20 months: Climbing, sliding and somersaulting

Baby N has now passed his 20-month-old birthday and is now hurtling towards two years old. Up until now when people asked me his age I would reply in months but now I say “he’s almost two”, and then I think to myself, how is he almost two and where did the past two years go? I also think I have said from about nine months old that each milestone is my favourite age group so I think all age groups except for the newborn phase are pretty awesome in their own ways.

Right now N seems to be growing in his intelligence and capability literally by the second. His awareness and ability to observe something and then replicate it is remarkable. He watches everything I do and is obsessed with then doing those things himself, particularly chores around the home. He will regularly pull out the broom and sweep up the crumbs on the kitchen floor, or grab the step ladder and drag it to the kitchen sink so that he can reach to “help” wash up the dishes. He will also take the cats’ litter scoop and start shovelling cat litter in the vicinity of the little bin I have for cat poo. Unfortunately he does make more of a mess than anything else but I’m thinking this is good training for the future so I can get him to clean up after the cats. Haha!

Meanwhile, his love affair with food of all kinds shows no sign of abating and a few days ago, in a particularly hungry moment where apparently I wasn’t preparing dinner fast enough, he went to the bin and fished out a nasty strawberry I had discarded and started eating it! Obviously I was appalled and took it from him mouth before getting him something else to munch until dinner was ready, but seriously my kid is taking food from the bin?!! WTF?!!

N is continuing to be a head taller than all other children his age and I generally buy clothes for him that are for a 3-4 year old now. He wears European size 25 shoes, which I think is about size 8.5 in US sizes. His appetite matches his size and I am having to constantly carry snacks just in case he gets the munchies while we are out and about. Thankfully he has pretty broad tastes so will happily eat fruit as a snack which is fantastic. Top favourites continue to be strawberries and grapes, but he likes most fruit from bananas, apples, pears, kiwis, watermelon and the list goes on.

These days he is especially delighted to eat any food with a fork, stabbing the food and then feeding himself completely self-sufficiently. I honestly feel like this is one of my greatest parenting triumphs the fact he can mainly eat self-sufficiently. I try and give him as many foods as I can that can be eaten with a fork as it makes him so happy, so things like small pieces of chicken, frittata, cucumber pieces (peeled) and even cheese can be eaten with a fork. The other day I even caught N eating corn kernels individually as he managed to stab one of them at a time with his fork. I guess this is the way to diet effectively! Haha!

He is getting better with a spoon though and when he’s really, really hungry he will spoon food into his own mouth quite effectively. If he’s not so hungry or bored or not in the mood, he won’t do it himself though so I do feed him on these occasions.

Other things that make N super-happy these days are as follows:

  • Being outdoors generally – he cannot be contained inside and so bad weather days are a special kind of nightmare. He is also super-high energy so I literally have to run the beans out of him each day to tire him out.
  • The car – he insists on sitting in the driver’s seat and “driving” the car before going anywhere and on arriving back home. This is something his dad started with him and I curse him for it every day. Some days I don’t let him do his few minutes sitting in the front seat and he gets so upset with me.
  • Climbing the sofa and doing somersaults off the sofa (it’s a nightmare whereby many, many cushions have to be employed for safety reasons)
  • Buttons and switches, being turned on and off repeatedly. He is also getting more capable with operating our phones, daddy’s computer and the TV remotes. He now knows what specific buttons do and can select them consciously.
  • Slides – he can climb the stairs and slide them completely independently, although sometimes on the steeper ones we have to catch him at the bottom before he shoots off it and bumps his head
  • Water, any kind of water – this includes the bath, running taps, puddles, water I may be trying to drink out of a glass or even the bowl of water left out for the cats
  • Electric gates opening and closing, very exciting
  • Buses and the rubbish truck
  • The moon, also very exciting and requires a lot of pointing at it
  • Ducks, geese and turtles at the local lake
  • Little Bunny Foo Foo
  • His monkey cuddly toy – he has two of them which are completely identical but one is older than the other. He knows the difference and will not accept the newer one
  • Specific dummies/pacifiers. He will pick them up and inspect them individually like a an antiques dealer inspects your grandmother’s old jewellery and will only accept them if they are one of the approved dummies (no idea why some are acceptable and others are not)

On a regular day where he is well slept and happy he is a ray of sunshine and I’m so happy to have him in my life. I have recognised that when I’m around him I am more happy and it does help with my grief. It doesn’t make it go away but it helps me to focus on the bigger picture and that is my responsibility to help him grow into a capable, happy person.

My health has improved over the past few weeks which is due to a few things including my doctor reducing the dose of my medications and also trying to get some more sleep. I still look pretty crap with steroid-induced puffy cheeks and big bags under my eyes. Also, my body looks pretty flabby right now as the steroids make you get a bit frumpy around the middle. I stopped caring at some point as I was just so sick and eating well seemed to be quite low down on my list of caring. But now that I’m starting to be a bit more well again and summer is coming I’m thinking maybe I should try and work on my fitness and figure again.

Mentally I have been see-sawing a bit. Some days I am mainly fine and able to cope. Then I have found I have been having some rage moments where I have a disproportionate response to something that has annoyed me. I am definitely not zen so I now think I need to work on that and just try and choose my fights (and maybe not shout at everyone when I do feel the need to fight). My inner mamma bear has been turning into my outer mamma bear a bit too much recently.

