Toddlers are demanding and irrational and they dictate what you do, how you do it, which baby you’re allowed to hold and what voice you have to use for the entire morning.
They are also the most fantastically creative intelligent loving short humans. They are us without the pretense and without the world telling us to be different. They live and love honestly. They see magic all around them.
A switch has flicked and we have our darling Quin back. For now her tantrums have all but subsided and left in their place is a bundle of joy in a size 2 pink princess dress. She is – as she described our flower garden yesterday – magnificent!
On Friday evening after work, I was met with her excited yells of “mama’s home!” followed by a hug which included gentle pats on my back. We sat down to eat and, without prompting, she leaned over and hugged Shan telling her, “I love you mummy.” It was the first time she’d said it by herself. We just stared at each other with the broadest smiles.
Last night after dinner I went to use the bathroom and she wanted to come. Those who know me know how difficult this is, but in the interest of progressing her toilet training I breathed deeply and allowed her in. While I sat there doing my business and trying not to hyperventilate, she tore squares from the roll and piled them one by one on top on my hands, which were palm down on my legs. When there were four squares on each hand she smiled at me and said triumphantly “there you go mama!” I couldn’t help but smile. I had no idea what she was doing but she was convinced she’d helped me and was so proud of herself for doing so.
Jemima is “impossible” and also Arlo’s other big sister.
The sparkling fairy lights near our flowers are “so beautiful and all the colours of the rainbow!”
She collected twigs and leaves on her walk to the park and made me a collage to keep at work.
She knows my favourite colour is purple and mummy’s is green, and she specifically finds things in these colours for us to have, telling us “you love purple mama!” or “green is mummy’s favourite colour!”
As much as we are being reminded how sweet and lovely newborn’s are, I wouldn’t trade these magnificent toddler days for anything.
If you’re sitting there wondering what it’s like to live with a toddler, just imagine a never ending game of Opposite Day.
Opposite Day is a fun little game where you ask someone a question and they give you an answer, often a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and then they scream out “Opposite Day!” which means their ‘yes’ just became a ‘no’, and vice-versa. And you both laugh and everyone is having a jolly time.
It’s exactly like that with a toddler. Except their ‘yes’ becomes a ‘no’ but they don’t tell you it’s Opposite Day and they just scream. And no one is laughing or having a jolly time. And the next 10 minutes are spent trying to get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer that isn’t actually a ‘no’ or ‘yes’. And it usually ends with someone threatening to flush something down the toilet.
Quin: Can I have some milk please?
Me: sure, here you go.
Quin: *suddenly hysterical* I don’t want milk!!!
Me: Ok.. don’t have milk.
Quin: *pleading desperately* Please! I want my milk!
Me: Fine, here you go.
Quin: *takes a sip* I don’t want milk!
Me: Ok, I’ll pour it down the toilet then.
Quin: *cool, calm and collected* No, it’s ok. I will just sit on the couch and drink my milk. Thank you mama.
Me: *wipes sweat from brow and staggers away*
The first few months of toddlerhood hit us like a truck. Our normally placid, darling daughter was suddenly replaced by an argumentative and completely irrational mini-human and we’d be standing there staring at our future teen daughter wondering if she’s still too young for military school.
We stressed. We got frustrated. We swore under our breathe and struggled to maintain our composure until it was just the two of us and then we’d try to comprehend what the heck was happening. Not able to find the words to accurately capture the insanity, our conversations were mostly just a lot of wide-eyed hand waving shoulder shrugging that ended with a long sigh.
Then, after yet another what-the-hell-do-we-do chat we made a conscious decision to just chill out. I mean, chill right out. We wouldn’t get frustrated or angry or try to find reason in an unreasonable situation. We’d lead with love – what we’d always tried to do – and see if that helped. Even if Miss I’m-17-and-old-enough-to-drive didn’t change, we’d be able to get through each day with all our hair, and it might not even turn grey.
We did our research (read: Shan researched and told me about it) and we learnt all about the biology of toddlers. The hormone changes, the brain leaps, the why’s to our ‘why do I suddenly want to banish my kid?’ It helped us to realise this is actually all normal. She’s not acting out, she’s just reacting the only way she knows how. She’s not being difficult, she just doesn’t know how to process her thoughts and feelings yet in a way that makes sense to us.
