PAIL September Monthly theme post: Write to life.

This post is part of the PAIL monthly theme posts (Pregnancy After Infertility and Loss), and September’s theme is Why we blog. . Other posts from the members are here.

I started blogging in February of 2011 as a space to record my journey as we tried to conceive. I’d spent so long trying not to get pregnant, it was just weird to be on the other bus!!! I needed somewhere to clarify how I felt about it, and I’ve always done that with writing. Private Blogging was just an evolution of my existing emotional processes.

Six months later, I began thinking we may have a problem, reading infertility blogs, trying to get my head around what was next. On my fortieth birthday I was sitting in an IVF clinic waiting room with a wad of Internet research and an armload of questions, PCOS for me and a couple of low sperm counts for hub-in-boots. The thoughts had to go somewhere.

Trying to conceive is inherently funny. IVF is inherently funny. The things you have to do to help science make a baby are madness. Absolute madness! Counting follicles like you have an egg carton in a supermarket, injecting yourself, wandering around secretly carrying ovaries that look and feel like bunches of lead grapes. Jerking off in strange rooms with bar fridges and porn…it ain’t your normal journey.

I also felt writing about it here would allow hub-in-boots to see my emotional journey in his own space and time, if and when he wanted to read about it, not by my leaning on him too heavily (at least at first). I thought it would help us communicate, with more space and reflection. I think it definitely achieved this, and our journey through IVF and bedrest were, I’m sure, much more harmonious and mutually supportive as a result.

Plus, once you’re out about IVF, you can get tired answering the same questions, talking about it all the time. I blogged so I didn’t have to spend my life talking about it. Everyone knew where we were at, so we could start conversations from a place of shared info. People didnt have to ask me how it worked, I wrote it out for them.

The decision to be “out” about IVF was a very personal and practical one. I had depression years ago. I suffered very very badly, before I knew what was happening. I remember thinking if I really knew what it was, what it felt like before hand, I would’ve recognised it, and got help sooner. When I got better. I swore I would be out about depression. I would always tell people, I would talk about it, if it was relevant. Just in case it helped just one person.

And so it was with infertility. Another taboo, another outspoken Jo. Another hope to suffer with a purpose. And with humour.

You would think that pregnancy would end an infertility blog, but the fact is, a pregnant “infertile” feels differently about being pregnant. It is a whole other category of complicated. Add that to pregnant infertile, with a sub chorionic haematoma of grave proportions with a complicated pregnancy on extended bedrest, hell yeah I still needed to blog. I was living in liminal space, on the threshold of everything, but nowhere.

I needed to blog my child into existence.
I needed to write him alive.
I needed to distance myself from the spectre of loss that sat beside us, waiting for tragedy.

And when jman arrived, I needed to blog myself into being a Mum. I needed to blog his first days, as a gift to him. I needed to blog away that spectre of loss that haunted us, to blog away the pregnancy trauma, (because waiting and hoping 24/7 it is traumatic).

As jman hit nine weeks old, my nephew, 22, committed suicide. No warning. Simon, originally himself a very premi baby with months in NICU, would have been twenty three on Monday.

I felt like the spectre of loss had just moved somewhere else in the family, that it was still here. I felt that our making it through somehow contributed to Simon not making it. I understand this is completely illogical, nonsense, but emotions can speak other truths from logic. My anxiety skyrocketed. I had nightmares about the ‘inquest at jensen’s death’ if he slept through more than a couple of hours. I dreamt of my nephew. I dreamt of losing Jensen, as in physically leaving him places. I didn’t always directly write about these things, but I tried to blog myself to a more positive mindset, to record each day, to see how real and alive he was, and to see how safe we were, even as my mummy radar shifted into overdrive.

On a more prosaic and joyful level, I wanted to share the joy of this special boy who we’d worked so hard for. I wanted to celebrate his life, with both those who loved us in real life, and those who had joined us in our journey, online, and rooted for us, and cheered for us, and cried for us, and helped to bring him here. They all pushed us another step forward.

