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On being ‘just right’

There is a strange shift in respect and boundaries as soon as a woman becomes pregnant or at least as soon as she looks pregnant. I would go as far as saying there’s an outright disrespect of the pregnant woman and her body happening and it seems to just be the norm. Personal space vanishes and you become fair game because there’s another human growing inside you. Comments, groping, nothing is sacred. Sound like it doesn’t make sense? It doesn’t.

“Oh my, you’re huge!” “You’re so big!” “You look about ready to pop! Any day now?” “Twins?” “Must be a big baby!”

Everyone’s a bloody expert on your size and the general consensus is that you’re either way too big or way too small for wherever you are in the land of gestation. You’re rarely ‘just right’. And women seem to be the ones leading this field of so-called “expertise”, probably because they’ve either been pregnant themselves or simply because they’re women. If it sounds like I’m irritated it’s because I am. In fact, I’m pissed off.

During my first pregnancy I had just gotten to a place with my body image where I was comfortable in my own skin. Years of being told that I was too skinny, had too small boobs, had this or that wrong with me was finally starting to wear off largely because I was with a man who never, not once, made me feel as if I looked anything other than just right, he even made me feel beautiful and comfortable naked. That is no small feat after years of being told the opposite.

When we excitedly expected our first baby and morning sickness came to visit I was worried about my weight, but we didn’t own scales so it wasn’t until 12 weeks that I was weighed and found out I was 47 kgs. I freaked out. No one told me there was a problem, but in my head all those “too skinny”, “anorexic” ghosts came back in a big way. So I started eating. A lot. It didn’t help that the first 20 weeks were filled with fortnightly check ups to make sure my cervix was holding (it was very short) and I felt alone, shit scared and depressed. I was studying and so my days were largely spent at home, shuffling between the kitchen and the computer. We still didn’t own scales so there was no way for me to track my weight except through my Wii fit who promptly told me I was becoming overweight because there is no pregnancy setting on the damn thing. Needless to say I stopped using that. Being of a very tiny frame in the first place I quickly gained a bump which I adored more than anything.  Except when people groped it uninvited. Around 6 months I started hearing how big I was, that it had to be twins and all that. By that stage I looked like this:

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This is me at 24+3 with Anakin. Too big? I wouldn’t say so. I kept eating. I grew out of my size 8 pants, but then again they were size 8, right? But I kept eating. Before that I also heard a lot of “you’ll be back to your normal size by the time you leave the hospital” “You’re so skinny in the first place it will all just vanish once the baby’s born” from people who knew me.  No pressure at all to lose all the pregnancy weight as soon as the placenta was born…  But then it got to a point where the comments went in another direction. And they were far from subtle or nice.

Yes, i did gain a massive amount of weight and in the process I started getting new issues about it all. No one wants to hear how huge they are. Would you go up to a plus size person and say “oh my, you’re so fat?” Why is it so different because you’re pregnant? And it was more or less constant, from strangers, from family… I mostly played along and even said it myself, but it was doing a number on me big time.

Once Anakin was born it took me ages to look anything like my regular self. The tummy didn’t go down fast and despite losing weight at what was probably a normal pace I had a long way to go. When Anakin was around 16 weeks I was just over 63 kgs, but still not looking anything like my old self. I had lost a huge amount, but my brain was so messed up from hearing how big I had been that all I saw was those extra kilos and my new mummy pouch.

Fast forward to this pregnancy. I had just started to come to terms with my new body shape and my slightly bigger size when we got pregnant again. I was 60 kgs and thought I looked ok, even normal. Long gone was the size 8 wardrobe, but I was ok with that. The bump got pretty bumpy pretty fast. Subsequent pregnancies will do that as your muscles aren’t what they used to be. My ghosts came back along with all the other drama that went down in those first weeks. Morning sickness was back with a vengeance, worse than the first time around. And as we got further along I heard myself saying things about my body that wasn’t nice at all and growing concerned about gaining weight again. And the closer we got to 20 weeks the more I started hearing how big I was.

Last weekend I got it all in one go. 25 weeks pregnant and “any day now?” “Twins?’ “Must be a big baby!” I’ve gained 7kgs so far and this was me last friday, at 25 weeks, no Photoshop, just me.

