Waiting for Agnes

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An unexpected career addition June 3, 2011

Now that the beloved has become a Sacred Vessel the time is ticking down on the clock of my part-time work (when I refer to ‘work’ in this post you can just assume I mean work-outside-the-home – I’m fully aware that staying home is work). Our arrangement is very simple: between us we need to earn the equivalent of one full-time wage. We work the same job, at the same place, so this is pretty easy to arrange. When small was new, I didn’t work at all and the beloved worked a lot. As small has got older, I’ve picked up my hours and the beloved has dropped hers. Income stays the same, one of us can always be with small and work is happy. The beloved has done a sterling job at being the primary wage earner for the past two years, with barely any complaint, and I’d love to imagine that, come the end of the year, I could just pick up my hours to full time and smoothly, uncomplainingly change places. But I just don’t think I can do it. It’s not that I don’t want to do actual work, although if both of us could just stay home with our babies and money magically appeared in our accounts I’m sure that would be great. It’s more that the idea of going back to being a full time, shift working, ward based, hospital midwife makes me want to cry. I love Midwifery with a grand passion and it will no doubt be my primary career for the rest of my working days. So if working in hospital only meant full time Midwifery, I would be as happy as a clam. But it doesn’t. Working in hospital means a little bit of Midwifery, mixed in with a whole lot of Obstetric Nursing, a whole lot of Crappy Hospital Politics, a fair bit of working with People That Make Me Want To Stick Pins In My Eyes and all too regular exposure to Seeing Women Being Ignored, Abused, Belittled and Mutilated. It’s not all awful, there are other excellent, skilled and compassionate midwives and doctors to join forces with in our efforts to Combat The System. But it’s an old, entrenched System and it’s exhausting to be in a near-permanent state of Combativeness.

Ah, woe is you, you may think in a sympathetic fashion. The following may temper that a little – a couple of months ago I did have the opportunity to go back to my caseload midwifery job, the one where I take on the care of five women per month and follow them through from early pregnancy to post birth, going on call for their labour and birth and working closely with a team of three other great midwives. Caseload is brilliant, far less soul-destroying than ward work, challenging in a positive way, better paid and overall deeply satisfying. But it is also exhausting. Being on call means a constant awareness of the women in your care who are nearing term, or who have particular issues earlier in pregnancy. It is an enormous emotional, mental and time commitment for yourself and the people close to you. You cannot plan to do things on your days on call, and if you do make plans you need to be able to drop them at the last minute. Your family has to tolerate you being called away in the middle of a meal or the middle of the night. Last year, when I found out that one of the LMFs was leaving her position in the caseload team to go on maternity leave, I was keen to fill her place. Then obstacles kept jumping up – life with small got more and more challenging, the caseload team manager drove me round the bend, the beloved became a Sacred Vessel and I slowly realised that I had things going on in my life that I wanted to be able to do on a regular, planned basis, commitments that I didn’t want to give up on.

One of these things was seeing my personal trainer, who is awesome in her energy and enthusiasm and commitment to her clients. Like most people, I’m basically lazy when it comes to exercise. I either need a project to work towards, or it needs to be something fun and difficult (which explains the ten years of circus arts being my primary exercise), or I need to be bullied into making a long-term financial commitment. It also needs to be nearby, not outrageously expensive, not lonely but not in a big impersonal group and mainly indoors. So that rules out joining a gym or running, thank god. This year the beloved started seeing the awesome personal trainer, who lives and works in the next street and whose enthusiasm stretches to being hugely encouraging without actually making you cry or vomit. Then the beloved talked me into going, too. At the time, I was driving a million miles every week to do hula hooping with my old trapeze coach. He’s great and also hugely encouraging, but mainly in a brutal, tell you to suck it up and run round the block wearing a bin bag under a jumper until you are much skinnier kind of way. Hula hooping was also getting challenging with a toddler on the move, who wanted to be closely involved. So on the whole, a personal trainer in the next street, who was cheaper and didn’t advocate any kind of bin bag wearing was quite appealing.

Never fear – I am slooooowly winding my way to the point. Other than being positively enthusiastic about training her clients, our personal trainer is always on the lookout for new and interesting classes to add to her group training program. So when she heard I was into hooping she decided I should teach classes for her. After the initial feeling of EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeamInotvastlyunderqualified?eeeeeeeeeeeeee, I got excited and then I got Really Excited. Now I am five weeks into teaching an eight week course for beginner hoopers and I am Loving It. And now our lovely PT is planning some kind of hula hooping empire for me, so I continue to be Really Excited. Not only is teaching hooping fun (and often hilarious for all), it means I have an option for mixing Midwifery with Something Completely Different in my quest to both be the primary wage earner for our family and be emotionally and mentally satisfied at the same time. I don’t ask for much, do I?

 

 

*This is Not Me. This is Gypsy, the daughter of my lovely but slightly brutal trapeze coach…she is awesome.

