Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turn a blind eye?

I love reading. I love nothing more than to pick up a book in the morning, preferably staying in bed, and immerse myself in it until (at some ungodly hour later that day) I finish it. (Yes, I read pretty quickly.) I love Sci-Fi, fantasy, murder mysteries, and chick lit. I'll read a good biography or autobiography if it's been recommended to me. I will also read a good science related book - like 'Short History of Nearly Everything'. (WHAT a great book that is!!) I love reading Time mag, and local newspapers because I love knowing what is going on in my world - it's the infernal gossip in me.

I don't like horror or psychological thrillers much. I used to. I used to LOVE reading Dean Koontz. But there's only so much a girl can take after being unable to go to sleep at 3am after being scared witless by a book. My imagination is FAR too productive.

Since losing Zoe, there are other books I simply will not read: those that involve any story about children being harmed in any way - from the impact of divorce to child abuse. I find them just too painful to read. I can't understand how ANYONE would harm a child, especially since I would give my right arm to have my daughter back and these characters seem to treat their kids with such blatant disregard. I usually screen my books quite carefully now, to make sure there's nothing of that sort.

Last week, I was in a rush. I dashed into the library to grab some books before dashing home to feed Nathan. I didn't really look too closely. I picked up a Ruth Rendell - usually love her stories as there's enough predictability mixed with some really unexpected twists - called 'Not in the flesh'. On balance, it's a great story. However, there is a sub-plot that even now makes me shudder.

Female genital mutilation.

In Africa, especially northern Africa, the practice is quite widespread. Essentially, while a girl is still a small child she will be held down, with no anaesthetic, while some woman in the tribe uses either a knife or sharpened stone to cut off her labia and clitoris. She will then stitch the wound closed in such a way that the girl will never be able to urinate or have sex without extreme pain. She will then bind the girl's legs together for a period of time (usually a week or so), during which time, infection often sets in because the wound is not being properly cleaned.

In the story, Wexford (the main character, a police detective) is faced with a dilemma. He knows that a Somalian family are going to 'cut' their 5yr old daughter in the very near future. What should he do? The practice is illegal in the UK, where the story is set, but until the act is actually committed, there is no crime. He cannot arrest the parents. Child welfare can do nothing, because no crime has been committed. He warns the parents of the jail term they will face if they do, but there's not much else he can do.

Eventually, he & some other important characters manage to burst in as the mutilation is about to take place. The end result is that the 5yr old is removed into care, while her older brother and sister remain with the parents.

Reading the story has left me unsettled. What would I do? Is it worse for the child to be taken away from her parents forever, or to suffer mutilation? Is there no compromise? As with circumcision in SA, many young boys lose their lives because of infections from their time in the bush. A compromise is to allow a registered doctor to perform the circumcision, so that at least one knows the wound has less chance of becoming infected. While I COMPLETELY disagree with female mutilation, is there no way to reach a compromise? Is there no way to respect their culture while not harming their daughters?

Just the thought of what those girls go through is enough to make me mad and howl with the injustice of it all. On the one hand, I bet they simply don't know any better. On the other, how can a woman who has gone through that inflict it on her daughter? Surely there must be some inner plumb line that tells her it's just wrong? or is the imperative to uphold tradition stronger than that internal voice of conscience?

I know that there are different parenting strategies out there. I know that some people would be HORRIFIED to learn that I smack my child on her bum (once, open hand, only as a last resort) when she is being completely atrocious. I believe that I'm doing the right thing. But there is a world of difference, surely, between that and what these mothers and aunts and sisters are doing to these girls.

There's not much I can do sitting at the tip of Africa, as I don't have money or time to give to the cause, and I'm living in a part of the world where (I imagine) it doesn't happen very much. Besides, there are lots of other more urgent problems facing the people immediately around me - like substance abuse leading to fetal alcohol syndrome, or babies on crack, or (the latest trend) newborn babies being abandoned by the side of the road because of financial (and other) constraints.

Does that mean I can ignore it? I don't know. One only has so much energy and time to spread between the different problems facing one. Yet, I feel like I'd be letting these girls down if I did just shrug my shoulders and say 'There's nothing I can do about it'. It's kind of a rock and hard place scenario.

