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A Time for Reflection

Like much of those in America, including possibly the winner himself, the results of the 2016 Presidential election came as a huge shock to me. So sure of the result was I, that when questioned why I would take children to an election party given that results don’t finish coming in until after midnight, I rolled my eyes and said “Oh, by 8, maybe 8.30, we’ll know. I mean, we won’t know, but it will be obvious”. I was anticipating the vote for Hillary to be such a landslide that in my wilder dreams I almost saw Texas as a swing state. I nearly made a T-shirt that said “Spoiler alert: Hillary wins”.

In the end, I was half right. By 8-8.30 I did indeed know. I can’t remember the exact time my heart stopped hoping, but at a certain point it was clear that the majority of the swing states were leaning red, and in other states Trump’s margin was greater than expected. Together, it was clearly an indication of what was to come. At 9-ish I said to friends “I don’t want to get in the car and drive home, because I know that when I get out of the car it will be a done deal”. But in the end keeping my children up far too late, and clinging on, and staying up 2 hours’ after we got home was in vain. Trump won.

Trump won. And I am afraid. And after the tears, for me, came the time for quieter introspection. How? I needed to understand two major “hows”:

1. While I respect that there were a multitude of reasons for voting Trump, many of which reflect values that I hold dear (but choose to manifest differently), how did an open misogynist, who mocked disabilities, who acted a racist to an almost caricature level, and who made hatred-inspired division a cornerstone of his campaign, win? I understand how he got some votes e.g the pro-life vote, but how did he win?

2. How did I so totally and utterly not see it coming? How did the Democratic Party and associated media not see it coming?

The answers to these are many layered and complex. They are being debated in the media now, and they will be written about for years to come. I am not Political Science savvy-enough to add to the experts, but for now I am recognizing that the DNP did not listen to their followers who actually echoed the same sentiments as the Trump followers.

I was not a Bernie Sanders fan. I liked his ideals, but I felt they were too extreme for the US at the present time, and his past record in the legislature (or more to the point, his lack of record) told me that he would not work well within the system to compromise and make change happen. I saw stagnation. But it seems I was an outsider in wanting someone more proven, more acceptable to other politicians, more used to working with the other side and deploying their army of machinations to achieve a compromise goal. I think the people overwhelmingly wanted Bernie the outsider and consistently overlooked his negatives – even some of the same negatives theory through at Hillary. And in the end, The DNP looked around at the American public overwhelmingly asking for an outsider, and put in place: the ultimate insider.

That’s just the start of what will surely be characterized in history as a catalogue of mistakes. But it is not even really where my thoughts were; they were more at the grass roots level (albeit how this reflects DNP actions) and with personal guilt. Why did Trump win? The difference this year seems to be because he exploited divisions while mobilizing a group of people that liberals all but ignore: non-college educated (I refuse to say “uneducated” like the divisive media), often rural, whites. He spoke to them, and he spoke for them. But surely, he could only get them to vote for such a heinous character but making the division between him and the other candidate strong. He must have made that wound so deep. And thinking about this, when I did some soul searching I realized that as an enlightened, tolerance-preaching all-loving liberal I was as guilty of contributing to these divisions as anyone.

Did I have any interest in America’s other  whites? No. Did I care about disenfranchised whites? Oh, I read about the African American experience, and the Transgender experience, and the Refugee experience and so on. I lapped it up! I shared articles, I spouted about how enlighten I was because I could never really appreciate what it was like to be one of these minorities, but I could appreciate the environment they were in and how terrible my white straight privilege was! Oh, now I saw the light indeed. Now I was so much a better person indeed. Enlightened. Accepting. So open minded. So liberal. How did even manage to see when my halo was so bright.

But what about others? How could I not read about others who were disenfranchised? Is it that I had no access to such literature? No. Immediately I can think of two occasions where people directly tried to engage me on this issue. I  posted about white privileged and two people directly said to me “I don’t think African Americans do have a disadvantage compared to me”. Of course, we all know my response. It’s the classic white liberal response: You’re wrong! And not only are you wrong, you want to be wrong. You don’t like the changing status quo my pompous ass concluded. Whether here is any veracity to those statements or not, yet problem to me is not what was said or through, but what was not. I cannot remember a single time I engaged with a disenfranchised white and said “tell me about your troubles”. “Tell me about how you feel marginalized”. “Let me listen to you”.

Why? I don’t think I am generally someone who doesn’t try to to see other people’s point of view, or who carries a self-righteous rightness about them. So why now? Why couldn’t I listen to family members and friends, of all people. Thinking long and hard about why I have changed to be like this, I have drawn the conclusion that a large part of it stems from living on Facebook for me. At the time of the election, I got almost 100% of my “news” from Facebook recommendations and click fests, and lived in that Facebook bubble where (and I forget what the name of it is), FaceBook shows you posts and media articles that reflect your previous interests and likes. How could this not entrench my views further? Everyday I logged on to have my views reaffirmed and deepened. Every day others logged on to have the same to their different views. How could this not create a chasm? Clearly this is only a problem when you get your information exclusively in this manner, but I am ashamed to say that I did. And now I think about it: that’s incredibly dangerous. Surely, it has to be incredibly dangerous to encourage oneself to narrow your world view? And to keep reaffirming your underlying opinions rather than evolving and challenging them. And often, let’s face it: doing all this with sound bites and memes. I nearly started a running series on this blog about liberal memes that annoyed me because so they so entirely missed the non-liberal point of view. Yet I still willingly exposed myself to them day after day.

Against this background of realizing that Facebook was not doing my world view any good, things started to get heated in my feed. I watched comment after comment get leaped on, and yelled at, even though the original intent was not to incite. The divisions deepened and became personal.