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I met the lady who runs my prenatal gym classes after that assault of unwanted opinions, a slender, super fit mid twenties lady 30 weeks pregnant and who looks amazing. She’d just been told the same thing. There is nothing remotely huge about her. Nor is there about me. We’re just right. Different pregnancies, different bodies, different babies, different everything. No woman is the same, no pregnant body is the same. And I am so tired of fighting this war with my brain about gaining weight again because I am constantly told how big I am that I can’t help but repeat it myself. We’re supposed to get bigger, we’re growing humans! Our bodies are supposed to change! There is nothing wrong with a bigger bump!

Let us feel beautiful because frankly when I look at the above image I don’t see huge or big, I see beautiful. I see life, I see happiness. But I need images like these to feel that way because as soon as I have to get dressed in the morning I find myself concerned about wearing maternity dresses because they make me look bigger and it is fucked up! I dress in things that hug the bump rather than fall off it because I just don’t know how I’ll react to the next “big” comment I hear. It’s tiresome. And it’s maintaining this messed up body image that’s etched in my brain.

I take these photos so my daughter can see what I looked like carrying her. So that she can see what we looked like when we were two bodies in one, and I take them to give evidence to myself that I am just right. And to remind myself that my pregnancies are beautiful, that they look beautiful. A body in blossom, not a body gaining weight.

Luckily I still have that man who without fail makes me feel just right. I just wish the rest of the world would stop playing the experts and instead of calling a pregnant woman big, call her beautiful.

 

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(Image taken from Hip to be Round – A Maternity Boutique)

Alternatively just shut the hell up.

 

Tales of Transformation – enacting displaced identity

Tales of Transformation was a journey I embarked upon in February, 2011, which came to its academic close in September, 2014. (The body of work is ongoing.) Soon after I started my Masters I found out there was a little Anakin living in my uterus and so the journey took on a whole other level. I shot the first image in 2011 at Hanging Rock during an exhausting first trimester, I shot the last in a park with a sleeping toddler at home in 2014 and finished the exegesis, printed and hung the show while dealing with a miscarriage and the start of another pregnancy. It’s been quite a ride! And I am incredibly proud of the result. So far it consists of 13 photographic light paintings with more to come.

There is no way I can do a 25 000 word exegesis justice in a blog. There is no way I can even begin to talk about it all, but I’ll try my best to give you a taste of what it’s all about. And because my pregnancy brain can not be bothered trying to boil it down in a new way I’ll give you a bit from the introduction to my exegesis as framework:

(All words and images are copyrighted.)

 

Transformation and Translation

 Home.

The physical construct one lives in, a place of residence. An environment that offers a sense of security and happiness, a sense of belonging. A place of origin, a place where one was born or lived for an extended time, a native habitat. A source, a starting point, of relating to or being of a place. The centre or heart of something.[1]

The concept of home is no less complex now in a world that has grown more connected, and we move more often and more freely within it. The saying home is where the heart is rings truer than ever.

As a Norwegian expat of many years, I often find myself contemplating where or what home is. If home really is where the heart is, does that mean that I will forever be torn between two countries and two cultures, or have we in our globalized society finally surpassed this strange need to identify and categorize ourselves as belonging to one specific place?

Many expats often speak of “missing a piece” of themselves, or of feeling incomplete as a result of being away from their native country. They speak warmly of the return or revisit to their homeland, as if they have both an emotional and a physical connection to their place of birth. Outside this place of origin they feel estranged, and in a constant battle between languages and cultures.

I have never been such an expat.

To me it was with a great sense of relief that I left my home country. I felt invigorated and unrestricted. It was as if I had been stuck in a small box for far too long and finally I set myself free. That is, I finally found room to grow. I still feel very much connected to Norway and to its rich culture and traditions, and I am in every sense of the word a Norwegian, but I have no intention of ever moving back there. My definition of home was never limited solely to my country of birth.

Salman Rushdie wrote in 1991 (cited in Bammer 1994, p. 233):

The effect of mass migration has been the creation of radically new types of human beings: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things; people who have been obliged to define themselves- because they are so defined by others- by their otherness; people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves.

