Matrescence.

Almost a year ago, a beautiful little girl was born.

During her pregnancy, as her Mama’s belly grew and bloomed, and her arrival approached, we all waited eagerly for the news of her safe entrance to this world.

When the call came, I wept with joy at work, for the gift of life, and the miracle of birth. That day, I had already helped to welcome a dear little boy into his parents arms, and I was filled with gratitude for that experience. My oxytocin levels were sky high as I sat down to fill out his paperwork. And then the phone call came, and I knew that she was here, this precious darling we had been waiting for, and that she, her Mama and her Daddy were beginning a journey so incredible, I couldn’t begin to verbalise it.

Once again, I got to become Aunty Rysie, and just like that, my heart opened up a brand new spot, just for her.

One year ago tomorrow, this precious little soul came along, to enchant us with her sweet and bubbly personality, her gummy smiles, and her delightful chubby cheeks.

And one year ago, somewhat in the shadow of the excitement of welcoming this incredible newborn into the world, another equally miraculous happening occured:

A mother was born.

You know, we don’t tend to talk much about the birth of a mother. It seems that amidst the childbirth preparation, and the breastfeeding education, the safe sleeping guidelines, and the maternity appointments, it is somewhat overlooked.

But it really is a thing – this maternal psychological, emotional and physical transition following pregnancy and childbirth – and there is an actual term for it, and it appears most acutely during the first twelve months of motherhood, but continues, basically, forevermore.

It’s called Matrescence, and just like childbirth, it’s full of challenging contractions, and moments of self doubt, coupled with the realisation of raw strength and power, introversion, reflection and vulnerability.

The contractions aren’t felt in the uterus during the birth of the mother, but rather in the heart, as we grapple with our sense of self in the midst of a new role, questioning our ability to carry this responsibility, learning to trust our intuition, and discovering where we stand in our newly redefined relationships.

The words “I can’t do this” are even more common during Matrescence than they are during childbirth, but the difference is that they are rarely spoken out loud during the birth of the mother. They are whispered in the dead of night, to no one, and written in journals, and maybe, just maybe, confidentially uttered to a friend. For you see, we expect to be born into motherhood knowing what to do.

But the knowledge, and the growth can only come when the heart has given way to the birthing process, and even then when we think it’s all done, the afterpains can be shockingly raw for years to come.

It can get ugly, as we judge ourselves for the multitude of ways we feel as though we’ve done wrong. But it’s also incredibly beautiful, as we watch our children thrive and grow, and know intrinsically that we played a huge role in that.

Unlike childbirth, there’s no regularity or predictability to the labour pains felt during the birth of the mother. They come randomly, and vary in their intensity, but they almost always cause us to stop in our tracks.

*contraction*

We look at our new bodies, in awe of what they’ve created, but in bemusement of the marks, and skin, and it’s new shape, left in the wake of creating life. Our favourite pants don’t fit, but there’s no way we are going to buy new clothes for these new curves. Nuh-uh. We aren’t ready for that shift yet. It’s all trackpants and maternity singlets until we figure out what to do with extra junk in the trunk, and not to mention the new set of Pammy Anderson’s on our front. It’s all about giant maternity undies that suck the belly in, and don’t put too much pressure on the tender bits, and honest to God, if there’s ever been something to prioritise, THIS IS IT.

*contraction*

We look at our partners snoring in bed, as we sit awake feeding the baby, cursing them on one hand for their redundant nipples and obscene ability to sleep through the baby snuffles and grunts that keep us awake, while simultaneously loving the shit out of them for the way they supported us in childbirth, the way they bring us coffee and the way they love this baby so immensely. Then we remember how they got the baby all excited at bathtime, when it should have been wind down time, so the little ratbag wouldn’t sleep, and then we are back to hating on their snoring heads.

*contraction*

Somehow, coffee with friends just got really hard. We are awake at weird times, and we might be desperately lonely, but so, so often, the sleep deprivation wins out, and it’s another pyjama day at home. Or maybe we’ve spent the past fortnight gearing up for a girl’s night – shaved the legs, washed the hair, maybe even bunged on some fake tan, only for the night to arrive to find us sitting in the Emergency Department with a toddler with croup, and we realise that what we want to do is sometimes in direct opposition to what we need to do. And it can hurt.

*contraction*

We spend months, hell, YEARS waiting for the baby not to need us so intensely, waiting for the chance to regain ourselves back, just a bit. Then we cry when we return to work because we miss them so much, forget how to hold a conversation that doesn’t include them at least once, and feel on the verge of tears when the little bugger reaches for daddy at bedtime. Who even ARE we without these little people??

*contraction*

Our firstborn starts highschool. Wait, what?? STOP!!!!

To my dear friend, who has just about completed that first year with absolute grace. To her partner, who has been both her rock and the snoring head in the bed. And to sweet baby A, who always reaches for daddy.

You are so loved, and we are so proud of you all.

Big love,

Rysie

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It boils down to this…

I’ve written about my own births quite a few times throughout my blog posts, and most of you know I birthed with a midwife as my primary carer.

