It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better ….

Kennith and I argued a great deal.  Not those nice calm loud discussion we had experienced in the past – but those real screamers that usually ended up with profanity being yelled across the house.   It was truly horrible – on the upside he was seldom there so the arguments were not that frequent.

Besides the pressure of doing MBA, Kennith had committed to doing a trip up Kilimanjaro about a month after our second baby was due.  This meant that when the MBA finally finished, Kennith started going to gym after work, and on the weekends going on hikes to train for Killimanjaro.

To say I was livid, would not even hint at the anger I was feeling.  I was so annoyed and disappointed. His actions really just re-enforced my feelings of abandonment.  For me the resounding message was “those you rely on will abandon you at the time when you need them most.”  Kennith’s actions drive this message home again and again over this period.

I was desperately ill during the pregnancy.  Probably because I was just so stretched in terms of what I could cope with. I started to pick up every infection that went around.  I was always sick and lethargic. I could not cope, and at about this time Kennith in all his MBA wisdom, had decided that now was a super great time to go and climb a mountain.

One day I got home late from work, and was exhausted.  My job was very stressful and also required me to literally run around a production floor.  Kennith was working at the dining room table, and we got into a fight about the bed that he had just bought.  It was a huge screaming fight – but the fight had nothing to do with the acquisition of the bed.  The fight was about my desperation of being left alone, that he knew how I felt, and chose either not to care or not to notice.

I had made an awful decision to have a second baby, which would only tie me to this man for longer.  I really needed to get out of this relationship.  About a month before I was due I ran away from home and went to seek refuge at my mom’s home for about a week.  I really just slept and was taken care of which was great.  Of course nothing would change on returning home.

The pregnancy progressed and it was anything but peaceful.  I was ill, over worked, over stressed and exhausted.  I decided that I did not want to know the sex of the baby.  I was convinced it was a second boy.  I decided if I did not actually find out then I could have a mild fantasy about having a daughter – which I was desperate for.

Kennith attended all if not most of the OBGYN visits.  They really were not great times, and we would often get into a fight as I would arrive late.

To further aggravate my situation I decided that I wanted to go into labour and go through a trial of labour.  It became an obsession.  I had a planned c-section with Connor and it had gone along without any incident. In fact it was brilliant.  But for some reason, my rather hormone-soaked brain decided that this is what I was going to do – and  no one could reason with me.    Anyone who tried to reason with me seemed to spur me on even more in my resolve.

My OBGYN tried to talk me into a c-section and I just got my back up and even went as far as to visit a midwife, as I was considering changing care providers.  I was out of control, and desperate, and making the most bizarre decisions which only added more stress on to the situation.

In my final trimester, I had picked up bronchitis and a few bouts of pink eye, and remained ill throughout.

This baby was due at the end of June, and I was just going to wait it out, though I was so exhausted I could barely stand, but somehow I thought I would be able to get through labour!

No rhyme or reason ….

Kennith was doing his MBA, I was going stark raving mad – it was the perfect environment to decide to have a second child. For reasons that I cannot describe I decided that I wanted a second child. I was not coping with the first. I was not even coping with being able to brush my teeth successfully, but I decided that a second child was what I wanted.

At the time I was seeing a psychiatrist and she really voiced her concern that now was not a good time. Kennith and I were barely talking – partly because of the MBA, partly because we just avoided each other. I really cannot explain it in a sane manner – possibly a good representation of the head space I was in at the time. I just felt this overwhelming feral urge to have another baby. I knew it was not going to make things better, I knew it was not going to save this crumbling relationship, but I just wanted a baby.

Kennith and I had spoken about it, but it might have been a bit like me agreeing to the MBA, he did not say “no” loud enough, so I just went ahead and did it, knowing it was not the best choice I had ever made. I could list the reasons why not to, but on the list of why to, all I got was “because I want to.”

To illustrate how badly the timing was, my psychiatrist had just upped my meds and prescribed a new drug to assist me in coping with normal life, as I was not coping and going off the deep end fast. I am quite bright, so even I could work out, that if I was not coping with normal life, I was not going to be able to cope with a pregnancy and added stress on my life and my floundering relationship.

I had gone to the chemist to fill the script and decided to get a pregnancy test before I started taking the new meds as they were not recommended during pregnancy, and I just got a strange sensation as I walked past the “pee on the stick” tests. I went back to work, went to the bathroom and wee’d on the stick, which turned positive reasonably quickly.

I was immediately elated – like I had achieved something. Then shocked at the ramifications of what I had done, then I panicked – “kill me now, what have I done!!”

I went outside and called my friend Judith and burst into tears – what the hell had I done and what the hell was I going to do now. I cried the entire way home in my car.

I told Kennith in a very unceremonial manner. He got home, and as he collected his dinner from the kitchen I flicked the stick across the table at him. We ate in silence in front of the television. Things really did not get much better from there on in. That might have been a pre-cursor for how things were going to go during this pregnancy.

There was very little euphoria around this pregnancy. Kennith went to work and MBA and I continued to work like a demon. I was quite nauseous and exhausted in the first trimester, and unfortunately Kennith was not available to assist. I recall how cherished and wonderful I felt with the first pregnancy, and how alone and terrified I felt this time around.

