Sunday 17th February 2019

Telling My Story. Chapter Six. Becoming Mum. 1971. 2018.100.

Telling My Story. Chapter Six. Becoming Mum. 1971. 2018.100

Since May 2017 I started telling my story. There have been major gaps of time in between the introduction and Chapter One when a little thing called head and neck cancer took up my time and attention. I am celebrating yet again…with a new smile…

New photo to celebrate my new ‘teeth’ and smile!

However, I would like to pay tribute to my first photo for this series…and the second one too. It’s been quite a time!

Taken on my 67th Birthday – late 2016. Cancer unknown but it was ‘there’

One year post major cancer surgeries.

Chapter Five. Becoming a Mother. 

We were young at 22 (my husband) and me 21 but we knew we loved each other unconditionally and we were going to become parents within the first 8 months of our marriage and that we were already teachers working hard in country N.S.W.

By the time we got to the July appointments with the local G.P. in the town closest to where we lived, things seemed to be going well. I had stopped teaching (and was already bored), but I had a nursery to organise (aka a spare room) and my husband was building our first child a cradle. Mum ensured we had some items like clothing and manchester in the previous school holidays when we visited my parents in Sydney. I think once she was over ‘the shock’ of me being a pregnant bride, she relished her grandmother-to-be role.

A Pregnancy Gets Complicated. 

The next visit I had to my G.P. raised alarm for him when my previous weight had ballooned by around 6 kg in a short time and it was all-fluid. He needed to send me on…to a specialist Obstetrician Gynaecologist in the city that served our north-west region. Yes, now it was serious. And yes, I was more than a bit scared.

Where we lived, in this little cottage on a farming property, access to our place was via a dirt track, which led to the road which was one not bitumened. When it rained, and we got warning, my husband would drive the car to the road and we would walk through the mud and wet to the car. That is what we had to do on the morning of the scary-t0-me visit to the OB/Gyn at T. A trip that would be punctuated by slippery sliding of the car (but my husband knew what he was doing) and me being quite frankly terrified.

Even moreso when we got to the office in T, and with kindness but showing concerned care, Dr G decided I had what was called ‘toxaemia’ then and I needed bedrest, diuretics and that was to be in a hospital. A hospital! Where I would know no-one and it was confronting. I had a stay in a shared ward with other mothers-to-be at risk for a week. It remains as a memory of a pretty worrying time (and I was not a fan of hospitals). Not seeing my husband nor anyone I knew was very isolating. My parents were 6 hours away by car.

Playing the Waiting Game At Home.

However, I was released when Dr G said things had settled and he sent me home with instructions to rest and eat plenty of lollies (I never knew why, but happy to comply) and to return on a specific evening around what was my due date and the process of induction would commence.

Another weird thing (in today’s terms) I had to have was an X-ray of my pelvis to see if the baby was lying properly. The X-ray showed there was a slight placenta previa. When we saw the Dr he did not think it would preclude natural labour.

I was better prepared for my next stay in the large regional hospital…even though it was going to make me a mother! We drove to T after my husband had finished teaching and that early evening on a Wednesday entered the maternity award and he reluctantly said good bye. In a pre-labour ward (4 beds) I was given ‘something in the form of a gel’  to start labour. Umm. Nope, it did nothing. More. Still nothing. All day the next day, niggly pains but nothing of significance. By the time Dr G visited on the Thursday evening he took me to a labour room, accompanied by a nurse and he ‘broke my waters’ finding some blood. He was not perturbed as he thought it was connected with the marginal placenta previa.

Would I Ever Give Birth?

I felt that way on the Friday. I had no real idea of what labour would feel like other than it would be painful. I was in the hands of the experts…and those who were trained in the safe delivery of babies. On the Friday morning I was taken to a more scary room! I say that because it had a bed (for me) and many instruments and hospital things I had no idea about. I had a nurse with me on and off but generally I was alone. My husband was teaching (of course) but at lunchtime, he rang the labour ward to ask if things had started. He was told “no” and was instructed to stay home instead of leaving at 3 p.m. to drive the 2 hours to T. Outside even though I could not see it, I could hear it was very windy and raining. It was early August and the late afternoon turned into early evening with me  saying ” I am going to be sick”. I wasn’t but I had decided I was ‘over it’ and using the only pain relief – a gas mask – along with clutching my lovely midwife’s hand I really had NO IDEA I was near giving birth. This was, as I know now, transition.

Things sure changed from around 5 p.m. and by 6 p.m. in raced Dr G in whites…squash gear. He’d got the phone call that I was labouring (no-one told me LOL) and presented himself quick smart. With a quick application of gloves, and a gown, I pushed our daughter into his hands with no pain relief…although I think I may have bruised the lovely midwife’s hand.

10/10.

At 6.35 pm this child was pronounced 10/10. I had no idea it was an apgar score and teacher-me thought it was about my effort!!

I “think” our girl was placed in a crib – there was no bonding much then nor anything like putting baby to the breast. I delivered the placenta – and was shown where the ‘breaking of the waters’ had cut into it. Interesting!

