5 reasons to go camping with kids

As the rain gently falls on my office window, I can hear the sounds of ‘bath-time’ coming from upstairs, and I appreciate this half hour I have to myself.

We’re going camping in just under two weeks time – so I’m going to make a start on our packing list, and am hoping that the sunshine we’ve been enjoying makes a return for when it’s time to go!

A few people have said to me ‘you’re brave going camping with a baby!’ Now, call me crazy, but I’m here to tell you that camping with young children is actually the most delightful thing to do! You just need to be organised and well prepared. (And there’ll be no talk of minimalism here – you’re going to want to take everything AND the kitchen sink!) There truly is nothing better than sleeping outdoors, waking up with the sun, and eating pancakes cooked on the camp BBQ. Days of walking through the forest to the beach, lounging around your campsite reading books or playing games, smelling the sausages sizzling come tea-time, and gazing at the stars once the little ones crash after all that fresh air.

The first time we went camping as a family was when Beau was a one year old – we went to the Prana New Year Festival and he absolutely loved every minute of it, as did we. He’s three now and we’ve been camping a further three times since, including to a site right next to a stream last summer. My expectation is that camping with a 5 month old baby (who doesn’t crawl yet) and a three year old (who is now more trust-worthy in terms of not running off, or randomly wanting to get into everything – aka other peoples’ tents!) will actually be even more enjoyable. I shall report back accordingly!

These are my top five reasons why camping with young children is a must do:

  1. It’s cheap! Our 3 night stay for the 4 of us, with a powered site, is costing $160. The campground has flushing toilets, hot showers, and a kitchen if you don’t want to take your own camping stove/bbq. You camp in a clearing by the forest, and walk through the trees to the most beautiful beach. It feels a lot further than a 2.5 hour drive from home and there is nothing else you could possibly need in order to have a lovely family holiday – trees, beach, campsite, you’re set. The only additional costs are your petrol getting there and the food you’ll eat. But you’d be eating if you were at home anyway, so… it’s a 4 day summer holiday for $160.
  2. It’s an adventure! Sleeping outdoors; setting up a cosy home in a tent; snuggling in sleeping bags; reading books until the light runs out; waking with the sun and getting to the beach as it’s still rising; collecting shells and pine cones and leaves and sticks and making artworks; hanging towels and togs on any piece of rope or tree branch that’s available – ready for them to dry and be used again; hearing the sound of the birds around you and becoming familiar with their rhythm; waking with the smell of the beach still on your sun kissed skin…
  3. It’s good for the soul. Being somewhere with limited cellphone coverage, and no need to do anything other than relax, is undoubtedly good for the soul. There’re no screens, no to do list, no schedule, no where to be by a certain time, no sense of time at all – beyond waking with the sun and going to bed when it sets… You’re more in tune with your own natural rhythms – more aware of when you need to sleep, or eat, or move, or rest. And the little ones are just the same. They are more relaxed, because you are more relaxed. Everyone is less grizzly and more settled – because we’re all together, and it feels deliciously calm and soothing. The rustles of the trees, the chirping of the birds, the distant lull of the oceans waves, a monarch butterfly bobbing by, the changing shapes of the clouds, the gradual shift of the trees shadow… it’s a slow and deliberate time together.
  4. It’s bonding. It’s really lovely all working together on the simplest of tasks – whether it’s pegging down the tent, or blowing up the air beds, or washing the dishes in a bucket, there’s a task for everyone and even the smallest of hands can help. Then there’s the family shower trip at the end of the day’s adventures, all meandering through the campgrounds with wash-bags and bath towels and returning to the tent clean and fresh, ready for PJs and sleeping bags and stories. There’s the closeness of sleep, with the comfort of each others proximity, and the shared breakfasts in the morning – complete with jumpers over PJs and no where else to be but together. It’s just a lovely time of togetherness.
  5. Because why wouldn’t you?! If you wait for the right time, the right age, the right weather… you’ll never go. Obviously if you don’t enjoy camping in the first place, then maybe don’t go with young children. But if you love camping and would love to take your children along, then my number one reason to go is exactly that.

Just be organised and go prepared – for rain or shine – and I promise you won’t regret it. (I’ll share our lengthy packing list, once it’s compiled!)

Do you go camping with your little ones? What are some of your top tips?

this place we call home

I’m not from this place. But it is the place which welcomed me in, called me one of its own, and now the place I call home.

Beautiful, pretty, Auckland City.

I feel fortunate to live here; when I think of Auckland I think of leafy Cornwall Park, of trendy inner city foodie stops, of Sunday farmers markets, of the glistening blue waters as you cruise to Waiheke, of the calm beaches as you head north, of flat whites and brunches, of the dense green bush as you head west, and the art that comes alive when the sun goes down.

For me there has been theatre, partying with friends, uni days, poetry nights, dancing in the city, and walking along beaches. I’ve swam in the ocean, climbed volcanoes, been to yoga and had brunch. I fell in love here. I had two babies.

Since 2014 I’ve been a Wedding Celebrant and not only have I met some of the most interesting and loveliest of people – I’ve been fortunate to spend time in some of the most stunning locations Auckland has to offer. From the beaches and vineyards of Waiheke Island; to the cocktail bars of the inner City; as far south as lush green Glenbrook; to the East at Musick Point, overlooking the boats in the blue bays; there’s been the rolling countryside to the north – from Riverhead, to Kumeu, onto Puhoi, and as far as Matakana; to the festival beachy vibe of Piha, out West; and into many a family home – always with an open door and open arms for me – smiling faces who invite me into their lives to officiate and celebrate their unions, surrounded by their families and friends.