Damn! I should have checked the book more carefully before I took it out!

Confederation Cup

So you're wondering how a non-sport mad person like me has anything to say about this? Me too. I mean, I like sport, but it either has to be world class, or has to have someone in it that I'm personally supporting (like my nieces, or something). And it mustn't be soccer. I hate soccer. Really. I don't get the point of running backwards and forwards over the pitch to score a measly 2 goals. Where's the beauty in that?

And the vuvuzelas... I know it's an SA tradition. I know it makes SA soccer more vibrant, with a certain vibe that is present nowhere else. But really - after the first few blasts you'd think that the headaches they caused would be enough of a deterrent to make people stop. But apparently not.

and 2010 is coming to SA. God help us. Traffic. Crowds. Noise and more noise. Yes, I'm really looking forward to that. NOT.

So it was with much amazement that I found myself watching the second half of the Confederation Cup final - BY CHOICE. It was with even more amazement that I found myself cheering for the USA and really enjoying watching them score. I mean, it's just not like me. I didn't recognise myself at all. Is this 2010 fever starting to mess with even my head?? Am I going to turn into one of those cheering fans over the next 365 days that I dislike so much at the moment? Am I going to develop a liking for soccer?

All I can say is that if I do, then that is proof that miracles still occur.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"The world is watching"

I've been watching, with a measure of horror, the unfolding events in Iran. Twitter is amazing at keeping one informed, with up to the minute tweets from Iranians at the site of various protests. YouTube has several video clips of protests. The Big Picture is a site of photos collected from all over the world, which has several pages of photos from Iran, some posted at great risk to the photographer.

Several things have struck me as I've contemplated these events:
  1. The world really is a small place. Here I sit at the tip of Africa, watching and listening to and reading about events taking place on another continent, AS THEY HAPPEN. In many respects, I feel the same level of shock & horror as I felt when I was watching the events of 9/11. Back in 2001, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The axis of the world tilted for me that day. This past week or so has left me with a similar impression.
  2. I'm used to seeing protesters who are black. That's a product of living in South Africa. These protesters are not. I'm not the protesting type - I sign petitions, I write letters. I don't protest. I try to keep at arm's length at all times, because protests in SA traditionally become violent and I'm too scared of getting hurt. But there are people just like me, on the Iranian streets, willing to get shot at, be killed, exposed to tear gas, arrested, beaten up or otherwise putting themselves at risk. There's a photo of a blonde woman wearing a face mask to avoid identification - a very pretty blonde, if I say so myself. It doesn't fit my stereotype of a typical protester.
  3. Does anyone really know the truth about the election? Ballot boxes were reportedly burnt. If they hadn't been, would the outcome have been any different? Will any good come from holding another election? Will any good come from trying to suppress the protests? Is the idea of democracy the West holds to necessarily the ONLY way to govern effectively? Is it not possible that the Supreme Leader is correct in wanting to just get on with life? Is it right that Ahmadinjad (spelling?) is in power if ballot boxes were burnt? No matter what is said, who can believe the speaker? Both sides are so wound up about this election, so emotional about it, that it's hard for them not to exaggerate. Exaggerations ultimately lead to lies, and lies can't be believed. Who can judge where and when a fact is merely exaggerated, and when it's become a lie?
  4. It is already going to be tough to pull Iran back from civil war. If civil war does erupt, what does that mean for the rest of the world, if anything?
The world is watching, but then, the world watched as Rwanda self-destructed. It watched as Zimbabwe was destroyed. It watches as Tibetans continue to be stripped of their culture and faith. It watched as Apartheid in SA stripped people of their dignity and worth. What does it matter that the world watches (as Obama recently reminded the Supreme Leader)? It doesn't look like anyone is going to do anything about it, so what does it matter that we're watching? I continue to watch, with a mixture of morbid fascination and increasing cynicism. Is it merely voyeurism, or a penchant for violence buried deep in each of us? How does it change us, this watching business? Does it inure us, or mobilise us?

