Self portrait at 37.
Mother, artist, wife, friend, daughter, sister. So many labels. Sometimes I forget who I am in it all. There are always voices talking and it’s rarely mine. There are hands touching, mouths drinking, my body always someone’s landscape. There are days, weeks, months I forget what I feel like when I am just me. What it feels like to just be. I am always on. Lifting, carrying, holding, soothing, teaching. So rarely still or at rest.
I have days I feel incredibly powerful. When I see the person I have become and she makes me proud. I see how I constantly strive to be better. I see how I push through no matter the obstacles and I feel stronger than ever.
I have days I feel like I am nothing outside my illness. That my darkness is all there is and that I am some sort of contagious disease. Days I fail to contain it. When the woman in the mirror is too flawed to show herself to the world. When I am all shadows and self loathing.
I have quiet days and loud days. Days I feel utterly alone and days I feel more loved than I ever have.
But through all the days I am thankful. Thankful for being me. At 37 I am better than I ever have been.
I don’t write much anymore. Not because I don’t want to but because time is never on my side. There is always something or someone demanding my attention. I must have written you a hundred letters in my mind already. That’s where I write these days while I juggle your siblings, work, house and the scraps of time that are left over for myself.
I swore I would cherish every moment of carrying you but time has gone by so fast and now we are on the brink of locking eyes for the very first time. I’m not quite ready. I’ve still so much to prepare, to process and to memorize about you right where you are. I already know I’ll miss feeling you move inside me, the way you start up as soon as your siblings wake in the morning as if to say “hi”. You’re the last one. The very last seed I’ll grow and there is a great sadness in that. I already know the double-edged sword I’ll walk when you’re finally in my arms. The indescribable joy of every first and the gut wrenching sense of loss for every last. I’ve been there before. I thought your sister was our last but fate had other ideas. And as terrifying as that has been (and is) at times I am nothing but thankful.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I’m still finding my feet from last time and I worry that two arms will never be quite enough. I worry about the heartbreak that will follow for your siblings as they find me stretched even further. But I know we will have love abundance. I know there will be more smiles than ever before, more laughter and that my heart will positively burst with love for you all. I know that you will complete us and that there will never be any regrets. There are no regrets.
In a few weeks we will embark on a journey that will mark us for life. I trust you to know what to do. I trust myself to know what to do and this time I have placed that trust right where it needs to be. Right here, in the safety of our haven. We will be right here waiting, ready to catch you as you take your first breath of air.
Lots of love,
I’m going to tell you a secret. As good as I am at taking care of other people (and I am damn good at it), I am absolute rubbish at taking care of myself. I will happily bend over backwards for people I love, I will go above and beyond to do nice things even for strangers to the point of stupidity, like working for free. (I mean seriously? What the hell? In what universe am I not worth paying for my professional services?) But I somehow just can’t do it for myself. It is as if I am blind to my own needs, or not even that because I see them, I’m just not capable of tending to them. Somehow it is ok for me to not be ok but it is not ok for anyone else to not be ok.
I have been running on empty for almost 2 years now. I live off the fumes from the few drops that somehow make it into my cup. I stumble, I fall on my face and I get back up again. Life has a funny way of piling on the chaos and even when I can do something about it, when I have the power to open my mouth and say “I am not ok with this. This is not good for me.” Or to voice what I need or accept an offer of help, I don’t. My space is not important. My welfare is not important. (But of course it is.) Somehow I have lost myself along the way or perhaps I was lost some time ago.
I remember when I was a little girl, or even when I was a teenager, I would come home shattered because someone I considered a good friend had done/said/or neglected to do something. My mother would ask me time and time again why I let these so-called friends walk all over me and treat me like rubbish. She would say “these people are not your friends. This is not what friends do to each other.” I would curl up and hurt for a bit and then find my feet again. I would patch myself up and open my arms back up to the very same people. Time and time again. Someone I used to know told me “You see the world through rose-tinted glasses.” I knew even then that this wasn’t true. I’ve never seen the world through rose-tinted glasses, I’m a harsh realist but I’ve somehow been able to cling onto this hope that people will do for me what I would do for them. “Do onto others” right?
I could tell you a long and heartbreaking story about how and why I became this person convinced that I am not worthy of the care I give others but I’ll let the details be and just give you the bigger picture. Just know that I know why. To that I am not blind.