After sharing another Life With A Toddler story at work, my boss asked how we cope. My answer was this – we figure the way we react to her in these situations is how she is learning to react in these situations. If we yell and scream, that will be her normal response. She’d be learning “If I don’t like what that person does I am going to yell at them!” And we don’t want that to be her response. Our future adult is taking her lead from us so need to be better leaders. We’re cool. We’re calm. We ask her what’s going on, help her articulate an answer and we explain how things need to happen in the future.
So no more toddler tantrums? Hell no. But they seem to be getting shorter and we’re getting better at avoiding them by understanding why they happen. We let her have her feelings, even the irrational ones. Then we show her a better response to those feelings that doesn’t involve hurling her fork across the room.
Is it working? Well, Quin is having fewer meltdowns and we still have all our hair.
Everything about our second baby’s birth was planned.
We were to be at the hospital at 6.30am on Tuesday 22 July. Once there, Shan would be prepped and was second in line for a planned Cesarean. We’d attended pre-admission appointments at the hospital and were well briefed on how this birth was going to happen.
We knew the when, the how, the who, the where.
Except our baby had other ideas.
On Monday 14 July 2014, I woke up at 4.30am and Shan was laying there wide awake, which is completely unnatural except when she’s heavily pregnant and struggling to sleep comfortably. I asked her if she was ok.
“My waters have broken,” she said.
“Oh, ok. Are you ok?” My 4.30am brain didn’t really know what that meant. Shan’s waters didn’t break with Quin so this was new.
“Yeah I’m fine, no contractions or anything. I will call the hospital at 5 and see what they say. I’ll probably have to go up this morning and get checked.”
During Shan’s pregnancy with Quin we learned that it could be days after your waters break before you actually go into labour, so I said “Ok. So I’ll go to work and you let me know if I need to come home.”
“Sweetie, I really think you should come to the hospital with me. I think our baby is going to come today.”
Now I was awake. “Really?!”
“Yeah, they won’t want me to go into labour and I’ve been having some cramping.”
“Woah, ok. Wow.”
We talked excitedly about our unborn baby until 5am. Shan called the hospital and they said we were to come up and they’d monitor her for a bit and take things from there. Shan texted her mum and asked her to come over when she was awake. She was here within a minute – a new Joma record.
We dressed and gathered the bags Shan would need at the hospital. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was completely all over the shop. A mixture of excitement about potentially meeting our baby before the end of the day, anxiety about all the work I still had to do which I now had to handover via email, and just general confusion that all of this was happening on Monday 14 July and not Tuesday 22 July. Shan was much more collected than I was and got us both out the door.
By 6am we were in the birthing suite and Shan was hooked up to the baby monitor. We spent an hour listening to our baby’s heartbeat and watching the sunrise. At 7am, a doctor younger than both of us checked Shan and said, “Oh, yep, your waters have definitely broken. You’re having a baby today!” She explained shift change happened at 8am so she would handover to the doctors coming on and, once they’d planned surgeries for the morning, we’d be told when we’re going in.
We waited for further instruction and passed time by talking about how crazy it is that you can only ever plan so much when it comes to babies. I was happy this planned birth had turned into a huge surprise. Shan was so happy our baby had chosen their own birthday. And what a birthday to choose – 14-7-14.
We talked once again about the little one we were about to meet. We had both been sure through the entire pregnancy that we were having a boy. I was sure of it for no other reason other than I felt like we were. We had no preference either way but it was a boy, just as I’d been sure Quin was a girl.
I went to get a cup of tea and our midwife called out “we’re on!”
“What? We’re on now?”
“We’re on now. Let’s go!”
I did one of those comical do-I-get-my-tea-or-do-I-go-back-to-Shan dances in the hallway. Tea won – I needed energy. But it was the fastest tea made in the history of tea.
Shan was prepped and we were taken down to the surgery floor. From this time until the surgery felt like years. Every small delay felt like hours. Shan was asked over and over about what she was here for, what she was allergic to, were her teeth real. Finally we were taken into a small room where they administered the Spinal. Shan was given a local anesthetic and then they tried, three times, to get the Spinal in. My brave wife almost hit the roof the first two times. Once in, it started to kick in and Shan lost feeling from her chest to her toes.
