Thursday, December 8, 2016

Week 8 SPACE

Week 8

SPACE- The Final Frontier

Tuesday saw us attending our last SPACE session, and since we're leaving a week earlier then everyone else, it was Francis' graduation day.

Photo Credit: Anna Bird

Photo Credit : Anna Bird


It was really sad for us to be at our last day, although there are three more special sessions we hope to attend next year. When asked to share what had been the highlights of our SPACE experience a couple of things stood out for us.

We’ve really like the old fashioned sense of community that SPACE has given us. It really is a meeting of parents and babies/toddlers all going through the same stages at about the same time. It’s been about openly sharing our woes, and our triumphs, and supporting each other and being supported. It’s about learning how to interact with your child and with other children too, and to realize that some days the things that were really getting you down or worried pale into insignificance when compared with some of the issues other parents are having. It’s been about meeting and making new friends and being open to different ways of parenting and different philosophies of life with a total lack of judgment. I think that lack of judgment really bred the air of complete openness amongst the group.  It’s been about finding surrogate families to share with since our own are so many miles away. It’s been about the communal spirit and the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s about letting the kids be kids and observing them in a safe place without too much adult interference, letting them discover their own boundaries and occasionally learn what happens when they push them too far (F had at least one fat lip from falling over). It’s also about parents learning that their kids are pretty robust and it’s okay for them to test their limits. It’s about learning together and from each other. It’s about great facilitators who bring great ideas week after week and who are also willing to leave their own agendas at the door and let the parents decide what they want to do.

And it’s also been about lots and lots of fun! Here’s some photo highlights from recent weeks :

Matchy- Match Day :

Photo Credit : Anna Bird


One of the mums suggested the kids and parents dress the same. An easy one for us!

Play Centre Day:

Photo credit: Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman


Photo credit : Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman

Photo credit : Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman


 We played with puzzles, made some gingerbread biscuits (cookies) and then cleaned up after ourselves!


Sand Play day:

Photo credit: Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman

Photo credit: Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman


Photo credit : Joanne Gaylor and Dianne Newman


Great weather for messing about in the sand pit! I also discovered Factor 60 sun lotion is great substitute for hair ge.


Thank you Dianne and Jo for being great facilitators and to all the other SPACE parents and kids. We’ve loved our time there and it was truly the thing I looked forward to each week.


The Laws of Distraction

I’ve found the secret to getting food into Francis is to give him something to concentrate on and have his hands fully occupied. For example, he likes to put the lid on tubs now, so whilst he is concentrating on that you can offer food to his mouth, and like some amazing reflex his mouth just opens up and you can pop the tasty morsels in.  The puzzles do need to become more complex though. Anyone got a rubix cube they’re not using?

Learning Fast





Francis has become obsessed with lids this last week and putting them on and taking them off. We started with just push on lids but then he really amazed me with screw top lids!

For lunch on Tuesday I assembled a few things on the table and wanted to try one of the food pouches to see if he liked them. If he did I would buy some more for our plane trip later this week. I put a bunch of stuff on the table and then cursed at myself for not having hidden the shiny silver foil pouch as he became quite obsessed with it. I could not get food into him and he rejected everything “nutritious: i.e. not shop bought, that I had for him. Finally I gave in and got the pouch out.

F-bomb waved his hands up and down in glee, but when I offered the food end of the pouch to him he was not interested. “Ah the lid” thought I, so I gave him it. He then proceeded to put it back on the pouch…. And then screw the thing on! WTF? He repeated this several times. Once the shock had died down I then used this to my advantage – see "The Laws of Distraction” above - and managed to get him to eat his nutritious food i.e. salmon! He of course had some of the pouch at the end.

Following that he demonstrated to me how he can now push down on the recessed button that makes his dumper truck makes various noises. He’s learning too fast, and I must now keep the cars keys out of reach.

I wonder if we could equate that speed of learning to an adult equivalent? Maybe learning to do a Fast Fourier Transform AND how to tile your bathroom in the same day perhaps?

Now Get Out Of That

Within a minute of these photo’s a four point harness for his chair was ordered!  Hooray for the internet!








Harnessed!



The Bottom Line:

2 – resignations of world Prime Ministers this week. One in Italy and our very own John Keys. Something smells fishy about the JK one.
148,500 – US dollars that my old house in California is still under water by, seven years after I sent the keys back to the bank! Housing bubbles are very scary.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Week 6 & 7 - Part 2 Short and Sweet?

Week 6 &  7– Part 2

R-RSI

Reading – Repetitive Strain Injury. I’m sure every parent with babies/toddlers has suffered from this at some point.

I don’t mind reading and re-reading a book if it’s a good one and Francis is clearly getting enjoyment out of them. But still there come’s a time when……..

So my approach to this has been re-reading them in different accents. Eg. With a French accent, or an American twang, or reverting to my native Geordie tongue.  However the best combination appears to be to get Ananda to try and read the books with a Geordie accent. Here’s a wee excerpt……







Counts:

470,000 - what we offered for a house and was still rejected. House has now been removed from the market.
 9 - days until we leave for San Deigo.
1085 - number of page view "The story of Francis" received! Thanks for reading

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Week 6 & 7 - Part 1


Week 6 &  7– Part 1

Nappy Free Nightmare

We’ve been using re-useable nappies (diapers) with Francis since he was a month old. (Side note they had paid for themselves by 6 months!!! when compared with disposable ones). We also use Weleda barrier cream but every now and then he gets a tiny rash so we give him some nappy free time.

