A NEW BEGINNING
Diary from a new mum and grandmother
I have wanted to be a mum for as long as I can remember. Yet, for all the yearning, my road to motherhood was not always the expertly-planned bliss I had in mind! I separated from my partner of nine years when I was 12 weeks pregnant, my labour was one for the books and, while now exceptionally supportive, initially my family were not thrilled with the news.
Veya Ruth (Veya, meaning strength and power in Sanskrit, and Ruth, after my mother) arrived on August 10 at 6.31pm, weighing 6lb 9oz after a long and intense birth. I went into early labour on a Monday night, but until my midwife arrived and told me to get in the birthing pool and push, I had the false impression I was still in early labour because my contractions hadn’t moved from my back. I had read that when I was in active labour my contractions would move to the front, so I told Veya’s dad, Blair, there was still a long time to go and he should go to work. I even told my midwife, Gail Kiss from Gentle Birth, not to worry and just pop by when she had a moment to check in. When she arrived on Wednesday afternoon, I was in the bath desperately trying to ride out the contractions as one rolled into another. Gail took one look at me, estimated I was almost eight centimetres dilated, told my mum to start filling the birth pool and said Blair should get there as soon as possible.
Unfortunately the initial hype of an imminent baby turned out to be too optimistic. What followed were three hours of exhaustive pushing without much change. At one point Gail pulled Blair aside to tell him that without some serious progress we would be going to hospital.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
I chose to have an intervention-free pregnancy, meaning no scans or tests and no unnecessary monitoring of the baby in utero, and I always knew I would have a drug-free home birth. In my birth plan I asked for as little intervention as possible; no physical exams or foetal monitoring unless absolutely necessary and for me to deliver and be the first person to touch my baby.
On the day this just wasn’t to be. There were hands everywhere and lots of checking on baby’s heartbeat because she was stuck for so long. It wasn’t what I pictured but I am eternally grateful that Gail persisted and supported me to stay home. When Veya was born it was revealed why it had taken so long – unbeknown to us, Veya was occiput transverse – or ‘sideways’, something my midwife told me that in her almost 20 years’ experience she had only heard of one other baby in this position being born naturally. Despite the challenging labour, Veya was alert, her big eyes wide open as she took in her new world.
Unfortunately Veya couldn’t latch for the first 24 hours, so I spent this time hand-expressing colostrum and after 24 hours she was latching with a nipple shield. Thinking back on our first night together, I didn’t have a clue what I was meant to be doing; there’s just so much you don’t know in the early days. I didn’t realise that when baby has to feed every three hours you start timing from when the feed starts. I thought I would have three-hour blocks in between to do whatever I wanted! It took Veya up to 90 minutes to feed in the beginning so generally I was left with barely an hour to race around and clean up before we started all over again.
On day five, I had my first major meltdown. I knew my hormones were all over the show but I was so deliriously in love with Veya and motherhood that it caught me by surprise. The trigger was trying to install the car seat with Veya howling in the background. She recovered quickly and decided to have a nap. I, on the other hand, cried inconsolably for more than an hour.
After a few weeks, once the delightful newborn sleepiness wore off, I realised I was living with a seriously feisty, tiny dictator. Veya would resist sleep during the day for as long as possible, her eyes popping open the moment I thought she’d drifted off. I’m loosely following the attachment parenting philosophy so “wear” her in a baby wrap on my chest most of the day. Wrapped tightly close to my heart, she would sleep soundly but then people started asking what I would do when she was five months old and my back hurt too much to wear her every nap.
So much of first-time parenting is trial and error, changing your mind and trying again. I thought I had hit the jackpot with the wrap and defiantly told doubters it was impossible to spoil a newborn and she was too young to learn bad habits. But at five weeks old Veya would sometimes stay awake for four hours during the day before losing the plot and finally falling asleep in the wrap.
As I write this, it is day four of sleep training – sitting with her,
shushing and gently patting her to sleep. So far, so good.
I have two old dogs, who have both accepted Veya without hesitation, loyally guarding her while she feeds and sleeps.
Veya is now six weeks old now and I can’t believe how fast it’s going. I delight in watching her discover the world and every new milestone is cause for many photos and videos. The road has been rocky at times but so far it has surpassed my every expectation. And after wanting this for so long, I’m beyond happy to finally have joined the club.
Watching your child become a parent is an amazing experience. I hadn’t been pining to be a grandma, I really wanted Kasia to cement her career, but now that Veya is here our whole family has fallen in love with her and we are delighted to take on our new role as her biggest supporters. Although Kasia gave her the beautiful name Veya, to us she is “Mippy” and has been since she was a minute old. (Kasia was “Kippy” when she was small).
In spite of the circumstances, Kasia managed a calm and serene home birth. She has carried this calmness over into her mothering in a way I admire and wish I could have emulated. Mippy couldn’t latch on at first so Kasia collected then syringed colostrum for the next 24 hours without batting an eyelid. Parenting has given my life such meaning and direction and I am thrilled for Kasia to be starting on her own journey.
I think my daughter’s generation is better at asking for help and admitting when times are tough. With my first I was too proud to ask for support and struggled through many sleepdeprived months. Kasia’s experience is completely different. She delights in each and every tiny milestone that Mippy reaches and shares her delight with her family and whanau with multiple photos every day. We have all been swept up in Kasia’s enthusiasm for the first smiles and Mippy’s legendary ability to pull funny faces and start engaging with the world.
Being a parent is such a fraught role. It comes with so much responsibility and can seem overwhelming. There are decisions to be made, boundaries to be set, things to clean and endless meals to prepare. In contrast, my grandparent role seems clearly defined and my job is simply to always be in Mippy’s corner.
Kasia and I differ in our parenting styles but none of this matters. All I need to do is love Mippy, support Kasia with whatever decisions she makes and if I get lucky, the icing on the cake will be to coach Mippy in school sport and get another lifetime of pleasure from watching both of them make their way in the world.
Veya, or ‘Mippy’ as she’s known to the rest of the family, takes her very first bath
A treasured cardigan, hat and booties were knitted by a close friend
Veya loves her bright and colourful activity centre
Kasia was granted her wish of having a drugfree home birth
Kasia follows the attachment parenting philosophy and wears Veya on her chest for most of the day
Mum-to-be Kasia breathes through contractions in the birthing pool, with Blair by her side
Sweet little Veya is slowly settling into a manageable sleep pattern
Veya takes a break while out on a shopping expedition
Nana Jill admires her daughter’s calm parenting style Jill is besotted with her granddaughter, and Veya feels the same about her Nana!