I’m proud of this place I call home. On Sundays, my little family and I take the time to enjoy it. We drive and catch up with conversation whilst the little ones nap, or we’ll sing music with the windows down whilst they are both awake – driving over the Harbour Bridge, pointing out the sailing boats and the Sky Tower, protruding from the central city. We find ourselves at a beach or a park and we roll out the picnic rugs, pull out the picnic hamper, and lay down to gaze at the sky.

I’m on the other side of the earth from where I once called home, and I welcome future travels in my life, but right now there is no where else I’d rather be. Auckland. This place we call home.

new year musings

Nick went back to work yesterday, which means the rhythm of family life will resume and new routines will start to take shape. Georgie is now 4 months old, becoming stronger and more aware of the world around her by the day, and 3-year-old Beau is awaiting a place at our selected preschool. This new year really does represent the next phase in our family life, and I have some clear intentions for it…

Now, I have absolutely nothing against new year’s resolutions, or setting big personal goals each year… but at this current stage in my life, I prefer a more gentle approach – one that’s realistic in terms of where I am at (full-time mother of a preschooler and a baby who is breastfed on demand) and doesn’t hold me to ransom should things go off track. There are no targets to hit, no boxes to tick, just a focus to give me direction and a few plans to guide the way. Well-being is my ultimate goal. I just want to live a life that is mindful and present and connected.

These are my intentions for 2018:

  • Gently move towards a plant-based diet;
  • Ease back into daily walking;
  • Find a weekly restorative yoga class – maybe try Yin;
  • More books, less screens;
  • Nurture those friendships I value.

And I have a couple more:

  • Start taking Celebrant bookings again, mid-year onwards;
  • Write/blog on Sunday afternoons, as able.

And finally there are some family matters:

  • Continue our monthly date nights;
  • Celebrate Beau starting preschool;
  • Have a Naming Ceremony for Georgie;
  • Travel to Fiji in August for our friends’ wedding;
  • Plan our 2019 UK trip;
  • Start to think about our first home build.

And that’s it. Writing it out makes it seem like an awful lot, actually – but it really isn’t. Prioritise my well-being and cherish family-time could summarise it. Oh and avoid dickheads. Just avoid them.

We really have had the loveliest end of year holiday, to welcome in 2018. The last 3 months of 2017 were intense – naturally, after having had our second baby and recovering from another c-section – and they culminated with Nick needing a 5 day hospital stay (getting home at 5pm on Christmas Eve!) due to a back injury. We really did need that break.

So we had a relaxed Christmas at home, cancelled our New Year holiday, and enjoyed two whole weeks of being together, with no plans other than what we felt like doing.

We went to our favourite beach and swam in the ocean; we had a BBQ with friends; we woke up and watched the rain bucketing down outside, all snuggled in one bed; we cleaned the house; we went on a train ride from Glenbrook; we picked strawberries in the summer sun; we played games, read books, had naps, and slept in; we shopped in the sales, rode scooters in underground carparks, and ate burgers in the boot; we caught up with laundry, made homemade pizzas, watched a movie after the children went to bed, and ate all the leftover Christmas Stollen (I did, anyway).

And then, after the loveliest two week break – it was Sunday. It was the day before Nick must return to work… and I began to feel the relaxation of our holiday dissipate and anxiety creep in.

It knocked me off my feet a little, this anxiety. I couldn’t place where it was coming from, or what it was about… I just felt heavy and unmotivated, unable to focus, and the day seemed a bit awkward with indecisiveness around our plans. So, come 4pm, I’d had enough. I packed us a picnic dinner, bundled us all into the car, and we headed to our local beach. Long Bay. Bliss.

I found my clarity almost immediately. The breeze cleared my mind, and the sound of the ocean waves brought me back to the present moment: I was feeling anxious because I hadn’t done resting yet.

I simply wasn’t ready for the year to begin – for Nick to go back to work and me to return to full-time parenting… I didn’t want to answer my business enquiries, or set any measurable goals for my writing… I didn’t feel energised enough to start going for walks, or to make it to a yoga class, or to swap my easy cheese sandwiches for garden salads. I didn’t want to do anything and, anxiously, I felt as though I needed to.

Walking along the beach – the very same beach I walked when pregnant with Georgie; when trying to conceive her; when both pregnant and post-partum with my first born Beau; when I’ve lost loved ones; failed things and made mistakes; said goodbyes; welcomed new beginnings; and changed directions – I found my clarity, just as I had done a hundred times before about a hundred different things. And I realised – with the sand under my feet, breathing lungfuls of the fresh, salty air – I just need to bring it back to basics.

And I need to bring it back to basics for as long as it takes.

I can simply rest for longer. I can give myself the grace to rest for as long as I need to. All year, if that’s what it takes, or even longer than that. I will rest until my energy returns. I will nurture and nourish and nap.

I need a summer of long weekends, and a winter of early nights. I need a spring of walking amongst the trees and reading in the afternoon sun. I need music and poetry, to dance and sing, cuddle my babies, and laugh with my husband. I need to kiss him more. I need coffee dates and long chats with new girlfriends, and dinner parties with old friends. I need to stop and breath, to look at this tired and fat and scarred body in the mirror and to bask in her utter beauty. I will regain my strength, my shape, and I will regain my spirit.

I will rediscover that young girl I was, and meet the strong woman I now am. I will figure out what I want to do, and the kind of person I want to be.

But first, I need to rest.

I have two little people who need my hugs, and love, and milk. And I am everything to them. These days of them finding their own rest in my arms are few. So that will be our focus for 2018. And I think it will be the biggest one yet.

2018 will be a year of self care, and self love. It will be slow and gentle, but deliberate. A time to finally gather my senses and embrace only that what matters.

x

Georgie’s birth story

Midnight

I remember waking sometime after midnight, with a sense that something was shifting. I was almost 42 weeks pregnant, so the inevitable had obviously been in my consciousness for some time – but the strange thing about birth is that, even when it could begin at any moment, it always feels so far away. Unimaginable.

