Two months in…

I’ve been wanting to write a long (loooong) post, but I’m just so exhausted by the end of the day. Growing a baby is tiring enough in normal circumstances… Here are some short updates.

  • Devin is doing generally well. The leukaemia he has is the most common, and most responsive to treatment, and for that I am very thankful. I know there are parents at the hospital who wish their children have what Devin has…
  • We’ve been in Sydney for two months now, without leave. Ten days in hospital, one week in a Leukaemia Foundation unit, and six weeks and counting at Ronald McDonald House. It is… difficult in the house. I’m struggling here. But that’s for another time.
  • The treatment schedule is quite variable and they don’t tell us what each stage involves and when it will happen until we have finished the one before it. We can’t plan for anything. At the moment, we’ve been set back two weeks because Devin’s blood counts have been too low for chemotherapy. And that’s the catch-22 with the treatment – chemo destroys the cancer so the bone marrow can produce normal blood cells again, but chemo also destroys other fast-growing cells like hair and… normal blood cells. Transfusions are a fact of life for patients, and never have I ever been more grateful for the people who donate their blood. I’ve only ever donated whole blood, but will make it my mission to donate platelets and plasma when I am able to again.
  • Steroids are the most awful and useful drugs.
  • Most of the medications in the treatment are given to counteract the ill-effects of other medications, and it starts to feel absurd.
  • We’ve been getting incredible support from lots of people, especially family and friends who are organising fundraising (and doing an overwhelmingly good job at it), and my online mother’s group. I ‘met’ those ladies over four years ago, and never did I think the group would become what it has. Very, very special.
  • I’m 21 weeks pregnant now, and we know that baby is a healthy little girl! I had absolutely no preference for a daughter or another son, but I did have a feeling she was a she. We are all excited… and maybe somewhat nervous.

Obviously this is just the very tip of an emotional few months, but since I’m now typing this with one hand while prostrate in bed, I’ll have to leave it there.

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An important message from Devin

hooray!

Yes, the t-shirt doesn’t lie. Little Person #2 is estimated to arrive on the 15th of December.
That makes me 11 weeks now, and it might seem unusual to be telling everyone already. Actually, the bun was out of the oven (?) when I was only 5 weeks pregnant – I needed to tell Dad during that awful week at the ICU, to give him more motivation to fight (and damn, he was doing a good job), or so he would know before he left us.
The shirt was intended for my parents, but life happens, doesn’t it. Now it gets its debut here.

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Devin is enjoying the fruits of my cravings, like cake-in-a-mug. The sweet tooth that was kicked into high-gear by my first pregnancy has finally been quashed by this one – I mostly want salt and protein (which is funny because apparently sugar cravings are caused by a lack of protein?) – but I do still have sudden urges to eat something chocolatey. I am still me.

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I have a pretty constant craving for eggs with runny yolks, but they’re verboten, much to my despair. This day, what I actually wanted was runny eggs on rice with oyster sauce, but had to make-do with hard eggs on toast with spinach and oyster sauce. I’m pretty sure I was still hungry after I ate it. My appetite is out of control.

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And so is my stomach. This was 8 weeks. Let’s not get excited – it is technically caused by baby, but it’s not baby. It’s bloat, and it’s juuuust wonderful. I was over 20 weeks pregnant with Devin before my belly started poking out in any way, and I wore my usual clothes for the full 39 weeks he was in there. This time, I’ve had to scramble to buy actual maternity wear because of my overexcited tum…

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… See?

beary warm

I managed to nab this coat from asos for more than 70% off, and what’s more, it’s a maternity coat. No cold belly for me.
Both Devin and Jene, separately, said it looks like a bear when they first saw it. That’s ok by me. It makes me beary warm.

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Something poor Dev has heard me say a lot is, “I’m sorry Devy, I just feel too sick.” He lifts my shirt up and rubs my tummy to make me feel better.

I was nauseous for 10 weeks with Devin, starting exactly at 6 weeks. When I started feeling green at 6 weeks this time, I started bracing myself for a repeat while being secretly scared of how we’d get through following weeks. I slept a lot the first time, and didn’t do much else. I didn’t eat much apart from cheeseburgers, and I lost weight.
I’m hesitantly going to say that it seems to have passed already. I had a few bad weeks, but I wore sea sick acupressure bands for a little while (starting the day of Dad’s funeral) and they seemed to help. I’ve also been eating a whole lot more than I did with Devin, because the sickness caused by an empty stomach outweighed that caused by eating.
Though I was sick for a long time while pregnant with Devin, that was practically my only discomfort. This time, I seem to be experiencing every other symptom that is common in the first trimester… Let’s just not even go there.