I am honest and true to my beliefs, but I express them differently depending on the views of the audience. I talk about them in person subtly and with nuance (I hope). I take care not to hurt people if they disagree with me. I try to listen. But it is very difficult to do this on Facebook. It tends to be quick status updates, memes and headlines. You speak to everyone at once, and in the same way. You can’t gauge  those non verbal cues as to how someone is being affected by your words. But you do get all those self affirming likes and shares! It just wasn’t good for me.

I don’t know when much of my interpersonal discourse moved from real life to Facebook, but embarrassingly, it did. Some months ago I stopped making political posts and stuck to baby pictures and selfies. But it creeps in. A picture of Caroline in a (bi-partisan) election hat started flurry of passionate debate – by accident it seems (although I did tag it #imwithher). (#imstillwithher). That wans’t the only example. Being careful with what I posted on my own page probably deepened my resentment of the so-perceived “others”, rather than leading to discourse and learning.

So, it’s time for a break. I had thought about it before, but never managed to pull the trigger on deactivating my account. It makes me quite sad – there are so many people I am only in touch with through Facebook and I have enjoyed my friendships there. I have been to a wedding and had a marvelous friend come and stay with me because of it. I have reconnected with an old “sister” (“” because she is not family buy blood, just by love and experience). But I need a break. I seem unable to control my usage and use it only positively so Facebook is gone.

I’m sad that I have lost messenger as I deactivated Facebook, and I worry about lost friendships. But I am hoping that I can still connect with people here, and through emails and text messages. I’m not quite a hermit / dinosaur yet.

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The above is just a snapshot of what is going through my mind. It’s worth saying that I recognize:

*There were many reasons for voting for Trump other than “white disenfranchisement” to include for example, his pro-life stance, and his business acumen.

*I don’t hate Trump supporters. I don’t just “tolerate” them. I love many of them, and I recognize and understand their reasons for voting Trump where I have heard them. In the same breath, I don’t dismiss articles which say, for example, that racism can be just about actions as about beliefs and voting for an open racist with racist policies can be seen as a racist act. I have trouble reconciling a lot of this in my head.

*A lot of my decision just reflect a need to hide away from the ugliness in the world for a while. It’s not helpful, but I need to be able to distance myself.

*Many felt Hillary was just a truly non optional alternative. I loved her, but they saw entitlement, dishonesty, murder and warmongering. She lost a lot of her vote because of this.

*Many (the majority?) of people are able to use Facebook in an entirely constructive way. I am not one of them at their moment. You would probably be horrified if you knew quite how much time I spent on there. This is a personal decision that does not reflect what I think of Facebook and its users in general.

*The extreme right seem to be gaining traction all over the world (including Europe and Australia). This is a world patterns right now which probably has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with the fallout of several wars and economic depressions.

*At times I sounds like I am really beating myself up. I am very sad at the moment. It is hard to put into words what watching a man who was vocal racist, who said women should be punished for abortions, who promised to enact racist policies and undo some of the greatest social progress this country has seen in decades, and who has no political experience to temper his actions, what it has done to me to see this man be put in power. What it has done to me to see literal hate spewed forth and not only be legitimized but supported. If I played any part in this, if I even contributed to underlying movements that in some allowed this to gain momentum, if I was even prepresentative of the problem rather than part of it, I take that very seriously and will demand dramatic changes of myself. Change must happen. A man such as Trump much not be allowed to be the face of a Nation.

*Coming off Facebook is not the most helpful thing I can do. I know this. I have already been researching organizations and making lists of what I can feasibly contribute to, both financially and by giving my time or expertise, to counteract racism, and promote gender equality. Good will come of this.

When your baby won’t be a baby


I promised him I would treat her as my last. Even though nothing makes me as happy as “the babies” – from the big awesome responsibility of raising tiny humans to be moral beings, to the little every day tasks of bathing and feeding and drying between tiny toes – I promised him. I will make her my last. 


But how to do it? How to ignore that space in my heart? How to deal with the yearning to “do for” when my son says daily – multiple times daily – “but mummy, I can do it all by myself!”. Well, there is a way. I will nurture and spoil and baby and coddle this one. I’ll let her need me to I’ll do all the things for her and I’ll keep her out of fashionable skirts and in babygrows, and out of chairs and in bumbos and out of the playroom and in my arms. It’s the last time — I will savor her forever.


Ah, But Little Miss. Little Miss Caroline Grace who has outgrown her name and adopted the sassy CG does not want to be savored. Unlike her laid-back brother who lingered in each comfy stage she charges ahead. I should have known. When she upped and walked at 10 months… I should have known. When at 10 and a half months she grabbed the legs of her highchair and screaming tried to toss it over… I sat her at a regular chair in at the table with a booster seat for 3 years plus and I should have known. I should have known when I saw her holding her own in an argument against her brother who has three years on her… when he sloped away defeat I should have knon. When she put her own shoes on… when she grabbed the medicine syringe out of my hand and threw it across the room screaming “no”… when her bellows weren’t screams of sad anguish but those of cold, determined anger at any lack of control… I should have known.


I really should have known when at 12 months on the nose they moved her to the 17-24 month class. “No binkies! No bottles! No bare feet!” They said. Then quieter… “She’s doing so much better…” they said. 


She doesn’t want to be my baby. Well, she doesn’t want to be a baby, but she will have her cuddles and hold up her arms and snuggle in and be my baby. 


But… she doesn’t want to be a baby. She is fierce, and she fights for her independence. I know now. I know not to fight it. So when she told me for months that she hated cribs and she won’t be constrained in one, I should have listened. But I fight too, and she’s a baby and I know that babies go in cribs and so we stood yelling at each other until one of us gave in. And here she is… peacefully slumbering in a toddler bed. I lay her down, kissed her on the forehead and left. And there were no tears, she just picked up a teddy and went to sleep.


