37 weeks …..and the fun of government health care

Priv is 37 weeks this Friday, and I am petrified for her.

I have stood on my head and called as many people as I could, but there was very little in the way of her being able to get her into a hospital and confirm that if she arrives at 02h00 with amniotic fluid dripping out of her ya-hoo she can get immediate attention. or at least be in the right queue.

Basically the system is she goes to a clinic.  The clinic then refers her to a day hospital, the day hospital in turn then refer her to a hospital who can then deliver the baby.

It really is a long winded process, and it sort of explains clearly why babies are delivered on the road side or in taxi’s.

Please bear in mind she cannot go to the day hospital unless she is referred by the clinic.

Priv is 37 weeks, and she is still having to haul arse to the day clinic once a week.  I am sort of trying to understand that this is the system and everyone should wait their turn.

I am trying to be reassured by this.  That assuming there is nothing seriously the matter, she can stand in a queue at the clinic whilst in labour, and wait for them to refer her to the day hospital, and then stand there and wait until they refer her to the hospital … assuming she has not actually delivered the baby whilst standing in the queue.

Again I am trying very hard to be patient, and not get my white suburban madam knickers in a knot, but here is the part where I am alarmed.

Every time she goes to the clinic, they look at her foetal assessment scan which she had at 24 weeks, and make a judgment from there.  They have not felt her stomach, have no idea if the baby is standing on her head or doing cartwheels – no idea.

I took her to the foetal assessment centre as she only realised she was pregnant at +22 weeks and had no pre-natal care at that point.

The scan the clinic is looking at is 13 weeks old, and at this point her baby could have done a somersault, moved in furniture and gone out for a curry.

I am so frustrated with this process I want to scream.

I have tried to call everyone to try and ensure she gets some indication of proper care – I really do not want Priv to find out there is a problem after she has been in 48 hours of labour and has to catch a taxi to the hospital after being left sitting on a wooden bench at the clinic for the last two days.

There is no end to the amount of “being bounced” that is a continual theme of dealing with the government health system.

I made another appointment for her tomorrow at the foetal assessment centre – if they are going to work off an old scan, let them at least have something that might indicate the baby is in her stomach and which way it is facing, and that she is actually still in there.

Screaming in frustration!!

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Wear Your Heart on your Stomach …love the idea ….

I thought more about the post yesterday after it was posted than before I pushed “publish.”

Partly due to some of the comments I received, and this link that Jess and Julz sent on to me.

It got me thinking, I’d love to have a good photo of me and my scar so that I can look at it and think of it fondly rather than in distress like I do at the moment.

I think of it as ugly and want it to go away – but I love the idea that we look at it as “wearing our hearts on our stomachs.”

Really love that concept.  I had a little mind paradigm shift there.

I would love to do some black and white photos of c-section scars or birth scars.

I would like to get a few moms into a studio and take some studio pics that they can have and also I can have in a gallery.

I think it would be even better to wait for better weather and do it outside in a private garden.

I am not 100% clear in my head of how to do them yet.  I figure I can work it out.  I want it to be something you would keep and cherish, rather than hide in the back of your underwear drawer.

If you are in Cape Town, feel like getting na.k.ed or partly clad in a studio or outdoors – and want to do this drop me a note.  My email address is along the side bar, or leave a comment and I will contact you.

I am thinking if I have 3 – 5 woman, I can rent a studio for 2 – 3 hours, if the ladies are keen to chip in to cover the cost of the studio, I will sort out the rest.

We can do wine and photography — I find that is not always the worst combination.

Drop me a note if you are interested in the idea.

If you do not want to do it with anyone else, drop me a note and we can see what we can do.

Or if you have a suggestion to improve on this idea.  I am not sure when I will do it, but it is running around in my head.

Here is Georgia’s birth on 20 June 2005 – first cut and final dab …. look away if you are squeamish …

<seriously – look away, stop scrolling ….>

Last warning.

Otherwise, have a good weekend. Happy Friday everyone!!

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I have this friend who I love dearly – she really is one of my best friends.

There is about a 7 year age difference between us – she is younger than me.  We get on like a house on fire, and she makes me laugh so much that it makes my soul smile.  She is one of the most beautiful and vibrant people I know.

She got married about four years ago and had a baby recently.

