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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

stocktake

I am working on a magnum opus about W's birth (HOLY SHIT I GAVE BIRTH TO A REAL LIVE HUMAN BABY, I am so impressed with myself) but in the meantime, some short updates:

- W is already over a month old and is the giantest baby of all time. Not really, but he has amazing cheese rolls under his chin which I could eat with a spoon.  He's over 5 kilos now and has burned through all the newborn clothing.

- So I had a baby out of my vagina [soz, spoiler alert for the birth story] and ended up with a few tears.  Recovery has been not too bad, actually, but when will I ever feel brave enough to, you know, do it again? I told the midwife that abstinence was a particularly effective form of birth control when she went there last week.

- The sleep thing is shithouse, no?  I hate daysleep so I'm going to bed by 8pm which seems to be keeping me functional.  He's pretty reasonable at night and has developed a good three hourly pattern (eat, poop, sleep) but not so much keen on the sleeping during the day.  I've just spent an hour letting him doze off on me and failing to transfer him to the bassinet.  Can't say I blame him, cuddling is far nicer.

- Also shithouse: engorgement.  Fuck me that was horrific.  My left breast is markedly bigger than old righty and I not-so-fondly refer to it as the shit tit - there's always some lump and its always full to
bursting.  I cannot wait for them to regulate.

- We had another weekend with my parents, with us travelling to them this time.  W was three weeks and managed nicely, but Dad caught bronchitis on his trip to Auckland and was in hospice while we were
there.  The last two or three weeks have seen quite a deterioration
for him, which is likely the effects of the tumour growing.  It's
awful.  We're there again next weekend.  I feel time clutching at my
throat.

- Mum is doing it tough.  God, I wish I could help.

- My MiL is here and my house has never been so spotless.  I feel
terribly guilty as I fanny about cuddling the baby and she does all
the housework and cooks the meals and wishes I'd relax enough to let
her get paws on the baby.  I should just relax and enjoy but the sight
of someone else handling my smalls is stressing me out.

- P continues to be the father I knew he'd be.  He was fabulous onparental leave.  Each day when he gets home from work he's genuinely
devastated when W is already in bed.  He sits up for at least one
night feeding, marvelling at W.  I have a feeling that watching P
watch W will be one of my favourite memories.  I'm trying so hard to
imprint some of these things on my brain - the dim light, P's wonder,
W's lovely noises.

- I was doing the deliberate memory stocktake for Dad, for a long time
post-diagnosis.  I've stopped, somewhere along the line.  Somewhere
where the essence of Dad changed and he retreated to help himself
survive, as contradictory as that sounds.  The only thing I cling to
now is the feel of his hands and the 'love you very muches' that end
each visit.  That, and watching Dad with W.  It breaks my heart as it
mends it too - the contradiction is profound.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

when he was 5 days old

I was cradling my newborn son in my arms when I stepped out onto the front verandah and found my father in the front yard. I burst into tears. I hadn't known he was coming and there he was, wheelchair bound, steroid bloated, but with his arms open to meet his first grandson.

I had known Mum was keeping secrets from me, but I thought she was shielding me from info about his declining health, not planning the best surprise I've ever had. As I write this, two weeks later, Dad is having a bad day and I've been crying on and off. W is still in my arms, his warm, solid weight reassurance of life. We take W to see Mum and Dad on Thursday. I'm so glad he didn't wait for our visit - I will cherish that memory and the pictures of him drinking in his grandson for the rest of my life.

I was feverish with engorgment for the duration of his visit and my hormones had unbalanced me beyond belief, so the whole two days feels like a crazy, tear-stained dream. I was so lucky to have that, to have W, to still have Dad.