She is my last… but she will not be treatedas such, Adamantly, she will steam ahead and be first. She does not compromise and when it comes to what is best for her: she is not wrong.  And as we draw the battle lines and give each other steely eyes gazes across them, I recognize this – in too deep of a way – and I know where she gets it from.


And though my heart screams and I dig my heels in (and she digs hers in further) – May she keep trail blazing. May she keep lighting her eat into the future and we will all stand in her wake and look on and try to keep up. 


I have always taught myself what… but I suspect I will learn far more from this woman than I can even imagine. To be Caroline’s mother is, truly, to be blessed. 

Ellie’s story

ellieThis is post is hard to write because I am embarrassed and ashamed. But for some reason I want to tell this story.

I have never been a dog person. To be honest, my feelings towards dogs have always been between indifference and active dislike. Don’t get me wrong, I would be nice to dogs I met if I had to, but my feelings on dogs? Meh.


walt

And then Walter came into my life unexpectedly and beautifully. I was suffering from horrible depression as the side effect of a drug, and when I found Walter in an Alabama trailer park, I knew he was my solution. This post is not about Walt but trust me: he was a special dog. An old soul in a young body. A characterful snuggle bug. My running partner and my nighttime companion. My Halloween dinosaur.

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Two years after Walt found his forever home with us, he died very suddenly . I was upstairs sleeping in after several night feeds, and Wes screamed for me. To this day, we don’t know what happened, although since CPR was not able to inflate his chest we suspect he swallowed something. All I do know is that after a very difficult 2 years, life was finally starting to look good for me, and Walt left. He stayed with me when I needed him and when his work was done and I was good, he was gone.

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I then did the silliest thing possible; in a haze of grief I ran to the pound and rescued the first dog I liked (and there were plenty that I didn’t…)… And into our lives came Ellie. Ellie was different. She was bright and energetic and not brilliantly house broken… But her cardinal sin was that she wasn’t Walter. And so things started to slide.

Ellie’s life descent is tied up in so many issues. There is the issue that I felt that as a SAHD Wes’ job was to walk the dogs and he didn’t walk either – not even his own. I was resentful. Tjhere was the issue that I felt I couldn’t take Ellie out without taking Wes’ dog out (he would howl as Wes didn’t walk him) and I didn’t want to take him out. Because I didn’t want to do “Wes’ job” (aside: this is a terrible model of marriage. I’ve moved on from this somewhat). The issue that when Wes’ dog died he felt Ellie was going to stop him getting the dog he wanted… And that he never wanted Ellie anyway. There was the issue that Ellie has a slight incontinence problem so couldn’t come to bed with me and I resented her for that fact that neither she nor Wes came to bed with me and I was lonely. And the issue that she wasn’t Walter and Walter had left.

So we entered this terrible spiral where I neglected Ellie (emotionally – she was fed and watered), so she became more demanding and more naughty (pottying in the house etc) which irritated me, and made Wes really mad, and so I neglected her more… So she behaved worse, so I neglected her more and so on until I came home one day and Wes said “she has to go”.

And I was mad! Mad that he never got rid of his neglected dog (Earnest had health problems which Wes wouldn’t sort), mad that he wasn’t helping, mad at myself and suddenly aware of how much I like Ellie’s sweet nature, her unconditional love, her ability to forgive in an instant… All this. That she was loving and curious, and playful and a people pleaser. That her energy was enviable and inspiring. But it was too late.

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In the midst of several marital rows, I told this story to a friend who owns three dogs. Her response was to tell me that she wasn’t a dog person either but as soon as she got her first puppy, the second she saw him, she knew no one was ever ever coming between her and that dog. That was it. She would kill for him. And I decided: OK! I love my dog! No one is coming between us! Screw you husband!

So I stepped up the plate. I bought Ellie some decent food and some treats and some toys and a comfy crate for my car. I started walking her twice a day, except for Thursdays which are my crazy early and late days when she goes to doggie day  care. I was strict about crating her when I wasn’t around (so no poop in the house) but being with her when I was… She curls up on a bed by my desk, she curls up on my lap, she comes for car rides and she comes to bed occasionally with a doggie diaper on (not even kidding here folks).

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And she behaves well. She walks ‘loose leash’ beautifully now, she obeys (unless she really doesn’t want to go outside to potty when she does go to her crate), she rarely jumps up. And I fell (back) in love with my companion and things are working out.

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But something else magical happened. I began to feel better about myself… Finding time to walk a dog twice a day with a full taken job, a breastfed 7 month old and a toddler is in a city where my commute is an hour each way is no mean feat. But I did it. I made sure it happened. I weathered 90 degree heat and thunderstorms. I let go of having to leave the house at a set time, or go to bed at a set time (sadly, I have also currently let go of washing my hair more than weekly. OMG I can’t believe I admitted that) and relaxed and felt good that I could I achieve this.

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No matter the weather

No matter the weather

Even better, because Sam always wanted to come on the walk, and Caroline had to, I began to have 40 minutes a day with my kiddos! We ran, we played hide and seek, we went down slides and on swings and shared the task of holding El. And we loved it! If I offer Sam to drive to the park he says that no, he would rather walk. The nagging guilt that my kids are not outside enough is gone. The nagging guilt that I ignore them a bit is diminished (not gone, because let’s face it, I still use my iPhone at the park…). Ellie has made me feel better about myself and my family, brought me love and a little daily joy.

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I see Ellie now as she is. Sweet, and forgiving. Fun. I love her energy. I wish I had her capacity for loyalty and unconditional love. Her patience. Her companionship warms me.