I decided to go off all medication immediately – I was scared that these would affect the developing baby. The withdrawal was not great, and made it all the more difficult. I decided to just put my head down and get on with it, what really were my options?

And then there were two ……

Kennith has always admitted that I did not exactly agree to him doing the MBA.  I just did not say “no” loud enough, so he took it as a yes, and went off and enrolled.  I have heard the MBA referred to as the “divorce course” by several people, and I will be one to vouch, that if your relationship can survive an MBA, then it can probably survive an affair and an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.

In no way was I opposed to Kennith going off to further his education and make himself more marketable in the work place.  What I was opposed to was being left alone – again – with a 1-year-old, when I was clearly struggling.

For two years Kennith removed himself totally from our lives.  He worked, left work and went to classes.  If he was not at a class, then he was doing group work, if he was not in a class and doing group work, he had readings to do.  He was UNAVAILABLE to the extreme.

I am not an insecure person, nor do I need company all the time.  I think if we were a childless couple, I would have no problem with this arrangement.  However we had a child, and I did not sign up to be a single parent – this was exactly what I had been afraid of, that I would be left alone to raise this child.

I had also returned to working a full day at a new job and was literally rushing from one point to another at breakneck speed every day.  I had Connor at home with a nanny which was a relief, but I still needed to get home to her as close to 5:30 so she could leave to get to her home before it got dark.  It was mad mad mad!!

To add to the joy and jubilation, we decided to buy a new house and I also changed jobs again to a job that was even more chaotic than I had before.  I loved my new job, it was back in print production, but it required long erratic hours, unbelievable pressure and chaos.

I had no support as we did not really have family close by. I was really on my own in a very stressful situation.  I always think of how much of a community you feel when you are pregnant and people seem to be cheering for you, but when you have a baby, you just seem to be alone and have to cope with so much that is often more than one can deal with at any given time.

I recall having deadlines at work that would be sprung on me at the last moment, and phoning Kennith to please get home to be with Connor.  Most of the time I could not reach him as he was in meetings, and when I could, he would say no as he had other commitments.

At this point I would be at the end of my tether.  By the time I had called him I had already exhausted any other avenues I had – so he was a last resort and I was desperate.  To be told no by him, would often leave me so angry I could scream.  I would then dash home, collect Connor and bring him back to work with me so I could work late.  It was all too dreadful for words.

Of course my stress, and my impatience at Kennith would be redirected towards Connor and I would get very stressed and impatient with the poor little guy. I became angry, resentful and very depressed and I was becoming the mother I hated being.

My childhood had taught me that I could only rely on myself as anyone else would let me down time and time again.  I had always had Kennith, and now when things were so desperate, I felt that my worst fear was becoming a reality.  I was being abandoned and left to cope on my own – again!!  I learnt that I could not rely on anyone, especially Kennith.  The learning of this lesson made me bitter and very resentful.  Our relationship was crumbling and things were looking very dire.

I also did not have the means to express this to Kennith in a constructive manner.  I do not think he could really see the repercussions of what he was doing.  He was never available and even when he was at home, he was not really present, so it was a very lonely two years.

Things really were horrible – but we kept up appearances for all and sundry, and though people knew Kennith was busy, I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on.

I started to slide down a very dark hole of despair and frustration – and struggled to cope with Connor.  There was nothing wrong with him, and he was a very good little boy, but I could barely cope with me, let alone him.  My behavior became erratic and I was in a state of crisis, with nowhere and no one to turn to!

I have never felt so lonely in all my life than I did then.  You know that feeling when you are lonely even in a room full of people.  You are trying to hide the fact that you are really breaking down and crumbling, but on the outside you are smiling and nodding and trying to look like a normal functioning human being?  I was drowning and there was no one who was listening or available to throw me a life buoy .

Two’s company – three is a crowd

After the birth of Connor, Kennith skipped back to work and I was left holding the baby – literally.  I found it all very hard.  I felt like a fish out of water and had no idea how to handle things.  The days really seemed to stretch in front of me.  Before we had Connor, Kennith and I were both workaholics, and would often be at work until 7 most nights.  It was not uncommon for us to remain until 9pm while we worked on a deadline.

I was in print while Kennith was in retail, and we both really enjoyed what we did and felt really committed to our jobs and our employers.  About 4 months before I was due with Connor, the company I was with was barely staying afloat, and I opted to take voluntary retrenchment – the alternative was to remain on less pay with more than twice the amount of work.  This probably would be fine, if I did not hate what I was doing every day.

It was not a great work environment at the time, and I also had quite a bit of freelance work, so it made sense to go out on my own.  The result was that while on maternity leave, I started to really stress about what would happen to me.  Fortunately about a month in, one of my previous employers called me and asked me if I wanted to return on a part day, so this all worked out quite well and it definitely relieved the stress.

I really hunted for a good day-care for Connor and must have visited 20.  Most of them were horrific – and I walked away wondering if I should get parent lists and phone the parents and ask they what besieged them to leave their kids at these gawd-forsaken places. 

I eventually found a great daycare option that was about 7 suburbs away, but they had super clean floors, a carer who was formerly a neonatal nurse at one of the private hospitals, and an apnea monitor in each cot.  So their level of care really settled my paranoia. 