Monday, 6 July 2015

39 & 4

39 weeks, 4 days and going out of my damn mind.  I got all excited
post-yoga on Friday night because of a series of Braxton-Hicks
contractions and "feeling weird", but it was nothing.  I was hopeful
all weekend because it was my midwife's weekend on duty and I'd really
like her to be there, but nothing happened (except that I got bigger). Today was my grandmother's birthday and how nice to have what would have been her first great-grandchild on her birthday (You see how I'm clutching at straws here holding out hope for an imminent birth?) I'm trying not to hold my breath.  This baby is perfectly happy in utero it seems.

We know that the kiddo is happy in utero because when I saw the midwife on Friday, she sent me for a scan.  I'd expressed some concern about the drop in fetal movement and I don't know if she was placating a crazy person or being generally cautious or both but she referred me in any event.  We couldn't see much because of the size of the baby (though Mum was pleased to hear we spotted the nose in profile, the 32 week scan appearing as if baby had a giant nasal void), but it seems baby is on track to be a tall child possibly with short legs (my genetic material has doomed this baby).  I am pleased to report that apart from one run-in with a transvaginal ultrasound in the early days (damn dildo-cam) I have thus far managed to avoid having anyone up in my business.  Oh sure, I guess I could be asking for a stretch and sweep etc but eh, I kinda feel like that's pointless unless birth is
reasonbly close anyway.  So I have no idea what my cervix is up to. Closed up like a clam, I expect.

That's enough cervix talk.  Ugh.

The other reason I'm going out of my damn mind of course is the desire to go see Dad and introduce the baby to him.  It's already been a month since I saw him last.  It's likely going to be another month.
It is freaking me out.

Here's hoping the next time we talk will be on the flip side.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

38 & 3

It's the crack of dawn on Sunday and I am pleased because I managed to stay asleep until after 5am.  The cats are thrilled I got up; the bikkie bowl is now full.

I sleep best before midnight, assuming no reflux, then the parade of toilet trips and resettling starts. Too many naps might have something to do with it, too. I resent the implication the terrible sleep is getting me ready for baby -- shouldn't I be packing away a good 8 hours a night now, while I still can? I guess it's like everything else that people say you should enjoy in your last days of pregnancy -- you know, doing all those couple things, going out by yourselves etc -- most of them are already off the cards because I can't sit in one place for too long, I can't have a drink anyway, my conversational skills are not what you'd call sparkling right now.

That sounds like a giant moan but really, I love being at home with my husband most of all just now in any case. Last night, he watched rugby while lying back on me and the baby (a little), feeling the kid belt his ear when he got too excited about the Hurricanes' peformance. It was truly very nice.

We waved our hippie flag at the yoga birth prep course yesterday. Actually, we waved our mainstream flag in front of many hippies because we were the only people booked in to give birth at the hospital, rather than Birthcare (Central Auckland's birthing unit, where epidurals are most certainly not available.) I have been enjoying practicing the birthing positions with P -- because of my heat and general discomfort/size, I haven't been as physically affectionate with him as I would normally be. Hanging off his neck to rock my hips and doing some gentle squats using each other as support was surprisingly intimate and relaxing.  Here's hoping some of it sticks.

I got cross after speaking to Dad yesterday. I guess it's a sign of greediness and Dad's general stability over past weeks that when I hung up, I blurted to P that I wanted my old Dad back. Not all that long ago, even this version of Dad seemed impossible.  I have been grateful, don't get me wrong, but I still reserve the right to miss him as he was.  And don't worry, I can also see the day when I read this back and get furious because this is so, so much better than no Dad at all.  I think I see this happening with Mum too - we all want continued improvement and when he has a bad day with blood pressure issues, or when he can't recall what was said or gets confused, we get frustrated now, rather than despairing. I suspect it's natural. At the very least, it's better than crying. I try not to let him see it.