It does annoy me a bit, people that condemn Internet over sharing about their children. I get the safety thing, I get it, but what they miss is how enmeshed you are at first as a mum, how their life is your life for a long time. I will end this blog at some point, when I feel it is taking from jman rather than recording for him. I’m his mother, I trust I can make that judgement, like I make a thousand other judgements for him, every single day.

I thought about transitioning to another space when he arrived, but it is all part of our journey. It is all part of the one continuum, and I don’t care who knows the gory details. I don’t care if it doesn’t have tidy easy to tag cookie cutter blogger edges. It is our life. It is messy and multi faceted. It is worth sharing.

Right now, with a fourteen month old tear away on the loose, blogging is sometimes another nagging chore, but mostly it is a perspective changer. It can be hard when you’re picking up books for the sixteenth time that day, have just been hit in the head with a yoghurt covered spoon, and you’re wondering why you bothered with two degrees and whatever happened to your brain? Because I might blog about them, because I have a problem with perfectionism and at times negative thinking, blogging, particularly humourous posts, make me stop and reframe the moment, from “what a disaster!” to”what a hilarious post!”.

When I travelled solo, or dated idiots, I’d always think how Would I Tell the Story; as I got stuck in carriage full of smugglers having lost my passport on a Bulgarian night train on the border, faced with an Alsatian with bad breath, the thought of the dinner party story it would become made me stop and reassess, and not panic. And so it is with the parenting trip. I think in stories, in words, in connecting my story with other stories. I always have. A blog is simply a logical next step.

The value in blogging after, after infertility and insurmountable odds, is firstly to show it is possible to those still in the trenches. Secondly it is to celebrate the joy of a little person becoming a person, growing, developing, and thirdly to acknowledge that how I parent requires everything I have been until now, and more.

Lastly, and this is something I only thought about after I first drafted this post, when you become a mum it is a time of personal upheaval. You lose who you were. You lose your edges. You get to be someone else, but eventually I think you need to try and recognise which parts of yourself are lost, and to an extent mourn them, which parts are new and worth celebrating, and integrate those disparate selves into a whole. This, I think, is how you avoid becoming “just a mum”, how you avoid resenting your partner or child through the upheaval, how you find a way to parent well, and how you find a new normal by selecting from the smorgasbord of selves to create a new plate of you. I’m laying out my dishes in these pages, I’m looking at what is there, I’m thinking which parts I want a second helping of. That’s why I blog.

Feeding the jman

This is part of PAILs’ monthly theme post (Pregnancy After Infertility and Loss). You can see other posts on this theme by clicking here.

During my fairly disastrous pregnancy, my least favourite doctor ever, herein known as Dr North Korea for his open, fair minded and democratic approach to patient care (all sarcasm intended)… Well he very kindly told me I’d never be able to breastfeed. Call it a combination of what he saw as likely insanely complicated birth, the complications after gestational diabetes, and my PCOS, he didn’t exactly give me a big thumbs up on the issue.

Of course, he was a complete dick.

The thing is, when you’ve waded through all that crap, all that infertility crap, all that lets lay in bed for 16 weeks while we bleed to death crap, you know, you kind of feel it would be nice is something went how it should go. So birth and breastfeeding? Hell yeah, they’re pretty important. They can feel like your entry ticket back into a vaguely normal motherhood.. Remove them, and you feel like a parenting gig gatecrasher who just managed to jump the fence when the bouncers weren’t looking.

So, lets just say it was important to me.

I made sure I was really well researched on the how to’s of breastfeeding prior to giving birth, combining the hospital classes with calm birth, and also attending a hospital specific session on breastfeeding. I joined the breastfeeding association so I knew the support was there, I watched you tube videos, I borrowed library books and bought others.

My expected”disastrous birth” was a dream run. Skin to skin within about 15 seconds, breastfeeding within the first hour. Insane oversupply issues at first that took ages to settle down, and issues with bub falling asleep on the job for several days.

I set my expectations nice and low, and just tried for six weeks of breastfeeding at first. I was as strict as strict with attachments, sometimes correcting the jman six times before I’d let him nurse, handing him off to dad for a resettle before attempting again if he got really silly, seeing the lactation consultant three or four times in the hospital for pointers and supervision of feeds. I decided I was not getting any nipple damage, I was just going to be really picky with him in how he attaches, it was my first parenting “no kid, this is how you do it” and I took it seriously.