Imagine that there’s a person in your life that keeps telling you, in one way or another, that you are not good enough or worth taking care of. You are not worthy of their unconditional love. To this person you are resistance. You are not folding or scraping the floor before them. You are not ‘easy’ because you have thoughts of your own, ideas and opinions. You are different. Though you still take every blow given, you somehow still get back up, limp on and won’t stay down. For years you seek approval and love, time or simply attention but… You are not worth it. You still have people telling you that you are but there is this one constant voice telling you you’re not. If you know anything about how the brain works you’ll know that your brain will latch on to the negative and interpret it as truth. These negative views become your own. You find yourself in relationships with people who treat you the same way, it’s like you seek them out but after a while even your stubborn brain has to admit that something isn’t right. So you start trying to fight it. You figure out that you don’t deserve this but you can’t make it stop. But because your brain is now in conflict you find yourself at war, a war with yourself. It’s an endless battle that will rage on and on, a battle that has many consequences and leaves many scars. And it’s more or less silent and invisible to everyone around you unless they look closely and know exactly what to look for. And all the while this person is still there to lash out under the false pretence of “caring”. And you take it. You say “oh but it might still change.” And you hurt. You cry more than anyone knows that you cry because it just won’t stop.
I bet you’re asking why I’ve held on, why I didn’t just shut the door, cut my losses and walk away and I’ll tell you. In my mind that would make me no better. And I know I am better. I am bigger and better. I am more forgiving, I have the capacity to love above all hurt. I am nothing like them. I believe in second chances, I believe in redemption. I don’t believe in cutting people off and I don’t believe in burning bridges. And I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried so hard to protect myself as well as stay open. And it doesn’t work. It isn’t working.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about taking a time out. Time for me, away from everything. I am tired, no, I am beyond exhausted and soon I will birth another baby who will need everything from me on top of what my other children do. For days I was looking at hotels and saying I was gonna book one. But I didn’t. I tormented myself because I found it more difficult than you can imagine to just do it because it was for me and only me. “It’s too much money. We can’t afford it.” I kept going in circles. “You need this. You need a break. If you don’t do it now it will never happen. But you’ll be lonely. You’ll get depressed. But you’re already depressed.” It was relentless. I sought approval and permission from my husband. Of course when he immediately said “Book it, you deserve this.” I still didn’t do it. After a horrendous half hour one afternoon that had me mopping up a couple of litres of water off the floor, changing a dripping wet toddler and trying to salvage the laundry all the while I had two hungry kids on my hands, dinner was running late, an achy pregnant body and a husband in Korea for a week I finally did it. I booked a hotel. I booked the one I really wanted, the one bedroom apartment in a hotel with a pool. Just for me. And I was immediately struck with guilt. Then a little bit excitement. And then the war began again.
I went to bed that night torn to pieces. I had to face head on why I was struggling so much to just plan a simple weekend away. The first one ever away from my kids. That there was the first hurdle. I’m an attachment parent. It doesn’t feel good or natural for me to leave my children when they are young. And Isis is still a baby in my eyes. Too young to leave. I sleep next to my children every night. It’s where I find my peace and that’s where I belong. But even I have had to admit to myself that I am not being the parent I know I am. They need me to take a time out too. My ghosts came creeping back out. Old ghosts that never stay away long enough to gather dust. Some time long after I went to bed a thought suddenly struck me. It hit me hard, clear as day amongst the raging chaos.
“You are worth loving.”
Suddenly something in me just clicked. Suddenly I realised that I have to close that door and it won’t make me anything like that person. I have to because I am worth loving. I deserve better. And if they really, truly want to know and love me, I am worth breaking down that door for. I am worth fighting for. I am worthy of unconditional love.
I won’t lie. I almost cancelled the whole thing. Because we can’t afford it. But I’ve held on. I’ve had to rationalise it all to myself again and again. My kids deserve this. They deserve a mother who can come back and really be present. Perhaps limping a bit less and most likely with a new spark in her eyes. But most importantly I deserve this. Not only the weekend away, but to walk away from years of emotional abuse. It’s about so much more than sleeping in a different bed for two nights. So. Much. More.
It’s time to admit that it’s ok to start loving yourself. I’m doing it for me and I’m doing it for them. Because nothing and no one matters more than the family I have right here, right now with my husband. I owe it to them and I owe it to me.
And it’s ok to say enough is enough.
Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Sometimes a voice in your head tells you it’s coming even before it’s possible to really know that it is. Sometimes you ignore that voice because you’re not entirely sure you’re ready to hear what it’s saying. But that ball is still soaring through the air headed straight for you. And then it hits.
I could tell you about the doubts, the weighing of options or the long talks. I could tell you about the pure exhaustion and the gut wrenching fear. I could tell you about the paranoia, the chaos or the loneliness. The physical pains, the weight of growing yet another life in an ageing body.
But I’ll tell you about the unconditional love. The quiet excitement, the humble joy I feel for this growing baby. The pride I decide to carry this rounded body with. How i look forward to birthing, to meeting this beautiful, brand new person, to our first touch. But first to cherish these weeks and months ahead. The very last. An unexpected surprise.