I used to think that Walter came into my life when I needed him and left when I didn’t, but Ellie just happened. Now I know that she was there when I needed her, patiently waiting to heal parts of my life. She is just as much my guardian angel as Walter.

Ellie, I am so sorry. But this is your story.

Happy Easter!

Spoils from our Easter baskets

 

Happy Easter! It’s not been such a good one in the Frazier-Wood household. I have been sick for over 2 weeks. Last week I finally got antibiotics which removed my potential contagious status, allowing me to reenter society and not wallow in bed alone… but then the kids went down with the bug. Mostly in the middle of last night which is why I have huge dark circles under my eyes… yawn…

In a way therefore it was good that Wes had me cancel today’s plans for rest, but it also made me sad… Being so far away from home can be hard and I think holidays can be the hardest of all. Easter is so different in the states – no hot cross buns!! I missed them so this year. I was going to bake some and hand them out to unenlightened Yankee friends over here, but I didn’t feel well enough – nor did I think I should be baking for others when sick since I only got my antibiotics on Tuesday.

Easter basket for the littlest one

Easter basket for the littlest one

Then there is this whole Easter bunny malarkey which confuses me. The Easter bunny brings Easter baskets which are totally different to Christmas presents somehow (hint: they’re not) and crucially: NO EASTER EGGS. I mean, the bunny does bring Easter eggs but they are actual painted eggs: where is the fun in that? I needed my hollowed out egg filled with matching chocolates to be entirely consumed for breakfast. Although I did Easter ‘American style’ this year (whereas I British-up Christmas as much as possible) I did procure Sam a proper British easter egg imported from the motherland and am pleased to say that it was his favorite part of his Easter basket by far. Heh heh heh. Its in his DNA.

Sam and his Easter egg

So we spent the day watching movies with cuddles (Sam), reviewing grants, dispensing comfort and wiping snotty noses (me), crying inconsolably and snotting endlessly (Caroline) or hiding our healthy self away from the rest of the families contagion (Wes). All my friends’ pictures of food and fellowship have made me feel bereft today…

Ah well, there is always 4th July. Everyone knows Brits LOVE the 4th July 😉

January goals

 

goal setting and wine

I like to set my goals with wine

I ended up picking just 2 goals for January: keep doing what I need to do to give Caroline exclusive breastmilk (I don’t even know why this is important to me at this stage, but I picked it so there we go) and to get my family into a workable daily routine. Actually, giving my kiddos exclusive breastmilk from my non-maternal breasts is such a huge challenge that it needs a whole routine in itself, so these two dovetailed nicely.

Pumping in meetings academic mom

Pumping in meetings

The long and short of it is that yes: at the end of January I feel like I achieved my goals, if not the sub goals like “take Fridays as vacation” (I only managed one 1/2 day as vacation… Sob…). With breastfeeding I did not remember all those darn supplements and every glass of water but I did keep to a reasonably healthy diet, stay fairly well hydrated, get some Reglan and end up pumping an extra 4 oz a day while also breast feeding evenings and weekends. So, I am going to call that job done.

Houston sunrise

One benefit was beautiful sunrises

I also stuck to a hellacious family routine. Combining pumping and returning to a demanding job with Houston’s horrific traffic has meant that I am up at 5.30 every day and it is go, go, go from then: 5.30 feed Caroline, 5.45 get up and get three people out of the house and fed by 6.30. 7: Arrive at daycare, feed at leave in time to be pumping at 8my desk at . Pump at 10 for another FORTY minutes. Leave the office at 11.30 and feed Caroline driving to be back for 12.30 meetings. Pump at 2 for another faking 40-45 minutes. Leave work at 4, feed Caroline, drive home for 5.30. Make dinner. Eat dinner at 6. At 6.30 Feed and bath Carokine. At 7.15 Bath and bed Sam (<— one of my favorite times of day) to get him down for 8.15 (pardon my French but fuck those sleep consultants with their 15 minute nighttime routines. I swear they don’t have actual children, just cats or something). At 8.15: Sort out the milk for tomorrow, sort out dinner for tomorrow, pack car and pump again at 9. At 9.30 collapse in bed with this little bundle of gorgeousness sleeping beside me. Then do it all again in 8 hours time.

3 months old rock n play

My sleeping buddy

I’m sorry, cry me a river and all that, but isn’t that just exhausting to read? Is it just me? Am I emerging from some deeply sheltered and pampered life blinking angrily into reality? I don’t know but it seems like a crazy exhausting schedule to me, but it is all that works for us right now so do it we will (and it is only going to get easier as I pump less, kids get more independent yada yada yada).

In unrelated news: I also eat a lot of chocolate and drink a large glass of wine every night.

Anyway, the point is not to moan, but to say that slowing down, calming down, climbing down and focusing on just one thing – the daily routine – has been very interesting to me. It has allowed me to see how exhausting it can be and how much energy it needs. Last year, I would have been focusing on that and 20 other things and nothing would have got done properly and I would have been stressed. Just doing this – life – properly has been eye opening.

I have had meltdowns – huge meltdowns. I have got through the check-out at target and realized my wallet is at home (and got bailed out by an amazing friend!). I have needed my friends desperately (all of whom been wonderful). From my friends’ behavior towards me, I have learned how to actually help someone, not just want to help them. I would have failed utterly without Wes (howl – where is my independence?). I have thrown pity parties all for myself and had a little tantrum if it is mentioned that many people do this every day and many people have it worse than me. It’s been exhausting and humbling, so humbling. But so rewarding. It has been so nice to think “I should fix my postpartum figure” or “I need to get my stampin’ Up! Business going or “I really should write a blog post” and just think “No. Those are not my goals right now, right now I M just getting my family trough this transition”. It’s been freeing! And I feel like I have achieved something! I feel good.

