New year, same me, but better!

I generally believe that New Year’s resolutions are deeply flawed and set you up for failure, but after The Year of Sh1t Things Happening (how we refer to 2019) I have used the transition into a new year and a new decade to try and get myself back on track.

I’ve been tuning into a few different resources to understand the best ways to make such changes and the best piece of advice I’ve found is to keep the goals small.  The idea behind this is to make very small, do-able, incremental changes in my schedule that ultimately make me feel better.

For most of last year I was doing practically no scheduled exercise.  The main exercise I had – once I recovered from my illness – was to go for walks with N and/or just generally chase his energetic butt around.  On some days this was MORE than enough exercise anyway, but I really missed the luxury of an hour doing something for myself here and there. Meanwhile, my husband has been going to the gym after work 3-4 times a week since forever. While I think that’s great he was staying fit and well, it was really disheartening to know that he wouldn’t set aside one day a week so I could do something for myself.  His excuse was always that I could take N to his parent’s house if I wanted to work out. I guess it’s true that I could do that, but it added a whole layer of complication and sometimes that was too much – and it’s also a layer of complication that he never has to face as I don’t make him take N anywhere so he can enjoy his leisure time.

Some people advised me to stand up to him about this, but it just ended in gigantic rows about how unreasonable I was being, all of which fed deeply into a feeling of resentment and unbearable sadness.  It’s very hard to adequately represent those arguments here, but suffice to say that I became defeated about it and just recognized that my own free time would have to be sacrificed until I came up with a better plan.

Then 2020 rolled around and a better plan was found!  I now have someone helping me at home which means I am less weighed down by home duties and more free to do nice things with N.  It also means that I have the flexibility to leave N at home for a short while to do something, such as pop for a manicure or go to work out. I would really have preferred my husband to step up but sometimes it’s better for long-term harmony to look for a solution, rather than bang on about the same gripes forever.  The flip side for him though is that he now has to pay for someone else to help at home.

With this new structure in place I have kicked off the new year by starting to do some sessions with a counsellor on a weekly basis. It is an EXHAUSTING and overwhelming experience – it is definitely a can of worms situation!  I think I might need to keep going to her every week for a whole year to get through all of my stories.

Some of the early observations are that I’m lonely (no surprise) and that I have a lot of emotional pain that has been unprocessed (also so far, no surprises). During the last session she asked me if I am being my authentic self, which I later looked up online and seems to mean if you are being authentic this is not to allow a situation or person to change you, unless for the better. I guess she feels that I have allowed myself to be changed, and not for the better, which I do agree with to an extent. She also observed that it’s as though I have given up, which unsettled me a lot.

On the flip side, I’m a little amused that over three sessions we are still so far back in my story that the counsellor hasn’t heard anything about my husband yet.  She’s in for a ride when she gets to hear about all the fun and games of moving countries, getting married (with his parents and family members not coming to the wedding in Australia), infertility, IVF, miscarriages and then obviously my Mum’s illness and passing.  I think she’s definitely going to earn her fees!

I’ve also been able to go to yoga once week since the start of the year.  One week I went twice! This has been really good for me and important to my overall wellbeing.  My next step is to start working out properly as I am unhappy with the impact of gravity on my butt, so I will be working to address that. I decided that evening gym classes do not work for me in this phase as that’s N’s dinner time and it gets complicated, which then puts me off attending.  Instead, I’m hoping to arrange to go once a week to start straight from work in the afternoon (I work part time).  I can then go straight home, have a quick shower and be fully hands on for N.  The only drawback to this scenario is that my husband will need to collect N from nursery school and bring him home, which will no doubt result in me needing to present him with a trophy for his tremendous efforts. I will see how it goes and if there is too much drama associated with that scenario, I will come up with an alternative plan.

I do feel better already, but I am still exposed to the variables of everyday life like everyone.  My marriage is better, but certainly not going to win any awards right now. There have been fewer monster fights in recent times, but the house build is still ongoing, and this is a regular source of tension.

The most recent issue is that I am feeling rather down about how small our green areas of the back yard will be and that there will be not so much space for N to play outside (there is loads of space inside), and certainly less than I had expected.  We have a rather large pool which is tremendous, and I am delighted about, but our house is quite big and perhaps we should have factored this in.  I wasn’t part of the discussion process during the period the pool/backyard design was implemented as I wasn’t capable, so I am cross and disappointed.  Where we live is a very hot and dry climate where things don’t grow so well, i.e. lawn grass is not a viable prospect, and it’s often so hot that it’s difficult to play outside anyway unless you’re in a pool or by the sea so maybe it will all be fine. I am from a rural area of Australia so having so little outdoor space is unfamiliar to me.  Also, I find myself better grounded in nature and each of these factors is playing its role in my anxiety about this.

I am aware this sounds super-princessy behavior (I have a chat with myself about this on the daily), but when you invest so much time and money into something and you’re not satisfied with the outcome it can be hard to overcome. Someone please tell me it will all be ok and that kids will adapt no matter what? I am quite down about this. But also, yay pool! You’re all invited to enjoy some wine by the pool with me if this house build is ever finished.

