Auld Lang Syne. 

I’m laying on the beach at Scarborough, Western Australia typing this on my iPhone. That statement in itself should tell you how blessed I am. 2016 has been a tough year for many people I love, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not one who struggled through the year that has been. I entered 2016 already ahead in excitement, 2 and a half months pregnant with our first child. I had all my life dreamed of having children, but life with type 1 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and other health issues did not set me up for an easy road to motherhood. We were blessed to fall on our first attempt, and I was especially blessed with an uncomplicated first trimester. No morning sickness, generally feeling well and had tight control of my diabetes. 

2016 was the year we were going to become parents to a beautiful little boy and I couldn’t wait. 

 I enjoyed my pregnancy immensely, despite commuting in the heat of summer and finding it quite anxiety inducing thanks to Metro’s best efforts to delay my journeys as much as possible. Every day I would enjoy for the first time seeing myself through new eyes. Where I had previously loathed my stomach and wished it smaller, (it was never flat) I began to marvel at its ever expanding size, enjoying the growing bump and all the little jumps inside it. I stopped looking in the mirror and sucking my stomach in; wishing for a different body, and started loving it for exactly what it was: a perfect place to grow a human life. 

Gone were the days I looked at myself and groaned. I now looked in the mirror and saw myself with pride – as a fearfully and wonderfully made woman growing into a mother with every passing day. I enjoyed the looks of strangers who noticed I was pregnant instead of dreading if they were wondering if I was, or if I just had a pot belly. 

 March arrived, and Stu and I headed to Perth to have our last holiday together alone. Two days before we flew out we were presented with the sad news that Stu’s Mum Julie was given a few weeks to live. The cancer in her liver combined with an infection was shutting her body down. Uncertain as to what we should do, we trusted God and got on the plane. We had a baby shower planned and were unsure of what would happen. The day after we arrived in Perth, Julie passed and the next week was a stressful blur for Stu trying to work out if he should fly back straight away or closer to the funeral. It was also Easter weekend and flights were impossibly expensive. Instead of rushing back to sit around for a week, we took a brief trip down to our favourite beachside destination in Geographe Bay and then took Stu to the airport so he could get home in time for the funeral. 

Julie was a remarkable woman and I am ever grateful for the son she created. He is an amazing man and I am lucky to be married to him. 

 April arrived and my plans to work until 33 weeks were put on hold with the arrival of preeclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy illness that elevates the blood pressure to dangerous levels, placing strain on the baby’s heart. I began my maternity leave at 30 weeks, 8 weeks before my suggested term c-section, entering into twice-weekly day stays at the hospital to monitor baby Skywalker’s little heart. As if the swelling and stress wasn’t enough, we moved house 4 days before I was admitted to hospital, and 6 days before we welcomed our son into this beautiful world. I spent 5 days in the complex care ward under constant monitoring and plugged into a number of lines.

 It was worth it though, as on May 19th at 9:37am our entire world changed for the better. Samuel Jasper Walker was born at 33 weeks and 6 days by emergency c-section, and my heart felt as full as it could possibly be. He spent nearly 3 weeks in the special care nursery due to being so premature and I spent 11 days recovering from eclampsia symptoms and migraines so bad only morphine could provide relief. I was in a bubble; a beautiful oxytocin bubble of joy, bliss, peace and love I could never adequately describe for my son and husband. I existed on the fine edge of a new mother’s emotions, surging with the power and fury of a hurricane at the edges of perfect calm.

We brought Sam home and spent the 6 weeks together, courtesy of Stu having enough carers leave to take the time off to help me as I recovered from the C sec. 

 Then came the challenging part. The pregnancy, the preeclampsia, the emergency surgery, the delivery and recovery all pales in comparison to the learning curve that is parenting for the first time. I had to learn a lot and quickly, and alone, with no family to support us in Melbourne. It has been a joyful, exhausting, overwhelming experience for me, but with every day that passes, no matter how challenging, my heart continues to expand to volumes I didn’t know I had the capacity to feel. Some days it might burst, like the first time I heard Sam laugh, or in the morning when he smiles at me as if I am the whole universe.

