Maybe not everyone is the cookie cutter mommy …..

I have mentioned that I chat on Moomie – it is basically a forum geared towards  moms or moms to be, or moms trying to be moms or freaks who like to listen to moms talk about nappies and cracked nipples.

I didn’t switch on to chatting on forums until about 15 months ago, and it is this place where people chat about just about everything.

I really wish I had done it earlier, it is so much cheaper than therapy. 

You get to emotionally vomit about stuff that you want to speak about.  The bizarre (or not so bizarre depending on your vantage point) thing is that what you say – what you have aching say/reveal – will resonate with someone and they will go “yes, me too, me too!”

And then you get to sigh and go, thank g&wd I am not totally out of my tree.

Forums are great for that – they give me that “space” I need to often discuss something that has been bubbling inside for ages, and sometimes just saying it out loud to a group who understands is so affirming – which might explain why Alcoholics Anonymous works so well.

For me I do not really have someone to sit and chat to about how I struggle with motherhood or children as my friends do not have kids.  Of course my friends can pat me on the shoulder, pour me a glass of wine and nod sagely while I go off and spittle forms on my chin – and I am so blessed that they do that for me (and often supply the wine as part of the arrangement).

Even with the best intentions, they cannot REALLY understand my rants and at the same time, they cannot rant back with me about the same subject – which is really what you need to remind you that you are not going certifiably crazy.

I do wish I had cottoned on to forums sooner.  It really would have saved my medical aid bills a ton.  And I might have spent a lot less time screaming at Kennith for something that probably was not his fault in the first place.

Recently someone brought up the subject of mother and baby magazines and what we buy and read.  My problem with mother and baby magazines is generally – and I say this with the utmost respect for publishers, editors and journalists – that they are actually sh*t.

Everything about them is so “saccharine sweet” and politically correct.  The moms all look like they have spent two hours with a hairdryer and a makeup artist, and have that Mona Lisa blissful smile as they stare into the lens – with their left hand on their lap – so you can see their wedding ring.

They are all so darn happy and rosy cheeked that unfortunately it does not nothing for me, and makes me feel even more awkward.  I want real moms saying what they really feel – and that is why forums are so great (and blogs actually!)

The mommy and baby articles are lackluster at the best of days, and it just feels like the same sad information being rehashed.  There is nothing that I feel I can sink my teeth in to or go “wow never looked at it like that”. 

The highlight, for me, tends to be the back pages where the advertiser are.  That is pretty much the extent of my interest in these magazines.

Any the who.  Someone on the forum wanted to know what would encourage us to buy a magazine. 

I realized this was a rather pointless activity as articles that would interest me would alienate half the population, and unfortunately only attract advertisers who were promoting wine, strippers, cheap dinners out and photography gear.

However that being said, these are the kind of articles I would like to see written by distinguished investigative journalists without the aid of stock photography, and copy and paste from google (I had originally posted a similiar list on Moomie):

Article 1

I want his sperm, but then I would prefer it if he did not come near me again for the next 3 – 12 months.

Article 2
Why reasoning with a pregnant woman is a total waste of time.  And other tips for survival aimed at partners/husbands.

Article 3
Why advertisers guilt moms into buying sh*t they do not need. Tips on how to see that crap is still crap, even if it is painted pink or blue.

Article 4
How much sh*t should I put up with from my mother in law until I tell her to shove off? 52 tips like this, one for each week.

Article 5

Why are so many sh*tty creches allowed to trade? We discover the real truth behind these hell holes and speak to parents who have no option to leave their kids there.

Article 6

Crap Pay = Crap Nannies.  Why you get what you pay for – Eve vs Madam.

Article 7

Why exactly has the employer not been forced to pay maternity benefits – and how do woman actually cope with 4 months of unemployment when they need the money the most and they do not have a financially contributing partner? We do an in-depth investigation of this issue, and how it affects women today.

Article 8

Research into Men being able to carry babies put on hold – until the question on maternity benefits paid by UIF has been resolved.  Stunning expose!

Article 9

10 reasons why it is okay to hate your husband as he sleeps and expects you to wake up 6 times during the night. Free couple counseling voucher included with this issue.

Article 10

I love my husband, but why is he acting like a special needs person and seems to have no clue how to do ANYTHING correctly. Tests husbands can take to see if they are acting like a total moron, pencil is included so they do not have to ask you where the pencils are kept.

Article 11

Tips on how to deal with the pushy nurse in the maternity section of your hospital. Written by 2nd or 3rd time moms who have this concept waxed.

Article 12

Signs that you are losing your mind – and it is okay because other moms are also crying in the bathroom at 2am – they just don’t tell you.  Secret photos included.

