the fail that was 2014’s resolutions

Happy New Year!

So I’m a sucker for a good resolution to break, and what better time to reflect on one’s broken promises than on the anniversary of when they were made?

Maybe that sounds a bit cynical; maybe I did better than I think? Last year I decided to make broader goals that focused on improving myself rather than overly-specific small things that were doomed to fail quickly. Before I make a set of new ones, here’s a little report on last year’s (which were made, drunk, on a beach in Madagascar having just become a ‘Mrs’ – in case you need some context).

Did I make a plan for my life and stick to it?

Yes and no. We achieved some big things, like buying our first home, quicker than we thought but then we also changed our minds and decided to start a family quicker too! So, while my ultimate “forever plan” to get married and start a family has been achieved, I haven’t sorted out any of the other details. In fact, I’ve made it harder because my career will now probably have to take a back-seat for a few years.

Did I learn to adapt to life changes?

Yes – see above for a prime example! Life is changing and is about to change again very quickly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Did I have more GRIT?

Hmmm… yeah I don’t even know where to start with that one. FAIL!

Did I stop burying my head in the sand?

Let’s just say I improved, but didn’t stop completely. I do think I became more assertive when addressing issues and I procrastinated less, but this still requires work.

Did I exercise my brain?

FAIL. No I did not. Well, not in the way I meant to. I read a fair bit but there were definitely no French classes!

Did I exercise my body?

Another big fat FAIL. Actually, I did a bit by continuing volleyball but then I fell pregnant and that was the end of it. Does growing another human inside you count?

hey, doctors: bedside manner makes all the difference

I’m going to get a little personal on this post, so forgive me if I wander into “TMI territory”.

At our 20 week morphology scan, it was discovered that I have multiple fibroids in my uterus. These are, for lack of a better description, little benign tumours (today the Obstetrician described them as “like the grisly bits on a T-Bone” – gross) in the uterine wall. Overall they’re pretty common in women of childbearing age but the problem is I have lots, and some of them are pretty big, and growing.

Fast forward three weeks, and I was referred by my midwife to see the Obstetrician again. She’s the best in the biz, I was told, and she’ll sort it out. Well. She was too busy to see me so I had the obstetrics registrar handle me instead (that’s the way of the public system) and while she seemed like a nice woman, I wouldn’t say things went well. This poor lady was trying to comfort me without giving me too much information about my condition in case she said the wrong thing, so the nervous gems she gave me instead were: “well your fetus is viable now so if it was born now it would have a god chance” and “if not we might just have to do a c-section at 36 weeks, no problem”… then the worst: “it looks as if growth has slowed, we’ll need to do another scan straight away”.

Hang on a minute. You tell this to a confused, hormonal pregnant woman who has NOT gone through years and years of medical training and she hears: “your baby’s not growing. Something’s wrong with your baby. Your baby is going to be severely premature. DANGER!” And also, just quietly – no, I’m not a doctor but I’m not silly enough to think that my baby can be born at 23 weeks and I can absolutely expect him to grow up unscathed. Thanks anyway. Had the scan and no, he’s not big, but he’s not small either. He is bang on 50th percentile and I’m okay with that as I’m not exactly wishing for a ten-pounder.

We’re now at 26 weeks and today I was able to see the Obstetrician I was originally referred to. She alleviated many of the concerns we had and answered our questions thoroughly and thoughtfully and I would be more than happy to see her again.

Don’t get me wrong, all young doctors have to learn somehow, and maybe I was a bit of a baptism of fire for this particular young registrar, but I wish someone was there to supervise a little because I think most pregnant ladies and their partners would agree, that kind of stress is not needed!

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who is only a couple of years out of medical school and he was saying that studies had been done on what makes most people in hospitals trust the doctors. Was it a white coat? A certain feature? Something they said? Turns out it was just a stethoscope around their neck. Seriously! For me though? It’s a doctor who looks me in the eye and gives me a confident greeting. From there, if they can take control and make me feel like they’re working for the best possible outcome or me and not expecting the worst, that’s how I know I’m in good hands. Seems pretty simple really.

considering a babymoon? read this first.

There’s a trend these days for couples to enjoy a “babymoon” before their babies are born – that is, to have a little getaway, enjoy some quality time together and relax before that little bundle of joy arrives and sleepless nights set in.

It’s a cute idea for those who have the time and resources and let’s face it, what new mum or dad isn’t at least slightly anxious about impending parenthood?

I’m all for the idea in theory but there’s one really big thing to think about that a lot of people seem to be forgetting: their travel insurance.

Being an expectant mum myself, I’m seeing lots of women considering babymoons which is great, but what concerns me are two trends: travelling without insurance, or travelling with insurance and assuming baby is covered. Here’s a little newsflash that surprises a lot of people: baby won’t be covered if you travel overseas.

For Australians, travel interstate is fine because pregnancy will always be covered by Medicare (the joys of being a citizen of a country with such a scheme). If you travel on a cruise though (even if it’s a domestic cruise) or you fly out of the country this is where expectant parents really need to consider the risks far more thoroughly than they have been.

