‘Let’s have a baby” you say “it’ll be fun” you say…
Ok although the whole ‘having a baby’ thing is pretty effed up, now thinking back to my pregnancy and labour, I feel as though I took it for granted at the time and long to go back. I was so caught up and overwhelmed with the actual concept of it that I didn’t stop to take it in, and enjoy every second. Everyone would ask me “oh you must be SO excited” but the truth being, I wasn’t, I was scared shitless.
It all started when I met a tradie named Sean… Sean Patrick Murphy for that matter…”he must be Irish with that name” annoying middle aged people would say to me, I oblivious to that fact due to practically failing geography. “OMG…so…how did you meet” I hear you ask in your girly Regina George voice. Well, it’s wayyy less romantic than one may think. We actually met at a very classy establishment…The Boatshed in Manly…if you aren’t familiar, let’s just say it’s that place you go to when you are denied entry from EVERY other bar, usually filled with 40 year old weathered men and is open until the wee hours of the morning. Anyway, I was living in Manly at the time and out with friends one Friday having a below than average night, begging my friends to go home before they insisted on ‘one more drink’ on our walk home, resulting in me giving in, and it turning out to be the first night of the rest of my life.
We stumbled down the slippery, alcohol covered steps into the dingy, dim lit bar where I randomly spotted my younger more mischievous brother lurking in the corner with a couple of mates.
I was instantly drawn to one of the guys with my brother, asking him “who is that!???” with him replying “NO MADELEINE…NO”. Long story short, it turns out that it was Sean and his damn blue eyes, and turns out, he happened to feel the exact same way about me, love at first sight or what!? We went to high school together and although I never realised this, Sean says he always knew who I was. It was an attraction like no other and soon after we were inseparable, I mean he was practically the boy version of me, a Leo as well – two royals sharing one thrown, what could possible go wrong??
It all happened pretty quick and within a few months of dating we decided to move in together. Our first abode was living downstairs from some well established upper class in their holiday home at Palm Beach. Yes I may be writing this in front of a cosy fireplace in a cottage nestled in Kangaroo Valley, however we too had a fire place at the Palm Beach dungeon, quickly realising that after Sean tried to impress guests one night with his fire lighting skills sending a purple haze of smoke throughout the whole flat, that it was not in the best functioning state. From then on we lived in sub zero temperatures with not even 3 heaters solving the problem, literally when we breathed out you could see smoke as if we were at the snow. Soon after realising this, and the fact that it was like living underneath nagging parents who aren’t even your parents, we decided to move on. NEXT. This time, to a garage…I mean studio apartment in Newport, a few suburbs away. Living right on top of one another sharing the place with a an extended family of spiders and a bathroom door that didn’t close properly, lets just say we became closer than ever.
One night after work I returned home finding myself dramatically collapsing on the bed in the bedroom / living room / kitchen / dining room, and insisting Sean cook dinner (this was not unusual) only to discover that after weeks of feeling utterly exhausted and not myself, followed by nauseousness and a sneeze leading to immense pain and cramping that I, along with Google, knew there was only one explanation…Appendicitis! While in the middle of slaving away over a hot stove preparing me a dinner…AGAIN…Sean asked “should we go to the hospital?” in a very less than concerned, unenthusiastic way (I’m probably the biggest hypochondriac known to man, too many prior pointless hospital visits to count.) Not being able to shake Google’s diagnosis out of my head I responded with a HELL YES jumping in the car sacrificing a delicious Mexican feast…he must love me!?