Article 13

Lies moms tell!  Why they continue the stereotype that all moms are happy fulfilled creatures, and why there is a small group who disagree, and are not afraid to speak out.

Article 14

How to prepare a fun snack of Flings, Oros and day old toast for your toddler. Recipes included.

Article 15

25 tips on how to tell people to p*ss off when they stop you to give you advise, when you have not asked for it.

Article 16
How to choose the birthing method that works for you.  And how to tell people who keep trying to “correct” you to f*ck right off.

Article 17

Medical Aidsthe love-hate relationship with Moms. Exposed!!

Article 18

The Secret of how to actually sleep when your baby sleeps – the myth uncovered. Next month we look at the Loch Ness Monster, another phenomenon people talk about but no one has ever seen.

Article 19

Moms who give up on losing weight, and decide instead to embrace their bodies, drink wine and embrace a bag of Chuckles at the same time as flicking the bird at the moms who are slightly obsessive. Diet not included!

Article 20

How to leave your child in the care of a carer/babysitter/husband without any guilt …. and more tips to surviving the first three months.

Article 21

How not to roll your eyes at a new mom when you hear them gushing during their pregnancy.  When this is all they talk about – while you actually want to slap some sense into them, but instead smile sweetly and say “how lovely!”

Article 22

How to get your partner to realise that you will kill him if he dares to approach you sexually within the first 6 – 12 weeks. You will make the first move when you are ready. Win a taser (with a special LCD light – so you can find it if you drop it in the bedroom) to use on your partner if he comes near you.

Article 23

How not to stress when your baby is not eating/drinking like other babiesit is okay, babies do not read the charts, they do what they want and everyone gets there eventually.

Article 24

Why Mother and Baby Groups are for the insane …. and how to get yourself out of themPart 1 of the Cult Group Series.

Article 25

Believe it or not, you make a wonderful pregnancy person but we do not want to see every f*kn moment on Facebook or Twitter …. really!! How to interact with people and survive 45 minutes without discussing your children or your pregnancy … Part 1 of a series of 5 of how to break this frustrating habit.

Article 26

How not to feel guilty because you might not bond with your baby immediately.  Moms show you how to “fake it ‘til you make it” in the first 6 weeks, when you feel absolutely no connection at all.

Article 27

Breast feeding is wonderful – but it is not actually the Alpha and the Omega.  Lists of Mensa members who were not breastfed as babies and are okay today.  Bill Gates and Robert Murdoch reveal all.

Article 28

The newer the mom, the bigger the pram …. and other interesting observations made by our roving reporter.

Article 30

Stay at Home Moms and Working Moms finally agree on a Truce.  Thabo Mbeki very happy with outcome of peace talks.

Article 31

Resident Psychologist answers: Why it is okay to love your baby, but not like them all the time.  This question answered, and others posed by readers.

Okay I am going to stop now, as you can see, I could/would just go on forever at this rate!

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Even in the Abyss things can get better

I am not sure if that moment was a bit of a wake up call for both of us, but things did get better.   After Kennith received my email he came home early and he tried to chat to me.

Kennith – bless his cotton socks – has always been the one who will extend the olive branch first – I am the one who will hold a sulk for days if need be.  I know  it appears that I slate him, but he really does try very hard to be a good partner and a great dad.  Sometimes with our relationship in such turmoil, I forget what a good guys he is.

I don’t think I was really open to a discussion. I felt exhausted by the process that we had been through, but also relieved that a decision had been made – even though it was painful and awful.  I can’t quite recall how things began to change at home, but they did.

I think the issue was that I could not really afford to move out anywhere initially, and would need to still remain in the house until I had made a plan.  I just was not sure what the plan was.  It was not like he came home and I had my cases at the door, with my cactus balanced on top.

The sun went down and then it came up the next day and we were still two people who had a house, two kids and some problems to work through.  I think to Kennith’s credit, he could have just thrown in the towel and agreed with me that it was “over cadovers” but he felt there was still a reason we should try to make this work.

It was gradual process and every step might not have been recorded, but it did get better.  We both worked on being a couple and getting rid of some of the animosity we had been carrying around.

We tried to learn to communicate with each other – rather than just wait for the other person to take a breath so you could get your say in.  Kennith put a huge amount of effort in being present, and I put an effort in making him feel less isolated from the family unit.

I tried very hard to stop being angry and so resentful all the time.  I had so much anger within me, and struggled to express it in a constructive manner.  I think he also tried to listen to what I was saying, which was a huge help when you feel you are not being heard.

I think it took at least a year for things to gradually get better until they were on what we could call stable ground.  We just started doing things differently and behaving differently.