As an immigrant I am creating and inhabiting a hybrid identity. I can no longer be defined solely by who I used to be or where I came from. As an expat I occupy a space between the nationality I was born into and the nationality of the country I currently reside in. As simply a Norwegian, my identity is deprived of this exponential growth and change that has occurred in the nine years since I left Norway. But neither do I fall under the label ‘Australian’: I wasn’t born here and I’m not a citizen. Even if I became a citizen, the ’Australian’ label would reference nothing of my Norwegian heritage and upbringing. To exclude one or the other would be to rob me of vital parts that make me who I am. So I am left constantly negotiating between two languages and cultures, caught in endless translations, trying to cultivate this space in between and re-form an idea of home. It is within this space that I create my work.

As I am growing new roots in Australia, this project explores what happens to traditional and iconic Norwegian myths and folktales when they are displaced geographically and form part of my personal journey as an expat.

Curator Nicholas Bourriaud hypothesizes about how postmodernism is over and has been replaced by what he calls Altermodernity. The Altermodern, according to Bourriaud (2009 A, p.12), “has its roots in the idea of ‘otherness’ (Latin alter = ‘other’, with the added English connotation of ‘different’) and suggests a multitude of possibilities, of alternatives, to a single route.” It is not my intention to discuss whether or not postmodernism really is dead, or if Bourriaud’s altermodernity has taken its place, but to look at the concepts of displacement and translation within Bourriaud’s theories of the altermodern and what he calls contemporary radicant artists. A radicant is an organism that grows its roots as it progresses and adds new ones as it develops and grows. Bourriaud (2009 B, p. 22) explains:

To be radicant means setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them the power to completely define one’s identity, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing.

My MA research project is about becoming a global citizen, and merging cultural and natural iconography through narratives and aesthetics by an artist whose work spans borders and hemispheres. My works focus on the journey and the destination rather than just their origin. Creating this body of work is more than a process of re-staging iconic images and tales from Norway. On their journey from a more traditional storytelling form I allow them to be reshaped and reinvented through my memories of them, my current understanding of them and the ways in which they are influenced by my current place of residence. Bourriaud (2009 B, p. 51-52) writes:

Contemporary art provides new models for this individual who is constantly putting down new roots, for it constitutes a laboratory of identities. Thus, today’s artists do not so much express the tradition from which they come as the path they take between that tradition and the various contexts they traverse, and they do this by performing acts of translation.

According to Bourriaud, translation is in itself an act of displacement. With this project I am allowing Norwegian myths and folktales to transform through the translation from one cultural context to another. The purpose is to see what remains, what is lost, what translates, if anything, and what is created when I try to merge past, present and future to reform an idea of home.

[1] Definitions from http://www.thefreedictionary.com

[…]

 

And so, without further ado here are some shots of the installation of my assessment show in Bendigo:

(All installation shots by Steinar Ellingsen.)

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My saving angels, amazing friends and colleagues, Andrey and Anna, helping me hang the show. Also helping out, and without whom none of this would ever come to pass, Steinar And Anakin.

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Pregnant, tired and proud.

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My trolls. These guys are made entirely out of paper and tape, then photographed.

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And now the body of work in the order it was presented. All images by yours truly.

Tales of Transformation

 

 

Nøkken_web

“Nøkken” (Sea troll/ Water spirit), 2013

Tyrihans_web

“Tyrihans”, 2013. (Image forms part of a triptych based on the folktale 3 Sitroner.)

Prinsesse_web

“Prinsesse” (Princess), 2013. (Image forms part of a triptych based on the folktale 3 Sitroner.)

3_Sitroner_web

“3 Sitroner” (3 Lemons), 2013. (Image forms part of a triptych based on the folktale 3 Sitroner.)

Troll_1_web

“Untitled” (Troll, head 1), 2014

troll_3_web

“Untitled” (Troll, head 2), 2014

troll_2_web

“Untitled” (Troll, head 3), 2014

Soria_Moria_web

“Soria Moria” (Battling trolls), 2014

Reveenka_web

“Reveenka” (The fox’s widow), 2014

Kornstaur_i_Måneskinn_web

“Kornstaur i måneskinn” (Stooks of wheat in moonlight), 2014

Hughr_web

“Hughr” (Concepts of the pre-Christian soul), 2013

Kvitebjørn_Kong_Valemon_web

“Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon” (Whitebear King Valemon), 2014

Huldra_web

“Huldra” (A Tail of Transformation), 2011

Unfortunately there is no way a shit web resolution can give you an accurate picture (hah!) of what these look like on the wall. But believe me when I say they glow!