Made from love, born into love.
Baby, you are wanted.
I’ve been a bad blogger. I dropped the ball. Not just fumbling at bit, just dropkicked it way out in the bush somewhere, out of sight. Time has kicked my ass the past 17 months. In all honesty life, the universe and everything has kicked me in the teeth the past 17 months but I’m still here trucking away. I’m like that weed you just can’t kill. Unless I self-destruct I seem to be able to survive just about any shit that comes my way. So much has happened. We built a house, we moved to a new city, my husband became a commuter, our son turned into a prepubescent thunderstorm at 4 and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oh have I got stories for you… Anyway, I’m not here to whine, just yet… I just thought I’d check in just in case you were still there wondering what the hell happened.
So in short, I now have 2 kids at home full-time, a husband I see on the weekends and sometimes briefly at night. (Except the past 1,5 week when he was at home recovering from surgery. It may sound funny but it was a luxury for us to have so much time together.) I’m still trying to run a handmade business on my own, get some form of freelance photography going, navigate and integrate in a new city as well as take care of my little banshees. I’ve been a snot covered, bug infested wreck for the past 3 weeks but if you’re a mum you’ll know that none of that changes anything. You still get up and do the shit that needs to be done you just do it feeling like you have the plague.
And the 52 project? I suppose it’s still going. The photos are there, unprocessed mostly, just waiting for me to sacrifice something else to get to them.
But the new house is great. There’s a huge difference between having a hard time living in a mold infested shithole (no joke) and having a hard time living in a brand new house that’s yours. Somehow the hard times don’t seem as hard. Transitions are always tough. Once it gets better, once we get the hang of this new life, it will no doubt see sunshine it hasn’t seen in a long time. I can be patient. I can hold out.
Pass me a tissue, I’ve got work to do.
I wrote this post months ago, back in June to be exact. It’s been sitting here waiting. (I’ve edited it to reflect her age now.) I excused it with needing photos or a final edit. Or a better opening or ending. In the end I realised I was just making excuses because the words, the story they tell, still hits me a place where it hurts. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. But it’s still a story I need to tell so here it is.
Art history is riddled with them, serene images of mothers breastfeeding their babies. It looks like the most natural, effortless thing ever. After all boobs and babies are meant to go together right? Right…
I breastfed my son for almost 2,5 years. It didn’t come naturally to us, we struggled to get there but we got there, sort of. In hindsight I’m not sure we ever really did it ‘right’, he was always a poor latcher but I made milk and he was fed and happy so it can’t have been all wrong. So when my daughter was born I thought surely this time things would be easier.
Yesterday my daughter turned 11 months old. And that marked 11 months of battling to breastfeed her.
She was in a hurry to be born, my little Isis. Once she was we took our time to just soak each other up. We spent a long time skin to skin feeling each other out and moving closer to that first feed. It didn’t come easy. Once she latched she kept falling off growing tired and frustrated. Every feed was like this. I asked to see a lactation consultant at the hospital before going home but it was the weekend so no one ever came and I was only staying for 12 hours. I told my midwives about our troubles but nothing happened. My breasts were sore and painful but it was difficult to distinguish between the normal aches and pains of my milk coming in, baby learning to feed and possible other problems. For the first week I had to peel skin off my nipples (so-called blebs) to keep them from becoming blocked. It was just as bad as it sounds. One of my midwives asked how the feeds were progressing and I remember saying that they were marginally better. Marginally, when you’re in a world of pain isn’t good. I told them about leaking milk while feeding, clicking, lack of suction, the pain and how it didn’t feel as if she emptied the breast. But it somehow always got lost in the mix. Most things do with a newborn and they definitely do when you throw another kid and sleep deprivation in to the mix.
For the first few weeks I had to get up with my daughter at night to feed her. We co-sleep so it would have been more beneficial (for me, I suppose) to stay in bed but because she was such a terrible latcher I had to see properly to try my best to minimise the discomfort and help her. I’d try flipping her lips out but she’d pull back and curl them back under. At every appointment we had I told nurses and midwives this. No bells rang. One midwife saw her feed once but with breasts bursting with milk and a tiny baby you kind of have to look properly to catch a bad latch, a passing glimpse as you’re doing something else won’t cut it.
So my daughter became a so-called nipple feeder and I put up with it. For a long time. Around 3 months it started getting really bad. The pain was getting excruciating. If you had seen some of the positions I had to be in for her to feed you would have thought I was crazy. My back was killing me but my boobs were worse. For a while I cried every night, sometimes during the day too. Our feeds had become battles. My baby would get frantic because when you aren’t latching properly it takes a long time for any letdown to happen. I had to walk, bounce and sing to keep her calm enough to feed. I became a master in walking while breastfeeding. And me? I was nearing my wit’s end. Every night I’d consider giving up and every night I’d talk myself into hanging on for just one more day.