So I just lay in bed and waited, with Nick sleeping soundly next to me, and I thought to myself – ‘I’ll just see if that happens again.’ And it did. It wasn’t a pain, or even a physical sensation at all, it was just a sense. Like moving within a gentle wave, something shifting; or like something I needed to pull into focus, but was still blurry.

So I thought it best to get up and use the loo… and I remember sitting there for a while, the sense still coming and going, but it now felt as though I had eaten something dodgy. I leaned back, gently placing my hands onto the wall on either side of me, and tried to let go of all tension. I just sat there and tried to let go.

I remember not wanting to wake Nick, but not wanting to go back to bed. So I went into the living room and checked the time – it was somewhere around 12.15am – and then I knelt over some large cushions on the sofa. I remember rocking my hips and breathing, slowly and deeply. I thought I was just pretending, practicing, just trying to imagine…

1.15am

What felt like 5 minutes later… I decided to get my phone and send a text message to my mum and dad, who were to look after Beau when birthing began. Looking at my message history, this was actually a whole hour later, at 1.15am.

At the time, I remember thinking I was jumping the gun a bit, but that it was better they came sooner rather than later – so that they wouldn’t need to drive in the middle of the night, and Beau would already be taken care of once things did get underway. I was even thinking that if labour didn’t establish, then Nick and I could simply enjoy the next day together, relaxing, patiently waiting for things to begin… my parents live a 30 minute drive away and it was lucky I messaged exactly when I did.

I remember my dad replying to my ‘are you awake’ text immediately, as he was still awake, and how he simply asked “are you starting?”

“I think so.”

“Shall we come now?”

“Yes please.”

Then the rest becomes a blur. After sending the texts, it was literally as though I had flicked a switch and all was on. It was now more than apparent that labour had started.

I started to make low, deep groaning noises with every exhalation during a surge. I remember doing this, not only because it helped, but also because I thought it might wake Nick or Beau up – I wanted someone to come to me, but at the same time I didn’t want to move or to wake them.

Eventually I had to – I went into our bedroom and told Nick ‘I’m in labour and mum and dad are on their way.’ I must have sounded urgent, as I just remember him startling and jumping straight out of bed and asking if he should call Sue, as I went back to the loo. I wasn’t sure if we needed Sue yet, I just knew I needed to be breathing on the loo.

From now my story is pieced together from the birthing notes Sue kept in my clinical record, along with the fragmented memories I have of my own experience. They replay almost like a staccato of images in my mind – surreal moments where I lost myself within the surges, wedged alongside memories of strange lucidity between the contractions.

It was 1.45am when Nick had called Sue, just 90 minutes after I had woken up, and my surges were already established in a solid 2-3 minute rhythm. There was barely any time after the last had ebbed away, before the next one had started to build. The surges were really slamming me; Sue heard this over the phone and thought it best to come straight away.

2.15am

“Arrived at Hayley’s house. Hayley is working really hard to relax her body between surges. Getting little breaks between them as some shorter surges between the stronger ones.”

Everything happened so quickly!

There had been 30 minutes in between Nick calling Sue and her arriving, and in that time my Mum and Dad arrived. Mum stayed with me as I laboured in the bedroom, whilst Nick busied himself putting the last bits and pieces in my hospital bag. I’m not sure where Dad was, and I hardly even thought about Beau, bless him! But that’s because I knew he had people there to take care of him, of course – I could relax into labour knowing he was OK, which is likely why things began in earnest once I’d made those arrangements.

Later on I was told that Nick had taken Beau from his bed and put him into Mum and Dad’s car, and all he could say was ‘wow, look at all the stars!”,  before being taken to their home in the countryside. What an adventure!

So it had been just after 2.15am when Sue arrived to assess me, and by her notes it was 2.50am when we left for the hospital! Labour was well and truly established.

I remember the cool night air when we stepped outside, and how the whole world felt asleep; I remember touching the cool dark surface of the car and wondering how I would get in; I remember Nick driving us up our steep driveway and quietly repeating “I long for these surges”; I remember just how much I had longed for my surges, before labour had began, and thought what a fool I was now; I remember I’d made a music playlist, but wanted silence; I remember thinking we were the only ones on the roads, even though we couldn’t have been; and I remember having such intense contractions as we drove down The Avenue, passed my old university, once we got on the motorway, and in the carpark at the hospital. I remember having no idea what to expect, but also knowing exactly what I needed to do – to just breathe. To surrender.

These surges really gripped me, I have to say, and I did everything I could to relax into them. But it was hard. I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me – there was no gentle, gradual build up, it had seemed as though labour had begun suddenly and abruptly and I hadn’t a chance to get my head around it. So I just tried to focus on filling my lungs and exhaling deeply through each surge – pushing the energy down into my pelvic floor, letting go, feeling the full force of each wave.

I wouldn’t say I was riding the waves, as much as I was trying not to drown under them. When each surge ebbed away, I opened my eyes, took stock, and waited for the next one. They kept coming, over and over, relentlessly. This was all so sudden and intense – but, at the same time, it felt so productive and progressive so I didn’t fight it. I just kept breathing and pushing that energy down – opening myself to them.

3.15am

It took a while to get into the hospital, as I had to keep stopping – by the pay machine, on the zebra crossing, up the steps… we went through the emergency department and the waiting room was full of people, big wide eyes, and bright lights. Someone asked if I wanted a wheelchair, I declined. I stopped to breathe through a surge over the back of a chair in the middle of everyone. I took a few hobbled steps, and asked for that wheelchair… we went through some double doors, people stepped aside, we were in a lift, then I read “labour suite.” My clinical notes say it was 3.30am when we were admitted.