And so, the journey will continue… I’m not sure which folktale is up next, but I have a feeling it will have to wait until I’m married and have given birth. Particularly since I have a fondness for building all my props and a need for intricate planning. But you never know. :)

43/52 – Whispers

A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for the 3rd year of his life. 

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Anakin: Sharing secrets with pappa and Elias, the boat, in the bath before the big (temporary) goodbye. 

***

Just a couple more days now until we get him back. Saturday we’re getting up at the crack of dawn (like we always do) and heading to the airport to pick him up. It’s hard to tell who’s more excited. 10 days isn’t a long time, but for a couple of days it has felt like forever. It almost went too well for the first half. Then exhaustion, colds, heat, little sleep, a busy schedule and no break didn’t play nice with us for a while. Add pregnancy hormones and the general bodily havoc to that and you’ve got yourself a bit of a land mine. But we bounce back, like we always do. I’ve sure longed for a big glass of wine more than once though. At least there are cookies, strawberries and ice cream. And a break within reach. Just a few more sleeps.

Spring

Spring is easily my favourite time of year. Freesias blooming, birds chirping, the works. It’s warm enough to shed some layers, but not yet hot enough to make you head for the air con (if you have it). As it crept up towards 31 today I got a small reminder of what pregnancy was like the first time around in summer. Yep, it’s gonna be one of those summers.

Here’s a bunch of snaps of what we’ve been up to so far this spring. (I’ve been camera lazy. I need to work on that.)

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Freesias- our front yard is full of them in early spring. They smell divine and look amazing.

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 Planting some strawberries.

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 Hedda loves to hang out outside.

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 Who needs a sandpit when you can make one yourself (next to your actual sandpit).

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 We heart Bundoora farm!

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 Eating parsley under the umbrella.

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 The season’s first BBQ and some delicious non-alcoholic sparkling wine.

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The BBQ chef.

 

 

42/52 – Grateful

A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for the 3rd year of his life. 

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Anakin: Sitting on a ball watching pappa fire up the first BBQ of the season on a sunny afternoon. 

***

I’m filled with gratitude these days, wishing I could hold on to every little moment. It’s been a turbulent week. My partner flew out to France for ten days and it’s been tough for our little man to cope with it all, before and after. But in all the chaos, the tears and the hurt, there has been so many moments of honest beauty, of true connection and of growth for us both. I’ve readjusted our days to make sure my focus is where it needs to be at all times. I make sure I rest when Anakin naps, that we spend lots of time outdoors, that dinners are quick and easy and that I take the time to explain what’s going on. It’s not much different from how our days usually are, but as Anakin is feeling fragile and sad his anger becomes explosive and every little thing takes more care and consideration. And a thousand kisses. And as I get easily tired from it all I need to make sure I navigate our days with more care. And so far we’re cruising. The other night he laid down in my lap and just cried after a minor meltdown, his little body shaking with every gulp of air. He was so heartbroken because he could not understand that pappa wasn’t coming home for a few days. After he calmed down a bit he looked at me and said: “I love you even though I’m sad, mamma.”  My heart broke and burst at the same time. Earlier that day I’d said what I try to say every time he loses himself in anger, “I love you even though you’re angry.” As much as he’s been full of hurt, he’s also been so full of love. And we’ve strengthened our connection in a big way. I’ve noticed that my head has been a bit off and on of late, hormones and all things wedding and baby has taken my focus away at times, but these past few days has re-grounded me and I’m so grateful.

I watched Anakin run down the street this morning on our way to the shop in the sunshine. He had dressed himself in his winter hat, his winter shoes and his mittens. It was far too warm for it, but he was laughing and absolutely carefree. His well-worn tights slightly sagging and his nappy bum wiggling. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh with him as I thought to myself “this is it. This is what I live for.” And I desperately wanted to capture the moment, but chose to stay in it instead of taking photos or filming. And I’m glad I did. I wanted him to see me and to remember me walking with him, smiling and laughing, carrying the sticks and leaves he gave me, just being there with him. That moment was pure happiness. That moment was perfect.