On a standard policy (bearing in mind this is a generalisation, however it is based on experience and in-depth conversations with several insurance companies) a woman with a single pregnancy would be covered up to about 26 weeks (depending on the policy) provided she has experienced absolutely no complications whatsoever. This 26-week limit means all travel must be completed by then, NOT that you must depart by then. It’s usually about 18 or 19 weeks for women pregnant with multiples.

But here’s the trick: while the mother is covered, the baby isn’t. This means that the mother could go to the hospital complaining of pains and be treated but the minute the decision is made that the baby is to be delivered, that’s it. Cough up the dough because the insurance company won’t be.

Consider the risks of this: what if a mother went to say, Fiji or Bali for a week at 25 weeks, fully intending to be home by the 26 week mark. While away, she goes into spontaneous labour and needs to deliver. At 25 weeks the foetus is viable and is born alive, but now needs three months of round-the-clock care in the NICU of the hospital. Sorry, but those parents will be paying. Not to mention having to stay in that country for the whole time, paying for food, accommodation etc and not going to work. Can you imagine?

Or, on the most awful end of the scale, consider the tragic case of the lady who this week delivered her baby at 24 weeks on board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane. The plane needed to be diverted to Denpasar and unfortunately the baby passed away. No post-natal care would be provided for this woman and the repatriation cost of her baby’s body wouldn’t be covered either.

As ridiculous as much of this may sound, I’m yet to come across a policy that works differently (but if you happen to come across one let me know!)

My advice: ALWAYS read your Product Disclosure Statement, ask as many questions as you can and really consider if a particular policy is right for you – or indeed, if the risk is worth it.

how will history remember Gough Whitlam?

One day in high school my friend and I were being naughty and listening to an iPod during Maths class. Our teacher tapped us on the shoulder and pointed out this poor behaviour and, being cheeky, we replied “but this band is named after our favourite politician”. When our teacher asked about the band and we told him they were called the Whitlams, he was so excited. Gough, he said, had saved his life. You see, the day Gough Whitlam was elected (the 2nd December 1972), our wonderful Maths teacher was due to be shipped off to Vietnam to join the most unpopular war effort. Number one on Whitlam’s agenda as Prime Minister was to withdraw our troops, and he did.

I read more about Whitlam and his time as leader of our country but of course at the height of my interest I was only 16 or 17 years old and hardly able to comprehend the complexities of his term and the time period in which he was leading our country (he was elected 16 years before I was born and dismissed three years later). I once brought him up in conversation with my grandparents, staunch Liberal voters their whole lives, and learnt that our relationship would be better off if I never spoke of the despicable Gough Whitlam again. He was a mongrel who nearly ruined us all.

Two generations of people with totally different opinions, and yet they really do represent the divisiveness of Whitlam’s term. Mired by scandal, intrigue and possible corruption, I can now understand where my grandparents were coming from. However as an admittedly left-leaning individual myself (not far left, just a little!) I do still have a lot of admiration for the reforms Whitlam and his government implemented, particularly with regard to the working environment they had to do it in.

His legacy includes so many turning points in our nation’s evolution but the ones that speak to me are the ones that show a degree of humanity: introduction of universal healthcare, improved access to tertiary education, abolition of conscription and the death penalty, the introduction of no-fault divorces and welfare payments for the homeless and disadvantaged. Some of these social justice issues are currently in Australian political news again as they are under threat and I can only hope that, upon reflection of Mr Whitlam’s life, we are reminded of why his Government brought these policies in to begin with.

A few years ago I read an interview with Mr Whitlam in the Sunday paper where he was asked where he wanted to be buried when he died. His answer? “It doesn’t matter – I’ll only be in there for three days.”

A funny bastard too – that’s how I’d like to remember him.

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image courtesy of SBS/Getty

i have a dream… that australian women’s media was not run by wowsers and wackos

There’s a certain Australian website enjoying mass popularity at the moment that works on the theory of “quick news” – the kind of news you can quickly browse as you finish your coffee. It’s aimed at women and particularly women with children. The idea is excellent.

The problem however is that in the need for “quick news” they often lose something really important: editing.

Countless times I’ve clicked through to an intriguing article only to stop reading halfway through because the errors frustrate me; in the rush to produce something that entices people to click the output quality drastically decreases and I feel this sells the many intelligent women out there who give this website their time quite short. Other articles seem to be written by women getting angry about something for no reason just to get people viewing and commenting – and so many commenters are manipulated into taking the bait.

Today in the shower (where I do all my best thinking because who doesn’t?) it dawned on me: I have a website. It’s just a little blog I mess around with and at this stage it’s going nowhere fast, but why should that always be the case? And really, the only reason why that is the case at the moment is because I haven’t narrowed the page down to have a clear purpose. What’s stopping me from creating something similar?

So what am I going to do about it? Well… baby steps. I’m going to start by setting myself a goal: I want to work up to posting at least once a day about something topical. I want to gain the confidence to put my opinion out there knowing I have the intelligence to form a solid argument. Eventually (dream of dreams) I want this page to provide information and a forum for discussion without the wowsers or the clickbait.