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I cannot get enough of this kind of stuff. The ways that a body has to change in order to grow a person are just incredible. It also serves to make me feel better about sometimes feeling kind of miserable.

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I might have to think of a new name for this blog, now.

This experience has not turned me off Cheezels.

Cheezels always remind me of when I ate pretty much a whole box of them when I was around 8 weeks pregnant with Devin. I had awful, constant nausea, and I was due to go to New Year’s Eve dinner (here) with Jene and my middle sister, Erinn, soon, but it still seemed like a good idea, eating all those Cheezels. I couldn’t stop – the nausea was inexplicably diminished as long as I was eating them, and since I had been having trouble eating anything, I took advantage of the fact that my stomach wasn’t rebelling.
Of course, you probably know what happened. About ten minutes after I’d finished, I started to feel sick again, and worse, because my stomach was full of artificial cheese flavour. I got prepared to leave for dinner, but pretty much as soon as I’d put on some clothes and brushed my hair, I had to throw up. I ran and barely, barely made it to the bathroom. I had to change my clothes, but hey, at least my stomach was empty for dinner.

I don’t remember much of the dinner, in terms of what we ate, because I still wasn’t feeling great. I did my best, and I’m sure what I did eat was very good.
Jene still talks about how great that dinner was, though, so I’m glad it had a lasting impression on him.

Express delivery

Even now, I sometimes get stuck on the fact that Devin was born so quickly. I feel lucky, I suppose, that I didn’t have to endure the pain for very long, but I also feel like I missed… well, everything. The only word I can think of to describe the first few days after his birth is shock.

Obviously I knew I would have a baby, but through all the pregnancy books and personal recounts I read, two things were really drummed into my head – because it was my first pregnancy, I would almost certainly be overdue, and almost certainly be in for a long labour. I believed that so vehemently that for the first half of my labour, I honestly didn’t think I was in labour. And even after my water had audibly broken, even as I was hunched over the car desperately trying to ignore the urge to push, I was still positive it would be hours before anything actually happened. I expected to be in that pain, and worse, for a long time, and I felt dread about that. I really wasn’t expecting a baby to come flying out of me thirty minutes later. Neither was my partner. Neither was the poor baby, judging by his stunned silence and floppy-ish start to life.

I was in labour for about four hours, but only two of those felt like labour. The actual pushing and birth was minutes. I spent more time in the delivery room getting the cuts from his fingernails sutured than I did delivering. I was so shocked that I couldn’t feel much else, including a rush of love for my baby. It was more a sense of, here is the new person who I will love forever. Just fact. Not a feeling.

I have always felt silly holding on to these feelings, until I read this really gripping story of a woman who gave birth in a taxi, and especially this –

I remember what Shara, our birthing class teacher, told us about quick births. Sure, you have LESS time in labor (aka less pain), but some part of the process goes missing.

In all of my reading and classes, this was never mentioned. The fact that labour might actually be an important part of birth, and not just for the obvious physical reasons. You might be tempted to say I had nine and a bit months to get ready for a baby, but it’s not as simple as that. I mean, think of it this way – I had nine months of waiting and wondering and planning. Nine months of sharing my body with someone I hadn’t met yet, of getting used to his constant company. Nine months before the rest of my life. Then, with barely a few hours warning, he was out and in my arms. It was a sudden, harsh transition, and yes, I still think about it.

I loved being pregnant, and nothing has ever been that exciting for me. I may be pregnant again one day, but it won’t be the same excitement and unknown as my first time. So the fact that I can barely remember the birth has not been easy to resolve. It has not, ironically, been easy to forget.

The funk soul brother

The things that I remember most clearly about Devin’s birth, I am embarrassed to say, are not the moment he was actually born, nor the first time I held him. Those things are actually very, very hazy in my memory, because it was a fast labour and delivery.

When I think of that moment, the first thing that comes to mind is how the gas and air made all the noises sound funny while I was getting stitches. And especially, I kept hearing the part in Fatboy Slim’s Rockerfellar Skank where ‘now’ is repeated. You know? “Right about now, about now, about now… now, now, now, now’. It’s actually similar to my memory of the 20 week ultrasound – one, Devin wouldn’t open his hands so the doctor had to keep prodding and the gel ran out and it was uncomfortable. But two, I Shot the Sheriff was playing over the speakers when we found out he was a boy.