So as I sit here pretty tired from the day I feel so grateful. For our beautiful son, the absolute light of my life, for my best friend who I get to marry soon, for our unborn daughter and for the life we are building together.

41/52 – Connect

A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for the 3rd year of his life. 

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Anakin: The days are getting warmer and we’re enjoying more time outside. Our days are still planned around that vital afternoon sleep which I am even more thankful for these days. You’ve been having long sleeps too, without them a massive nighttime meltdown isn’t a maybe, it’s a certain. As you’re getting closer to 3 it’s easy to get tricked into thinking you can handle more than you can. We’re learning fast that we need to hold back. You’ve been going to childcare on Fridays for about a month now and we’ve figured out that the day has just been too long for you. You’re usually quiet, but content when we pick you up and you love it there, but lately I’ve noticed you’re also dead tired and feeling disconnected. By dinner and bath time all hell breaks loose. The meltdowns are long, hard and painful, most of all for you. This Friday night was no different. But this one was particularly bad after a couple of days where we were all a bit off beat and perhaps not all winning. You desperately needed to cry it all out while feeling safe. After a long struggle I finally got you to relax, wrapped up in my arms. And you cried so hard. No anger, just so much hurt. And once it was all out we could reconnect and start over. 

What is this trend of wanting to tip the cradle over so early? Push our children out and away, say “stand on your feet, grow up, be independent” when they are still just children? I hear people say things like “It’s so good for you to be away from your mother” and I wonder how disconnected these people are with reality. Or questioning why our son isn’t in childcare full-time. It’s true, we are looking into getting him in another day or so, but seeing how hard Fridays are, I am filled with doubt. Connection and dependence isn’t a bad thing. Feeling safe and connected is what gives my son the freedom and the confidence to roam. It’s why I can leave him without him feeling abandoned, it’s why he loves people, it’s why he is so free.

Why are some people hellbent on fostering and celebrating disconnection and perhaps more importantly, why do they feel they can comment on such things to our children?

40/52- weekend treats

A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for the 3rd year of his life. 

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Anakin: A little scruffy after a good nap. You wake up all cuddly, a bit needy and ready for your weekend treat. It’s modest and simple, sometimes no more than a few biscuits or some tangy, natural snakes and a few nuts, or if we’re extra lucky some M&M’s (or as you say; mememem’s ) and some apple cider. It’s our special weekend time. We sit down, have a chat and work out what we want to do for the rest of the day. 

The dark side… a long story.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. It’s been a tough one to write, but a necessary one. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to share it or if I just needed to write it, but here it is.

***

 Days… weeks… months. Pregnancy is all about time passing. How many days, then weeks and months. It follows you throughout the entire process from last menstrual period (LMP) through conception to estimated due date and delivery. Every check up or scan (if not done by the same person) starts with questions concerning time passed and number of pregnancies. At least in the beginning. Then follows the occasional awkward assumptions made by well wishers once you announce, if you announce.

This pregnancy those questions and comments carry a shadow with them. The dark side of pregnancy, the largely unspoken. Miscarriage.

It’s not something we talk about much, is it? I’ve been wondering why. Why is it so common to suffer in silence? At first I thought maybe it was because the people it involved would hurt too much by having it dragged out again and again, but now I’ve come to think it’s more about everyone else. It’s awkward, it’s painful and faced with someone carrying that hurt most people don’t know what to say or do and would rather be spared. But I have no intention of sparing anyone. Why should I? I need to acknowledge our loss because it’s not going to be undone, it happened and it will stay with me. And it happens to so many people that I think it’s important we start talking about it more. It shouldn’t feel as if it’s something you need to hide or keep to yourself. It hurts and keeping it a secret won’t make it hurt any less. I know people who have miscarried and I’m sure out of all the people I know there are many more. But it wasn’t until it happened to me I understood the full impact of it.   _DSC6111_web Every time I’ve found out I was pregnant I’ve been ecstatic. It’s always taken me a few days to start believing it’s true, I’ve always done at least 4 pregnancy tests, but it’s always made me happy. And it’s never been something I’ve felt that I needed to keep between myself and my partner for 12 weeks. It’s funny how it’s almost expected to be kept a secret for the first 3 months. When I told my big brother at 9 weeks this pregnancy he commented on how early it was, as if I wasn’t meant to say anything for another few weeks. But those 3 weeks wouldn’t have made me any less pregnant at the time I told him. And it’s not like whatever happens before 12 weeks doesn’t count. I’m not sure I understand this expected 12 week silence.