Wish me luck… I’ll need it.

my biggest fear in becoming a parent

The New South Wales government has just revealed a baby died last month from whooping cough and that the child was not vaccinated. Quelle surprise.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a country that enjoys affordable access to quality healthcare and yet we take it for granted. We have this sense of 21st Century entitlement to make our own decisions based on our own precious opinions regardless of whether those opinions are based on fact.

My husband and I are four months away from bringing our own child into the world and, quite frankly, I’m terrified. Hubby and I were raised in a generation where being vaccinated was the absolute norm, the anti-vaccination movement was on the fringe of society and not really gaining much ground and herd immunity was at its strongest. Fast forward twenty years and we see vaccination rates dipping below 95% (and much lower in certain areas) and innocent children suffering the consequences. These are the kids who can’t understand the issue yet so they can’t make the decision for themselves, or the kids who for medical reasons can’t be vaccinated, or the tiny babies who are just too young yet.

Science overwhelmingly supports vaccination in so many ways, but these aren’t the arguments I want to make right now. The fact anti-vaxxers use issues such as Autism to dissuade people from vaccinating also drives me nuts – not only because there’s no link but because these people then demonise conditions such as Autism when we know people who have this condition offer just as much love, beauty and life to our world as anyone else.

But the point I’m really trying to make is a personal (maybe selfish) one: I’m scared for my unborn baby. I’m scared of taking him to a park, a café, a playdate, and getting him sick with something that’s preventable but that he hasn’t been able to build immunity to yet. I’m also scared that he’ll grow into a healthy, wonderful child only to lose a close friend because that child has irresponsible parents who won’t vaccinate. I’m scared that this stupid argument will take hold and my child will grow up in a world where conditions like Autism are feared rather than embraced and understood, and where Science and facts are disregarded for no apparent reason.

I have all these plans to be a great mum but it’s so hard to accept that stupid crap like this, I can’t control.

the wolf of what?

Can someone please tell me what the appeal is of “The Wolf of Wall Street”?

I get the movie. It has Leo, money, drugs and hot girls. Classic Hollywood. But what is the obsession with Jordan Belfort himself?

Did we honestly expect him to be truly reformed, to be a genuinely nice guy, to be worthy of so much time and attention? Did we think his ‘motivational speeches’ – for which we should pay hundreds of dollars to attend – would have us walk away closer to being the best we can be? Really?

Just because his was ‘white-collar-crime’ doesn’t mean he didn’t absolutely ruin people’s lives. Not only that, but federal prosecutors in the US have stated that Belfort hasn’t met his restitution requirements. Put simply, this means that he was ordered to pay back just over half (!) of the money he swindled from investors but he isn’t. He’s touring the world giving supposedly motivational talks but his victims aren’t seeing the benefits of this “change of heart”. I’m sure he gets paid a pretty penny to be interviewed on television and radio, yet then he’s a complete asshole to whoever he’s speaking to.

I am, for the most part, a believer of  ‘do the crime then do the time’ when ‘doing the time’ involves some sort of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t. Belfort’s sentence was in two parts: 22 months in prison and to pay back some of the money. I’m sure prison was taken seriously yet this does nothing for the victims, so where is the cash?

Someone please explain this to me. Explain why he’s ‘interesting’. Explain why his advice is worth listening to. Explain why we should care. I’m genuinely curious.

mother nature doesn’t care about your annual leave dates

One of the most famous wildlife events in the world is the Serengeti-Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration. It traditionally happens every year sometime in June-July.

While the migration pattern itself is fairly predictable, the actual timing of this phenomenon is becoming less so. Last year it started in early June and this year it was late May, earlier than ever.

The Migration is a weather-dependent occurrence and I think we can mostly agree world weather patterns are currently changing. As the rains arrive earlier the migration in turn starts earlier and becomes even less predictable than usual.

Africa is a region I’m really passionate about and, truth be told, it’s the region I get the most excited about sending my clients to. It has the wonderful diversity of dramatic landscapes, unique wildlife and a fascinating ix of different cultures. The one thing constantly requested though is to ravel at the time of Migration.

This is a really difficult experience to plan. I could toot my own horn and list some things I think I’m quite good at but predicting African weather patterns is not one of them. Unfortunately, I can’t offer my clients any guarantees they will see migration; indeed, I try to tell them it’s more than likely they will not. Why? Because it’s my arse on the line if they expect something they don’t get and they complain.

But here’s where I think I’m going to say something prospective clients of mine may find controversial: personally, I’m not sure I would bother. Sure, it’s an incredible sight to behold but or the average Joe, who has to take leave from work and fork out thousands upon thousands of dollars to get to Africa, I don’t  think it’s particularly reasonable to expect or to plan to see migration.

For many people, Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They come for the safari experience; particularly to see the Big Five. The Serengeti and Masai Mara are two of the best places to see this and at any time of the year the chances are much higher than many other places. The joys of heading out on Safari cannot be fully described and, while the animals are obviously the main focus, the experience is heightened by a good tracker and guide. It is a remarkable opportunity to increase one’s knowledge of the world we live in and, in my opinion, this should really be the focus of any Safari.

I know I’ve said this before about other destinations but if you have the time and the resources, just go when you can. No matter what time of year you arrive, you won’t regret it.