We were all settled into the sterile room and the staff talked excitedly about whether we’d have a boy or girl – they hadn’t had a surprise in weeks – and what their name would be. We told them it was four letters starting with A and it was the one name for a boy or girl. Their guesses were fun: Able, Amos, Andy. No one guessed right.
The anesthesiologist made sure the surgeons knew it was a surprise and so bub was pulled out and presented to us Lion King style.
A girl! We had a girl! We were honestly dead-set surprised we’d had a girl. Elated and completely overwhelmed but very, very surprised. The surprise quickly gave way to pure joy and we told her how much she was wanted and how much we’d been waiting for her. Quin had a baby sister. We had girls – plural!
Our healthy and beautiful baby girl was weighed and measured – 7lb8oz (3.4kg) and 49cm long. Her name, Arlo, was shared with the room and only one doctor had heard it before. All agreed it was beautiful.
In recovery, Arlo lunged at Shan like a vampire and fed right away. The midwife said she’d never seen a baby do that before and gave her 10/10 for aim, attachment and general baby-awesomeness.
Shan, once again, was the most incredible mother through the whole day that followed. She was quite sick from the meds but continued to smile with our visitors and fed Arlo all day.
Our exciting day ended with the three of us sitting alone quietly in the hospital room. Quin was introduced to her little sister but the whole thing was a bit overwhelming for her, especially seeing mummy in the hospital bed, and she left early with Joma.
I spent the evening kissing Arlo’s big cheeks and touching her sweet face and generally loving on both Shan and her. We both felt so blessed to be a family – a girl-filled family!
8 November 2013
The last week has been stressful. Shan ovulated early, so our planned 5 day old embryo (blastocyst) transfer meant it would fall on a Sunday and the clinic is closed on Sunday. So we had to decide if we would wait until December and do the 5 day transfer or do the 3 day transfer today. The success rate increases by 20% between a 3 day embryo transfer (40%) and a 5 day embryo transfer (60%), which is a great reason to wait. But Quin was a 3 day transfer and that worked out pretty darn well and we feed like we’ve waited long enough. Also, we figure this or something else might happen again in December and then we’ll have to wait until February to try. We talked it through and decided we wanted to give it a go. If it is meant to be, it will be.
So we’re here at 9am, prepped and ready to go. Our amazing doctor cut her holiday short to fly back from Canberra to do the transfer and literally arrived at the hospital direct from the airport. She is all smiles as always but also all very serious when it speaking of success rates. Right before the transfer she says “So with this little one I will give it a 40% chance of taking, ok?” Shan said OK. I said “I give it 100% chance of working.” We all have a little chuckle. Our doc takes her job very seriously, which is why we love her. But when your shy wife is laying on a table naked from the waist down in front of several people, you do what you can to make her smile.
The transfer itself took about 3 minutes and, once in the recovery room, we both agree we feel really good and positive about it. As we sit here smiling at each other I have an overwhelming feeling that this one is a little boy. I tell Shan and she says “that’s weird, I do too.” Before we fell pregnant with Quin, we always thought we’d have a boy first. But as soon as we found out we were pregnant I had the same overwhelming feeling that it was a little girl. That feeling stayed throughout the whole pregnancy and as it turned out to be correct, we both now wonder if our instincts are accurate on this one too. Not that it matters in the slightest, but the feeling is so strong it’s hard to ignore.
We spend the rest of the afternoon with our darling daughter, laughing and smiling and trying not to think about how much we want this transfer to work so we can give Quin the little brother or sister she wants. When we ask her whether she’d like a brother or sister she says “brother. sister. brother. sister. brother.” 6 kids it is.
Late in the afternoon Shan has some implantation spotting, which is a positive sign. Also a positive sign – Shan’s fave number is 8, today is the 8th and our embryo was an 8 cell embryo. We’ll take all the random positive signs we can get right now!
Sunday 10 November
The first thing Shan says to me this morning is “I had a dream we had the baby last night and it was a girl.”
I say, “I did too! Although it started as a girl and then it became a boy.”
“I think it’s the universe telling us we need to stop thinking it’s a boy because it’s just as likely to be a girl.”
“Yeah, I know, we should stop…. but it is a boy.”
“…or a girl.”
“brother, sister, brother, sister, brother.”