After arriving at hospital, a nurse sent me off to the bathroom for a urinal test after I described the symptoms “lower abdominal pain and nauseousness”…Ummm Appendicitis, HELLO! Well hurry up Nurse lady and rush me off to surgery, this Appendix needs removing…STAT! The waiting room was pretty empty (VERY unusual) so when the nurse asked me to come through almost straight away, I was surprised but not overly shocked. They asked me to get into a gown “oooh a gown…fancy!” I thought “ there must be something wrong with me this time, that’ll show them!” I thought to myself smugly. I jumped into a bed and waited. A few nurses came by and ran through the same old tests resulting in above average results with me then starting to feel a lot better and wondering what the hell I was even doing there at all. One of the nurses asked me what my partner’s name was and informed me that they were going to bring him through. Hah, good, I thought, we can both laugh at how stupid I am together, yet again. Sean walked in, I-phone in hand snapping novelty photos of me lying in the bed with a cheesy grin on his face. By this time the nauseousness had set back in and I was less than impressed. A different nurse came over and ran through all the same standard questions AGAIN “what did you eat today? When did the pain start? On a scale of 1 – 10 what is the pain now? Etc etc. Ok I get it lady, there is nothing wrong with me! And then she casually said the words that would change our lives FOREVER… “ok, so we did a pregnancy test, and it came back positive…so now we…” ummm hold up, wait, WHAT!?? WOAH WOAH WOAH. EXCUSE ME WOMAN. DID YOU JUST SAY THAT I’M!? BUT I THOUGHT…I MEAN I FEEL FINE NOW?! ARE YOU SURE?…BUT, BUT…Oh. My. Actual. God. It was a true out of body experience to say the least. It honestly felt as though I was floating above my body looking down at myself and thinking “this can’t be real!?” Somebody get me one of those foil shock blanket thingy’s coz I AM IN SHOCK. It’s funny because prior to the nurse coming in, I was trying to be cool and impress Sean by making my heart rate go up on the monitor by hyperventilating, it totes didn’t work, however following the news, Sean pointed to the machine with his jaw dropped, it was off the Richter.
“Do you need a moment?” the nurse asked, and me trying to act cool, calm and collected like “no worries lady, this was totally a part of the plan” responded “no it’s fine, go on..” with Sean interrupting “YES, WE NEED A MINUTE!” The nurse left us alone thankfully closing the curtains behind her resulting in countless desperate embraces and ALOT of tears and I love you’s. After a few tests to make sure everything was ok, we set off on a very long and silent car ride home and 9 months later, VUALLA, a baby was born. Ok ok, so I can’t go on without briefly mentioning my pregnancy/ birth experience, yes you got me, I attempted to skip over it seeing as I have told it almost 1 billion times. But look, I’ll tell it this one last time because you have been good.
Because this was COMPLETELY unexpected, it took me a while to come to terms with it and grasp the fact that I was pregnant, with an actual baby…inside my body, well I don’t think I actually came to terms with it until recently, and it freaks me out even now sometimes when i think about it. Being only 25, yes 25 is not young by any means, but in today’s day in age where people are having babies at 30 plus, I did receive the occasional “ oh so you decided to keep it?!” comment as well as disapproving looks (also due to the fact that I tend to look 12 sometimes…especially when I’m not wearing make-up, which was like the entire time I was pregnant.) But I mean hey, I was 25…I had my shit together, I had a job, was in a committed, loving relationship, with a garage roof over my head etc etc and I had always dreamt of being a ‘young mum’. So really, there was no question in my mind that this is what I wanted.
Although my parents tried desperately to brainwash me into being Catholic my whole life, to me I am by no means religious, however I truly believe that this was God’s plan for me…who ever this god character must be. Everything happens for a reason and as cliché as that sounds, this was the path and journey laid out for me. I had to ride the wave and go with the flow, now today looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful, as I now know whole heartedly, that my life really began the moment I gave birth #whatwasievendoingbefore
Being pregnant was bizarre (new favourite word.) It was such a strange feeling – the anticipation, the lack of control, the unknown…the kankles. “You must be SO excited” everyone kept implying, however, the reality was that I wasn’t, I was nothing but completely out of my comfort zone, and scared. Scared of what my future would hold, what it meant for me work wise and financially, scared that I wouldn’t love my child, that I wouldn’t know what to do with it, scared that I wasn’t capable of withstanding a relationship through it all and so on and so forth. So yes, as you have grasped, it was SCARY. Was I ready? No! Do I now think you will you ever be ready? NO!
