Monday, May 16, 2011

Four month reflection

The journey so far
It’s four months now since we left home in Warrandyte and launched into our journey around Australia. In that time we’ve travelled more than 6,000 kilometres, had our share of arguments, a few tantrums, shed a few tears, laughed with abandon and stared out the window as the miles and miles of road have spread out before us. We’ve swum, snorkelled, dived, fished, trekked and run naked on the beach. Dealt with flies, mozzies, midgies, locusts and all sorts of unidentified bugs crawling around the shared toilets and showers. Played a lot of uno, rummicub, boggle. Read many books. Watched hardly any TV but played extensively at times with our iDevices. Worked. Done schoolwork. Taught. When we left home, Tori was only 3 months pregnant, now she’s more than 7 months. She has been heard to say that she wouldn’t recommend the combination of pregnancy and travelling in a van, though mostly she has seemed in good spirits and enjoyed the journey. I expect that if she was in Warrandyte she’d probably cut the sentence down to “I wouldn’t recommend being pregnant”. I seem to recall her having a bit of a time of it when she was pregnant with Jazzy and we were living in London. One day she redecorated the kitchen by randomly distributing pots and plates and cutlery and food scraps to all corners of the room. On hearing the commotion from upstairs, our housemate Matthew came running down to see what was going on. He found her in a state of slight disarray, similar to the kitchen. "Pusskana ran amok", she said in an embarrassed way, blaming the innocent cat for the disaster zone that lay before them. Part of her frustration was due to our house being continually full of people, but clearly pregnancy is no easy walk in the park. There hasn’t been any reassembling of the kitchen in the van so far so perhaps things have gone better in some respect to how they were in London. She definitely doesn’t like growing larger even though it’s for good reason. She doesn’t seem particularly fond of indigestion and occasional bouts of nausea either. And waking up in the middle of the night and having to walk outside 100 metres to the toilet block isn’t right up the top of her list of favourite things. Tori being pregnant has definitely modified what we have done on the trip to some extent. We've probably been a little more conservative in our approach to where we have stayed, choosing more often locations that have had mobile phone reception and have been close to medical facilities, just in case. Though that being said, being in mobile and Telstra internet range has also suited my work conditions. The satellite internet has so far gone mostly unneeded, which is just as well as I don't seem to have mastered the technology yet. The few times I have brought it out to establish a connection when we have been in a remote location, I have struggled to find the satellite. It seems like it should be easy but I guess pointing a one metre dish at an object orbiting the earth some 40,000 kilometres away is a slightly problematic task. When we're based up in Broome I'll try to work it out. On the whole, the work side of things has been going well. I feel I've managed to find a good balance between getting the job done and enjoying the amazing locations that we've found ourselves. There have been times when I've been cooped up in a van rather than being able to make the most of glorious weather and a beautiful beach, but that is the plight of all workers in an office type job. At least when I have finished for the day, I can stick the feet up and have a beer while watching the sun set over a beautiful coastline. And  structure my work days as I need to so that I can go for a dive during the day and work in the evening. And the view from my office regularly changes with occasional visits from emus or goannas or ducks. While staying at Yardie Station where we had no mobile and poor internet reception, I'd regularly drive 15 minutes up the road to the Exmouth lighthouse to make calls while taking in the glorious 360 degree view of Lighthouse Bay, Cape Range National Park and the Exmouth Gulf. It's certainly a lot more desirable than spending my days in an artificially lit suburban office building with only a lunch time escape to the sandwich shop across the road for salvation. That's what I could otherwise be doing. As for Jazzy and Finn, like us they have also had their ups and downs, but mostly ups. There has been a bit of homesickness and they have been missing their friends. But in some ways I feel that it will cause those friendships to be stronger when they get back. There's nothing like absence to make you evaluate the importance of what's missing. It will have focussed in their minds who they really do miss and who they are relieved or even happy to not be seeing any more. Likewise their friends will have a tangible understanding of the void left by not being able to see them. I didn't have to deal with it at such a young age but it was certainly a feature of my time living in England. Sometimes I would get unbearably homesick and pine badly to see my friends or do the things I did in my other life. Other times I would just be getting on with my day to day life and experiencing whatever that held without much thought for anywhere else. It didn't mean that I valued my friends any less. Just that I was otherwise occupied by the now rather than the over there. I think Jaz and Finn are experiencing something similar. Missing their friends but on the whole enjoying being away as a family and spending lots of time together. Everyone has had their moody periods where everyone else has copped it. I think it's fair to say that all of us are pretty shit to be around when we're in that