We spend the day driving to the coast to see my family. Shan isn’t feeling 100% and has a bit of that car-sick feeling. We’re both feeling sorry for her but also secretly really stoked. Could it be an early sign?!
A Yatala Pie stop on the way home helps her to feel better.
Wednesday 13 November
We agreed we can’t actually tell Quin about the baby in the belly until we’re ready for the whole world to know. She is repeating EVERYTHING at the moment and you know, being a 1 year old and all, has no filter.
We also decided not to tell anyone our baby names this time. Which also means not telling Quin. We always had particular names chosen for our kids, but changed them recently (these new ones feel really right) and we want them to be a surprise for everyone.
We can’t wait to see Quin be a big sister. They’re going to be a very lucky little duck, this new little one of ours.
Friday 15 November
The 2WW (2 week wait) is actually the worst thing in the world, or so it seems right now. Shan is booked in for a blood test on Thursday and although we briefly discuss doing a pregnancy test before then, we decide against it. “Patience is what we need right now,” my yogi-wife said. And I know she’s right. There’s nothing more we can do and an early false-negative or false-positive would be stress she just doesn’t need. So we wait…
But things are still looking good. Shan is feeling a bit dizzy and a bit queasy, which is similar to her feelings with the Quinks. But we try not to read it into it all too much. Whatever will be, will be.
Monday 18 November
Yeah, so this happened today…
Thursday 22 November
We finally(!) go for the blood test. Quin and Shan come into town and we all go together. The Quinks and I hang out in the waiting room while mummy has her blood taken. It is all quick and done in a few minutes.
After the test, we go to visit our Dr and her receptionists so Quin can say hi. When we walk in and start chatting, Shan turns to me and says, “do you hear that?”
I listen. The song they’re playing on the radio is the one with our new baby boy name in it.
Later in the day, Shan takes a call from our Dr. She is her usual cautious self and says, “your pregnancy levels are looking nice, let’s do another test on Sunday and let’s book in a time to see you in two weeks for a scan.” She also says something about the placenta, which is crazy to think about – our little one is setting up shop with a placenta already!
Tuesday 17 December
Shan is in Quin’s room, trying to get her to sleep. Teething has been playing havoc on our sweet girl this week, affecting her most at night. She’s been taking hours to fall asleep and crying for hours during the night. I’ve been working ridiculous hours so Shan has been carrying all of it.
I’m watching tv when Shan calls my name. She asks me to lay with Quin and dashes to the bathroom. My stomach is in my throat. I know what is happening. Just know it.
Shan calls me again. We meet in the hall. Shan is bleeding. It is all through her pyjama pants. Shan is holding her clothes and can’t speak. I say something like “we knew this was a possibility.” Trying to find the right words but failing miserably. There are no words that will make this better.
Shan goes to our bed. I go back for Quin, who is crying. She wants mummy so we all get into our bed. Shan is crying and we hug. I cry for her. It is our baby, but it is her body, her blood, all her energy going into keeping this one safe and healthy and it is over just like that.
My mum had three miscarriages when I was a kid. I was too young to remember them except for one. It happened in the shower. I remember mum telling us that it had happened. That was the sum of my miscarriage experience before right now. A vague memory of a vague description of something my mum said was normal and ok and she already had three kids and went on to have two more and ‘it just wasn’t meant to be’. This doesn’t feel how it’s meant to be.
Shan says we should let our Dr know. Dr Ilbery gave us her personal mobile number to text or call with any questions at any time. She is great like that. I text her to tell her what has happened and ask what we can expect now. Shan hadn’t had so much as a spot of blood when pregnant with Quin so we have no idea what to do next.
When she doesn’t text back I call while Quin and Shan stay in bed. It is after 8pm but we need to talk to her. We need direction. We need something sensible and stable and something we can focus on to get through the night.
I force myself to pull it together, to be the strong one and make the call as calmly as possibly. As soon as I hear Dr Ilbery’s voice, I break. I tell her through tears that we think Shan is having a miscarriage. She tells me to be calm and explain what has happened. I answer her questions with Shan’s assistance from the bedroom.
“There was blood, a lot of blood.”
“Yes, it was just the once.”
“Yes, it has stopped.”
“No, no pain.”
“She’s laying down in our bed.”
I go and pick Quin up who is now whining and climbing all over Shan.