I dropped Connor off on the first day and cried all the way back to work.  I barely got in to the office and called the daycare to see how he was.  Of course our kids are always fine, it is us who are absolute basket cases and need to be re-assured.

I was really rushing around as I would leave work, fly through, collect Connor and then go home and then start the home routine with him.  I had a char in once a week to help me with the house, but the rest I did. 

I gradually started to get disillusioned and then angry with my partner Kennith.  I felt that “we” had been pregnant, and “we” had a son, but somehow all the responsibility of caring for this baby seemed to fall on to my shoulder.  I recall Connor having a fever and throwing up one night and I went to sleep on the floor in his room with him, so that Kennith could get a good night’s sleep.  The fact that I had to also be at work the next day, really did not seem to be that important.  I really was angry.  The next morning he came through all bright-eyed, shower fresh to kiss me good-bye as I looked all blurry eyed and smelt  of many layers of puke.

I realized how our roles were slowly changing.  Before we were equal in everything, now I seemed to be taking on the “mommy” role, while I felt that he went to work and took on the “absentee father” role.

My anger and frustration at the situation accumulated.  It was always my responsibility to sort out Connor – whether he was sick or well, it fell on to my shoulders. When Connor went on to solids, Kennith said he would he home to feed him – that would be their bonding thing.  I think he managed it once and then never could get home by 5:30, so then he said he would be home to bathe Connor that would be their thing.  He often would not make it home by 6:30 so that also stopped.  Being at home in the evening waiting for Kennith to come through that door, really made me bitter and angry.

I have always had issues of abandonment – hidden well under a “I don’t give a damn” attitude.  So the fact that Kennith was getting less and less available while I needed him most, played into my abandonment issues and made me feel more alone and more desperate.

My ability to articulate my feelings were poorly  developed, and my way to cope was to retaliate. I made Kennith feel less and less part of the relationship that I now had with Connor.  I was consciously doing things to make him feel excluded and unwanted in this new relationship.  I had no other way to communicate my desperation.

With all fabulous plans, they have a tendency to backfire in your face, and this brilliant plan was no exception.  Kennith definitely felt that he was unwelcome and not needed at home. 

His reaction was to seek areas where he was needed.  He began to stay later and later at work, and decided that he would do the ultimate rejection and abandonment exercise.  He enrolled for an MBA!!

Emotional Intelligence

My friend Sue sent me this extract from an article about emotional intelligence….  I think it will ring true for most women, and definitely with moms – who often put thier needs way at the end of the list.

“…….women even base their self-esteem on what they give.

Most women have lost touch with the fact that they also have needs,” she says, “and to be happy we have to have our needs fulfilled too. These needs are about being loved, cherished and appreciated for who we are, not for what we do for others.”

Waking up in a Panic

I jerked awake this morning and lay there wondering why I was awake and what time it was.  I was much too snug under my duvet to reach over and check my cell phone for the time.  Usually I tend to knock what ever is on my side table on to the floor in my frantic pat-patting-type-of-searching for my cell phone, so I try not to do that unless it really is vital.

I figured that Isabelle had not woken for her feed so it must be around 1 to 3am, but I felt remarkably well rested for someone who was awake at that hour.  However I had fallen asleep at about 9pm, so that could well be the reason.

I closed my eyes and tried to think happy thoughts that might force me to sleep a bit more …. but then I heard the familiar ring tone of Kennith’s alarm on his phone.  I sprung up like a bolt saying “fuck (yes I cussed), she hasn’t woken up…!”

Quick realizing that since putting Isabelle down to sleep on Tuesday night around 8pm, I had not heard a peep from her  and now it was 6am on Wednesday.  Of course my paranoid reading of too many Sudden Infant Cot Death articles made me run that little bit faster in my too short Miss Kitty pajamas – only to find the little lamb chop stretched out peacefully still sleeping.

Of course I picked her up – just to make sure she was breathing .  It’s what we paranoid moms do!

Unbelievable that she has slept through!  Of course Kennith took full credit for this – I don’t just think so, he told me: ”I take full credit for this…”  He also then announced that our daughter sleeps through the night now – I think that is a bold statement for a one off occurrence, but clearly you can see who is “the glass is half full” type of person versus “the glass is half empty, and who the hell drank from my glass” person in our relationship.

Kennith skipped off to work feeling all happy, while I schlepped back to the room to feed her again – I only had 45 minutes to jam as much milk into this baby as possible – as she had missed her morning feeds – before I had to go off to work myself.

There were a few things that happened this morning.  First Kennith only takes responsibility for the good things that our kids do.  Everything else is due to my poor parenting or lax attitude in some way.  Our kids are very polite and just nice kids, and we often get complemented on this.  Kennith basks in the glow of these complements.  When my daughter throws a thrombie or my son misbehaves, somehow it is linked to my “allowing it.”

So Isabelle’s sleeping through is all because of Kennith.  The fact that I insist on bathing her and doing a night routine with her and feeding her until she pops has been overlooked.

