Archives: greatest hits
Gaining a dawn perspective
Early signs of hair loss should be taken seriously.
A gentle surrender
So he’s here, and it seems that I didn’t even realise this family was unfinished until this last baby completed us. The day before his birth, I couldn’t imagine a baby amongst our existence; the day after, couldn’t imagine life without his being part of it.
He’s perfect, he’s zen, he’s so comfortably present.
I wonder why it’s taken nearly a month to even post about it, but then each day I attempt to do things, am thwarted, and learn to adapt by downsizing expectations.
Domestic order, I’m delighted to let slip first. But I do have my standards. My goals for each morning are three: Wash up. Clean the kitchen’s horizontal surfaces. Make the bed. (It will never win any awards for perfect hospital corners, but on a good morning, the pillows are back in alignment and the sheets kinda taut.) Then, if I’m lucky, I score a shower during a break in feeds. Sometimes this happens before midday. In the shower, I indulge in dangerous fantasies that I’ll have time to achieve other stuff when I’m out of the shower. Sometimes I make a mental list. Sometimes I even form sentences of prose to type when I’m dry. They’re yet to make it to any page, as I’m usually greeted by a crying baby before I’ve toweled off the curling grey steristrips across the scar on my abdomen.
I feed A even more than a usual newborn; he’s taking both breast and bottle. (More on this in a later post.) Plus he has a great appetite. I probably feed him for half my waking (and sleeping, and not-sleeping) hours. Then burp him for, like, forever, particularly after formula feeds. I’ve got David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in position next to the couch. Turns out it’s a great choice: its fragmented narrative works brilliantly with a fragmented reader.
And I am ridiculously, extremely, almost manically happy. I was not this happy with my earlier babies: not because of the babies, because of me.
I keep using the word “surrender”, and not negatively. It may be the wrong word to use. I have surrendered to motherhood, to this evaporation of time in milk and nappies and fatigue and baby vomit. I am old enough, and maybe comfortable enough, to not resent that the only real role I can play right now is this one. Any other identity (or psychoanalytic ego-driven ideas of self) is on hold, or changed, or maybe gone. Perhaps I was affected by having my sense of self changed by an outside force (a little, baby-sized one) with the last kids, in my thirties. I know I’m still capable, but whatever those capabilities are, they’re funneled into a rather noble pursuit for now. The fact that it’s so commonly done does not diminish its nobility. Maybe that’s what I didn’t get, before.
This surrender is akin to acceptance, or mindfulness. Mindfulness. Fuck I hate that term, but it fits, despite being smashed out of shape by newage cranks and opportunistic pseudo-gurus.
And I am incredibly lucky to be able to surrender to normal baby-raising things. I am lucky to have a partner who makes school lunches if I’m tied up feeding. Who pulls his weight, and sometimes some of mine. When Daddyo says he enjoys doing the vacuuming, I choose to believe him. I am lucky to be part of a community that drops off pies and offers to drive the kids to soccer. I am lucky to have parents who help with dinner when we need. So I have the luxury of being able to sit, and feed, and burp a baby, and allow myself this calm inertia that I call surrender.
We were incredibly moved by our friend Todd’s show, The Button Event, last week. Even when we know some of the story, his performance underlined the needs of managing twin babies, and then the special needs of a sick infant. This obviously resonated with me right now. We know wonderful parents of children with special needs, of children who are unwell, and their stamina and strength inspire and astound me. Constantly. My miniscule efforts in deceleration to tend to the needs of a regular newborn are nothing compared with their momentous daily, ongoing efforts.
Sleeping like a…
These last weeks, this last stretch: it’s like sitting in an old-school, 1980s Dreamworld rollercoaster (I wonder if it’s even still there), the ratchety one that never let you forget, right from the start, that you were climbing ever-higher. Click-shudder, click-shudder, and the view just amazing. Each little motion higher brought a sense of excited foreboding and a broader perspective. A little ridge at the top, and a suspended moment, limbo pause between the jerky climb and the freefall to come.