I want to write him a letter, but what on earth do I say? Maybe just that it made my life to get a birthday card signed by him, wobbly and with two extra 'd's at the end of Dad and all.  I need to do it now. I never want it to be too late.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

37 + 6

I don't know what I've done to our piece of shit laptop but I can't type or paste into the new post box on Blogger.  I've been typing these last posts in Gmail and using my phone to paste them into Blogger but the formatting is completely screwed.  However, it doesn't appear I care enough to fix the problem just at the moment.  I am saving some of my weekly discretionary income at present and perhaps a
new laptop or tablet is called for.  However, in six-ish months I've only squirrelled about half of fuck all aside so I won't hold my breath that it'll happen any time soon.

So, since I last posted two weeks ago?  Seems like we now have a status quo, which is good.  Dad's stable period continues - he chats on the phone a bit and is now a little more physically active, despite still having serious numerical inversion and some forward planning mental issues.  I think they're keeping secrets from me though - Dad forgets they weren't going to tell me things following visits from the hospice nurse so I suspect I'm only getting part of the picture.  This is probably to save me from feeling bad/sad/frustrated in my current 'delicate' condition,* which is sweet but nonetheless frustrating in its own right.

So, I have not yet had a baby.  38 weeks tomorrow and it can't come soon enough.  I know, I know, I should be savouring this time, but it's hard to savour when all I want is to meet this wee person and
have this wee person know my Dad & vice versa for at least a little while.

Physically, I'm not too bad aside from the general hugeness and reflux issues.  Oh, actually I take it back - this time last week I developed a fucking haemorrhoid of all things following a tummy upset and that made me cross beyond belief.  I have worked hard to avoid that sort of issue with a fibrous diet etc - it was uncomfortable and gross.  I was going to organise a bikini wax but I didn't want to go with ... all of that ... hanging out and now it's kind of too late (waxer doesn't want me past 38 weeks).  So hairy fairy for giving birth it is (not that I'll probably care).  For the record, it is now slightly less
uncomfortable and gross but here's hoping I don't destroy my butt during birthing and this bad boy vanishes pronto post-natal.

Are we ready for a baby?  I guess so.  We finally finished the renovation on the baby's room and hallway on the weekend.  I've been moving bits and pieces back into the room over the last couple of
days, chipping plaster and stray paint spots off the floor, organising entirely too preshus little onesies etc.  While the house is not yet
back to tidy (and clean is probably a long way off), I feel
comfortable that if the baby came by tomorrow it wouldn't be the grade
A clusterfuck crisis I was scared of while my house was still full of
paint fumes, ladders and nails.

There's been a last minute spate of babies prior to ours, with
attendant use of just about every name we could agree on for a baby
boy (and I remain convinced I'm having a boy).  This entirely
predictable given how popular the names I like are (my give-a-shit
factor about uniqueness is bugger all.  I have a very popular early
80s name and it's never really bothered me.  Besides which, our last
name is a complete sod to spell and pronounce so I think we've already
got unique covered).  P absolutely hates my number 1 choice which is
the only option that hasn't been pinched (it's the name of your old
boyfriend who is a complete cock, he moans.  Doesn't matter that he
was my boyfriend at age 12 and I never had the gumption to even give
him a pash.  Yes, he may have given a friend of P's chlamydia somewhat
later in life but surely that shouldn't completely taint a name?!)

I'm taking P to a special session run by the pregnancy yoga teacher
this weekend, so we can bone up on birthing positions, useful things
for him to say and breathing techniques etc.  This is about 5,000%
more hippy than I usually am but yoga has been such a breath of fresh
air this pregnancy.  It's been so helpful for my body and state of
mind during the pregnancy that even if it only helps me keep my cool
for a bit during labour, it's still worthwhile.  Am considering
launching in to the raspberry leaf tea and some acupuncture to bring
on this baby, but on reflection I'm actually quite keen for my body
just to do it's thing unmolested to the extent possible.

