03. I wish I was a unicorn.

It turns out several positive pregnancy tests wasn’t enough to convince my husband I was pregnant, so off to the doctors I went for ‘official’ confirmation.

“What can I help you with Julie?”, my doctor asked.

“Well I think I am pregnant”.

“What makes you think you are pregnant?”

“I did all these tests, and they are all positive”, I said as I placed my sandwich bag full of tests smack bang in the middle of his table- leading my doctor to scramble to put on gloves and hastily remove his paperwork from beneath his newfound paperweight. “Do you need me to take another test?” I had asked with hope (by now I had developed quite an addiction to pregnancy tests). Unfortunately he took my tests at face value and assured me I didn’t need  to do anymore. Collecting my pathology and scan request forms, our hands met awkwardly as we both went for the bag full of tests. “Did you want me to dispose of these for you?” my doctor asked. I looked at him with disbelief in my eyes, “No thanks, I will dispose of them” I replied, before returning home to paste my positive tests in a notebook, complete with dates and perfectly aligned so I could judge the progression of my lines on a daily basis.

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2 days, and one blood test later and we had official confirmation. WE WERE PREGNANT. We decided to tell our parents straight away. My inlaws were ecstatic, my father and my nanna were over the moon, my mother took one look at the pathology form and burst into tears, exclaiming loudly that she was worried I would never get pregnant (it’s important to note here that my mother is Maltese and obviously had been envisioning our futures of crazy cat lady/turnip picking sexagenarians since my twentieth birthday).

The first 4 weeks were by far the hardest- there was nothing to do but sit around and wait for symptoms to arrive. 4 weeks of waiting and nothing, nada, zilch. Not one sign of queasiness, not one sore breast (I was jiggling them daily- purely for scientific research), no increased sense of smell, no cravings. Nothing. I did what any rational person would do- I rushed to my new doctor (my relationship with my previous doctor felt strained after the paperweight incident) and proceeded to break down in tears, sobbing that something was wrong and wishing for symptoms, any symptoms so I could feel more secure with the pregnancy.

September: We had been sitting in the waiting room for half an hour waiting for our dating scan, while half an hour doesn’t sound too bad, when you have consumed 1.5L of water and all you want to do is run to the bathroom, each minute feels like an eternity. Each time the automatic doors would open, my bladder would spasm in relief, only to be disappointed when someone else was called. By 9:10am I was pacing the waiting room, demanding that Ant do something before I broke protocol and answered the call of nature. The receptionist, perched on her throne of lies, kept assuring us that we were next in line and reminded me, not so gently that it was imperative that I had a full bladder for the scan. Finally we were called in and the probe was placed on my belly for all of 30 seconds before the sonographer informed me we would need an internal scan, and kindly asked that I emptied my bladder in the toilet facilities available. After quickly emptying my bladder and forming a strategy of payback for the receptionist, I re entered the room with trepidation, scared out of my mind that we were about to receive the news no one wants to hear. What happened next can only be described as the best moment of my life- looking up at the screen we saw a tiny flickering, the first view of Williams tiny heart beating. My world both ended and began that day as I looked up at his little heart beating away.

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October: After 24 hours of constant vomiting and feeling faint at work, I retreated to the doctors room so I could take advantage of the comfortable chairs and vomit in peace. My colleagues convinced (ordered) me to be seen by the emergency department and went about ordering me a wheelchair. In a sick twist of fate, the ONLY wheelchair available for use in the hospital at the time was a bariatric bahemoth of a chair. While I can’t quite put my finger on why, there is something degrading about being wheeled to emergency in a bariatric wheelchair while holding a bag full of vomit.  Many hours, medications, several bags of fluids and a diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum later I was discharged (after convincing the doctors I felt 100% better), and sent home to rest. Stopping at the inlaws to collect my car, I promptly bent over and vomited all over the driveway (I’m still unsure if they believed my story of a random neighbourhood dog wandering past and vomiting on the drive).

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November: Come November, I think I finally started to get my pregnancy glow, although it could also have been attributed to me being too scared of the chemicals in hair dye and the light reflecting off my streaks of grey hair, casting me in an etherial glow of light. Around this time I also kept getting compliments on my moustache and random strangers were asking for my donation link. For someone not used to the compliments, I was flattered and suddenly had an extra spring in my step.