Once my milk came in he started to pay serious attention and we kicked ass. I still had my afternoons of falling asleep wearing cabbage leaves, an occasional public leak, a particularly memorable detach in a sushi cafe as I sprayed across the table (oh, the humanity).

My six week target changed to three months, my three months to six, my six to a year, and here we are, still going strong a few times a day. What can I say, he’s a boob man. I went from days of googling facilities and looking for baby rooms to whipping it out wherever we were.

I spent nothing on feeding jman, apart from $20 on bottles for expressing, and all the freaking extra food i needed (!!!!) til he was five months old. Breastfeeding hunger is scary hunger…

At first, the idea of being that tied down to another person that often terrified me and made me feel like the walls were closing in. Later, I couldn’t imagine feeding him any other way.

what I didn’t get

I didn’t understand that feeds got quicker and easier as he got older. That at first, you structure everything in your life around feeds, and later, they are shorter than a cup of coffee and I complain bitterly if they take longer than six minutes now. Jman is a guts.

I didn’t understand that two hourly feeds meant you only got an hour “off”, because the feed, change, settle cycle takes an hour at first.

I didn’t understand that two hourly feeds don’t actually occur every two hours, but that they can “cluster” happening very frequently for a few hours, followed by a long sleep.

I didn’t understand that night feeds can not only lonely and annoying, but that they can also be this perfect time of absolute focus, bonding, and tranquility that you will always treasure.

I didn’t understand that laying down and feeding in bed didn’t have to just be “omg what about the SIDS risk”, it could also just be a really nice way to chill out, and I should probably just breathe a bit more.

It doesn’t matter if you breast or bottle feed, or what you choose to do, but it mattered to me that I got to feed the jman how I wanted to.
It matters to me that my jman got the best possible start.
It matters to me because I was never breastfed ( my mother had problems with psoriasis and needed to focus on fixing that, and was also, like me, an older mother who didn’t think she had it in her to feed her fourth child)…and it is possible this affected my adult health with insulin resistance issues my breastfed siblings never faced….

I never thought I’d be into “extended breastfeeding” , but when our paediatrician yesterday suggested we could switch to cows milk I almost laughed in his face! Talk about old school. Get with the programme, doc.

My hardest choice is those two frozen embryos, a ticking clock, and knowledge I’d have to fully wean to IVF again…and I can’t do it. I can’t artificially impose a breastfeeding deadline on my little guy.

He’s a boob man, and I wouldn’t have him any other way.

You’ve gotta fight, for your right

The jman is one this Friday. And slightly bored maternity leave mum who hasn’t done much apart from vacuum, wash and cook, thought she might do a few things to make the party memorable (for us!).

I completely agree that a theme or entertainers for a one year old birthday are ridiculous. We haven’t even bought the poor child a present yet. And making a huge fuss is more about the parents’ need for validation than the child. But.

I used to be a bit crafty. I made stuff, sewed clothes, cooked interesting things. I haven’t done much lately except get dinner on the table and stress about the state of the carpet. So I thought jman’s birthday was a good opportunity for a bit of “Kraftwerk”. Possibly not in the party soundtrack sense…

But it had to be a) brainless b) easy and c) fun.

So I started with buying a metre of each of these fabrics. And some pom poms. And some ric rac. Because there’s no party without pom poms and ric rac, right?

20130728-235313.jpg
After checking out handmade stuff for parties on etsy, i did the usual (and often fatal) “nah, im not spending money, i can do that”. There was a lot about cake smash outfits, handmade favour bags, bunting and the like.

I loved the party hats. And not of the nasty Chinese $2 shop variety. I was cruising the Internet late one night and stumbled upon this blog, Oh Happy Day. The hats were so pretty.

So I made one for the birthday boy, using this template. Finally, the stack of welcome baby boy cards I couldn’t bear to chuck had a purpose, and I’m never against recycling. So the larger cards from his birth and baptism have become party hats! I decided to cover the hat in fabric. Later on I sewed on pom poms, and skewered a hole for some hat elastic. Hat elastic which, as the worst parent in the world, I measured by trying the hat on jman as he slept in bed. Then I churned out another eight. Because I could. I’m really pleased with them.