 I never thought putting my own needs and myself after someone else could feel so fulfilling. I never dreamed having someone in my space all day every day could make me so happy. I didn’t know I was capable of this kind of love. It is, quite simply, still blowing me away. 

 It’s been 5 years since Kristian passed away on Monday. I like to think he would be proud of me and my life these days. I’ve found who I am and exactly where I belong being Sam’s mum and Stu’s wife, and most importantly, being me. It hasn’t been an “easy” year, but damned if it’s not been the greatest one of my entire life. 

 So as we close out 2016, I am thankful beyond words. For my blessings, for my challenges, for my husband, for my family, for my son. For my life. 

Thank you, 2016, for the lessons you’ve taught me and the things I’ve gained this year. You were one that will go down in my history as the most life changing yet. 

Happy New Year to you.

Love, The Walkers.

Advertisements

A Decade And A Lifetime.

We were young eyes with old souls when we met in the springtime of our twenties. I fell in love with your kind eyes and gentle mouth long before it ever kissed mine. Some people say you just know when you meet that one person who’ll set your soul on fire for the rest of your days and I did. I knew you were meant to be mine always.

A decade is a long time by today’s measures; not many people can commit to weeks let alone months, let alone years, and yet here we are, ten years strong, four years tied by the covenant we made. I still remember the look on your face as I saw you for the first time at the altar, it was everything I had hoped your heart would scream in that silent moment.

I wanted to run, not walk into  our future together the moment I met you and also on this day when you promised to always take the path together as husband and wife.

Not a day that goes by where I am not thankful for what we have, in amongst the chaos of the dishes, nappies, sleeplessness and schedules. You are the anchor, you are the rudder and you are the sails. You give me strength, direction and momentum to continue into the future in store for us.

You’ve given me the most beautiful gift in our son. He is so like you and I am so glad. You are the man I hoped and dreamed of, even when my mind couldn’t imagine you were real. If our son grows to be half the man you are the world will be all the sweeter, better, kinder, wiser, gentler because of it.

We’ve walked a pretty rocky road these past 10 years. And not one of those steps was taken with carelessness on your part. While I skip ahead, darting from stone to stone, admiring the flowers and clouds and being distracted by my impulses and passions, you are keeping us on the path to joy and love.

You still make my heart beat faster, all these years later.

Thank you for the past decade.

I can’t wait to live the next one with you, teaching Sammy how love is a commitment for lifetimes, all made up of decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds of choosing love always.

Happy 4th wedding anniversary Baby.
I love you more than ever.

Walker_451-BW

cropped-img_0493.jpg

The Sam Diaries

Life with our little Bear Cub is a constant, evolving and enriching experience. We have seen him grow so much over the past 5 months, I can’t believe he is 5 months old tomorrow! It fills my heart with so much joy that on more than one occasion I have found myself with tears streaming down my face just looking at him.

His little personality has begun to unfold like a little flower. We are seeing more and more of it with each week that passes. He has a real cuddly temperament, but is strong and independent in his own company. Happy to just chill and enjoy his toys on the play mat, but absolutely lights up when you engage with him while he plays. He gives the sweetest, cheekiest smiles, chuckles and squeaks. He has the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen on a baby.

sammy17

Classic Samface!

sammy2

sammy3

All pooped after swimming class

sammy4

On one of our neighbourhood walks…

He is a relaxed and calm little man. I knew this when he was conceived, so to see it in him every day is reassuring for my mother’s instinct. Amongst his mother’s group friends he is definitely the quiet one, happy to sit back and take in all the other babies as they do their thing.