The other thing is that there is hope that I might actually sleep through the night in this year.  During my pregnancy with Isabelle I did not struggle to fall asleep, but found that at a point I woke up and was so uncomfortable that I could not go back to sleep.  Often up from about 2 or 3 in the morning.  The result is that I have been sleep deprived since February – so this is the first full night’s sleep I have had for nearly this entire year.

Definitely a reason to celebrate.  I will toast this with a glass of wine later – work seems to frown on drinking alcohol at my desk.

Going off the Deep End

I have long been aware that I suffer from depression.  Before I spent R350 – R700.00 an hour for someone to tell me that I suffered from chronic depression combined with anxiety disorder – I always felt there was just something off about me.

I would often describe myself as a sad person with happy moments – some times those happy moments would get shorter and further removed.

After I welcomed my first child into the world, and the dust settled – it is safe to say that things got a bit hairy and I sought professional help, because I really thought I was going mad.

I think the birth of your child really really brings things into sharper focus for you – even the mean and ugly things that you have been hiding from most of your adult life.

It was so difficult to explain what was going on in my head, but it got debilitating and I knew that though I was no friend to “normal” what I was experiencing was really far off the map of normal.

I felt isolated and that something just was not right.  I initially started with a psychologist and it was such a huge relief to be “diagnosed with something.”  That alone was really great and such a relief.

With my initial psychologist possibly I was not committed to the treatment or possibly she really was not any good.  (I would go with the latter as since then I have met several who are really good). Either way, it really did not go anywhere and I really just felt I was writing out cheques and that was all I was getting out of it, so I stopped and then languished in this state of hopelessness for a further year or two.

In 2004 I finally was referred to a psychiatrist by my GP as I really was not coping well.  Going through therapy should never be underestimated in terms of how difficult and soul wrenching it is.

One of the problems with therapy (I found), is that you walk in with one issue that you wish to start unpacking and once the Pandora’s box is opened, all the monsters come crawling out and it is very difficult to control them when they all start lurching and leering out of the box.

For me it was quite a traumatic year and the jury is out as to whether it did more damage than good.  I ended the year with my medication being increased and increased after what felt like each visit.

Eventually I could not function in what society would call “normal” parameters, avoided all social contact and really just wanted to lie in bed and hide under the duvet.

It got to the point where I felt I was standing in one corner and always observing myself from a distance – really out of check, really emotionally removed from anything and everything.

My behavior to my son got very erratic and I though I did not think I was going to hurt him, I really do not think I was doing him any good, because at best my reactions were probably quite traumatic for him.  He is also such a soft-hearted lamb-chop that he would easily feel my reactions to things and he in turn would then react.

When the end came with a dark thump,  I checked myself into a psychiatric facility for a two or three week stay. I really needed to run away from reality and everything that I felt was just adding weight to this drowning sensation I was feeling.

I do understand the labeling that comes along when you admit to being a little “psycho” but for me it feels more like a badge of honour (I might be going out on a limb here).  I encountered the dragon of all dragons and had the fight of my life.

Some days the dragon won – actually to be honest, most days the dragon won, who am I kidding – he is still winning.

I walked away from it with scorched eye-brows and sulphur smelling clothing.  I learnt more about myself in that year than I ever thought possible.  I know some of my triggers and know the signs of when things are going South for the winter.

I readily admit that I do not have the mechanisms to stop it occurring, but at least I can observe when it is happening and know when to put up my white flag for “help – rescue me.”

Various things occurred after the year plus of therapy and I decided to break from my therapist and not seek further therapy, I also went off all the medication, which to put it subtly was a bit a mind-stump if ever there was one.

Many many moons have passed since then, and I returned to a psychologist after my second child was born and also remained with her for about a year – it was great, and she did wonders to build my self esteem and sense of who I was in the world.

History is repeating itself and right now I feel like I am drowning in a sea of cold dark water and need help.   I can recognize the downward spiral as it has started to happen, and have made an appointment with a psychiatrist to go and have a little visit and maybe a cup of tea if it is offered.

This time around I will probably seek the medication route.  I can feel the extreme state that things are at right now, and have started waving my white flag hell-bent-for-leather.

I think if you have learnt anything from this rather depressing yet honest read, it is that there should be no shame to seek help.  Our bodies and minds take such a hammering during pregnancy and birth.

That period after birth with you and your baby at home, are hellishly hard.  I really do not think people realize how hard and area always up-selling how special it is, but not really always appreciating what it does to your mind and sense of self.  Throw a little sleep deprivation and relationship stresses into it and you have a Malakoff Cocktail.

I think we all have childhood issues that we drag into adulthood.  Some of us are better at letting them go than others, but I think when you bring your own child into the world, it is suddenly as if all your issues from childhood are immediately brought to the fore in brilliant techni-colour!!

So I am skipping along to see my new psychiatrist, I hope that you also take good care of yourself, and if it means making an appointment for therapy or just being honest with your friends, you will be surprised at how people respond to you when you are in your hour of need.

Everyone needs a white flag!

Birth Order of Children

My friend Alice sent this to me and never has there been a truer word spoken or emailed.

Maternity Clothing:

1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your doctor confirms your pregnancy.

2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.

3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

Preparing for the Birth:

1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.

2nd baby: You don’t bother because you remember that last time breathing didn’t do a thing.