Then I have some days where I just feel completely devoid of energy because I am just so damned sad. Being sad really drains you of energy. I miss my mum so much and I cannot overcome the feeling of how unfair it is that she’s not here anymore. I try and talk about her a lot, make jokes about certain things that she wouldn’t approve of. For example, my husband was trying on jeans today that had rips in them and we both agreed my mum would not approve of not only the fact they had rips in them, but actually having to pay extra for the rips. I have many photos of Mum at home and it’s nice to see her face every day but it does feel surreal. Like she is still sitting at her home and doing her thing there and all of this has been a terrible dream.

Does anyone out there have any experience with grief? How on earth are you meant to get over such a loss? It seems like it will just follow me around forever.

 

 

 

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A Tree With No Roots

A tree with no roots is how I would best describe myself right now. If you were to pass me in the street, or to see me at work, or on Instagram you would get the impression that everything is pretty normal. It looks pretty normal. That’s the weird thing that when someone dies for the rest of us life still goes on, even if we don’t really feel like it doing so. And with a toddler in your life this is more true than ever. But I am only just hanging on. One tiny blow of the wind and my tree comes crashing down with leaves going everywhere.

I’m not sure how much of my fragility is down to grief, to illness, to the medications I’m taking or just to life in general – I suspect it is a mixture of all these factors. I think things are slowly getting better though. If I assess how I was a month ago to now then I have made progress, albeit I get so frustrated by how “not me” I feel right now. It doesn’t help that every time I look in the mirror I see a new face that I don’t like looking back at me. The steroids have unfortunately caused my face to go moon-shaped – or in other words I look like a chipmunk who has been storing nuts in my cheeks for winter. I have also thought to myself more than once I look like I’ve had some really bad fillers done to my face! The good news is that my skin is clear and I think the puffiness actually reduces the appearance of my wrinkles. Every cloud has a silver lining I guess!

Hubby and I returned Wednesday from a short break to Vienna which was without toddler N – the first time we have both left him for a trip together! I have left him several times, for work and obviously when I was in Australia when my Mum passed away, but daddy has always been there for some form of continuity. This time we both left him simultaneously for three nights. He was perfectly fine staying at the Grandparents’ House and enjoying daily play-time visits from his 3-year-old cousin. We received one particularly touching video while we were gone of the cousin feeding N slices of strawberries with a spoon which was incredibly cute, even more so with N clapping with appreciation. I’m sure they are both going to be so embarrassed by this video when they are teenagers, but really it is so adorable.

When we arrived back N heard us coming to the front door and peeked out from behind the curtains with such unbridled joy it was lovely. Toddlers have beautiful souls. It makes you wonder when we all lose this innocence.

The break itself was good and important. We did a bit of everything while we were there; some sightseeing, walking around, eating loads of amazing cake, shopping and just generally hanging out. The past few months have been intense and it is so easy to forget that we are indeed a couple and so it was a chance to reconnect. And yes, we actually had sex. That certainly had not happened since my Mum died but it was time and I’m glad for it on every level. We even had sex again since coming home again (in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, but it still counts!) which is some kind of new record for us.

We had actually booked the trip to Vienna especially to see singer Jason Mraz in concert as I have been a big fan for 10+ years and we even danced to his music at our wedding. One of the (many) drawbacks of living in a small island country is that such concerts just are not an option. We get a lot of the famous DJs during the summer playing huge beach parties, but the days when the party starts at 2am are long gone for me! Haha!

Anyway, Jason Mraz has a really earthy, zen quality to him so his concerts a almost a spiritual experience for me. One of my favourite songs of his is called “93 Million Miles” and it has some intense lyrics which I have always really appreciated, but which really touched me extra deeply this time.

…sometimes it may seem dark,
but the absence of the light is a necessary part
Just know, you’re never alone, you can always come back home…

It triggered all these emotions in me about where is home for me now?  I’ve lived almost more than half of  my life outside Australia now and the “home” I  did have there is gone now with my Mum’s passing.  So for the first time in my life I realised I can’t go home.  Or maybe I should redefine what I think of as home.  It was a deep thought which still troubles me.

Jason also paused during this song and encouraged everyone in the audience to think about someone who has supported them, and given them good energy, including those no longer with us. At this point it is fair to say I lost my sh1t and promptly sobbed for the rest of the song and the next one too (the one we danced to at our wedding). But it was good in a way because I felt better afterwards.

Side note: on our return to our hotel after the concert we pulled up in our Uber to a wall of paparazzi who were VERY disappointed by our arrival.  Curious as to who they were actually waiting for (the hotel staff wouldn’t tell us) we hovered about until the mystery was revealed as being Elle MacPherson who was there for the Vienna Opera Ball as the guest of honour.  As a fellow Australian Elle has been a huge celebrity for as long as I can remember and in the flesh I can honestly tell you she is a goddess.  She’s 54 and looked freaking amazing.  And as my husband so observantly said, “She’s really tall.” She was also incredibly polite thanking everyone and smiling for photos endlessly. Full respect to her for being such a decent person.

Since coming home N has been a bit of a handful though which has not helped my tree-swaying-in-the-breeze situation. He’s always very well looked after at the grandparents’ house but they do mess up his schedule very badly and we pay the price for it on our return. For the past three nights N has absolutely resolutely refused to go to bed as normal. He is entirely happy and cheery running around the place but the second you try and put him in bed he howls the place down, sobbing miserably. And for a baby that really doesn’t cry much it is especially hard to deal with. He’s been finally crashing out anywhere between 10.30pm and midnight which is not cool for anyone!