This last fortnight sits about three clicks from the top. Bought the ticket, well on the way now. Anticipating the freefall.
This last stretch. Pun initially unintended, but I’ll take it. Didn’t think my skin had any stretch left, but surprise! Measured the belly a week ago; we’ve cracked past a metre. It itches as it grows, soaks up moisturiser. Time has flown like a cliché. Work endures, dear clients appearing over the past months needing just a little bit more. Which is awesome. I’d aimed to finish it all last week, set personal deadlines and calendar reminders to keep myself on-track. But what’s a deadline if not a suggestion? Hopefully we’ll be done this week. Or maybe just a little bit next week.
Real workwork* means much less posting has happened here than planned. Half-arsed blog posts and scratched ideas sit on the computer. Notes hang there, virtual post-its from the past nine months:
- Toxins: pregnancy. E.g. Teflon
- Toxins: breastmilk
- Caffeine: an apology to #3 (but I’m so tired!)
- Health issues: 3. Mental health.
- Raising gentle men
- Call out for a zimmer frame-pram combo sketch
- Nappy bag rant.
- Well, slap my denim-clad arse and call me Daisy. (I think this is meant to be about urban gardening, but who could tell?)
- WTF is a WIPES WARMER?
Some of these make little sense now. Most will have to wait. Mental capacity has slowed; it pains me to accept this. Along with the physical treasures: the sleep deprivation training (there are so many ways to wake up in the middle of the night, even without a newborn!), the spasms, the smashing foetal kicks. Oh, the indigestion.
Last night, I had my best sleep in years, and woke feeling exultant, hearing Puccini in my head. I remember this; it’s the same feeling you get after months of baby-related sleep deprivation, the feeling of having a proper night’s sleep. Thinking, ah, that’s what normal people feel like when they wake.
If I don’t make it back on here this week, see you on the other side.
* “workwork” … There’s a funny story there.
Permanent birth control: tied up in knots
Dr Atticus is jaunting around Europe on his annual sojourn, so I’m to see a locum for my regular check-up. I get an inkling of the type of appointment we’re in for when he asks for my sample jar. I don’t think anyone has asked for my “wee wee” in four decades.
It does make me wonder, this certain generation of obstetricians who really don’t seem to like women, who patronize them at best. (I’m oldish, too, Imma be generationalist if I want.) All this bloke has to do is go through the steps: check my blood pressure, have a little feel of my bump, and test that “wee wee”. But no, he has bigger plans for my visit.
“So I guess this is it for you, then,” he starts.
Brilliant deduction. Yes, my partner is planning his vasectomy as we speak, I tell him.
“Why? You should be having your tubes tied,” is his immediate response. I have known this man for less than five minutes. Note: not “why aren’t you”, but “you should be”. Interesting.
I explain that I do not want to have a tubal ligation. That a close family member, one whose genetic and obstetric profile is virtually identical to mine, suffered some heavy-duty negative side-effects after hers. I do not add: dude, I have had two caesarians (and am about to embark on another), from necessity, for this family. Daddyo is more than happy to even the ledger a little with a procedure that can be done in a doctor’s surgery with the assistance of local anaesthetic and, later, a bag of frozen peas.
A vasectomy and tubal ligation are not identical procedures. Comparing them is not a straightforward appraisal. But this doctor seems to think that, since they’ll be “in there” doing a caesarian, I may as well go ahead and seal my fallopian tubes, too.
He tells me that my fears are completely groundless, that tubal ligation is safer than a vasectomy, and that it can decrease my chances of future ovarian cancer. (To be fair, a meta-analysis of 40 studies supports this.) He cites a study that followed a group of women who had their tubes tied, and another group whose husbands have had vasectomies. He tells me that both groups reported heavier bleeding as they got older: “It’s just a part of ageing, nothing more”. I get the feeling he trots this one out frequently.