Without double checking a billion different stats to compare and contrast (but getting my numbers from here) as many as 70-75%  of conceptions end in miscarriage, about 30% of pregnancies, and 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage whereof 80% of those occur in the first trimester. (To make sense of these numbers have a look here.) That’s a lot.

I found out I was pregnant when I was one day overdue.  I doubt I’d miss a pregnancy once my period is due because once I’m back in my cycle it’s pretty regular and it’s not like we weren’t hoping for a baby soon anyway. We’d taken some precautions for a while because neither of us wanted to have a newborn when we got married and life would be hectic enough with overseas visitors, but our maths were a bit off when we thought “oh heck, if it happens now it’ll just miss all that.” And Bam! it did right away and Shit! it didn’t miss all that. Perhaps part of me already knew something wasn’t quite right. I remember telling my partner the day before we found out that I was pretty sure it wasn’t happening this time because I was having a lot of cramps. But lo and behold, no period came and the tests started coming back positive over a few days. We were thrilled, but I was also stressed by our horrible timing. The baby’s due date was about 1,5 weeks after the wedding meaning it could come at any time and there would be heaps of people here. I have very strong feelings about not wanting any overseas visitors here at all this time around. I want us to have what we didn’t have the first time and that is time for ourselves to adjust and enjoy the newbie for a few months without pressure and people in our space. But nevertheless, I was happy. We saw a doctor and got the whole pregnancy circus going. You gotta roll with the punches right? Sometimes great things happen that don’t necessarily fit your perfect schedule. And we really wanted this baby. So stress slowly gave way for joy and excitement.

A sunny Friday rolled around. I’d been feeling a bit off and complaining about pains for a while, but the doctor said it was normal and to just take Panadol. I saw some friends and shared the news. To my big surprise they were expecting too  and the afternoon turned into a celebration. I couldn’t have been happier. We’d been talking about how much fun it would be to be pregnant at the same time and now it was happening. The night came and our son had just fallen asleep. I remember standing at the top of the stairs in the living room talking to my partner when I felt a “pop”. And that was the start of the worst weekend I can remember having in a very, very long time.

Part of me knew what it was and I went to the bathroom immediately to discover that I was bleeding. My heart sank. I told my partner who tried to work out what to do. Knowing that nothing could be done if it was a miscarriage and that it very well could just be a small bleeding that would stop, we nervously decided to wait to the next day before doing anything. Dragging Anakin out of bed to go to the hospital wasn’t something I wanted to do unless I had to. And part of me was in denial. I can’t remember much of the evening. I kept going to the bathroom and I didn’t sleep much that night.

When I got up early next morning there was enough blood to warrant a trip to the hospital. Sitting in the emergency ward I felt like a zombie. We were called in for a blood test and an examination. As I laid there after what was a rather long and invasive examination looking at my bloodstained knees while a midwife and a doctor stood over me talking I just felt cold. I kept a straight face, a very matter of factly tone and desperately wanted them to let me get dressed and go. I do that, I put on a seemingly cool facade, I somehow manage to temporarily hide that I am about to fall to pieces. I can fool the best of them if I want to. Comes from years of practice, I guess. We were due another blood test in 48 hours to check hormone levels. The doctor assured me that it may not be a miscarriage, but deep down I think I knew that this was not to be. We went home, we cried and I went to bed. I laid there just staring at the wall hoping that I would go numb at some point. Anakin came in and demanded mummy come play. And somehow we got through the day. It’s hard to crumble when you still have to care for a child.

The next day my partner was playing football far away and scared to be alone I decided that we should go with him. I walked in circles pushing the pram around the football field for over an hour trying to get Anakin to sleep, hoping that something was going to make me feel better, but I just wanted to lie down and cry. A close friend of mine was there playing as well and asked how I was going. I didn’t answer, but managed somehow to turn the conversation to how he was instead. Later he asked how our weekend was going. I didn’t answer, but again turned the conversation around. I wasn’t going to lie, but I also knew telling him wouldn’t do either of us any good at that point. On the way back I tried to convince myself that I was starting to feel ok about it, that I was prepared. I was wrong.