“Ok. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
I relay to Shan what Dr Ilbery said. It may not be a miscarriage. If there’s no pain and the bleeding has stopped it might just be a placenta bleed. Placenta bleeds are common. It may be because Shan has been doing too much, picking up Quin too much. Shan is to lay down in a quiet place and be as still as possible. Sometimes it is just a bleed, sometimes it is the start of a miscarriage. We have to be positive and wait it out through the night. We’ll talk to Dr Ilbery again in the morning. She will be calling at 9am.
Quin and I sit down next to Shan. We talk about staying positive, it is the only thing we can do. I tell Quin we are going to go for a little drive to see Christmas lights. We give mummy a kiss, tell her we love her and we’ll be back soon. Driving around with Quin is the one sure fire way to get her to sleep without fuss. She loves looking at the lights as we drive along the water and within 10 minutes she is sound asleep.
I drive a little longer, to make sure she’s really asleep. I berate myself. Shan had been trying to shield me from the last week of Quin’s teething because she knew I was so flat out and working long days. She’d been taking all the extra parenting duties on without complaint all while growing our new little one. And now this was happening. This stupid fucked up thing that is perfectly normal and horrendous all at once.
We go home and all cuddle together in bed. We talk about how grateful we are to have Quin. We are grateful for the one in the belly too and hope they are still there, still holding on. Only time will tell.
Shan tries to sleep and I make the mistake of getting further information from Dr Google. It turns out something like 20% of pregnancies experience bleeding. Of those, 50% are fine and 50% go on to miscarry. Shit. Not a good statistic to sleep on.
Neither of us sleep well. Each time Shan gets up during the night I think the worst. But each time she comes back to bed and says she’s ok, no further bleeding. We try to sleep.
Wednesday 18 December
Our conversation with Dr Ilbery is positive. She says it is a good sign there is still no pain and no further bleeding. She explains that the placenta can split sometimes, like you can get a cut in your skin. And the best treatment is rest to give it time to heal. She says Shan should stay laying down, doing as little as possible for the next 48 hours and we’re to come and see her on Thursday for an ultrasound.
I stay home with my family. Quin is feeling better. I try to keep her busy so Shan can rest. Shan is doing ok. She says she’ll be anxious until the ultrasound, which is completely understandable. We just have to stay positive.
Thursday 19 December
We don’t talk too much on the drive to Dr Ilbery’s office. We hold hands. It’s just the two of us. Quin is home playing play-doh with Grandad.
When we arrive at the surgery, Jane and Laura greet us with smiles. Laura tells us she had a lot of bleeding with both her pregnancies and both were fine. It’s good to hear the stories that ended well.
Dr Ilbery welcomes us into her office and although she’s smiling we can tell she’s all business. We go straight to the little room with the bed and Dr Ilbery wastes no time getting everything set up. We’re all keen for the scan to start, we think.
The scan begins and Dr Ilbery speaks right away. She can see a strong heartbeat. She rubs Shan’s leg telling her our baby looks good, strong. Shan exhales the breathe she’s been holding for days. We all smile and Shan and I get a bit teary. Our baby is still alive.
We look but we can’t see much. Quin’s scans were always so clear. She was a very clear speck at 5 weeks, a very defined blob at 9 weeks. This one is a blurry blob that we can barely make out. Dr Ilbery assures us our baby is there and our baby is happy. She says something about the placenta being in a certain place which makes it more difficult to see our baby. We don’t care as long as they’re alive.
We talk briefly about the next steps of the pregnancy and realise with a sense of sadness that we won’t see Dr Ilbery again until after our baby is born and we come back for a visit. We transfer now to the hospital where Shan will attend antenatal appointments and where, all going to plan, our little one will arrive in July.
We promise we’ll be back with a big fat healthy baby.
Laura tells us later that Dr Ilbery had to perform emergency surgery that morning for a miscarriage. We talk on the way home about how hard her job must be and we can tell she feels greatly for all of her patients. She wears their excitement and their pain. We’re both happy our visit was not another painful one for her.
We tell the baby this is enough now, that was the one scare it is allowed and it is to be good from here on in. I’m sure it is listening. It better be.