3rd baby : You ask for an epidural in your eighth month.

The Layette :

1st baby: You pre-wash newborn’s clothes, color coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby’s little bureau.

2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.

3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can’t they?

Worries:

1st baby: At the first sign of distress–a whimper, a frown–you pick up the baby.

2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn.

3rd baby: You teach your three-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

Dummy:

1st baby: If the dummy falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and wash and boil it.

2nd baby: When the dummy falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby’s bottle.

3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.

Nappies:

1st baby: You change your baby’s nappy every hour, whether they need it or not.

2nd baby: You change their nappy every two to three hours, if needed.

3rd baby: You try to change their nappy before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.

Activities:

1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour.

2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.

3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out:

1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home five times.

2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached

3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home:

1st baby : You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.

2nd baby: You spend a bit of everyday watching to be sure your older child isn’t squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.

3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Swallowing Coins:

1st child: When first child swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.

2nd child: When second child swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass.

3rd child: When third child swallows a coin, you deduct it from his pocket money.

Breastfeeding is …..

I saw part of a programme yesterday on the Home Channel of all channels.  I did not catch the beginning but I got the sense it was interviewing women who just had babies or were about to have babies.  Judging by their accents it was a New Zealand based show.  My favourite insert was when they went around to various women who had babies and asked them to finish the sentence “breastfeeding is…”

I thought I was fitting with my rant yesterday and I decided to quickly compile my own list inspired by these women.  Breastfeeding is ….

… bleeding nipples.

…. wet spots on shirts while you are out for dinner away from your baby.

…. when your breasts no longer become your property and you hand them over to baby and caregivers alike.

…. exhausting.

…. all about waking up in wet pyjama shirts.

….. smelling like slightly old milk for the majority of the day.

…. wearing very unattractive bras with strange “quick release” clips.

…. always wearing shirts with easy access to your nipples – a bit like a vegas showgirl I would imagine.

…. not feeling so concerned about flashing your boob in public now that you have a dependent suckling.

…. watching your baby suckle so hard that she looks like she is going to choke.

…. being worried your baby is not getting enough milk in as you can’t see the measuring thingy on the bottle.

…. having to listen to hours of misguided advice by women who breastfed 25 years ago, and do not realise that the information we have now is probably more than thier doctor had back then.

…. having wonderful caring friends buy you miracle healing nipple cream because you feel your nipple has been scored with a scalpel.

….. convenient so I do not have to measure formula out in the middle of the cold night.

….. wonderful as I can cuddle with my baby and provide something no one else can.

….. incredible as your new born baby is latched on to you while you are in the delivery/operating room – it really is incredible and very memorable.

….. the thing you will miss when you can’t do it anymore!

Contrary to popular belief I actually enjoy breastfeeding, it is uncomfortable and forces you to sit still while you feed when you have 10 other things you need to do.  But it is quite magical when you look down at your baby’s face and see the absolute bliss on her face while she is gorging herself …. the fact that you are losing a few calories in the bargain doesn’t hurt either!

I love this image

Breast is best ….. but fek it is painful.

Connor was an easy baby – I did not realize how easy until I got to number three, who gives new meaning to the phrase “I am going to run away and join the circus and give you to the gypsies” but more on that later.

I felt quite a bit of pressure to breastfeed and get it right the first time round.  It really did look quite divine in the magazines – everyone was so happy and fulfilled when they were doing it.  I wanted to feel fulfilled and divine in soft lighting and chiffon shirts.

I have heard horror stories about what other moms have gone through trying to get their off- spring to latch and suck correctly, so in comparison mine was pretty much plain sailing with few tears of frustration – mine were more tears of pain.

I found that it was frikk’n sore – small point I felt was hidden from me prior to my experience.

I have always been immensely fond of the way pregnancy and birth books never refer to child birth and the related activities as scream-inducing-pain.  Soft non-scary words like uncomfortable, might keep you up at night, a little uneasy are used.  I really think it would be more beneficial to call it what it is.

Breastfeeding, once you have got past that first day or two in hospital, starts to get decidedly painful.

I am not going to comment about how suddenly your breasts are public property and nurses pop by and have a feel, and pull your shirt down and latch the baby.  Any sort of decency you might have exhibited while everyone was looking at your front-bottom while a baby was expelled from there, has long since evaporated as now your hoo-hoo bags are the prime focus of attention.

I am not against a bit of nipple tweaking myself, but not by strange woman in nurses uniforms.  It really is not my thing.

Possibly – I am just putting this out there – my nipples have not been trained in the art of violent sucking and adhesion – this may be a comment on my sex life, but let’s leave that for another day.

I will be the first to admit that I have not had an extensive dating history and maybe I spent too many evenings at home instead of out wildly partying, but the bottom line is my breasts prefer very mild activity – more soothing sort of stuff.

This may be the reason that I was caught quite unawares by the violent sucking-action a latched baby can administer.  You know when this happens once, one can drink a cup of tea or a glass of wine – time of the day dependent – and chuckle about what a surprise that was.

However two or three hours pass and it is time to expose your rather delicate but slightly bruised and now chaffed nipples to some more of that action.

