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Archive for January, 2010

Going into this week, it was not without a little trepidation, but I wasn’t fully aware of my own feelings.  I just knew there was an uneasiness hovering, lurking, in the back of my mind.  When I finally put my finger on it, I realised that I wasn’t wrong to be a little uneasy.

Blogging has not come easily to me lately.  I’ve chalked it up to everything that’s been going on, but I know that’s just an excuse.  After all, we’ve been through a lot of fraught and stressful times in the past few years, and I’ve been able to blog right through them — no sooner would I sit down at the computer than the words would spill forth, so fast that I could hardly type them all out.  But, just lately, the words have… stopped.  Just stopped.  I sit down at the computer and nothing comes.  My mind goes blank, even as only moments before I had been writing blog post after blog post in my mind.  When I come to type those thoughts out, I find they are no longer there –just gone — and trying to force the words out is as futile as trying to push a pile of sand up a hill.  And that has caused me to panic a little inside, because I don’t want to stop writing.  I don’t want there to be nothing there.

I have never been overly keen on those blog posts that recap and look back at other blog posts from the past.  I know they’re useful and relevant sometimes, but they remind me too much of when you turn on your favourite television show and find all the characters are sitting on the couch, drinking coffee and laughing, and saying, “Do you remember when…?” while the screen fades out to various clips from old episodes.  Arghhhh… I’ve seen all this before, and I switch over to something more interesting.

But, wading through the deep sand of this dry spell, I’ve considered doing one of those “looking back” blog posts, to sail through this drought on the coat-tails of what I’ve written before.  I know I’m not writing anything of worth these days, but look!… look!…  I’ve written good things in the past! So I sat down for a moment and looked back at my past posts, from this time a year ago, two years ago.  Of all the weeks in the year, and with that strange feeling of foreboding looming in the back of my mind, I choose this week to look back.

It was a year ago almost to the day that we rushed E2 to the Emergency Room for the first time, as her breathing grew slower and slower and more laboured and we finally realised that this was serious.  It was the night that they gave her breathing treatment after breathing treatment that had little effect, and the doctor finally explained to me — exhausted and hardly believing what I was hearing — that if she didn’t respond to this last treatment, they would have to cut a hole between her ribs and insert a tube into her lungs, because her muscles were going becoming fatigued and she was not going to be able to keep breathing on her own.  It was the first sighting of her (now diagnosed) asthma.  It was the night I realised that my daughter had nearly slipped away…  that had we been living only a couple of generations ago, she probably would have slipped away quietly as we slept.  And that was the night I realised that her own mother hadn’t spotted the seriousness of the situation and that, if I’d been left to make the call on my own, she might well have died.

It was two years ago exactly that I finally couldn’t take another moment of this mysterious, excruciating pain in my breasts and, with all the doctors’ offices closed on a Sunday, spent seven hours waiting to be seen in the Emergency Room, where the doctor examined me and thought she found an “irregular lump” and — eight days into our new life in the United States — I contemplated all the dark and frightening scenarios that come rushing in after those words.  It was the day that we tumbled head-first into the ridiculously complicated pit of confusion that is the American healthcare system, with only a high-deductible temporary policy to break that fall, and learned first-hand that it is not only the uninsured who face misery when disaster strikes, but America’s under-insured as well.  It was the start of the difficult journey to eliminate soy from my diet that led me to realise not only what a detrimental effect this seemingly innocuous food can have, but also to nearly turn my life upside-down in order to avoid the all-pervasive soy in the typical American diet.

So, two years and two trips to ER.  Two years and two stressful days that I’ll be glad never to repeat again.  And then I cast my mind back one more year, to three years ago…  You can’t read about that day — I wasn’t blogging back then — but we spent that one in hospital too.  We made another rushed and stress-filled journey along icy roads in the dark of night.  And there were hours of pain and an awful lot of blood, and that strange sensation of time slowing down and everything coming into sharper, excruciating focus.  And it went on for hours and then… it stopped.

And I looked down and asked the midwife in surprise, “Is it a girl?!?”, because I’d been sure we were having a boy.  And the midwife nodded, and my baby took in a great lungful of air and let it out with a loud cry, and we all smiled with relief.  And then without any delay — without even cleaning her off or even cutting the cord — the midwife lifted her onto my belly, so the baby and I were skin-to-skin, and she latched on and began to feed hungrily, drawing comfort from the warmth of my milk and the warmth of my skin, and slowly letting go of all the fear and stress that the last few hours had been — for her as much as for us.

E2 is three this week — and she is beautiful… wonderful… everything I could have hoped her to be as I gazed down on her in my arms that night she was born.  Over the next few days, we will sing “Happy Birthday” to her and open gifts and celebrate these amazing three years and the miracle she is to us.  And I will thank God that she is with us — because there are so many ways that she might not have been.  And I am aware of them every day.