sammy10

I am woken every morning by the biggest smiles, the way he looks at me makes me feel as if I am the centre of his universe. I suppose I am for now, and I am enjoying that so much. His favourite activity is without a doubt the jolly jumper – he knows what “Jumpy jump” means, his little legs begin thrashing wildly when it is mentioned. He has just started grabbing things and pulling them up to his mouth, he loves his dangly monkey toy for this reason. He still hates tummy time. He has all but stopped breastfeeding, but is still given expressed breast milk in a bottle. And that’s ok.

ammy9

Our favourite activity!

sammy18

sammy15

We took a trip to the zoo where a mother Orangutan became fascinated by Sammy in my arms. She kept gesturing and looking at him with the most beautiful compassion in her eyes. It was such a great experience!!

sammy7

The Orangutan was fascinated…

We celebrated our first Father’s Day with Daddy by reading story books about hockey before bed.

sammy5Daddy reading Sam his Edmonton Oilers story book

We also took our first flight together a few weeks back, just me and Sammy; we went to visit Grammy in Perth. Sammy took it like a champion, sleeping for most of the flight over and the entire flight on the way home. Those precious days in Perth were also a great recharger for me. There’s nothing quite like being home with Mum. ❤

sammy11

Sleeping on the plane on the way to Perth…

sammt12

Sammy spending some time with Grammy in Perth

ammy13

All dressed up for church!

sammy14

Slept the entire flight home to Melbourne!

sammy16

Fistbump!

If you are following us on social media, you’ll have seen a lot of these photos already. If you would like to follow us, my instagram is _bethwalker. I post daily updates and pictures/videos of our baby Skywalker. He is the best thing I’ve ever been given. We are truly blessed.

sammy20

sammy19

 

Ohana.

When we were married we had our wedding day captured by a photographer by the name of Kristen Cook. She told our story so beautifully that we knew when the time came for us to have a baby that we wanted Kristen to be the one to do our portraits too.

The week Sammy was released from the hospital we were over at Kristen’s studio having the images taken. They were perfect. And last week we picked up our amazing prints and the images on digital file as well. My heart bursts looking at our little man, he is truly such a gift from heaven. I also can’t believe how small he was!

I hope you enjoy the pictures. If you are looking for an incredible photographer to capture your life moments, I cannot recommend Kristen highly enough. You can check out her amazing work at http://www.kristencook.com.au/

img_0026img_0148img_0493img_0460img_0117img_0277img_0552img_0370img_0572img_0418img_0309

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

The Breast Outcome Possible.

July 1st was Samuel’s official due date, but he was born May 19th. Anyone with a premature baby will be familiar with the term ‘adjusted age.’ This is where you deduct the number of weeks premature from the date of your child’s birth to determine its adjusted age. So this week, Sam turns 12 weeks old, which minus his 6 weeks premature gives him an adjusted age of 6 weeks. So while Sam is ‘older’ than his adjusted age, it means he will develop more closely to his adjusted age than his actual age. So milestones you’d expect at 6 weeks will occur closer to 12 for him.

And I am so pleased to say that this is most definitely the case with Breastfeeding. Sam has finally grown strong enough and mature enough to develop a proper latch and suck, which means we are now finally able to breastfeed!! I am so beyond stoked to report that literally the day after my last blog, Sam had an hour-long feed, and continued to get stronger every day. We now have a lovely routine locked in of our morning feed, where I get to sit in my beautiful nursery chair and soak in the endorphins and calm of breastfeeding my son. I get to finally stop condemning myself mentally for what I perceived to be a failure of my body. I can finally hold my head up high and say “Yes, we breastfeed.”

While I am so ecstatic to be able to check off accomplishing this one thing that I held onto with stubborn determination and sheer grit, through tears and frustration and many moments of throwing my hands in the air and saying “I quit! This is too hard!” I am also really sad for mums out there who for whatever reason don’t breastfeed and feel guilt and pressure to do so. We all know the saying “breast is best” but I honestly feel like what’s best for baby is what’s best for mum. There is so much pressure to breastfeed in today’s society, and so much pressure to do it ‘discreetly,’ whatever that means, when you have a screaming hungry baby throwing themselves around because they’re so beyond hangry it’s impossible to calm them any faster than ripping off your shirt and shoving your breast into their mouth, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Or fair. To mum and baby.