Practically bouncing into the radiology clinic for our 12 week scan (I had just had another lovely compliment on my body hair), I was quick to double check the full bladder policy with the receptionist on duty. Learning that I still needed a full bladder, I decided to skip the extra spring in my step and instead take a seat and wait. We were overcome with nerves- we had been to 2 scans so far but this was the big one, the first time our little baby would take shape. I held my breath as I lay down ready to be scanned- it suddenly felt like my whole life had been building up to this moment- looking up at the screen I could not believe it when our little bean was projected for us to see. Where he had looked like a prawn in the previous scans, our little one now had a defined head and limbs- it was love at first sight.

While I had been burned in the TTC forums in the past, I had sneakily been visiting forums again for scan tips, and I had a newfound knowledge to ask the sonographer for a ‘nub shot’ so it could be scrutinised by the world to determine the sex of our little bean. Trying to act cool, calm and collected, I casually asked the sonographer if she could get a nub shot for us. She could do one better- she informed us she was fairly certain of the sex of our baby. Intrigued we asked her what we were having, “I’m fairly certain you are having a boy, but don’t go buying blue things until it is confirmed at 20 weeks”, she said. Fascinated that she could determine the sex already I asked how she could tell, “Well it looks a little bulky down there and see that there, that looks suspiciously like a scrotum” she answered. We were having a boy! Or a girl with a scrotum! A gender scan at 16 weeks confirmed that we were having a little boy.

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December: We decided to do our gender reveal on Christmas day. We had a cake made to be cut for dessert. Standing in front of our families we cut into the cake slowly to build the suspense. Seeing the blue frosting, my mother once again burst into tears exclaiming ‘little boys are the BEST’. While it was amazing seeing her so happy, I am unsure how to feel about this statement, being her only daughter…

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January: After another late night session of riding the porcelain bowl, I decided to download one of the free apps that would generate a projected picture of our baby, based on photos uploaded of my husband and I. Knowing the chances of the baby looking anything like what was projected were slim, I still held my breath as our precious bundle of joy was generated before my eyes. Ant was quickly woken by the sound of my loud sobs and exclamations that we were having a Sasquatch baby.

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February: Nurses are a stoic bunch of people. Sitting in the lunch room prior to an afternoon shift, I suddenly felt light headed. Springing into action, my colleagues performed my vitals and BSL before supplying me with ample amounts of fruit, lemonade and nuts- none of which were destined to stay down. I lurched to my feet and reached for the closest item to vomit into- the garbage bin filled with leftover lunches and a generous sprinkling of teabags. Heaving my guts up, I looked over to one of my friends who happened to be watching me intently, forkful of tuna mornay hovering in mid air. Nodding my head weakly in her direction at her unasked question, she smiled and shoved the fork in her mouth. Lunch breaks are a precious commodity in the nursing community and NOTHING is going to stop you enjoying it.

After some quick juggling of staff, I was being driven home by our lovely discharge nurse. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been trying to contact me. Pulling up to the driveway I see my father in law attempting to scale the fence and come to my rescue. Looking down at my phone, I notice several missed calls and frantic texts from Ant. I probably should have turned my phone off silent after ringing him and leaving him a voicemail message telling him that I was unwell and on my way home.

March: While I have always known that Ant is an amazing person and husband, there is one event during my pregnancy that really sticks out in my mind. It involved a trip to our favourite sushi place and a bowl of teriyaki chicken.

