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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

There are times when I say my prayers and thank God that I live in peacetimes.  That I am not worried that bombs will rain down on our heads in the night, that I will not have to gather my babies up from their beds and rush for the relative safety of a bombshelter, or the crowded Underground.  That I don’t have to make that unspeakable choice to either keep my children with me in a blitz-targeted city, or pack their bags and send them on a train, on their own, to some stranger I’ve never met — who may be good or bad, kind or cruel — in order to gain the safety of the countryside.

I thank God that I am not peeping out my window, terrified, wondering when the storm of war will appear over the hill, come rolling down my road to envelope me, my home, everything I love.  I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about wandering bands of men and boys who are feeling the thrill of power for the first time, the menace of their guns, the dominance of their sex.

And though the economy is tough right now, I am grateful that there is food aplenty, fuel for the house and the car, no blackouts, no shortages.  It’s been hard to get by lately, with M’s short hours, and maybe it was a silly time to start my little business, but it’s nothing like it would be in wartimes.  During wartimes, life is really hard.

Today the sun is shining in a blazing blue sky, and the birds have been singing happily — a little too loudly — outside my window.  Traffic is quiet because it’s a three-day weekend, the girls are playing together, and my parents will be coming round later for a barbeque.  The fridge is already full to bursting in preparation.  The news in my news-stream is the usual…  mundane… nothing interesting.

Thank God for peacetimes.  Thank God for peacetimes!

And then I remember — with a little surprise — that these are not peacetimes.  We are at war!  And all the fighting and the shooting and the chaos that I fear is going on right now.  There are soldiers fighting — scrambing, sweating, filled with adrenaline and fear — and enemies to be fought.   There are civilians caught in the crossfire, mothers reaching out in the dust and rubble for their terrified children.  There are shortages and hunger, homes destroyed, lives destroyed…  soldiers injured, dying…  and their families back home.

It’s so easy to forget — here amongst our everyday lives, our normal lives.  It’s on the news, but who is really watching the news?  And who can keep up?  Another bomb… another marketplace or military column…  We hardly look up from our dinners:  Where was it?  Didn’t catch it…  Another mouthful, mmmmm dinner is good tonight.

I had forgotten.  I am shamed to realise I had forgotten we are at war.  I was thanking God for the peace while others were fighting and dying, and ducking in the crossfire.  And I was lying in my quiet bed, in the quiet dark, safe and warm, saying my prayers and then drifting to sleep.

This Memorial Day, let me wake a little, and remember the soldiers who are deployed and their families who are desperate for them to come home.  Let me remember the soldiers who have died, and pray strength for those left grieving them.  Let me pause and think of the civilians caught in the indiscriminate cruelty of war, the mothers and fathers terrified for their children… or who have lost them.  Let me remember even our enemies, that there can be an end to this, and mercy for us all.

Most of all, let me remember how easy it is to forget, and so not to forget again.  There is little that I can do to change or end this war, but this Memorial Day, let me realise that what I can do is to not forget.

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Today my daughter presented me with this cup of carefully planted dandelions (the cup was packed with soil) and, holding her bent arms in close to her body with fists clenched tight, she told me that “the flowers are captivated by the dirt.”  Captivated?  Oh! She meant captured, held in place…

I put the cup on the table and swooped down to give her a great big hug and kiss.  “Thank you, sweetheart!  They’re beautiful!”

And, using a surprising new phrase for the third time today, she replied, “No problation, Mummy.”

Oh, would that time could stand still and my daughter stay lovely like this forever!

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Clearing out a drawer today, I came across a small, square box which contained a necklace that I had received for some Christmas or birthday and which I had completely forgotten about.  I’ve never really been one for necklaces — I don’t like the feeling of a weight of hanging off my neck, and this one looked particularly heavy.  I could see why it ended up in the bottom of that drawer.

But something possessed me to try it on, and I was surprised to find it was light and really quite comfortable.  And surprised even more by how nice it looked.  I was wearing a pair of old jeans and a plain v-neck t-shirt I’ve worn a million times, but this necklace seemed to suddenly liven things up.  I looked… well… dressy!   I left the necklace on all day.

