Thursday, 6 September 2012

Mourning

Mourning.

Mourning is like a river. It takes you under its powerful, raging rapids. To the darkest, deepest depths. And you lose the strength to swim as it sweeps you along, like a helpless drowning insect struggling against its tide.

Mourning is like a dark starless night. Leaving you blind to all else and afraid of what lays ahead.

Mourning is like a long hard winter. Where nothing seems to survive the harsh cold. It freezes you to the core and leaves you petrified. Suspended in time.


Mourning is like a river. It swells and rages in places and then dwindles and calms in others. Making peaceful gurgles as it rolls gently over your toes that you can dip in to feel its cold waters.

Mourning is like a dark starless night. Where the daylight creeps in, silently, but predictably. Illuminating things that felt frightening with warmth and light, even though the darkness will come again.

Mourning is like a long hard winter. That eases slowly to reveal the life hidden all along under its icy crust. Blossoms will bloom and warmth arrives again, in time.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Baby-time Voretx

I saw the date of my last post and was shocked.  Where has a whole month gone?  I scratch my head and look around and realise I know exactly where.  Into the baby-time vortex.  As little people get bigger, time gets smaller.  Didn't Einstein say that?  Baby=Mama-time/2?  Or something...

Ethan has decided that anything Mama does, he can do.  As I have tried to settle into a blog, or even a little email checking, I hear a persistent 'Uh, urhh, urhh!' behind me.  No longer content to explore his little section of the room, he is glaring at me.  'Get me up there!' his eyes say.  So up he comes to my lap, which buys us about 2.5 seconds of contentment before he decides he's ready to use the mouse.  So we find a compromise.  We watch Ernie singing 'Rubber Duckie' on YouTube and I forget my writing all together for the day.

He's also become mobile.  No textbook crawling yet, but he can wiggle and pull himself around, eventually getting to what he wants.  Baby favourites to scoot towards are unfortunately remote controls, iPhones and dumbbells.  He's an independent little fella and isn't always satisfied when he is given something rather than getting it himself.  Time to baby-proof the house!  I'm thinking bubble wrap around every corner and the computer in a locked room that he can access when he needs it for university.

Days of easy, low-clean-up baby milk are gone.  We can finally see a little tooth poking its way through his gums and he is excited to use it on anything we serve him.  He liked chicken, and then he tried dad's roast chicken.  After that, all other chicken got a disapproving look, like a Michelin star inspector sampling a McDonalds burger.  We are cooking extra and freezing baby-size portions, which he is working though faster than we can cook.  And again, whatever mama/daddy have is always exactly what he needs.  A picnic in the park over the weekend saw him grabbing handfuls of salad directly off our forks and shovelling them into his own mouth.  He makes a little face, with a rumpled up nose like a great white tucking into a seal, as a crams it in and munches away.

Its all fun, but busy.  And as I reflect, it's less a lack of time and more that I'm just zapped by the end of the day.  A great consolation has been his wonderful sleeping habits and the warm summer evenings recently.  So after his dinner, cleaning up the carnage that follows, a bath and a bottle, I have time for the last few rays of sunshine and sip from a bottle of my own.  Now that's mama-tatsic.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Family lazy Sunday munch-fest

When Ethan was younger, the whole day was centred on his eating schedule.  Every two-three hours at first. I remember not long ago when Thom and I eating a whole meal together was almost impossible and I would survive the day on nibbles of toast.  Now, Ethan is awake for a far greater portion of the day and yet we can eat much more normally.  That and the 12-hours baby sleep last night makes me feel relaxed and hungry.  In fact, on this rainy Sunday, I'm noticing that all three of us have tyrannosaurus-style voracious appetites.

 We started the day with Oatibix all-'round.  Thom with skim milk and a dusting of sugar, Ethan's with a mixture of formula and whole milk.  Mine - a scattering of blueberries and yoghurt.  Ethan loves breakfast.  Once his bum hits the high-chair, he is straining towards the spoon, arms out and mouth open hoping to catch any fly-by foods.

After some playtime and a drop more milk, he's off to a nap.  Today he woke earlier than expected, catching Thom and I tucking into our second cups of coffee and some toast.  Ethan joined us by munching on a wholewheat and apricot breadstick while we ate our toast.

Now midday and I have made no effort towards getting dressed, although we have tidied the house and baked flapjacks.  The rain's still falling, so it's cups of tea and flapjacks before lunch.  My Jasmine green tea temporarily calms my rainy-day appetite, but Ethan's just waking and it will soon be time for baby lunch of pasta, avocado and pears.  Wonder what Thom and I will have?  Bread is almost done, so maybe cheese-on-toast with bread fresh form the breadmachine?  Today, we are indoors, hibernating pigs.  Must get outdoors and justify some of this lazy piggery!  It's very, very rainy.....maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Separation anxiety

The first night sleeping in California, I woke at 5 am and started frantically looking around the hotel bed for Ethan.  I must have searched for 3 minutes before I realised where I was.  It was a difficult to allow my brain to stop being on high alert all the time.

By the time I got on the return flight from LA, I had relaxed.  I allowed myself to stop worrying about how Ethan would be without me and I slept for most the flight, skipping the stinky, plastic air plane food and waking just in time for coffee being served.  I slapped on a generous layer of moisturiser to my odd, seatbelt-shaped sunburn (sunburnt from being turned stupidly happy at the opportunity for uninterrupted sunshine on the drive back to LA in the drop-top) and legged it back home as fast as I could.

By the time I got in, Ethan had been bed-time-routine-ed and was sleeping soundly for about 30 minutes.  I crept up the stairs and cracked the door just a little to have a peek at him.  It was good to see him snoozing away, but I wasn't really happy until he woke at about midnight.  He was hardly awake, just squeaking, and probably would have continued sleeping had I left him alone.  

But I jumped up and picked him out of his crib.  In the dark, I could see the whites of his eyes as he looked up at me with surprise.  I wondered if he would cry.  Or if he would remember me at all.  After what seemed like a long stare-down, he smiled and grabbed for my face, taking hold of my nose with one hand my bottom lip with another.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  He remembers and he missed me.  That felt good.  

The baby milestone chart I've been consulting says to expect separation anxiety around 6 months.  They didn't mention that the anxiety would be mine.  It's been great being at home with him, there for him all the time.  But it has lead me to believe a little that he needs me.  He does, but he is also a big, tough guy now.  Those little irrational voices telling me that he would melt down without me were just that - irrational.  

I'm really proud of him for being such an adaptable and brave little man once again.  He must have been confused when Nana fed him breakfast or dad gave him his bath.  And  he did let them know he wasn't totally okay with these changes being brought in without his consent.  He even has had a slightly mama-clingy day when it just seemed easier to carry him about in the sling.  But he did eat, he did sleep and I've come home to a bigger and more grown up Ethan, all the wiser and better for having the experience.  As am I.  



Friday, 22 June 2012

A study in distance and perspective

I am in heathrow, sans baby, waiting for my gate announcement for a flight to LA. Grandpa is 90 and the family are gathering for much deserved celebrations. This year for me is a year of a new perspective on life and turning 90 seemed like a good reason to jet off and surprise the old, old man...hopefully not too much, though.