The day started out like any other day, with me on the bathroom floor, curled into the foetal position and crying, while Ant cleaned the toilet floor and walls (one of us performs better under pressure then the other). Realising I  had taken a pillow into the bathroom and was preparing to settle in for the day, Ant decided we needed some fresh air and encouraged me to rejoin the outside world. Spending the morning at the park, I was beginning to feel human again- the constant undercarriage of queasiness was settling down and I felt up to a treat- a watermelon juice from Boost juice and a teriyaki chicken and rice bowl from our favourite sushi place for lunch. In an eerie premonition of what was to come, Ant decided against eating in and decided we should take our lunch for a picnic. The minute the aroma of my teriyaki chicken hit my nose, I had to eat it, so I began devouring my lunch while Ant was driving down the highway. Savouring my last mouthful of teriyaki chicken goodness, I was hit with an immense wave of nausea, so bad and sudden I had no time to act as wave after wave of chicken, rice and juice came streaming out of my mouth and nose. With no time to grab anything, I had no choice but to vomit back into my bowl as Ant quickly merged through 3 lanes of traffic to make an emergency stop. Being the amazing husband that he is, Ant quickly grabbed an emesis back (conveniently located in the glovebox) and proceeded to do the bowl/bag swap, putting his body on the line as I continued to purge my lunch. A horrified grunt from Ant led me to cast my eyes downward towards his now vomit covered hands. Looking ashen, Ant proceeded to quietly exit the car, stand at the side of the road and vomit all over the sidewalk. Looking at Ant crouched over, one hand on his knees, the other holding my bowl of vomit, it suddenly dawned on me- that man right there is the best damned husband on the planet. If I wasn’t already pregnant, there is a good chance I would have gotten pregnant in the backseat that day.

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April: I had an internal debate as to whether or not to share this next story, but decided that I wouldn’t be able to move on until it was out in a public forum. The first step towards moving forward is to own up to the past so here it goes:

We had been referred to the high risk clinic at the hospital due to placenta previa. Sitting in the doctors consult room for our first visit, the doctor was going over our pregnancy records. The usual questions ensued, followed by a request for me to briefly explain my pregnancy up to that point. When I mentioned that I was still vomiting 5-10 times a day I was met with a sympathetic gaze, pat on the hand and exclamations of “that must be horrible” and “Once he is out you will feel as good as new”, which was great to hear but wasn’t stopping the queazy feeling from creeping up my throat. Standing up quickly (With Ant jumping up from his seat- he had months of experience and knew what to expect), I managed to inform the doctor I was going to be sick, before promptly bending over her hand basin and vomiting. “I’ll just give you a minute”, my doctor stated, making a beeline for the door (I have no qualms in believing if she was a nurse, she would have stayed, rubbing my back and offering condolences, for the duration of my purging). Over and over my body spasmed as I continued vomiting into the basin, I was vomiting so ferociously that I felt a large bolus of warm liquid trickle down my legs. In complete shock that my waters had broken, I looked down at the floor to be confronted by an unholy sight. Liquid yellow gold. I had vomited so hard I had pissed myself. Horrified, I sprung into action- “Grab the wipes”, I managed to manically scream at Ant, before dropping to my knees to try and conceal the accident, while holding on to the iota of self respect I had left. Hearing a knock at the door I screamed out for another minute- Ant was working on cleaning the basin and I was scrubbing my urine from the floor while swallowing vomit back down. It’s important to note here, that in our flurry of cleaning, we managed to use every hand towel and antibacterial wipe in the office- but my crime was covered. No one needed to know that I had literally vomited so hard that I pissed myself…. until my doctor walked back in with an older, male doctor and a few medical students, and explained that they would need to perform an internal and I realised I had not wiped, there were no paper towels left, and I had my wet underwear scrunched into a ball and sitting in my dress pocket. In tears, I had to explain what had happened to the entire room, and request something to clean myself before they did the exam.

April also marked the month I managed to projectile vomit all over myself and the lounge room during a building and pest inspection, leading to 2 burly men bringing me water and toilet paper to clean myself up. The house passed the inspection and I realised I had no self respect left.

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May: 38 weeks! We made it! After 32 weeks of constant vomiting, doctors visits, pokes, prods, incontinence and self doubt we had made it to full term!

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If you are reading this and have ever been pregnant, you will know all about your mucous plug. For those of you not familiar with the term, a mucous plug can best be described as:

The mucus plug accumulates at the cervix during pregnancy. When the cervix begins to open wider, the mucus is discharged into the vagina and may be clear, pink, or slightly bloody. Labor may begin soon after the mucus plug is discharged or one to two weeks later. – Webmd.

Remember back when I told you all how I had found the most amazing group of women and we had formed an online mothers group? Well they are who I turned to with all my stories of incontinence, discharge and mucous questions. Or so I thought. After scrutinising my underwear (hey, I was near due date and getting desperate) I posted a question about my mucous plug on my group page. Strangely, I received no immediate answers and went through an internal battle of questioning myself- did no one like me anymore?, where they all off having babies without me?, was the picture too much? (technically there was no picture- but I explained everything is so much detail that a picture wasn’t necessary). A few minutes later a lovely lady from my Burmese cats club messaged me to gently inform me I had posted my question on the cat page, in full view of the thousands of members. I’m still not sure how many people saw my desperate post about my plug, and how many still picture my mucous plug whenever I post pictures of Dexter being stuck on the fence.