To make up for not being able to latch properly, and therefore empty the breast, Isis would feed more often. Sometimes hourly, most times every 1,5 -2 hours, night and day.
I can’t remember exactly how old she was when we had another appointment with a maternal health nurse but it must have been around the 4 month mark. I was hanging all my hopes on this appointment, hoping that someone would be able to help me. I had growing suspicions that something was wrong, very wrong, and I suspected my baby might have an upper lip tie at the very least. But I was no expert and I needed help from someone who knew about such things before I went crazy. My mental state was deteriorating fast. I was struggling. Badly.
Before you accuse me of being a masochist or just a plain idiot consider the benefit of breast milk and breastfeeding to a baby and to the mother. And if you still want to call me a masochistic idiot just suck it up and keep it to yourself, ok? I chose to fight this battle because I believe the benefits far outweigh my troubles, and that’s saying something about my stance on breastfeeding.
Anyway, moving on.
Our appointment came and the nurse went through the normal proceedings of checking weight, height etc. We were all good. She asked if there were any troubles and I told her about our feedings to which she replied, aimed at my baby, “you’re just a little pest, aren’t you?” I was baffled. I told her about my suspicions and she continued to refer to my baby as a pest and told me she hoped I could find some help. And that was it. No help whatsoever.
I cried walking home. I had been hanging on by a thread until then and now there was nothing. Just this big pit of pain and hopelessness.
It’s not a long walk back to our house but during those few minutes I decided that if the so-called “professionals” weren’t going to help me I would give it one last go myself. And so I read and googled and started making calls. A dear friend of mine offered to help and together we set out to find people who would know where to go and what to do. She discovered a Facebook group she thought could answer a lot of my questions and I asked to join. I diagnosed my daughters upper lip tie myself but couldn’t be sure that it really was what I thought it was. Within a few hours I had booked a doctor’s appointment for a referral to see a specialist and things were moving forward. Finally.
The doctor had no idea what I was talking about. He blindly wrote a referral to see the dentist I told him I needed her to see. Most doctors, in fact a lot of health personnel, have no clue about ties whatsoever. They’ll even go as far as call it a myth or try to convince you it’s not a real problem. You need a specialist. Believe me.
I don’t know if we were just lucky or if the age of my baby helped us get in fast but within a week we were on our way to see the dentist I had been so highly recommended. I was terrified and convinced it was all in my head. She ticked all the boxes on the check list they sent us but I still couldn’t’ quite believe something was wrong if I was the only one seeing it. If I was in fact right they would laser the ties on the spot for the price of $600, no refunds available or reclaims through Medicare at all. I know what you’re thinking, $600 is a lot of money. But formula alone would probably cost us more in the long run and tongue and lip ties can, if left untreated, cause problems with teeth, speech and eating.
Once in with the dentist he examined our daughter and diagnosed her with a class 4 upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. He told us she also has an incredibly high palate which makes it even more troublesome. His words were ” It’s as bad as it gets.” Her upper lip tie was so tight you couldn’t lift her lip to her nose. Finally I had all my questions and suspicions accounted for. I wasn’t crazy. By this stage Isis was 4 months old. 4 months of poor feeding is a long time. 4 months of fighting to breastfeed is a long time.
The procedure is rather quick but traumatising, for the parents at least. They don’t sedate or use any form of pain killers while lasering. I had to wrap our daughter up, arms down, and my husband had to hold her down while they did it. I waited outside afraid that if I was present it would be too hard for me to feed right after because of the stress of seeing it happen. Her screams made my skin crawl. I have never before or after heard a baby scream like that. It was the worst few minutes I can remember. She stopped quickly once they were done and we were taken to an empty dentist’s office to feed her. My poor husband broke down and we both cried. I can’t really describe it. I never want to relive any of it.
Sores in the mouth heal quite quick so we were instructed to do so-called stretches on the wounds 6 times a day to keep them from reattaching. I won’t spend time describing them to you but it was awful. I saw a lactation consultant 2 days after but poor Isis was too tired to feed properly and still so swollen that it didn’t do much good. I was told it could take up to 10 weeks for feeds to improve because she had to relearn how to use the muscles in her mouth. It’s a lot to do for a little baby and it makes them very tired. And things got far worse when she reached exhaustion. But we persevered. 2 weeks later I went back to see a lactation consultant but at the age Isis was now she was too distracted by everything to feed. She latched enough for the consultant to have a look and tell me I should feel lucky my nipples were partially desensitized. I didn’t feel lucky but I guess it was just her way of telling me it was bad but could be worse had I in fact not had some loss of sensitivity in the nipples from long-term nipple feeding already. Breastfeeding at this stage was only marginally better and we agreed I would start pumping to keep my supply up. She was still putting on weight but the concern was that if she wasn’t draining the breast my milk would dwindle.
