zoë foster blake - a labour, birth and post-natal questionnaire.
Post originally featured on ZOTHEYSAY
Did your waters break in a cafe and did you have to quickly hail a cab to the hospital?
Oh, come on. That shit only happens in the movies. My contractions began at 2:30am and were pretty pathetic til about 5:30am, when I reluctantly called my Mother-in-law to come over to look after our toddler. I say reluctantly cos I had been in frustrating pre-labour for a week, and while the contractions were every eight minutes, they were mild, so I didn’t want to be the boy who cried wolf when I got to the hospital (Epworth Freemasons, which is fantastic. Their staff are great – but then, aren’t all midwives? – and they have double beds so your partner can sleep next to you as you recover) and get sent home.
With my first baby, I stayed home til I couldn’t talk through my contractions, cos being in bed at home is far nicer for early labour than a hospital room, but I’d heard second babies can bloody ZING out, and I didn’t want to risk a rapid ramp-up and the potential of a backseat-of-the-car-delivery.
Anyway. My lovely MIL came over at 6am, we got to the hospital at 6:30am, I was 4cm dilated, my obstetrician broke my waters, and we were off!
Before my waters were broken and labour was still mild. Hence: smile.
Did your labour go for over 1000 hours?
What was the most useful accessory during labour?
My husband. Second, this electric heatpack he placed on my lower back as I rocked on the fit ball, and howled, and tried to run away from my body. (Also comes in handy whenever that stinky wench mastitis comes for me.)
A Spotify playlist I made with lots of Ray LaMontagne and Father John Misty and Feist. And Metallica. Ha ha ha! Just kidding! Obviously Megadeath is the heavy metal choice for labouring women.
Do you rate your birth experience as positive? Better or worse than your first birth?
It was awesome. Quite similar to my first. I feel tremendously lucky. I know how quickly things can get serious, and heavy, and how out of control it can all get in there for some mothers and babies, and I feel intensely fortunate to have had two positive births. Really I do. Your birth experience is incredibly significant; it stays with you for life, good or bad. I know how lucky I am.
For those who care (I LOVE birth stories): I went into spontaneous labour at 2:30am the day before my due date, had my waters broken at around 4cm, (7am), then laboured like a, well, mother, til I was about 7cm dilated. I used gas for pain relief and quite loved it. (Last time I was given morphine and I deeply regret it. It made me spew a lot and I was so fuzzy. For days. Foul.)
By about noon I demanded the anaesthetist stop racking off (he got called away to theatre twice on his way to me) and bloody give me my epidural before I missed the window/so I could rest. He did, all efficiency and magic, and I fell asleep for an hour, which pressed reset on my exhausted head and body, and gave me the strength to PUUUUUSH. (My doula angel lady, the magnificent Marie Burrows, taught me to use the epidural for fatigue, not to escape pain.) (I may have used it for both.) It also slowed everything down, as it tends to, (this happened last time), so they put me on the (Syntocinon) drip to get things moving.
An hour later and it was time to push. I completely forgot how. “Like you’re pooing!!” the midwife yelled (I remembered then) and within 15 very athletic, intense, wonderful minutes, our little girl was with us.
She didn’t cry, (IS SHE OKAY?! I bellowed, perhaps a little too aggressively), she was serene, all wide-eyed and looking around. Someone plopped her straight onto my chest, where she lay for an hour or so, in dim lights, and we cooed over her, and she suckled, and adjusted to being in oxygen and breathing and planet earth and stuff. What, a, moment! Incredible! Total bliss party! Ugh. I loved it so friggen much. It will forever be branded into my brain (with a unicorn horn and glitter).
This is one of my top five Life Moments and also photos.
I really reckon the weeks of acupuncture, acupressure massage (and meditating) I did leading into birth helped a lot, both times. My body did a fantastic job, and so did my baby. Rudy helped me as much as I helped her. I am so grateful to her. She was an exceptional birthing partner, in the true sense of the term.
If you are in Melbourne, here are the people I used for my labour prep. I can not recommend them highly enough, but goddamit I will try:
DR ALICE GAO. I relied on her with my first baby, also. She treated me when I was trying to conceive, through morning sickness, and then from 36 weeks pregnant to prepare the body for birth. She is a very special woman.