And if we don’t end up in hospital this year (touch wood), that will be fine too.  Because things come in threes, and we’ve done our three, thank you very much.  This year then, perhaps just a nice quiet birthday, eh?  And maybe another slice of that (surprisingly good) egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free birthday cake.

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M’s operation was a worry, a relief, and a financial nightmare all in one.  There was the worry, of course, about whether he’d be alright, whether the operation would go well.  And relief that the operation was finally being done.  And a financial nightmare because, although there was money meant to be coming to get us through his time off work, there was hiccup after hiccup that meant we didn’t actually get the cheque until he was actually back at work again.  We stocked up like squirrels, kept our heads down, and got through it — uncomfortably close but ok in the end.

But what surprised me was how M’s operation turned out to be a real godsend for us — him and me — and us as a family.  When couples go through tough times — and I think it’s fair to say that the last two years have been pretty stressful, to say the least — it’s cliche for one of them to say, “Let’s get away, just the two of us.”  I’ve always been suspect about what “getting away” accomplishes, whether any gains made whilst on holiday can translate well into the mundane of life back at home.  But, cliche or not, M’s four weeks at home consitituted something of a “getting away” for us.  We got away from the grind.  We got away from him working until he had nothing more to give, coming home and wishing he were alone, and resenting the burden of we three.  And we got away from me being home alone all day, deep in the chaos of two little girls — screaming, destroying, dancing, flailing, flinging, falling, breaking, crying, whinging, charming, mess-making, and wantingwantingwanting  — and with no real friends to break the cycle, except the oft-troubled company of mum.

He was home for four weeks in the end — a longer time than any getaway could have afforded — and, though the first ten days were exhausting for me (as the only capable person in the house and so doing everything for everyone), once he got enough strength back to start doing things for himself, we settled into a lovely rhythm.  He got into the habit of getting the girls up in the morning and making their porridge.  The girls were thrilled to start the day with him like that, and adored having him home.  They adored it so much that he quickly became the preferred parent, and I sat back and watched in satisfaction as they asked for his help with every task, sought his attention for every achievement, and wanted to crawl into his arms at every bump or scrape.  I should have kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t: “You see? You see?”  But he kept his humour, bless him, and only nodded.  He was, despite his best intentions, enjoying being with us — really enjoying our company .  And we were enjoying his — all three of us.  For four weeks, real life seemed to be on hold, and we were all in a wonderful kind of limbo.  We’d got away.

And now he is back to work, and everyone is back to the grind.  He comes home exhausted, I am alone with the all-day chaos.  And suddenly, there seems to be so much to do!  I have to make up for lost time and all the stuff that didn’t get done while he was home.  I have a list as long as my arm — which should be frightening me, overwhelming me, but instead I feel energised by it.  I want to get to it, I want to get through it and, what’s more, I believe I can.  Things feel different.

E2 woke me up this morning, singing to Pink Lamb.  “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and…”  I listened for a while, sleepy under the duvet, warmed by the happy voice floating down the hallway.  Suddenly it changed, rising in mock panic, “Daddy!  Daddy, HELP!  I’m a banana! A banana! HELP, DADDY!”  I was confused for a moment, and then remembered: we’d put her to bed in a yellow sleepsuit.   I began chuckling so hard my shoulders shook the duvet.

Loud, urgent, and utter nonsense — this is the stuff of my days and, oh yes, we are very much back to normal on that front.  But… she was calling for her daddy — hopeful that he might be home, he might be the one to open her door and start her day — even though he’s been back to work for over a week now.   Those four weeks made an impact on us.  Those four weeks are still with us.

Long may they remain.

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I will be in bed in seven minutes.

I need to go to bed in seven minutes because in seven minutes it will tomorrow, and tomorrow I need to start the day bright-eyed and raring to go.  Tomorrow I need to exercise first, maybe even before the children get up, have my shower, eat my breakfast, charge into the day as if it were the first day of the rest of my life.

I need to do this because I never do this.  I stay up late, late, late into the night, and then cling to my morning-sleep like a drowning man to a rope.  And I get up fairly late — well, very late by mummy-standards — when E1 calls me, and I put her on the toilet, and bring her back to bed with a nice cold cup of milk, and then tell/convince/cajole/beg her to let Mummy sleep a bit longer.  Please, please, let me sleep a bit longer…  I am soooo tired… I don’t tell her it’s my own fault.  It just is what is.  And we can all get up when the clock says…

She’s so good — she waits.  She sleeps, or she plays.  And she watches the clock.  And her sister make wake, but she reads a book to Pink Lamb — I hear her through the monitor, and smile sleepily.  And it’s all good — in our world, this is just how it works.

But I know that sounds wrong — deeply wrong — to most people.  Statistically, the world is mostly made of morning people, and they have set the ground-rules.  Early to bed, early to rise…  The early bird gets the worm… (Seriously, is that last one meant to inspire me?).  And that’s great — it works for them.  But nightowls are actually wired differently — our brains have been shown to be active in the evenings in a mirror of the way that morning people’s brains are active in the morning and, likewise, less active in the mornings the way others’ brains are winding down in the evening.  Oh, we swim against the tide, but it’s not by choice — it’s how we’re made.