Slowing down

Know the feeling where you have so much to do but can't get up the energy to do any of it?

I have a host of things that require attention
  1. My pot plants need watering and/or potting out into the garden.
  2. The back garden needs a landscaping plan.
  3. The garden refuse needs shredding & composting (need to create a site for the compost first).
  4. The few items of furniture that we're getting rid of need to photographed & listed online so we can actually sell them, to clear the driveway properly.
  5. The garage needs shelving so we can clear the stuff off the floor so that it becomes a usable space.
  6. The tiling in the kitchen needs finishing.
  7. We need 2 more bookcases for the last of our books to be unpacked into.
  8. We need to put up all our pictures & ornaments.
  9. The dog needs to start being properly trained.
  10. I need to get some daily exercise.
  11. I need to organize the revision cd-rom for the matrics in the next 3 weeks.
But of course, I'm just too exhausted during office hours to contemplate any of it. My energy levels start to approach something resembling an ability to focus & "work" around 4pm, but by 8pm I'm falling asleep sitting up again, which is incredibly frustrating. Of course, it's probably a good thing too, as I'm still trying to figure out the new morning routine with Nellie, & getting used to how long it takes to get Nate & his bag ready to go out, and just generally getting used to having a newborn again. Plus, we're all sick at the moment, so I'm feeling tired from that too.

So, today, after dropping Nellie at nursery, I snuggled back in bed with my son for the rest of the day. There's no denying that my lungs feel better as a result, but I still feel guilty about not getting 'stuff' done - especially getting some exercise. Ridiculous, I know. You'd think I could cut myself some slack, but apparently not.

Learning to slow down is something I struggle with. One of the things that I worry about is becoming a recluse. It's so easy, with a newborn, to just stay at home all the time, never go out, never see anyone, watch rubbish day-time TV all day long. I hate getting to the end of the day and having nothing to show for it. (Being on holiday is the exception to the rule - when you're on holiday, the whole POINT is to do as little as possible. Having a baby is NOT a holiday, so I can't just apply holiday rules to my current situation - that feels fraudulent. Yes, I can be anal about these things. No surprises there.)

Since we have a full-time maid (the idea is that she will become Nate's nanny when I go back to work), my guilt feelings are compounded. Here I am, lying around all day, in the lap of leisure (as it were) and she's working hard. It just feels so wrong. So very wrong.

Not having had a full-time maid/ nanny with Nellie, I'm still trying to figure out how our relationship works, particularly when I'm at home. On the one hand, being early days, I want to do everything for Nate and have him sleep on my chest all day. On the other hand, I want to start handing over some responsibility to her, so that I can make sure she's doing things the way I want them done before I go back to work. I know, I know, I still have 4 months to do that, but that's not very long. So this afternoon I forced myself to leave Nate in her care for an hour while I went out to the library and to collect Nellie.

Of course, Nate was fine when I got back - not that I thought he would be otherwise (I wouldn't have hired her if I'd had any doubts in that department). Never the less, it felt VERY weird, almost wrong, to leave him behind. Part of me felt like a bad mother - he's only 11 days old and already I'm gadding about without him, seemingly without a care in the world. I know that's not true, but emotions never respond to logic.

However, the upshot of all this is that I've decided to try to give myself another week (this week) to rest. I will do my best not to stress about the things that 'need' to be done. (If the plants die, well, then they die.) I will try to give myself permission to stay in bed all day. I will try to cut myself some slack. Having some books to read will help - I can quite happily lie in bed all day and read. Being sick will help too (oddly enough) - I tend to be better about letting myself rest when there's a 'real' reason to.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, don't worry. All is well - I'm just getting to grips with this idea of slowing down a bit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My babies

Nellie has finally recovered from her shyness towards her brother. Now, of course, all she wants is to hold him, play with him, cuddle him, love him. Fortunately, she's old enough to understand that she needs to be gentle with him.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bath time, food time, sleep time

On Friday I took Nathan to be weighed at the local state clinic. As happened with Nellie, I was very disappointed by the attitude of the staff nurses present. They were offhand, unhelpful, unfriendly, uncaring, brusque - almost bordering on rude. Although it costs R120 per session, I think I might just stick with a private clinic from now on and pay for the privilege of being treated like a human being, rather than a nuisance and an annoyance. Anyway, the good news is that Nathan weighed 3.3kg, so he's putting on weight just fine.