20130728-235440.jpg
The other half of the fabric was designated for bunting. My niece hates the word bunting. She thinks it a) sounds really rude and b) is just a made up word. So to piss her off, we use the word as much as possible. And to really piss her off, I made some bunting.

The other truth is, a friend of ours made bunting for her kids which we borrowed to decorate our baby shower happy hour a year ago . And I’ve had bunting envy ever since. It looked so cute. So I originally bought my three fabrics with bunting in mind.

This guide to bunting was much easier than most. I mean, sure, you can do the piss weak version with wrapping paper or a single piece of fabric and pinking shears, but that was never going to cure my bunting envy. And anything involving a template just sounded like a pain. This was easy, so I grabbed my tailors chalk and ironing board and ruled up my 50 centimetres of fabric one night.

It took another four days to cut it out as we only had crappy scissors and I’m left handed, and left handed scissors are expensive. Plus jman tried to eat the tailors chalk, and tried to grab the ends of the scissors every time I used them.

In the longest craft project in history, the cut up bunting then sat patiently in a plastic bag awaiting sewing for several weeks whilst we all got sick, then well, then sick again. My mum has the family sewing machine combined with low immunity for colds etc, so we couldn’t go down to see her and sew.

Finally, this week, on designated bunting day, mum had had a fall and broke a bone in her wrist. Precious bunting hours slipped away as we waited for her plastering by the Physio. (That sounded unsympathetic. It was just a loooooong day), Lordy. Then I was worried jman would freak out at the noise of the sewing machine (he loses his shit at vacuums, hair dryers, coffee grinders and pull back cars at present ). But no, the sewing machine was interesting, and he stood very still beside me watching making “brmmmm brmmm” noises.

It’s easy, but it takes longer than you think.

Especially with a toddler.

And a helpful mother.

And an idiot kraftwerker who thought she bought 20 metres of 5mm tape, but actually bought 5 metres of 20 mm cotton tape…..so ran out of tape at 6pm at night…..I sewed the tape on, hemming web sounded too fiddly for me when I could zig zag at a million miles an hour.

We cobbled together some other tape from the gift wrapping box and an overlocked piece of bias binding.

Voila!

Bunting!

20130728-235619.jpg

It is by no means perfect, but we’re going for a quick and dirty bunting envy cure here, and pretty party decorations. They’ll do the job. Jman nearly had apoplexy with excitement when he saw the bunting. It was very cute. He was grabbing at them and laughing.

Of course, then I had some scraps if fabric left. And, you know, you can’t let them go to waste. So at the end of the hat construction and bunting cutting up, I fiddled and fiddled and came up with a table runner. Because tablecloths are useless with small people. I couldn’t even be assed ruling it up and making it square. I was so lazy I even free cut the number one out of my spotty fabric, I didn’t chalk it out first. Once at mums I started fiddling with the leftover pom poms, and the runner was together 40 minutes later as jman slumbered on (this time without trying on hats).

20130728-235807.jpg

Once a type A, always a type A…you start, you have to overachieve. So last night I whipped up these pom poms. I had no idea they were so cheap and easy!

20130728-235902.jpg
I have completely failed in my balloon shopping, accidentally buying “linkalloons” instead of balloons, so our balloons are going to either be tied together or look like a giant bunch of boobs complete with nipples. Traps for young players.

Finally, jman and I had a photoshoot for his invites, I got some ridgy cardboard offcuts from Reverse Garbage, and after a bit of fiddling and chucking pieces of fabric on my scanner, the invites for party one were done. Sadly, party two, the family party, has not advanced beyond a Facebook event. I’m all created out.

And our plans for Party games? Several tubes of bubbles, and a box of tissues each. To, you know, pull out one after the other and throw around the room and possibly eat. Because that’s what you do when you are one. And Jman’s main entertainment will be…..cake.

Do you have any suggestions for (healthy) kids party food suitable for one year olds?

Party pics to follow after next weekend.

20130729-001430.jpg

Oh, the places you’ll go.

