I am still in awe of our two children. They brighten the darkest of days, and they are a continual source of pride, and enjoyment. I am fascinated by these two little people. I am inspired by them. I am enamoured by them. And I am frequently humbled by them.
So how is it then, that they also drive me to distraction sometimes, they exasperate and infuriate me; they have introduced chaos, confusion and pandemonium into my hitherto calm, quiet and reasonably ordered existence?
Often I don’t know whether I’m coming or going! But I really don’t know where I would be without my family.
My First Pregnancy
The first pregnancy itself was a doddle (once I had got over the initial surprise!). I didn’t have a touch of nausea, no sickness, in fact no malady at all. I did have the added complication that Type 1 diabetes brings, of course (see below); but for me, that only brought added medical and personal supervision, it didn’t really complicate the pregnancy in any adverse way that I was to experience. (Clinically, I remained a statistic, of course!)
At first, my intention was to continue to work from home throughout the pregnancy, however I decided to allow myself the luxury of some “quality time off” towards the end. At this stage, my husband had taken redundancy from his job in Cambridge, and was able to indulge my wishes (well most of them anyway).
The Diabetes Factor
Thankfully, having had diabetes for a number of years, and always having had a questioning attitude, an inquiring mind, and a clinical interest in diabetes, when it came to ‘crunch time’ everything fell into place pretty easily. Good control got better, and I managed to maintain an average HbA1c of about 5.5% throughout the pregnancy. I can’t take all the credit though; the Cambridge diabetes team at Addenbrookes (Rosie Maternity) were absolutely marvellous, and provided me with the support and encouragement that I needed to stay on top of things. And my husband seemed to know just when I needed his input, and when I didn’t – he was great.
A New Baby!
The birth was planned right from the start – although by circumstance, not by me. The Diabetes Factor had dictated that labour would be induced at 39 weeks at the very latest. So, a week before my ‘due date’, I went in to hospital to have my baby. The process started on the Monday… after two days of labouring and Still No Show, I had an emergency caesarian section, and Rachel Margaret Reed was ‘born’ on Wednesday June 19th 2002.
Although the whole ‘giving birth’ thing was not what I had envisaged, ultimately it didn’t really matter – Rachel and I were both okay. Rachel had a low blood glucose level and so there was some added pressure when it came to feeding her during the first few days, but otherwise, there were no major ‘after-effects’.
However, I did experience the most awful depression which struck at about day three. It just about coincided with my “milk coming in” (My Oh My! I had never been in anything more than a double ‘A’ cup; suddenly I had two huge tanks of milk and seemed to be squirting it everywhere, and I was so sore!) Anyway, going back to the “Baby Blues”… The responsibility had hit me suddenly, and I felt very inadequate, frightened, and unsure of myself. I was also very uncomfortable in hospital, and desperately wanted to get home, back to my security. Luckily, I had very supportive staff on the ward, and I was able to leave on day four.
The first 8 months
We were discharged into the hands of the Health Visitors* and GP (i.e. the primary care team). It took some time to get the breastfeeding established, but I had great support from the team of Health Visitors (Fiona deserves a special mention). I had no problems resulting from the caesarian section whatsoever. I was advised to avoid heavy housework and lifting for several weeks, which I kind of did (well, to a certain extent…)
*In the UK, Health Visitors are specialist nursing staff, that care for children in the family context from age 0 – 5 years. They are equivalent to Plunkett Nurses in New Zealand in most repects, apart from the fact that they are National Health Service employees, and therefore perhaps more closely integrated with the local primary health care team.