The second thing I remember is realising that Devin and Jene were back in the room after getting Devin’s official measurements taken. I was snapped out of my gas high by Devin sneezing.

I mean, honestly. That really sums up being human to me. There are lovely moments, but sometimes life is marked by the really silly, trivial things.

Lacking clearly defined characteristics.

I think there a couple of things women need to stop doing in regards to pregnancy and parenting.

One, stop using ridiculous hyperbole in regards to labour and birth. It’s not like ‘someone putting two hands up your bottom and pulling out your intestines.’ It’s not like ‘pushing a watermelon through a pinhole’. It’s not worse than getting hit in the head with a chair.
Be realistic. Yes, it will hurt. Of course it will hurt. But comparing it to horrible things like the aforementioned isn’t helpful or accurate. Labour pain is good pain. It means things are right, and you get something awesome at the end.
There are no reasonable it-feels-likes, because I can’t think of anything in life that is at all like expelling a small human from your womb via a narrow orifice. And you can’t equate the pain level to something else, because everyone has different pain thresholds. That’s why some people need epidurals and some can go without.
So, enough of that. Expect that it will hurt. Expect that you’ll get a baby at the end.

Two, oh my gosh. Where do I start.
I’ve touched on this before… People seem to think they’re doing expectant parents a favour by describing ‘what parenting is really like’. I’m seeing it a lot lately – big, sweeping generalisations about the ‘truth’ of parenthood, from ‘it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do’ to ‘it’s so easy what’s the big deal?’

I think it’s great that people have the opportunity to, you know, tell their side of things, but really, that’s all it’s ever going to be. There will never be one Big Truth.
So I really don’t like seeing people writing articles and blogs and comments that include phrases like, “you will” “you won’t” “it is” “it isn’t” and/or pass thinly-veiled judgement on anyone who might feel or say differently.

A good example is a post I recently read by someone who just had to ‘put the truth out there’ on the realities of parenting a newborn…

“…when you start to wonder why you even did all this in the first place… welp, that’s the majority of the time, k? More often than not you’re exhausted and at your wits end. That’s just the truth. Plain and simple.”

Well, it’s not. It’s not the truth. It’s your truth. I mean, let’s ignore the use of ‘welp’ and ‘k’, because although it was just a blog post, it got a lot of responses, which means this whole thing is just being perpetuated.

It’s like everyone is under the impression that no one has any idea at all what being a parent is actually like, or that what they do know is wrong. Like there’s some Universal Parenthood Law that dictates how everyone will feel about it and cope with it. Like everyone is, for some reason, hiding The Truth.

I’d really like this trend to stop. Sharing personal experience is fine. Using personal experience to make blanket statements about parenthood is not.

Life is tough enough without having someone kick you from the inside.

I know I don’t post often here, but I do actually write and save regularly with the intention of eventually making a post. At least half of that I delete because I often write when I’m angry, frustrated or upset. The rest is unfinished snippets and thoughts that trail off. My attention span and short-term memory are terrible, and when I do finally think of the sentence I’ve been searching for, I frequently forget it before I can type it out. Yes, it’s that bad.

So here is something I started writing a while ago. It’s not so interesting, but it’s something.

I am in a position where I’m suddenly seeing a lot of pregnancy announcements, and with each new one, I feel a pang of envy and instinct –
Have a baby, have a baby, have a baby.

I would like to be pregnant again. I would like another baby. And another one. I told Jene one day that even with the three of us, it feels lonely sometimes. Like someone is missing.
It’s not just a case of primal urges trying to override my rationale (though they do try very hard). I have given it a lot of thought. I do logically want more children.

But not now.

Whether because Devin is a ‘difficult’ baby, or because I am a ‘difficult’ mother, or both, caring for one baby has been very taxing. I’m almost inclined to say that I want to get a handle on parenting one child before I add another, but honestly… at what point will that happen? If at all? Every age is going to bring new challenges, and I will always be just a little lost.
I think what I’m actually waiting for is confidence. Understanding that sometimes I won’t know what exactly to do, but knowing that we’ll still be all right. At the moment, I’m still learning how to cope with one.

Of course, there are other deciding factors. Not least of all that I still have quite a few years of fertility left.
Although in saying that…
Since I had my first baby at 21, I’d really like to be finished by the time I’m, say, 30.
It might be possible for me to have a child at 40, but I don’t really want to be starting all over again when my eldest is 20 and has (potentially) moved out of home. I would really like to bunch my child-raising years together, as much as possible.
This is, of course, just my ideal.

And now that you’re all caught up on my family planning, I’ll make my hasty exit.