Life and death suddenly seem very entwined to me. Having been someone who thought herself to be accepting of the inevitability of death, I was surprised to find that I actually held a more 'them-not-me' attitude.

Since the birth, the trauma, Noah being taken from me too soon, I find that I am actually a terrified wreak of a woman. Since Noah died, my whole life feels divided into before and after. Before, I never considered the worst case scenario could happen. After, I am overly cautious, imagining horrific scenarios at almost every turn. Death seems so near. And it changed me.

At this moment, the nearness of death has inspired me to see my 90 year old grandfather before its too late. It makes me want to say 'blow the expense, I'm going!'. But it also makes me worry about what will happen. Will I return? Will Ethan be ok? Consequently I went a bit mad on the insurance-front with my rental car, now that I anticipate the possibility of the worst being a reality.

But surrounded by strangers, as I observe my fellow travellers, I know I must also acknowledge the best possible realities. Look at all of us, each with a life story, still travelling onwards. I think of sweet, but tough, little Ethan. Life still holds joy, as well as terror and pain.

Months after Noah passed away, I switched on the TV after Ethan had gone to bed. I am often so touched by his soft sweetness as he drifts towards sleepiness that I grieve Noah all the more in the evening.

That evening, I was hurting. I boiled inside with the injustice of it and collapsed onto the sofa under a cloud of grief. There on the TV was a news story about an 11-year-old Congolese boy whose arms were blown off by a bomb while he was tending his family's goats. He sat in the corner, silent, as his father explained the tragedy.

I realised that life holds injustice for us all, even the most innocent and undeserving. I now scan the faces of the people around me and know that each set of eyes conceal their own personal pain. Tragedies, horrors that touch each person. I imagine a league table, a hierarchy of pains from each of us written out in black-and-white on giant chalkboard. And I would hazard to guess that despite my pain, I may not be on the top of the list.

Cheery? No. But true and strangely it imbues me with a sense of calm and compassion for my fellow humans and gives hope for myself. When I was caught up in my own tragedy, I felt overwhelmed; weak and like I wanted to run away. Now, people-watching and taking perspective, I feel stronger. And more than ever happy and tied to my own little family, in my own stories, tragedy and all.

So here I come LA.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Baby germ bomb blows

I'm glad for the blogger app on iPhone. It means I can sit here on the sofa like a slug, surrounded by snotty tissues, drinking cup of coffee number 2 as I scratch out a blog.

We have been a bit ill. First, Ethan started sniffling, then sneezing and before long a full blown cold had taken hold. I felt for the little snotty fella, cuddled him more and wiped his slimy nose. A couple days in, as I sang him a silly song, he sneezed directly into my mouth. After a direct hit from the baby germ bomb, my sympathy found a whole new level. I came down with the same cold and it was a doozie! Less of a cold and more of a mini-plague.

While I can opt to sip orange juice and avoid big meals during my mama-version of the cold, we've been shoving a bottle into Ethan's face at almost every opportunity. Babies breath through their noses. A blocked nose will put them off their food. The fear that he won't get enough, he'll dehydrate or won't get better grows into a daily, mind-consuming panic. Until I find myself, 14 days later, on the sofa realising I have done little more than feed, cuddle and stew over little man's health.

This morning he drank his milk serenely, eyes closed and breathing blessedly through his clear nostrils. The calm I feel is drug-like in its effect on my mood. The whole morning seems fresh and the day full of possibilities. As the cold passes, the sound of him rhythmically swallowing mouthfuls of milk sends me to a meditative calm, where with his gently closed eye lids and toes curled in satisfaction all is right in the world.

When he was really suffering, he would have only a minimal feed, didn't have the desire to play much and really just needed more frequent rests and naps. Thom hit the parenting forums and concluded that this was normal. If anything, we had it easier than others. But that didn't stop my mind from wandering to dark and frightening possibilities ranging from the negative effects of my worry on him psychologically to returning to hospital and tube feeds. I am tempted to say that our horrific experiences around birth have had a lasting effect on me, but all parents seems consumed by similar fears when baby is ill and won't eat. The worst fears, that they will be permanently damaged or wont grow up at all, affect parents all when babies are sick.

Actually, despite not piling on the pounds this week, Ethan's found a way to tell us to not worry so much. The frustration of a blocked nose drove him to kick and twist until he figured out how to roll from back to front. This is now part of his regular play, rolling around and getting himself where he wants to go.

They say babies have an average of
10 colds in the first year. I'm going to have to toughen up.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Music and the calming of the beastie

It's 10 past 7.  Ethan has been in bed for the night for about 20 minutes.  Thom and I are relaxing to the remainder of the Wriggly Mix. The bedtime routine is about getting ready to snuggle and sleep.  We might start with a book read in soft tones, followed by a massage and then a warm bath.  Then it's clean clothes, warm milk and 'nite-nite' all 'round after which he sails off to dreamland.  All of this is set against some relaxing background music, something that really seems to help Ethan get into bedtime mode.  The Wriggly Mix is my eclectic selection of adult and children's tunes that aid the calm, sleepy vibe to get flowing.

No matter what the day has brought us, the bedtime routine is kind of like the reset button.  It starts off a chain reaction of events he has come to expect and allows him some constancy in his always changing and quickly developing world.  Plus I love it.  Getting splashed by his kicking feet at bath time and his sleepy little snuggle-monster body getting heavier and more relaxed as we progress through our schedule and I sing along to the Wriggly Mix.


I remembered Bugs Bunny saying that music tames the savage beast, and wondered how much of the music could be responsible for the relaxed little man I just put to bed.  After a little Google-ing, I discovered that music does not in fact tame the savage beast.  The phrase comes from an English play write, William Congreve, who began his work The Mourning Bride with the line 'Musik has charms to sooth the savage breast'.  The bride who mourns her dead lover goes on to say that music, usually so calming and influential of our emotions, has no effect on her grief.  So Bugs was a little unclear on 17th century literature, doesn't mean his 'Waschaly Wabbit' techniques haven't worked a charm on my lil Wriggly.   I think music has calmed my savage beastie.

For your enjoyment, Bugs misquoting Congreve's Bride and the list of songs that comprise my Wriggly Mix.