I do suspect he has a bit of an issue with teeth at the moment too as his canines are either on their way down or doing some shifting. However, the situation was certainly not helped when he paid a visit to the grandparents’ house for a few hours in the afternoon on Friday so I could go have a stupid abdominal ultrasound (as per the orders of my specialist who is checking for all kinds of cancer in me but kidneys, gall bladder, liver etc are all fine) ,and the lady who looks after N did not give him an afternoon nap at all “because he wasn’t tired”. Errr… hello! He’s 19 months old! That’s way too young to not be needing a nap! So what happened instead? He fell asleep in the car on the way home, slept for an hour once we got home and put him in bed and then woke up ready to party the evening away again from 7pm. Grrrr! Hubby was not happy and made it very clear to his parents who then started giving us unsolicited advice on how to get N to sleep, all of which was completely useless when all the kid needed was an afternoon nap so this did not help my frustration levels!

Having had enough of all of this, today I woke him up nice and early in the morning (regardless of his late bedtime the night before) and we ran a daytime schedule as we would on a regular day. As it is Saturday today, daddy was with us and we had a lovely time at the park and a DIY shop in the morning before nap time around lunchtime. I woke him up after 1.5 hours (his allowable nap duration) against his will and then he had a delicious pasta lunch, followed by a visit to a Dinosaurs of the Ocean exhibition (which confused him hugely with the dark lighting and strange noises), and a visit to a special coffee shop for kiddies which had a nice play area and other children to interact with. We came home just before dinner and bathtime etc, and you know what happened tonight? He was happy to go to bed, where he is currently looking incredibly peaceful as he rests. So I am feeling deeply satisfied about all of that.

What about N generally? When he’s not having an all night party, he’s seemingly learning new things before my very eyes. Everything I do he copies and it’s so cute, but also keeps me on my toes as I don’t want to teach him the wrong things (aka swearing). One of the funniest things he does is that he copies me doing the laundry. So he takes clothes (dirty or otherwise) and puts them in the washing machine, closes the door and gets the detergent out while he pretends to pour it in. Then, because he is terribly annoying switching off the machine while it is in the middle of a wash (child lock does not lock the ON/OFF button) I always tape a small plastic container over the ON/OFF button. He’s so observant that he now goes to the kitchen drawer where the tape is, gets it out and starts taping up the washing machine! Oh how I laughed the first time he did this!!

I have also been trying to teach him for months how to blow bubbles in the bath and he has finally mastered it! He now spends about a third of the time with his face in the water making bubbles and it is the cutest thing ever. Toddlers are the best!

His language skills are coming along slowly now, although I think he is a bit behind some of his peers. He jabbers endlessly in his own language which is fully adorable and then occasionally he says a word that makes sense – and in context – which is wonderful. Weirdly, any time a phone rings he says “Papa” which I guess says a lot about his association with phones and his dad. The other day a big bus passed by the car as we were driving and he very clearly said “bus” so I think we are slowly getting there. When reading books he likes to point to certain animals such as the tiger, monkey and lion (also he points to a picture of a Queen and given that I always describe the Queen as Beyonce perhaps I should stop doing that – hahah). He certainly understands everything I say so he is not a nonce and the words will come with more time.

He is great with eating with a fork and a spoon these days and tonight at dinner he was eating entirely independently, forking food into both his and my mouth.N can do the odd scribble with crayon or chalk these days but no drawing on walls (yet). He is getting interested in puzzles now and I bought him a great toy when I was in Vienna that is all these little wooden pegs you have to put in holes. He really likes putting things away in their rightful places (like mummy) so it’s right up his street!

Today went smoothly enough that I even did some baking! HOLLA! I had some disgustingly over-ripe bananas that made me want to gag (I am not much of a banana fan generally) so I turned them into banana bread. I used this recipe which is for small people and big people and it is GORGEOUS! Both hubby and N loved it so maybe my tree roots grew a bit deeper today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Germs, be gone!

Winter germs are seriously bad this year, folks!  There is a really bad strain of flu going about here that has terrified most of us with small children, especially because several people have died from it here including an 18-month-old boy.  This has really freaked out a lot of people because his deterioration was apparently very rapid from fairly regular flu symptoms to then contracting sepsis and somehow passing away.  The authorities have been light on the details – so we have no idea if he had underlying health issues or whether he was vaccinated – but it still has struck fear into all of our hearts.

We have unfortunately not been immune from The Germs, with N coming down with very high fever last Thursday.  It was pretty clear to me even then that it was not just a cold virus.  You can just tell when it’s your own child that they are Properly Sick. So poor N had a raging temperature for a few nights.  He was poorly during the day too, but definitely a lot worse with fever in the evening.  We treated him with paracetamol (Calpol) and Ibuprofen (Nurofen), although when his temperature is really high I find that Ibuprofen is much more effective at bringing it down.

The poor small chicken ended up in our bed three nights in a row as he was waking at night and needing comforting.  Actually he was waking at night and needing his fever brought down, but once that happened he then tended to find bonus energy and tore around our apartment for hours.  On one night he woke up at 1.30am and I didn’t get him back to bed until 5.30am.  I had not slept much before he woke up so that was a Very Long Night only improved by the fact that he slept in the next morning, and it was Saturday so I didn’t have to get up either.  It was quite sweet having his little cherub face right next to mine when I woke up and I could briefly see the appeal of co-sleeping.

