd love to have three things happen:
  1. Reach the individual leaderboard.
  2. Have more people join me on Team Ianto.
  3. Reach the top of either leaderboard.
  4. Most importantly - Have a hell of a lot of money raised for SIDS & KIDS no matter who it's donated through.
How can you help?
  • You could take on a Dare yourself and join Team Ianto. It doesn't have to be the same Dare as me - it doesn't even have to be rainbow themed!
  • You can donate money here.
  • You can donate your time by helping me find a hairdresser willing to take on this challenge with me (I still haven't locked anyone in), by designing posters for me to pass around, or anything else you think might help physically. Got a newsletter you can put this information in? Feel free!
  • You can spread this link around like wildfire. The more people that see it, the more people will donate.
Of course, I don't care if people don't want to donate through me. If you want to set up a page for yourself as an individual, go for it. If you'd prefer to just buy Red Nose Day merchandise in stores, wonderful! It's all about saving babies and children. SIDS & Kids were a wonderful help when Ianto died, and I just want to pass that on to all other bereaved parents.

May 07, 2014

Would I? Could I?

I just read this post, which poses the question "if you could go back and tell your pregnant self about the loss you sustained, would you?" This was going to be a comment on it, but I felt it was long enough to warrant a blog post of my own.

I was going to say yes, so I could save him. But thinking again, no. Not in that instance. It's awful when put so baldly, but saving Ianto means losing my girls. If he'd lived, I wouldn't have been pregnant again four months later. I wouldn't have gone on to conceive Elisabeth either, because we'd have tried for another baby a year or so earlier. If I could magically insert him into the life we have now, I would, but I don't think I would go back and save him then. I know how to live without him now.


However. If telling past-me wouldn't change anything, or would save him only for a matter of a day, an hour, a minute... I would drive her to the hospital myself. I would hold her hand and tell her that it will get easier. That the next week will be one of the darkest of her life, but colour rushes back in. That she shouldn't be scared of what's to come. That she's about to meet one of the great loves of her life even though he'll never look into her eyes and say he loves her. I would be the one to cradle him when he is first born, and I would hold him at all the points past-me and past-scott put him down. I would smell that sweet scent again. I'd clean his hands and feet thoroughly so there was no ink on them in his photos, I would make sure the doctor got his name right on the discharge papers. I would... I would do so many things.

But I can't. I won't. It will always be the way it was, and I will live with that. Because that's something I CAN do.

January 16, 2014

I had a baby in my loungeroom!

Trying to conceive
Around April of 2012, I started feeling the familiar stirrings of wanting a new baby. I still remember being on a tram, realizing, and looking at Scott in horror – I’d spent months convincing him when we were engaged that I wanted no less than three years between children, and now I was about to tell him “let’s scratch that and go for one and a half”! As he did when we first decided to conceive Amelia, he attempted to talk me out of it, telling me that we should wait a little longer. “How about we start at the beginning of next year?”

It didn’t work. Again, as with Amelia, I fought and eventually we decided that we’d try the “not trying, not preventing” method. Unfortunately, another roadblock came up in June when I was diagnosed officially with PCOS. A month later, I had my first imagined positive. Scott was more on board with TTC when he saw how devastated I was when the doctor told me I wasn’t pregnant.

On August 4th, I posted this in a TTC thread on my favourite pregnancy/parenting forum:

“I'm kinda flitting between here and the Pre-TTC group because we're not sure if we're officially trying or not.
Anyway, I'm hoping the dream I had today (I had a nap, it was awesome!) was a sign of things to come. I dreamt I birthed a beautiful little girl at home, with my mum, DH, and DD as support. It was fantastic :D I dreamt every moment of it, from first contraction through transition, then pushing. I loved it!”

Eventually I joined the thread officially, and we were off. But nothing happened. My PCOS caused my cycles to be super-long, and at one point, I was sitting at around Cycle Day 80. I was getting depressed. As I watched fireworks go off over my suburb at midnight on New Year’s Day, I made one promise to myself: This time next year, I will be doing this with a baby in my arms.

Then, it happened. I got my act together completely, used every TTC trick and product I could get my hands on, and managed to pinpoint ovulation to the 28th of March. And I waited.

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Don't worry - this is just a closeup of my saliva, showing that I was near ovulation.
I waited a whole ten days before testing with a cheap test from eBay. Was that a line? I didn’t know. Scott was at work, I had left my wallet in the car so didn’t have my Myki card (for public transport to buy a better test), and I was forced to wait another day. On April 8th, at 3:30pm, I tested in the parents’ room of my local shopping centre. My friend Lily was waiting expectantly as well, half a city away on the other end of a text message conversation. Then I sent her this:
“So… What’s it like, being due in December?”