Today would have been the second birthday of a precious little man called Sullivan Darcy Kippax. He was born to two lovely friends of mine in 2011. We had very similar periods of bedrest in pregnancy, for different reasons, with different outcomes. Sully only lived for a few short days.

Today, Sully would have been a big brother to Darcy, born in 2012,, and a little brother to Kev, and nothing can ever replace him, or heal that over. Time, and new family additions, just makes it more familiar to sit beside, but not easier.

His mums ask in his memory today that you read Oh! The places you’ll go! By Dr Seuss to someone you love. Many are sending them their photos, sharing this story with their partner, kids, dogs, cats…. Or you can watch the YouTube clip from burning man festival here.

If you email the photos of you sharing this book, clip or app to ozifrog1@hotmail.com, I’d be honoured to pass them on to Sully’s mums in his memory.

Let’s take little Sully lots and lots of places today. Share this if you can.

The Monday snapshot : hard ass year

That was one hard ass year.

20121231-233058.jpg

You can see jman is stressed out by it.

2012 contained several of the worst days of my life, hanging in time, frozen moments of some of the hardest yards I’ve ever done as a person. Others, with the tragic loss of Simon, were the worst that our extended family have experienced. Words are just pointless in the face of that. And it wasn’t just these moments, but the long hard slog that went with them, the sheer stubborn force of will it sometimes took to just hang on, day after day of feeling like a well that’s been drained, wondering just what is going to fill us up again….

I spent almost half of 2012 inside these four walls. Confined. Waiting. Hoping. Fearing. Balanced on a knife’s edge.

And of course, our boy has helped to refill our wells, with a whole lot of new stuff. He was worth the wait. Understatement of the millennium.

Thank you to those that helped us through. .

2012 also contained some of the best days of my life. His birth, of course. And teaching our son to make stupid noises & blow raspberries. Sometimes, blowing raspberries at life is the best course of action.

May you have a wonderful 2013, break resolutions by January 2nd, and may your 2013 dreams come true.

Take it away, jman.

Monday snapshot: Today’s the day

Today’s the day that jman’s life started, in a little petri dish, on the first floor of a nondescript building in Greenwich. Today’s the day, a year ago, that the scientists rang me to say we had 12 eggs fertilised in our second ivf attempt (three embryos made it to day 5).

It is a strange feeling to look at him, laying here attacking his owl on his playmat, and think that a year ago today he was one cell, thinking of becoming two, thinking of being a hatching blastocyst in 5 days, thinking of joining me on the 30th. After all we’ve been through. It’s amazing.

I should have taken his photo, in that petri dish on the camera on day 5, but for the Monday snapshot you can make do with these:

20121126-154111.jpg

20121126-154143.jpg

Notes to self

Note to self 1: when you message a photo of j man to your brother, if taken during a feed, stop and check that your boob is not in the photo

Note to self 2: after pissing yourself laughing about sending your bro a boob, & telling your husband about the epic fail, ensure hub-in-boots is crystal clear on which photo it was so he does not inadvertently email it on to all the ladies in his office

Note to self 3: if you’ve put the baby capsule back together after washing bits, and the harness is coming out of three places it is no longer a five point harness and you’ve probably made a mistake and may kill your child. Obey that nagging feeling in your head and unlike the “approved installation station”, inspect it thoroughly

Note to self 4: when you decide to go to a babes in arms movie session at the last minute and a feed is due, remember to wear nursing pads. Mmm circle work. Lucky it’s dark in there…..

Note to self 5: popcorn is not a breakfast food

Note to self 6: if it’s possible j-man will fall asleep on his feeding pillow during a feed, ensure you can a) reach the remote and b) don’t need to pee, first. That way being trapped on the lounge with him out to it on your lap won’t be quite so dramatic

Note to self 7: drinking red wine at speed whilst kicking the basinette with your foot may not qualify as a settling technique

Note to self 9: if your “bong toting binge drinking loudly arguing vomiting from above onto your balcony lets call the cops again neighbour” doesn’t show up with her newborn to your new mums group, try and avoid sharing your immense relief (and gory details) with other mums, in case she got the day wrong and is actually still coming in week 2….

Note to self 10: that is not fake tan on your newborn’s leg. No no. That nappy in act deserves its’ own dedicated post.