When things had stabilized a bit, Kennith and I decided to leave the kids at home and went overseas for a just over a week to see friends and family – my brother’s first son was being born and we were trying to time being there for that.

It was great to spend some time together doing our stuff.  I missed the kids terribly and pined for Georgia especially, but it was great to be able to enjoy each other’s company again.  It really was a great experience to be together even if it was just walking through the streets and stores, but it was nice to reconnect and be big people again.

A month or two after getting back I started a new job which offered me a great deal of challenges and also made me feel more secure and fulfilled.  Though it required a huge amount of juggling it definitely made me feel much better about myself.  I realized a big part of me required affirmation in what I do for a living – I really get my kicks from doing a job and doing it well.

I think the thing about expecting a baby, and preparing for the impact of a baby is that you spend so much time thinking about the baby, and the sleep deprivation, and whether you are going to buy the right pram and cot, that you forget about the impact this person is going to have on your relationship.  Not for a second had I factored this in as an issue.

Kennith and I had been together for more than 7 years when we decided – it was not an accident – to have Connor.  We were stable and prepared.  We had never had a “get out” fight in all the time that we had been together.

I could never have accounted for the amount of trauma and strain a baby would introduce to our lives and relationship.

I am not saying that the birth of Connor was to blame for all of our issues, but the introduction of a third person into a stable relationship was definitely a catalyst that we just had not factored in, and were ill equipped to recognise and deal with.

Some of the issues that came to the fore was how much baggage I was dragging with me about my own upbringing and childhood.  I thought I had that securely locked away but the introduction of my own child just seemed to bring that all up.  I suddenly had real “mother” issues that also impacted on my relationship with my own mother and my son.

When friends tell me that they are pregnant, I really wish I could tell them how stressful that first year is.  How it will literally shake you to your roots, and make your gums bleed.

You will doubt yourself as you stand in the bathroom at night crying in desperation and loneliness.

You will begin to despise your partner because your life has changed so dramatically and theirs seems to have remained the same.

You will question every decision you have made, and feel you know nothing and are the most worthless creature on the planet.

But at the centre of it all is this round little baby whose cuddles will warm your soul, and whose smell will ease the pain.   He or she is the calm in the storm – and it is a bit of a storm – the kind where people take canned food down to a cellar and stay there until the dust settles and then they come out to see what form of life survived.

Most moms I have spoken to remember the acute loneliness of the 2am feeds, and feeling so isolated and desperate while everyone skipped to work.  It really is one of the most difficult challenges I have ever had to face in my life, and you know I can’t even put it on my CV as an achievement.  It’s such a sense of despair that your soul literally cries!

And what’s even sadder, is that we all know it, but no one talks about it and prepares new mums.  I wonder why that is.

Sometimes when it is broke, you can’t fix it

Each session was harrowing, and I ended up either crying in the session or as I left.  As I am a natural talker about my emotions, and Kennith carries his cards pretty close to his chest, I found myself talking and talking and just blah blah blah – my friend Alice calls it emotional vomiting.

The result was that I felt there was this HUGE spotlight on me for each session and I just wanted to move some focus on to Kennith.  He would just sit there and listen. When the therapist would try to engage him, he would have a short answer and the focus would revert back to me.  I found it exhausting and did not find that we were making any real progress.  We just never seemed to get to the nitty-gritty of the problems.

In my mind I had rationalized that Kennith’s attitude was  that, if I only changed the way I behaved and my expectations, to come in line with his, then things would be great.  It felt like there was pressure on me to change and conform and adjust, but there was no pressure on him to do anything of the sort.

Many of my issues were wrapped up in emotional baggage, that I could not explain or express in neat logical point lists.  I often felt that “I wanted” or “I needed” something, but did not feel that those reasons were being validated.  Kennith is very logical and likes things in a list with definite pro’s and con’s.  He struggles with raw emotion as a decider in an argument – while my engines run on raw emotion.

The final straw came when we went out one evening.  We had agreed that it was his turn to drive, which meant that I could have more than two glasses of wine.  Maybe the fact that this was a Food and Wine Fair might have added some undue pressure.

After two drinks he decided to have some whiskey and some more whiskey, and was not really showing any signs of stopping.   I felt the only option was for me to stop at two, or both of us would be unable to drive.

I got really annoyed.  I felt he could not be relied on.  I felt he could not be trusted to stick to an agreement.  I felt that everything was about him, and what I wanted or needed was irrelevant when push came to shove.    Clearly there were more issues here than just us going to the Food and Wine Festival.

It is funny that is how women rationalize, discuss and argue.  It is never about the dishes being left, or the toilet seat not being put down.  There are bigger issues at play, and all the guy hears is “toilet” and “dishes.”  For us by the time we ask for something, it is a much more loaded argument.