Lying on the bed to feed E2 down to sleep tonight, she spotted the necklace for  (what was apparently) the first time with a look of surprise, which quickly changed to intrigue.

“Mummy, what is that?!?”

“It’s my necklace.”

“Can I touch it?  Can I touch the middle bit…  there?”  Her face was all scrunched up.

“Yes, go ahead.”

She lifted her hand toward the necklace, finger outstretched, hesitated a moment, and then pressed it gently against the middle of the pendant.

“OH!” her eyes wide, her face a picture of completely shock.

“What is it, sweetheart?” I asked, suppressing a chuckle.  What about a necklace could possibly be so surprising?

“I thought…” she looked up at me, still startled and a little confused, “I thought it was cheese!”

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Mid-morning yesterday, my mother brought me a cup of tea, and my daughters brought their beaming smiles.  “Mummy! Mummy! We’ve made you a card!”

Ah, now, this is what you want when you’re not well — a nice cuppa, delivered to your bedside.  And this is what you envision when you become a mother — the glowing faces of your children as they bring you their home-made Get Well cards.

I looked down at my card, my mother-heart warmed with love.  I looked again.  Was… was this card threatening me?  This is what my children were giving me?!?

My mother chuckled a little under her breath and shrugged her shoulders.  “They told me what to write and I just wrote it…”

E2 had disappeared, but now I heard her footsteps on the stairs. Clomp clomp clomp. Her face was again that wide grin — so pleased to see her mummy after a whole morning without her — and she held in her little hands a plate of carefully laid-out, half-smooshed grapefruit pieces.  My breakfast, from my lovely daughter!

“Oh, thank you, sweetheart!  Is that for me?”

Her brow furrowed and she looked suddenly surprised.  “No! It’s for me!”  And she leaned onto the foot of the bed, setting the plate down heavily and spilling grapefruit juice onto the comforter.

I sighed.  She dug into her fruit.  And then looked up and beamed that grin — that grin that melts her mother’s heart — as juice ran down her chin.

And I remembered what all mothers learn quickly and must never forget:  children bring an abundance of love… but there is very, very little sympathy.

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When I heard the snap, I wondered if that was the sound of my bone breaking…  though I quickly realised it might have been the sound of the chair that I fell onto, or the door it slid into, or the stair-gate that took part of my fall.  The pain in my ankle was so intense that I just couldn’t tell, and sat there on the floor instead, unable to speak and taking in great gulps of air and letting them out in silent, open-mouthed, chest-wracking sobs until M finally realised that I’d really, really hurt myself and came rushing over.

He thought it was only a sprain, but he wasn’t sure either.  He pressed gently there… and then there… and I squealed, squirmed.  Eventually, I worked up the courage to try to move my toes: pain shot fresh up the leg, but the toes moved.

“It’s probably a sprain,” he announced, and then paused… and wavered.  “But perhaps we ought to go have it scanned, just in case…”

We’ve not really used our health insurance much, he and I.  We’ve used the girls’ insurance plenty of times in the past two years so I know how it works, but we’ve hardly touched ours and I’m not totally confident about what’s covered or how.  “I… don’t know what our copay would be for a hospital visit,” I said.  I looked at my ankle, considered wiggling the toes again…  “Grab your insurance card, would you?”   It listed the copay amounts for a doctor’s or specialist’s visit but, maddeningly, not for a trip to ER.  What it did point out, right at the top of the card, that we were covered for ER trips for “life-threatening and emergency” situations but would have to pay extra costs for anything else.  And I wondered, did a broken ankle count?  If it turned out to be a sprain, would the insurance company accept that there was a chance it might not have been?   Simply put, would they pay?  I wasn’t sure.

I handed the card back to him.  “Let’s wait awhile and… well, let’s just  see how it goes.”