On Saturday he had a visit to the paediatrician due to the fear of the flu, but she more-or-less said we needed to wait it out as there was no point in giving antibiotics just for flu.  Children need to have an infection, e.g. a chest infection, ear infection etc before there is any justification for antibiotics.

Thankfully by Sunday he had made an improvement enough that we took him out on an adventure to a camel farm which he absolutely loved!  There were many other animals there too and he seemed to take a particular shine to the goats.  I don’t know what to make of that as most of the time he was staring fascinated at the goats they were mating…

But such is the strength of these germs he has really not fully recovered since.  Last night, when having a cuddle on our bed with daddy he crashed out asleep about 2 hours before his usual bedtime and before having any dinner or a bath or anything.  We really didn’t know what to do with him – do you wake him or leave him sleep? We eventually decided just to put him in his own bed fully clothed which was partially successful as he slept there for a few hours, but was disturbed by a cough he acquired.  So then we had a very well-rested toddler who ran around until 11pm. We did get some food into him and gave him a bath so when he settled for the night he didn’t wake up again, but it was certainly an unusual night!

This morning he looked weary when I woke him, with perhaps a mild rash on his cheeks.  He certainly didn’t look 100% well.  Then, this afternoon he really looked exhausted at around 3.30pm. He only has one nap a day around lunchtime so to be tired at this time is strange.  But it was an easy decision to pop in bed for a bonus nap… I woke him at 5.00pm and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t he would have kept going for a while longer!  As it was he then didn’t want to go down for the night until 9.30pm, but that was ok.  I’m worried he is going to wake up again tonight but fingers crossed he makes it through and feels better tomorrow. Honestly, I have had enough of illness around here!

I had another blood test today which showed some good news though.  Some of the markers for inflammation are vastly reduced since starting the steroids two weeks ago which is really positive news. I’ve reduced my dose of prednisolone from 48mg/day to 36mg/day and this should mean slightly better sleep I hope.  I’ve not been able to fully assess that yet as it’s a bit early but also I developed a chest infection this week. Yay me! This is not a huge surprise and it’s probably the same virus that N had over the weekend but as I have supressed my immune system with my medications there is not a lot of fight in me against evil viruses.  So I am really a rattling pill shop these days, adding some antibiotics to the growing list of meds that I am taking.

In an effort to get myself back in order I went to yoga last Friday.  It was a beginners class and I fully sucked at it, but I went! I then had some acupuncture on Saturday which I do think helped with my energy levels. I also have a hair appointment on Friday, so each of these seemingly inconsequential actions are actually the small puzzle pieces that I need to put together to get myself back on track. I’m sure something will derail me again in a small way again soon, but to have an action plan is really important to me. Going forward is the only option.

 

 

 

On the road to recovery

Wowsers! It’s been a rough time of late, but I am glad to say that I am now doing a lot better. After a barrage of medical tests and being poked, prodded and zapped (yes, with electrical currents), the doctors finally settled on my diagnosis of Polymyositis  (as discussed in my previous post) and started to give me steroids. Ironically they are exactly the same steroids as I had in the first trimester of my pregnancy with baby N. That is Prednisolone, the brand name in my case being Medrol.  BUT… the big difference is they gave me 4mg daily when trying to grow baby N and now I am on 48mg daily, taken in 3 doses after each meal. Eeek!

Anyone who has had the misfortune of taking these meds knows that they seriously mess up your sleep and it is quite a lot worse on a higher dose.  Actually though I am dealing with that ok at the moment, maybe even enjoying all my bonus energy, but what is most annoying is that the meds also trigger heavy night sweats.  And when I say night sweats I mean my entire body soaked in sweat, including my hair and my pillow. It is 100% gross and necessitates multiple changes of pj during the night (I now keep a stack of light t-shirts next to the bed so I can easily make the change) and a morning shower.  I am Captain Stinky otherwise!

It also makes me want to eat every carbohydrate in the universe pretty much 24/7.  It’s a bit like being pregnant but no baby inside. I confess it’s fun because yum, but it is a bit risky in terms of possible weight gain. Also because the steroids affect your blood sugar levels and there is a genuine risk of developing type 2 diabetes (no thanks).

And yet despite all of this the damned things are working and I am doing better!  I am slowly getting my energy and some of my strength back but I suffered “muscle necrosis” so basically I need to grow my muscles back properly to regain my full strength.  This will most likely happen, but it will take some time – weeks or months.

I went again to see the specialist doctor today – a rheumatologist – and it was quite overwhelming. There was good news and some less positive news. On the positive front he is happy with my rapid improvement and this means he will be reducing my steroids dose progressively from next week. In addition, he is adding a new drug which also targets the immune system to reduce inflammation, but it is a slower acting one and is more long term.  There is one special side-effect of that and it’s mild hair loss, but the aspect that is most saddening to me is that while on these medications it is not a good idea to get pregnant.

Of course I also can’t or shouldn’t be trying to get pregnant when feeling so poorly anyway, but the doctor indicated I could be on these medications for a year or more so that effectively puts me into being 41 or 42 at the earliest before we can even consider baby number 2. Even though I didn’t enjoy being pregnant or the newborn days, I still have a feeling of responsibility that he should have a sibling and the clock is ticking.  Thank goodness there are 15 embryos in the freezer that were conceived with my lovely 38 year old eggs!