Once in our room, Sue was there again. She put a cannula into my right forearm, for in case of an emergency, and strapped a CTG belt around my waist, to continuously monitor baby’s heart rate. This is standard hospital procedure for a birthing mother with a previous c-section – but still requires your informed consent. I had given mine prior to labour beginning and can honestly say that the IV leur (strapped down with a bandage) and the tummy belt did not hinder me or my mobility in any way – I barely noticed they were there, and the belt was water-proof, meaning I could still get into a pool.

Once the necessary things were done, Sue went straight to fill the birth pool, whilst we waited awkwardly in the birthing room, trying to settle in. I continued with the surges, I think I may have mentioned to Nick how intense they were for me, and I distinctly remember faffing around looking for my togs, in the bag I had packed and repacked several times over the previous weeks – before eventually finding them, wondering how to put them on, and Nick questioning why I needed them anyway.

4.15am

“Hayley is into the pool…”

4.45am

“Hayley is requesting entonox – same given.”

I remember wishing I had asked for gas and air sooner. On getting into the pool, my expectations that it would ease my discomfort were quickly redefined. It did not ease the intensity of those contractions. Not at all. But the water did enable me to squat deeply, without toppling over or my legs getting tired, so that in itself was a huge benefit, as labour continued to race along.

NB: Sitting and leaning back, into Nick, was not an option for me. I tried and quickly asked him to propel me forward, as the pain was too much and being upright and forwards felt entirely more manageable to me. It was almost as though I was welcoming labour this way, not collapsing under it. I remember this was just the same the first time.

The experience itself, of getting into a birthing pool – something denied to me with my first birth, due to premature rupture of membranes and risk of infection – was divine, to me. I had wanted and fought for this and it was at this very moment I realised that my baby could come however they needed to, without me feeling a sense of loss or birth trauma, because I had achieved all that I had set out to do – no elective surgery, no unnecessary interventions, spontaneous labour, natural progression, and letting it all happen in its own time. I had been fighting to be left alone. Fighting for my opportunity to VBAC. Now I had reached the point of the transition phase, and I had made it into the birthing pool, so now I could surrender and welcome the course it would take.

At one point in the pool, I remember resting my cheek on the side, staring intently at the tubes coming in and out of the gas canister, and hearing Nick – who was sitting in the pool behind me – affectionately comment on my hips moving in time to the music. I had no idea he had even put any on.

Eventually there was an intensity that felt greater than me. A pressure that felt like my very own life force being pushed out. At the end of every exhalation, there was an urge to exhale further still, far beyond any breath I had left. I was pushing and groaning and banging my hand on the side of the tub, almost begging for release. It seemed an odd but very necessary thing for me to do. Sue kept reminding me to inhale. But I just felt this internal force trying to push itself out of me. It felt like being squeezed. And then I would get the release, and wonder what was happening. It just simply felt greater than me – as though this energy surging through me was no longer mine. And it no longer felt productive. It felt as though I had hit a wall and was banging against it. Which is remarkable… because we would later learn that my baby had…

5.15am

“Hayley out of the pool, back to room 8, on the bed kneeling – needing strong pressure on pressure points on her lower back…”

I remember Nick and Sue helping me out of the pool, drying me, putting me in a hospital gown, and then walking me through the corridor back to our designated birthing room. (Previous c-section mamas aren’t assigned to the rooms with the pools in them – because hospital policy is that we ‘aren’t permitted’ to use them. Having to leave my room in the throes of labour, to walk the length of an insanely bright corridor towards an unoccupied room with a birthing pool at the opposite end, was a small price to have paid to assert my right).

Back in the room I now continued to labour intensely – moving constantly, into any position that felt right or necessary to be in: kneeling over the pillows of the bed, with Nick and Sue pressing my hips on either side; standing beside the bed, leaning on Nick, with one leg raised and placed upon it; sitting on a swiss ball, legs wide apart, leaning over the bedside… all of these positions, with hindsight, were an attempt to open my pelvis as wide as I possibly could. The pressure and the intensity of these surges were off the chart…

And so the surges continued, relentlessly, with little to no break in-between them and I could no longer cope. I was starting to become quite overwhelmed and not only did I think ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ but I actually didn’t want to either.

I requested a vaginal exam to check on my progress, just to see I was heading in the right direction…

“Palp: LOL Ceph. VE: 7cm dilated, effaced. Head @ stn -1. LOL-OA. Bulging membranes esp w surges. Hayley reasurred and continues to use entonox and changing positions.”

5.45am

“Hayley is desperate for an epidural. She feels the demand is too high with these intense, close contractions. Anaesthetist called.”

6.00am

“IV plasmalyte now running. Hayley is working hard. Early decels <80bpm.”

6.15am

“Epidural sited.”

I remember this so distinctly. I remember asking for the epidural and, despite not wanting one, knowing deep down this was the right decision for me. A necessary one. I just knew it. I remember reassuring Nick and Sue that I would not regret this decision later on.

And I didn’t.

I remember the anaesthetist arriving and being asked to sit on the edge of the bed, Sue giving me a pillow to lean over, Nick uttering soothing words. There was the intensity of the ongoing contractions, the ice cold disinfectant wiped over my back, and the fear of having a needle inserted into the most delicate of places during the most unyielding of surges. I remember all but screaming as a surge reached is peak, just as the epidural sent its electric shock into the socket of my left hip, then down behind my knee caps. It felt as though I was launching out of my seat as Nick’s hand on my shoulder grounded me. And then bliss.

I was helped to lay down, Sue busied herself with IV lines, the anaesthetist laughed at our birth music as ‘Mr Boombastic’ blared out of the speakers, and the gentle fizzing away of those powerful contractions. I could breathe, I could relax, I could glance at the clock…

“How long before this really kicks in?” I asked.

“By 6.20” I was promised.