I’m sure the title of this one has given it all away already, but let me paint the picture for you. Hope you’re not eating…….

A few minutes after Francis had been crawling around I saw a little wet path on the floor so went in search of the “odor” eating spray we used to keep for our old (sadly departed) dog. I guess I must have spent too long searching for it – never did find it – and thus returned to the kitchen – for that was the scene of the earlier crime – to see Sunny the dog licking his lips and nudging a nice brown well-formed turd  around with his nose. 

Urgh- so gross! Not the turd part, well I guess that is kinda gross, but the dog trying to eat it?  There was a lot of un-digested spinach visible, and since the height of Sunny’s culinary experiences to date  is cat shit, then this was probably shaping up to be a flavor-some morsel. I had obviously arrived just in time.

After mentally dealing with that thought, I saw that Francis has gotten a bit, erm , well how do you say this in polite company?, ah yes, shit all over his ankles. Delicately picking the wee fellow up we made an incident free retreat for a clean up!

Who me?

Wee man is becoming very expressive with his body language since words have not formed part of his vernacular yet..

This is his “You looking at me?” shrug or his “You wanna piece of this punk, huh? Well do ya?” shrug:



And this next one is the expression I get when asking Francis how his dinner ended up on the floor :





Share and Share alike




Yep, that’s me looking pretty green after talking to Hugh down the white porcelain telephone at 2:45am on Saturday morning. Well it was a blue bucket to be precise. Francis got a vomity bug on Tuesday evening and I sat up with him and cleaning up for him until about 3am on Wednesday. I was very meticulous in washing my hands etc and thought I had gotten away with it. Pat on the back.

Francis was fine on Wednesday morning, but then started to have some loose BMs on Thursday afternoon and on Friday morning (this latter one being like his young baby poo-namis that was all over his legs and up his back). With the latter one I did get a fair amount on myself whilst cleaning him up. Again, meticulous handwashing and hygiene.

However, by about 6:30pm it became obvious to me what was going to happen, so I prepared the spare room, got the bucket from the garage, and well just cursed my god-damned luck. As I relinquished myself from all parenting responsibilities for the next 16 hours, so did all of my bodily sphincters. First non-alcohol related spew-poo-fest (if that's what you can call it) since  a dodgy chicken sandwich in London in 1995.

Poor Ananda followed not close behind, her bout of Francis vomity bug starting about Saturday morning. Thinking of maybe trying to wear latex gloves and a mask next time. First rule of first aid: "First protect yourself".

The dogs have so far proven immune. Maybe there’s a moral there………

Understanding.

Although not using words of his own Francis understands way more then he lets on. (Mental note – I need to be very aware of this now!) As Ananda and I lay on the couch in our unhealthy states on Saturday and Sunday, Francis brought a book over for us to read for him. Once we read that a few times I said “why don’t you go and fetch another one” – and lo and behold off he popped to get another one.  He repeated this “trick” every time we ask him! Awesome.

Trying to be Francis to learn the word “beer” and “tea” and “job”.

Thanks.

Thanks to everyone who read my four part “Story of Francis”. I’ve had lots of positive feed back about it, and comments from many people who have been, or are in the same boat as us.

Numbers :

3,000,000 – the number of illegal immigrants Trump has claimed voted illegally in the US election
0% - the truth involved in his statement
0% - time he spent fact checking this (look on snope.com you idiot)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Story of Francis - Part 4


The Story of Francis
 
Part Four : Labour Day

Remember the following is written from my perspective and my recollection.



Wednesday 28th October 2015 : 00:15am

I was already in bed reading when Ananda came into the bedroom after brushing her teeth. She stood at the side of the bed and was just about to get in when with a resounding “splat” her waters broke on the floor. At first we were both a bit stunned, and then a little bit frightened and then a bit excited. “Did you waters just break?” I asked. Stupid question really.

As Ananda went to the spare room to tell Gay, and to get a maternity pad, I set about cleaning up. The waters had a slight pink tinge to them just as expected. We texted the mid-wives and then settled down to try and get a night sleep, knowing that the big day had started.

Wednesday 28th October 2015: 4:25am

I slept pretty well to be honest, and was woken up by Ananda who said the contractions were pretty intense. I got up and I think I remember eating a very quick breakfast before returning to Ananda. Gay was also awake at this stage now.

When I went back into the bedroom Ananda was a bit upset. The maternity pad she had worn through the night was showing some brown colouring – the dreaded meconium. We asked Gay for her opinion and then I took a picture and texted it to the midwife, and then called her and left a message.

At this point Ananda and Gay were saying that because of the meconium, we would now have to go to the hospital. I felt horribly shattered at this prospect, and extremely scared, nervous and very freaked out. I spent a long time in the bathroom.

Whilst waiting for a reply from our midwives, I started to get the birthing pool out and the hoses needed to fill it. “What’s the point I won’t be able to use it now” came the reply from Ananda. I wasn’t to be so easily deterred and plus it gave me something to do.