*There is nothing fucking delicate about me right now.  I am ahippopotamus with reflux issues.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

35 & 6

I have returned from my last pre-baby trip to Hawke's Bay to a run of sunny days in Auckland.  Thank god for that, because I was utterly miserable when we departed on Monday.  The idea of not being able to
spend any time with Mum and Dad between now and when the baby is a few weeks old is distressing.  As things go with babies, it could be up to six weeks before the baby arrives and I'm not sure when we'll feel confident enough to take the baby to Mum and Dad.  My guess is that it will be at least two months before I see Dad again in person.

It could be worse, I suppose.  A month ago, when I finished work, it looked an awful lot like his death was imminent (weeks or days away -- anything further is no longer 'imminent' or even close, to me). Dad is
now much more stable than he has been for a while so I shouldn't suppose that my departure on Monday was the last time I'll see him. The thought has crept into my mind however, brooding in the corner
like a malevolent spirit waiting a turn to take my controls.

I am engaging with uncertainty in a sustained manner for the first time in my life.  Dad's illness and the baby's arrival are pretty big, as uncertainty goes.  Sure, I spent 5 months unemployed in 2010,
freaking that I'd never get hired in London to do anything I'd trained for, but that uncertainty had options -- look for other work, move back to NZ.  I was supported by P's paycheck, which made it certain we could still pay rent and buy food.  This kind of uncertainty can't be pragmatically supported in the same way.

So, at 35 weeks + 6 days, here I sit, unable to travel any longer.
Air New Zealand puts the cut off at 36 weeks.  Dad, Mum and P banded
together to ban me from buying impulse tickets next weekend to visit
(just for a night, I said, to no avail).

I fill my days now with light activity.  I purchased new sheets and
bed linen yesterday, acting on impulse.  I wash things.  I caulked a
little this morning.  I mop up after the gib stopper.  I call the
glazier.  I make dinner.  I have baths to soothe the baby and my back.
I speak to Mum and Dad twice a day.  I avoid social engagement where
possible.  I don't think about things, usually, because that way
trouble lies.
s
I have devoted some mental real estate to Lecretia Seales, however.
During the course of my last trip to Hawke's Bay, Lecretia died and
the judgment regarding assisted euthanasia and the New Zealand Bill of
Rights Act 1990 was released.  Trust me, I devoured Lecretia's blog
and the judgment, poring over it in the hope that we would be able to
have a sensible public debate about thie end of life.  I am still
stewing it all internally -- not only the big principle issues, but
also the evidence I found in the judgment about what the end will
involve for Dad.  I ought to have expected to have found that kind of
expert evidence.  I didn't, and now I don't know whether I'm glad or
horrified to have read it.

If you don't know, Lecretia was a 42 year old New Zealand lawyer who
was diagnosed with a brain tumour and wished to have the option to
pursue physician assisted suicide if she felt that her life had become
intolerable due to the impact of her illness.  While Lecretia's
diagnosis/prognosis was slightly different to Dad's, the parallels
were undeniable and the similarities between Lecretia's life and
personality and my own (and Dad's, too) made her plight and decisions
compelling for us.  I genuinely grieve her death.  I am so grateful
she took the steps she did to get New Zealand to engage in a
conversation about the end of life.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

36 years

The trip to the hospice helped, a lot.  The seizures are now largely under control and the episodes of confusion have lessened.  Following release from the hospice, we had about a week during which Dad's
mental acuity incrementally improved, showing us flashes of the pre-cancer Dad.  Not to say things are totally rosy (he's still largely confined to the wheelchair and walking is not on the cards, he
tires easily, his memory is shot, his eyesight is limited), but he and Mum are enjoying some quality of life now.  They can reminisce together, which is huge.  Revisiting your shared memories and good
times is such an important part of any relationship, I've come to appreciate.