This doctor has no idea about my medical history; in fact, he doesn’t even seem to have looked at my contraception, or caesarian, history on the file in front of him. (If he did, he’d read that I’m a “bleeder”, that I’ve hemorrhaged after varied surgery.)
He declares all is well with baby; actually says I’m a “wonderful incubator”. Since a sense of humour has been absent so far, I can’t assume that he’s joking. I wonder if any patient has ever hit him.
He frequently drives the conversation back to having my tubes tied.
I feel railroaded. Bullied, even. “I will consider it,” I say. “Fuck you,” I think.
I will mention this conversation to my obstetrician next visit. However, not for the reason this man wants me to.
Now there are many places to research these two options. You can do the Google, too. Try a question like “Is a vasectomy safer than tubal ligation?” There’s even a Facebook page for Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.
I’ll copy one summary below. It’s from a site called Male Health Centre.
- Fatalities per 100,000: tubal ligation = 3.51; vasectomy = 0
- Approximate cost: tubal ligation = $2,500; vasectomy = $750 – 850
As I leave, he has another shot.
“If it were me, I’d be having my tubes tied.”
“You don’t have any tubes to tie,” I reply.
“Yes I do, and nobody’s getting their hands on them.”
He says this. Seriously. How dare we women expect our menfolk to sacrifice their gonads in the name of birth control?
What a prick. Good manners hold my tongue (which surprises me, too) and I walk out.
And then I realize: if I go into early labour before my regular doctor gets back, this is the jerk who will help deliver my child. Please hurry home, Dr Atticus.
Surfing the small stuff: third trimester torments
So far, I’ve been fortunate to avoid the bigger complications of some pregnancies, like gestational diabetes or public tracksuit-pant wearing, and other, lesser ones such as varicose veins or delivering an actual crying infant. But, third trimester, third pregnancy has returned me some old nemeses.
Why is it the moment I finish eating breakfast I need to bend over to do something essential, like pick up a dirty sock or dislodge ninja Lego from between my toes? Oh, that’s right, because I have a couple of pre-teen sons. And I’m yet to learn: bend before breakfast, not after.
Pregnancy-related heartburn isn’t just reserved for those special moments felt immediately after eating. No, it’ll save itself for the moment you’re drifting off to sleep, too. Or when you’re out in public attempting that thing that some call “pre-baby date night” (but others may call “let’s sit in an overpriced restaurant and bitch about our son’s useless teacher while I gaze bitterly at your alcoholic beverage”).
Solution: Quick-eze, the old-fashioned chalky tablets that come in a roll (not the useless chewy squares). Bought in bulk, crushed up, and mainlined.
Drama: Restless legs.
Restless legs are an utter motherfucker. You’ve just got your ample bulk arranged in its pillownest, you’ve bum-shoved the notpregnant person sharing your bed over to their allotted edge, and you’ve finally fallen asleep after your third toilet trip. Right as you hit the good REMs, it starts. Niggle, niggle, niggle, that junky’s cursed feeling of ants sneaking around inside your sciatic nerve casings.
Solution: Waking up. Walking around the fucking house. They say magnesium supplements can help, too. Stretch your legs a little during the evening And drinking more water. So if the restless legs don’t raise you, the bladder will. Checkmate.
Drama: Curious foot spasms.
This one’s a personal treat. Following spinal surgery, I had a minor neural after-effect, resulting in an occasional night-time left foot spasm (varying in intensity from a big toe standing up, unbidded, at right angles, to the whole Daniel-Day-Lewis-Academy-award-winning left foot and leg spasm). Of course, pregnancy exacerbates this. If my hormonehorrorshow didn’t have a go at such an easy target, we’d be almost disappointed. Over a few months, the hormones have progressed a minor nighttime ballet of restless legs and freaky toe spasms to a major choreography. The growing fetal weight pressing down on the base of the sciatic nerve way up there in that slackening pelvis does its bit, too.
Solution: Not being pregnant. Failing this, keeping well hydrated. Pilates. The magnesium helps. It’s most effective taken just before bed. An unexpected side-effect of taking magnesium at night is its effects on dreams. Apparently it can act as a bit of a psychedelic neurotransmitter, resulting in crazier dreams. I don’t make this shit up.
