Archive for January 4th, 2009

Memories, from the corner of my mind……

The strangest thing is when S was born, we would lay awake at night in my hospital bed staring at each other, oblivious to anything else going on in the world. In those moments, and I remember them so clearly, I felt that no one quite understood me like this dude quietly lying beside me. He couldn’t sleep (I wasn’t to know that this was a forewarning) and neither could I and getting him out of the sterile plastic capsule to feed him was just too awkward. An unusually kind night-nurse suggested that he lie in bed with me. I felt so at peace as we lay together. So quiet and safe. Our own special cocoon. It seems amazing that in the following few months, we were torn so violently apart. That we would stare at each other in the night, me above him staring down at him in the cot, each of us unable to recognise the beautiful being that lay beside us in the first early days.

 

Lucky for me, my memory of this early, early time with S is still so clear. I can smell him. I can hear his breathing. I can touch his bruised chin. If it weren’t for this, I’d wonder whether he was really mine. I hope that this is the memory that stays with me most vividly. Those following few months hold no recollection for me at all. I know that this is self-preservation at work. It may even be another clear example of human survival tactics. If I forget this time there is greater chance we may have more. For this, I’m lucky. I don’t want to remember the lack of emotion I felt for S. It seems so strange now but I do know it was real. Together we have so much more than that. We’re buddies. We’re close. And dare I say it, I think we’re actually deeply in love.

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Ah, goodbye to times past…..

I wrote this some time ago but as I farewell the past year and, with some trepidation, welcome the new, rereading this inspires me to initiate new beginnings. I don’t want to be back here ever again. How quickly our memory works to erase our consciousness of pain, both emotional and physical. I read this and can hardly remember what it felt like to be me at this time……

As I leant closer to his ear, bent at a right angle over his cot, my back aching with frustration, I tried to ‘shush’ as loud and hard as I could. ‘Like water coming out of a faucet’ was my direction but no amount of water sounds seemed to make my little boy sleep. Still he squawked and writhed, stubbornly insistent on staying awake.  I had been here for 45 minutes trying as hard as I could to get my son to sleep. 6 weeks old and resistant as all hell, S was by now chronically overtired. His body screamed weariness. My body screamed anger and fatigue.  Once again the dummy dropped from his mouth which opened in rage and frustration. This was it. I dropped to the floor by his cot and let out a curdling, ongoing howl. I was done. I admitted defeat. I could no longer continue with any of it. I didn’t want to be a mother to my second son. I didn’t want to be a mother to my first. I wanted to end all the sleep-deprived pain that filled me and had filled our home for the last six weeks. I couldn’t stop the sound coming from the pit of my stomach and to make matters worse, my arms joined in, pounding the floor in helpless anger. S continued to scream as I lay prostrate beside him, unable to look at him; unable to touch him. Unable to stop the loping black dog from crushing me.

It was at this point, when I couldn’t get myself up off the floor; when I couldn’t touch my son for fear of crushing him, that I knew something awful was wrong. I’d had hints of it previously. Crying on and off, unnecessary levels of anger and an awareness that I hadn’t bonded with S in the same way I had with my first son, but I’d put all of it down to sleep-deprivation and hormonal change. It was only now when everything was so very, very black that I realised it was something more.  Finally I left S’s room and moved to my own. I lay down on the bed, closed my eyes and slept as my son lay hysterical in his cot.
It was my husband who used the words post natal depression first. He’d used them in the first few weeks after S’s birth as he felt I’d suffered from it after A’s. I was dismissive and spoke again of what it had been like for me after A was born. My body was a mess, not functioning in an awfully humiliating way. No wonder I struggled a little. But what I knew was that I never, ever questioned my feelings for A when he was born. I never wished he’d never arrived  but rather revelled in his beauty contemplative of how astonishing he and our relationship were. I remember breast feeding him at 245am amazed at how much I appreciated this time and how close I felt to him.  While walking wasn’t easy for me, I loved getting out with him in the pram or sling and moving through life as a new mother.

None of these feelings came to me in the weeks after S’s birth. At first I thought it was because I was too busy as a mother to a toddler and newborn while also trying to do some work from home. I’d always assumed that he’d slot into our family and that he’d adjust to our pace and routine. That we’d continue life as we had but simply with an addition. It soon became clear that the entire family’s world now moved around this inert, nonresponsive, nonreactive baby and I think we all struggled a bit.