Although I’ve often reflected on how wonderful my experiences were, I’ve struggled to establish exactly WHY I felt that way – aside from knowing that I felt absolutely safe and supported, both times.

Yesterday, at work, a colleague of mine was sharing with our midwifery team some literature she had found, discussing the “three C’s” of pregnancy care and how satisfied mothers reported being with their care.

And there was my A-ha! moment.

All three C’s were major components of my pregnany care.

I KNEW my midwife (and her backup), and she knew me. I saw her at every appointment. She knew what I was up to, physically, mentally, and emotionally. She remembered things that we had discussed before. She got to know my husband. She was there when things were great, and she was there when things became challenging. She was my person.

There is nothing within a fragmented maternity care model that will ever measure up to this kind of familiarity and security. CONTINUITY of caregiver is just so crucial to good care.

Every single decision relating to my pregnancy care was MADE BY ME. I was given information, practical education and time to make the choices I needed to make around my care. I was informed fully about the risks and benefits around everything that was offered to me, and I was prompted to explore the evidence bases from which this information was taken. I was given statistics and percentages, and I was never handed generalised statements to try and sway my thoughts. I was encouraged to ask questions.

Every CHOICE I made was fully informed by evidence. And every choice I made, was one hundred percent made by me.

Thus, when it came to my pregnancies and births, I felt as those experiences really belonged to me. I was extremely well informed. I had a caregiver that I trusted. And when things became a bit more complicated during my second pregnancy, I drew upon those resources to help me to establish my sense of CONTROL.

Having control doesn’t mean having a “perfect” experience. Having control, to me, meant being the key stakeholder in the decision making that was going to affect me and my baby.

When the Girl Child was threatening to make an early arrival, I’m sure I drove people mad with my questions. But I wanted to know the paediatric team. I wanted an orientation to the special care nursery. I wanted to discuss how things might look if it all went pear shaped, what a transfer might mean, and what supports I would have. I wanted as much information as I could possibly be given, so that I could re-evaluate what choices were available to me in this potential scenario.

I was never left sitting in a bed, wondering “what if”. The communication and engagement from every professional involved was flawless. And it was led by my midwife, who only needed to look at my face to know that I was ruminating on something.

Control, for me, wasn’t about dictating a result. It was about being considered, and incorporated into decisions about my care. It was about honest conversations, and being informed of changes, and being spoken to, instead of being spoken about.

As it turned out, the Girl Child behaved herself and stayed in until 38 weeks. So, none of that planning was put into place in the end. But, during a really frightening time, I felt completely safe and supported.

Why?

Because of the three C’s.

They were there, lit up in neon, both times for me.

I wish, more than anything that more women had that experience (minus the threatened prem of course!), because, for me, it was literally life changing.

Would love to hear your experiences?

Big love,

Rysie.

Mother Earth

This Earth – she is our Mother.

She nourishes us, provides for us, and gives herself for us.

Like hungry infants, we nuzzle forcefully into her breast; demanding, seeking and craving the nourishment and security she represents.

And like wilfull todlers, we demand more and more; for what is hers is ours, and we know she will never deny us.

Eventually, she will crumble under the weight of our demands; such is her love for us.

And only then, when we are orphaned, perhaps we shall understand her gifts, her sacrifice, and our own destructive greed.

She deserves better.

This Earth – she is our Mother.

*image from Google.

The Myth of the Good Baby

Two new parents, and a brand new baby.

They’re exhausted, and like every set of new parents ever, fumbling their way through the first days of newborn life.

Have I done the nappy right? Is he latched properly? Why in God’s name is his poo black?? Support the head!! Support the head!!

As they’re working their way through all of these unknowns, along comes the inevitable question:

IS HE A GOOD BABY?

Nothing makes my teeth grind more than this question. I WISH someone would answer this one day with:

“Oh, no actually, he’s a juvenile delinquent. He’s been running an International Drug Trafficking Ring from the inside – we’re just off to face court now”

Or maybe:

“Nope, he’s a jackass. He came out, looked around, criticised the decor and the menu, and demanded a refund. Worst baby ever.”

But of course, when your brain is mush, answers like that don’t come easily. So, we just nod along, and say yes.

Of course, the question is referring to sleep. And at two days old, I’d be fairly confident in suggesting that little Archie is sleeping like a baby – that is, in short bursts, interspersed with crying, and feeding, shitting and burping.

Which in my eyes, makes him a very good baby indeed.

He’s a newborn. There are going to be days where he’s an absolute dream. There are going to be days where they’re convinced he came directly from Satan himself, and they’d willingly had him over to the postman if given the chance. And there are going to be lots of days in between.

And just when they think they’ve got that baby figured out, there’ll be new developmental leaps, and teething, and fevers, and tantrums. And through all of that? He’ll STILL be a good baby.

Newborn babies do what they’re biologically programmed to do. They cry for food, for comfort and security, and when they’re in pain. They seek out their parents to provide what they need. They do it A LOT. It’s NORMAL.