Although I gave Nathan his first bath last weekend, it was rather a disaster, so soonest forgotten would be best. I bathed him again this evening. This time though, I bathed him in the bath with Nellie. Nathan hated it just as much as the last time, but at least this time (because G was around to help) I managed to keep him warm while still getting him clean.

We had a difficult night recently. The poor boy really seems to have a problem digesting milk and every now and again has incredible spasms that leave him screaming. (Nellie had the same problem when she was born - her prematurity being the main reason.) Of course, he's not considered prem, but it may well be that he has a less developed digestive system. Still, the fact that he's put on weight in the first week would seem to negate that, so I really don't know what to think.

I've realised (remembered?) that I'm going to have to be very careful with what I eat for the next little while to try to minimise his discomfort. I don't think I've eaten anything that could cause hassles - I've avoided tomatoes and other acidic foods (but mainly because I don't like acidic foods), but it may be that I need to watch my intake of dairy. Sigh! I love my dairy.

Nate has also had his first attempt at using a dummy - which was entirely successful. Last night, after he was awake & crying for 3 hrs straight, I resorted to it because I had no milk left and I'd given him so much formula I was convinced that if I gave him any more his tummy would burst. He was very happy comfort sucking. While I'm not sure I want to go down this road again, it's good to know he will take one if we really need it.

And now, as he is sleeping, I think I'm going to catch up on some zzzz's too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Walking along the Cable Car road

This morning we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a walk along the Cable Car road (I can't for the life of me remember its name at the moment.) This was the Mountain before the clouds rolled in - you can just see them coming in on the right.

Now you see it, now you don't - Lion's Head and Signal Hill disappear in the clouds.

I love this photo, although it doesn't look as amazing as it did in person (what I wouldn't give for a proper camera, but then, I probably wouldn't take it with me all the time...). What I particularly love is the way the sun is shining off the ocean, just beyond the harbour, through gaps in the clouds. It looks like a negative of a photo of whales under the water... or at least, it does to me.

What a great way to spend the morning! Nellie was in her element bossing us around (see the photo of her on her blog). The dogs were in their element getting to run around unhindered. I was in my element being able to walk without pain for the first time in MONTHS. Graeme was in his element having both Nellie and I in a good mood at the same time (poor chap!), and for all of us to be able to spend quality time together. Let's hope there are more days like this in the near future.
Posted by Picasa

One solution that might actually work?

Every so often, I've blogged about my mixed emotions on dealing with the poor. Now, I think I've found one possible solution. It's called 'The Broccoli Project'. Essentially, it's a reward scheme for the poor. In the same way that Vitality rewards Discovery members for living a healthy lifestyle (buying healthy food, going to the gym, etc, etc), the Broccoli Project works with various NGOs to create reward schemes for the poor - including things like having regular HIV tests, attending skills workshops, staying in school, or taking prescribed medication. Non-participants can also buy books of vouchers to purchase food from places like Pick 'n Pay to hand out at intersections or to car guards.

For me, this is a break-through. It means that I can always hand something out that I know cannot be used for drugs, and that does not require a lot of space in the car (as actual food would). I will investigate further, me thinks.

Things are easier the second time around

Having a baby the 2nd time around is SO much easier than the first time around. I'm not talking about pregnancy or labour, mind you. That was so much worse in many respects. Given that Nathan is alive, I have absolutely NO intention of EVER falling pregnant again, and if I do, I think I just might sign up for an elective caesar... either that or have myself committed for insanity.

But actually HAVING another one - well, that's proving easier (at this stage, at any rate). I still have to get the hang of this multi-directional pee thing, but otherwise it's actually OK. Since arriving home on Friday we've managed supper out at Oupa & Ouma's house, a family shopping trip, and I've taken both kids to Granny's house on my own. Apart from Friday night, I'm actually managing OK on the amount of sleep I'm getting. I know, I know, it's early days yet and things may change. What amazes me though is what a difference it makes when you know what to expect.