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After a pregnancy marred with vomit, hospital trips, incontinence, aches, pains and embarrassing situations, I was booked in to the hospital to begin induction. Surely my induction and birth were going to be amazing. I deserved it….

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02. TTC- The makings of William.

Trying to conceive is a roller coaster ride. It turns sane women into diabolical machines who chart, temp, diet, contort their bodies into strange sexual positions and consult thousands of internet strangers to get the job done. I married the man of my dreams in June 2013. After an amazing wedding and honeymoon through Asia we arrived home and back to our lives, except something was different. I would look at couples with children and feel a sudden sense of longing. At first I thought it was jet lag, or perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten that chicken skewer off the street vendor in Bangkok, but something was different, I had the world but somehow I wanted more. Then it hit me, sometime between getting married and honeymooning, my biological clock had shook off the rust, oiled itself and began ticking. Where I had spent hours upon hours of planning my wedding, my mind was now awash with visions of a future me- sitting on a rocking chair, polishing my shotgun, surrounded by cats and laughing manically while watching Ant pick turnips on our farm. With each tick of the hands, I went from a lady content with life to a crazed woman who NEEDED a baby. And so our trying to conceive (TTC) journey began… It began the way most would expect- with me signing up to several trying to conceive forums so I could get tips and tricks to increase my chances of falling pregnant. Suddenly I was propelled into an unknown world, and I must say I was a little unnerved by how little I seemed to know about my own body. After posting a short, friendly and witty introduction in one of the forums I was suddenly bombarded with questions from a swarm of dedicated ladies who were asking all the important questions: What tracking method did I use? When did I last ovulate? Did I prop my hips up with pillows after I DTD? To which I answered: What is a tracking method? No idea, how do I tell? What is DTD- wait, I need to have sex? I could see straight from the start I was not going to fit in with the online TTC world. Much to my husbands delight, we decided to try the old fashioned way. Now I won’t go into details but imagine fireworks, trains entering tunnels, earthquakes and wet walruses sliding all over slippery rocks while honking loudly and you will get the idea (video footage is available for the low cost of $9.99 and can be purchased direct through my website http://www.juliethewalrus.com).

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And so I entered the torturous chambers of the two week wait, which can best be described as a state of mind where you overanalyse ever little symptom. A time when it is too early to test, but never too early to dream. I had cramps, I was emotional, nauseous and bloated, none of which could possibly have anything to do with the Mexican I had for dinner, no, I was pregnant, I was sure of it. When it came time to test, I asked my husband if he wanted to watch, (which in writing sounds creepy, but in the TTC world can be exceptionally romantic*) to which he kindly declined. 10 minutes later and I emerged from the bathroom, crying and exclaiming that I was never going to get pregnant. I don’t think I can sufficiently explain the soul crushing emotion I felt looking at the negative test. The same cycle replayed over in August- my future of a crazy cat lady was getting closer month by month.

Wednesday 4th of September 2013 started like any other day, except as the morning wore on, I was getting increasing cramps. I was devastated that I was seemingly out for another month, but being the masochist that I am, I decided to do a pregnancy test anyway (It was becoming quite an expensive habit by now). My husband was at work, so I thought it fitting that I asked my cat Dexter to watch me test- he also politely declined. Sitting in the bathroom, I kept close watch on the test, waiting for only one line to appear and crush my dreams. I watched, with the test an inch from my eyes as a second line ever so faintly appeared on the strip. I didn’t trust my vision in the dim room so out I ran, with my underwear still around my ankles, to the spare room where I could hold the test up to the sunlight (a trick I learnt from my brief foray into the TTC forum world), and there it was, a second line!