The midwife called and said, yep it looked like meconium, and that she had to offer us the possibility of going to the hospital. I clung to that word “possibility” as a sign of hope. She was on her way around to help.

Meanwhile, I was doing my best to comfort Ananda, and then we started going through our hypno-birthing routine of getting her to relax and let her body take over. It was much harder to do this time since she was already having contractions, not like just peacefully practicing in the comfort of an armchair. Still we persevered and tried our best.

My nerves were playing havoc with me, but then I remembered that in the homeopathy kit I had read about some pillules to take to help with relaxtion and stress, and further, it even said the father could take some too. So I looked through the kit and instructions. Aconite was what I was after.

I quickly scanned the instructions “Dissolve 2-3 pillues under the tongue…. Give a remedy up to every 10 minutes or so…….”. There,  that was all I needed to read, so I popped three in, and every 10 minutes or so would pop another three under my tongue.

Meanwhile I was also giving different ones to Ananda based on what symtpoms she was showing or describing to me.  For example, when she vomited I gave her some Ipecacuanha and she didn’t vomit anymore. Actually when she vomited I was way freaked out and wondered if this was going to be a long traumatic day. So I took some more aconite.

Ananda’s legs started shaking un-controllably. “Is there something for this?” she asked. I started searching through the instructions, and as I was getting towards the end if the list  I had already pretty much made up my mind that if I did not find one, I would just say I had and give her another anti-nausea one. Power of the mind remember. But lo and behold right at the end was one for legging trembling: Gelsemium. “Bloody hell this kit has everything!" I thought, slipping some more aconite under my tongue.

Sarah, one of the midwives arrived just before 5am, and we talked about the meconium and what it meant in terms of going to the hospital.  I asked what they would do at the hospital that was different from what she could do for us here at home, and also what the real dangers were.  Sarah said that at the hospital they would constantly monitor the baby’s heartbeat which meant Ananda would be pretty much restricted to lying in bed and not allowed in the birthing pool even if one was free. Dangers to the baby seem to lie mainly around a possible lung infection if the baby inhaled some meconium.

Sarah listened to the baby’s heartbeat which was a good strong 130ish bpm.  She then suggested a check of the state of dilation, which we agreed to. Anything to buy more time. But this showed Ananda to be only 2cm dilated. A long way to go. Ananda and Gay were becoming more resigned to having to go to the hospital.

Like I said I was freaking out inside, this was so not what I, or we wanted, and after another visit to the bathroom I passed by the living room and saw Sarah, nicely relaxed in our Lazy-Boy chair, feet up and clicking away on her smart phone. 

My blood boiled. “What the **ck is she doing on Facebook in the middle of such a crisis?”

I’m glad I only thought this as about 20 minutes later she came into the bedroom. “I’ve been doing some research on my phone into meconium and its dangers,” she said. “Apparently almost 50% of women past their due date have meconium in their waters, and in only a tiny fraction of cases does it actually lead to any complications." I could and should have hugged her, and mentally punched the air “YES!”. 

Wednesday 28th October 2015: 7:00am

Ananda and I spent some time discussing what to do, and then at 7am we told her we wanted to stay at home for the birth, as long as she thought there was no real pressing medical need for us to go to the hospital.  Sarah called her colleague Sam and then they both said they were happy for us to continue to stay at home. Yeah!

At some point in between contractions I was making progress in getting Ananda into a very calm state, and I too noticed a fog of calmness and serenity descending over me.   

Maybe it was because we were now back in control of the situation and had decided to stay at home. I was starting to be nice and relaxed. Ananda was sitting on the edge of the bed with me sat next to her. I could feel myself slouching further and further back onto the bed and ended up lying down pretty prone, just rubbing Ananda’s back nice and slowly. I saw the homeopathy kit and instructions, and in a lull decided to read it again so I could be ready for the next stage of Ananda’s transition. I actually read the instructions fully this time. “Dissolve 2-3 pillues under the tongue…. Give a remedy up to every 10 minutes or so for up to 4 doses”. 

Woah, no wonder I was feeling so calm and serene, I was overdosing on Aconite. I had taken, way, way more than that and had kept taking them once I felt the first effects, several hours earlier. Whoopsies! I shared this little oversight with Ananda and she did reply that she thought I was being a bit too relaxed about the whole process!

So, now we were back to our home birthing hypno-therapy plan. I felt so relieved and filled with belief and my gut instinct was telling me that this was such the right thing to do. And it wasn’t just the aconite talking.

Sam, the second midwife turned up at about 9:30am, and reassured us that only once in her many, many years of delivering babies at home had meconium ever caused a minor issue. 

At about this time the “mucous show” was making itself known to us and so we started filling the birthing pool, and just after 11am Ananda got into the pool, and I hopped in there with her about thirty minutes later. Bugger it was hot in there.

In between contractions Ananda was very relaxed and calm, and we kept going through the hypno-birthing practices we had learnt. The relaxing music was also playing, the aromatherapy fan was on and everything was nice and calm.  If only we could get Gay to stop chopping cheese in the kitchen! LOL, the only time Ananda swore in this whole process was to tell her mom to “stop **cking chopping cheese”.  (That's almost a direct quote.) Poor Gay was only trying to keep us all fed and watered as the hours in the pool came and went, and also probably just wanted something to do, to help. 