Despite this though, I am refusing to let this bring me down strongly as the very most important thing right now is getting better so I can be the best mum ever to baby N and enjoy all his achievements. Having lost both of my parents now I achingly feel even more committed to this.

And what about baby N?  Well I think I’ve got to stop calling him a baby now!  He’s 18 months old and more accurately described as a joyous hurricane.  Toddlers are incredible!  What the world needs to do to solve the energy crisis is to channel the energy of toddlers into electricity.  Oh my goodness can this boy just go and go and go and go!  I often wonder where it comes from and I’ve decided it’s naps and bananas.

Every day he wakes up full of happiness and thirst for life!  This morning I couldn’t get him to get out of his bed because he kept doing rolly-pollys in it!  Other favourite activities include:

  • running around in circles until he falls over laughing with dizziness (warning: high risk of hitting his head so it’s both funny and terrifying to watch),
  • switching any kind of button/switch on and off repeatedly x100,
  • opening cupboards and drawers, taking out whatever is inside them and possibly putting them back in the right place thereafter
  • unscrewing lids off bottles, preferably of water or juice and then tipping it all over himself in an attempt to drink it
  • taking the dirty nappy/diaper and placing it in its special bin (which is located in a kind of laundry room away from his bedroom as poo stinks!)
  • taking dirty laundry from the basket piece-by-piece and delivering it to the washing machine, pretending to add detergent and pushing buttons on the washing machine to make it go (thank goodness for the child lock)
  • gently touching things that are hot like the heaters or a coffee mug and exclaiming “It’s hot!”
  • sitting on daddy’s lap in the driver’s seat of the car and “steering” as well as pushing every button that exists in the car
  • chasing the cat and trying to grab his tail (my cats are both fast and patient thankfully)
  • reading the book “Where is the green sheep?” and being super-excited to find the green sheep on the last page
  • climbing on everything and anything, constantly
  • swings and slides at the park – he can now independently climb the slide and sit himself down with his feet facing forward and then slide himself down
  • eating – he loves food!

I feel like I say this at every stage of development but I absolutely love this age.  He is so funny and curious and intense.  I mean, it’s completely exhausting (even before you consider my illness) but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Toddlers teach you so much about yourself, patience and endurance mainly, but to look through their eyes at the world is a beautiful thing.

I can’t thank toddler N enough for being my rainbow through all of my clouds of late.  I really think I would have been even worse mentally if it wasn’t for him.  I mean, I could have done without the chaos of a toddler while trying to recover but knowing that there is more to life than just me and my introspection is actually very cathartic. It also helps me to see there is a way forward, even though it is shadowed heavily by the loss of my Mum.

So now I know what I have to do for my recovery I can focus on getting physically strong again – staring with getting back into yoga and maybe some acupuncture – and also I think I may look into some counselling. Not just for me, but so I can be a positive influence for toddler N as he grows into a beautiful boy.

 

My Mum died, and other news

I’ve been wondering how to title this post long before I even tried to write it, so I’ve gone with the direct option because frankly this is the sentence that sits square at the front of my brain right now: My Mum died.

My Mum died and my heart is broken.

She died at around 2.15am on Saturday 8th December with both my sister and I by her side. I had arrived late Wednesday night and came directly from the airport to the hospital as during my flight she had deteriorated significantly to the point where she was unconscious when I arrived.  I think she knew I was there though as her eyes flickered a few times when I spoke to her. I told her many times that I was there and that everything was ok now.  In the morning I got on her bed and gave her a cuddle too and she seemed to rest her forehead on mine as though she knew I was there.  By about lunchtime on Thursday she was completely unconscious and we didn’t see much response from her thereafter.

Both my sister and I stayed at the hospital in her room for the entire time.  The only time we left her room was when the nurses came to tend to her and freshen her up. By Friday we were both losing our minds but also we knew that it was more kind for her to go, than to stay in the state she was and we started willing her and giving her the “permission” to go.  She was such a feisty, strong woman though that she really, really hung on. Her heart was so strong that even the nurses couldn’t believe she was still alive on Friday.

When she finally left us early Saturday morning it was a blessed relief that she was finally at peace but it was truly awful.  Towards the end she looked so ghastly that I was afraid to look at her.  I realise that is terrible but it is quite traumatic to watch someone die in increments. When she died I was stroking her hair and holding her and my sister was on the other side holding her hand.  I guess as far as deaths go it’s the best you can hope for in such a circumstance.  She was surrounded by love.

I guess there is an argument that we all knew that she was gravely ill, but it doesn’t actually make it any easier to deal with. I’ve lost both of my parents now in vastly different circumstances – one as quite a shock and one not-so-much – and the trauma is no less in the latter scenario.

The days that follow are now some kind of blur.  Maybe I should have written something at the time but I didn’t feel able to. Almost immediately after my Mum passed away I developed laryngitis so here I was trying to organise a funeral with no voice. Apparently it is a legitimate reaction to grief to lose your voice.

People were very kind to me and my sister but it was a strange time.  I was living in my Mum’s house for a few days alone but without her (my son stayed back home with his dad and grandparents which was weird in itself). The funeral was the Wednesday following her passing, during which I recalled some happy and funny memories as part of the service. My voice had partially returned then but was not 100%. I remember feeling afterwards that a 45 minute service, lovely and heartfelt as it was, it just not enough to pay tribute to her life.  It almost seemed rude to have such a short amount of time dedicated to such a full life.  I still can’t get over this.