Yes, I had my Big Fat Positive. I burst into tears as I thought about giving Ianto and Amelia another sibling. I messaged Scott (who was at work again) and asked if he could pick me up when he was finished. And I walked around the shopping centre in a haze of disbelief. I’m pregnant again.

When Scott arrived, I jumped into the car and grinned to myself in the back seat as I strapped Amelia in. I’d already worked out how to tell my geeky husband what was going on, long before we had even conceived.
“Scott? I think I’m turning into a Time Lord.” “Huh? What do you mean?” “Two hearts.”
It took him a few seconds, but he slowly made eye contact with me in the rear vision mirror. And he grinned.
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These aren't even all of the tests...


Pregnancy

To be honest, I had the most boring pregnancy I think anyone’s ever had. Almost all drama was non-pregnancy related. I ended up in hospital a few times – some cramps that I thought might be a miscarriage; a suspected broken finger; chest pain that we never found a cause of (the reigning theories were a pulled muscle in my chest or a panic attack); and finally at 38 weeks, a very painful fall when I slipped at the very same shopping centre I had discovered my pregnancy at. I essentially did a full split, and was unable to walk easily for about a week. I still have the walking frame in case the pain came back after birth. Thankfully, it hasn’t.

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I even managed to go to a concert at around 35 weeks. The securtity guys let me stand right next to the stage so they could keep an eye on me.
Throughout it all, I had the support of my midwives (from the MAMA clinic) and my doula (Lily, who was my doula with Amelia as well). I was planning the homebirth I had wanted with Amelia. Everything went smoothly. I had some hip and pelvic pain on and off, but it actually eased as my pregnancy progressed. For the most part, I wasn’t even worried about losing this baby – I instinctively felt everything would go well. Around 35 weeks, I did have a small amount of fear when during an appointment baby’s heartbeat took a few extra seconds to find; but there it was – strong as ever.

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Things couldn't have been smoother.

Everything was perfect. We chose names, and I fully expected to be welcoming our second son into our home. I wasn’t adverse to another daughter, I simply thought the baby (nicknamed Pudding) was a boy. At one point during an appointment, one of my midwives asked me about my plans for the birth. Although I’d given a great deal of thought to it, it all came down to a few simple facts. “I’m going to go into labour, I’m going to climb into the birth pool, and I’m going to have a baby in my lounge room!”

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My fairy lights and affirmations

I had decided not to tell many people my estimated due date. Partly because I wanted to avoid the possibility of reaching it and being hassled about if the baby had arrived yet, when would they induce me, etc., and partly because I simply wanted to. I felt better telling people my due month rather than an exact date. But I got stuck on a few dates I personally expected to have given birth by. But they came… and went. Oh dear. I did have small contraction-type feelings on and off, starting around the 9th, but nothing that turned into real labour. Again, I got out all the old wives’ tales and made my way through them. Nothing seemed to work, although that may have been because I wasn’t putting too much effort in. I knew the baby would come when he or she was ready; I couldn’t be pregnant forever!
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I couldn't wait to jump in!
 
On my EDD, we had our first 40-degree day of summer here in Melbourne, and we went out as a family for icecream. Again, I felt some small contractions, but I had learnt to ignore them. I was getting depressed again, this time about baby not wanting to come out. We continued on our day, and I went to sleep wondering if I’d ever give birth.

The next day, we went to the movies – and yet again, I was having small contractions. But these weren’t stopping like the others. Before the movie began I told Scott not to get too excited, but things might be starting soon. I started timing them, and they occasionally settled into somewhat of a pattern before stopping for a while and starting again. I thought I’d give in to a superstition or two, and tried to make certain things similar to my last two labours – I took off my wedding ring and hung it on my necklace, I removed my earrings... Silly things, really, but I felt like I had to do something!

I’d started messaging Lily around 4ish, telling her what was happening, but I started doubting that anything was really happening when the contractions wouldn’t settle. Around 10pm I called it a night and told her we should all just go to bed. We bid each other goodnight and hoped that perhaps tomorrow would be the Big Day.