I am also amazed that I haven’t completely given up on future goals: we’ve cooked at home all but 2 meals a week, the house has been liveable, I have made some cards, I have seen friends, I have lost 1 lb… All these little things have just meandered along at a snail’s pace. I am also amazed at how relaxed about them I can be when I have a focus and when I give myself permission just to go with the flow.

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At work! Success collecting baby pee.

I have started to adopt this at work too – just focussing on one thing and trusting that everything else will get done adequately. I have focussed on my main twin study, and the second grant to find that. I got the grant in (Friday!) and am pleased with it. This month I am focussing on my twin papers, and saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with that goal. Whether that works for not I will let you know – academia seems a separate beast to personal life.

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My happy

Amazingly, I have been so happy this month. So, so happy. Busy Lekki = happy Lekki, and my children delight me daily. I have realized that for now, building my family and getting the home right is my joy. I have felt a deep contentment and peace (I have also been renewing my relationship with God which has helped). I have felt supported and surrounded by so much love and friendship and understanding. And I have felt so lucky! Tears and grumpiness and meltdowns not withstanding, I have felt gloriously like I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing.

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Goal setting with tea and biscuits (and Emma Bridgewater) not wine.

For February… I am not so sure. Probably more of the same: get through the month with home cooked meals (not thinking about actual nutrition right now), and no late starts, and with feeding Caroline breast milk). I feel like I need one thing to add onto this base, but something small (like, being presentable at work would not be an option right now – as I sat in my oversized hoodie, maternity pants and glasses, my co-worker commented that I looked ‘depressed’). Maybe staying on top of our finances – that’s something that I need to get back to. Or building a family recipe book. Or doing craft activities with Sam (not sure if that is for him or me.. probably walking with Sam would be better for him). I’ll pick something and let you know.

Did you set any goals for January? Make progress on your New Year’s Resolution(s)? How do you stay on track?

Planning for 2016

I tend to shy away from making New Years’ Resolutions. I am not sure why. While I love the idea of setting goals so maybe it is the years of my attempts to achieve them not going past 2-3 weeks that have left me jaded. Or, perhaps it is that right now smaller goals (go to the gym, read books, try new recipes, that kind of ilk) are not what I need. I wrote at the end of 2014 that I had not been that happy that year, and was resolved to rectify it in 2015. Sad to say that I didn’t. I mean, I don’t want anyone to think that I was sitting in a pool of misery the whole time, but something big was missing from my life for me to say: yes I am happy with this. Certainly I had a lot to be happy with: a great son, a much wanted second pregnancy (and then a much wanted daughter), a job I love (although I don’t perform at it in a way that makes me happy), and a hobby I love (card making). I also make strides forward in 2015: I developed a bigger friendship group, was the recipient of several grants and a National-level award, including one from NIH and improved our home no end. So, perhaps a lack of contentment is a better word, because overall there were very happy moments. I just wouldn’t say that I was happy.

Can't deny these things make me pretty lucky

Can’t deny these things make me pretty lucky

I did get the gift of 12 weeks maternity leave right at the end of the year. It was a glorious reset. For the first time, I got to sit and do (relatively) nothing. I only went into the office once a week, once Caroline was 3 weeks old (delivering a successful presentation nonetheless!)  and did an hour or so emails a day. The rest of the time was gloriously mine. With no pressures and no demands, it was interesting to see what I did. I made wall displays in our house. I redid the kiddos playroom. I built a china display cabinet and started collecting Emma Bridgewater pottery (thanks to Clio who sent out several pieces while I was pregnant, and much to the dismay of my poor parents who are now being forced to source and purchase pottery and – even worse – get it out to the US!). I kept Sam home way more than I should have from the perspective of ‘giving preschoolers good routines’. I spent hours getting to know Caroline: playing games, holding her, soaking her in. Because I had so much more free time I spent evening time just soaking in Sam too, in all his glorious preschooler-ness. All his quirks, and his loves. I appreciated the joy in being his mum.

Joy

Joy

What didn’t I do? I didn’t write any grants or papers. I honestly thought that I would, but given the choice I chose not to. That is not to say that (1) I don’t enjoy these things (I do), or (2) there is no space for them in my life (there is. There had better be, anyway). But it became clear to me that these were not to be the sole things I focussed on to be happy. Along those lines, it was interesting the work tasks I missed doing (being part of my twin study, discussing and writing up new ideas, getting that first set of exciting [though often wrong] results), and of course, those I didn’t.

I knew that going into 2016 I needed to make a change. It seemed clear that I needed to set some goals and figure out steps to achieve them. So, I started looking into planners. Just a subjective impression, but it seems that planners are a very American thing – big binders full of pintrest ideas, to do lists, trackers and so on. But they appeal to me – I need ways to organize my thoughts and my actions, figure out my goals track if I am achieving them. I use a lot of planner-style apps and of course my blog is a ‘brain dump’ and a planner. Turns out this idea (using a planner), is not so revolutionary after all. There are bloody millions of planners, and even more forums, facebook groups, blogs and even Meet-up groups dedicated to them. Wow. Where to start? I did read some reviews, and had my planner choice whittled down to 4 or 5, but was loathe to drop $40-80 (yes really!) on something I have never used before.

The came the Passion Planner. The passion planner was already in my top 5 because it met all of my requirements: blank ‘brain dump’ spaces, daily time slots broken into smaller sections, prompts for goal setting and reviewing and lots of space for to do lists. Oh, and it was one of the cheapest at $30. What held me back was that it was black and white and that I wasn’t clear if it was actually any better than any of the more expensive, but much prettier ones. What made me pull the trigger? You can get it free. Yes free. All you have to do is share this link on social media (http://www.passionplanner.com/downloads-2/) and you can download the whole planner as a PDF file. No outlay, so Passion Planner it is.