Pumping for me is hard. I don’t get a let down and have to effectively ‘dry pump’. It’s tiresome and it takes a lot out of me. But I did it and for a while even started to get a bit of milk. But pumping is a whole other story.
So. Here we are numerous months after the procedure, way past the 10 week mark. Feeds are still not great. They can still be painful. Sometimes awful. Let downs can still take ages and I still rock, sing and whatnot to get there. My baby will always be a nipple feeder, she hates having anything touch her palate and has worked out her own way of feeding. It’s not great but we manage. I take it week by week. Every feed is a small victory. She’s happy and thriving. She sometimes still feeds up to 7 times overnight which is hard as I never get to sleep for longer than 3 hours, if I’m lucky. (And that’s a rare occasion!) My nipple (she has refused one side and will only feed from one breast) is another story. Once it retires from breastfeeding it may never let anyone touch it again, ever, and probably rightfully so.
Since finding out about Isis’ ties I have become very suspicious that Anakin is tied too. His lip isn’t as bad as hers but his tongue is visibly tied which would explain my breastfeeding troubles with him. But he’s lucky. It doesn’t seem to be effecting his speech or his teeth.
Maybe I am a masochist for still breastfeeding my baby and for enduring the pain for so long, I don’t know. But breastfeeding is important to me and to her. My milk is liquid gold and I just can’t deprive her of that when it’s still within my means to keep going. Would I feel better if I stopped? On the one hand, probably, but on the other… no. I only wish someone had heard me sooner. I wish it was custom to check for ties at birth and to take any complaint about breastfeeding seriously.
I am full of regrets but also full of pride for fighting for my baby’s, and for my own, right to breastfeed. My new goal is to make it to 12 months. I hope we can go for a lot longer but realistically I eventually have to take my own mental health into consideration and decide whether it will be better for me to wean. The thought of weaning her before she is ready kills me. But that decision is still a while a way.
In the mean time my nipple will keep battling on while the milk still flows.
I hate long goodbyes. When I say long I don’t mean goodbyes that drag out but saying goodbye to loved ones you won’t see for a long time and that live far away. Those goodbyes. I’m no good at them. I just can’t get them right. They leave me full of wants, needs and regrets. And usually in tears. Some are definitely worse than others.
So this morning I had to say goodbye to my mum. Again. The mum goodbyes are the worst. She lives in Norway and I live in Australia. It’s not as easy as a Sunday drive to say hello. I always need that last hug or that last kiss we never share. Then there’s that last wave that usually doesn’t happen because goodbyes are killers and none of us want to let the other one have to see the pain so one of us turns away at that critical moment as the car drives out of sight.
It’s marginally easier being the one who leaves. For me at least. If I’m the one leaving I’ll quickly become (or make myself) busy with what needs to happen next. Airports, check ins, kids, all that stuff. But if I’m the one staying… whoa. And this morning was such a time. My husband and son took my mum and my niece to the airport. The baby and I had to stay because there was simply no room in the car. As soon as the car drove off I just kind of tipped.
Our house feels strangely foreign and empty when someone I love leaves it. I walk around aimlessly looking at the places they occupied searching for pieces of them left behind. As if it will miraculously make them reappear. With my mum her smell usually lingers for a while but never long enough. It’s this lotion she uses. It just smells like her, safe and cozy. I make strong connections between people and their smells. Today I have a baby that smells like my mum from those last hugs. She probably won’t get a bath today so I can hold on to that smell for just a little longer.
Goodbyes are awful. Suddenly I’m a child with children of her own desperate for my mother’s embrace. I feel lost and for a couple of days I find myself having to revisit all the choices that created the physical distance between us. But the answer is always the same. I can’t go back. I can’t sacrifice myself to be closer to my loved ones. I have to remember who I was before I left and who I am now, and the battles fought to get to this point. Going back is something I may not survive. It sounds melodramatic, I know, but severe depression is no joke. I came closer than most people know to not surviving the time I lived there and I just can’t put myself in that darkness again. My brain just can’t handle the extremes and I just can’t give up finally being on the way to doing what I want with my life. My children deserve a healthy, happy mum even if it means we have to make big sacrifices. And my mum knows that. I know that. But it’s still heartbreaking. And it still hurts like hell every now and then.