I recall chatting to her when she was pregnant.  There were several moments where I really wanted to “bring her down” and discuss the “someone should tell you the reality of pregnancy, birth and the thereafter…” but I felt she was so happy and optimistic, and maybe it would be different for her …. maybe. 

I decided to leave it, and only tell her something if she asked specifically.

She knew I chatted on forums and she knew I wrote a blog because I found all things motherhood a challenge. For me it was lonely and I did not really have someone who was telling me the “real stuff” or again maybe I was not listening.

At the time my biggest lament was “why did no one tell me that it was going to be like this….”

But that being said,  I was not going to be a downer on someone else’s rather happy parade. 

If they are all excited and optimistic about it, and prefer not to hear, then I am quite happy to smile pleasantly and let them remain happy.

She kept saying “I know it will be hard but thousands of women do it and I will be fine…”

And though I really felt I wanted to put my hand up and go “I really need to tell you what you are letting yourself in for ..” I resisted and instead opted  to take the high road and say little or nothing. 

<I really had to chew the inside of my cheek, as saying nothing is not part of my natural makeup.>

Fekn hell.

She had a natural birth that included screaming, tearing, baby getting stuck at the shoulder, baby being suctioned, OBGYN screaming (screaming) I NEED HELP HERE, OGBYN doing purl-plain-purl-plain to put her back together again, and and and …. (listen, I think she is a super hero for making it through, really, I might have stood up and said “Okay that is about as far as I am going here – someone give me gas or general anasthetic, and someone get this frikkn baby out …. because I am done!!”)

When I visited her later on “birth day” she had that far-away look like when someone sees something horrific.  It was as if she had survived something huge, but had seen the dark side and was now had a haunted look about her.

But we laughed and I patted her hand, and listened to her talk about her going home and how that was going to be …and I patted her hand a bit more, because she did not appear to be worried.

Again I felt an overriding urge to go “er…….” but I didn’t.  She seemed happy, she seemed confident, and that was enough to keep me quiet, and for hells sake she had just been through Hades.

She got home and unfortunately that is really where the fun started.

Baby is struggling to latch, she is stressed and upset and clearly not sleeping, and is making nearly daily trips to the clinic – I really really feel sorry for her.  When I speak to her I can feel her pain, and I want to cry with her.

Why can I feel her pain?  Because I was there.

And so were most (if not all) first time mothers. 

We have lived that hell of arriving home with your new born.   You are about 5km from that Linus blanket that is the nurses red button, and suddenly that sleepy little fresh smelling baby is screaming and you do not have a clue how to cope.  You are hormonally overloaded, your body is exhausted and nothing is working like it says it will in the books.

Nothing.

She is trying to breastfeed and its fkn difficult and it is not working.  But she has all this pressure that she must and she is weeping and wondering if it makes her a bad mother if she does not breastfeed!

Oh my heavens, my heart bleeds for her. I wish I could tell her that it will be better tomorrow, but we all know that first 6 – 8 weeks is like a slow ride to Danté’s hell without coins to pay the ferryman to get out of it.

And then she says: “Why did no one tell me that it was going to be like this…?” with a sort of hysterical note in her voice.

I love this girl – I really do!!

The short answer is, no one tells you because no one listens.

Everyone thinks that they are going to have this miracle pregnancy and this “soft light and roses” birth, followed by  the new little family skipping off into the sunset.  It is all going to be heaven and soft milky baby burps from here on in.

As sorry as I do feel for her – and I do – part of me smiles – not because I am a mean person – and quite possibly because I am – but because sh&t we all go through this, and I remember it, not fondly, I just remember it.

<but I do hope for her that this 6 weeks passes quickly, she regains her sanity and that this is a small bump on her road with her new baby …. I really do>

Gawd help you if you try to tell a pregnant first time mom about the “big bad world” because she will raise her perfectly plucked eyebrow and place her left hand – so you can see the glint of her wedding ring –  gently onto her perfect bump, and tell you in no uncertain terms that you are sorely mistaken, she has this under control.

And that is why when I see a really happy pregnant first time mom, I smile, take a really large sip of my Chenin Blanc, lean over and go: “So how’s it all going?” with a slightly evil glint in my eye.

Georgia’s Birth …

I was going through some of our photo records, and I started looking at the birth photos of the kids,  and really they are pretty unusual.

I thought I would post them over here … this is Georgia’s birth at Cape Town Medi-Clinic 20 June 2005.