Because pregnant women need to experience even crazier dreams.
Oh, and a couple of weeks ago I started visiting a chiropractor (even though I’d sworn off the creatures) who specializes in old knocked-up broken women. She’s pretty much stopped the spasms. So maybe I should have mentioned her first.
Drama: Shortness of breath.
I’ve never claimed any level of aerobic fitness, but panting at the top of two flights of stairs was a scary revelation – and that was a couple of months ago, before there was even much of a bump to bitch about carrying up the stairs with me. I was almost relieved when Dr Atticus advised that rather than pitiful fitness, I could blame pitiful hemoglobin levels. You know, pregnant ladies need more iron, hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood, low hemoglobin means less oxygen getting around the body. It was all the hemoglobin. Nothing to do with the lack of fitness.
Of course, now, with a bump encroaching on valuable lung space, there’s another dimension added to the breathlessness. Now, it’s also about internal organ real estate.
Solution: Iron supplements. Stand taller. Surrender.
Tired, mid-40s pregnant woman? Quel surprise.
Solution: A nap. Right now.
Maturity and mortality
My sons, I think, have just experienced a momentus weekend for an eight and nine year old. They both kicked goals at soccer, and their teams won. They watched ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ for the first time. They spent all of Sunday at their school fiesta. And they saw a cat hit by a car as they walked home.
The cat died, they said, pretty instantaneously. I wasn’t with them, as I’d left a little earlier to deal with necessary domestic detritus. I’m a coward; I didn’t seek details, yet I heard a few, anyway. But not many. They were fairly quiet about the whole thing, and I wonder if I should have asked more questions. Daddyo seemed more affected than the kids. (He’s still a little sad this morning.) The car didn’t stop, and he door-knocked along the road to find the cat’s owners. He found them. He came home with blood on his hands and his shorts.
Perhaps fiesta-induced exhaustion made the experience surreal for the three of them (and the Coopers Pale Ale for the big guy). It had been a mammoth day: unlimited ride passes, old friends visiting from Cairns, and some spending money from grandparents. S-Man, in particular, went ape at Trash and Treasure. I worry about a hoarder’s future for him. Some of the toys I donated have made it back home. Again. Most of this will re-route to the local opshop. Life is circular.
It’s rare to allow these boys to watch M-rated movies, but Wes is Wes. His vision of Fantasic Mr Fox is a household favourite, and they quite liked Moonrise Kingdom. Life Aquatic is just natural progression. Now, writing about a movie we watched: I wouldn’t usually consider this remarkable enough to mention, except for the unplanned take-out they’ve drawn from it. CC blew me away when he explained, early on, his sympathy for Klaus (the character played by Willem Dafoe who feels usurped by Owen Wilson’s Ned assuming his coveted filial role). This is not a black-and-white reading, and I’m stoked by an eight-year-old’s sensitivity. Or maybe I’m just delighted to have another couple of Wes Anderson fans in the house. Hipster wanker, you say? Wait ‘til you see the triangles I’m painting on the nursery furniture.
Is it wrong to think that all of this weekend’s experiences are, in their own ways, healthy for the boys to experience? And should I ask them more about the cat? How they felt? Or should some emotions be allowed to be processed by maturing young people in their own space and time? This parenthood gig is tricky.
Hints for the hopeless
I’ve linked to it before, but this site does make me laugh. It’s a list of hints for dads. (I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not the only one.) Hints. Dadness for dummies.
Take number 2. Clean the bathroom. Or number 4. Take her out to dinner.
Dude, you have to be told this shit??? How did you manage to become a goddamn father in the first place? Any lady who lets a non-bathroom-cleaning bloke between her legs in the first place deserves to be looking wistfully at a list of dad-hints, bookmarking them or perhaps even sending a link in a suggestive email…
Just kidding. I’m still waiting for the foot-fucking-master, too.