Wriggly Mix



All I Really Need (Live) 4:16 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Blue Bayou 2:33 Roy Orbison
Change 3:42 Blind Melon
De Colores (Live) 2:58 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Diamonds And Pearls 4:20 Prince
Earth and Water Song 6:19 Humble Pie
Everything Grows (Live) 3:12 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Why Is a Fire Engine Red 1:21 Johnny Cash
Good Feeling 3:57 Violent Femmes
Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days) 4:16 The Judds
Hammer 2:57 Bob Marley
Have You Ever Seen The Rain 2:40 Creedence Clearwater Revival
Humrush 3:27 KMD
Like Me and You (Live) 3:08 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
You Make Me Smile 3:26 Aloe Blacc
All I Have To Do Is Dream 2:27 Roy Orbison
Mr. Brown 3:33 Bob Marley
Muted Cartoons 5:26 DJ Yoda
My Man 2:40 Billie Holiday
Near You Always 3:09 Jewel
Sweet Jane (lou Reed, Velvet Underground Cover) 6:51 Phish
Please Do Not Go 4:15 Violent Femmes
Rise and Shine (Live) 2:25 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Ah Bos Cee Dah 2:33 Johnny Cash
The Sad Bag of Shaky Jake 3:02 Humble Pie
Baby Beluga (Live) 2:43 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Safe From Harm 5:20 Massive Attack
Scar Tissue 3:36 Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sleepyhouse 4:29 Blind Melon
Summertime 4:56 Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Take Me Back 4:57 Humble Pie
Teardrop 5:28 Massive Attack
Tingalayo (Live) 2:58 Raffi & The Rise and Shine Band
Toys for Tots 2:33 Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole & Nancy Wilson
Yellow Ledbetter 5:03 Pearl Jam
Good Things 4:02 Aloe Blacc
Dinosaur Song 1:25 Johnny Cash

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Clever little babies

It has been too long since I've sat down to write.  This grey Saturday morning finds Thom and I sipping on coffee while Ethan demonstrates the new vocal sounds he's discovered in dreams through the night.  We are happy to hear him chatting again after a spell of tummy bug briefly robbed him of his typically playful personality.  We are going to more play groups and mingling with other children so little colds and germs are probably to be expected.

Play groups are great for Ethan to see other babies and children while all the mums natter and compare notes.  I watch the kids size each other up, the mums size each other up and the way everyone falls into a little social hierarchy.  The younger babies look with awe as the older ones crawl, scoot and dominate their environment in various ways.  Ethan watches - mouth open, drool trailing down the chin - as older babies grab and manipulate the toys in ways he hasn't yet figured out.  Even older children, the toddlers, adopt a sort of sympathetic attitude towards the babies, like a memory of the frustrations endured in their own once small baby-bodies lingers.  Older ones will even protest at being treated like a baby.  How dare you treat me like a baby when I can do so much now!

Ethan being unwell this week reminded me of the wisdom of babies, something that is all to easily dismissed  in comparison to the ability-based scale generally used to measure the success of a person.  Ethan, in his week of illness, showed me his instinctual and wise way babies approach the world and how this gets forgotten.  Later, when we can get around, reach for what we want and communicate with others, we dismiss the immense wisdom of the baby.  A baby might be seen as an eating, sleeping, shitting machine who can do little more than cry and flail their little arms about.  But in Ethan and the other babies in the play group are certainly not that simple.

Babies have skills, just different ones.  Skills that would be incredibly useful if we could reclaim them in some way.  When Ethan started to come down with his tummy bug, before Thom and I knew he was unwell, he started letting us know to pay attention, something was up!  First just a little less smiley.  Then, later, unhappy at feeds, grabbing at me but unwilling to drink more than a few mouthfuls of milk.  Smart little guy was expressing what any of us would feel as a tummy bug was coming on.  Hungry but not.  Tender tummy.  A little off colour.  His instinctual baby-brain responded pretty well by telling him he needed more sleep and snuggles.  And less milk and over-energetic playtime.  He didn't have the words to speak it or the ability to take himself to the pharmacy for some Pepto, but he did do what becomes harder somehow as we get older and supposedly smarter.  I'm not near as good as listening to some of my body's signals.  Simply changing a routine or stopping something we want but we feel is bad can be the difficulties of a lifetime.

We forget the gift of instinct.  Forget the value of listening to the pull of something unexplainable.  That same instinct-driven little man also listens when he senses that someone is nice, something is fun or the most everyday and mundane to us, is fascinating to him.  Without that, any child would be uninspired to grow and develop into someone that is big enough and able enough to become a participant in the world.  If only we could hang onto a it of that baby-style approach as we do.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

No time like the present

Ethan has been napping for 30 minutes.  I've had a cup of coffee, googled teething, then googled my dry cleaners, then played DrawSome on my iPhone with strangers.  Meanwhile, I have a psychology magazine open to an article about willpower resting on my lap.  Where is my willpower? Am I wasting time?  I have things I want to do.  Plant lettuce in the back yard.  Write a the next chapter in something that might one day be a book.  Read this article.  But then Jeremy Kyle is doing lie detector results right after this break, so....

The days fly by when they are divided into 3-4 hourly baby-segments of eating, playing and napping.  After the washing-up and a load of baby laundry, I can tell myself that an hour's TV watching is much deserved relaxation or that facebook is keeping in touch with friends, but we all know it's not.


As the days fly by, time marches ever forward.  Too quickly.  Some days I look at Ethan and almost don't recognise the emerging little person in front of me.  He changes so fast.  When he was small, Thom and I used to love a little squeeky sound he made, like a baby squirrel calling for its mother.  We would call back to him in little squeeks.  I loved that sound.  He's bigger now.  His vocal cords are bigger, too, and the squirrel sound is no more.  Replaced with coos and gurgles and grizzles that communicate so much more.  Wonderful, but also ever changing.  It's clear that if I blink for a moment, if I fail to appreciate each day, they will be gone before I have had a chance to enjoy them.

So , yes, I am wasting a lot of time.  And it pisses me off to admit it.  The thought of wasting time has annoyed me since Noah's death when I swore, in honour of his very short life, that I never would waste the life I'd been given.  At first, other people who didn't value the precious short moments we call life annoyed me.  But then I realised that I was just as guilty.  The daily drudgery bogs me down and I fall into comfortable procrastination.  I don't take opportunities to really appreciate other people in my life.  I watch Jeremy Kyle instead of planting my lettuces.  I guess I feel like there is always time, when the truth is that time is always shorter than we'd like it to be.

Why would I waste time?  I don't actually care which chav fathered the baby of poor woman on the Jeremy Kyle stage.  Watching does nothing more than provide an easy distraction.  Passes the time and fills my mind with something simple.  Jeremy Kyle is an easy example for all the things I'm certain we all do that fill our time without bringing us any closer to what we really truly want.  If I can get closer to what I really want, what's to stop me?  Maybe it's a little frightening to try for what is real, to love deeply, to live fully because the risks are so much greater.  The loss, the inevitable endings or failings cut to the bone.

So I'm finding it difficult to keep my promise and live up to this ideal.  Truth is that living the way I'd like is a big change, and such big shifts rarely happen spontaneously or quickly.  Today is another day.  The sun is shinning and while Ethan naps I can clip on the baby monitor and plant those lettuces.  Tomorrow I will see if I can keep my promise again, and for every tomorrow I am gifted, I can try again.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

New and improved baby, now with teeth

Conversation between Thom and a guy he works with:
Other guy: 'What did you name your baby?'
Thom: 'Ethan.'
Other guy: 'You named your baby Lethal?!'


Just when you thought it was safe, things change.  Ethan has developed the drooling ability of a bulldog and anything that dares enter the 3 inch danger zone in front of his mouth is going to get gnawed on.  A few weeks ago after some usually broken sleep at nap time, I wondered about teething.  Google came to the rescue once again and it turns out he has all the classic signs of a fresh new tooth on its way.  I can't wait for the little gnasher to poke through.  Then he really will be Lethal.

I've tried to recall how it felt to grow a tooth.  Apart from a vague memory of dull ache from wisdom teeth, I can't recall how bad it feels.  Good news, I suppose as this pain he's having will soon be beyond his memory and all that will be left is a beautiful new tooth.