But the best part, evenso, was hearing Dr G speak to my husband who was so far away to congratulate him on becoming a father. I did not get to speak to him but was assured that he was on his way to see us.

I had given birth and was a MUM!

In the way of those times in the early 1970s, our child was placed in a crib in a nursery with all the other babies, and I was in a shared ward. She would be brought to me for feeding and nothing else and then returned. Her Dad got to meet her behind a glass window around 9 p.m. that night, and then when greeting me, said in that romantic way: “She’s got my long fingers and your fat cheeks.”  It did not matter! I was over-the-moon in what I now know is a wonderful post-partum feeling of endorphins. Reluctantly my husband left to return home in the raging weather but with his mate (my principal-boss) who had driven on a really horrible night.

And then it began. 

Breastfeeding was what I wanted to do and tried. Oh yes I did. With nipple shields but also with ignorance too. There was some help given but not much. My parents, my grandfather and aunt surprised me (us) with a visit on the weekend. I admit I was not gracious. I couldn’t believe they had come and uttered “what are you doing here??” Unbeknowns to me (and my husband) it was my father’s decision to have my relatives catch a train to Sydney, then he met them and they drove, in rotten winter weather for 6 hours to see us. Fortunately my ill-mannered reaction was ignored and they all saw her (via the window) and stayed overnight before the long drive back home.

Almost a week later we were discharged. Mum flew up to accompany us home ( I am guessing we needed help but do not remember if we asked for it) and in the meantime, bought a stroller/pram and other goodies for her first grandchild and granddaughter. Miss almost 1 week was brought out to the car by a nurse and placed in my arms and then I gave her to her Dad. He had not yet held her. It was not done then. I can tell you I do believe bonding is vital and she did not get much in her early days because of hospital rules.

We drove home, a long night ahead, and I held her in my arms. Yes there were seatbelts but no baby restraints, just put them in a basket on the back seat. Mum sat there and we kept our daughter in the front.

I would like to tell you all went well. In many ways it did. She was/is a much loved child. Her maternal grandparents were overly attentive but meant well. Her paternal grandparents visited us in the next school holidays with some of her uncles and aunts and she was welcomed into the family. There was not a lot I enjoyed about being a mother to a newborn. Feeding was a challenge and at a 6 week check up at the clinic, I was strongly urged to forget feeding her myself and start her on a bottle.

Early Months of Motherhood.

We lived in an isolated area and we had one car. Each Wednesday my husband would drive us to his school and then  I would take over and drive to the small town near us. This involved some small socialisation – visits to the clinic and to various shops. Home again. I know I looked for distraction from the tedium of those early months. She was a good baby once her colic settled and loved trying custard and foods like that. I was bored and needed more. So I cooked. I also ate what I cooked and I believe that IS where a lot of my eating to mask feelings commenced.

Denyse.

P.S. I wrote this after Chapter 4 as I wanted to keep identifiers from the story. Please tell me if you think it detracts from what I am writing. Thank you.

In keeping with non-identification and privacy matters within our family and relating to our places of living and working, the next chapters will not disclose them directly. I did give a lot of thought to whether I would continue once the family grew and hope this will work out. If it does not, then I will dis-continue writing it on the blog. Fingers crossed!

 

 

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Telling My Story: Chapter Five. 1971.2018. 79.


Telling My Story: Chapter Five. 1971.2018.79.

One year post major cancer surgeries.

I am back with my memoir: Telling My Story, which began here, then had a long break.

Then what happened?

I met the love of my life (and he is still that indeed!) when I completed chapter 3 and now to tell more.

On turning 21. 

Late in 1970 was my 21st Birthday. My parents had met the young man who I knew I would marry but they did not know ALL of the story. Later! Mum and Dad kindly put on a family and friends 21st celebration for me back in Sydney. I flew down from Tamworth, farewelling my love at the airport and it was supposed to be that I came back by car. My parents were generous, no doubt about it, and I was given a start with a second-hand car for my birthday. That is what I drove back to Barraba in. On the Monday evening after, Mum and Dad hosted a dinner at a Tamworth Club for me and all of the school staff was invited. Kind of over the top for sure and my now husband wondered about the extravagance. We knew more about what was also happening. That we were going to be married in the coming school holidays. So we could be with each other forever.

Family Birthday & Mum is obviously who I inherited my smile from!

Teaching Nearer To Each Other.

We knew we wanted to be married and teach in schools close to where we would live. Easy peasy? Not but in one way yes. I was teaching in a town with a central school (K-12) and my husband-to-be was literally over the mountain teaching in his one-teacher school. Normally the NSW Department of Education requires a teacher to stay at least 3 years in a school before a transfer can occur. In my case, in 1970, my D.P. put the situation to the Area Director at the time, and he came up with the plan, if agreeable to the other teacher, to do a ‘swap’ of positions. The teacher in the small 2 teacher school was moved to my position and I to hers as it was a school close-ish to my soon-to-be husband’s school and to where we might live on a country property.