Two or three weeks down the road, it is no longer a laughing matter – you are literally bleeding around your nipple area.  Your nipples are painful and any kind of contact is excruciating  – so the idea of this baby making hard sucking noises does absolute nothing for your sanity at this point.

[I don’t even want to open the door to the option of your partner ever going near them at this point … the idea of anyone ever viewing them as sexual objects really is an affront to my mind who has now converted them into baby-sustaining equipment.]

Damn it really is sore – contrary to popular belief.  I met one of those real earth mothers the other day – bless her – you know the one who wants to be with her baby ALL THE TIME – and breastfeeding was easy and “no it was not painful” and never touched alcohol in any shape or form the entire way through her pregnancy or during breastfeeding.

It did make me feel mildly guilty as I sipped my glass of wine while I was 8 months pregnant – only because she was looking at me in a critical manner.

But I digress, for her there was absolute no pain with breastfeeding ….. now, may be I am doing it wrong.

My baby sucks like an industrial vacuum cleaner and I will need to go home and feed in about two hours and my nipples are already battening down the hatches for the onslaught.

My friend decided to skip it as it made her feel like a lactating sow …. It does make me feel like livestock to a certain degree, but for me, I am sold on the convenience – only because I am so lazy that cleaning and filling bottles seems like really hard work at 2 in the morning.

I do feel it is very important to have some sort of a cut off for breastfeeding.  I think we have all seen the skit in Little Britain where the 40 year old man asks for some “bittie” from his mom … I must confess that when a child can walk up and lift your shirt to get the breast milk, it might be the sign that you should stop.

The thing about breastfeeding is another one of these social pressures where you are meant to be good at it and enjoy it.  There is a shame and embarrassment in “choosing” to formula feed.  <sigh>

I am breastfeeding now, but I have already snuck in a 11am formula feed to give my little boobies a break and also to allow me to skip off to work for some sane time.  I might introduce a 3pm Saturday formula feed too, so I can get an afternoon nap …. let’s see how this works out.

Breastfeeding Cartoon

So you think you’re alone now

It really is quite blissful having a first baby – you feel like you have given birth to a messiah and you are just blooming.

It really is so wonderful and you feel dreadfully special – like the world has chosen you to be the one – the one WHAT is still open to interpretation.

For me it was all soft and flowery around the edges and I felt like I was being carried around on a pedestal.  Everyone smiled at me, and people drop by and bring you presents and congratulate you – it really is all quite good for one’s self-esteem.

I remember with such clarity when my lovely bubble burst.  Connor was born in December so we had the benefit of a lot of holiday and Kennith took some time off work to cherish his new family (The family Walton’s theme tune plays in the background.)

Then one day, the sun came up, and he put on his work clothes and seemed to make movements that indicated he was going to be going somewhere.  As the morning wore on, he picked up his car keys, gave me a peck on the cheek opened the front door and disappeared through it.

I remember how shocked I was as the car drove off – I was standing on our little stoep in my jammies holding this baby and wondering “what the hell do I do now.” I kept thinking this was some practical joke and he was going to turn around and come back saying “ha ha that was funny!!!”  (er, not so much …..)

I came back inside looked at the clock on the wall and it was 7:05am – and I calculated that it was going to be 11 hours until Kennith walked back in the door at about 6:00pm.  Who thought it was a good idea to leave ME alone with a baby?  And more importantly WHAT was I going to do for 11 hours with a baby!!  I was so scared and really felt quite lost.

True to form the day was chaos/scary and jammies seemed the easiest outfit to go with puke and spilt milk.  It might be the crazy pattern that hides all the stuff you spill on yourself all afternoon.

The day stood before me as a great open crevasse of time.  It soon got filled with feeding, burping, bum changing, making tea, more feeding, burping, bum changing and so on.  Busy – but not terribly fulfilling – am I allowed to admit to that?

I really do love the sage advice people give you about sleep when the baby sleeps. It is such great advice, but I think anyone who has had a baby will be able to testify, even though the books say that a new born baby should sleep for 16 – 20 hours of a day, somehow it does not seem like that.

If they were sleeping for 20 hours, why are you not getting your 8 hours of sleep – why are you walking around like the zombie extra from the Thriller video?

If they sleep for 20 hours why are you not lying on the couch Nutella smeared sandwiches and watching the box set of Desperate Housewives?  Because every insane new mother knows that they do not sleep for 20 hours – after three I still can’t tell you how much they actually sleep, but they definitely do not sleep for 20 hours.

Sleep is when you are in a coma like position and lie down and remain there for a few hours – babies do not do this!!  I am lucky if I get 20 – 45 minute breaks from my baby, and that is only because I have been breastfeeding him for what feels like 3 hours to try and get him to be calm and be sleepy.  Sure my nipples are about 5cm longer than when I started and throbbing like no-one’s business, but anything for some peace and quiet.

Really there is no sleep for the wicked and I realized this very early on in the relationship I was trying to forge with my son.

By the time 3pm swings round, I am watching that clock like a hawk and literally watching the minutes tick by in anticipate of Kennith walking through the door.  By 5pm I am climbing the walls, and by 6pm I am in a rage.