Many people had warned me that having a baby would change my life beyond recognition. I was ready for It – or so I thought. However, nothing can truly prepare you for the responsibilities of caring for a newborn baby. Nappies? Nappies are to a mother what insulin injections are to most people with insulin-requiring diabetes. In other words, you just get on with it. The sleepless nights, however, did become a problem for me. I felt as if was losing my mind at times (usually, about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning) and sometimes it would be just too much, and I would break down and cry. In fact I would howl. I totally understand how some women are driven to abandon their young babies; without adequate support – practical, emotional and financial – many women just cannot cope. How such women and/or families express their needs to the outside world possibly dictates much of the outcome for both mother and child. As far as I was concerned, I was lucky; I had a husband who stepped in just before breaking point – he would save the day, although usually only just in time – but ultimately that’s all that was required.
So, the first few months were difficult for all three of us, but finally, we settled into some sort of a routine. I gained much support from those around me at the time, and particularly from a very special friend who, at that time, lived in the same village. And Sam was always at the end of the phone. So I was able to draw comfort from the fact that the difficulties that I faced were neither uncommon, nor indicative of any shortcomings on my part.
A Difficult Time
Rachel was just over 8 months old and I was finally coming to terms with the concept of motherhood. Meanwhile, Peter was investigating jobs in faraway lands. I don’t remember the final decision to go to New Zealand being made; but somewhere along the lines I agreed to give it a go. It was Peter’s homeland after all. So the job offer was accepted.
Then came the bombshell.
It didn’t seem possible that I could be pregnant again! (Of course that’s silly – we all know how babies are made – but that’s how I felt at the time.) How on earth would I cope? However, I couldn’t possibly destroy an innocent child that had been conceived in the same way as my beautiful baby Rachel…
Peter left for New Zealand. I elected to stay behind and have my baby at home. I wanted to stay within my comfort zone – live in my own house, enlist the support of my friends, family… Most of all, I needed to feel confident in the health care that I was going to receive – I wanted my second pregnancy to go as smoothly as the first.
I didn’t enjoy the second pregnancy so much – it seemed to get in the way all the time – but nevertheless I remained healthy throughout, and didn’t suffer any adverse physical effects (apart from those associated with increasing size around the middle).
I continued breastfeeding Rachel until she was 14 months old, by which time, I was 7 months pregnant. It was hard work looking after Rachel, being on my own, and being pregnant again, and I suffered several attacks of, “I can’t do this anymore!” Luckily for me, I had sufficient support coming from various directions, which collectively got me through.
The middle of the night was the middle of the day for Peter in New Zealand, and I had friends, neighbours and my mother to call on otherwise. It would be good to say that I didn’t need to call on anyone, but it seems that at some stage I used most of my lifelines; I remember asking Peter more than once to come home because I couldn’t cope; I asked my mother to come down when Rachel was poorly; and I can still see myself traipsing across the road in my pyjamas at half past seven in the morning, having been up all night, I was in floods of tears, and I just didn’t know how I was going to get through… (Nicky, you were the best.)
So we got through with the help of friends and family, and my health care team… and the security that we would eventually be a family again…
After the traumatic two days I spent in half-induced labour with Rachel, I decided from the start that it would be good if I could have an elective caesarian section this time. Peter came home a week before the planned Day and William John Reed was born on 10th November. Two weeks later I moved up to Guisborough with Rachel and William to stay with my parents, and Peter organised the shipment of our belongings, and our cats, to New Zealand.
The following three months were tough going again. William was hard work during the night (and for many months to come). Nevertheless, I was able to enjoy the company and support of my parents, my mother especially. Rachel enjoyed her time with Grandma and Grandad very much. I had no idea how often we would be watching the video tapes of “Grandma and Rachel” during the following years.
It wasn’t long before our time in Guisborough was up. It was time to move on.
Relocation to New Zealand
We arrived at our new home near Rotorua to find everything had been unpacked and organised for us. The cots were made up, there was food in the cupboards, my clothes were in the wardrobe, and the cats were waiting for us. Peter had done all the hard work before we arrived. And so we slipped into a new life with little difficulty.
Apart from the hardship of leaving close family and friends (especially Sam) behind, I have few regrets about the move. I love this country, and it’s people, I love my new home, and I love being away from the traffic jams, the hustle and bustle, the stress of the Rat Race.