Birth

Yep. I was wrong in telling Lily not to come. I couldn’t get to sleep anyway, so I stayed up and kept timing. Starting around 11:30, I had a series of contractions that were eleven, then ten, then eight, then six minutes apart. At that point, I decided to wait for one more contraction before calling anyone. And the next few expanded again – eight, eleven… Okay, maybe it really is nothing. Seven, seven, seven… Oh? Hmm. I woke Scott up and told him to call Kelly – my primary midwife - for me. But he fell asleep again after a small grunt, so I just kept timing. Seven, seven… Agh, I’ll call her myself! I called, explained, and she messaged me back a few contractions later telling me that we’ll wait until they’re closer to five minutes apart. Fair enough, that’d pretty much be standard, and they were manageable at that point. But I wanted company anyway, so I called my mum over and said things were happening but slowly.

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During a contraction!
Mum arrived around 1am, and I told her that if she wanted to have a sleep that was okay, I just wanted company in case things ramped up. Which they suddenly did – I jumped in the shower a few minutes after she arrived and found myself starting to grunt through contractions that I wasn’t able to time. I got out, started a new “session” on my contraction-timing app, and quickly found that they had progressed to three minutes apart! Oh dear. I woke Scott up (somewhat angrily), told him to call Kelly, and then go pick up Lily. We couldn’t get through to her right away, but he left and managed to contact her during his drive. Amelia hadn’t been to sleep yet, so she joined us soon after Mum arrived and flitted between watching a DVD and spending time with us.

Things get a little fuzzy around here. I think Kelly walked into the lounge room after Scott left, but I also have some recollection of her being here at the same time as him. I really don’t know. I do know that Mum and I had started to fill the birthing pool up, and it was about a quarter of the way done. One of the first things Kelly said when she walked in was “Oh, wow…” in her lovely soft voice. In retrospect I’ve realized that she probably recognized the way I was holding myself and dealing with contractions – I was further into it that any of us expected.

I paced a little, but during contractions, I would generally plant my feet and groan/roar through each of them. I didn’t have any back pain, but it felt nice to put pressure on my own hips. At the same time, I wanted a cold wet washcloth over my face, so I had to choose. Washcloth. At one point towards the end of a contraction, I thrust it at Mum and said to her “cold this… Uh, I mean, can you put cold water on that again?” Eventually “cold this” and finally “cold” just became shorthand for when I needed it cold again.

I had the room decked out with fairy lights (and the Christmas tree), which felt absolutely magical – I would recommend every birthing woman have some. My affirmations were up on the wall, providing me with strength on the few occasions I managed to pay attention to them. My birthing necklace went on, but came off just as quickly – I didn’t tie it properly and Amelia decided to take off with it while I was mid-contraction. I still don’t know where it’s gone! 

Finally, the pool was full. I’d been watching the water like a hawk, and the moment it hit the fill line, I was in! I had a moment’s pause – undies on or off? Off. – before launching myself in and getting into a comfortable position. I hung my arms over the side of the pool, planted my knees under me, and let the water ease into my body. Ahhh… Oh, crap, still have to deal with the contractions, don’t I? As they hit, I felt like I wasn’t dealing well with anything. When they subsided, I was very lucid, which furthered my belief that I was nowhere near done. Amelia had joined us exclusively, so I told Mum (rather nastily – sorry Mum!) to turn the DVD off so I could have some quiet. I kept working through each contraction, sometimes easily, sometimes not so much. I was very loud. Amelia started making some noise at one point as I was roaring, which my “monkey brain” took as a challenge to be louder. I scared her away, poor baby.

I want to take a moment to point out just how amazing Amelia was throughout my labour. She wasn’t scared of most of the noises I was making, she was more curious than anything else. She held my face at one point, looked into my eyes, and said “what’s up?” – her way of asking if I’m okay. But the most wonderful thing she was doing was helping pour water over my back, exactly where I needed it. She got it wrong only a handful of times – my shoulder got drenched, and one cupful ended up on the floor – but she was fantastic. I don’t think I’d have made it through as easily as I did without the support of my little future midwife. Who by the way wasn’t wearing any pants, or a nappy. So the few photos we do have of us together as I laboured also feature her incredibly cute bottom.

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Starry starry butt...
Transition came and went before I knew it. In the back of my mind, as I was whimpering “I don’t want to do this anymore… Can’t I have a break?... Pleeeeease…”, I was thinking perhaps I really was close to the end. But surely that couldn’t be – Scott hadn’t even made it back yet! I’d only been in real, active labour for an hour or two, surely?! Oh, is that a pushy feeling I’m starting to get? Oh… No, can’t be, Kelly hasn’t even said that I should start pushing yet, surely she’d let me know when she thinks I can? I held back and tried not to push, but the noises I was making told even me that the baby was close.