state. But those moods have been rare and worth the price for what we are doing. Fifteen square metres is a small space for four people to be crammed into for four months. It makes sense that any normal person would go a bit crazy at times. Only a crazy person could possibly remain sane for the entire time. The school thing has been going well. Jaz is convinced that they aren't really learning as much as they would be at "real" school, but I think she'll get a surprise when she goes back to Warrandyte Primary next year. Tori has been magnificent in taking on the teaching. There have been regular classes of spelling, grammar and writing. Assignments on the wildlife we have seen involving charts or reports that have to be handed in as well as giving presentations. Art projects including the glorious golf tree of the Nullarbor, a mobile made out of vacated shells and sea urchins and pictures of mixed media including paint, sand and leaves that are now decorating the walls of the van. Australian Geography is pretty much looking after itself. And there are spasmodic but intense maths periods when I can manage to put a class together. There has been the odd mutiny where the students have rebelled against the school, not interested in doing the lessons for the day. Sometimes they've got away with it. Sometimes they've found themselves doing 20 pushups. One thing the home schooling has certainly done is given Tori and I a clear understanding of the academic strengths and weaknesses of both of our children. And their abilities to learn and take on new things. I think it will help us all when dealing with the education road ahead. And then there's the baby. It's now just over six weeks until he's due. I've been handling it so far in blissful denial like only a man can. I hardly think about the baby at all. The baby is Tori's issue at the moment, not mine. The wellbeing of the baby is only about her. My issue is to look after Tori and make sure she's ok. I know she has a precious cargo. And I'd like to think that I try to look after her most of the time anyway, despite the inevitable occasional aberration. The baby will only be real to me when it's born. You can't count your chickens until they're hatched, and all that. And I don't really see any point in thinking too much about the baby at all now. I mean what's the point? I know that our lives will change radically once it's born. Why jump the gun and start stressing about that now? There's nothing really I can do about it. We'll deal with it as it comes. It's such a different time for the guy and the girl this pregnancy thing. For the girl it's obvious. It's physical. The baby is a part of you. That's why we all love our mothers. It's a unique bond that is formed right at the beginning by sharing the same body.  For the guy, it's so intangible. Even having had two beautiful children that I love completely, having experienced it all before, I can't yet feel too much emotion for this little human that is forming inside Tori. Just curiosity and some expectation of what I will feel. The best advice given to me before Jazzy was born was from my friend Paul. He told me that when his first daughter was born he expected that he would and should love her completely from the very second she came out. The kind of love that he'd heard parents speak of where their child meant everything. More than the world itself. When his emotion wasn't as strong as what he'd heard other parents describe of their significantly older child, he started to wonder what was wrong with him. Why didn't he love his child like you were supposed to? Until after some time had passed and he realised that he did love his daughter like that. It's just not an instantaneous thing. It doesn't happen at the moment the child is born. I have heard some guys say that it did, but it wasn't like that for me. I am thankful to Paul. The feeling I felt on seeing Jazzy come out of Tori was an emotion that I'd never felt before. But it's not happiness. It's not love. It's something different to that. An emotion unto itself. It does sort of comprise those two emotions but there's a whole lot of other stuff going on there too including a bit of a National Geographic feel to the whole event of "Wow. That's amazing!!!! How did a person come out of there". I was happy to be armed with Paul's advice, because I can see now how easy it could be as the father to feel that you didn't love the child enough from the moment it was born. There are loads of books telling mothers what to expect when they are expecting, but there's nothing on what a guy should expect when the baby is born. Not that was presented to me anyway. Or maybe there was but I was just in denial then too, which I have to say is a state that I would recommend to all prospective fathers. Just look after the mother to be and all will be fine. So there are six or so weeks to go before I have to worry about having a new child in the world. Tori saw a doctor in Exmouth for a routine checkup, just as I flew out from Exmouth to Japan for a week. I'm betting and hoping on the baby not arriving in the next few days before I return and on Tori being ok. In fact we're betting even further. The baby is due on June 27th and our initial plan was to arrive in Broome for a pre-natal checkup on June 8th. That all seemed a bit rushed, so the appointment has been rescheduled to June 15th. That means that we will get a chance now to go to Karijini National Park, which people say is just beautiful. I mean we shouldn't miss these non-missable places just to be waiting around in Broome for three weeks. And if the baby is early... well we'll think about that if it happens. Guess the kids will just have to put on some water to boil. I like a nice cup of tea while I'm delivering babies.