The midwives were monitoring the heartbeat every now and then, and keeping the water in the pool at the correct temperature – 37 to 38 degC (98.6 to 100.4F), as well as scooping “stuff” out of the pool.



I would get out of the pool every now and then because the heat was exhausting me, but Ananda was really content in there, letting the water take the weight off her body and the heat of the pool helping her through her surges.  The top of the babies head was visible at about 3pm. “Almost there” the midwives said. “We’ll be done by 3:30pm” I told myself. Foolish boy.

I started the hypno-birthing script that encouraged Ananda to breathe the baby down and out through the birthing canal. To breathe them down with love and light, ease and grace.

At 4:30pm with the help of the midwives I was able to encourage Ananda out of the pool and to try squatting to let gravity help us out. For the last few hours progress had been a bit slow, mainly because the baby kept crowning, but then slipping back in. So, once out of the water Ananda spent the next 50 minutes squatting in all sort of positions and rooms, sometimes with me holding her, sometimes all by herself.

Eventually at about quarter past five we were in the bathroom. Ananda tried squatting against the toilet bowl, and then with one foot up on the bath tub.

Wednesday 28th October 2015: 17:20pm

The babies head is born. From my position at the side of Ananda I can see the tiny little head, eyes closed facing the ceiling.  Baby is very greyish looking, but that’s what we’ve been told to expect. The baby’s features resemble my next eldest brother Leonard. The midwives encourage Ananda to give one last big push the next time she felt a contraction.

Wednesday 28th October 2015: 17:23pm

As Ananda gives one last push, the midwives help to ease the baby’s shoulder out and they come sliding out in one easy motion – followed by the rest of the baby and an awful lot of gloop that splattered all over the floor, which had been wisely covered in medical pads by the midwives.

“It’s a boy!” Gay shouts and then switches on the lights so that we’re all stunned by being illuminated by about 16,000W of heat lamps! This shocks the baby awake, and he takes his first cry. (Midwife’s notes actually say “…initially grimaced/cried then stunned!”) He, for we now know it is a he, is passed to Ananda who grabs him and sobs and smiles the biggest smile. I’m standing behind her as she sits down on the toilet, a massive lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I had thought that at this point I would totally lose it emotionally, and completely breakdown especially with my mother’s recent passing still very fresh with me. I was a split second away from that, but then I just felt a wave of joy wash over me, and that this magical moment, the long awaited birth of our child was not a time for melancholy and “if onlys”, but a time of great joy and peace and excitement and thankfulness.

We, and by we I really mean Ananda and the baby that was to later to be named Francis, had done an amazing job, of giving birth and of being born.  Especially to such a big baby. To us he look like a normal sized baby, but the midwives kept saying how big he was. Big he certainly was, weighing in at 9lbs 6oz with a 37cm head. 

Our midwives Sarah and Sam were also super supportive and the experience was made all the better for having Gay's calm presence, love, support and joy with us at every stage.
 
So that’s pretty much the Story of Francis completed, and fittingly ending on Thanksgiving Day. Of course it’s really only the first chapter in what will be the novel of his life, figuratively speaking of course.

Although the whole experience was not as super calm and quiet and peaceful as the video we had seen on line, it certainly was a far cry from the screaming, stressful encounters you see on TV and hear about people having in hospitals. And at birthing centres. Ananda tells me that even though her contractions were painful (despite the pain-free experience the hypnobirthing advertises! But that could have something to do with the massive baby size), in between them she felt super relaxed and that the whole day passed in a blur.

I know if we are ever to be blessed with having further children, home hypno-birthing is DEFINITELY the way forward.


 Thanks to everyone for reading this, and for the kind comments you have made.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Story of Francis : Part 3

Part Three : Pregnancy and Hypno-birthing.

Although all 40 weeks of pregnancy are very important in the development of the embryo/fetus/baby, to us getting through the first twelve weeks were crucial. We had made it to ten weeks the first time.  

Ananda went for her hCG blood tests every two days, and we saw good doubling of values which thankfully continued.  Still it seemed to take for ever to get to the ten week mark and beyond.

At twelve weeks we went for a scan :



I think both of us were so awestruck by this scan that we hardly spoke. Things were looking great for us and the embryo.  We were so happy. It looked like we had gotten through the first trimester and could maybe start to relax and little, and start to dream a bit bigger.

We planned to call our families to tell them the good news, as up to that point we had only told Ananda's mother. Unfortunately, I got a call first from my family the next morning. My mam back in the UK was seriously ill. She had just that day been diagnosed with terminal late-stage gall bladder cancer.  She had been told she might only have 6 months left to live. However, following a phone call with her consultant in the UK, if appeared that she may only have a few days left if they could not clear the blockage in her liver that was causing her liver to fail.

It’s impossible to put into any coherent order the mish-mash of emotions that I went through at this point. The day before I was so happy because of the scan and going to be a Dad; the next I’m told my mam will either die very soon, or at about the same time our baby is to be born. What would I do if those two extreme life events occurred at the same time but 19,000 miles apart? Would I be forced to choose between being there for my wife and new baby or saying goodbye to my mam for the last time? Should I tell mam about the pregnancy or is that too selfish?