I like to tell him this when he wakes up unhappy.  'Soon your lovely tooth will be here and all this will be over.'  He is such an easy going chap, that he generally smiles, even if just briefly before returning to his frustrated baby-grizzling.  It can affect how much he wants to eat and can wake him, but I am always surprised by what a trooper he is.


Teething at less than four months old seemed too early, until I learned that babies can be born with teeth.  They have all their teeth neatly hidden in their gums before birth.  As with everything baby-related, teething comes with old wives tales.  Such as babies born with teeth will be selfish.  And babies who teethe early are intelligent.  Also, perhaps to be expected, loads of conflicting advice on how to help baby transverse this stage.

'Let them use a dummy/pacifier.'  'Don't let them use a dummy, it'll mess up their teeth.'
'Use teething gel.'  'Don't use teething gel, it could kill them.'

In any case, I have bought  into some of the hype by getting Ethan an amber teething necklace.  Baltic amber is meant to offer pain relief when worn against the skin.  I' not convinced Ethan notices a difference, but I feel calmer after putting on the magical necklace.  And he responds well to mom being calm, plus looking cute in baby jewellery.

Thankfully, tooth pain isn't constant and L'Ethal (lil' Ethan) has blessed the household with 12 hours of sleep last night.  I should have been enjoying it, but I woke every half hour after midnight with a start and paranoid ideas about why he wasn't crying for milk.  How did a stress-ball like me end up with such an easy-going, lovely baby?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Learn like Kids Do

We are watching Ethan's every move.  Noting what makes him smile.  What makes him curious.  What makes him unhappy.  It brings new understanding to the way people interact with each other, how we weave into each other.  As we watch him, he watches us and together we figure out ways of being together, slowly sussing each other out day by day.

I also learn about myself, and maybe about people generally.  Watching Ethan, life is divided into simple needs.  Food.  Warmth.  Play.  Love.  Somewhere along the road, we might get all confused, knotted up and discouraged as the struggles in life seem more complex.  

I've been using baby nap time to read a book about Milton Erikson, a legendary hypnotherapist who used stories to help his clients overcome problems (My Voice Will Go With You, by Sidney Rosen).  Erikson encouraged people to not lose childlike curiosity and playfulness in the midst of frustration.  The first of his stories in the book is called 'Learning to Stand Up' and really captures the long-forgotten frustrations of getting balance coordinated between legs, feet and hips for a child learning to stand for the first time.  The tale is possibly intended to remind the listener that we have already overcome such great challenges.  The skill to overcome the greatest barriers is there, even if it is forgotten.  And we are encouoraged to maintain the fresh, creative perspective of a child, even in adversity.

I see Ethan, each day, making another small change in his movements and behaviour to accomplish his goals.  Getting food.  Reaching for something he likes.  Interacting in ways that invite as well as show love.  

And children love in a beautiful way.  Without concern for how they seem or what others will think of them.  I was out for coffee with friends the other week.  Ethan and my friend's child took to sizing each other up.  Staring un-ashamedly for ages before deciding 'I like you' and smiling without a care if the feeling was returned.  This is how all love should be, given without fear or demand that it be returned.  My friend's child, now almost 2, left the cafe crying to be leaving his new friends.  

These times are as beautiful as they are tough.  My mind goes to Noah and what he might be doing.  What he might be like.  In a quiet moment, during a peaceful baby nap, I was sitting in the springtime sunshine in the backyard looking at the cherry blossoms starting to bloom.  Baby monitor clipped to my belt loop, I thought of Ethan's lovely smile and how intensely wonderful he had made my life.  And as I looked at the delicate blossoms beginning to form I thought of how intensely painful life felt without Noah.  

Mind drifting to Noah's funeral, a line from the Lord's Prayer popped into my mind, 'Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'  The day of the funeral I stood silent as the prayer was recited.  How could I ask for God's will when it was so wrong and painful?  Sitting watching the blossoms and listening to the silent baby monitor, I felt gratefulness that Ethan came to me.  I was suddenly struck by how much I wanted one part of God's will - or whatever brought Ethan to me - and not the other, the part that took Noah away.  And even still, that brief moment in time I had with Noah was a gift that I wouldn't trade away given the choice.  I could only hope that the same will that brought Ethan to be with me here on earth was looking after Noah somewhere in heaven.
  
am sad.  And yet every time I think that I can't get through, I do.  Like the child in Erikson's story, like Ethan, I find ways to adjust.  Like every child, I always have done and always will.  Like that child standing for the first time, my balance can be off and I might fall.  But I can try to steady myself and start again, maybe getting a bit further next time.  Part of what can help when missing Noah is being immersed in the experience of love like a child would be. Without the demands that make love about satisfying my fears.  Is there love without pain?  Like the my friend's child, falling in love with a new friend, so unconcerned about the outcome, crying and sadness still follows when the one you love leaves, even if it's not forever.  That true and unselfish love is as wonderful as it is painful.  Then every moment with the ones you love feels like a wonderful gift, no matter how it turns out in the end. 


Thursday, 15 March 2012

For Noah

For Noah

To me you were like the butterfly of a warm spring day
I dared not breathe lest you fly away
Gracing my anticipating skin on your way momentarily
For the brief and blessed time that you chose me

Young blossoms of spring can all testify
Of the beautiful things that too quickly die
For a short and glorious time here to bloom
All the more lovely for ending so soon

How many dark, cold winter nights I hoped to see your face
Bargains with malevolent gods as I prayed to take your place
I remember how delicate and perfect, the way you were made
Though 100 springs pass by, my memory of you will not fade

Friday, 9 March 2012

Post pregnancy body

Heard stories of women who are back in their pre-pregnancy jeans the day after delivery?  It's urban legend.  Always someone who knows someone who's cousin managed this impossible magic trick.

Here I am 2 months after birth and my body is still not my own.  Well, it is, but I just don't recognise it much.  My pre-pregnancy clothes remain tucked up in vacuum-sealed packs under the bed.  I survive in leggings and even still wear my maternity trousers.  The scale says I am about 15 pounds heavier than at the start of the pregnancy.  But the differences in my body are not accurately reflected in body weight alone.  My once firm leg muscles are all lazy and floppy.  So I imagine that even losing that extra 15 pounds wouldn't make me look and feel that same as before.  I am going to have to burn some fat as well as build up some muscle again.

couch potato times are not helping to shift the preggo pounds

While walking is ok in moderation, proper exercise isn't recommended for 6-8 weeks after delivery.  Longer for c-section mums like me, so I might be looking at 12 weeks before I can begin in earnest.  I am further set-back by an infection of my wound, and will have to be more cautious than I'm used to in my workouts.
out for a walk with the emerging daffodils

Post-pregnancy workouts have their own specific considerations.  Abdominals are still working their way back into alignment so any movements that use them have to be carefully selected.  Using the rectus abdominus (the muscles of the old 'six-pack') too soon can result in something called doming.  This is when the muscles do not realign, leaving a gap in the middle and a permanent disfigurement.  Also, workouts that are too intense or when calories are not replaced can negatively affect breastfeeding.