This kid doesn’t know he’s a Royal, and he’s supposed to behave with decorum. The only thing he knows is that he’s now in a whole new world that is nothing like he’s familiar with. So, like every newborn before him, he’s going to go off like a frog in a sock until he figures it all out.

Because he’s a GOOD BABY.

Big love,

Rysie.

So, I heard you made fun of my Mama?

Did you know that in the day before Meghan Markle gave birth to her son, she was the source of much hilarity at a Global Obstetrics Summit?

According to multiple media reports, discussion around her upcoming birth included this pearler of a quote:

“Meghan Markle has decided she’s going to have a doula and a willow tree… let’s see how that goes,” Dr. Timothy Draycott, envoy of the Royal College of Gynecology and a professor at the University of Bristol, reportedly said to “raucous laughter” from the audience of doctors in attendance. “She’s 37, first birth … I don’t know,” he went on.

I sincerely hope that the first photo that the happy new parents release to Instagram looks something like this GIF.

The culture of birthing is so heavily swayed and influenced by those who “control” it. And in my opinion, if the people (such as the charming speaker from the ACOG conference) who DO control it have ZERO faith or belief in women AND WHAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF, and actively seek to undermine and belittle the exact population that they are supposed to be providing THE BEST CARE for, then maybe we’ve got the wrong people running the show.

Just sayin’.

Rysie.

Mother’s Day Musings

In case you haven’t noticed, Mother’s Day is approaching.

For the past few weeks, my letter box has been full of junk mail, advertising the “perfect” gift for mum – most it overwhelmingly pink, fluffy, and irritating.

There’s nothing about motherhood, in my opinion, that is adequately represented by the saccharine images assaulting my mail box.

Motherhood, for me, has been raw, joyous, overwhelming and frustrating as hell. It’s been lonely, yet smothering. It’s been full of love, with elements of resentment. It’s had days of absolute fulfillment, as well as days of feeling lost, both in my new role, and as a person. It’s seen me roaring with laughter at the antics of a little human that I somehow created, and it’s seen me weeping in exasperation at the same child, on the same day.

Motherhood, to me, has always been a quagmire of contradictions. Soft cuddles, with sharp edges of self doubt. Completely overwhelming love, weighed down by the unbelievably unfamiliar sense of responsibility that came with it. Finding the ability to be fearless for my children, but understanding fear like I never had before.

Entering motherhood stripped me bare – and underneath all of my layers of conditioning and expectation, I found a Warrior. I never knew she was there, but as my first born wrapped his tiny fingers around my pinky finger as he lay on my chest, I realised she was here to stay.

Soft cuddles, and sharp edges.

This Mother’s Day, I’m asking my kids to give the stores and shopping centres a miss, although I know they get a huge buzz from picking out some delightfully random trinket from the Mother’s Day stall at school. I love the thought they put into their choices. In fact, the mug in this picture is one of those special gifts from a couple of years ago. I love it.

But, truth be told, there is nothing more that this Mama could ever need.

However, there are many others who do.

This Mother’s Day, I’m asking my family to make a donation on my behalf to services that are looking out for the other mothers out there; those who are struggling to navigate their way through motherhood – financially, emotionally, or for any other myriad of reasons.

This Mother’s Day, I want my gift to go towards resources for mothers whose arms are empty, or missing one of their precious ones – those who have come face to face with the reality of loss.

This Mother’s Day, I want to show love to those who may never have carried, or birthed a child, yet who’ve stepped into the Warrior role for the children in their lives, despite living with infertility and all that it entails.

This all means so much more to me than a new pair of slippers ever could.

I’m not in any way affilliated with any of the following charity groups, but this is the list I’ll be giving to Hot Husband to look at and consider with the kids.

Perhaps one of them might resonate with you too.

Big love,

Rysie.

EUREKA MUMS:
https://www.eurekamums.org/pages/donate-things

ST KILDA MUMS:
https://www.stkildamums.org/pages/one-mother-to-another

ANGEL GOWNS AUSTRALIA:
https://www.mycause.com.au/mothersday
https://www.angelgownsaustralia.org.au/index.php/how-to-donate-money

SIDS AND KIDS:
https://rednose.com.au/donation

HEARTFELT:
https://www.heartfelt.org.au/donate

PANDA:
https://www.panda.org.au/get-involved/donate

ACCESS AUSTRALIA (infertility support network):
http://access.org.au/?p=310

Awakening.

I’ve just woken up after night shift number three, and I’m laying in bed with this dude keeping my legs warm, feeling pretty thankful for my lot in life.

Midwifery nights are rarely quiet shifts, and the past three have been no exception, but when the work is done, I get to come home to kiddos who run to greet me at the door and kiss me “goodnight” before they go to school, a husband who brings me a coffee when I wake up, and this delightfully unappreciative animal who simply can’t wait for me to get into bed, so he can claim his spot on my legs.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

The little things are big things, and as I sit here with my coffee and my cat, I am so grateful for all of it.

What’s on your list of little things today?

Big love,
Rysie.

#midwifelife #unappreciativecat