Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Someone should warn you about these things when you enter the country. Is all I'm sayin'.

Randomly today, I thought of two embarrassing moments that I've had since we've lived in Sydney. They still make me cringe. And as you probably know, the pain of acute embarrassment is mitigated by telling someone else about it. I don't know why, but it's true. These two stories I'm gonna tell you are also related to getting along in a new country. Pitfalls that native Aussies would've known about and avoided, but because I'm a fer-ner (as we say in the South), and a little bit dumb, I fell right into 'em.

The first happened when I had Nate. Nate was born 3 months after we moved here. It was interesting, to say the least, to arrive pregnant in a new country. The health care system here is totally different, and I didn't have the luxury of taking my time to learn how it all worked. I needed to find a hospital and start seeing a midwife or doctor. Or whomever would let me make an appointment. The florist? The guy who makes keys outside of the grocery store? Anybody! No really, the hospital staff were lovely and very accommodating of me, the clueless American.

Long story short, the last few weeks before Nate was born, I got sick. I started spiking these fevers every night, with no other symptoms except fatigue. This went on for a couple of weeks, and none of the tests they were running were turning anything up. We weren't sure what was wrong with me--Nate seemed fine in all the scans and monitoring they did, but we just weren't sure. When I was 35 weeks pregnant, my water broke. I think my body had just had it. Concerned that perhaps he was sick as well, they allowed my labor to progress and Nate was born, 5 weeks early.

I had a fever during delivery and though the delivery was relatively peaceful, (Prayer, y'all. Prayer.) there was a fair amount of drama surrounding it. Here in Australia, usually a normal birth is attended by a midwife and maybe another to help, or your obstetrician if you have one. With Nate, the room was full of people. An obstetrician, 3 or 4 midwives, a pediatrician, and the anethesiologist who'd just shown up to give me an epidural. (Ha! Too late, buster. I did not think that was funny at the time.) They were all there in case I got sicker or something was wrong with Nate when he came out.

So, Nate is born, he cries (Yay!), and the midwives want to whisk him away to the special care nursery to check all the things they check with preemies. Plus give him some antibiotics in case I had something nasty and had given it to him. It was not a frantic atmosphere, but there was definitely a sense of rushed purpose to it. The midwife brought Nate over to me and said, "Why don't you give him a quick nurse and then we'll take him."

Okay, I thought. I knew that moms are encouraged to breastfeed as soon after delivery as possible. So, with probably a dozen people in the room, I popped my girls out and tried to do my thing. You know. Well, Nate was all, "Look. I've just been born? And I'm early? I'm not quite up to this just yet. I'm gonna have to take a raincheck." So I cuddled him for a minute and then handed him over. I noticed the midwife kind of looking at me strangely.

Fast forward a few weeks. We are home and both of us are just fine. I am up in the middle of the night feeding Nate. My mind is wandering and I am thinking back on those few moments after he was born. Like a bolt from the blue, it hits me. I give a little gasp and sit straight up in bed. Here in Australia, to "nurse" a baby can mean to hold and cuddle him. And in that moment I realized that the midwife had been telling me to hold Nate for just a second. And I'm all shifting around and lifting my shirt like I'm at a Mardi Gras parade. Just hold your baby, you moron!

It wasn't so much the exposure that embarrassed me. I mean, all those people had just seen Nate be born. It's just that I felt stupid. Like everyone must've been thinking, "What is she doing? We don't have time for this right now." Oy. That memory still makes me curl my toes in agony. Incidentally, all the time after that I noticed people would ask me if they could "nurse the baby". I would always, for a split second, think they were asking to you know, nurse him. I always had to take a second and remind myself what it meant. Heh. Funny.

Well, that was lengthier than I intended. So I'll come back tomorrow and tell you about the second humiliating moment. It's not quite as long and drawn out, but still super awkward! Thinking about it still makes me slap my forehead and sigh.

I'm gonna go lie down. Y'all have a good day.

(Here's Nate about a year after his birth! He grew up to be a big baby who liked lazy Sunday afternoons, long walks on the beach and eating paint. I'll stop talking now.)


  1. I'm up too late and just had to read this before turning off my computer...too funny, embarassing but funny:)
    My father in law has this saying, not sure if you've heard this one before: "what is a pain to endure is a pleasure to tell" or something like that:) good night!

  2. LOL - okay that was good. My birth story was when I felt like I had pushed for a thousand years just to get him to crown and stay I laid back. The dr reached up and said "Look at all the hair!" and touched his head. He slid back in. I yelled out "Don't push him back in!" and the whole room bust out laughing. It was not funny to me at the time. Turns out I only pushed for 20 mins, but I'm pretty sure 15 of that was getting his melon out. He was preemie too, and has grown into a giant at 7 years old (he is already 4' 7" and I am only 5'1" - le sigh)

  3. no! Please don't stop talking!! I love your longer posts.I had not heard this story before. Very funny. You have so many great stories and its wonderful when you share. Keep em coming please. Love you and your sense of humor.

  4. That's hilarious - and probably best for the baby, too, even if he wasn't quite ready for the full meal.

  5. Oh goodness, no matter how many times I've heard this, it makes me laugh and curl my toes right along with you. I wonder what they thought? Like, wow, these Americans are REALLY gungho with the breastfeeding!

  6. I love this story. It makes me remember that when we we on the crowded ferry in Sydney and I would say "excuse me" to someone I had just jostled, they took it as an accusation of wrong-doing on their part. I had a had time remembering to substitute, "pardon me." It's the little things that separate us sometimes.