Then there are the things that only time can fix.  Swelling above the c-section incision site can take months to smooth out.  And even though it's thought that breastfeeding helps burn off fat accumulated during pregnancy, the hormones active during breastfeeding can also force the body to hold onto 5-10 pounds.  Not to mention that the average increase in breast size can account for about 2 pounds of the extra weight packed on in pregnancy.

Good news is, it's still winter.  Comfortable, baggy knitwear doesn't look out of place.  But even now the daffodils and crocus are bursting up form the soil.  Soon my snug-fitting summer wardrobe will be calling me.  I'm attempting an approach of amusement and amazement at my body.  Along with weaning myself off pregnant-lady portions of dinner and some exercise should see me right in time.

Besides, post-pregnancy body isn't just about weight and body-shape.  There's so much more going on.  I find it fascinating, a little frightening at times and all very interesting.  Hope you do, too.

1. Hair
     All the good things that happened to my hair during pregnancy are still here.  It's thicker and grew long over the 9 months.  It's a great comfort to be happy at least with my hair if nothing else.  A wonderful treat for me was to get my hair dyed, finally, after 9 long months of unsightly roots.  Before becoming pregnant, I regularly dyed my hair jet black. After 9 months of no dying, I had a good 5 inches of natural hair.  I found a colourist who embarked on the process of getting the black out of the ends with me.  After some hours of lifting, bleaching and tinting my hair is back to a natural shade, slightly umph-ed up with a few cleverly placed highlights.  So my ass is fat.  But my hair looks great.

2. Under-eye bags?  That's just an excuse for some fun eye makeup!
    It hardly bears writing about sleep-deprivation.  It is a guaranteed given for the first few months, or if my mother is right, the next 30 years.  After a night of mere minutes sleep, I remind myself of the days when sleep was happily sacrificed for fun.  Thom and I would go out, dance up a storm and waking up tired the next day just meant that it was a good night.  My eyes show the signs, though.  Puffy with dark circles.  I considered using the fab hair to hide them, but I need to see to avoid tripping over the various baby things that now litter the floors.  Next best option - eye treats.  Little potions that come as roll-ons or moisturising creams that smell nice or a new mascara all help hide those sleepy peepers.  As soon as Ethan goes down for his first nap of the day, I grab myself a few minutes of face-time to treat those tired eyes to something nice.  It's what baby naps were invented for!

3.  How little other people care
     Makes me wonder what I ever worried about.  No, I'm not the fit little chickie I was.  But who even notices?  And of those who notice, who of them care?  The answer to both is pretty much none.  Friends still have compliments for me, despite my feeling so different and out of place in my own skin.  As for Thom, I can truly say that he has seen my body at the absolute worst.  Following the c-section, and all the trauma surrounding us during that time he's had a front row seat for the horror show that was my cut-up franken-belly.  He was the one who helped me into the first shower after the operation.  He fetched the big, old lady panties for me from the store.  He has become accustomed to the sight of me attached un-glamorously to the end of an electric breast pump.  And he still says he I look nice (maybe more after my eye-treatment routine) and gives my butt a little naughty pat when the opportunity presents itself.  Getting back into shape is still the goal, but there's a little lesson to be learned here about the validity of self-obsessed body hang ups that might grab hold of me at this point.  They will only make this time of life stressful and make me dismissive of all the positive feedback about my slightly chubby frame.  Maybe those that mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.




Sunday, 4 March 2012

Before and After: Discovering parenthood

Where does the time go?  Somehow, now that days are divided into 3-4 hourly feeds, interspersed with naps, snuggles and various incidents in the diaper region, days fly by and I suddenly realise how very long its been since my last post.  How very long its been since a lot of things, actually.  Long showers, painting fingernails, drinking a cup of tea when it's hot.  Surprisingly to me - someone who loves hot showers, nice nails and loathes cold tea - these differences only occur to me as I sit here now and purposefully reflect on the the before-and-after of my life.

Before, I might have imagined these changes as a problem.  I know that friends and readers without children could find it hard to believe that the ways you change as a parent provide reasons for joy, laughter and general amazement that life could have ever been any other way.

For instance, this morning, I attempted to give Thom a hair cut.  Before, a quick mohawk shave for Thom was part of the weekend routine, situated in between pieces of toast or croissants and strong, Sunday morning coffees.  Today, we had to employ precision timing to get this simple, everyday task done-and-dusted between Wriggly Man's feeds and naps.  After 10 minutes of silence through the baby monitor, we thought it a safe window to get the clippers out.  But Wriggly, who must be a little psychic, woke up screaming just as Thom's head was half shaved.  We hurried through (and I'm afraid this week's mohawk might be a little crooked) so I could quickly get to Ethan and comfort him.  Covered in hair clippings is no way to snuggle a baby, so I stripped down and legged it up to little man in the old birthday suit.  Ah, the big adventures that come with such a little person.

Here's a few other odd things I've noticed in parenthood:
1. Fascination with Faeces
      Baby poo is gross.  Unless it's your baby's poo, and then it's an event.  We look to it like tea leaves, saying to each other, So that's why he's been so fussy, look at that poo! It's a suitable conversation topic at any time of the day.  It's colour, consistency, timing, smell are all very, VERY interesting.  It's difficult to say what changes as a parent.  The poo still stinks.  It's still poo, and we still recoil and wash it off clothes and hands with appropriate disgust.  But it also like a little window into baby's world.  A small way we begin to understand and identify with him.  By analysing his poo, we can say to him and each other, Yes, I would also feel happy/upset/content after a poo like that.

2. Sleep is optional
      Everyone asks, Are you sleeping?  I would say, yes, except that what counts as sleep now is totally different than before.  A few stolen moments of closed eyes, when you fall instantly into a dream about doing the thing you are about to do in a minute when you wake - that counts as sleep.  So when I get an hour between 2 and 3 am, I feel practically refreshed.  Thom said to me last night that he noticed a new forehead wrinkle on his face.  I'm hardly surprised.  We look really old as we get up in the morning.  Pre-coffee, bed-head, under-eye-baggage zombie-looking people.  It would be easy for us at this point to snap and snarl at each other's ugly faces.  But once Ethan is fed and playing on his sheepskin in the morning light, we are again restored and ready to face the day on mere minutes of sleep.

3. Enjoying giving up things you enjoy
     Before you have a baby, people say to you that you'll never have a hot meal/night out/a cent to your name again.  All of this is true.  And so many more minor things go out the window as baby enters the front door.  What these negative-ninnies don't mention is that you won't mind.  Baby's happiness and calm means more than all these worldly treasures and you'll find that you'll willingly sacrifice most things in exchange for a peaceful little person.  Just the other day I found myself pillaging AAA batteries from all available devices to get Ethan's Slumber Buddy working again.  This frog-shaped nightlight, complete with lullabies and heart-beat sounds is intended to send baby off to dreamland.  And for that I thought we could survive without a TV remote, wireless mouse or any other gizmo that previously would have been sorely missed.