Carrie said...

You are a funny guy! A casual observer might mistake your joking for lack of care about the health and wellbeing of your wife and unborn baby but I know that you can only make flippant comments because you understand that you and your family are soon to be travelling in one of the most remote parts of the world and have made careful plans to ensure that Tori has a safe birth.
For instance I am sure you have done your research and are aware that the next hospital is 550km away in Karratha and will only accept low risk deliveries and are also aware that even though Tori is in very good health, she is over 35 and might not tick the low risk box.
After that the next hospital with maternity services is Port Hedland (800km away). After Port Hedland you have to travel 600kms to get to the next hospital in Broome, and you will have already checked that these hospitals will admit Tori even though she falls into the high risk category.
I am also sure you are aware that many women in the Northwest will travel to Perth six weeks before their due date because the health services in remote areas are often substandard and struggle to get qualified medical staff – in fact Broome hospital has been advertising for an anaesthetist for months without much luck.

Carrie said...

Your careful research would have also told you that the roads often get cut off. The North West Coastal Highway, (the only road between you and those hospitals) is currently closed between Karratha and Port Hedland. But because you have done your research you have signed up to Main Roads Traffic Alerts or regularly check the website

If Tori does go into early labour you will be fine because you will have checked out where the nearby roadhouses and pastoral station homesteads are and know full well they will be the ones helping you deliver your baby while you wait for the RFDS to arrive. I have heard of kids on pastoral stations calling the RFDS after coming across a major workplace accident and then stitching grown men’s wounds while on the phone so I am sure you will be in safe hands. If they are not available you will probably be relying on the paramedics from the Emergency Response Team at a nearby mine site.
As part of your RFDS Evacuation Plan you will have programmed the RFDS emergency number into all your phones and have a list of the RFDS HF radio frequencies for the areas you are travelling through. The kids would also be fully trained in how to use the HF radio.
This way the kids can be talking to the RFDS and delivering the baby while you drive like a bat out of hell to the nearest RFDS landing strip. They have landing strips every couple of hundred of km’s and I am sure you have flares in your emergency kit in case they have to do a night landing. In case you want to double check your Evacuation Plan you can contact the RFDS Western Operations
Western Operations (24 Hour Medical & Emergency calls)
Statewide number (All WA bases) 1800 625 800
Satellite phone calls 08 9417 6389
I am sure you are also aware that there is very limited mobile phone coverage in many of the areas you are travelling and have a plan in place to deal with that because the last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere with Tori in early labour just hoping that someone with a satellite phone just happens to drive past.
And finally you know that if Tori does have to be flown to Perth or Darwin by the RFDS that you and the kids will not be able to accompany her on the plane, instead you will have to drive to the nearest airport and wait for the next plane (which could take a couple of days) while Tori has the baby and waits for the rest of her family to arrive. In fact if this did happen then Tori’s parents and Melbourne friends would probably arrive first and give her the emotional support she needs while she awaits your arrival.

I am sure none of this will happen and you will have a lovely holiday with no issues and even though from the outside you seem to be flying very close to the wind you actually have every eventuality considered and responsibly planned for.

Happy travels!!

Greg Swedosh said...

Thanks Carrie for your concern and your good advice. It's duly noted.

DavidMollet11 said...

Hey Carrie, you are a funny girl, awesome posts, if you ever need a job ask Greg for my details