Poor unsuspecting Kennith skips in from his little day at the office and I am the lead character in the Omen, and practically throw the baby at him – usually with a  phrase like “Why the hell are you late?” or “Do you know what I have been through today?” Either way it is small wonder that our partners start to work that little bit later …. of course this tactic does nothing to calm our inner bitch and as the weeks tick by our rage does tend to turn towards our partners.

I recall thinking that “we” were in this together.  Remember how “we” were pregnant?

Well I was pretty shocked when the “you” part of “we” toddled off to work and left me holding the baby.  How come this has become MY problem when “we” were so much a part of this before.

It’s all quite shocking stuff, and really unless you have been there – difficult to imagine how absolutely lonely and desolate you feel.

It does pass – eventually – but not before you have made best friends with the wine bottle and the cork screw, maybe had a bit of therapy and if you are lucky some mind altering medication –  maybe even have a go at couple therapy with a lovely therapist in Kenilworth …… ah happy times.

End of Days

Kennith likes to get his monies worth out of everything.

The fact that we had paid for the full day at our Medi-Clinic meant that I was going to stay there for the full day – none of this going home at 11am nansy-pansy stuff.

After work Kennith arrived to collect me.  I had been sobbing for the last two days and the idea of wrenching me away from my trusty nurses’ buzzer did little to calm my already frayed nerves.

In the car we go and start the drive home, which in a non traffic situation would be about 20 minutes.  The consequences of collecting me late was that now we were trekking home in rush hour traffic on what is a very busy route.

The problem started when I was sitting in the back seat with Connor firmly strapped in his snug and safe (points there for supporting the Arrive Alive campaign).  I looked over at him and it occurred to me that he was dead.  I could not see that he was breathing.  5 minutes with me and my child had clearly not survived.  I sat there in the back seat wondering how long I should let this continue before bringing it to someone’s attention.

Unfortunately with a manic episode one’s concept of the linear time equation gets a bit skewed and minutes seem like hours and visa-versa.  I yanked Connor out of his seat and decided that if I breastfed him, then it would wake him up and if he woke up, then he could not be dead, and then all would be fine.  Kennith is trying to drive and keep this situation as sane as possible.

I eventually get Connor out of his seat, whip my shirt over my head (I do not endorse driving with kids out of a car seat, but this moment I was having a clear break down of anything remotely normal).  My breast exposure resulted in cheers and generally lecherous behavious from the labourers returning from work on the construction truck driving adjacent to us.

I am trying to push my rather inflated breast into Connor’s face and he is so fast asleep that he is not taking any notice.  To my rather frazzled mind, this indicates again how dead he actually is.  Kennith pulls over to the side of the road checks the baby – reassures me baby is fine and carries on driving.   His reassurance calms me for all of 30 seconds and then I start panicking again.

All I can think of is that this baby is near death (notice how the level of death keeps changing for me on this drive.)  I need to get it to a hospital – and how are we going to get to the hospital if the traffic is bumper to bumper.

The other critical issue is that Kennith is wrong and he has now become the enemy to my trying to save the life of my baby.  I am already thinking of how I am going to field questions from people when they ask “how’s the baby” and I have to explain that I could not get him home without killing him.

At this point, I am thinking that when Kennith slows at the robot, I can jump out the car with Connor, rush into oncoming traffic, hop in to an unsuspecting person’s car and ask them to take me to the nearest hospital ER.  All a good plan – just trying to work out my timing and whether I am going to tuck and roll when I eject myself from the motor vehicle.

I am so deep in thought that Kennith’s eff’ing and blinding finally breaks through and I realize that the car is over-heating.  He has to pull over to the side of the road while plumes of steam and smoke are coming out from under the bonnet.

The only thing keeping me from total hysteria is that I am busy hatching my “jump out of the car” plan.  Before I can take my plan to the next level, the Albino character from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie End of Days appears along side us – this woman was incredible.  She was also incredibly drunk, but I digress.

This guy was straight off the set of End of Days - it was incredible.

This person was straight off the set of End of Days - it was incredible.

As we had blocked her path, she steps to the right, and then proceeds to pull her homeless trolley along the side of our car.  We sat there in the car hearing the high pitched screech of metal on metal.

Kennith flips his switch and moves away from the sanity corner.  He hops out of the car intent on causing severe bodily harm to the homeless person – at some point he realises it is a woman.  In the end he decided that using his super human strength and tossing her trolley to the kurb was the solution.  The situation is clearly past out of control and now we have a drunken bergie person swearing and blinding at us.

Kennith gets back in the car and with a  final eff’it, starts the engine and just drives home totally ignoring the plumes of steam and potential fire under the bonnet.

By the time we get home I am about ready for my shot of Valium, hell it should be administered as a drip at this point.

My mom had made us a wonderful lasagna and salad as our welcome home dinner and I am crying and just want to lie on the bed and cried some more while holding my child like a blubbering idiot.

I am not sure of how happy other people’s home comings have been with their babies, but that was mine!

The Crying Game Begins

The pregnancy moved along without much incident.  There were some work issues and  I resign to do some freelance work.

I worked three freelance jobs in my last two months of pregnancy as I felt this overwhelming urge to ensure we had a nest egg in place.  I was feeling fit and good, so other than being a bit tired, it was all quite jolly.