Now I wish I could say that I romantically presented my husband with a onesie emblazoned with a ‘I have the worlds best daddy’ logo, but in reality I made a quick phone call and announced loudly ‘I just pee’d on a stick AND IT’S POSITIVE’. I’m all class. My husband, who was in the middle of a team meeting asked if I was sure, and, thinking he needed further proof, I pee’d on a few more tests and bundled them all up into a sandwich bag and went to meet him for lunch. (Side note: it’s probably not socially acceptable to throw a sandwich bag full of positive pregnancy tests in your husbands face at his place of employment).

In my daze of happiness, and completely forgetting my first foray into the TTC internet world, I hurriedly posted pictures of my tests so others could scrutinise my lines and ensure me that yes, I was pregnant and yes, everything would be ok. Strangely I was met with meme upon meme of Kermit the Frog.

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I had made a colossal mistake, one so hated in the TTC world that for a minute there, I was the most hated person on the internet. I did a drive-by post; posting a picture of your positive pregnancy test to be scrutinised by a group of ladies who are still TTC. After a few snide remarks, many disheartening memes and a few compliments on my granite bench top, I retired from the TTC forums for good.

The next 9 months were going to be the BEST 9 months of my life….

*My husband would like to refute the fact that being asked to watch me pee on a stick is romantic. He states that even when TTC, the offer of watching me pee on a stick is NOT romantic.

01. Things I wish I knew.

I assumed motherhood was going be an easy gig. How hard could it be to keep an infant fed, clean and dressed while enjoying coffee dates during my year maternity leave? Everyone around me seemed to be breezing through the whole pregnancy/raising infants stage of life and if they could do it, then I could too. Fast forward 7 months and here I am- sleep deprived, covered in body fluids and eating coffee granules direct out of the canister. I decided to compile a list of a few things I wish I knew before having a baby. It may have made the transition to parenthood a little easier…

1. Don’t suggest to a 41 week pregnant woman that sex will help bring on labour. By this stage all we want to do is lie naked under the air conditioner and eat ice-cream. Further to this, please refrain from offering advice on how to help bring on labour. Pictures of evil looking pregnant cats may also not be appreciated.

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2. Try and find a mothers group before you have your baby. I don’t think I would still be (Dr Google verified) sane without the support of these women. My husband is also very appreciative of his title of team mascot.

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3. No matter how good you feel after an epidural, NEVER ask the midwife and/or the anaesthetist to be Facebook friends. The last thing they want to do is log on to Facebook and see your profile picture, triggering flashbacks and visuals of you sweating, pushing, and screaming at them while they stare up into the dark abyss of your lady parts.

4. Some women tear while giving birth. If, like me, you are one of these unfortunate women, the incorrect way to address this issue is to loudly ask every person in the room “do I even have a vagina left?”- this can lead to an awkward shift in the atmosphere.

5. Book a birth photographer. You will want to look back and cherish those photos of your husband laughing at you while you have contractions.

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6. Babies don’t sleep. Period. They will close their eyes and steady their breathing as part of a sick and twisted game to lull you into a false sense of security that your opportunity to nap is finally here. I guarantee the minute your head hits the pillow, your little bundle of joy is going to wake up, full of energy and ready and raring to go. Whoever termed the phrase ‘slept like a baby’ obviously has never had a baby. And they owe me an apology.

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7. You make good target practise during nappy changes.

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8. You aren’t safe in the bath

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9. You aren’t safe at photo shoots

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10. It is socially inappropriate to study your babies nappy in public, no matter how much the nurse in you wants to rank it according to the Bristol Stool Scale. My husband also argues that it is inappropriate to study the nappy anytime.

11. Breastfeeding does not automatically help you lose weight. Eating as if you are still pregnant does also not help the equation.

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12. The sweet sounds of Chris Isaac can cause a massive milk let down.

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13. Cats meows are often mistaken for Chris Isaacs voice and also cause a let down.

14. Consider yourself lucky if you get to shower daily. Don’t worry about personal grooming beyond that- you will have plenty of time for waxing once your baby is 18. Try not to stress about your body hair and the lost Amazonia tribe living in it. To wax or pluck your hair could cause serious disharmony to their ecosystem.

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15. Little boys like to grab their penis. A lot. I am probably gender stereotyping here, but if your little girl is grabbing her penis during nappy changes, you have a problem.

16. Ask for help. It takes a village to raise a baby.

17. Enjoy your baby. Be thankful every day that they are here. Don’t let the little things get you down. Time is fleeting- enjoy every moment.