This is the first cut …  (which I believe is the deepest …)

So once the cut is done, they reach in and get her head free – note how skew her nose is – she was so cramped in the uterus …. so here they are suctioning her while they keep her body warm …

and then they yank her out …. much to her displeasure …

They flash her to the camera … she is not quite in the mood for smiling … what with her vernix hanging out and all ..

Doctor is now ready to separate mommy and baby …

She gets taken over the paed and they all check her out …

Strangely enough, she is still less than pleased …

Baby is given to mom … mom has had a rough day, and mom thought the baby would have testicles, so was a little surprised to say the least …

So while I am coming to terms with vagina versus penis issues, the good folks are doing a mighty fine job stitching the cookie bits with the cookie bits, and the chocolate bits with the chocolate bits …

So while the pearl-and-plain brigade are busy, they put baby on my chest – really nice folks these guys at Cape Town Medi-Clinic.

The hospital was brilliant  – it was quite late, so I was the only patient in post-op, they left Georgia with me and let her breastfeed in post-op, what a great experience.

This being born this is just exhausting, Georgia fallen asleep while breastfeeding …

The truth be told, she was not Georgia for at least another two hours.  I was so convinced I was having a boy, I had settled on Callum or Caleb, and not really factored girl’s names into the equation.

Georgia was nameless for several hours following birth.  I really could not have been more surprised had they me a giraffe, but there were are.

End of Days

Kennith likes to get his monies worth out of everything.

The fact that we had paid for the full day at our Medi-Clinic meant that I was going to stay there for the full day – none of this going home at 11am nansy-pansy stuff.

After work Kennith arrived to collect me.  I had been sobbing for the last two days and the idea of wrenching me away from my trusty nurses’ buzzer did little to calm my already frayed nerves.

In the car we go and start the drive home, which in a non traffic situation would be about 20 minutes.  The consequences of collecting me late was that now we were trekking home in rush hour traffic on what is a very busy route.

The problem started when I was sitting in the back seat with Connor firmly strapped in his snug and safe (points there for supporting the Arrive Alive campaign).  I looked over at him and it occurred to me that he was dead.  I could not see that he was breathing.  5 minutes with me and my child had clearly not survived.  I sat there in the back seat wondering how long I should let this continue before bringing it to someone’s attention.

Unfortunately with a manic episode one’s concept of the linear time equation gets a bit skewed and minutes seem like hours and visa-versa.  I yanked Connor out of his seat and decided that if I breastfed him, then it would wake him up and if he woke up, then he could not be dead, and then all would be fine.  Kennith is trying to drive and keep this situation as sane as possible.

I eventually get Connor out of his seat, whip my shirt over my head (I do not endorse driving with kids out of a car seat, but this moment I was having a clear break down of anything remotely normal).  My breast exposure resulted in cheers and generally lecherous behavious from the labourers returning from work on the construction truck driving adjacent to us.

I am trying to push my rather inflated breast into Connor’s face and he is so fast asleep that he is not taking any notice.  To my rather frazzled mind, this indicates again how dead he actually is.  Kennith pulls over to the side of the road checks the baby – reassures me baby is fine and carries on driving.   His reassurance calms me for all of 30 seconds and then I start panicking again.

All I can think of is that this baby is near death (notice how the level of death keeps changing for me on this drive.)  I need to get it to a hospital – and how are we going to get to the hospital if the traffic is bumper to bumper.

The other critical issue is that Kennith is wrong and he has now become the enemy to my trying to save the life of my baby.  I am already thinking of how I am going to field questions from people when they ask “how’s the baby” and I have to explain that I could not get him home without killing him.

At this point, I am thinking that when Kennith slows at the robot, I can jump out the car with Connor, rush into oncoming traffic, hop in to an unsuspecting person’s car and ask them to take me to the nearest hospital ER.  All a good plan – just trying to work out my timing and whether I am going to tuck and roll when I eject myself from the motor vehicle.

I am so deep in thought that Kennith’s eff’ing and blinding finally breaks through and I realize that the car is over-heating.  He has to pull over to the side of the road while plumes of steam and smoke are coming out from under the bonnet.

The only thing keeping me from total hysteria is that I am busy hatching my “jump out of the car” plan.  Before I can take my plan to the next level, the Albino character from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie End of Days appears along side us – this woman was incredible.  She was also incredibly drunk, but I digress.

