Monday, October 26, 2009

Babysitting blues

I think my depression is in full swing at the moment, because all my recent posts have been so glum and dreary.  Well, I'm sorry to say that this one is no different.

Today I am SO upset, because Mike and I have been trying for months (since before Owen was born, in fact), to arrange a babysitter for one night in November.  Mike splurged on some Bill Cosby tickets for his birthday and we've really been looking forward to it since he got them in March.  Now the date is drawing near, and try as I might, I haven't been able to secure anyone to watch Owen.  I even resorted to contacting a creepy friend of a creepy friend, and sent her a tentative e-mail over a week ago.  This morning she got in touch spouting some crap about going away the weekend before we need her and how her kid has a cold.  Err...?  How is that relevant to November 14th?  If you don't want to look after my special needs baby, for crying out loud JUST SAY SO!  Also, don't be crap and leave it a whole week before replying to me.

I really really feel like Mike and I need to catch a break.  We just can't seem to stop arguing at the moment and it's tearing us apart.  I know it's my fault, because I'm so unforgiving and hard to please, but I think spending some time away from the baby and feeling like we're on a date again will help us reconnect.  I mean, it's not as though I'm asking for the moon on a stick here: just someone to watch and feed a baby for a few hours who isn't a weirdo.

Apparently all my "mates" are mysteriously busy.  And crap.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unexpected challenges

There are some typical things about being a new mother I've found very challenging, such as getting enough sleep and trying to cope with tiredness when that isn't possible, but I've also discovered parenting Owen has some rather unexpected challenges too:

1. Keeping up with laundry is sooooo hard sometimes. Owen's reflux means he changes outfits at least four times a day, and we get through burp cloths and blankets like you wouldn't believe. I can usually attribute the mood I'm in as to whether we have clean burp cloths or not, as I feel a thousand times happier knowing there's a clean stack somewhere.

2. The bickering and constant arguments with my husband. Mike and I have always had a fiery relationship and fighting for us meant we got to make up afterwards, but these days we spend more time bickering and sniping at each other than smiling and laughing. We still talk, but it's always either about Owen or how one of us is failing at some aspect of the housework, and it can be completely exhausting at times.

3. One thing not every parent has to endure is the feeding routine we have with Owen. Feeding him with a pump every four hours, followed by at least an hour and a half of continuous, hand-held venting, is monotonous and time-consuming. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but if he ate from a bottle or the breast and didn't have reflux, I'd have so much time on my hands I wouldn't know what to do with it.

4. I wrote in my last post about how I've found it difficult accepting my new title in life. I'm still finding that hard.

5. Keeping the house clutter-free. This is SO tricky! Mike and I have a policy of doing at least ten minutes of tidying-up and/or cleaning every evening so that the chores don't build up too much before the weekend, but the CLUTTER! I spent time last week purchasing a couple of wheely carts with drawers to organise Owen's medical supplies and the kitchen is now a lot neater, but the rest of the house just gets overwhelming sometimes. How does a small boy generate so much mess?! Between dirty laundry (there are those burp cloths again), small toys, feeding supplies and the crap Mike and I seem determined to litter the living room carpet with (currently new kitchen brochures and bill stubs), I can count on one hand the amount of square feet of tidy space I can see from here.

6. Leaving the house. As with any small baby, this is a challenge, but it was very unexpected nonetheless. Owen used to screeeeeam whenever we went in the car and he's got a lot better now, but he still throws up the minute we go over a bump and organising a time to actually get to an appointment is bloody hard to start with. I have stopped making appointments for the morning as the earliest feasible time I can get out without drama is 12.30pm, but it's so limiting and I do miss that freedom to just jump up and go.

7. The sheer boredom and loneliness of having a baby was very unexpected. I won't go into too much detail, but I believe they have really contributed to my post-partum depression. I try to get out as much as I can to visit friends or attend baby groups, but as I said before, leaving the house isn't always easy...

8. I think finding time to be myself without being Owen's Mama is kinda tricky, too. Don't get me wrong: I love my little one and the thought of everything we've been through with him and how at any minute things could have turned out very differently scares me half to death. But there existed a person before Owen Henri and when he's grown up and left the house that person will still be here. I just have to make sure I don't lose her in the meantime.

9. The guilt! Goodness me, this is a big one. I feel guilty ALL THE TIME. I feel guilty that I resent getting out of bed to attend to him; I feel guilty when he's asleep and I'm relaxing with a book instead of washing the dishes. I feel guilty that I don't sleep with my husband enough and when we do get down to business, I feel guilty that I'm not looking after Owen. I feel guilty when he spits-up (irrational, but true) and I feel guilty when I spend money on new clothes for him. I feel guilty that my body doesn't look the way it used to; I feel guilty that I indulge in cookies and ice cream when I should be eating grapes to shift these last few pounds. I feel guilty for disturbing him and taking him to all his medical appointments even though they're for his own benefit and I feel guilty if I cancel one because one of us simply isn't up to the challenge of fighting a medical institution that day. Most of all, I feel guilty that my body make Owen the way he is. I feel guilty that my egg gave him those crazy chromosomes and that my body pushed him out when he wasn't ready. I feel guilty that I couldn't breastfeed him and I feel guilty that I had to leave him at the hospital for so long. I feel guilty ALL THE TIME.