My pregnancy overall was smooth sailing, I was one of the lucky ones. Yes there were the first few months of feeling as though I was consistently hung over (without even being able to drink) resulting in Mami Noodle snacks by my bedside for 6am and crisps for breakfast lunch and dinner, oh and not to mention the feeling of being so tired that I could quite possibly DIE resulting in frequent ‘power naps’ on my desk at work…but other than that, I cant complain! During the second trimester I felt better than I had in my whole life. Being pregnant, people were nice and with no more partying and alcohol, I had a new found energy and lust for life. I felt better and healthier than ever. Ok so there were the occasional heartburn attacks, in turn sleeping with three pillows, as well as feeling like I was going to projectile vomit every time I brushed my teeth, but besides that I was on cloud nine. We didn’t find out the sex and although it killed me, it was so special not knowing…….regardless of the gender, boy or girl, it was most importantly ours (I was convinced it was a boy anyway.)
The labor was a marathon effort like most, and went for a few days which felt like a lifetime. Let’s just say my waters broke on the Saturday night with me not actually giving birth until Wednesday morning. The baby was posterior (facing the wrong way) resulting in all the pain being in my lower back. We were sent in and out of hospital numerous times and when we were finally officially checked-in, relieved when told that I would be having the baby “within an hour and a half!”, which off course was Dr speak for 12 hours and an epidural later.
I’ll never forget the moment I was getting the epidural. A possy of people came in wearing surgical masks insisting that we too wear masks at the ‘risk of infection’…umm help. The girl who did the epidural was from what I could tell ‘a trainee’ with an elderly man looking over her shoulder directing her, VERY reassuring. I was told to sit still in an awkward slouch position otherwise I would be PARALYSED 4 LIFE, and feeling the most scared and frightened I had ever felt, I looked up into Sean’s eyes for comfort and reassurance, only to find they were CLOSED. He was sleeping like a baby on the couch…yep, wearing a surgical mask, just to complete the picture for you. ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?! YOU’RE asleep?!! I’m going to be paralysed for life and you’re just lying there, asleep, drooling for that matter…probably dreaming about puppies or something with not a care in the world. Oh you just wait until this is over buddy.
Hesitantly moving on.
The Epidural was a god send and finally helped the deceivingly large baby make it’s way out with the final last pushes being that defining cross road moment in life. All I wanted to do was go back, but I knew that I had to keep going forward to make the pain stop…and let me just say, it was ‘smash through the 4th story of the hospital windows and jump out’ kinda pain. I now know why they call it ‘the ring of fire’…boy was it HOT. Although I think it had worn off, all I could think was “OMG imagine the people who DON’T have an Epidural!” Proper shout out to you ladies.
So after a few hours of pushing like salt’n’pepper, our baby girl Olive Minnie Murphy was born. In the end it all happened so fast and I remember the nurses asking me numerous time if I wanted to touch the head with me finally screaming “NOOOOOOO!” Like, gross, what were they even thinking. After picturing a mini version of Mike Meyers, when I actually saw my precious baby for the first time, I thought that it was the most beautiful and perfect thing I’d ever seen. They pulled her up onto my chest and I remember fumbling around being what was probably the most awkward hold of a baby the midwives had ever seen. I was out of my comfort zone to say the least. When I asked Sean what it was like ‘down there’ during the labor, with a pale face he simply responded with “there was alot of blood”. Now looking back, I think I was so in shock with what just happened that I didn’t take in and appreciate those first amazing, life changing moments enough. I just couldn’t comprehend what just happened, how that in an that one instant, EVERYTHING changed, forever.