This guy was straight off the set of End of Days - it was incredible.

This person was straight off the set of End of Days - it was incredible.

As we had blocked her path, she steps to the right, and then proceeds to pull her homeless trolley along the side of our car.  We sat there in the car hearing the high pitched screech of metal on metal.

Kennith flips his switch and moves away from the sanity corner.  He hops out of the car intent on causing severe bodily harm to the homeless person – at some point he realises it is a woman.  In the end he decided that using his super human strength and tossing her trolley to the kurb was the solution.  The situation is clearly past out of control and now we have a drunken bergie person swearing and blinding at us.

Kennith gets back in the car and with a  final eff’it, starts the engine and just drives home totally ignoring the plumes of steam and potential fire under the bonnet.

By the time we get home I am about ready for my shot of Valium, hell it should be administered as a drip at this point.

My mom had made us a wonderful lasagna and salad as our welcome home dinner and I am crying and just want to lie on the bed and cried some more while holding my child like a blubbering idiot.

I am not sure of how happy other people’s home comings have been with their babies, but that was mine!

The Crying Game Begins

The pregnancy moved along without much incident.  There were some work issues and  I resign to do some freelance work.

I worked three freelance jobs in my last two months of pregnancy as I felt this overwhelming urge to ensure we had a nest egg in place.  I was feeling fit and good, so other than being a bit tired, it was all quite jolly.

My OBGYN was supportive of an elective c-section – bless him.

I’m a bit of type-A and the idea of squeezing something the size of a rugby ball out of my front-bottom, compounded by not being able to plan when-where-and-how was really not helping my stress levels.

Once I had a date, and a theatre booked, I felt much better.  I had managed to focus only on the pregnancy and the idea that at the end of this   I had nothing to compare the two procedures against in terms of pain and drug supply, but I felt strongly I would be more calm in a situation where I had some control, so a c-section was the block that I ticked.

The idea of freedom of choice has not really worked its way down into the rather complicated maze of childbirth and there was still a definite opposition to c-sections.

The question I had to field the most regularly was “what’s wrong with you?” and I found myself explaining my situation even to a very strange woman in Woolworths who happened to get my work telephone number and ring me there to “chat” some more – I kid you not.

The idea of the c-section was a bit daunting.  Someone hacking through you with a very sharp scalpel and moving your insides around is scary no matter how good a mood you are in.  I felt like I had read every pregnancy/birth book (I am a voracious reader) and felt comfortable and safe with my choice.

Everything went to schedule and our bonny wee lad Connor was born on the morning of the 10 December.  There was much hand clapping and cheering – I had my friend David come and take photographs during the surgery and he was a great addition.  I was blissfully happy until day three rolled around, then I started to cry and cry.  It was quite staggering exactly how much tears and snot really could come out of one person and I was almost inconsolable.   The nurses seems to look at me with disdain which did not help my cause in the least.

My friend Alice refers to it as “literally crying over split milk,” which is a very good reference.  I was sobbing and howling – the kind where your eyes are red and swollen and there are large globules of saliva dripping out of your mouth.  I am not talking about the polite cry where the odd tear makes it’s way down your just foundation-applied face.

I felt the nurses all knew more than me and were mean and controlling, actually the janitor probably knew more than me at that point.  I was hopelessly untrained and unskilled for my new role.

My biggest surprise was that I did not get a baby manual at the hospital – it seemed like a very complicated purchase to not be provided with some sort of manual.  I felt information about the baby, when to feed, my boobs and I could not retain anything.  I really really started to panic.

It was so apparent that when it came to going home day, my OBGYN asked if I would like to stay another day – through my blubbering I said “I’m fine.”

Kennith fetched me.  I was still blubbering.  I managed to get myself dressed, bath my wrinkled little baby, get my flowers and “congratulations it’s a boy” balloons together and make my way to the exit of the hospital.  I felt reassured that the nurse walked with us to the door of the hospital.

I was so desperately afraid I am sure she could see the pleading in my eyes and smell the fear on my skin.  It did seem rather abrupt when she handed us the baby, and then retreated with the bassinet behind the sterile sliding doors of the hospital leaving us alone on the kerb holding this wrapped up baby.

I had not factored the “drive home from hell” – so in retrospect I wish I had known what a truly happy moment I was having right then and there.