After ten years it would only be natural to assume goodbyes would get easier. They don’t. If anything they’re harder. And I know they will only keep getting harder and in some years they will reach a peak of almost unbearable as my mother at some point will become an old lady unable to travel across the world as much as she does now. (It’s still a long time away, mamma!) Our distance means there are many realities I just can’t think about. The what if’s and the when’s have to be kept far away. It means we have to carry a lot of hurt and longing in our hearts but the distance also shows how strong our love is.
Today was a little harder than it has been. Partly because it’s the first time she’s left me as a new mother of two, partly because this time there was no time for just us and because I’ve been ignoring the fact that the past two years have been an uphill battle and I’m completely depleted. I failed to really acknowledge the ledge I am hanging on to until my safest haven left. Because that’s what most mums are, the safest place there is, a haven between two arms to seek shelter from raging storms. So today the sound of every airplane above has left me in tears. Today has been a battle of its own. Today was full of regrets. Things I wish I’d said, things I wish I’d done (more of).
I love you until eternity, mamma. And I miss you every day.
I’m sorry it has to be this way.
Thank you for coming to see us. Thank you for helping out and for everything you do for us.
Thank you for letting me go, for never holding me back and for always being there when I need you the most.
(Sorry for posting your photo without permission. You’re beautiful.)
All my love, always. xx
I think some part of me thought number two would be easier. I’d done it all before, right?
She was born into expectations of how certain things would be. Her birth would be calm and serene. She would sleep better and longer, she would be easier to settle, she would like to be worn, she would… But she is her own person. She’s not a shadow of who came before.
He would go through the motions for a few weeks and then settle and we would all be one big, happy family. His anger and his hurt would vanish and he would always know that my love for him remained the same.
I would manage to keep the house tidier and cleaner and tend to every need for both of my children. I would make sure I had plenty of time for my son, I would play with him every day. I would always keep my daughter close and we would remain as one. I would excel at juggling, I would let go and ask for help when I needed it. I would stay level and take care of myself. I would bounce back to my pre-pregancy shape (despite never doing so the first time), my stomach would be flat within a week like I’d seen other people’s do and I would feel magnificent about my post-baby body right away. Breastfeeding would be a breeze, after all I’d spent 2,5 years doing it already. I wouldn’t stress about anything, I would go with the flow at all times and I would get work done. I would always keep my cool and I would be even more patient than before. I would understand and empathise at all times.
But I am constantly failing to meet the ridiculous standards I’ve set myself.
It’s not the same, it’s not easier.
And some days I am not the mama I want to be for my children.
But what I am slowly learning this time around is;
Mama, forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for expecting too much, forgive yourself for putting too much pressure on your body. Your body is beautiful because it is uniquely yours. It was their first home. It grew, carried and birthed two of the most beautiful little people. It is softer, rounder and fuller. Forgive yourself for sometimes forgetting the look they both get when they see you naked, their eyes lighting up at the sight of you because to them you are perfection.
Forgive yourself for momentarily buying into ridiculous nonsense about baby sleep. Your children are healthy and need nothing but your love. You are following your instincts and you are doing everything right. Forgive yourself for not always having as much time as you want for both of them. One is still so little and her needs so big. You will get better at dividing your time. Forgive yourself for not being an expert, a mothering perfectionist. No one expects or wants you to be perfect. Forgive yourself for still struggling with breastfeeding your little one. It takes time and she is not her older brother, you both need to find your own way. Commend yourself for not giving up despite your raw nipples and your aching back.
Forgive yourself for the times you raise your voice, for the wrong battles you pick and the tears that follow. You are tired and it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you apologise and keep trying. Forgive yourself for your doubts and your darkness. For neglecting the needs of your husband, for feeling ‘touched out’ at the end of the day and needing to keep your body to yourself. Forgive your mood swings and your occasional sadness. You give your children everything, it’s ok to feel empty as the day nears its end. You have yet to find your village and sometimes you will feel lost in the dark. But you are exactly where you need to be.
Mama, just remember to forgive yourself a little every day. It takes practise. What you’re doing is nothing short of amazing.
It’s taken ages to write the story of our wedding, but here it is. Better late than never.
Saturday December 13th, 2014, I married the love of my life. The story of the wedding however begins the Wednesday before. (Ok, sort of on Tuesday when i got my wedding dress and it wasn’t exactly the dress I had custom ordered, but that’s a minor detail in the whole matter.)
As some of you know 2014 wasn’t exactly the year for us. It was the year the kept kicking. But we kept getting back up. I tend to joke that we do things to the extreme, I guess the wedding was yet another example of that. Sort of. It’s a long story.