Meanwhile, N has been really lovely recently.  His vocabulary is exploding and it’s so much fun. Amongst other things, he can now count to ten in both English and Greek.  When you consider he was saying very little at all before Christmas, this is a big development.  Right now he loves his scooter so much and is a daredevil when he rides it.  I love his courage!  He also has a girlfriend in his class who he talks about non-stop, but literally doesn’t care for any of the boys in his class at all.  You can say their names and he doesn’t even blink.  Say the girls’ names though and he’s got so much to say in response.

Other favoured pastimes include colouring – he loves to draw (washable) marker pens all over his fingers, which I think is him trying to make coloured nails like mummy – playing with balloons, jumping on the trampoline that our neighbours kindly gifted us (in perfect condition, what a result!), going for walks to the park and patting our cats.  He now talks to the cats in a high-pitched “cat voice” and it’s the funniest thing ever.

He is continuing to resist bedtime, which seems to be some kind of wonderful phase of a two-year-old, but patience and not allowing an afternoon nap seems to make this mildly more manageable. He is also increasingly fussy over mealtimes which is a bit of a stress but we do a top-up on any dinner not eaten with banana. Considering he’s almost grown out of his car set which is allegedly suitable for up to 4 years old, I think the amount and what he’s eating doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern.


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.







The boob dramas

It has taken me several days to muster the emotional energy to write this post. The past week has been one of the hardest and most draining I have experienced in some time. 

The short summary of all of this is that I’m faced with a low milk supply currently. Everything with feeding had been going swimmingly with Baby N a natural until I went home last Thursday. Hindsight suggests that I got too stressed, anxious and exhausted in the first two days home and this manifested itself in a drop in my supply. I’m quite angry at my husband about this – although have not directly discussed it – because I think he had some kind of adjustment meltdown during these days which manifested itself in him being difficult and not helpful at times. 

Throw into the works that I have no family here, being a first time mum is terrifying and I’m in recovery for the c-section and you’ll see the general picture of how it all fell apart. I also came home from the clinic to several loads of washing and various chores that needed doing. While he did pick up a lot of the slack, he quickly seemed resentful to my requests for things to be done. I’m sure I was demanding but HELLO, if this is not the time for him to be super-husband and suck it up I don’t know when is. 

By Sunday the paediatrician was telling me to get a breast pump to support my feeding as baby N was not gaining weight. Hubby again procrastinated with this, so we were delayed in getting one. By Tuesday the Dr was getting worried. This came after The Worst Night Ever where the baby cried and fussed all night and could not be soothed. Now we know that’s because he was starving hungry but then I just thought I was the most awful mother ever as the night turned into day and I had not slept a wink. 

Tuesday was also the date of our baby photo shoot and unfortunately the photos just show to me a hungry, exhausted baby. It’s something that makes me sad to my core. I think I’m going to hate those photos forever now. 

By Tuesday night we had sourced a breast pump from a friend but then so many small dramas one after the other led to us not having the right parts and I wasn’t able to pump until Wednesday – a full THREE DAYS since the doctor told us to start pumping. This is bad because my milk supply had depleted even further during these (wasted) days. I have cursed myself multiple times for not having bought one before baby arrived. Same goes for a steriliser, bottles etc and also the sunshade for the car window,

By Tuesday night I was worried sick about the baby, my parents-in-law had also involved themselves in the situation and between them and my husband they all insisted I give the baby some formula. I was so exhausted and confused and worried that I relented, even though I didn’t want to. I’ve always believed strongly in breast feeding and the overwhelming sensation for me was abject failure. 

Failure as a woman. Failure as a mother. Also, if you look at my whole journey I’ve failed to do things the natural way. I’ve failed to conceive naturally, I had to take many medications to continue the pregnancy, I had to deliver via c-section and now I can’t breast feed effectively. Total failure. I cried rivers on Tuesday. It was exhausting. I was so devasted I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my mum what was going on. Not that she can do much from the other side of the world, but still. 

Of course the thing to focus on is that the baby needs feeding and he was immediately better with formula. He slept better and longer (as did I) and he looked better on Wednesday (also as did I). 

Once I got my pump going Wednesday I was able to supplement his breast feeds with a top up of booby milk via a bottle. We also started a new regime whereby hubby feeds him formula at about 1am which means I can sleep from about 11pm to around 3am when he wakes up for his next feeds. I’ll confess this works remarkably well and I almost feel human with this schedule. I’m grateful to my husband for this. 

I did however feel embarrassed telling the paediatrician that I used some formula as she’s super pro-breast feeding but I eventually did. She wasn’t so cross at me but she was furious at my inlaws for pressuring me to use formula. Meanwhile the inlaws keep mentioning other paediatricians that they know are excellent in a not-so-subtle dig that I should change doctors. 

So much of this is (unwelcome) cultural politics. I chose the paediatrician without consulting them and also she’s a foreigner (like me). So regardless of how super qualified she is (she studied at Oxford, FFS) they are never going to like her. Ugh. 