Most of this roller-coaster of emotions was overshadowed by the sad fact that more than likely my Mam would never get to meet her new grandchild, and this made Ananda and I both so sad. So very sad. She was such a great mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. We had only just lost my Father 18 months earlier, so this just felt like too cruel a blow to handle.


I took a leave of absence from work and flew to the UK the next day.  It felt terrible to leave Ananda behind, it really did. Fortunately I was able to spend a good four weeks looking after my mam and being with our family as we tried to make her remaining time as comfortable and loving as possible.  Mam passed away peacefully at home in June as Ananda and I were on our way to England to celebrate her 80th birthday.

After returning from Mam’s funeral we started thinking and planning for the birth of our baby. We wanted to be surprised as to its gender so when we went for scans that was the first thing we told the nurses.  





One of the plus points from moving to New Zealand was that child birth was mid-wife led and not seen as a medical issue. Conception had certainly been a medical issue for us, but that was where we wanted the “medical” care to end, thank you very much.  We had our cake and we wanted to eat it. We interviewed a bunch of midwives, all of whom would be supportive of our choices regarding the birth of our baby.

Ananda says she has always wanted to have a hypno-birthing delivery ever since she was a teenager, and surprisingly to me that idea found fertile ground with me. The mail brought us a book called “ Hypno Birthing – The Mongan Method” by Marie Mongan.

I grabbed it and read it before Ananda did, and after about 14 pages I could see why this approach to birth appealed to Ananda.  Ananda has been a long-time meditater (we both still meditate twice a day), and since the premise of hypno-birthing is getting your body into a deeply relaxed and meditative state, I thought it would be a breeze for her.

The book came with a CD with some relaxation techniques in it, each one about 10-20 minutes long. The second time we listened to it was when we were going to bed one night. I woke up feeling so refreshed and relaxed thinking that it was the best night sleep I had ever had – only to find out it was only 40 minutes later. I too was hooked.

We went to a hypno-birthing class here in Hamilton, and were given some further guidance and techniques to use over a course of two weekends. I had a big part to play in this role as I would be the facilitator, the voice that Ananda would hear as I was inducing her into a deeply relaxed state.  The voice that Ananda would hear guiding her through the stages of labour. Quite a responsibility for me, so one that I was going to commit to 110%.

At some stage in the pregnancy we started considering the option of using hypno-birthing at home and using a birthing pool.  We read lots of positive home-birth stories on line and in magazines, and along with what we learned at anti-natal class and from the Home Birth Association, this felt like the final piece in the puzzle to make our plan complete. Our mid-wives said they preferred home births as they were more relaxing and magical.

So along with going to the anti-natal classes once a week, we were also practicing our hypno-birthing techniques at home.  I remember at the first anti-natal class I stood alone in saying that I thought the day of child birth would be a relaxing day. A verbal affirmation of a mental affirmation Ananda and I were practicing every day. As I’ve said before I’m a big believer in the power of the mind. People probably thought I was nuts saying that – you’ll have to read Part 4 tomorrow to see if that came true!


Photo credit: Olga Makhotkina

The pregnancy was going quite smoothly now. Ananda, once the morning sickness had passed, was doing really well. She failed the glucose test a couple of times, but passed the more sophisticated glucose test each time. Does anyone pass the stupid glucose test?

Because we were IVF we did have to visit the hospital on occasion for scans. The hospital and staff there were the epitome of why we did not want a hospital birth in the first place. Such a culture of fear, where they always painted the worst possible picture for us: “Oh your baby’s too big”, “Oh they may have a kidney defect”. I know they were only trying to do their jobs.

I still remember the shocked look on the Dr’s face when she asked us what dates we wanted to be booked into the hospital for birth. “We’re having the baby at home”. Cue Dr’s jaw hitting the floor.

The final straw for me at the hospital was with Ananda almost full term. We were told that the baby was going to be so big “about 12 pounds” that Ananda would have to be induced and/or have a C-section. I came out of that meeting feeling terrible and worried that Ananda would change her mind about the home birth. “Don’t worry” she reassured me “I don’t listen to what she says anymore.” Sigh.

The cavalry arrived from California in early October in the shape of Ananda’s mom, Gay, (note the American vernacular for mam) and our dear niece Carsyn. Carsyn and Gay were both given jobs to do in the event that Ananda went into labour,  (note the non-American vernacular), whilst they were here.  That included how to blow up the birthing pool, where it was going to go and how it was to be filled. We also went through our “birthing plan”, both for at home and if we DID have to go to the hospital. (Although dead set against it I believe that “failing to plan is planning to fail” so we had a plan for each scenario.)

Included in the Army-like drills that I would spring on them at any time of day or night, was the hypno-birthing relaxation techniques. At this stage I would practice two or three times a week putting Ananda into a relaxed state. Gay and Carsyn also joined in too, as did Sunny the Dog. It seemed to work well on everyone, man and beast! I could see that the more we practiced the quicker and deeper Ananda was becoming “hypnotised”.  You could tell from the change in her breathing pattern, and how difficult it was to bring her out of it when practice had finished!