Passion planner does have prompts and charts to help you goal set, but I suspect my issue is more global than that. I want to do things well, and I want to do a lot of things. My goals include: spend quality time with my kids, work at my job hard, run a toddler craft group, run a stampin’ up business, collect Emma Bridgewater pottery, keep a really nice house, write a personal blog, write an academia blog, write a crafting blog,  see my friends, read non fiction books, volunteer, look after my animals more, be more present and more purposeful, eat better, exercise, get Sam a regular out-of-the-house hobby, bake more, cook more, commit to a regularly weekly food shop, stop wasting money, breast feed for another 10 months, stop wasting time so much on the internet and, and, and. Clearly I cannot do all of this – even without a toddler and infant and a deep need for a lot of sleep (I am one of those ‘8 hours a day or else’ people). So what to choose and what to prioritize?

More time with these things please.

More time with these things please.

My friend chic in academia to the rescue… She wrote this lovely post on writing a goal statement. She gives much more guidance in her post, but the idea is think hard about your values, strengths, needs and talents and write an overall statement summing those up. From there you goals should flow. So that is what I am off to do. I am hoping that at the end of this process (mission statement and goal setting) I will have a much clearer path forward; I will know what to say yes and no to, and how to fill my time. I hope it will give me motivation to spend the time I currently spend glazed over on the internet more purposefully and I hope it will also give me the gift of guilt free relaxation. I am looking forward to sharing my process with you.

Edited to add: writing this post has made me reflect on how gloriously lucky I am: I have the kids I wanted, a job I love, enviable health and many, many superficial trappings (‘things’). I am still on a goal setting path though 🙂

Do you set goals? How do you do it? How do you keep track of important things? Does anyone use a planner regularly, and if so, do you have any tips to share with me?

 

 

Thoughts on my unmedicated birth 

Sam’s birth story here. Caroline’s here and here and here.20151011_041329In no way do I want to put anyone off having an unmedicated birth (by which I mean no epidural or pitocin). In fact, the recovery was so easy, and my inherent (and unempirical) resistance to pharmaceutical intervention means that were I to give birth again (which Wes says I absolutely won’t, sob) I would probably go the unmedicated route if possible.

That being said, I feel the most prevalent birth stories we here are (1) I had an unmedicated birth and it was beautiful and magical and what birth should be and (2) I had a medicated birth and it was disappointing / I’m ashamed / I’m traumatized / I feel like a failure. These stories are followed by a smattering of (3) I had a medicated birth and it went well but was nothing to write home about. I just want to add another story: (4) I had an unmedicated birth and it was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as my medicated birth.

The thing I most didn’t like was the lack of control. Towards the end my body was doing things (pushing, screaming) without me even knowing it was happening. Looking back. I feel like I acted like some crazed animal. Which is fine, it’s just not my preference. Some people love this aspect of birth – they use words like ‘primal’ and dig getting back to their raw nature. I’m actually kind of embarrassed now, and I feel awkward going back to my OB. This is even though my head tells me repeatedly that I acted like 90% of laboring / birthing women, and indeed many. many pro-unediacted birth people have told me they did exactly the same and loved it. It’s fine, I just preferred Sam’s birth where I could answer questions calmly, where I decided when to push (as I got the epidural at a full 10 cm – aside of a lip – I actually lay down for 30 minutes while complete to let the epi wear off a little before pushing),  and so on. Having my water broken by my OB with Sam was a little awkward, but it was definitely preferable in my mind to suddenly finding water all over the floor and on my legs and on the birthing ball and so on. At the time I felt bad I couldn’t help clear it up – I was even about to but I got slammed with double peak contractions, os just splashed around in my own amniotic fluid. Delightful.

Yes, I like to be in control. Yes, I have a lot of social anxiety – and sure these are the factors. I’m not saying there isn’t a reason, just that for whatever reason, an unmedicated birth was awkward to me.

I also, against traditional or prevalent dialogue, I found it in no way empowering. The short story of my birth went like this: Turn up in hospital, ask for epidural, beg for epidural, can’t get it, have to give birth without it. I understand this is super common, in fact our Bradley teaching told us that the reason it is “husband coached” childbirth is that this will happen, and you will pretty much not be able to get through it without someone stepping in and preventing pain relief (which is obviously not true, because people do it on their own all the time, but the gist is there).  Or, since the real begging for pain relief comes near the end, it’s too late anyway. So. In a nutshell, for many people, unmedicated births go something like:

I want X.

You can’t have X.

This is opposite of empowerment to me. Just to explain my definition of empowerment, it generally goes:

I want X.

Here is X.

 

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Finally, I thought I would feel all proud of myself for doing this amazing feat. Sort of like how I felt after my first 10K. Time and time again birth stories finished with women saying “and I realized my strength”. Right. I screamed and wailed and wanted it to stop and my body did it’s own thing regardless. I mean, it did it very well, don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t require any mental strength or fortitude on my part. No matter how painful those contractions are, it’s not like you can turn them off and you won’t die, so you will get through them. And that baby is coming out – I am pretty sure there are almost no stories of C-sections because the mother gave up pushing (babies getting stuck is a different issue). Your body is just going to push it out whatever. So, yes, it is very cool that bodies can do this but really, just making a kiddo and having it enter the world is the cool and amazing part. I didn’t feel ‘amazingly strong’ after giving birth.

My "it's over. It's actually over" face.

My “it’s over. It’s actually over” face.