Also, I found the funeral to be a massive exercise in managing other people’s grief. While many people were certainly keen to support my sister and I, it really felt like we were doing the heavy lifting with looking after other people. My husband didn’t come over to Australia as we jointly agreed that it would be better to have him stay with baby N so that there was some consistency there. I had good friends supporting me so, while I missed him, I was ok.

Then at the funeral, I had two completely unexpected guests turn up – one was a girl I went to school with and practically have had nothing to do with since, and the second was an ex-boyfriend of mine from when I was 19. We have remained excellent friends over the years as we have some bond that is hard to put in words.  We definitely have a connection as he lost his mum to cancer at a young age as I did my dad, but we also have a special something between us beyond that.  It’s all above board, my husband knows about it and I think we both recognise we are not a good romantic match, but I do love him. Anyway, so he’s this tall, gorgeous, blonde surfer and he just strolls into the funeral and you know what?  I lost it. I had kept it together so nicely until then but I was so very touched that he came that I just hung onto him for dear life for about 5 minutes. It was kind of at the point where someone almost had to tell me to let the poor guy go.

Afterwards about 80 people came back to my Mum’s house for the wake. It was so bizarre.  Everyone is so convivial and yet you can’t hold down a conversation with anyone for longer than 1 minute because someone else comes to ask you something else. Also, because I think people realised we would (eventually) be selling Mum’s major items they started asking me if they could buy things.  At her wake, they started asking to buy things.  This still blows my mind.  So here I am in the middle of all the post-funeral feelings and someone is asking me how much for her sofa.  Seriously, WTF people?!

And then you know what happened the day after her funeral? I turned 40. Yep, it was my 40th birthday, which I was meant to be spending on a romantic trip in Milan with my husband. But instead I spent it at my Mum’s house with my sister and friends crying and drinking champagne.  Actually, somehow it turned out to be a great birthday full of love. I missed my Mum ENORMOUSLY but given the situation we did try and smile and celebrate in a low-key way.

The following Sunday I said goodbye to Mum’s house, and goodbye to the town I grew up in from the age of 3 and full of all the pain and emotion headed back to my boys.  And for the first time in my entire life, I got upgraded to business class on the plane.  I cried.

My return back was a blur.  Baby N was a bit strange with me for the first couple of days – he wouldn’t sleep the first night which was great with jet lag! But he soon got back into the swing of it and seems no worse off thankfully.  He’s at a beautiful age now – 18 months – and I adore him.

I don’t remember much what happened next.  There was Christmas and New Year, which was a blur. I didn’t feel much up for anything so we kept a pretty low profile, doing simple things as a threesome. I was exhausted too and couldn’t really seem to catch up with myself.

About two weeks ago I started to feel a tiredness in my muscles that was similar to how you feel after a really, good, tough workout.  Except I’d not worked out. This progressively got worse over several days until I found one night I couldn’t get out of bed as my muscles were so weak and I was in so much pain.  After I vomited a bit with the pain it completely freaked my husband out and so he sent me for some blood tests.  Long story short it seems I had a viral infection of sorts.  Nothing very exciting or unusual about that in winter… except that this viral infection seems to have triggered something far worse which is called Polymyositis. This is inflammation and weakness in your muscles and if not treated it can be very dangerous.

It has rendered me quite disabled in that I have no strength in my body to do basic things such as holding my hairdryer above my head to dry my hair, or pouring the water jug, or lifting /caring for baby N. I can’t walk very well or very fast and I’m in a lot of pain. At the moment they are trying to confirm the diagnosis – I’ve had a bunch of blood tests and an MRI so far, but they also need to do some kind of neurological test and a muscle biopsy so it’s not over yet. So far 2019 has sucked so very much!

Many people seem to think my immune system was compromised by my grief.  It all sounds believable but I’m just so unhappy right now.  Meanwhile my sister-in-law has just announced that she’s pregnant with her second, a girl.  You may recall that my husband and her husband are brothers and our relationships are not at all strong.  Throughout this she and her husband have been completely unsupportive and downright rude so I’m struggling with that too.  My parents-in-law, however, have been incredible and baby N has half-lived at their house as I’ve been incapable of caring for him alone.

Right now I’m trying to focus on getting better.  My treatment is high dose steroids – the same ones I took for the IVF but at much higher doses. On low dose they made my face fat and me kind of psycho so I am freaking out somewhat about what kind of nightmare I will become on the strong dose.  Either way I have to get better so there is no option.

Please someone tell me I’ve had enough drama and I can go back to a quiet, normal, boring life again soon?!

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These are some special tulips my Mum grew and tried to live long enough to enjoy (which she did)

 

Why walk when you can run?

Why walk when you can run? This is our new life motto. Things have certainly upped a gear in the past couple of months as baby N has fully thrown himself into life on two legs. I absolutely love this age, even though it is kind of crazy and draining. I mean you literally can’t leave children this age alone for two seconds as sure enough they’ll be up to no good, usually in the form of something dangerous.