When A was small, so many people commented to us that he was a dream baby. I’d put him down for a sleep and my mother would say, “Just like that, he goes down? No crying, no protest? That’s amazing!”.  At the time, I didn’t really hear their words. They didn’t see C and I driving round the block for the umpteenth time or see me move him in his pram over the lounge room floor trying to get him to sleep. I figured they saw an image of him that they wanted to see, especially as the perfect grand child.

It was only after S was born that I came to realise that A was more than a dream baby. He was an uber-angel. Extraordinary by any standards. When he slept, he slept for a long time. Occasionally we had to help him get to sleep but this didn’t last long. He rarely cried (many friends and family comment on the fact they’ve still never heard his cry) and had an extremely affable and happy disposition. On top of that, he was gorgeous. He wowed everyone from the moment he was born. The other women in my mother’s group always used to comment on how gorgeous he was. He still has people stop on the street, in the supermarket, in the park to comment on his beauty and smile.

In comparison S always seemed out of sorts. In the first 7 weeks of his life, he cried a lot. If he wasn’t sleeping (and he didn’t do much), he was squawking or crying. It was hard to feel close to him and I couldn’t help but assume that he was just ‘difficult’ rather than thinking deeper about what was making him cry, whether it was pain or discomfort. This meant that I rarely touched him apart from to breast-feed. I soon resented him due to what I believed to be his temprement. C and I would confide to each other that we didn’t feel close to him and that we were waiting to fall in love. It was almost our little joke and I think I felt affirmed that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Sharing these feelings normalised them for me and stopped me from looking harder at them.

It was by week 3 that I knew S was not a sleeper. That he couldn’t get himself to sleep and even when he was asleep, found it difficult to stay that way. Everyone speaks of the 3 week change in babies but I couldn’t remember that with A. It was like I had a baby for the first time. I began at this point to question my skills as a mother and to doubt my decision to have another child. I began to feel like having S had ‘ruined’ everything; had ‘ruined’ the perfect life that C, A and I had shared. I began desperately to wish things could go back to how they were. I began missing A terribly as I spent more and more time trying to get S to sleep. That’s how the crying began. I’d think of the special relationship A and I had always had and how different things now were and I would weep with the knowledge that we could never go back; that the bond we had was gone in that form forever. And of course, with allthese feelings, I began increasingly to resent S.
This magnified the distance between us. I laughed in the beginning about how I felt like I was S’s ‘wet nurse.’ In hindsight, this was a real sign of the post-natal depression. I felt completely detached from him. During my hours trying to get him to sleep I never looked at him as a baby, let alone my baby. I saw a disembodied object in front of me. One whose purpose it was to test me, to make things difficult, to take me away from my beautiful first born, to take away my sleep, to rebel.

I oscillated between feeling like a failed mother and feeling that S was at fault, taking everything that had been easy and beautiful in our lives away. The weeping increased. I remember leaving the house early one morning to walk with S in the sling. I was crying hard. We’d hardly slept at all and the idea of a walk made me feel weak with fatigue. But S wouldn’t sleep and we needed to leave ever-closing walls of the house. I’d spoken briefly to my mother but couldn’t continue. I didn’t know what to say or how to speak the pain I was feeling. I wept the entire walk and for the first time was struck by the fact I couldn’t control my thoughts. Again I put it down to lack of sleep and I think that was definitely the preciptator. But part of me also recognised feelings and thought-patterns I’d had before. That’s when I began to feel scared. I called my doctor hoping that a conversation with her would make things clearer. S was only 5 weeks old when I saw Allison and spoke to her about his sleeplessness and crying. Rationally, anyone would recognise these as normal attributes of a 5 week old baby but I was convinced he was an extremely bad case. That it wasn’t ‘normal’. That I felt so bad emotionally, he had to be so difficult as to cause this. Allison listened to me kindly speak about S’s ‘problems’ and then gently reminded me of babies’ natures at this age and the adjustments they are trying to make after birth. I felt comforted that this was ‘normal’, that it would pass and that while I’d had an easy first born, I was now experiencing what many others had with their children. I left feeling better.