Perhaps it helps that I didn’t have any negative effects from my epidural. I could walk and squat with it, and move about. It was effective, but I was not numb. I felt the urge to push appropriately, and after the baby came out felt the same emotion as an unmedicated birth (honestly? My first thought both times was: Thank f*ck that it over. For Sam because he took so long and I was worried they would do an emergency C-section, and for Caroline because: no more pain!). And that is not everyone’s experience with an epidural, so maybe you don’t want to take the risk. And I say all this having had two amazing and faultless birth teams both times. And I could have prepared better for Caroline’s birth and prepared Wes better and we could have handled it all a bit differently (although, as I say, most unmedicated birth stories seem to be quite similar). But of course, yymv.

There was a sort of stunned silence after Caroline’s birth from my husband and I. It had been so quick, and so… violent is the word I would use. I honestly felt a little shocked and mad at the world. I think Wes knew, because the first thing he said when they placed Caroline on my chest was “Hey – you got the natural birth you wanted” [he uses natural… I think all births are natural and use the less loaded medicated vs. unmedicated]. And it’s all good. My kiddos are here and healthy, I don’t dwell on either birth, feel positively about very many aspects of both (especially that my teams respected my choices – now that is empowerment -, that they had very baby centered approaches and that they never ever got frustrated with me, in fact, both times they treated it like this was their only birth not the 5th of the day…) and am generally a happy camper.

I would go unmedicated again. But I wouldn’t look forward to it, like I would look forward to a medicated birth.

 

Caroline’s birth story – pt 3

AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.

Me. Losing my mind.

Me. Losing my mind.

Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.

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Needs no caption.

Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.

Everyone is looking at me an laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don't look so amused though... Hmmmm

Everyone is looking at me and laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don’t look so amused though… Hmmmm

Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.

We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.

Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.

I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.

At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.

My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.

My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.

The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.

Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated

“I can’t do this”

Everyone - everyone - joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone – everyone – joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.

My super sexy pushing face.

My super sexy pushing face.

So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…

At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.

My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.

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The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!

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Caroline’s birth story – pt 2

Read part 1 here.

Before I get to the real nitty gritty of the delivery, I have realized I can’t describe Caroline’s birth story without acknowledging my state of mind of going into it, because I have realized that it is inherently part of the story. Although it had every medical intervention possible short of a C-section, Sam’s birth went well. Due to an undiagnosed case of von willebrands (plus I suspect, some bad luck), the post-birth part did not go well. Aside from brief outbursts of emotion, this was something I realize now that I chose not to fully process.

In part, I think it is hard to process something that you are unconscious, or heavily medicated, for. In larger part, it is frankly easier, if more cowardly, to go into something that nearly killed you last time pretending that it didn’t nearly kill you last time. The first sign that I might in some sort of denial may be that I refused to believe I had von willebrands for a while. OK, I still don’t really believe it, but I do accept my smart hematologist’s edict that we have to treat me as if I have it, given my “history”. But as mild von willebrands essentially needs no treatment in day to day life, that issue didn’t rear its head too often.

Another sign might have been that if someone brought up how close the call had come, I was genuinely shocked and surprised, and little awkward. I remember my friend Taylor saying on Sam’s birthday “Hey – it’s the anniversary of you surviving!” and I just kind of stared open mouthed like a guppy at feeding time, and then scowled and changed the subject. And when I transferred to my new OB (Dr. Dryden) the nurses muttered to each other “Dryden saved her” – and I just scowled again and labelled them as “over dramatic”. But again, this was not something that often came up – people don’t generally like to bring up nasty medical experiences (at least, not if they want to keep their friends…).

Things started to change when (1) expert people telling me how serious the situation really had been; and (2) having to prepare to give birth again. When I saw my OB at my first trimester appointment she brought up my chart and started stutter as she read the history saying “I can see you had a massive transfusion“. I did. Massive transfusions are not good (well.. they are good, it’s just the situations requiring them is not good), and when I initially told people about my birth experience I would say “As I went to OR I just remember the words ‘massive transfusion protocol'”. But then I decided that I probably dreamed that, or made it up for dramatic effect. So I was kind of shocked to hear the surgeon in charge of the birth state it. And see it there in my notes for all to see.

During that visit, my OB said to me “You’re lucky to be able to have another child!” and I said “well… it’s due to YOU” and she looked confused and I reminded her “You were the one who delivered my son… you saved me and my uterus by using a new procedure… you sewed the balloon into my cervix which hadn’t been done before.. right?” and the light dawned, and her eyes went wide with recognition and then a kind of fear and I’ll never forget her saying “Oh my God… it’s you… you’re you… You came back!” [aside: of course I came back – she was the most awesome surgeon ever! And my kiddo is the greatest kiddo ever]. I nodded and my OB – my extremely experienced OB who seems to specialize in high risk cases – said “I will never forget your birth”. Seeing how seriously she took the situation was not something my “it was no big deal” mindset was ready for. I looked her straight in the eyes and said “It’s fine… you did great last time with no warning, I have no worries about this time with plenty of warning… I trust you completely”. Then I pretty much packed up my things and left. Which was nice for my OB, but essentially what I was saying was “I don’t want to think about this, or deal with it, so I am shutting the whole conversation down”.

The I vowed not to think about birth until I hit the second trimester and the highest risk of miscarriage passed. And then, at that point, I would start to think things like “do I want an epidural?” and never really get very far with my answers. And suddenly I was 35 weeks and it was my beautiful baby shower and I was telling people that ‘yes, I was totally ready for everything” but when they got to specifics ‘no, I had not bought diapers yet…’ and ‘no I had not packed my hospital bags..’ and ‘no, I had not sorted the nursery’ and ‘no, no, no’. And that triggered something in me… some deep seated awareness that holy crap, I was actually going to have to do this again. And suddenly the darkest recesses of my mind took over and would pipe up at inopportune times. Like when I was reading Sam a book, something deep in my mind would say “I hope that if you die someone will tell Sam that his Mum used to read him books and do all he silly voices with him..”. I would squash the thought but later on the voice would say “If you die, hopefully people will tell your children ‘she loved you so much, she risked everything to bring you into this world'”. It wa startling to me how strong these thoughts were.