The next morning we were back at the hospital for another blood test. Later that day they called me with the results. The lady on the phone started the conversation with “The results look fine.” My heart jumped. There was hope? But the next second she confirmed the miscarriage and asked “That’s what you thought, right?” It was, but how on earth can you relay such a message like that? Everything looks fine? I was far from fine. The pregnancy was far from fine. We were not fine. And I was still bleeding. The walls came tumbling down, but we still had to take care of Anakin. In some ways I think he was the one who carried us forward.

_DSC5142_web (I took this photo that weekend. Anakin found an old seesaw with a horse, so blissfully unaware of how hard we were struggling to keep it together.)

Then came a roller coaster of a time. We were hurting, but I found myself trying to be brave and saying things I didn’t believe to protect myself. “At least it happened now and not later” and so on. We didn’t tell that many people, but out of the few we did there was a few “It’s very common” responses and even one “blessing in disguise” and a “with the timing it’s kind of like a win-win”. Nothing deprives you of your hurt more than hearing that. Yes, it is common, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t feeling the pain of loss. One of my closest friends even ignored the whole thing once I opened up about it. That one hurt even more. With a few pregnant friends around I felt like a failure every time I spoke to them. I tried my best to stay positive, I tried desperately to protect myself and seem more composed than I was, but a part of my heart was broken.  At some point I realised that I needed to own it to move on. I needed to shed some light on that darkness before it swallowed me.

Little did I know at the time that two weeks after that Friday we conceived again. Without going into any details, let me just say we didn’t try to make it happen, it was just one of those moments when all the stars align and all that. When they say you are super fertile after losing a pregnancy they are right. In our case anyway.

I didn’t believe the test when I first saw it.  None of us did. But four tests over a few days later there was no denying that we were indeed pregnant again. It was confusing. It was a downright mind fuck. The doctors and midwives all ask “what number pregnancy is this?” Number three. “And how many babies do you have?” One. “When was your LMP?” It was this date, but it was a miscarriage. And so the ball started rolling without any of us being ready for the ride.

For the first 12 weeks I was terrified. An early dating scan confirmed that everything was so far so good, but I was still shaken. I went to the bathroom all the time to check for blood. I was sick, much sicker than I had been before and throwing up several times a day. Around 11 weeks that suddenly stopped. Everything just stopped and I freaked out. Blood tests showed my hormone levels dropping a bit over 24 hours and a day before I was handing in my Masters, probably during the most stressful week work wise in a long time, we were told we needed an emergency scan done. I was hanging on by a thread. I was certain that we’d lost this one too. My partner tried his best to be brave, but I could tell he thought the same thing as I did. I barely held it together as I struggled to get as much work done as possible before the scan. Once there I could hardly believe my eyes when we saw a little dancing baby on the screen. The lady told us we could do the 12 week scan right away and we somehow managed to say yes. I think I held my breath for most of it. Baby was measuring older than the first scan had shown which explained the drop in hormone levels. Everything was fine. And we were in shock. _DSC4164_web Both before and after this I was struggling with various scenarios of how to deal with comments and responses to our new pregnancy. The miscarriage wasn’t something most people knew about and it was still so raw and the two were so inextricably linked. I avoided as many social gatherings as possible where I may be confronted with any comment on my growing bump, which decided to pop out more or less right away, or I made sure to dress in layers and be quick and quiet. I was paranoid. I was so scared someone would mention how if we had fallen pregnant a bit sooner I would have been so close to my friend (with whom I first celebrated) or comment on any other thing in that regard to which I wouldn’t know what to say or how to react. And of course it did eventually happen. Someone made just that comment, but by then I was as ready as I could be for it.

It still stings. Someone unknowingly said “congratulations on your second pregnancy” a couple of weeks ago and it slapped me in the face. Whenever I go see my midwife I pass the emergency clinic and I see people with the same look on their face as I imagined we had, women discretely holding their still flat bellies waiting for answers, men staring into space while holding their hand.