Wednesday before the wedding our son spent the day with two of his grandparents at the aquarium celebrating his birthday as they wouldn’t be here by the time his birthday rolled around. I can’t remember exactly what the rest of us were doing, but it probably had something to do with wedding preparations. We had takeaway Thai food for dinner. That evening I remember commenting on how I thought Anakin seemed a bit hot. Not feverish hot, just a tad off. The evening rolled on, Anakin was asleep and I went to bed. I must have had about half an hour to an hour sleep before waking back up. My mummy radar sensed something was off. Anakin was restless and kept swallowing. He felt a bit hot still, but it was the constant swallowing that worried me. Unable to go back to sleep I stayed awake to monitor him. Then at 12.30 am all gastro hell broke loose. (We had no idea that was what we were dealing with at the time.)
Anakin woke up with a scream and started vomiting all over the bed. I woke my partner (yes, partner, not husband yet) up and told him to go get a towel. He jumped up still half asleep and ran out of the room. We keep the towels in a closet in the hallway right outside our bedroom but for some reason it was taking him a while to come back with anything. In the meantime I was trying to calm Anakin down and keep the vomit from going absolutely everywhere. Poor Anakin was frantic and panicking. My partner finally came back wearing plastic gloves and handed me two wet wipes. Yep, two wet wipes. He scampered back out of the room and finally got a towel. Sleepy brains don’t make sense. 🙂
We changed the sheets, changed Anakin and reassured him that everything was ok and went back to bed. I still couldn’t go back to sleep so I kept monitoring Anakin. About half an hour must have passed before he woke with another scream and started vomiting again. We changed the sheets, changed Anakin and went back to bed again. Another half hour or hour passed before the same thing happened again. Anakin freaked out and I held him while my partner ran around frantically trying to find more towels and sheets. When he came back to the room both Anakin and I were covered in vomit as I had Anakin on my lap and he has just vomited in my hair and down my back as well as pretty much everywhere else. I had vomit in places I have never had vomit before. The same thing happened two more times and by that stage we had run out of sheets and our bed was covered in towels. Around 4.30 in the morning everyone fell back asleep.
Thursday Anakin was still sick and upon having an icy pole, which was the only thing we could get him to eat, vomited on me again. By this stage it had started coming out his other end as well.
Friday was the day we were supposed to get the venue ready. I was directing everything from home. Being 8 months pregnant and having a bad case of pubic symphysis dysfunction and pelvic girdle pain, I decided it was better for me to organise things from there. I got up, had breakfast and a shower and as soon as I got out I vomited. Uh-oh. I thought it was probably just pregnancy and stress related and got ready. The house was buzzing with people coming and going. Our friend and wedding cake maker was putting the final touches on the cake. I was drawing out a floor plan showing where the various decorations would go and feeling increasingly crap. I tried to eat some dry crackers and found it hard to focus on everything going on. Anakin was at home with me, he’d stopped vomiting but still had it coming out the other end and the day was getting closer to nap time. While going through what was going to happen the next day with our toastmaster I started getting worse. It was becoming clear that whatever Anakin had I had too. At this stage I was feeling fairly horrid. Everyone eventually left and I got ready to put Anakin to bed with me. I could no longer drink or eat anything without vomiting. For every sip I had three times that would come back up. Anakin fell asleep and I laid in bed trying to have small sips of water only to have to run to the bathroom a few minutes later. I messaged my partner and told him what was up. Around 3pm I was feeling so bad I decided it might be a good idea to call my midwife. She told me that it was important that I kept fluids down as dehydration could be dangerous to both me and the baby and could induce labour. Unless I could hold fluids down by 5pm I would need to go to hospital. My partner came home with hydralyte for me to drink which made me vomit even more. I could barely stand up. Our cake baker came down with gastro too as soon as he delivered the cake to the venue and was flat out in bed between trips to the bathroom. 5pm rolled around and it was clear that I needed to go to the hospital.
At the hospital they checked my blood pressure and pulse. My pulse was racing, I was dizzy and I felt like drinking the entire content of a pool. I was quickly put in isolation and given fluids through an IV. I was also hooked up to monitors and told to keep trying to drink and to buzz every time I had to go to the bathroom. (Let me just say it’s not ideal to have to wait for someone to unhook you when you’ve got gastro and time is of the essence, but I somehow managed.) One bag of fluids later and I thought I was getting better. I was thirsty as hell and couldn’t have enough to drink. “You’ll be home in no time after these fluids.” Everyone knew we were getting married in the morning and that getting well was of utmost importance. Then I started vomiting again. A lot. Two more bags of fluids later and I was still there. We got a message that my father in law had also fallen to gastro. Then my mother in law.