I was a stickler for practicing under “exam like conditions” so that included listening to the  “Peace and Quiet” CD of music by Jeff Clarkson, and using the aromatherapy scent that Ananda had found to be the most relaxing – rose – just like her middle name.

With Gay and Carsyn we also re-watched a hypno-birthing video of an actual birth which was so calm and serene and beautiful, just so they had an idea of what to expect.  I always teared up watching this.

To complete our “weird-hippy-Californian” approach to our child birth we ordered a bunch of homeopathy supplements and some tie-died t-shirts. Well maybe not. The kit came with about 13 different vials, and a guideline telling us which pills to use at different parts of labour.

We were all set. My scripts and prompts for the hypno-birthing were laminated, and everything in place. The due date came and went, and unfortunately Carsyn had to return home. Gay remained. The hospital were more insistent that Ananda would have to be induced if we went more than a week over our due date.  Primrose oil was taken both orally and suppository like, acupuncture was tried, raspberry leaf tea consumed and natural prostaglandins applied. (I let you figure out what that means!). And, as before, we waited.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Story of Francis - Part 2


The Story of Francis.

Part 2:  Third Time Lucky?

As the weeks and months went by, Ananda and I slowly came to terms with losing what we had come so close to having. Research showed us that almost 30% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Taking into account the number of miscarriages that happen before the woman knows she is pregnant, the doctors think the actual percentage of miscarriages may be as high as 50%.  Wow.

In the meantime I finally got a job as a trainee carpenter at a new school they were building in Hamilton, and one Saturday morning came home to find Ananda missing, but one of those pregnancy test sticks sitting unwrapped in the bathroom with a distinct positive line on it.  “Probably gone to the pharmacy to get another to re-test” I thought. Lo and behold Ananda arrived home a little while later, asking “Did you see? Did you see?” as she came through the door.  The second test showed positive too.

Maybe Ananda’s subconscious had been waiting for me to get a job so that we had some stability before we got pregnant. Was that the key to the whole thing? Was it that primal?

On Monday Ananda went to get her hCG levels checked, and although they confirmed we were pregnant again, they were very low. And so we expected the worse and again the worse came.

After this second short lived pregnancy, we were actually quite optimistic about things as we had gotten pregnant naturally this time. So we kept trying, and kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. It’s difficult to put into words the disappointment we had every month as Ananda’s cycles came and went.

Ananda’s inquisitive mind led her to look at research into miscarriages because one of those fertility tests along the way showed she had a mutation in a certain gene called MTHFR (which we said stood for Mother F**ker gene- because if you had it you could be more prone to miscarriages). Another piece of the puzzle maybe, but still no direct actions we could take to find a solution, except taking some vitamin supplements.

My good friend from back in California had been super helpful and supportive and open to us as she herself had had twins through IVF. When I chatted to her one day she mentioned a friend of hers who had had many, many cycles of IVF before going to see a consultant at the fertility centre at Cornell University in New York.. “You should give her a try” she said.

So with nothing to lose but $500, we sent her an email, and then sent all of our charts and test results off to the Doctor. One morning we had a conference all with her to discuss our infertility. It was very thorough discussion and at the end of it Dr Khang said she would come up with  a different IVF plan for us to try. All we had to do was convince Fertility Associates to administer it for us.

To be fair, despite some early unenthusiastic responses from Fertility Associates, they did agree to the new plan we had. After all, we were private patients so they were willing to bend their “rules” and normal “plans” to accommodate us.

So we, and again I really mean Ananda, went through a round of patches, injections, ultra-sounds, blood tests etc. hoping that the third time would be the charm.  On the new plan of injections we were seeing more follicles and things were looking good.  Harvest day was much less fraught for me and my part in providing my specimen went mercifully without any hitches unlike the first time. (We, and by this I mean me, had already put some swimmers in cold storage ahead of time just in case!)

They harvested 10 viable eggs this time and mixed them with my sperm. The waiting game started again. Next morning they told us we had 5 fertilised embryos with three of them looking really good.

Day three arrived and we had four embryos still on the go. Two were classed as okay and  two of which they said were graded as high as could be.  So we would progress to day 5 and do the transfer then. There is of course a risk that things go south on day 4, but come day 5 we still had two viable embryos. We decided to transfer one, and freeze the other one, although I really wanted to try for twins!

Our Day 5 Blastocyst - rated 4AA - A top rating!


The day of transfer came and we watched again as a tiny little ball of cells was placed in Ananda’s uterus. For the second time via IVF we were PUPO.  Two weeks later the blood tests confirmed that we were indeed pregnant.  We took this as good news, not great news, as we had been here before, and I think we were both just super cautious. I know that I for one started to build up my defenses to be ready for another heartbreaking miscarriage.

 The weeks ground past painfully slowly. Every time Ananda and I got home from work I would search her face for signs of  bad news before being brave enough to ask her how she was doing.  At about week seven or eight Ananda started complaining about feeling sick in the morning and she was certainly very lethargic and tired.

Although it sounds cruel to say it, I did take a certain delight in this as it was certainly a different symptom from our first pregnancies and we both saw this as a positive sign. Maybe, hopefully it would stick this time and we would finally be truly pregnant.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Story Of Francis - Part 1


The Story of Francis.