I felt that we could not go out and have a decent evening.  We actually just did not want to be in each other’s company any more.  I am talking for myself, but that is how it seemed from Kennith’s actions, and from my point of view I really did not enjoy his company anymore.

A few days before this incident I had gone to visit a lawyer who specialized in divorce, as I wanted to know where I stood.  We were unmarried and had two kids, I had no idea what the laws was and what would happen in the event of us going our separate ways.

I had also met with an estate agent and gone to view alternate places to live.  My situation was quite bleak and I felt this was all going to implode really quickly, and needed to start making emergency plans.  Again my natural character of feeling better when I am doing something, rather than standing and just watching the situation and feeling helpless.

The day after the Food and Wine Fair incident, I sent Kennith an email – and cc’d our therapist – basically saying that I think we had gone as far as we could, and I wanted out.

I really had had enough, and felt that I could not communicate that verbally without getting very emotional and not being able to remain objective.

I knew that financially I would not be able to take the kids with me and move out.  I had mulled this point around for days in my mind, and really tried to work out all the possibilities of how this was going to work.

At this point, all I could think was “I need to get out” – I just could not see us fixing this and I felt like I could not bear another day in this situation.

I came from a pretty deprived situation, where my mother was out at work all the time, and had absolutely no time or urge to spend any time with us.  I felt that I did not want to be so pulled into the pressures of earning a living to support my kids, that I would not be able to spend any time with them, and have to rely on after care facilities and permanent daycare arrangements.

I calculated that I would need to work two jobs to support myself and them – and I felt that Kennith and I would not have an amicable separation. I had not discussed this with him, nor how far this had progressed on my side, so I had no real idea of how he would react or what his support would be, but I was fairly sure based on our present situation that things would be drastically strained and I would not be able to present a list of demands and have them met.

I had ruminated over this endlessly, and run this every possible permutation.  I did not want to leave Connor and Georgia, and had spent many weeks crying over it – but I felt that I had no choice.  If I took them with me to make me feel better, it would disrupt their lives, they would end up staying at aftercare until 6pm as I would not be able to afford someone at home.  It was all a waking nightmare!!!

On the evening of the Food and Wine Fair, whilst sitting outside waiting for Kennith and getting angrier and angrier, I had decided that if the worst was that I moved out, and left the kids with Kennith .  If that was the hardest decision I was going to make, then I needed to make it now and not let it stand in the way of getting out of this hell.  I was dying, and this situation showed no signs of getting any better.

I figured that at least the kids would have stability in their day and a safe home environment.  I had no idea how it would work and what it would really feel like having to leave them.  I knew that right now I just needed to get space between myself and Kennith and do it with as few casualties as possible.

Kennith was not a bad father, he was a little absent, but maybe when he took full responsibility for the kids he would change.

Once I accepted that as being the most difficult decision I had to make, and I made it, suddenly I could cope.

Surviving the first few months

Within the first month after we got home with Georgia, Kennith had Kilimanjaro to climb and spent some time in Zanzibar.  I was at home looking after a new born and a 3-year-old.

Clearly he got the better end of the deal.  After the MBA Kennith’s horizons had shifted and he wanted to be challenged more at work, and his views on life also started to shift.  He had definitely changed, in a good way.  I think for him, he was also going through some fundamental changes in his life in terms of what was happening in his head.

While pregnant I had been approached with a job which was near to home and allowed me real flexibility – it was not hang challenging, but the idea of easy really appealed at the time.

When Georgia was 28 days old, I headed to work. We had a lovely Xhosa speaking nanny at the time, and she was really wonderful with Georgia – I also used to work flexi time, so it allowed me opportunity to pop in and visit with her when ever I wanted to.

I felt okay, I went to work, I chased around collecting kids and bringing them home and life sort of ticked by.  The relationship between Kennith and I was limping by.  I was focused on the kids, and he was out conquering the world.

At a birthday party we attended, a mutual couple we are friends with, announced that they were in the process of starting divorce proceedings .  I always viewed my friend’s relationship as solid, and felt that if they could not make it who could?  Definitely not us based on our present state of affairs.

It really sent me into a bit of a tailspin and I began insisting that Kennith and I start doing couple therapy – I was not sure it would work, and had no idea what it involved, but if I was doing something, then I was sure I would start to feel better.  Things were pretty bad and we just did not know how to make it better.

Eventually Kennith agreed and we went along to couple counseling.  I thought that we might have found a 3rd person who could fix us, because hell, we sure as well were so far down the line, that we could not fix ourselves.

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?