We did another weigh in on Friday and unfortunately baby has only gained a little weight so I have to be more focused on quality feeds. My life now is a cycle of direct breast feeding, followed by giving him a top up of previously expressed booby milk, followed by more pumping. It’s exhausting and means I can do very little else. 

I can get about 40-50ml per pumping session now which is a big improvement on 10-20ml on Wednesday. I’m also taking some herbal supplements including Fenugreek to support my supply. 

Hubby is not super supportive of my efforts to continue breast feeding and seems to think formula is a better and easier option. It’s hard to stay focused without a supportive network around and I’ll confess I’m really down about the whole thing. 

Hubby is delighted to be going back to work on Monday and is not hiding it. He’s certainly making big efforts to help with many things especially as I cannot drive for another few weeks. He’s tired too and I appreciate that. However, I’m now worried about how I will be on my own. I’ve already gotten some cabin fever!! It would be better  if I could drive but also if it was cooler weather. I can’t even take the baby for a walk in the stroller as it’s over 30 degrees by 9am. I could take him in the evening after about 8pm but I’m so exhausted that I have not managed this either. Maybe that’s my goal for next week.  

To finish on a positive, baby N is overall a lovely baby. He only cries when he’s hungry (see above), if he has some gas or if you strip him naked. I appreciate I have a lovely baby who even looks like me (yay) so it’s not all bad. It was a bad week and the pumping is not fun but if we can get his weight up then everything will be ok. 

Showers, stress and tears

I have said for some time I didn’t want a baby shower, mainly because my family and closest friends are halfway around the other side of the world. I feared either no one would come or those that did would do it under obligation. So when my husband offered to organise the shower for me as he didn’t want me to miss out I thought it was the sweetest thing ever.

I was wrong. 

This shower has turned into a big mess. To summarise, he didn’t have a clue what a baby shower involves and why would he? He planned to get a party planner to do it and she went AWOL. So then it came down to him organising it with his mum and everyone getting super stressed. I started to worry it would be a disaster and got very upset about the whole thing. He called me miserable and ungrateful and then things snowballed from there over the weekend. 

Also on Saturday he unloaded a bunch of stuff about his family and concerns they have about me potentially being manipulative and keeping them from seeing the baby. Sorry but WHAT?!! I do not feel this way and I have NEVER indicated anything differently. In fact, I go out of my way to send his mum updates – I send her videos of the bump kicking and all the photos of the scans when I visit the doctor. I’ve brought her to baby shows with me and let her choose the colour of the stroller (she did buy it for us as a gift). 

So let’s just say by Sunday I was feeling ragged by the attacks. Once again the baby shower was brought up on Sunday and it made me sad again. I cried. I am practically 8 months pregnant and I cry at Amazon Prime adverts so this is not really a surprise that the prospect of having a shit and/or cancelled baby shower made me cry!

Various words were exchanged with me not being an innocent party in all of this. At one point (in the middle of a swim in the sea, no jokes), he told me I was miserable. This was true but it was said as an attack not out of concern. I said nothing but gave some kind of death stare and he proceeded to throw a strop which culminated in a 1 hour drive home in silence thus followed by a total refusal to a) speak to me in any capacity or b) be in the same room. 

I have been very upset about all of this. I took some of his feedback on board and visited his parents on Sunday to expressly inform them that I have NO INTENTION of blocking them from seeing their grandchild and that I’m very grateful for all their support. I did this with a bright red face and floods of tears. Classy. 

Much discussion was also held about the baby shower and an action plan for organising it was decided. All was fine. 

Unfortunately the stress of the situation with my husband caused Grade A insomnia and painful Braxton Hicks on Sunday night so I was a total mess at work on Monday. I held myself together until about 4pm when I got a message from my MIL telling me my husband had called her and cancelled my baby shower. WTF?! 

Then I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Thankfully my colleagues and my boss helped me calm down. The contractions had started up again then and everyone got worried. The girls I work with have now volunteered to take over all organisation of the party which is the most beautiful thing ever. 

I hoped that by taking this task off my husband he would relax a bit but he refused to speak to me at all again last night   So that was 2 nights he slept on the floor of his study. I can’t imagine he slept well. I think he slept with cat blankets to keep him warm which has made me giggle to myself at least. 

I managed to get some sleep last night and only had BH for a short period of the night so I feel a bit more put together today. But I’m furious! I’m so mad that he felt this was an appropriate and acceptable way to deal with conflict. 

I’m not expecting sunshine and rainbows 100% of the time and I know I’m not an innocent party in all of this, but more than 2 days of putting your 8 months pregnant wife through this level of stress? No, that’s hard to get over. It means he’s put his own ego ahead of the welfare of his unborn child and I cannot get my head around that. 

He sent me a text message earlier indicating he wants to make up now but am I wrong to feel that I need something more from him to move on from this? I can’t be sure he won’t behave like this again whenever things turn ugly again in the future. This is really stressing me out. All advice is welcome.