I know the stress I felt trying to get Sam to take the breast was enormous. More than once I was reduced to tears in my attempts. I felt like a complete and utter failure as a mother. I thought of all the centuries of women who fed their babies this way, and how I was somehow a genetic failure destined to be bred out of the gene pool for my inability to do something so natural, that so many others had done without effort. But it’s simply ridiculous to place so much pressure on a mother to do so, right from the moment of conception your entire existence is about the little life growing inside of you. You give up everything you’re told could cause you illness and the baby harm. You forego things you love to give your child everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. You spend 9 months cultivating a human life to be able to sustain itself outside the womb with basic human needs. Your body swims with hormones. You cry over all the things you feel you’re doing wrong or not able to control from the minute you know you’re pregnant to the moment you die. You literally bleed for your child. And yet if you can’t breastfeed, you somehow feel like a failure.

It breaks my heart that the link between failure to breastfeed and post natal depression is so high, and I can’t help but wonder how much of that is because of the mental and emotional pressure women feel, from society, from family, friends, from themselves. At the end of the day, the most important thing is a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy mother. How you get there should be nobody’s business. So think before you ask a new mother if their baby is breast or bottle fed. You may actually be adding to a new mother’s anxiety!

I am admittedly still mixed feeding Sam and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I am perfectly content with my morning and evening snuggles during our breast time, but I am also content with bottle feeds in the middle of the night, which ensure I know exactly how much Sammy is eating, and can be shared with Stu as well.

I’d like to encourage mothers using formula. Your reasons are your own. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You are doing great.

I’d also like to encourage mums out there who might be struggling to breastfeed. It’s ok to formula feed. It’s ok to breastfeed. Stick to your guns either way and don’t let the outcome affect your sense of value and worth as a mother. To your little person, you’re everything. Formula or breast. You’re doing great.

It’s up to you to find the breast outcome possible. For both you and bubba. xx

13882538_10157345304460457_9004031415876631719_n

13903416_10157331248300457_1547899461045359398_n

Boobs.

WARNING:
This post contains references to Breasts. And Nipples. And feeding a child with them. While there won’t be any nipple pictures for you to be offended by, you should know that if you’re particularly precious about this topic, you can kindly exit the browser window in 3, 2, 1…

Ok, you were warned.

I don’t really know how to open this blog, so I’ll start by showing you my daily (multiple times a day) reality for the past 2 months:

IMG_5331

This is a breast pump. I have a love/hate relationship with this thing. On one hand, it is soo relieving to use. It means my baby is getting breast milk. But on the other, I just wish I could breastfeed.

Sam being born so early meant a lot of challenges for us both, but the one that continues to this day is the battle of the boob. I hear and see friends who are able to breastfeed so naturally and easily and I envy them. I had wanted this one thing so much, and given how little control I had over the birth process and no skin to skin for 27+ hours post birth, I have sort of set myself into a stubborn determination that this one thing will be mine. I will not fail at this.

But these are hours of my life I can never get back, hours I wish were spent with Sam close against my chest, in the quiet. Hours we could spend just the two of us, bonding as mother and child.

Breastfeeding is such a special thing for a Mum. And yet Sam’s prematurity and my nipple shape (FYI, I had no idea there was such a thing as different nipple types!?) has meant we’ve had a long, stressful, sometimes upsetting uphill battle to get him on the boob. We currently mix feed, which again, is a love/hate kind of deal. With my preeclampsia, formula meant my baby was being nourished as much as possible while my body recovered from the trauma of the c-section and illness while my milk came in. On the other, the less you nurse, the less milk you have. Catch 22.