Kelly was talking to me, repeating some of my affirmations for me since I couldn’t see my birthing flags. “Inhale peace, exhale tension… Relax, breathe, surrender…” The words floated past my head, catching in my ears now and then. “Tenielle…  Your baby is almost here… You know this… You can do this…” I still didn’t believe her. I thought she was trying to make me feel better so I would keep going. But I didn’t want to! This was the one and only time the word “hospital” was mentioned – I asked if I could go have a quick sleep there before coming back home to have the baby!

My secondary midwife, Jan, arrived during transition. I heard Mum and Kelly greeting her, but had no idea who had walked in. Somehow I knew it wasn’t Scott, probably because I didn’t hear his voice and he wasn’t holding my hand, but there was a new presence in the room. I opened my eyes by about a millimetre, decided it must be Jan, and waved tiredly. “Hello…” I whimpered, before another hard contraction rolled over me. Again, I heard an “Oh!” of surprise. 

Finally I gave in to my curiosity about being able to push, and gave a small one with a loud grunt. I felt Kelly spring up and heard her tell someone (Mum) to call Scott and see how far away he was. Mum came back to us with an estimated arrival time 40 minutes away, and Kelly was back at my side. “Tenielle… Scott’s not going to make it… He’s 40 minutes away…” It finally sunk in that yes, the baby is almost here. You are allowed to push. And push I did. Although disappointment seeped in that Scott and Lily weren’t going to be here – and as Lily was also acting as photographer, I wasn’t going to have any decent birth photos – I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold back for another 40 minutes. I was having this baby. Since I would be without a doula, I decided I’d have to be my own and started chanting phrases I planned to use for my own clients  – “soft face, soft cervix, open mouth, open cervix... Relaaaaaax...”

And I pushed. Oh, how I pushed! I reached into the water to support my lower belly, and actually felt the baby moving down past my hands on the inside. I felt a very poo-like feeling, and hoped against hope that it wasn’t actually poo. I felt myself stretch, and put my hands over my vagina hoping to feel a head. Nothing yet, hands back to my belly. I felt a great stinging sensation, a gush, and knew the amniotic sac had finally burst. I felt both Kelly and Jan reach down to try to find the baby’s heartbeat one more time (the only time I was even vaguely annoyed by them, although retrospect is again my friend and I know they were only doing their job). And finally, finally, I felt a small head starting to emerge. I felt bone slide over bone as our bodies worked together. I felt a slight urge to clench but the still-logical part of my brain told me that was a bad idea. I felt like I should change positions soon, because leaning forward made it feel as though I was splitting towards my front. I felt… a head pop out of me.

“Head’s out!” I grunted, leaning back a little as I gave a weak push. And then the rest of the body was out. My eyes popped open as I reached down and pulled a small body up and away from me. Kelly made me pause slightly as she looped the umbilical cord off the baby’s neck, and I brought this small wet thing out of the water and onto my body. I admittedly can’t remember exactly what I said, but I recall it being something like “Oh there you are!”

I had my hand on a tiny bottom and realized that there was no sign of a penis before I’d even looked at the baby’s face. “Feels like a girl…” I muttered as I tried to catch a glimpse between the baby’s legs and reposition us both. “Looks like a girl! Another girl!” I don’t think anyone heard me until about the fifth time I said it. By then I’d already given her her name – “Hello Elisabeth… Hello, my little Lissy…” I quickly introduced her to her big sister before I had to get out of the pool.

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We made our way over to the couch, still attached to each other, and I lay down for the first time in hours. I retreated into a world that contained only my baby and me. I couldn’t tell you what anybody else was saying, although I know I was talking to them as well. I fell in love completely with this tiny little girl on my chest. At one point Jan told me what time I had given birth, and I was floored – 3:38am. I hadn’t even thought I was really in labour at all until well after midnight, and it was all over shortly before FOUR?! I was astonished.

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Mum called Scott again at my request. When he answered, I said weakly “You have another daughter!” He asked me to repeat myself, trying not to show his disappointment. I practically shouted, “You have another DAUGHTER!” and heard him relay the news to Lily. I could tell both were upset to have missed everything, but I was in such bliss that it didn’t register until they arrived around twenty minutes later. Scott rushed directly to me, and together we drank in the sight of our new daughter. 

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My earlier statement came back to me. I had gone into labour. I had climbed into the birth pool. I had had a baby in my lounge room. And I was a birthing WARRIOR.

Elisabeth Billie Reid
Birth date: 21st December 2013
Weight: 3.745kg
Length: 52cm


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