MARY DE PELLEGRIN A lovely and superexperienced, masterful masseuse who specialises in pregnancy massage. She does guided relaxation as she works on you, and it’s deeply lovely. Plus: she strong. This is serious massage. You’ll get wild relief and relaxation.
MONA (0420 708 516) A magical wizard with incredibly powerful hands and a decade of physio experience. She does mobile massage, but the word massage seems somehow … ungenerous. It’s much more than that. Mona doesn’t watch the clock, she just treats you and your sore spots and knots until they’re fixed. Properly fixed. And she does makes you better. She is with me (and my husband, he is her number two fan, after me) for life, whether she likes it or not. (I have been using her post-birth for the ol ‘breastfeeding shoulder’ also.)
And also my osteo, who I talk a lot about here.
Did you use even 50% of the shit you packed for the hospital bag, or did you just live in your dressing gown and big black grundies?
How dare you assume I overpacked. (Of course I did.) And since I treated myself to a fancy cashmere robe as my own push present (this one, from Naked Cashmere) I barely needed clothes. I just wore lots of Bonds breastfeeding singlets, and Kmart men’s black undies. Cute! I packed Tom maternity pads because they are like a big fluffy cloud, (by far the best maternity pads. The others are too thin, or too long, or too surfboardy) and BodyICE ice packs, for the whole… situation down there, and all my beloved Go-To skin care so I felt human and smelled nice. (Sometimes. Sometimes I was just tears and colostrum and pizza grease.)
I wore a tracksuit home. I don’t understand dressing nicely to go home. Do people still do that? All I did was come home to empty house with my husband, son and baby, feed the cat, then feed the baby, then feed me. Tracksuit seemed fine for this.
This is not me. This is slightly cranky lady wearing the same dressing gown I have.
What was your first meal, post birth?
A meatball sub, fries, and a glass of champagne. Then ice cream. Since my husband brought me my favourite pancakes to the delivery room at around 10am (I birthed at 4pm), I wasn’t too ravenous. HA HA HA as if. I was starving. Birth is hardcore. I needed to replenish with a tonne of shitty junk food.
When your milk came in, and your tits went ballistic, did you briefly flirt with the idea of moving into glamour modelling?
What do you mean ‘flirt’ with? Google ‘Milky Mams’ (DEFINITELY DON’T.)
Did you have a lot of visitors in the hospital/hotel?
I consider those first few days sacred. People can come to the house in the following weeks, instead. In a slow trickle. One set a day. Because as we all know, no sleep + remembering how to breastfeed + newborn + hosting visitors is a really shit idea. (Our good mates sent us a big box of food from Gourmet Dinner Service, which saved us for many nights, and I now gift other newborn parents the same thing.)
Did you slide on those recovery shorts two minutes after you gave birth?
The SRC Recovery shorts? No, I did not. I struggled to get them on two daysafter birth: it was an ugly scene. Then, not 10 minutes later, a friendly physio came to check on me, and said, ‘Oh, don’t stress, just wait til you get home! Don’t make life hard for yourself!’ (Also, since I had minimal abdominal separation, and I wear the shorts for pelvic support instead, wearing them right away wasn’t crucial.)
You wear them everyday?
I wore them, or some form of compression/support shorts every day for the first 8-9 weeks, and finally moved back into Real Life clothes (“denim” and “wool”) at around 10 weeks. You gotta wear the SRCs under baggy pants, cos they are quite thick. (My best maternity and new-baby pants are these Camilla and Marc ones. The recovery shorts are perfectly hidden underneath and the pants are comfy but stylish, so you don’t feel like a total dag. I’ve thrashed them. The cost per wear is magnificent.)
I alternated the shorts with some of the excellent post-partum support leggings/tights that definitely did NOT exist when I had my first kid, three years ago. I love Active Truth tights, which I wore while preggo as well. They are the most firm and the most flattering of the bunch I reckon. I also wear Blanqi nursing support leggings, (though they’re not quite as firm as I like) and also Hello Monday (these are shinier, straight up activewear).