And I wouldn’t have chosen it, if I could have.  Life is harder as a nightowl — it doesn’t go down well.  M doesn’t get it one bit — to him, it’s a crime against nature itself that I don’t have those girls up at 6am!  And my mother has commented a fair few times.  It looks like laziness to anyone who isn’t in the same boat.  My dad has no idea how late I stay up…  I dread to think what he’d make of it.

I want to change it.  I do want to claw those hours back on the clock, shift our days back by three hours so they end a bit earlier and so can start a bit earlier.  You know, at a decent hour, like decent folk do.  I’ve been trying for a year, and I haven’t managed it.  Foiled at every turn.

I explained to my mum, you can’t spend two-and-a-half years getting up with the baby once… twice… three times a night without it affecting your sleep patterns for a long time afterwards.  You can’t spend the first 14 months of that child’s life never getting to sleep before 4 or 5am without it having its impact.  Particularly when your body is already wired that way and goes ahead and happily sets the new pattern in stone.  “Hmmm,” my mum said, her disapproval softening a bit, “I’d never thought of it that way.”

So, I go to bed early.  I make myself do it even though I don’t want to, and even though there are books to read and websites to look at and bills to pay and yarns to spin.  And I put it all away and go to bed — and then I stare at the ceiling.  I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour… for two hours… for two-and-a-half, until it finally rolls around to the time I would have gone to bed normally… and then I fall asleep.  It’s incredibly frustrating!  But I do it because I need to claw this body-clock back to something decent.  So night after night, I remain determined… and after three nights, it starts to get a bit better, like a clog in a pipe that slowly starts to break up, the sleep begins to come a bit easier…  And then, just like clockwork, on the fourth night, one of the girls has me up for some reason or another once, twice, maybe three times…  and I am shot away.  My body conspires against me and the whole cycle starts up again.  Please let Mummy sleep for another hour or two…  I’m so tired… We can get up when the clock says…

But now it’s time.  This time, I am going to do it.  I am going to get past this and get it to work!  When M went to bed, I promised him I’d be right up.  Just a couple of things to do, and I’ll be in bed before midnight.  I would!  Which is why I have to be in bed in seven minutes, before today becomes tomorrow and the cycle starts again.  Only seven more minutes.

Except that now it’s gone ten minutes to 1am.

Damn!

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As You Were

He had a fresh cup of tea, I stood in my PJs holding a steaming bowl of oatmeal.  “Come and sit with me,” I said, as I walked to the dining table.  And then turning back, I added, “I like your company.”

Since I realised the change that’s come from M being home, I’ve been trying to capitalise on it, to solidify it.  I want to do whatever it is that it takes to make this change stick, even after he goes back to work.  We’d gotten out of the habit of sitting down together and being social over a bite of food, just the two of us.  We’d gotten out of the habit of talking.

“I like your company too,” he replied.  And then looking at the spoonful I was about to put in my mouth, he smiled cheekily and continued,  “Especially when you’re not talking.”

Nice to have my husband back.

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When we first moved into this house, we debated about ripping the carpets up and finishing the hardwood floors.  I knew they were diamonds in the rough.  I wanted to do it — really, really wanted to do it — but everyone else was against it.  M thought we didn’t have the money to spend (and, to be fair, he was right).  My dad couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to “just move into the house and enjoy it, as he would.  And my mum was adamant that hardwood floors are so much harder to keep clean than carpet (but the truth is she just doesn’t much like hardwood).

In the end, I listened to none of them, and I have never regretted it for a minute.  Not only because they are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.  And not only because I realised with hindsight that, with her allergies and asthma, E2 probably would have suffered a lot more with carpet in her room than she is with that nice clean hardwood.  And not only because there were quite notable decreases in M’s migraine and sinus problems first when we moved to the States and changed to forced air heat, and then yet again when we moved to this house with its hardwood throughout.

No… no… not just for all those reasons.  No, I was so glad that I had decided to go ahead and rip out the carpets, to listen to my gut and get the hardwood finished all though the house…  I was so glad today, as I followed a little trail from one room of the house to another…  A little trail of neat little brown plops of poo — one every few feet — which led me through three rooms and finally ended at a pair sagging, straining training pants, filled way beyond their capacity, employed far beyond their remit, by a little girl who had completely forgotten that she wasn’t wearing a nappy and is now supposed to use the toilet instead.

I lifted her in one swift motion and deposited her — clothes, socks, training pants, and all — straight into the bathtub, and ran downstairs to quickly collect the plops before someone else unknowingly squished them underfoot.  And, as I gathered them up easily with a damp cloth and some disinfectant — to the panicked howls of  “But Mummy I am still wearing my clothes!!!” — I thought back to my mum’s argument…

When she said carpet was easier to keep clean, she was never imagining this.

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