And then I lay back and closed my eyes.

8.15am

“Contractions continuing, with good relaxation between them.”

Over the next two hours, my had body continued to labour unassisted, whilst I relaxed in the hospital bed.

I chatted with Sue, I laughed and smiled with Nick, we even took the odd photo. I almost forgot about what was imminently ahead… but then I slowly started to regain my thoughts again and I realised – I either need to push this baby out, or I will be off to the theatre again. I kind of already knew what the outcome would be. I knew the moment I got out of the birth pool, to be honest. And at this point I started to get scared.

For the first time in both of my pregnancies, my two labours, and my first c-section with Beau – I genuinely felt scared. Nick told me I would be ok – and I knew I would be. But I was still scared. And I felt really alone. Like – it was easy for him to reassure me, given he didn’t have to embark on this monumental journey himself. And I was exhausted. I remember that I kept saying how glad I was I had asked for the epidural. I felt so empowered by that decision.

9.15am

“VE: cervix continues to be @7cm dilated, with no descent. Whilst doing the examination the membranes ruptured with muddy brown meconium. FHR baseline has increased over the past hour or so from 135bpm > 145bm. Head feels deflexed and asynclitic OT-OA @ stn -1 to -2. Discussed findings with Hayley and Nick and advised Doctor is coming to see them asap.”

Three hours had gone by, since I reached 7cm dilation and had an epidural, and no further progress had been made despite my uterus having ongoing contractions. Baby was now showing some signs of distress and the head was presenting in the same way Beau’s had done – which had been an emergency/late stage c-section due to being obstructed. It was seeming quite apparent at this point that the same complication, and thus the same outcome, would occur.

I waited for the Doctor to come and tell me that she would need to prepare me for theatre. I nodded calmly to the expected news when it came. And I tried not to cry, whilst as the same time feeling the deepest sense of relief. An end point in sight. But more than that – I had done all that I could, and this time I knew it. A sense of peace over my first baby’s cesarean birth settled within in, for good. I had done all that I could then, and I had done all that I could now. Soon we will meet our second baby and life will move into a new chapter for us all.

10.15am

“Hayley prep’d for theatre.”

The anaesthetist I had this time, Andy, was truly wonderful. I confessed my fear to him (especially when the first spinal block wasn’t as effective and I needed a second) and he looked me deeply in the eyes and told me all would be OK. I felt safe with him, and he stuck by my side the whole time. Sue was there for baby now; Fiona was the Doctor performing my c-section; Nick was there for baby and me both; but Andy was there just for me. His professionalism, expertise, and kindness, held me together throughout that surgery when I could feel myself falling apart.

There were three others in the theatre – a surgical nurse, a second anaesthetist, and another midwife – meaning we were a team of 8, with one more soon to join us… Far from being the private, dimly lit, and deeply relaxed environment I longed for to birth in – this was bright lights, many busy and excited faces, and wide open sharing. And you know what – it was perfect. It was a really defining moment in my life – I didn’t need to cope, to be calm, to hold it together or be brave, I could just be me. And all would be well.

11.17am

“It’s a girl?”

Nick had been invited to take a look at baby – and I heard his disbelief and joy play out through his gentle words, as he discovered in that very first moment…

“She’s a girl!!!!”

Georgina Mae Greer, Georgie, was pulled from my tummy – crying before even her legs were out. Eyes wide open, wondering what all that was about, she weighed a squishy delishy 9lb 5oz and was- is! – the most beautiful wee darling. She, who we had dared not to wish for, had come to us.

*

I’d like to say that the moment was as beautiful as the picture, but it wasn’t quite. For me, the moment was incredibly challenging. There was a space left inside of me, when baby had been pulled out – and this void now felt like I was being suffocated as my lungs tried to stretch back into the space. My sinuses had completed blocked, so that I couldn’t draw any air in through my nose at all. And my mouth was as dry as cotton wool, making swallowing difficult. All of this whilst laying flat on my back was quite overwhelming – and not at all like my first c-section, which had been comfortable, fascinating, and enjoyable.

I remember wishing for it to be over. I remember Georgie being brought to me – noticing meconium in her creases; the lively pinkness of her; and feeling her skin, warm and soft, against my own. And then I remember asking Nick to take care of her until I could. I didn’t want to introduce myself to her this way.

There are photos I saw later, of the moments Nick then shared with Georgie – shirt off, skin-to-skin, welcoming his girl into his life – and I am so happy they had that time together. She has two parents, not just one mother. The team kept my mind occupied, whilst I did my best to keep myself together for the rest of the surgery – Sue gently stroked my sinuses, which helped greatly; Andy got me wet wash cloths to suck on, to moisten my cotton dry mouth; and Fiona told me she would be as quick as she could, but wanted to do a careful job, so asked if I’d prefer to be put to sleep. I most certainly did not – so I meditated for the duration of the surgery and soon it was over and I was sitting upright in recovery.

*

There was violent shaking post-op; someone helping me to drink through a straw; the tightness of the blood pressure cuff – on and off and on and off; the swift and gentle care of the post-op nurse, who was a young Asian man; the kindness of Fiona, who came to see me, reassuring me that I had done everything I could, that there was no way I would have birthed her vaginally; the warm feeling of pride and elation to have heard that; wondering where Sue and Andy had gone; feeding her for the first time and both knowing what to do; seeing my Nick quietly but intently watching us from the side; being wheeled to a ward; Nick there still, all the way; trying to remember how different or similar all this had been with Beau; not being able to keep my eyes open… drifting off… sleeping…

And then I woke and there was a kind nurse – Mandeep – but I had been bleeding too much, and so there was a red button and Fiona again and other people and weighing of blood loss and telling them I was scared and my stomach being palpated and various drips in my arm and other people coming in and Nick’s reassuring eyes and Fiona’s kind ones and being told I was OK but not believing it.