They all do same thing: work as compression tights, give support, cover up your stomach as you feed (they go up to your bra line) and smooth out all the tummy and arse jiggle so you feel nice and look smooth. And that’s what I want in those early days. To feel like I have one tiny portion of control over my leaky, wobbly, tired and taxed body. Also I bought some super strong, nude, very thin/invisible Spanx on recommendation from a friend, to wear under jeans etc.
This is not me. This is a blonde lady. She is wearing the Blanqi tights.
This IS me in them, around five weeks after birth.
How was your recovery, by the way?
Good! Great! Hip and pubis and pelvis are AOK! I am back doing my (at-home) pilates and strengthening exercises and walking a lot. I feel good. I mean, my neck, back and shoulders are completely fucked from breastfeeding and constant baby-jiggling and resettling, but that’s standard.
And mentally, everything okay?
Good question. Important question. I’m good, thank you. And I mean that: my baby is ‘doing her nights’ as they say, and since she’s 12 weeks old now she’s way more predictable. Also, her gassiness has finally subsided. She smiles and coos and looks up at me with her big ol blueys, and I just kind of stare at her all day through the emotional version of a Snapchat love-heart filter.
But oh, there were some dark days around week six and seven, though. Like all mums, when my infant hit peak crying and restlessness, all the bliss that carried me through the newborn era slipped quietly out the back door, and I began floundering. Managing a toddler, even a quite independent three year-old one, and trying to feed and settle a wailing baby at the same time threw me. The fact that two children need you constantly, and at exactly the same time, was an entirely new and wildly challenging experience. After three years parenting just one (pretty chilled) kid, I felt totally unequipped and out of my depth. Parenting is, without a lick of competition, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the hardest job there is. They were the toughest few weeks of my life, I reckon. How single parents, or parents with twins, or three, four, five, SIX kids do it, I have no idea. I salute you. Cos there’s only so much pacing back and forth in a pitch black room with white noise blaring and a screaming baby one can take. Fuck me. The fourth trimester is REAL.
I don’t think I was anywhere near PND, (I have several girlfriends who were diagnosed after their second baby; so be alert for the symptoms), it was simply, as a friend pointed out, PND. Gah! The same acronym, how awkward! But this PND stands for Post Natal Depletion. Being hormonally, physically, and emotionally depleted…. Or in other words: being a mother. Getting mastitis repeatedly and wanting to run away and sleep for 12 days straight were pretty good clues.
I was lucky to have support. To be able to call in night nurse to allow us some proper sleep a few nights each week. (Tip: when your parents ask what they can give you for your new baby, ask for a night nurse voucher. Cos when mum gets sleep, the whole family benefits.) To have a baby who is thriving, and in good health. But many, many mums aren’t nearly so lucky. I send them love, strength, good coffee, and this link.
Any other post-baby stuff you’re jazzed about?
Thought you’d never ask. I think the Mammojo breastfeeding hoodie is very clever, and not just cos I am a devout grey hoodie fan. The invisible zips mean you can feed anywhere without a whole luscious boobo on show, and the hoodie recognises that baby-mums are 90% likely to be living in activewear.
Me in the hoodie, with my camo baby.
I like Hello Monday’s breastfeeding crop top sports bra (took the pads out cos the last thing I need is more volume), and still wear most of my LEGOE maternity stuff, which I recommend cos it’s nice, non-maternity, non-breastfeedy-looking wear. I love their pants, and their jumpsuit with breastfeeding zips. (No, ‘breastfeeding jumpsuit’ is not an oxymoron! Who knew.)
Also, you know how you get keratosis pilaris (small, pimply bumps on the skin) after childbirth? (Mostly cos your skin is so friggen dry while you’re breastfeeding. I use Exceptionoil on my body after the shower, for stretch-mark prevention – as I did during pregnancy -heated up under the hop tap so it’s all liquidy, to soothe the drysies.)
Anyway, it’s very common, especially on the upper arms. I had it with my first baby, and it’s back. My facialist told me to use PCA Body Therapy, (an AHA body cream) and it’s helped a LOT. The bumps are far less angry, widespread and visible.
Enough about your bumpy arms and all your pants. What about all the baby stuff?
Enough for today, nosy. I need to nap.