My OBGYN was supportive of an elective c-section – bless him.

I’m a bit of type-A and the idea of squeezing something the size of a rugby ball out of my front-bottom, compounded by not being able to plan when-where-and-how was really not helping my stress levels.

Once I had a date, and a theatre booked, I felt much better.  I had managed to focus only on the pregnancy and the idea that at the end of this   I had nothing to compare the two procedures against in terms of pain and drug supply, but I felt strongly I would be more calm in a situation where I had some control, so a c-section was the block that I ticked.

The idea of freedom of choice has not really worked its way down into the rather complicated maze of childbirth and there was still a definite opposition to c-sections.

The question I had to field the most regularly was “what’s wrong with you?” and I found myself explaining my situation even to a very strange woman in Woolworths who happened to get my work telephone number and ring me there to “chat” some more – I kid you not.

The idea of the c-section was a bit daunting.  Someone hacking through you with a very sharp scalpel and moving your insides around is scary no matter how good a mood you are in.  I felt like I had read every pregnancy/birth book (I am a voracious reader) and felt comfortable and safe with my choice.

Everything went to schedule and our bonny wee lad Connor was born on the morning of the 10 December.  There was much hand clapping and cheering – I had my friend David come and take photographs during the surgery and he was a great addition.  I was blissfully happy until day three rolled around, then I started to cry and cry.  It was quite staggering exactly how much tears and snot really could come out of one person and I was almost inconsolable.   The nurses seems to look at me with disdain which did not help my cause in the least.

My friend Alice refers to it as “literally crying over split milk,” which is a very good reference.  I was sobbing and howling – the kind where your eyes are red and swollen and there are large globules of saliva dripping out of your mouth.  I am not talking about the polite cry where the odd tear makes it’s way down your just foundation-applied face.

I felt the nurses all knew more than me and were mean and controlling, actually the janitor probably knew more than me at that point.  I was hopelessly untrained and unskilled for my new role.

My biggest surprise was that I did not get a baby manual at the hospital – it seemed like a very complicated purchase to not be provided with some sort of manual.  I felt information about the baby, when to feed, my boobs and I could not retain anything.  I really really started to panic.

It was so apparent that when it came to going home day, my OBGYN asked if I would like to stay another day – through my blubbering I said “I’m fine.”

Kennith fetched me.  I was still blubbering.  I managed to get myself dressed, bath my wrinkled little baby, get my flowers and “congratulations it’s a boy” balloons together and make my way to the exit of the hospital.  I felt reassured that the nurse walked with us to the door of the hospital.

I was so desperately afraid I am sure she could see the pleading in my eyes and smell the fear on my skin.  It did seem rather abrupt when she handed us the baby, and then retreated with the bassinet behind the sterile sliding doors of the hospital leaving us alone on the kerb holding this wrapped up baby.

I had not factored the “drive home from hell” – so in retrospect I wish I had known what a truly happy moment I was having right then and there.

Congratulations …… it’s an Enema

My first pregnancy was pretty uneventful.

At the time you worry about whether you are standing too close to the microwave or have you eaten too many carrots and poisoned your child with excesses of vitamin A.

The things that your mind can worry about are pretty endless.  They tend to be the kind where your little eyes pop open from a peaceful sleep to worry and fret, while your husband/partner/sperm donor snores on peacefully.

Sidebar:  I’ve suffered from IBS in varying degrees for years.  This particular year it seemed to have increased in intensity. I had weeks of swelling and unbelievable cramping.  Eventually I made an appointment at a gastroenterologist.  I was not quite sure what one did – I had to look it up in the Yellow Pages and they had a helpful diagram which pointed to the body part and told me which specialist I would need – very clever marketing.  I was beyond caring and just wanted him to take the pain go away.

While examining me I had to lie on the bed in a fetal position as there was no way I could lie flat with that amount of cramping. He sent me along for the standard (and non-conclusive) blood work and then decided that a barium enema was just the thing to cheer a young girl like me up.

I happily took enough laxatives , ate my body weight in Buscopan and limped along to the x-ray to leave whatever was left of my flagging dignity while a doctor and a nurse shoved what was the equivalent of a garden hose up my bottom – all while trying to make small talk with me.  Me trying to hide my face and just weep quietly into the hospital issue pillow.

After a few more days of lying on the couch in what really was an inert position and moaning or whimpering, Kennith bravely suggested a pregnancy test, and as history can reveal it was positive.

I could not have been more surprised and had been so sick that trying to track my menstrual cycle did not really seem very important at the time.

Generally X-rays and Buscopan are not recommended as part of a diet during the early days of conception, so we had every reason  to be a tad worried.  We had a wonderfully knowledgeable OBGYN who he sent us a long for a few extra fetal assessment scans to put us all at ease.

We saw our little bean bobbing around in the amniotic fluid.  We were so full of smiles and good times that none of us noticed the cataclysmic H-bomb that that little bean had in his back pocket.

I fondly recall hours of lying on the bed on a Saturday afternoon reading my book and dozing off whilst a trail of saliva pooled on the pillow to wake me from my afternoon slumber.

It was all so pleasant, so idyllic, little did I know that there was a shocking awakening approaching …..