Time seemed to confirm our decision.  A massive goose egg appeared and, eventually, I could put a bit of weight on it…  gingerly… gingerly… and make it as far as the loo — a good sign, though it left me exhausted and shaking.    We agreed that couldn’t have been done on a break or a fracture, and both felt a bit better about the decision to stay home.

M rang my mum and arranged for her to come round tomorrow and take care of the girls.  Thank goodness for my mum.  9am?  No, 8am, please — the girls do sleep late, but one or the other  always wakes early and asks for the loo and I can’t move at all.  How about 8.30?  No, 8… please.

When he got off the phone, he came and sat next to me, took my hands in his, looked a bit sheepish.  “I’m sorry I can’t take the day off tomorrow.  You know I would…”  I know, I told him.  But we can’t afford a day without pay.  Between the economy, all this bad weather, and his operation, we are on our ninth week of below-subsistence pay — we most definitely cannot afford a day without pay, and we both know it.  And then I thanked God it was my ankle swelling up and not his.

“If we were in Britain, I’d take the day off.  You know that, right?  I’d take a couple of days off!”   He felt really bad about this, I could see.

“I know.”  My injury, his injury, pain, illness, family emergency…  there is no room for error — no matter what, his job must go on.

He pulled a tight smile, rueful, and looked away over my shoulder.  “If we were home,” he continued, “we’d have gone to hospital, had you checked out…”

“I know.”   A medical decision based on cost, a chance for early treatment lost to financial constraint — it’s how it goes.

And the moral of the story?  The lesson to take away?  It could be about the system, but that’s all been said before. Today, the lesson is a personal one: do not climb up on your daughter’s rocking-balance toy to demonstrate how she can pretend to snowboard along with the Olympians on the telly.  Because you’re staring down the barrel of 40, my dear, and when you take a mis-step getting back down… well, your body just doesn’t bounce back the way it used to!

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A few things that every modern mother should keep in mind:

  1. Vaseline has an endless number of uses.
  2. Vaseline is fascinating.
  3. Vaseline comes off of hardwood floors so much better than it does out of carpet.  Hardwood wins again.
  4. Even still, Vaseline is very, very hard to remove completely from hardwood.
  5. Stay calm.
  6. Start by lifting the majority of it off with tissues.  Be sure to grab a full box — you’ll be using a lot.  Don’t forget that clump over there in the hallway…  oh, and another there in the doorway to the bedroom… and, oh look, more Vaseline in the bedroom… in a trail round the bed… on the bedstead…  there in front of the dresser…
  7. Then grab your all-purpose cleaner and start scrubbing, because even when you’ve removed the majority of the thickness of it, there’s still a lot of Vaseline slimed to the floor.
  8. Calm down now.
  9. Once you’ve abandoned the useless all-purpose cleaner, turn to ordinary washing-up liquid.  The sudsing action will start to break through the greasiness of the Vaseline… it will also spread it, and probably not do your hardwood any good.
  10. Vaseline is slippery.  Washing-up liquid is slippery too.
  11. Now you’ll have got the majority of the Vaseline off the floors but you’ll never be able to get it all up — there will remain a very thin coating on the floor that you just won’t be able to get up for love nor money.  So, remember that the floor will be slick and you’ll need to take as you walk back across the roo….  OAFFF!!!  That had to hurt!!!
  12. Terrified children who have just witnessed their already-enraged mother slip up on a thin slick of Vaseline and fall full-weight onto her arse do not take much encouragement to go into their rooms and shut the doors and sit quietly hoping no-one will notice them, so do try to control to urge to scream at them at the top of your lungs.
  13. Stop screaming.
  14. Stop screaming.  They’re gone.  They’re in their rooms.  You’re screaming at an empty hallway and I know it feels good to release, but… stop now.
  15. Put your cleaning materials away.  Then pause, lean heavily against the bed and rub your aching hip  …and then realise the house is perfectly still for the first time in months.
  16. Ah… breathe out slowly and enjoy the blessed quiet.  You see?  Vaseline has an endless number of uses.

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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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