Part 1 : The First Journey





I’ve wanted for some time to commit to writing down the story of Francis’ home hypno-birthing delivery, before it becomes too distant a memory. But there’s an extra back story that played out way before his birth that I think it is important to tell. So, I’m going to tell it.

I know we’re not the only couple that had trouble conceiving, but maybe if I write it down, and someone else in our position reads it, then it might give them some hope, or at least help them realize that although they may feel like it, they are not alone. The whole “Story of Francis” is going to be way too long for one blog so we’ll just stick with the first part for today, and finish up by Thursday.

Ananda and I have been together for almost a decade now, and skipping the fact that she was not too keen on me at the start “I’m open to the possibility of dating you in the future” - (that’s a direct quote from the day I laid my cards on the table for her at La Note restaurant in Berkeley) – we should just cut to the chase.

We had always wanted to have kids and once we had stopped using contraception we were eagerly waiting to get pregnant. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited.

I’m not sure at what point we started to take a more scientific approach to the whole affair, but books were bought, websites perused, diets were altered, an accurate digital thermometer purchased. We started plotting Ananda’s morning temperature so we could see the subtle but distinct temperature changes that would show she was ovulating, and timed and charted EVERYTHING we did.



And still we waited. And waited, and felt disappointed.

After some time we both started going for a battery of tests, each getting more and evolved as each previous test showed no reason for our infertility. There I said it. Infertility.

For a guy it’s no more complicated than “providing a specimen” which whilst the handing over of the specimen can be embarrassing, it is something that can be done in the pleasant surrounds of your own home, and much less invasive that the tests Ananda went through.  We had plenty of swimmers with good motility and even a check on the DNA structure (as sophisticated as it gets from the male perspective) showed all was good. (My career up to this point had involved using large amounts of radiation which could have lead to DNA damage.)

The consensus of opinion from the teams of doctors we saw in California was that we just fell into the category of “ unexplained fertility” which 20% of couples in the US fall into. So clearly we weren’t alone, although it sure felt like it.

One of the hardest things to deal with as an infertile couple is the joyful fertility of your friends and family. Yes, you do, and we certainly did, feel over-joyed as my nieces and nephews, brothers  and in-laws, friends and colleagues became pregnant, but always at the back of my mind was a nagging little sad part that kept saying “ why not us?” or “can it be our turn next…. please”.   

The sadness was very tangible at times as more and more months passed. We even threw all the charting etc. out of the window, and tried the “to hell with it” approach to try and take the pressure of ourselves. And still we waited. And waited.

We then decided to start the process to immigrate to New Zealand, and one day at my yoga class at work, (Stanford was very liberal!), the instructor asked us to write down what we wanted for the future. Here is what I wrote on the first side, and then later what I wrote on the back when I got back to my office:


I still carry this in my wallet to this day!  We also added a similar note in a little wee notebook Ananda and I have that we call our “Wish list”. I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is that we really, really wanted to have kids, and it was becoming an overwhelming wish/desire/need.

After travelling around New Zealand for almost 10 months and trying to get pregnant, we then started the whole “why can’t we get pregnant” testing all over again, and again nothing really stood out. One fertility expert suggested that Ananda undergo a full on surgical procedure to look inside her uterus to see if she had mild endometriosis. Clutching at straws.

Finally, one test looked at her AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) levels and suggested that maybe her egg store was not as optimal as it could have been, but again it was grasping at straws.

Once we settled in Hamilton we talked about the dual approach of doing IVF and also adopting.  So in January of 2014 we started our first round of IVF. I say “we” above but really, as a guy there is little we can do but to watch, help prepare the correct amounts to be injected and be supportive as Ananda did her injections at home everyday, and then went for blood tests almost as regularly. 

I think for the first round we counted about 30-40 injections Ananda had to do, and probably a dozen or so blood draws, and ultra sound scans, as the fertility doctors monitored the growth of her follicles, and counted them up. 

The timing of the trigger injection is pretty tightly regulated by the experts so that harvesting of the eggs is optimal and once we were given the go ahead, it was a real tense time with deadlines to meet!

As a guy I have to admit the pressure and stress got to me, and although I run the risk of public ridicule, there’s no point in telling the story if I don’t tell the truth.  So here goes….

The plan on the big day was for me to “collect my specimen” about 60 minutes before the eggs were harvested. I would do this at home and then travel to the clinic, brown paper bag in hand, with Ananda for the harvesting of the eggs. Easy right. 

Except it wasn’t. Nothing I or we could do was firing the gun for those swimmers, and as time and time got closer to the harvest time I was in a real bad state of body and mind. I know I am the kind of person who really freaks out at the thought of being late to anything, so as I saw the clock ticking down it really did not help my cause.

In the end I had to send Ananda ahead of me as the pressure, and I admit the ludicrous situation I found myself in, had really messed up my normal bodily functions. We had paid about NZD $12,000 up to this point, and I was feeling like I was going to screw up the possible conception of our child, cos I couldn’t do what most men can, and willingly do, at the drop of a hat.