I am holed up in my bedroom at home while builders busily fix gib plasterboard in the hallway and baby's room.  They're also fixing a few shoddy piles under the front section of the house.  I've been home now for the best part of a week and got to spend a long weekend with
P, which was so needed.  My 'weekends' away from Hawke's Bay had largely been on Thursday/Friday and he's been nuts at work -- it'd been about a month since we'd spent any quality time with one another, and stress was fraying our edges.  P has shouldered the financial and practical responsibilities (work, the renovation) together with looking after my emotional needs, and I'm doing what I can to support
my mother and father, as well as cope with reality of my father dying while I'm heavily pregnant. We very much needed to spend some time just enjoying each other's company and acknowledging what the other is going through. Three days was perfect.

We are going to Mum and Dad's this weekend (I leave on Thursday, P is
joining us on Saturday).  It's the last trip I have booked before the
baby's due date.  I'm 36 weeks on 11 June and while I think the
midwife will give me a dispensation to travel, I'm starting to find
travel much harder.  I'm trying not to think about the impotence of
sitting in the house in Auckland, unable to assist or spend time with
Mum and Dad, growing larger and unsure when I'll be able to be back
with them.  Mum has better assistance now provided by a retired RN for
a couple of hours a day, which allows her to manage the farm, but the
companionship and someone else to share the chores has been helpful
for her, I think.  No one else can give the time I have been able to
this past month, and as things deteriorate as they inevitably will,
she's going to need more emotional support.  I call twice a day at
least when I'm not there, but it's not the same.

At this stage, the plan is for Dad to spend a night or two in hospice
after the baby is born so Mum can come and meet him or her.  As soon
as we're able after that, I'd like to take the baby to Hawke's Bay to
meet Dad.  Who knows whether that will be feasible (whether Dad will
be up to it, whether we'll be up to it, whether baby will be up to it)
but I don't think we have much time.  We have an official trip booked
for September, but I can't wait that long.  I don't think we have that
long.  I don't know.

And yet, life keeps on keeping on, even though I'm preoccupied with
death.  The baby feels huge to me now.  I've had enough comments from
strangers about my size to last a lifetime (woman at the Citta outlet
store who outright said I must be more than 34 weeks last weekend,
because I look huge, you are very lucky I swallowed my righteous
indignation and left your shop without committing a crime).  To be
fair, the student midwife told me this morning that I'm measuring
about a week ahead, so I am large; I just don't want to hear about it
from strangers.  My back has been getting very sore if I don't walk or
practice yoga or if I sit with poor posture.  The indigestion has
eased.  There's a little insomnia, though I never know if that's
pregnancy related or Dad related.  I can discern little fists and feet
on my lower right hand side and I can most definitely feel the effects
of a head on my bladder.  I've been washing baby clothing for days,
marvelling that I'm going to produce an entire human being to fill
those wee onesies.  We are agreed on two possible first names for
either sex, though not on middle names.

We've finished antenatal classes.  At the last session, I quietly
asked the instructor what steps I could be taking now to help avoid
post natal depression.  She has had a friend go through this exact
thing with her mother (i.e. brain tumour during pregnancy, rapid
deterioration and death shortly following birth), but as far as it
went helpwise was having a list of people to call on to help care for
the baby when I need to cry.   I think I should probably be seeing a
counsellor now, but I don't want to.  Writing helps, immeasurably.
The cartharsis in corralling the feelings and committing them to the
page is evident; I have a controlled weep at the end of writing a
post.

Today is Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary.  36 years - a lifetime
together, but not long enough.  Mum and Dad have not really been
adults without one another.  They had plans, together.  Over the
weekend, Mum was gifted a black labrador puppy.  She already has a
devoted golden lab, but there was a spare kennel and her friend who
bred the puppy wanted to give her something else to lavish love on and
receive love in return.  She's thrilled - it's a responsibility, yes,
but one that sits happily alongside caring for Dad.  Six months ago,
Dad would have been terribly cross.  Puppies are long-term
responsibilities that make travel and spontaneity much harder.  It's
an acknowledgement of how the plans have changed that he's happily
acquiesced, knowing what it will mean for Mum.  It's awful and it'slovely, both.

Happy anniversary, my parents. Let's always celebrate it.