We’ve always been realistic about IVF and pregnancy. Always knew the statistics, always knew the chances. But nothing prepared us for the moment we thought we’d lost them. This little one we don’t even know but feel we know completely. We’ve been so lucky. My heart always breaks for women who lose babies to miscarriage, now it will shatter for them. We felt a fraction of that pain and it was devastating. I don’t know how people get through it, sometimes more than once.
Now that we know our little one is ok, I am grateful for a few things.
I am grateful for a beautiful, strong wife who does all our mothering and baby making and homemaking and makes it look easy, even when I know it’s the toughest job in the world.
I am grateful for a wonderful daughter who makes our world the brightest spot in the universe. It’s because of her a miscarriage would have been especially hard – we know how awesome these little blobs turn out to be.
If it had to happen, I am grateful it happened while I was home and that it happened this week. Last week was my busiest all year. This week is quiet. Next week is Christmas so from Friday I am on leave for two weeks.
I am grateful for a job that provides carer’s leave and for workmates who are understanding and supportive and willing to pick up the slack so I can stay home all week and take care of my family.
I am grateful we’ve been scared into making sure Shan is a whole lot more relaxed. We get the hint, kiddo.
Mostly, I am grateful our little one is still happy and growing and *fingers and toes* will continue to be until they’re home with us in July.
Sunday 12 January
Christmas has come and gone. We relaxed and loved and spent time just being together and happy.
We’ve had no more bleeding. There’s been no sign of anything other than baby growing. But I know we’ve both spent much of the last few weeks silently, and sometimes vocally, wondering if they’re still ok. Still too early to feel them we’re stuck with analysing symptons like sore boobs, queasiness and belly growth – they’re all still there… right?!
Today we’re at 12.5 weeks. 13 weeks in 3 days. We’re safe. We think. We will know for sure at our neuchal scan tomorrow.
Monday 13 January
We’ve been prepping Quin for days for this appointment. We’ve explained that mummy will lay down and the doctor will look at mummy’s belly. We know it won’t be a doctor, but Quin knows doctor and we’re trying to keep it simple. When the doctor looks at mummy’s belly, we’ll get to see our new baby. We’ll get to see her new brother or sister. She says “baby in mummy’s belly. Hi baby.”
We’ve been talking to her about her library voice and how we’ll need to use it when we’re seeing the baby doctor. We’ve been practising our whispering.
We arrive as prepared as we can be, a bag full of snacks and books. As we wait for Shan’s name to be called Quin wants to draw. We didn’t come prepared for drawing. We manage to find a doctor’s receipt and a blue pen and she happily draws while we wait. She is talking non stop, in her perfect little library voice, and a lady sitting nearby comments on how clever she is. We agree and smile. She really is. Talking about Quin helps to calm the nerves.
When we’re finally in the little room and Shan is finally on the table, neither of us is saying much more than to answer questions from the nurse. Quin is bored of drawing and wants to move around. We try to explain this is the time when she gets to see her brother or sister but she only cares about discovering this funny little room with machines and drawers and a bed that mummy is anxiously waiting on. I give her my watch and she is satisifed, for now.
Shan comments that the gel they’re using is warm. It’s usually cold. The nurse places the wand onto Shan’s belly and suddenly the tv screen is alive, full of little arms and little legs and a big head squirming around. I’m teary. Shan is too. Quin is putting my watch on and off my hand, completely oblivious to the joy that is a black and white TV screen right at this minute. Everything is where it should be, blood is pumping, limbs are moving, head size is normal. The nurse tells us their neck is ‘thin’. We ask if that’s a good thing. She says it means we’re a low risk of Downs Syndrome. We speak at the same time, “it wouldn’t matter.”
Shan is a new person as we leave the office. She’s lighter and calmer and happier. We got to see for ourselves that our little one is healthy and perfect and sleepy. Sleepy is good, we agree. Quin wants some banana bread and so we get back to our lives and, for the first time in a month, we are excited for this new baby in an unburdened way. The relief is so great we almost forget to go pick up the scans and report later in the day. Who cares about paperwork when our baby is ok?
yesterday we went along to a wonderful brisbane pride festival event. the brisbane botanical gardens have offered two triangle garden beds for the lgbt community to plant a rainbow garden and a pink garden.
we took quin along and she helped to plant a couple of little plants that will have beautiful red flowers in september. we’ll be back in spring for her to see how they’re going.