Baby N is now quite capable not only of going up the stairs to our first floor apartment by himself, but in case he doesn’t fancy that he can also push the button to call the lift, wait for the doors to open, go inside, push the button for the first floor and take himself there.  I guess we are fortunate in this regard that we don’t live on a higher floor as he can’t yet reach any numbers apart from 0 and 1.

We had a bit of a horror run a couple of weeks ago though when baby N just flat-out refused to go to bed each night for I don’t remember how many consecutive days, but TOO MANY! I mean it was getting to the point where I had anxiety just thinking about bedtime.  He would howl the place down every time we took him into his bedroom and we even tried to let him cry it out in bed, but turns out this kid has endurance so he would just cry and cry and cry until neither my husband or I could bear it (for me that’s approximately 53 seconds, but daddy can hold out longer).

For a few of these days he was definitely a bit sick with a mild cold but then once he was well again I just couldn’t figure out what the issue was as he’s always been so good at going to bed. But it was getting bad as we were pulling out the tricks that you only do when all other sensible options have been explored and discarded.  Take for example one night when he was still wide-awake and in party mode at 3.30am and I had to be up at 7am for work. I was beyond exhausted at this point and so I took him for a drive for about 25 minutes.  That relaxed him enough that I could scoop him up out of his carseat and pop him in the bed, but it’s not a long term strategy!

The solution finally turned out something a whole lot more simple than anything I had tried before that.  I gave baby N a shorter daytime nap.  During these episodes he had been having 2-3 hour afternoon naps which is wonderful when you’re wanting to get some stuff done at home. BUT, it seemed like they were such good naps that he wasn’t that tired at night.  By simply shortening his nap to 1.5 hours, he is MUCH happier to go to bed at about 8pm most nights and wakes up at around 7.30-8.00am. Oh my goodness, it was life-changing!

We also somewhat changed his bedtime routine as I read somewhere that you need to keep the bedtime routine quite short in case you need to repeat it during the night.  So it’s bath, a couple of nursery rhyme videos with daddy (don’t ask how that got started) and about 2 or 3 books, followed by bed.  Baby N continues to sleep in a sleeping bag so I pop him in that for the stories (it’s getting colder here so this helps him to feel cosy), and then I place him in his bed and read one last book to him each night while he’s in bed.  It’s always Goodnight Moon as it seems to have some magical ability to make him relaxed.  I also have a little teddy bear toy thing that projects stars out of its belly for 15-20 mins that was gifted to me as a birth gift but has suddenly found its use!

I also have a small nightlight in the shape of Olaf from Frozen that we “stole” from baby N’s older cousin.  This thing is so wonderful I have no intention of giving it back.  You tip Olaf upside down and the light comes on for about 5 mins before turning itself off automatically, by which time I have long since departed the bedroom! Haha!

I turn on the teddy bear with the stars and Olaf when I read Goodnight Moon and then I say goodnight and I’m out that door!  Sometimes Baby N does a small cry out of sadness that the day is over (I assume) but he usually settles quite well with his soother toys.  A few times he wakes up at the end of his first sleep cycle (usually 45 mins) doing a bit of a cry, but if I pop in there briefly and rub his back and say soothing things he usually goes back to sleep really rapidly.  I wonder if it’s bad dreams or something else?

In other areas of life, I’ve just been asked to add more hours to my work as we have a new client that our CEO wants me to lead on.  It’s a compliment that they want me to run this account and I will get extra money working additional hours, but I’m a bit sad about it as it will be more  busy (stressful!) and I will get less time with baby N. I’ve really taken on work on a different frequency since returning and now I feel like they are progressively trying to bring me back to full time and I’m not happy about that.

We are also building a new house, albeit it is taking so much time that I’ve lost enthusiasm for it.  My husband says it will be ready by next summer but even given that summer lasts here until practically the end of September I think that is optimistic. The timing of the house build is important though because I think we are pretty likely to try for baby number 2 next year and we currently don’t have space for any more souls in our apartment (3 humans, 3 cats is the current tally). I just had to go pay for our embryos to remain on ice for another year which was 200 EUR!! I jokingly refer to them as my frozen babies but it makes me sad that they’re just sitting there chilling (haha) together.  But apart from the freezer rental cost, I’m about to turn 40 so I think next year is really the year to be getting onto baby-making if there is going to be a sibling.

Then there is my lovely Mum who is in and out of hospital and her quality of life is quite low, but she is still hanging on in there.  She’s really incredible!  I don’t say too many details about her situation here but she is so tough and so optimistic.  I am inspired by her on a daily basis.  We have a pretty open dialogue about her dying, which I know some people might find a bit odd, but as we are all pretty aware of it to not talk about it all would be weirder.

Anyway, she is trying so hard – as she says – “not to die at Christmas” because my Dad died at Christmas and she said we shouldn’t have to have two parents die then.  Such a beautiful sentiment that I’m grateful for, although even if she does happen to die at Christmas I would never be resentful of her for it.  My mum loves Christmas and bakes all these wonderful goodies every year.  I’m a terrible baker but I think I’m going to have to get on it as I am very sad about the potential of never having my mum’s mince pies ever again.  She has some in her freezer from last Christmas that she saved for me when I visited in July, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat them then. She says they won’t be nice to eat for much longer, but you know I just didn’t want to eat them as I know she’s not strong enough to make more this year.

I wonder if Baby N will have such thoughts when he’s older.  Probably not about my baking, but I wonder if he will also associate happy Christmas memories with something that I do as a kind of tradition. Maybe it will be a new tradition that I haven’t even worked out yet, but I really hope he gets to love Christmas as much as I did/ do thanks to the efforts of my parents.