The next day I was in Starbucks and I had to walk past my hospital and while standing in line waiting for ‘the usual’ [tall decaff PSL, no whip, just one pump of syrup] I began to shake and cry and it is very awkward when heavily pregnant women start silently bawling in public because no one thinks they can ignore them and everyone thinks it is about the baby and tries to help . And when strangers asked if I was OK, it’s not like I could regale them with the whole birth history that I was trying to deny….

It’s funny, looking back, I don’t think I truly accepted what happened after Sam’s birth until after Caroline’s birth. I was taken up to a postpartum recovery room, and the nurse in the room said “Have you given birth here before?” and I said “Yes! Almost three years to the day I delivered my son here” and she said “OK, I am going to be honest… I knew that… I remember you… No one will ever forget your birth” and I thought “Geez… even nurses not involved in the situation are freaked out about this”. And my OB came by to visit me, and everything was perfect (and as you’ll find out in part 3 she has been utterly amazing in the birth) and I was holding my sweet Caroline and fully recovered within about an hour and my OB could finally say “I’ll just never forget your first birth… it’s just emblazoned in my memory and I can’t shift it”. And I thought ‘crap.. it really was that bad’.

So I didn’t finalize the process before Caroline came along, but I did begin to accept that I was utterly freaked out about giving birth again – not necessarily because I thought the same thing would happen, but because I realized that anything could happen. So I began to accept that I was scared, and angry. I was angry at my body for letting me down. My strong, half marathon and tough mudder running body builders body. And I was angry at the ‘natural birth’ community. I was angry at their message that ‘women were made to do this and should just trust their bodies’ (because where would that have got me? Let’s say it: dead is where) and even more angry at my treatment after birth. Basically, from all the natural birth communities I engaged with while pregnant, suddenly not one of them wanted to share my birth story, which left me feeling excluded and shunned. And then angry that by purposefully denying these stories, some parts of the natural birth community are lying to their followers: they simply discount the very real, and very rare, dangers rather than acknowledge them and allow women and their partners to make informed choices.

It was a tough few weeks and probably contributed to a lot of the depression I suffered with at the end of Caroline’s pregnancy (not something I have admitted before). I was scared and felt trapped – trapped into having to do something I was scared of. But, the reason that this is so part of Caroline’s birth is that I eschewed all thinking about actual birth before going into labor (in fact, possibly while in labor, which is why I didn’t accept I was until I was fully in transition. Although sleeping through labor definitely has some up sides…). Consequently, I didn’t have any kind of plan for what I would do in labor. At all. I just ticked the ‘no epidural’ box on my hospital pre-addmission forms and that was it.

So, I went into the delivery room really quite unprepared…

I’m glad I have written this down now. I am still 28% hippie and believe in things like the damages of repressed emotions, so I am glad to have written it down and am now able to really move onwards an upwards.

 

Happy 3rd Birthday Samuel!

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Everyone – and I mean everyone – got sick this week (including poor Caroline, which was heartbreaking). So we postponed Sam’s birthday until he was at school, and well enough to enjoy it (although we did give him his present from us – a massive box of Geotrax – so that he had something to play with while home from school during Caroline’s massive feed-a-thons), and at school so that he could give out his muffins and party bags (why muffins? Because when we asked is we could send in cakes, the teacher said “we prefer something healthy’ [oh good, I’m on board] “like muffins” [Aaaargh, tears hear out].

So now, 2 days late, I get to say:

tomad

Happy 3rd Birthday Sam.

Sam, you have made me understand the phrase “the light of my life”. When you are around, things seem brighter. You make me smile more broadly, laugh louder and hug harder than anyone else (sorry about the endless hugs… I know you have stuff to do and they get in the way). Every day, your crazy energy reminds me how much joy there is to be had in life. Your unconditional love teaches me about loyalty and trust. And eating your grow up is one of the greatest pleasures, and greatest achievements, I have in my life.

I am so proud of of what an empathetic boy you have become. Yesterday, we were all sick, Caroline had cried for over an hour, and then you had a meltdown because I put water in your cup when you had asked for juice (sorry about that). So, helpfully I started bawling my eyes out (I might be where you get your fair for the dramatic… sorry about that too). You tired to ‘kiss it better’ and when I was still crying you said “I think we need to call Daddy to make it better… I think Daddy has your medicine… I took medicine in my mouth and it made me better..” Then you proceeded to look for my shoes and socks so we could get your sister to the doctor. I was awestruck by how mature you could be, and touched by such sweetness. I hope that concern for others, and that need to make those you love happy (which comes from your Dad) never leaves you. It will make you a wonderful son, friend, partner and human.

Sibling love, or at least, sibling curiosity

Sibling love, or at least, sibling curiosity

I am watching you grow into your role as big brother too – again, I am so proud of how you have adapted to no longer being the center of attention, and to the care you show your sister. I know it was tough when she came home, and when things changed, but you have bounced back and are our cheerful, happy boy again. I admire your resilience, and wish I had it too.

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You’re crazy – definitely a little wild. You quite proudly announced you had a time out at school you because you “broke Scott’s tower”. You looked me dead in the eyes and said “I broke it so hard”. You poured pretzels all over the floor today so your dump truck could scoop them up. We frequently find you have locked yourself in Ellie’s dog crate. You are crazy and loving and curious and wild and smart and demanding and just you. I am so grateful you are you. Every bit of you I love and I can’t wait to see what this next year brings out of you.

Love

Mummy

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