10. The last unexpected challenge I've found (although I'm sure I'll think of more before my next post) is how much love I have for this little boy. You may not see that as a challenge, but can you imaging having so much love in you that it breaks your heart? If we have one, how on earth will I find room to love another baby as much as Owen?


Monday, October 5, 2009

Learning to accept

Something I'm finding very hard to accept is the new title I have. Usually, whenever I'm asked what I do for a living or whether I'm working while Owen is a baby, I answer, "Yeah, I work from home as a freelance writer." Today however, it was very firmly drummed in to me that I am a stay-at-home-mother. And I didn't like hearing that. I didn't like it because I have a pride in me that says I'm somehow more than that: I'm an EARNING mother, a financial contributor to the household income... even though I spend all day mopping up baby sick and only start my writing projects when my husband comes home in the evenings.

I REALLY don't have a problem with women (or men) staying at home after the birth of their children instead of leaving the home to work, and I wish we were all able to routinely spend more time with our kids instead of working. Some people choose this; others don't have a choice. I am very fortunate that I am able to earn some money while wearing my pyjamas and taking care of my son, as not every woman who wants to do this, is able to. The money I earn is minimal, but I do enjoy my work and I get a small thrill every time I'm offered a new project because I'm able to get paid for doing something I love. It's a wonderful feeling and it gives me a sense I'm contributing something more than childcare and housework to my family - as well as helping me avoid the financial guilt I used to have every time I spent money. These days, if I want to treat myself to something small, I can do so without feeling as though I've somehow betrayed my husband.

Today though, I was talking to my therapist about ways to connect with other young parents during the week, and she used the phrase "Women Who Stay At Home" to describe us. It really struck me that this is my true title. I AM a "Woman Who Stays At Home" and I do so because I both want to and I am able to. I'm also a working mother though, so where does that leave me? Should I keep describing myself as a freelance writer, or should I answer more honestly and say I'm a stay-at-home-mother? I'd much rather be a freelance writer, but perhaps that's no longer accurate.

Maybe, just maybe, I can be both.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Reflux and more...

Somewhat of a sombre post today, as life has been throwing every challenge under the sun at us recently.

Last week, little Owen was checked by the doctor for his four month check-up and his lungs were declared clear, despite a small cough he'd developed. Then on Tuesday his cough got a lot worse and his voice became very hoarse. On the same day, I took him up to his Neurologist to have an EEG machine stuck to his head for 48 hours so they could assess whether his jerks are true seizures, myoclonic jerks or summat else. Well, I REALLY wish I'd postponed this procedure, because by Wednesday Owen's cough was just awful and his temperature went over 100F. Considering he's always been a cool baby (in more sense that one, arf arf) this seemed alarming, so off we trotted to the local ER to have him checked out - EEG monitor 'n all.

Apparently the boy had pneumonia. Blah. The doctors suspected it was a result of his difficult intubation during surgery last week, where it's likely some saliva got pushed down into his lung and festered for a few days. I felt just dreadful that I hadn't taken Owen to get it checked out earlier, but I wanted him to have the EEG study done. Ho hum; can't win 'em all. Anyway, on Wednesday he just screamed and screamed all night with the jerking, coughing, refluxing and the EEG machine all keeping him awake, and by Thursday morning he'd clearly had enough because he pulled that sucker off his head by himself. Now, those electrodes were GLUED to his head, so it must have hurt him quite a lot, but after I took the rest of them off he slept soundly for the next 24 hours. Like a baby, in fact.

So, he's been recovering nicely from the pneumonia, but he still has a very bad cough. I'm taking him back to the doctor next week to make sure he's all clear, but the antibiotics run out tomorrow so if he's no better I'm not sure what we'll do. His reflux has been just awful since his illness, too, as whenever he coughs he brings up tummy fluids and makes such a mess. It's driving me to desperation and I feel very sorry for this little lad. I wish I could have his problems instead.

All his issues and my pretty-much solo care for him has led me to develop post-partum depression. There. I said it. I have depression. I started therapy this week to try and get some help, but I'm not mad keen on my therapist just yet. As my sister put it, "So, she's had two strikes. One more and she's out?" Yup. I said very clearly to her that my writing/proofreading/copy editing career was just starting to really take off and I didn't want to make it a low priority, but she didn't seem to take any notice. She told me that essentially, in order to battle this depression, I'd have to let some things slide, and writing ought to be one of them. Uh... no. The other thing she did was hand me the stock leaflet they hand out to all post-partum women and told me to make sleep a priority. Yeah... I would, but I have a BABY!!

The thing I find it very hard to convey to people is exactly how much work Owen's feeds are. For weight gain, this child has to eat every four hours, whether he's hungry or not, and each feed takes one whole hour. There are then two hours of battling reflux, during which he will routinely bring up 1/2 to 2/3 of his food, and then I have to give him supplemental water (and usually one or another medications) one hour before his next feed, over half an hour. So essentially, I'm only able to be in a different room to him for that single half hour before his next feed. Sure, I could take a nap then... but what about getting dressed? Or having a shower? Or eating lunch? Or preparing his next sodding feed? Sleep? Pah!

So, I'm going back next week for another session, but if she wants to prescribe me medication I might just boot her. I've told her I just want to be able to talk about the things I can't talk to anyone else about (scary, PPD stuff that I never imagined would ever enter my head), so if she wants me to start popping pills, it means she hasn't really listened to me at all and it'll have to be goodbye. Fingers crossed it doesn't come to that though.

Plus... it would have been Da's 82nd birthday today. I miss him.