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.