4. You go a little bit insane, but it's all good
      For one thing, we have become obsessive.  I wonder what Thom and I ever talked about before Wriggly Man.  Whether we are debating the meaning of a particular tone of cry, laughing a his funny little ways or day-dreaming about his future all we seem to talk about is Ethan.  Even when we aren't talking about him, the subject matter is tangentially related to him.  What's for dinner?  Well, what can be cooked in time before he wakes up for a feed?
     We have lost our minds in other ways, too.  The things that seem normal, or even desirable now would be inconceivable to a person in their right mind.  Basic baby-tending behaviour sounds insane sometimes and even more so for the fact that these crazy things we do for baby feel ok.  If baby's nose is stuffed up, sucking the snot out of it seems like the best thing to do.  Sucking the snot out of somebody else's nose is normal.  Who'd have imagined? If baby is gnawing and pulling at my breast, I wonder if he doesn't like the taste today.  Sounds crazy.   There is no doubt that we have lost our minds, but it feels alright.

5. Baby crying is less annoying than you might imagine
      It's not annoying at all.  It is, however, heart-breaking.  Before baby, when you hear a baby cry in on an airplane or in the supermarket it is a difficult sound to tolerate.  But since Ethan, the crying is nothing like those times.  If we can divine what the crying might  be about - hungry, sleepy, cold - it isn't so bad because we can do something.  We spring into action with the calm assurance that crying will soon be comforted with whatever it is he needs.  But Ethan has no other way of communicating with us and sometimes we don't get it.  The sound of him crying is utterly tragic to us when we can't fix it.  Minutes feel like hours when he cries, but not because of annoyance.  It's because we want to cry with him.  I take it as all part of us gelling as a little emerging family.  When one cries, we are all sad.  But also when one is happy, we all smile.

         

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Bonding and breastfeeding? Bollocks.

Once you have transversed the politics of pregnancy, you might imagine that the world can finally mind its own business and leave you to your body in peace.  Or at least that was my naive expectation.  But as soon as your little bundle enters the world the question will be how you plan to feed him/her.  Yes, this will be on the final exam and here’s a hint: bottle is the wrong answer.  And the word ‘formula’ is an instant fail. 

Breast is best.  Breastfeeding is free and saves you the trouble of preparing bottles.  It’s good for baby in so many ways, both for nutrition and immunity now and to set him up for future good health.  Photos around the maternity wards instill a feeling of warmth around the whole enterprise, showing glowing mums smiling at peaceful, content infants.  And if that hasn’t sold it to you yet, they say it’ll burn that preggo fat. 

Well, I was all ready to sign on the dotted line.  When tragedy struck and the boys weren’t able to start breastfeeding straight away, I decided not give up.  I would pump and be ready for when they were ready.  The hours of driving between Colchester and Norwich were passed with Thom and I listening to the thumping, electric drone of a portable breast pump.  Had giving birth in a room filled with 20 or 30 strangers not already robbed me of any self-consciousness, motoring past white vans and lorries with a boob being sucked into a machine certainly would have. 

Formula was an essential for our boys and for all babies on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  And even after Ethan came home, between my stress levels and Ethan’s low weight, we needed formula, at least as a top up for my lagging milk production.  Despite the rocky road that led to the necessity of formula for us, we found that no health professional who tripped across our path would offer any advice to help us use formula.  The stock line was that breastfeeding was THE way.  Formula was shunned like the very excretion of Satan’s mother herself.  Even my Tesco Clubcard points and Boots Advantage Card points were refused against the purchase of formula.  Government policy, I was told, to encourage breastfeeding.  It was like I wasn’t buying baby SMA, but baby SMAck.  Maybe not illegal, but certainly frowned upon.  

Here’s something I didn’t realise before but is an astounding part of breastfeeding:  It is totally dependant on a calm state of mind.  I would class myself as a big believer in the link between body and mind, but I expected that being calm would merely help.  How wrong I was.  I discovered that being stressed is like turning the milk tap off.  I was advised to try and look at photos of the boys when pumping to get the milk flowing.  But seeing their little bodies all wired up to medical gear made me cry and seeing no milk at the end of pumping session made it worse.  As the days went on and Noah’s condition deteriorated, I found that thinking of Ethan allowed some milk production, but the moment my mind drifted to how Noah was doing, it stopped.  I discovered that there was only one thing for it – distraction.  So I’d set myself up with a few magazines, an array of snacks and the TV remote before settling in to battle with the boobs. 
the difficult days of hospitals and pumping

All those endless hours of pumping didn’t inspire belief that I could actually make milk.  I was told that pumping every few hours, even through the night, would soon establish a supply.  But even with distraction techniques, I was disheartened by the few measly drops that trickled into the bottles even after hours of pumping. 

But my experience is thankfully different from most new mothers, who might find that breastfeeding is easily established.  When we got Ethan home, the milk soon arrived in response to feeding him on demand.  And yet, the idyllic picture of mother and child, enveloped in mutual love and joy while breastfeeding continues to allude me. 

Ethan is a cute little boob-monster, don’t get me wrong.  We have lots of fun and cuddly times together in and around feedings.  But these are interspersed with lots of other times filled with worry, frustration and exhaustion. 
post-feed chill out face

The worry is mine.  Is he getting enough?  Have I eaten something that’s making him fussy?  Is he crying and pulling away because I’m doing something wrong?  The frustration is often his.  Maybe when he’s not getting enough.  Maybe when he’s getting too much.  Maybe when he wishes he could just suck without the bother of milk invading his mouth.  

He growls and flails his little fists at me, latched on harder than a barnacle on a bow, but pulling away in baby-rage, taking my nipple with him.   I sit in shock (and pain) at his behaviour.  Usually around 4am, I begin to think, ‘I’ve allowed you unrestricted access to my breasts, all day and all night, and you are the frustrated one?’  But that’s the tough world of being a baby, I guess.  It’s either absolute heaven, when you’re getting all you want right on time, or absolute torture, when mom just can’t fathom what the hell you’re asking for.  The tough world of being mom is about developing a tough skin, both metaphorically as well as physically.  

Even though my introduction to breastfeeding has been unusual and tougher than some, but I’ve also discovered that I might not be alone in my ambivalence about breastfeeding.  Which is handy because I was starting to feel like a bad mum.  The Internet has helped me feel like less of a monster for surviving feeds by playing tetris and online shopping (I can't even begin fathom how women ever survived the hours of breastfeeding before television).  Through the internet, I found other women who love their babies but loathe the breastfeeding.  Click here to read another tough mamma's blog about the battle of the boobies 

The idea that I might bond with anyone, baby or not, by letting him try to remove my nipple over the course of six months with hoover-like suction power is ludicrous.  If, like me, you are struggling on with it, good for you.  

Friday, 10 February 2012

Our new life begins

It is now over a week since the memorial service for Noah.  My mother stayed with us for a month, arriving shortly before Noah’s death.  The ceremony and her departure seem like markers on the road that leads us away from the hospital, the trauma and the death, into a new phase of life. Days are unpredictable and I find myself surprised by the emotions that greet me hour-to-hour. 

As Ethan grows and changes, we find new things to marvel at and be happy about.  Already, his little character shines through – a tough little man who knows what he wants and is willing to fight to get it, if needed.  He tussles with us while we interrupt his feeds to burp him, swinging his arms and arguing in his little baby language about the pause in his meal.  
make with the bottle or the finger is mine!

