Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clench, hold and release

Ben's birth was blessedly straight forward & quick enough. After four hours of active labour & a second degree tear, our 7lb 6oz first son arrived. There are so many cherished memories from the days following his birth, but there is one that really stands out personally. Still now, ten years later, I can recall every sensation & the emotions that whipped through me at the time.

Ben was just over twenty four hours old & I was slowly wheeling him along in his clear plastic, hospital issue bassinet - feeling a little tender with stitches located where stitches had never been before. We had just been for a visit to the common room & I was making our way back to our private room, anticipating the arrival of lunch (& with any luck a little nap for the both of us). I had just passed by the nurses station & half way down the corridor, still another few rooms to go yet until our own, when suddenly the urge to pee came upon me with no prior warning.


Really urgently.

The shock of trying to clench those bruised, battered & swollen pelvic floor muscles, only to find that they didn't really feel like clenching much at all has haunted me through every birth that has followed over the last ten years. It is one time I genuinely feared I was going to wet myself, in public, & not just a little bit either. 

I knew the importance of doing kegels during pregnancy & in the weeks & months following birth. I'd read the little snippets of real life experiences that were included in the articles of keeping your pelvic floor tight 'n high, written in by women who found out the hard way just how necessary it was to clench - pull it all in without pulling a face. 
With tips including, but not limited too, 'If you're doing the dishes or hanging out the washing, do your pelvic floors as well.'
Or, 'When you sit to feed the baby work those muscles at the same time - clench, release & repeat.'

Some how I mostly kept my bodily fluids within my body & high tailed it in a waddling, thigh clenched gait as fast as I could while pushing Ben along, still oblivious in his bassinet back to our room. That afternoon I resumed the clench, hold, release & repeat. Just a few at a time, enough to gently locate them & check they were still in potential working order, then slowly increasing the intensity over the following days & weeks. That call to nature was just far too close for comfort...& too far from a lavatory. 

Seventeen months later & half way through Rianan's pregnancy I joined a pregnancy exercise class run by a physiotherapist. Several times through each session she would run us through our pelvic floor exercises - advocating passionately just how important it really was to do them. Beginning as soon as we felt able to, while lying down to avoid putting too much extra pressure on our vagina's that had just gone a round in the boxing ring with a three kilo battering ram - or so it may seem. 

Rianan's birth was just as good as her older brother - a water birth, just under four hours & another slight second degree tear after coming out all in the one contraction. In the wee hours of the morning as dawn illuminated the clouds, I laid on my side while gazing at our daughter, memorising her five hours old newness, & began the first gentle clenches of those hidden muscles. This time, when nature screamed a waterfall was coming, I wouldn't be caught blindsided. 

After having more than the standard quota of pregnancies & births, I know how crucial it is to keep my pelvic floor stronger than my biceps. Especially if I want my bladder to stay where it belongs, along with it's contents, while taking Ben & Jack on in a round of soccer, chasing Blake & Will around in a game of chasey or joining Rianan in a display of kart-wheels & handstands. Though they aren't as easy as it was twenty odd years ago...

Over the last ten years I'm certain I've done more kegels than I have changed nappies. They've paid off though - especially after suffering morning sickness with Clay & hugging the toilet bowl every morning, or more recently finding myself succumbing to the sneezes of hay fever. 

If you are quietly suffering incontinence, no matter how mild or severe, go & see a physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor. Ignoring the matter won't fix anything. 

How many times have you clenched, held & released so far today? 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't mind the mess...

"Come in" she said, "don't mind the mess", as I step over the threshold to her home, drawing my attention to the suggestingly unkempt surroundings. My eyes flick over every surface as we proceed deeper into the house.

Though I'm not exactly sure what mess she is pertaining too. The haphazardly arranged toys that are within the confines of the baby mat, or the two mugs on the bench next to the kettle - clean & ready for expected company. Even the beds were made in the bedrooms we drifted past.

No piles of washing all over the couch with not-so-fifty-shades underwear & holey socks flauntingly visible, forgotten to be tucked deep into the mountain. Kitchen sink empty of breakfast bowls, no dried weet-bix or puffed up rice bubbles lingering on the table - or under the chairs. Either her children slept in their clothes the night before, or it is their pyjama's I can hear in the washing machine quietly swishing away.

The floors look clean enough to follow the three second rule {for dropped food}, curtains open & windows barely visible - not a smeared hand print or dried up cascading dribble to be seen. 

I think to myself, if this is classed as messy then my house belongs on 'Hoarding - Buried Alive'. Knowing that as I closed the front door to take the minions to school, I was closing the door on pyjama's left on bedroom floors, breakfast bowls un-rinsed & stacked next to the sink, with the dishwasher clean but not yet emptied from the night before. Wet bed sheets & quilts stripped & fermenting in the dirty laundry basket, the washing machine silent. The evidence of packing lunches on the kitchen bench remains & while the dining table is wiped of any solid food matter, cloudy streaks are easily seen & rice bubbles litter Will & Blake's chairs. Our floors, not fit for the three second rule, but clean enough for Clay to escape my hip on.

With that one careless statement, perhaps meant to clear her of any responsibility for a missed mirror streak or mote of dust I may see, but not notice - evaporating from my mind faster than a shopping list. The standard is set. The precedent of expectation which goes both ways.

Weeks later I open our front door to welcome her into our home. With a smile I say "Hi! Come in, don't mind the mess, we've been so busy the last few days I've not had a chance to clean properly." A partial truth. 

We walk down the hallway, past bedrooms & lounge rooms - doors wide open to welcome inspection. Small talk is made while we make our way to the kitchen, where two mugs await next to the kettle & a plate of {store bought} goodies already set out.

What she doesn't know is that I ran around like a blue arsed fly the night before - cleaning toilets, wiping toothpaste off mirrors & polishing windows until I could see my reflection. Washing piles thrown hastily into cupboards, floors swept & quickly mopped. That morning the kids were dropped off at school looking irritated & harassed - because I spent the previous two hours acting like a Drill Sargent. Make your bed! Put your pyjamas in the wash! Whose breakfast bowl is on the table still? Put it in the sink! Rooms tidy! Brush your teeth, make sure you rinse the bathroom sink after! 

Instead of walking each minion to their class, I kiss them good bye & head back to the car before the morning bell has even rung. Eager to gain an extra ten minutes to ensure everything is looking as clean & display home'esque as possible. Not a rice bubble in sight. Super House Wife badge on. 

This became the norm. Doug always knew when I had plans to catch up with someone the next day because the night before instead of sitting next to him on the couch, I would be mopping & folding as much of our Mount Washmore as I could before tiredness set in. 

Then a few months ago I called enough. Our house is our home, not an open door display house. I was sick of the falseness, the illusion, the expectation. I wanted to look forward to catching up with friends, not feeling annoyed that I had to sacrifice my quiet evening to make sure every surface was free of minion prints & milk spots. If a friend knocked unexpectedly on our door I didn't want to chat at the front door to hide the lunch dishes in the sink, the unfolded washing dominating the couch, unmade beds & the dozens of shoes almost certainly to be scattered through various rooms.

I also do not want other women to feel the same way. 

Now I'll still say "come in, don't mind the mess." But you will know see exactly what mess I am excusing. Whether it be the crumbs on the bench, the dining table I'm wiping down before we sit, the glass door opaque with hundreds of hand prints or the baby toys & action figurines that lay abandoned on the floor. The real mess. 

Pop over for a cuppa, come for the company. You're welcome any time, just mind the washing.