This was all a blur, and there would be several more hours of discomfort… and then Georgie.

Then I saw her. She was in my arms and I don’t know how long she had been there, but it didn’t matter – because she was there with me and now I could see her.

The sun was setting outside, so it must have been around 5 or 6pm, and the room had filled with a pink-hued golden light. She was stunning. She looked like her brother, only she was Georgie. She was simply Georgie. And she was beautiful and she was my girl and I stared at her for a very long time, whilst she slept in my arms.

*

I remembered the dream I had had, just when I was beginning my fertility treatment in order to conceive again, in which Sue had come to me. She had been sitting in the middle of our living room, as though we had been deep in conversation, and she had simply pointed to my stomach saying “honey, you have a girl in there. She’s just not ready yet, but she’s in there.”

And now here she was. Georgie Mae. Here in her own time.

*

I didn’t know my heart could expand anymore. This sweet soul came along and I thought my heart would need to make room; but instead she made it bigger. She fits right in. I fell in love with her instantly – I literally felt myself fall. It was like taking a step over the edge and flying.

And something seemed to lift within me too, as though I felt lighter… like she had picked me up and taken me to a place where I could leave heavy and unimportant stuff behind. Beau showed me that place existed, and Georgie took me by the hand and gently led us all in. It’s as though I was waiting for her all along. And now we can all take that next step, together.

S U M M E R  B U C K E T  L I S T

It was a long winter in the Greer household – with me waddling around heavily pregnant, desperately trying to savour the last of my days with ‘just Beau’ (which in reality turned out to be  a lot of snuggling, watching TV, reading books, and visiting cafes for fluffy milk and allthefoodsplease).

And then Georgie was born on the third day of spring – almost two weeks passed her expected due date, as though she was clinging onto her warm cocoon, not at all interested in being born until the weather improved.

And now… we are just 6 days away from the summer-time! Spring – and Georgie’s glorious fourth trimester – is almost over, already.

I intend to write more about her fourth trimester, our wonderful babymoon, and prioritising the adjustment into a family-of-four… but today I want to share with you our S U M M E R  B U C K E T  L I S T ! Because priorities!

I made a decision recently that I need to prioritise what matters most to me, above anything else – and that is quality time with my family, getting out into nature, and having bucket-loads of fun together.

On one particularly long afternoon of cluster-feeding, when Georgie was just born… and I had just finished reading Constance Hall’s book ‘Like a Queen,’ feeling inspired by her discussion around surrender and choosing joy with her children over literally anything else… I got out a pen and a piece of paper.

Right in the centre of this piece of paper, I scrawled “summer bucket list” and drew a cloud shape around it. And, when Nick got home that evening, we listed all the things that came to mind in anticipation of our summer-time with the children. Not a list of things we should do, but a list of the things we could do.

So I stuck this piece of paper under a magnet on the fridge, replacing the list of housework formerly there, and it’s a daily reminder to me to embrace the things I most enjoy doing.

Our weeks are pretty full on – just as yours would be – Nick runs his own Building & Project Management company, often working 12 hour days, and I’m full-time mother to an active preschooler and a breastfed baby. Saturdays come and are a flurry of errands, and housework, and catch ups, and each getting a bit of time for ourselves. But then – Sundays.

Sundays are our family days. Our no work, no commitments, no plans days. We avoid sharing these days with others, cherishing the time as just the four of us. Sundays are our bucket list days. The mornings are for having fun, getting out and doing things we really enjoy – maybe there’ll be a long car journey for the little ones to nap, a place to easily push a stroller, lots of trees and wide open spaces, a picnic to enjoy, and blue summer skies. And then the afternoons are reserved for relaxing – watching TV or a film, reading books, figuring out whose turn it is to mold play dough or build duplo, and later on eating a favourite meal.

The best way to end and start any week. Fulfilled.

What would you put on your own summer bucket list? I’d love to know!

x Hayley

S U M M E R  B U C K E T  L I S T

  • Have a picnic in Cornwall Park
  • Smell the flowers in the Auckland Domain
  • Meet the animals at Auckland Zoo
  • Go for a trip on the Glenbrook Railway
  • Try new foods at the Clevedon Farmers Market
  • Pick strawberries in Kumeu – starts here after Christmas
  • Go on beach trips – to Long Bay, Omaha, Pakiri…
  • Camping in the Coromandel – toast marshmallows!
  • Discover local walkways & playgrounds – buggy-friendly Auckland here
  • Garden fun – paddling pool, sand tray, BBQs + homemade popsicles (try thisthis or this)
  • Water fun at the Albany stadium childrens’ pools (tip: go early!)
  • Go up the Sky Tower on a City trip
  • Catch the ferry to Waiheke Island
  • Build forts on rainy days
  • Walk around Lake Pupuke
  • Walk through Shakespear Regional Park
  • Kids Kingdom, to celebrate Beau starting preschool.

Georgie // a short film

For those who know me well, you will know how much I wanted to conceive a second baby and how it wasn’t an easy road for me. Fertility issues are a silent battle many women are fighting through. I’ve been there and, if you are there too, you have my full understanding.

Having not had any issues the first time around, with Beau, I really struggled with it all – especially the label “Secondary Infertility.” I felt broken, and it took me a little effort to realise I in fact wasn’t broken, and that conceiving Beau ‘without even trying’ was actually just a beautiful and random stroke of luck. It had nothing to do with any accomplishment on my part, nor did my fertility issues second time around have anything to do with a mistake I was making.

For anyone who has conceived effortlessly, it is simply a beautiful and random stroke of luck. And for anyone who has battled, or continues to battle, please don’t lose faith. I can’t tell you if or when you will conceive – but I can tell you that you haven’t done anything wrong, and that you deserve to be a mother more than anything. In your heart you already are. Please don’t stop fighting for it.