Wedding Bells.

So, we became engaged just before Christmas and my fiance spent his Christmas in the NSW countryside with his family as I did with mine in Sydney. We had mentioned our forthcoming engagement and desire to be wed in January to both families. His was concerned about religious difference and they had not yet met me, mine was concerned similarly even though they had met him. A few times by now. WE knew more but as long as a wedding was locked in and planned for late January we were fine. Until….

This

We knew I was pregnant by the school holidays when we had arrived at my parents’ place to stay until the wedding. However, given the times we lived in (1970), the already raised concerns about religion (he was catholic I came from protestant stock) and from a parent’s perspective I guess, our short time in knowing each other we were not letting THIS news out.

But it did come out and it is not something to detail here, suffice to say, but there were a few “convos”!

The thing all through the weeks of the above was we KNEW all would be well. We KNEW we love(d) each other. We were CERTAIN and I add now, that doubt has never crossed our minds in 47 plus years.

Married Life Begins! 

The day of our wedding was a typical Sydney January one: rainy in the morning, warm and then incredibly humid in the afternoon (our wedding was held then) and stifling hot when we departed the church. In those days the wedding photographer did black and white shots. Fortunately some family members took some coloured ones. We really enjoyed the party that was the wedding. After all that had gone on before it was a celebration of family and love. The next day, we returned to my parents’ place, had breakfast with the assembled wedding party that woke up, and left with our one car laden with presents, our clothing and to begin our honeymoon travelling slowly up the Pacific Highway to end at Ballina.

 

Family shots in collage of our Wedding Day.

My husband grew up near there and it was/is a favourite place. We had fun, went fishing, swimming and ate out. I remember being tired (never gave preganancy a thought really) and eventually return to school made us wend our way west. Meanwhile, NSW experienced some major flooding in January 1971 and yes, we did keep an eye on the TV and soon found that despite our wishes, the road into our new married home ( a track of sorts) would not be passable and we were kindly given space at one of the local families’ farmhouse. We began the next stage of our married life…in single beds…and with parents and kids from my husband’s school. Eventually we did get in and tried as best as we could to prepare for ONE of us to return to teaching.

Teaching and Schools Then.

The one of us was me. Yes, the two-teacher school where I had received the swap was, in Department of Education-speak on the eastern side of the imaginary line in N.S.W. This line, still exists, and schools west of it, have an extra week’s holidays at summer time because of the climate differences. Let me tell you, my husband’s school was a 20 minute drive away on dirt road from my school and HE got to stay home for another week.

I love teaching and the class consisted of around 20 kids who were in K to Year 2. I am organised and it did not take me long to timetable the work each day to enable me to spend parts of the lessons with the youngest children. In the meantime, my husband did eventually go back to his school of K-6 with around 20 children.

On my husband’s trip back to where we taught and lived he visited this school – two classrooms – this is the one where I taught K-2. No air con back then!

Teaching in the N.S.W. country regions of the North West was good. Schools were populated by children of land-holders, and of those who worked for them. Parents were helpful in terms of some fundraising and on Sports’ Days and for the Christmas concerts. Some of the roles my husband did in his one-teacher school included: cleaner – inside the classroom and outside…in the toilets. Where brown snakes might gather and be of danger to the children…and shoosh. Do not tell but he literally had to kill a snake as it was in the girls’ toilet. Mind you, I had a more flash set up at the bigger two-teacher school (flushing toilet) but alas when the green frogs were part of the sistern this non-country girl did not like!

This is the one-teacher school where my husband taught for 3 years. It’s me out the front. We visited some decades later and this was gone and a crop was growiing there.

Home Life for Us.

Life went on, he played cricket on Saturday afternoons, we had meals at our friends’ place (he was my boss, she was a friend) and I grew our daughter. In the May school holidays we drove to my parents’ house in Sydney and I recall Mum taking me to buy some maternity clothes to wear to school. No slacks or pants of any kind then – the sexist boss once told me I could not wear pants as he liked to look at women’s legs. Gah!

By the time the middle of the year came and my pregnancy was evident, the parents of both my school and that of my husband knew and were kind and understanding when they found I would be replaced for the latter part of the year. I have to say, I was pretty ignorant of my pregnant body and how birth would occur  and was given some great help by one parent who was a physiotherapist.

At 22, my husband’s age and 21, mine…. we were about to become parents. There is quite a story attached to this life-changing experience and that will be in Chapter 5.

In 2017 my husband did a ‘trip back to where we lived’ and this is the sign to the property where we lived. No evidence of a house anywhere and the road you see was dirt back then.

What comes next…

In keeping with non-identification and privacy matters within our family and relating to our places of living and working, the next chapters will not disclose them directly. I did give a lot of thought to whether I would continue once the family grew and hope this will work out. If it does not, then I will dis-continue writing it on the blog. Fingers crossed!

I hope you found this chapter of interest.

Denyse.

 

 

 

 

 

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