It didn’t last long. In fact, I began to feel scared about my own inability to cope with the situation. If S’s behaviour was ‘normal’, why couldn’t I manage it? What was I doing wrong? As I always do, I turned to numerous books and websites in search of the answers. I had a new theory each day as to why he wasn’t sleeping. It was reflux; it was colic; it was the fact he wasn’t in a ‘routine; he was cold; he was hot; he was hungry; he was overfeeding; he couldn’t settle himself; he was difficult because I’d had a c-section; A made it difficult for him to sleep. I tried so many different things to try and rectify what problem I believed existed at a particular moment. Too early, I tried implementing a routine. For a baby that doesn’t sleep well and has potential health problems, routines at this young age, I believe are impossible. I made myself feel even worse when the routines would work. When he wouldn’t sleep when he was meant to, eat when he was meant to and couldn’t stay awake for ‘play time’ because he was so tired. I became obsessed with times.

New Year’s quiz

I found this on this wonderful site. She is one funny and very bright chick who says it as it is. I appreciate her honesty and her feistiness (sp?). Anyway, I thought I’d give it a go. I feel self-indulgent (stupid I know) but  hey, it’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on what has been in order to get a better idea of what one wants to be….

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Met with a publisher about our book, had a C-section, discovered podcasts, started considering my spiritual position and suffered from post-natal depression.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Didn’t make any but have definitely made some for 2009. I feel more inspired this year. I was distracted by terrible morning sickness last new year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Me.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

A good friend lost her 10-month old son. It was the most tragic thing I have experienced.

5. What countries did you visit?

Mmmmm. That would be none aside from the country Sleep Deprivation which sucks. Very inhospitable and difficult to get around.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Greater creativity in my life. My own and appreciating others. I thought you had to be ‘talented’ to appreciate creative pursuits but I’m thinking the creative process has merits to enjoy just for it’s own sake.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

17 July. Gave birth to second son.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Giving birth to my second son and being contacted by a publisher about potentially publishing our book.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Anti-depressants.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

See above.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

iPhone and coffee machine.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My husband’s. He kept the whole family above water after my son was born while I flailed.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Maybe my own to be honest. I need greater patience and need to practice deep breathing more regularly.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Home improvements – new kitchen and AMAZING built-in coffee machine.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I’d love to say the birth of my second child but that moment is too infused with trepidation and raw fear. So, I’d have to say, new coffee machine – how shallow is that. Actually, the election of Barak Obama. I have to say it gave me new found hope – the audacity of it.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Electric Eel (as Archie calls it)- MGMT

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier. I’m no longer suffering from the early pregnancy sickness blues.
b) thinner or fatter? thinner. I was pregnant last year but only just. In fact, come to think of it, I’m not much thinner which is kind of embarrassing.
c) richer or poorer? I think richer. Cam’s business has done well and I’m earning better money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading. I had a hiatus due to the thick fog of sleep deprivation. Exercise. I’m inherently lazy but it makes me feel so good. Meditation. Never done it regularly and I think it would have helped me immensely this past year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Get upset and angry about my non-sleeping newborn.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home with the entire family pre impending incarceration of my father-in-law. It was wonderful – extremely joyous and relaxing at the same time.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Yes, with my beautiful Sascha.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Same old Sex and the City but I must admit I developed a bit of a liking for Girls of the Playboy Mansion – that show blows me away…who the hell would live like that?!?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. Although I met this real nob of a guy on New Years Eve that I disliked immediately. Hadn’t felt like that for a while.

24. What was the best book you read?

Tough one for me….I really enjoyed Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions and Nam Le’s The Boat. It’s a struggle to even remember what I read. Isn’t that embarrassing?

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Probably jazz as a genre. I’m really keen. And Amy Winehouse – for too long I thought Whinehouse so avoided her. I love her album.

26. What did you want and get?

The most beautiful classic French cut smokey quartz ring that cost too much. It was the most beautiful Christmas present from my boys.

27. What did you want and not get?

Honestly, nothing. Isn’t that great?

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Hardly saw any which happens when you have babies but maybe The Bank Job (very enjoyable) or Salute (reflective and interesting).

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 31 and I had a gathering of nearest and dearest. I was pregnant though so it meant no alcohol – terribly boring on that front…..

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

More sleep.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Uhh??? What’s that? I got a fringe, does that count?

32. What kept you sane?

Podcasts and my husband.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Barack Obama

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The American election

35. Who did you miss?

My dear friend living in the cold of Scotland whom I haven’t seen for years and who had her first baby this year.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Michael, my friend’s boyfriend. My new manager. The lovely girls from daycare.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

That everything passes – the good and the bad. It’s important to hold on to some things and let others go.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“If I ever feel better remind me to spend some more time with you.” – If I ever feel better by Phoenix