Our ‘baby’ is almost three…

…and my mind is boggling as to how that is even a true statement!

Almost a year ago I wrote this post lamenting my breastfeeding journey drawing to a natural close. Well, it turns out that I was completely wrong and an almost-three-year-old Amalya is STILL into the boob! The fact that I am breastfeeding a three year old slightly blows my mind, but it actually feels completely natural.

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This girl is currently as beautiful and heart-squishingly adorable as she is rambunctious and infuriating in equal measures. She is kind, caring, an awesome sharer and selectively deaf; she has a unique sense of style and likes to look fabulous, but still screams like a banshee when it’s time for being cleaned or groomed. Previously always an adventurous eater, Amalya is currently frequently to be heard shouting “YUK” at her favourite foods, pushing her plate across the table in disgust, sitting with her arms folded shouting “I NOT LIKE THAT”, then moments later, surreptitiously trying to retrieve it when she thinks everyone is distracted.

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Amalya can swim lengths of the pool like a dolphin, duck dive and fearlessly swings herself on the Tarzan rope out of the palm tree and into the pool. She also just taught herself how to ride a bike (with stabilisers) in three days. Not able to get on the saddle without falling straight off the other side, to whizzing around adept at steering and singing at the same time. In three days. Preferably in the noodle.

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She loves dressing up, imaginary play, arts and crafts, building castles, playing shops, Playmobil, in Cafe Wayan and with the fairy house. She can be generously helpful and wilfully stubborn in the space of five minutes. She loves to dance and put on performances with her big sister, she loves to cook and also to clean, as long as it’s not actually time to clean. She will be crooning to one of her babies or actually giving birth to one of them complete with grunts, and then laying on the floor wailing and kicking, with her head dramatically on her arms and bum in the air in fierce protest of some (usually imagined) injustice, all in the space of two and a half minutes.

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Amalya has a boldness of spirit and sureness of character that perhaps belie her junior years. She is intelligent and sharp, but also impressively vague at times. She is affectionate and perceptive, thoughtful and utterly away with the fairies. My wish for her at this point in her life is that she maintains all of these brilliant, hilarious, endearing and utterly infuriating characteristics and personality traits and continues to work hard on never getting no for an answer. She will continue to drive us to the edge of our sanity on a weekly basis, of that I am sure, but she will always be the very best surprise ever.

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Amidst the busy: the birth of a dissertation

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Six years, three countries, four islands and two babies after starting my Masters’ Degree in Public Health I have finally just handed in my dissertation and my MPH is complete. If my thesis isn’t a disaster I should score a distinction to boot.

While studying I have worked in a cholera outbreak in a remote village in Papua New Guinea pre-kids and in a busy hospital in Oxford with a seven month old and a two year old. I have spent more weekends away from my family and friends and more evenings apart from my husband than are ideal. The challenges of studying last year trumped all others and the others have been pretty interesting: living in Java away from our support network; realising pretty early on that we had made a wrong move; the unexpected death of my Nana; Indi being incredibly unsettled; grief; panic attacks exacerbating an at that point undiagnosed heart condition and a travelling husband to name but a few.

When I started my Masters’ I had no idea where I wanted it to take me and so kept the modules as broad and interesting as I could. Living in Papua New Guinea, studying for a reproductive health in developing countries module and then having my own babies led me to maternal health. Not wanting to live in Java but needing to stay in Indonesia led us to Bali and Bumi Sehat¬†where I wrote my dissertation.

The past five months have been a journey of a different kind: hitting the ground running in yet another new place, settling into another new house, settling the girls into new schools, trying to make new friends and trying to get my head around what I might do for my dissertation when I probably should have done that last November, whilst trying to get on top of the panic attacks and rediscover myself and my relationships. M has been travelling for work more than ever before.

In the past five months I have looked through just under 800 sets of clinical case notes, many of them not only once, or even twice. I had to check through the first five months of 2014 around six times due to some big discrepancies in the data. Each set of notes consisting of at least ten sheets of paper was condensed onto a two page individual patient summary sheet. When a whole year of these was complete, the individual summaries were further condensed to make a yearly summary. All of the intra-partum and post-partum transfers to hospital were analysed separately with the aid of the local midwives. Approximately 8000 sheets of clinical case notes written in bahasa Indonesia eventually became a five page spreadsheet.

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I feel like I have been in the birth rooms with most of these women. I was actually in the birth room with three; sitting behind them, giving massage, water, encouragement and hugs, twiddling nipples, pushing with them and trying not to cry too much when their babies were born.

I lost research assistants to bean planting, a shaking yoga retreat, the craft market, colonic irrigations, hormone balancing yoga and a yoni egg workshop (best not to ask). I temporarily lost one to a jet lag induced coma one afternoon but I’ll let her off.

My co-researcher came close to pulling out just as I’d neared the point of no return. Had she done so, I would likely have found myself writing a literature review about the importance of hand washing and proper toilets. Thankfully, we managed to talk things through and made a pact to carry on with the research.

The research resulted in a 10,000 word clinical audit of gentle birthing practices and socio-demographic data at a midwife run birthing clinic. The references in my paper range from ‘Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra’ published by Half Angel Press to ‘nature’s first stem cell transplant’ in the Journal of Molecular Sciences. It contains quotes from the World Health Organization, a hippy midwife and Erasmus Darwin. I reviewed the scientific literature on the dangers of deferred umbilical cord clamping (there aren’t any, we should all do it), wrote about the spiritual and cultural significance of the placenta in Bali (it’s complex), learnt how to do a clinical audit as I went along and offered some rather professional sounding recommendations based upon my findings. I have been awake working until at least 1am and up again at 5.30 am more times than I would like to think about in the past six weeks.

Last night at 11pm as M and I sat putting the finishing touches to the paper (I don’t know how to do formatting, still) he gave me a hug and told me how proud he was of me. “You’re an amazing woman”, he said looking deeply into my eyes.

“You know that African marathon runner that fell on the home straight and then got up again and dragged himself limping over the finish line…you’re like him”.

I gazed at him despairingly and raised an eyebrow.

“Um, that might have come out wrong” he said…

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For reasons of public confidentiality and other incredibly complex factors I can’t put a copy of my paper on the blog. However, if anyone fancies a read then just let me know and I can email it to you.

Om shanti, Sat Nam and thank bloody god for that. I’m off to my local vegan cafe for a coconut milk chai and a large piece of gluten free carrot cake in celebration!

And P.S. apologies to anyone who I may have ranted at about the pitfalls of original research over the past few months.

 

 

27/52

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Angels in the jungle.

Indira: this girl…twice this week she has spotted the most handsome guy in the place and, within 10 minutes, befriended them and persuaded them to play pirates and damsels in distress/princes and princesses. One was eleven years old, the other 9. I thought that it was going to be a good few years before we considered that move to a remote village in the jungle…

Amalya: that belly! (check out the first shot)

Almost a year ago I wrote this blog post about the end of our breastfeeding journey feeling close. It turns out that I was wrong!

Joining Practising Simplicity for a random 52 and capturing a portrait of our beautiful daughters some weeks in 2016! This week also joined by Gardens of the Sun’s gorgeous angel.