Once Ananda had left and I realized and accepted that I would be late for the whole shebang, I guess I was able to relax a little (mentally at least!) and I followed about 10 minutes behind Ananda, my brown paper bag carrying it’s precious cargo sat beside me in the motorhome.

They managed to harvest nine viable eggs I think, from a possible thirteen or fourteen follicles. We were happy with that number. The procedure requires a mild anesthetic for Ananda so I stayed at home with her that day.  Then the waiting begins.   

The next morning they called us to say 5 eggs had been fertilized, so already our chances were getting slimmer.  On the third day a decision is made on the quality of the embryos so that transfer of the embryo will occur on day three or day five.

A green light for day three is if the embryos are doing okay but may not last in the petri dish until day five, and the uterus is considered the best place for these eggs to continue developing instead of the petri dish.  Day five is considered if there are at least three good embryos on day three in the hope that at least one of them makes it to day 5.

It was becoming increasingly obvious to us that we were going to shoot for day three as by that time we only had one viable embryo left, so back we headed to the clinic and watched on screen as the wee little bag of cells was put back into Ananda. It was quite a breathless time for me.

At this point you are PUPO – Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise, but there is still a lot more waiting to be done.  A further two weeks has to pass before any kind of blood test is done, a measure of hCG – human chorionic gonadotropin – to see if you are pregnant and then to measure the progress of the embryonic growth.

And so it was two weeks later that I was browsing for some wood in Bunnings when I got a call from Ananda. “We’re pregnant” she said. I smiled and felt a little buzz of excitement and said I would always remember where I was when I got that call.

Obviously life is never that simple, or at least not for us. Levels of hCG are meant to double every two days or so, so the viability of the pregnancy can be tracked and kinda predicted. The first couple of test came back within the correct range – poor Ananda was giving blood samples every two days at this point. But then they stopped doubling as expected and the tone and message form the fertility specialists started to become less optimistic.

I was kinda pissed at them because I’m a great believer in the power of the mind, and I was just wanting them to try and put a bit more of a positive spin on the numbers and not drag down Ananda’s and my enthusiasm about being pregnant.

At week eight they sent us to a specialist high powered ultra-sound facility. I was clutching Ananda’s hand and secretly praying as they spread the gloop on her belly and started moving the probe around. Pretty soon the nurse was able to say the most magical words I have ever heard : “There’s the embryo and it’s got a good strong heartbeat”. 

I felt so vindicated in my head strong belief that this was going to work for us and that we were going to remain pregnant, that I kinda washed over the fact that the size of the embryo at this point was about a week behind schedule. I think I joked at the time “ That just means it will be born a week later and if you knew how late my wife is all the time that just makes sense!” I also felt a strong sense of “I told you so” aimed at the fertility nurses who had been giving us the less than optimistic reports.

Still the hCG tests kept coming back less than ideal. At week ten Ananda told me she had started bleeding. Again, not wanting to acknowledge what all of these clues were telling us, and grasping so firmly to the wee picture of the scan we had and the fact that there had been a heart beat, I pretty much refused to accept or believe what was inevitably happening to the pregnancy.  We scoured the internet for every article and story of ladies who bleed at some stage in their pregnancy, and even those that still had pretty a regular period all the way through their SUCCESSFUL pregnancies.

Because of the bleeding they sent us for another scan at a different clinic.  As soon as we entered the premises I did not like the atmosphere there, and it was not helped by the fact that the nurse this time said it was her first day at this site and was having trouble with the ultra-sound machinery. She spent a lot of time not very confidently trying to find a heart beat or evidence of the embryonic sac, all the while I just sat there my heart broken and watching silent tears fall slip down Ananda’s face.

The lady went to get a more experienced colleague, and alas the scan and results was the same. There was no heartbeat. Heartbreaking, and still super sad to recall that moment right now.

As we walked out of the clinic I was still in denial and talked about whether we should go back to the original clinic as this one clearly had “incompetent staff”. I was still desperately grasping to the hope of being pregnant.

My view of miscarriages up to this point had really only be shaped by TV, where an upset screaming woman is dramatically rushed into a hospital and it’s all over very quickly and neatly. In reality it is much less dramatic, but way more traumatic and very upsetting for both the mother and father.

I remember forcing ourselves to go to a friends house party later that weekend. Ananda and I probably appeared really insular to everyone else as we just sat next to each other all evenings, hearing the laughter and conversation of the other party goers, but feeling very much isolated in our despair, powerless to stop what was happening.

Over the course of the next few days Ananda’s bleeding got heavier and we both sat around the house supporting each other, wiping away each other’s tears and holding each other to give, and be, comforted.  You really do feel completely helpless at this point, and I wished I could take away some of Ananda’s emotional pain.

We also discussed that fact that we wanted to try and save the embryo and hold a proper burial ceremony.  It was quite obvious when the embryo finally did come out – I’m sure there is a medical term for that but not sure what it is. We carefully wrapped it up, both of us weeping really badly at this point, and placed a lighted candle in front of it.

We had decided to bury it in a big plant pot and then plant a star jasmine in there as a permanent reminder and tribute to the little embryo, and so the next day we carried out our quiet, heart-wrenching ceremony on our back deck, along with prayers and goodbyes and thank you for that wonderful spark I had felt when I first saw the heart beat.

We were devastated.