The first couple of moths were HARD…let’s be honest. A baby puts a lot of strain on every aspect of your life and those around me seemed to to be way more comfortable with the idea of me having a baby then well, me. I thought to myself “what were you thinking?” Madeleine on the regular and it was pretty foggy for quite a while there. When people were speaking to me I was ‘listening’, however it was totally going in one ear out the other, I just couldn’t absorb any information as I was totally absorbed in Olive and my new role as a mum. So this is the part where I say a big sorry to anyone I look at with a blank stare when talking to me about something we have already spoken about 50 times, and to the people I forgot to text back #babybrainsabitch
We were such rookies at first and I can’t believe how far we have come. Sean was and is ridiculously amazing with both me and Olive, and watching the two of them together is like nothing else, my heart melts on a daily basis. Since being thrust into motherhood, apart from learning the obvious – that I’m a terrible housewife, I have learnt a serious appreciation for my body (and all female bodies) and what they are capable of. I’ve learnt that I’m pretty good at functioning on zero sleep, how long I can really go without a shower, how much I hate unwanted opinions and advice and how much I’m capable of getting done in a short space of time. I’ve learnt that no matter what age you are, what stage in life you are in, how far you have travelled, your career status, your financial situation etc etc etc I don’t think you are ever ‘READY’. NOTHING will prepare you for the highs and lows of motherhood and the love you will experience.
Olive has put into perspective what truly matters, I mean, I’ll skip over the moments of projectile vomits and nappy explosions, but it’s the special moments where I am totally absorbed in her and feel so overwhelmed with love and sheer disbelief that she is mine, I MADE HER!?”
As a new mum you soon learn that you have many hidden talents, number 1 being the ability to JUGGLE, Clown worthy style. I think the best advice in achieving a work / life balance is to learn how to PRIORITISE. Don’t be afraid to say no to things – if you’re on the fence about it, that means it’s a no. Over-committing yourself will lead to stress, exhaustion and guilt if you’re unable to follow through. Taking the pressure off yourself where you can and knowing that IT’S OK to not ‘do it all’ sometimes is key. For me, I can no longer sprint at full pace, but have had to slow right down and pull it back to a brisk power walk, whether this means delaying a blog post so that we can have clean undies, or typing amongst mountains of dishes. Maybe there is something in that saying ‘slow and steady wins the race’ after all. Yes, there will be the occasional throw back to high school, chucking all nighters over a case of red bulls to get shit done, but it’s just not sustainable and I believe looking after yourself is the secret to a happy home and work life…along with learning to laugh at yourself when you’re failing miserably at life, and wine…lots of wine.
Time with Olive is so precious, so when I am away from her I want to make it count and only do what sets my soul on fire. I want to show her how important it is to work hard for what you want and follow your dreams. Motherhood has enabled me to become 10,000 x more proactive and morphed me into a multi tasking machine.
The hardest parts of motherhood so far, besides the obvious lacks of (sleep, showers, meals and make-up) – it would have to be unwanted advice and opinions from randoms in the street, and as petty as it sounds, people assuming Olive is a boy even when she is clearly wearing FLORALS GOD DAMN IT, seriously this one time an old lady asked “why is HE dressed like a girl?”…um what. I simply responded with“he’s confused.” It’s also frustrating when I think to myself “I got this”…then, nek minute, IT ALL CHANGES. However, it’s the little things that make it all worthwhile, like seeing her toothless grin for the first time, hearing her giggle, watching her shake her head ‘NO’ at the most inappropriate times, gagging and shivering when she tries new foods, giving me a rare hug (like her mother she is not the affectionate type) having bubble baths together, her falling asleep in my arms, and my new favorite, her reaching over, grabbing my face with her little hands and pulling me towards her for a kiss.
I want to teach Olive to embrace who she is wholeheartedly; go against the grain, be different and not be afraid of what others may think. I want her to always listen to her heart and do only what sets her soul on fire. I want her to always dream big, stay focused, be kind and surround herself with good people.
Watching her grow everyday is unREAL and the pride and LOVE you feel being a mother is like nothin else in this world. It’s amazing knowing wholeheartedly that my life began the moment I had Olive.
Madeleine Chard, Founder / Curator, THE AUTHENTIK
Words Madeleine Chard
Photography Kahli Mccreadie
with a few snaps from Bella Kerstens