This is a film I made for Georgie, yesterday… once I had conceived my second babe, I celebrated every damned moment of it. It wasn’t always comfortable or easy, I gained 20kg overall and struggled with pelvic pain and a bit of antenatal depression and my 9lb 5oz babe needed to be delivered via emergency section because in transition of labour she was obstructed and couldn’t get out, but it was all simply beautiful. And utterly worthy of having the shit celebrated out of it.

Love you, Georgie. I’d go through it all over and over again to get you. You were worth the wait. 

The Rockstar Birth questionnaire!

Recently, Jo from Bella Mama shared a birth questionnaire in our private Facebook group – it came from Shalome at Rockstar Birth Magazine, and Shalome had written on her own Facebook page:

“I teamed up with a swag of other rocking Birth Professionals to turn the focus to where it NEEDS to be. To open the conversation on healthy, positive & transformational birth. Less about what pain relief you had or when you gave birth, and more about how birth made you FEEL. How it transformed you into the Rockstar you are today.”

It was a Friday night, my husband and I were relaxing on the couch at home, so I took the time to answer the questions. It was such a rewarding exercise to do! I wrote to Jo that ‘on some level I think I’ve been feeling anxious about doing it all again, but as I wrote it all down and remembered it in such detail, I kind of reassured myself that ‘I’ve got this!’ So thank YOU!’

Jo reassured me that I totally do HAVE this. And she is so right. We need to tell ourselves, in order to believe it 😉

If my words, or this exercise itself, might be helpful to you – this is why I have shared it.

Much love to you, mama!

*

 Who did you have at your birth & why?
My husband, my midwife and her assistant. We had two midwives as we planned to birth at home… but things ended up in the operating room, due to an obstructed labour, so we had a large number of attendees in the end. Every single one of them were a joy to have around me – all I remember is impeccable professionalism, happy smiling faces, and how obvious it was that everyone was there to help me.

 How did you prepare your birth partner for birth?
He prepared himself! He read all the books and articles I read, after me. He came to all my midwife appointments (I felt him getting on with our midwife was equally as important as me getting on with her), we took hypnobirthing classes as well as practicing hypnobirthing exercises together before bed (often we would be giggling away and couldn’t calm down – but always we felt relaxed, so we felt we were nailing it!), and the best thing was the pregnancy massage course of Jo’s which we took – he got me through many hours of labour with his hands, before I needed extra help (drugs!!).

 How important is language in pregnancy and birth?
One of the things I loved about hypnobirthing was how contractions were referred to as “surges.” This subtle language change was incredible in terms of how I viewed labour.

 How would you describe your care providers?
Knowledgable, experienced, professional, and deeply caring.

 What did you do in the lead up to birth to celebrate your amazing body?
I enjoyed pregnancy yoga classes, massages, and splurged on a professional photo shoot – it was wonderful to celebrate my body in that way. I loved the way my body looked carrying my baby, and have those photos to cherish forever.

 How did you surrender to birth?
I distinctly remember the moment I truly surrendered to birth. It was when I ended up in hospital – 48 hours after my waters broke and 12 hours after my natural labour stalled. I needed to be given antibiotics, and to have baby monitored for a while – but we didn’t even take hospital bags with us as we were still convinced we’d be going home to have our baby! But then we had some scary moments of sudden decelerations in baby’s heart rate (<60bpm) whenever I moved into certain positions – after a flurry of doctors and discussions it was deemed I would be staying put. My midwife, normally the picture of calm professionalism, looked at me in a way that urged me ‘I must do whatever is needed for baby, now.’ I surrendered. I knew we needed help, and I was fully open to the guidance of the medical staff. I believed I was in safe hands. Thereafter all I needed to do was breathe.

 Top tip for staying in your birthing bubble?
In the build up, read positive birth stories and watch calm birthing videos. There are SO many out there. Share everything you are feeling with your partner and midwife, and let them be there for you. If you are having a baby shower (do!), be mindful of who you invite and surround yourself only with positive/like-minded people. And when your labour does begin – only your birth partner and midwife need know. Turn your phones off and leave the outside world behind.

 Your best tip for labour?
Breathe, breathe, breathe. No matter what happens – whether everything goes as naturally and smoothly as can be, or if you need medical help and intervention – all you need to do is breathe. Trust that you are capable of making this journey – because you are! ❤️

 What was the best moment of your birth?
When I was wheeled into the operating theatre and my surgeon asked for the radio to be put on – Lighthouse Family’s ‘High’ started to play and I will never forget that moment. I could cry whenever I remember it! “When you’re close to tears remember, some day it’ll all be over, one day we’re gonna get so high…” And before I knew it, he was here. And high doesn’t come close.

 What were you most proud of?
The healthy, strong, beautiful little boy I brought into this world. I remember looking at him that first night and thinking ‘he’s mine’ – not in a sense of ownership, but in a sense of achievement.

 What did you learn most about yourself?
That I am a perfectionist! Not in a good way! But also that I am self-aware and courageous enough to look honestly at myself and learn from my mistakes.

 What surprised you most about giving birth?
Birth itself! It feels like magic to be honest – but it’s all us

 What were your early postpartum days were like?
A real shock. It had been a very long labour and difficult delivery. It was almost like having an out of body experience for a few days – I was somewhere deep inside this shell, and I felt very timid of my own body. I couldn’t believe my baby had been inside me – that surely some kind of magic had happened between my last day of pregnancy and his birth! Breastfeeding was confusing. And it was overwhelming to realise that the work was just beginning. I felt so broken and unsure. I cried a lot and my family held me. But they were also the happiest days of my life. Pure love and wonder and a sense of there being no other place for me than right here.