Stay tuned for Chapter 4: an impulsive decision to Move House…

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The creation of a whole new person June 1, 2011

Aside from the utter exhaustion of feeding our small person and the other tiresome and frustrating aspects of parenting any kid, there are also the really lovely and funny and generally awesome aspects of watching a growing person unfold in front of you day by day. It can be pretty interesting seeing it in your close friends’ kids, but it is absolutely fascinating in your own. I can’t speak for all parents, but I spend most days lurching from the proud delight of ‘Look! He can load the washing machine…he’s a genius! And see how he struggles to get those big towels in…so persistent, such a great problem solver! And so so so so beautiful!’ to the teeth-grinding frustration of ‘For christ sake Beloved, he’s on the dining table again. I’ve told him a hundred and eighty times. He’s so bloody stubborn and willful and unheeding of his personal safety. Poor kid, he’s just like me.’ And I love this feeling, the gratification of seeing parts of yourself appear, blended with the curiosity of discovering the other parts. This is not to say that any child is only the sum of their genetic parts; every attribute, every habit, every skill being ascribable to one or the other parent – one of the miraculous parts of personhood is the emergence of the completely new. But I think there is a desire in every parent, even extended family members, to search for themselves in the new generation, to tie them to their ancestry and feel part of something bigger. My family may not be the closest knit band of dysfunctional individuals, but even they will proudly attest to small’s behaviours being ‘A Family Trait’ with absolute conviction.

For the beloved and I this is a doubly fun exercise, as the small person is the product of conception with an anonymous donor. We know some things about the donor: his height and eye colour, his cat allergy, his detached earlobes, his lack of acne as a teenager, his self-assigned celebrity lookalike, and his motivations for being a donor, amongst other things. Before small was even conceived the profile seemed comprehensive, with three generations of medical history and little things like favourite books and music. But the more small grows, the scantness of this information becomes more obvious. What age did he walk? Did he have eating and speech issues, too? Did he have a fascination for laundry appliances? Who knows? And, in a sense, who cares? Small is, as the saying goes, his own person. He will continue to grow and learn and unfold before us, regardless of what we do or don’t know about the donor, or even about me. It isn’t with sadness or regret that I talk about this, but just with the growing realisation that the beloved and I have of what it means to be lesbian parents using an anonymous donor to have our children.

Yes, children, plural. Somewhere way back even more than a hundred years ago, last November, the beloved and I started to consider having another baby. Who knows? we thought, it may take ages to happen. So if we begin to think about starting to think about it and maybe plan a bit  and check out our options and whatnot then there will be at least two years between small and the new baby, maybe three years. In our typical style (as the LMFs can attest to), this vague idea turned to an actual initial appointment date within the space of about a week. Somehow the stars had aligned – the roster gave the beloved and I days off together, the airfares were cheap, the appointments were available, the money was miraculously there. Small was conceived at an interstate clinic, back when it was illegal in our home state of Victoria for single women or lesbian couples to access fertility treatment. Since then the law has changed. In fact, the bill addressing this issue was passed through parliament on the day I found out I was pregnant. And for about a minute we considered having treatment here, cutting out the hassle of flying interstate and juggling work and money and small. But it was a short minute. Going interstate to sunny Queensland meant being able to use the same donor and being treated by the same excellent and lovely staff. Queenslanders might be offended by this, but we thought it was pretty ironic that we had access to such great care in the great redneck state.

Anyway, off we trot in December for the initial round of appointments with the fertility specialist, his practice nurse, the other nurse, the counselor, the pathology nurses and the semen coordinator. As an aside, this fertility guy is hilarious – somehow he can say things like ‘yep yep, take that, then do the rooty rooty rooty every day until your next appointment’ (overheard phone conversation, clearly the rooty rooty isn’t going to help us so much) without seeming like a total bastard. After the forty-eight appointments and several hours of small galloping his crocodile all over the clinic, we’re all set – schedule of appointments, schedule of drugs, bag of drugs, letter to accompany drugs onto plane, pathology slips and ultrasound slips. Still it doesn’t really seem real that we will actually end up with another baby. Oh, it could take ages, we say. Hmm. Then, early this year, the stars of rostering and cashflow not so well aligned, the beloved returns to Queensland solo for her first attempt at being transformed into a Sacred Vessel (or Getting Knocked Up, whichever terminology takes your fancy). The next day she returns, unbeknownst to us all…. a Sacred Vessel (ie. pregnant, if you hadn’t already made that leap)!!

And so a whole new person has been created. Another growing being to love and marvel at, feed and clothe, wake with and snuggle with, carry about and entertain. Another combination of genetics to discover. According to the beloved this baby’s Polack tendencies are already showing – it’s already cheaper than the small person (hahahaha teehee teehee, fertility treatment humour). But really, how will small and new baby be alike? How will they differ? How will small cope, absorbing another person into his world, a person that shares the focus of his mamas? How will we cope? How will our mothering roles stay the same? Change? Blend and develop? What will it be like for the beloved to be the foggy, fuzzy breastfeeding mother? Will she still remember to pay all the bills for the household, like she does now? What will it be like for me to be the working-away-from-home-almost-full-time mother? Will I get sick of being the only one able to change the cat litter? And why, you may well ask, would the beloved being a Sacred Vessel have prevented me from blogging? Fair question. Although she is well and blossoming and glowing and such, she has been basically comatose for the first trimester of her pregnancy and sort of out of commission on the home front. She has also been Eating Healthily since the start of the brief pre-pregnancy planning period, which has sadly eliminated the baking of Sugary Delights from my day to day life, and no baking = no particularly interesting food to blog about. And perhaps most significantly, the knowledge that, at the end of the year, I will need to be the primary wage earner has got me plotting and scheming of ways to achieve this without working full time in the hospital. Which leads neatly into the story of: an unexpected Career Addition…