I was then told I couldn’t leave until I could hold my fluids and that baby had tachycardia and they needed her heart rate to stabilise. My partner and I were both thinking the same thing, but none of us said anything. We both knew that unless I got better and unless baby settled we wouldnt’ just have to get married in the hospital but we’d most likely have a premature baby by the morning. Somehow through all this we managed to keep our cool. We talked about what to do if I wasn’t released and made back up plans. I was still vomiting and things were still coming out the other end.
Later I was transferred to the birth ward. You can’t stay more than 4 hours in emergency apparently. I was put in isolation in a room that was rarely used and that had the most uncomfortable bed you can imagine. I decided to send my partner home so that he could get some sleep and so that our son would wake up with him there. We had to leave abruptly and I didn’t tell him what was going on. This way at least one of us would have a semi clear head the next day. Our plan at this stage was for me to be released at 7am, go home to sleep, get ready and get married. (We somehow thought a 7am release was possible. Of course it’s not because you have to see a doctor first.) But I was still sick and baby was still not doing well. I was no longer allowed to drink anything but could have ice cubes and I kept having crazy, intense Braxton hicks contractions at regular intervals.
Some time after my partner left I was taken off the IV. I was given a brief of what needed to happen before they would release me. I realised that it wasn’t looking very good. Around 1.30am I managed to stop vomiting. The rest of the night was a battle between mind and body, and I was swallowing like you’ve never seen anyone swallow before. Baby’s heart rate started to settle and I somehow managed to get an hour sleep in the worst bed of all time.
Morning rolled around and I was waiting to see a doctor. When you don’t eat or drink your body starts eating your reserves and the doctor explained that this needed to stop before I could go and I also needed to be able to keep food and drink down. I was more nauseous than you can imagine butI tried to eat something. I was also dead tired from not having slept and looked like hell on wobbly legs. After that it was a waiting game. My partner and son came to see me. They told me my mom had started vomiting too.
And so we waited. I called on the midwives explaining that I needed to leave, I was getting married in 4 hours… then 3 hours… Stress was adding to it all. I needed to shower and get ready! Eventually we were seen by the same midwife who received us and who then arranged for my release after more medication to help with the nausea.
The only reason they were letting me go was because I was about the get married. It was 11.30 and the ceremony started at 2pm. I left with an army of prescriptions to stop anything from coming out either end and with promises that if I got worse I would have to come back. We got home, I showered and got ready. I felt like death. Our friend, and baker, was still in bed. We couldn’t serve the cake, but had thankfully ordered cupcakes to supplement the cake anyway. My in-laws were still battling gastro on their end, but my mom was somehow holding it together.
We somehow managed to get to the venue by 2pm and by 3 we were husband and wife.
We got married under a big tree showered in spots of sunshine surrounded by people we love from near and far. The ceremony was everything we wanted it to be, light-hearted, full of laughter and most of all, a reflection of our love. It was important for us to include Anakin in it all so Anakin got his own ring and got “married” too.
Besides the fact that we had the worst lead up we had an amazing day. How I managed to stay on my feet is beyond me. We sectioned off bathrooms for those of us who were sick and tried not to shake too many hands and in the end had a magnificent day. Looking at the photos there is no way you can tell the mayhem that went on before, the lack of sleep or the hospital stay. My husband gave the most romantic speech which culminated in him telling me how beautiful I am even when I am naked and covered vomit. You can’t beat love like that. I never got to give a speech because I was too busy trying not to vomit (which would have sent me back to hospital), but I will one day. One day I will give him the speech he deserves.
By 8.30pm I was dead on my feet and went home.
In the end I got to marry my best friend and the love of my life. I wish I wasn’t so tired or so sick, but none of that mattered. The smiles you see say it all.
And I somehow managed to still get up with Anakin the next day after yet another night of broken sleep. (This time due to kicking baby and a celebratory husband and houseguest, but in the scheme of things, I’d rather be woken up by baby kicks and song than by vomit any day.)
I’ll leave you with the gallery 🙂 (click on an image to enter the gallery.)
Thursday January 22, 38 weeks +6 days. She was still swimming on the inside.
Sunday January 25, 39 weeks+2 days. She came rushing out at 00.45 am and we fell head over heels in love again.
Meet our baby girl, Isis Indigo.
1 day old, having her first sleep in the hammock.
4 days old. She’s a peach. She’s absolutely perfect in every way.
We’re still finding our feet as a foursome and I’ve still got some healing to do, but life is good. I’m still processing the events that brought our baby girl into the world but once I do I will write her birth story and share some photos. In the mean time we’ll be busy enjoying our new family and easing our way into this new life. Posting will still be erratic for a little while as we’re still navigating our way through the early days. My heart is still expanding, my head is still trying to catch up. All I know is that right now I couldn’t possibly be happier. Unless I had a really long sleep.