It’s not unique occurrence, but it happened to us as it happens to so many people. And in some bizarre and terrible way we were lucky to have it happen in the first trimester. Every day pregnant is a day of attachment. Every day counts. And I acknowledge the more convenient timing of our new baby and how lucky we are to have fallen pregnant again so fast. Some people say it was meant to be. I don’t know about that, but I do know that owning what happened and not hiding it in a dark corner is making this pregnancy a little less scary every day. I still wait for kicks and signs of life to feel sure. Part of me still can’t quite believe that it’s true, there’s new life in my belly and it’s doing very well. I know people who have suffered a far greater loss of their pregnancies later on and of their children after they were born and I can’t imagine how heartbreaking and absolutely life altering that must be. And in comparison our loss was small, but no loss is insignificant. It changes you somehow.

_DSC7698_web   But do me a favour. Next time you meet someone who’s pregnant don’t assume which number of pregnancy or baby it is, and if you meet someone who’s lost one, please don’t tell them how common it is. They know. And don’t ignore it as if it doesn’t matter.  Acknowledge the loss, don’t inadvertently belittle it or deny its significance. And as someone who had just suffered the most unimaginable loss once told me, if that’s too hard or you don’t know what to do just give them a hug.

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” – V. Nabokov

Balloon Friday

Oh sweet Friday… It’s getting dark and I can hear the usual winding down noises from the bathroom. My partner is patiently trying to coax a tired toddler into the tub and to bed. I’m thankful I get to just sit here and feel like a swollen lead balloon with far too little space on the inside. I know that in a while they’ll call my name and I’ll go sing some lullabies, get a few cuddles and sit outside the bedroom for 10 minutes in the dark listening to Anakin play with his diggers in bed before I can assume my horizontal on the sofa with a glass of Maggie Beer’s non alcoholic sparking wine. (The only non alcoholic wine worth drinking. It’s delicious and I dare say better than most alcoholic sparkling wines.) I’m exhausted. Baby has been surprisingly quiet so far today, perhaps it is just waiting for me to lie down. I feel heavy and stretched. But I also feel pretty darn great. Life is in a good place. We’re not where we want to be with it all, but I am happy, very happy. This year, as hard as it has been and as much as it has kicked us in the face, has also been good. I’ve let go of a lot of hurt, I’m letting go of more every day, I’m facing fears and learning to manage them. And as heavily pregnant as I feel tonight I feel lighter than ever, and stronger than I’ve ever been.

_DSC7657_web

Speaking of strong… babywearing a big, heavy toddler to sleep when pregnant makes you feel pretty strong too. Desperate times and all that. I seriously could not live without the Tula. (Picture taken at 18 weeks.)

 

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It also doesn’t hurt that spring has sprung in all it’s glory and temperatures are hitting the 20+. Life is good. I feel damn lucky.

Happy Friday from all of us!

xx

39/52 – Night-time

A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for the 3rd year of his life. 

39_52_web

Anakin: Bath time, bed time… these rituals we’ve had since you were born that have slowly evolved, slowly (yet way too fast) seen you grow up and more independent. I know,  I say this a lot, but you’re growing up so fast. But it is also at night-time I most often see how little you still are and how much you are still my baby. Too tired, too overwhelmed, you sometimes fall to pieces and the only thing in the whole wide world that will soothe you is being wrapped up in my arms while we ride it out together. I think we both need those moments just as much as we need the laughs, the hugs and all the good times. Perhaps it is in those fragile moments I grow the most as a mother. 

***

I started writing a bit this week, but I’ve been too tired to finish anything. By nap time in the afternoon all my good intentions vanish and I’ve just needed to relax and catch up on rest. I’m not very good at resting or taking it easy, but the past  few weeks have been brutal and made me realise I can’t keep this up. It means things slow down and take time, but I just can’t keep pushing myself. I’ve tried to keep activities local and to half days. I try not to do too much housework, which is hard when everything desperately needs a good clean. I’ll vacuum two rooms and have to lie down because I’m just out of breath. It so different this time around. The baby is much more active than I can remember Anakin being. Perhaps it is just that I feel it better this time around, but it’s always on the move. It’s so far down that I can pull my shirt up and see the pokes from the outside already. Driving back and forth to Bendigo today to take down my show was hard. The baby was pushing down and making it so uncomfortable to sit that I started wondering how on earth it will feel by the end. Please, little baby, use the space that’s there while you have it. You can’t stay doubled up at the bottom all the time!

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