 

 

Feeling all the feels

It’s been a rough old time over these ways the past couple of weeks and I’ve been feeling very introspective about many things.  I’ve wanted to write so many posts about these feelings but the challenge is time. There is just so much rushing about these days and I need to prioritise blogging over all other things, but mainly sleeping.

My poor Mum is continuing to battle on and truly it is an inspiration. Even despite everything continuing to head south she is still persisting with some chemo treatment in the hope that it extends her life for as long as possible.  The way it destroys her body is just absolutely horrendous and to see someone you love be slowly deteriorating inch by inch is awful.  My dad died a few weeks after his 50th birthday (and a couple of days after my 16th) and it was a big shock to us.  That trauma stays with me to the day for many different reasons and I’ve always thought it was a terrible way to go out – so suddenly with no real time to prepare or say all the things you want to say.  Now I feel differently.  Now I feel like going out quickly while you’re having a pretty great life is the way to go.  I’m not saying I’m trying to encourage a premature death in anyone but my goodness cancer is a bitch.

In the middle of this is the wonderful baby N who is now practically Usain Bolt with the speed of his walking.  It’s interesting because as he has become more adept at walking, he has become more cuddly.  It was as though before the walking he didn’t have time or interest in cuddles because he was so focused on getting up on two legs.  He now actively leans in for the hugs and even enjoys kisses (sometimes)!  And he loves, loves, loves his soft toys now which was kind of an overnight transformation.  We have been all about the Jellycat soother bunnies for months now and all of a sudden he has decided the Jellycat soother monkey is THE BEST THING EVER.  So if he’s having a bit of a cry about anything, you provide the monkey and everything is fine.  I think we all need a monkey in our lives!

But poor Baby N had a bit of a shocker last weekend whereby he suddenly threw a very high temperature of over 40 degrees at about 6pm on Saturday night. The poor love battled for about four days, which basically meant no sleep for the rest of us.  He cried and cried and cried at night on Sunday in particular, but also Monday.  Saturday he was semi-ok and by Tuesday night he was much better.  What is it with Sunday nights for freaking out?  He must do it almost every Sunday so I turn up on Monday at work looking quite horrendous (I joked that for Halloween I should just turn up at work with no make-up on as that would scare anyone). Anyway, this Sunday he was so poorly that the only way to comfort him was to bring him to bed with me.  Unfortunately that meant he then also took over the entire bed, daddy got a bit annoyed and twice got up to go sleep on the floor in the other room. I kept thinking to myself, well that’s fine as now I have more bed.  Hahaha!

You know baby N is really poorly though when he didn’t eat.  He pretty much refused all food for two straight days. Even getting liquids into him was a challenge so I think he had a sore throat.  By Tuesday lunchtime though he was ready to eat the entire kitchen so that was the big sign to me that he was back to better health.

My work has been totally ridiculous the past few weeks too.  It’s the time of the year when everyone is trying to get everything done they were meant to earlier in the year, but didn’t and then also plan for the next year.  I have a confession to make though.  I keep thinking it is still 2017 even though we are almost in November.  Seriously.  And I blame the pregnancy and maternity leave for that.  I was on leave from July 2017 until start of February 2018 so effectively I missed half of 2017 and so my poor pea brain still thinks it’s in 2017.  So I keep referring to next year as 2018 and everyone must think I’ve fully lost my mind.

As I work in a client-based industry (PR) it’s a bit hard to manage my part-time hours (clients do not care for this) so I feel like I’ve been working even when I’m not supposed to be (or paid to be) which means I have been feeling like I am crap at both my job and being a mother – and possibly even a wife. I’ve not been working out as much as previously and so I’m generally feeling a bit stretched.

However, in those moments where I have finally left the office I’ve been having some great times with Baby N.  Each day when I pick him up we go for an adventure together before going home.  That might be for a walk around the Mall (great place to take a kiddie learning to walk as it’s pretty safe and indoors), a trip to a new park, yesterday we hung out with some other of our baby mamma friends (he’s a full head taller than all the other babies) and today we went to a baby music class.

Now we did try one of these baby music classes earlier this year with the baby mamma group and it was a total disaster.  The vibe was all wrong and maybe so was the timing so   baby N pretty much hated it (I also hated it which probably rubbed off on him).  Not wanting to get myself into something like that again, my friend who suggested I join the class arranged for me to go for a free trial today.  So off we went with very low expectations and do you know what?  Baby N bloody loved it!

There were about 15 babies and their mummies (no daddies, what is up with that?) and two teachers with beautiful voices.  The lesson was not in English so that was fun for me as I basically had no idea! I mean it’s not complicated so it’s not a barrier and I do understand a good chunk of the local language anyway.  All the babies apart from Baby N were very nicely sitting with their mummies and doing all the different movements that you’re meant to do.  What was baby N doing?  He was dancing in the middle of the circle, totally in his own world and loving every second.  This kid is not shy! I think I could have gotten up to leave and he wouldn’t have minded either.

Anyway, by the end of it he was so delighted with his surroundings that he lied flat on the floor.  He then went around cuddling all of the cushions on the floor and I literally had to physically remove him from the class before the next one started and he was very unhappy with me doing so.  Needless to say, we signed up properly for the lessons!