Using bottles and formula is another love/hate. Bottles need washing, sterilizing, drying. Formula takes time. The water has to be 75 degrees C before you can mix in the formula. This means boiling the kettle, and then waiting about 40 minutes. This means timers. Clock watching. And never, ever being allowed to not have some ready. But formula needs to be made as you go, so you can’t make too much. But you must always have some on hand.

On the upside, it means I am not up every single feed with bleeding and cracked nipples, dying of lack of sufficient sleep. It means Daddy can help with the middle of the night feeding times, and we can share in the bond of feeding and nourishing Sammy. It means a low milk supply does not impede the growth of our little cub.

But it sucks. Pun intended. Because I could bottle feed Sam breast milk anyway, even if I was breastfeeding as well. But even with a nipple shield and a fixed tongue, it’s not happening for us so far.When Sam had his tongue tie corrected, I thought that would be that. We would be off to the best start in our breastfeeding journey together.

Wrong.

Sam is now used to the ease of the bottle, which trickles down his throat without much effort, even when he’s half asleep. So having to put in effort to suckle at the boob doesn’t particularly interest him most of the time. In fact, there’s usually a great deal of crying, back arching and screaming involved. (And I’m not just talking about Sam!)

While I do have the wonderful support of the maternal health services and lactation consultants (we have one coming to help up soon) it’s hard not to feel discouraged that something that is meant to be so ‘natural’ is so damn difficult. For so many women. So for each block of time I’m attached to my pump, for each feed we attempt that results in the same thing, I have to remind myself that this is something I want, and is ultimately the best thing for Sam. But it is hard. I have even wanted to quit so many times. It’s really upsetting to have your son push away from you time and time again. But I persist.

I am hoping our boob battle has a victory at its end, but I just wanted to get it off my chest for now. Pun intended.

To all the Mums out there in the booby front lines, I salute you. If you need me, I’m probably not far from this machine.

IMG_5587

 

 

 

The Mum Diaries

Today is my first day at home with Sam with Stu back at work, and I’ve been thinking about my maternity leave, wondering what my life will look like when I return to work next year. Sam has been home for a month tomorrow and though we have had my parents here for a couple of those weeks, we have adjusted to having this little man in our world quite well.

But today I become the primary care-giver and that is a task I know will require all of my effort, all of my emotions and all of my determination.

Parenting is pretty crazy; you have sex, 9 months pass and then all of a sudden they hand you this little dependent human being, who relies solely on you to thrive and survive. Yes, there are classes you can attend that are meant to help you learn how to do that, but for the most part you’re sort of set adrift into an enormous ocean full of tumultuous storms, beautiful serene moments and everything in between. It requires 100% all of the time, physically and emotionally and it’s just too important to not do right.

As an introvert I wondered how I would go having a little person with me 24/7. I need quiet and alone time to recharge myself at the end of the day and that doesn’t happen quite so easily with a baby and no one home during the day to help. Sam experiences quite painful wind and can be very colicky and require quite a bit of soothing at times. Other times he’s happy to chill by himself on the play mat and whenever he sleeps I try to. But it’s still full on. And it’s up to me. The Primary care-giver.

Thank God I have a secondary care-giver though in my husband. I think about single parents trying to do this alone and with no family support and I admire them immensely. Bringing a child into a marriage comes with its own challenges though. The need for good communication completely doubles in its importance. Tiredness, stress and the general demands of trying to be a parent increase the tension or sharpness in your tone. It’s also important to remember that each of you is learning, and a simple question may feel like an accusation even when it’s not. It’s a steep learning curve that can make or break a marriage. But I am so thankful for the amazing man I married, he is incredible with Sam and is working hard to give us the best future possible.

So my first day of solo dishes, laundry and primary care-giving is here and while it may be daunting, I feel like I’m ready for this. That we as a family are ready for this. I am loving being Sam’s mum, loving the moments of quiet in amongst the tears (most of which will probably be mine!) and being blessed enough to have maternity leave to be able to soak in the first year of Sam’s life; to watch him grow and develop into the little person he is meant to be. And having nowhere else I’d rather be.