Ethan and Thom are quite pair of men.  When we can’t resist Ethan’s cries, Thom takes him into bed, allowing him to sleep curled up on his chest.  They both snore away and resist any attempt from me to wake them up, even for feeds.  They happily snuggle and pass gas in their sleep, farting in harmony.  They are really only separated by the amount of costume changes, as Thom won’t change unless absolutely needed while Ethan’s day typically has more costume changes than a Madonna concert.  However, he has little choice over these, being enforced by me after some kind of baby mess, puke or pee.

Then times strike when I am consumed by sadness.  Longing for Noah.  To know where he is and to somehow be with him.  I cry in the shower nearly every day.  It is a rare time alone, where memories find me.  Certain sights and sensations stick in my brain, like the feeling of Noah’s hand on that final night.  I have dreams that he is still alive and is returned to us, but we are unprepared and have to make do in odd ways, like carrying him around in a shopping bag as the buggy doesn’t have space.  I try to keep the realizations about life and love that he gave me in mind, but the often daily struggles sabotage me.  People tell us we are coping well, but we have no idea what that means.

I know that everything will change.  I don’t know how I will feel next month, next year, but that somehow I will deal with that, too.  I’m figuring out that the human heart can harbor two opposite feelings at once.  Both the sadness and the joy pull at me to give into them completely, but I can hold them both.  Letting go of the sadness seems a disservice to Noah, while the joy is owed to Ethan and all the little ways he encourages me and makes life new.  For now, I think I need both feelings, despite the conflict. 

As I write, Thom cooks.  Ethan snoozes after a mini-baby massage from me.  Flowers from Noah’s memorial fragrance the air.  Strange and sad and wonderful all at once.  

Monday, 30 January 2012

Pain and Joy: The bittersweet story of Noah and Ethan so far

I've lost track of days and suddenly realise that it is a month since I gave birth to my baby boys.  It has been a horrible haze of hospitals from which we are just now starting to face what will be our new life as a family.  Here's the story so far.

I woke the morning of the 30th of December at 3 am with crampy pains in belly.   My ceasaeran was booked for later that day.  Even though I wanted to sleep, I decided to get up.  I was excited.  I was also being kicked in the bladder and could use a trip to the loo.  When I returned to bed, I tossed and turned until 6am when Thom and I got up and made our way to the hospital to be booked in.
waiting, waiting, waiting

We were excited.  Not long now, we told each other.  We were fitted with hospital gowns.  Thom even got some orange Crocs to wear.  Me and bump were checked over.  A scan showed the two little guys ready to come out.  We couldn't wait to meet them.  Anxious hours of clock-watching, waiting for my turn, were made worse when I was put back a couple hours in favour of an emergency c-section.  My pains were getting more powerful and regular, and we took it as a sign that today was certainly the day this was meant to happen.

Finally I was brought in, arrnaged on the table and suitably numbed from the ribs down.  As the midwives laid me in position I heard a splash.  The three midwives exchanged worried looks.

'What was that?' asked one in a tone that set my heart racing with panic.
'I'm not entirely sure,' replied another, who called for the doctor and suddenly the room was filled with people, all speaking in a serious medical language possibly intended to keep me guessing.

Thom was brought in and his face was pale.  I was calmed by having him near.  He later told me that the sight that greeted him was a floor covered in blood.  The gush was my waters breaking but they were tainted with blood, shifting the routine ceaseran into a sudden emergency proceedure.

Minutes seemed like hours as I waited to hear a baby's cry.  I could hear the doctors working on them, but the babies were silent.  The doctors with me tried to assure me that many babies don't cry immediatly, but Thom's face showed fear.  He was watching our sons being recussiated.  Finally I heard the doctors give a cheer and a baby cry.  One little man was passed to Thom, looking shocked, but only for a brief moment before the doctors whisked him away to stabalise him.  The other was wheeled out by a group of smiling doctors, giving me thumbs-up and reassurance that he was breathing.
Noah just after birth

Ethan just after birth

I was stunned, drugged and shocked.  I was wheeled to a recovery room while Thom went to see the babies.  I first started to realise how serious things had been when doctors, midwives and anesthatists filtered in over the next few hours to hold my hand tell me how happy they were that the me and boys were ok.  Still, it didn't totally sink in and I imagined that in a few days we would all be home and happy.

Thom brought photos of the boys to me and we named them.  Ethan, because it means strong, and Noah, because it means comfort.  He sat near my bed while I came around, being visited reguarly by midwives checking on my blood pressure and giving pain medication.  I don't know how long we were there before a doctor arrived with news of Noah.  He was having great difficulty maintinaing his blood pressure and would have to be transferred to a hospital that could offer more intensive support.  A neo-natal intensive care unit in Norwich was ready to accept him and transport would be arriving to collect him shortly.

I had not yet even touched him, held him.  I was desperate to get out of the bed and see him.  My heart broke and tears were unstoppable as I watched the clock, counting the minutes before the nurses and doctors gave me the 'ok' to shift into a wheelchair and be taken to Noah.  After what seemed like hours, I was taken to him and Ethan in the Special Care Baby Unit.

Little bodies, naked except for diapers, wires and intravenous tubes, lying inside incubators.  The room was noisy with the beeps of the various machines they were attached to.  Doctors and nurses scurried around Noah, stabilising him and readying him for the journey.  I was allowed to reach in and touch his leg as IVs and nasal canulars were adjusted.  He calmed when I touched him.  I saw his eyes and heard his cry.  I did not know then that it would be the first and last time.

I didn't think I would survive watching him as he was taken away.  I don't know how loud I cried.  Confined to my wheelchair, I buried my face into Thom's stomach and sobbed.  The image of him leaving is burned in my mind.

The next morning, Thom drove to Norwich to see him.  I waited in Colchester, spending time in a wheelchair at the side Ethan's incubator.  The relief was amazing when Thom phoned to say that he saw Noah and things looked good.  He was breathing on his own and the photos Thom sent showed a relatively tube- and IV-free baby.

But our relief was short lived.  The next morning brought news of seizures in the night.  Noah had to be sedated to control the fits.  Despite my delicate post-surgery state, nurses and doctors agreed that Thom and I should get to Norwich as soon as possible.  I was discharged quickly after a dose of morphine and sent on my way with a pharmacy bag full of pain relief.  I hobbled out and into the car for the hour and a half drive to Norwich.

I was physically shaking with fear as we walked the long, dim hallways to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. The unit itself was bright with sunlight through large windows.  The airy room had both the feel of calm and urgency.  The nurses spoke in peaceful tones as they went about their work in unhurried fashion, but their calm was in contrast to the beeping machines tracking the breaths and heartbeats of the six or seven tiny babies in the room.  Each beeping protest signalled a potentially life-threatening crisis to which the nurses responded with all softly-spoken and slow-but-steady action.

Noah was in a bed nearest the window.  Silent.  Still.  A machine to assist with breathing and canulars in every foot and hand.  His brain being monitored through sticky pads attached under a little knitted hat.  The nurses and doctors, again with the all-enduring calm, explained Noah's status and invited us to stay in a room on the ward.