 Would you / did you do anything different in subsequent births?
I have the same midwife, but a much more realistic mindset than the first time. I think overall I have less expectations. What will be will be. And it will all be ok.

 What surprised you most about becoming a mother?
That it’s not always joyful! You will cry and scream and rage and hurt sometimes. But you’ll take it all in your stride.

 What was the hardest adjustment when becoming a mother?
The demands of breastfeeding and not getting solid blocks of sleep for a while – that was a really hard adjustment. But soon those days are over and you are no longer breastfeeding and you’re sleeping through the night again, and you’ll remember those hard days with nothing but fondness. You’ll miss them.

 How did your birth make you the amazing Mum you are?
It taught me that it’s not just about me, anymore – it’s about what’s best for him.

 What has your child taught you?
Patience (a work in progress!), and to let my words of love be louder than anything else.

 Your advice for other mums to be?
There will always be someone ready to judge you, no matter what choices you make. So stay true to what’s best for your family, and don’t feel the need to explain or justify yourself to anyone else.

Pregnancy and toddlerhood

Today is tough
I feel I’m breaking
For all I give
Still more you’re taking
You push me on
And on I go
You’re teaching me
There’s more to know
And maybe this is how it is
To come undone & be rebuilt
Through all the cracks
More light is spilt
A greater depth
A sudden tilt
And slowly I now start to see
I’ve more to give
There’s more to me…

A letter to my first born.

Dear Beau

Soon you will be a big brother. I know this is really exciting news for you – you can’t wait to meet your little sibling and to introduce them to our family life, to share your toys and adventures, and to help take care of them. You’ve told me so. You express love at the sight of anyone’s baby at the moment, with a heart-melting ‘awwww’ and big curious, caring eyes.

Beau you have the kindest, most loving nature – and you will be the best big brother there ever has been. How blessed baby is!

But as joyful and wonderful as it all will be, I also know there will be challenges ahead, as you learn the realities of sharing your home, your belongings, and your parents with another person. So this is why I wanted to write to you.

You probably won’t read this letter until you are much older – adult, even. And there will have been many a frustration, jealousy, and fight between now and then. I hope I have managed it well. I hope I was able to hear you, and reassure you, whilst at the same time opening your mind and your horizons and not being able to figure it all out for you.

I hope you still feel as you seem to feel right now – unconditionally loved and adored, admired for your strengths, trusted in your capabilities, and supported through all of your learning and mistakes.

I don’t want to be the kind of parent who highlights your short-comings, who reminds you of times you haven’t gotten it right or have messed up. I want to be the kind of parent who lifts you higher – who encourages you to embrace yourself fully, to know your worth, and not to weigh yourself in terms of pluses and minuses, but as a whole person, a whole being, evolving but brilliant just as you are. I want to encourage you to do your best, but mostly to just be yourself. And to live your life your way.

On your life’s journey you will encounter judgement, and you might be led to feel shame… but I hope that never, ever comes from us. I want you to believe in that goodness we see in you. I hope we are always able to show you that we see it and believe in it, too.

You will long ago have ceased needing our support, or guidance… I have no doubt what a fiercely capable and independent soul you will become, because you already are. But perhaps when/if you become a parent yourself someday you will seek our guidance once again… and I hope you willingly turn to it. I hope our parenting can set you in the right direction, a direction that you will take further still, not highlight a path you’d rather not go down!

I can’t promise these things – but I want you to know that I intend them.

I just hope you know that we did our best.

Because we are doing our best, your daddy and I. Who knows how many mistakes we will muddle through as the years unfold before us… I’m sure a few, though. But I am also sure that we will be able to fix them, learn from them, and love each other throughout it all. I promise that you will always have our apologies when you deserve them, our honesty and commitment always, and our deepest love for far longer than you could possibly know.

You aren’t going to be our ‘one’ anymore. But you will always be you to us. Your feelings will always matter and be considered. Your voice will never be silenced. And I hope you are reading this someday and agreeing – that we have managed to parent you with empathy and kindness.

Our family is about to bring another person into it, and we don’t yet know who they are or how they will change things… but I do know they will be safe and loved, with us.

I’m so proud of our parenting so far, Beau – because I am so proud of you. You are two and a half years old and clever and caring and wonderful.

You are my first born son, and you teach me just as much as I could ever teach you. Thank you for being you and for all you bring to our family.

Here’s to all that is to come, my darling!

Your Mum x

Be you.

Today we have baby’s anatomy scan! It’s usually at this point couples find out if baby is a boy/girl.

With Beau, we wanted a surprise. We didn’t eed to know, and felt it best to let baby introduce themselves to us at birth. It was the best decision; such a powerful moment. It was Beau! It always was him.

This time, for a variety of reasons, I’ve felt a strong desire to know. My senses tell me it’s a baby boy growing in my womb – we’ve even had his name given to us, as if we’ve made a discovery rather than a choice. I’m struggling to imagine a baby girl in our lives, but would of course be overjoyed if she came. Overall, I’ve struggled to connect with this pregnancy – life is already full with Beau. It feels surreal. I felt as though knowing would bring me some clarity, that I would settle into this journey and be able to prepare in a practical way.

I spoke with Nick; we spoke at length over the weekend and last night. He doesn’t feel the same way, but he respects my needs and let the decision be mine. So we were all set!… right until the 11th hour… I panicked and realised, I can’t know! Not yet. The idea of finding out felt to me like I was about to burst a sacred bubble. Halfway through the conversation with Nick my intention turned full circle, and he laughed with affection and mutual understanding, as he witnessed me defend the position I had initially tried to uncover.

And so that’s it, baby! I will continue to nurture us during pregnancy, my anticipation will continue to build, but we will await your own introduction at your birth.

I don’t know who you will be… but I do know you will be YOU.

And you will be loved