So we continued for almost two weeks.  Sleeping in Norwich on the ward near Noah.  Spending the morning with him before driving to Colchester to see Ethan for a few hours before heading back to Noah's bedside.  Days drifted into each other.  I would wake in the night with the sound of the beeping machines in my ears.  I would rush down the hall to see if he was still there.  The nurses would offer me an update, a tissue to dry my teary eyes and a chair to sit with him.  Hours could pass with me sat next his incubator.  I talked to him, told him stories, mediated, prayed.
The four of us together

He was expected to wake from the sedating drugs but days passed with no reaction, no movements. In the space between waking and dreaming, I thought saw his eyes opening.  Reality and my wishes were blending into one and I would have to retrace my memory.  Was he awake?  Thom and I kept hopeful between our tears.    We were told that no one could be certain what he would be like when he woke.  Brain damage was possible from the oxygen deprivation at birth and the seizures later.  We didn't care.  Whatever he was, he was mine and I wanted him.  The love I felt was strong enough.

In the hours sitting with him, waiting for a flickering eye or a twitching toe, Noah taught me something about love.  Love was something I could give him, something I could feel for him.   But love, no matter how strong, did not make him mine.  It couldn't secure any outcome simply through strength of the feeling.  Noah had been gifted his own life, his own path and journey.  No matter how connected to me, he was not mine.  I always knew that one day both the boys would have to go their own way.  I wasn't ready for it to happen now, but Noah's life was his and no matter how much I wanted him, he wasn't mine to have.  Surprisingly, as I separated my love for him from the desire to make the life for him that I wanted allowed me to love more completely and freely.  And the more this happened the more I could just be there for him.

After a week of no movement and an MRI revealing severe brain injury, doctors discussed their theories with us.  Noah was suspected to have suffered worse than Ethan from a placental abrubtion, when the placenta begins to separate from the uterus wall before the baby is born.  This deprives the baby of oxygen as well as all other things the placenta provides and most frequently results in death of the baby.  Sometimes of the mother, also.  Noah looked remarkable well shortly after being transferred to Norwich, but the initial brain injury is often not evident until 2 or 3 days later.  Noah was in a coma and he was not expected to wake.  He had several other organs that failed, presumably in an effort to preserve the brain.  While Ethan also had similar hardships, his kindeys and metabolic processes recovered where Noah's did not.

Noah was taken off his ventilator on 10 January.  It was uncertain how long he could breathe on his own.  Hours.  Days.  Years.  No one could say.  He was brought to our room and left with us, free from tubes and beeps for the first time.  I bathed him and applied oil warmed between my palms to his dry hands and feet.  We dressed him in clothes we picked for him and laid him between us on the bed.  Through the night we watched him breathe.  I memorised his face and held his hands.  He stayed on through the night.  I held him at times. His breathing slowed and he started to feel cold to my touch.  I thanked him for coming to me.  I told him I loved him and told him about the lesson he taught me about love.  As we neared morning, I promised to take care of his brother the best I could.  At 8.15 am his slow breathing stopped.  I watched for another breath, but he was still.  After 12 days of life, Noah left, quietly as the sun rose after a dark night.

I still find it hard to believe he is gone.  It's easy to think that he is still at the hospital.  Laying still and silent in his bed.

As much as I wanted to leave the hospital after that morning, I also struggled to leave the place where Noah died.  I ran my hands over the spot on the bed where he laid with us, wishing to soak in some part of him to keep with me always.

The doctors arranged for Ethan to be transferred to Norwich when it became clear that Noah might not recover to save us driving between them each day.  Although he also had a trauma at the birth, it was not as severe as Noah and his needs were not great enough to warrant a transfer to the more intensive care unit at Norwich.  But the kindness of the staff in Norwich meant that we could spend more time with the babies.   It was invaluable to have Ethan and Noah in the same place near the end.

Yet, even when we were readying to leave Norwich, Ethan still needed treatment.  As he was preparing for transfer back to Colchester, we were asked to review his discharge summary.  We read in shock and awe, saying to each other that surely this report was about Noah.  It hit me how much in the focus on Noah, Ethan's lesser crisis had taken a back seat.  The horror of it all hit me like a brick.  We were all lucky to be alive.  Ethan had lived up to his name as a strong little person.

While we left the hospital in Norwich, Ethan would have to spend another week in hospital at Colchester.  Family tried their best to mediate our pain of returning home by removing all things twin related.  The double buggy, one of the two moses baskets put out of sight.  Although sleeping in our own bed felt like heaven, we were aching to get Ethan home and try to piece together some kind of new life together.

Ethan had to prove that he could eat without the help of a feeding tube and recover from an infection left from a form of IV called a long line which fed nutrients directly to his heart.  Ethan made quick work of the feeding tube issue by repeatedly pulling it out until the nurses gave up and decided to see if he could maintain his weight through bottle feeding.  I had been trying to express breastmilk throughout the whole ordeal.  Now that Ethan's release depended on eating, Thom and I went to hospital for as many feeding times as we could to try and get breastfeeding going.  During the long drives between hospitals when Ethan and Noah were in different places, I used a portable electric pump to express in the car between Colchester and Norwich.  It was a frustrating and often fruitless endeavour, many times yielding only a drop or two of milk.  I was too stressed.  Crying, full of caffeine to keep me going and very little desire to eat.

Somehow, Thom and I kept each other going.  Trudging to the hospital at 4 hour intervals for feeding times.  Trying to breastfeed.  Topping it up with a bottle.  Changing nappies and settling him before trying to get home to rest for a brief while before the next round.  After 5 days of antibiotics, Ethan's infection had cleared.  The doctors did their rounds and looked him over.  They expressed concerns over his weight and whether he could maintain it, but I begged, promising that feeding him on demand would surely be better than the artificial arrangement at hospital.  The doctors looked thoughtfully at the notes and again at Ethan, keeping me on edge, before agreeing to let him home with us that day.  I cried.
Ethan showing off his bottle-eating skills

It felt like we were finally going to be able to start our life again, resurrecting what remained after the heartbreak Noah's death left for us.  But before we took Ethan home, we had an appointment to keep.  We were expected at the funeral director that day.

A day of extremes.  Of sadness and joy.  Taking Ethan home was magical.  Making arrangements for Noah's funeral was terrible.  The day felt bizarre between the highs and lows.  Neither felt exactly real.

Now Ethan has been home for almost 2 weeks.  Having him right there with us is wonderful.  For the first time we could hold him when we wanted.  But these last two weeks have also been strange.  As Ethan grows and changes with each day, I think of Noah and how life would be with him here.  I miss him.  I remember the feeling of his kicks inside me and wish that I could rewind everything to have him here again. Days march on, ever further from the last time I held him, from the day he died.  I don't want to forget him and everything I learned with him.  But the land of the living seems to naturally spiral away from the realm of the dead.  I've stayed indoors, watching endless hours of mindless TV in a bid to press the pause button and somehow stay closer to him.  When I have gone out, seen friends, it feels like he's slipping away.  No one asks about him, and its as if only we remember.  My body remembers and each step back into normal life feels wrong without him.
Family nap time

As much as it is still beyond my imagination to lose Noah, here we sit, this evening, Thom, Ethan and I.  Looking like a little family.  And between my tears, I smile.