Like engorgement... (guys, you can skip this bit if it's too much information). With Nellie, I was expressing because she couldn't suck. I was using an industrial strength hospital pump. A word to the wise? Never use an industrial strength hospital pump if you've never breast fed before. Not good for your boobs, and not good for your sanity. With Zoe I was given tablets to prevent my milk coming in, which didn't work. I got cystitis, although I caught it early so it wasn't too sore. So this time around, I was ready. They say that preparing yourself mentally for any ordeal is the most important bit, that you can cope with anything if you know what you're up against. I was so ready though, I nearly missed it - the all four minutes of "hmm... my boobs feel really swollen, sore and hot". I kid you not - no pain, no nothing. I didn't get a chance to even put the cabbage leaves into the fridge!

And the feeding thing... this time around, although Nathan is definitely getting breast first, I'm not hassling about making sure he gets enough from the boob. If he's screaming hungry, and my nipples are too sore to bear another bout, he gets formula. (Of course, the real bonus of formula is that he sleeps for longer, so I get to sleep for longer too. Secrets of the trade, eh?) And sterilising??? As long as the stuff is clean I'm not too fussed. If I have time, I'll sterilise, but honestly - I was far too paranoid last time around. Of course, there's nothing I can do about the sore nipples this time around... just more Lansinoh than last time I guess, and knowing how important it is to get a good latch...

And the sleeping thing... First time around we were scolded for putting Nellie to sleep on her tummy because of the fear of SIDS - this despite the fact that she simply would not fall asleep on her back. Now we've been scolded for putting Nathan to sleep on his back because of the fear that if he were to vomit in his sleep he might choke. (Apparently, the wisdom of the moment says side sleeping is the best.) But whereas I fell apart last time for being a 'bad' mother, this time around I just smiled, nodded and then ignored everyone else's wisdom. Nathan can sleep on his tummy, back or side, I really don't mind - whatever is most appropriate for the moment and the situation. If he's sleeping, I'm happy. (This evening, for example, I got another 3 hours sleep in a row, and when I'm done here, I'm off back to bed. I think that's pretty good going for a preemie newborn.)

And the dressing thing... this time around (OK, yes, Nathan is about double Nellie's size, and that certainly helps!) I'm not overwhelmed by his small size. I don't feel like he's going to fall apart if I just touch him. Having dressed a child for the past 3.5 years, dressing another one is all the same old, same old.

And the nappy thing... I don't have this insatiable urge to change his nappy every time he has a feed (unless he's had a poo). Although I have an interest in the contents of his nappy, I'm not overly concerned. Colour and consistency of his poo, while very important to gauge his general health, are not the B-all and end-all of my conversations. (I recognise that may change.) And I'm not insistent on using a barrier cream. Not using one with Nellie in the later stages of nappyhood made no difference whatsoever to her, so I'm not fussed. If I remember, great. If not, fine.

And the crying thing... I already have a good idea of what might be wrong, because certain facial expressions are familiar to me. Knowing what might be wrong saves a lot of time and angst trying to figure it out! (And not just for me!)

And doing stuff with one hand... like letting him feed/ burp on one side while I express on the other side, or type blog posts, or eat my own food, or make tea, or do something else useful. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. I wouldn't have considered it last time around, but this time around there isn't time to hang around, and even if there were, Nellie would find a way to get rid of it.

We're about to make the swap back to cloth nappies though (been using disposable while he's been doing the merconium tar stuff), and that will be interesting. Never did cloth with Nellie at this age. We basically only started on cloth when she was about to start with solid poos, so I'll be interested to see how it works with a newborn.

But overall, having a second is a lot easier than having the first - at this point in time anyway.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Meeting family is always special - particularly that first meeting. This cousin has been one of Nathan's most enthusiastic fans - she was thrilled to get the chance to have him pretty much all to herself for an evening, before her sisters got in on the act.

The oldest and youngest member of my family... a proud Oupa with his ONLY (blood related) boy grandchild.

This moment is the culmination of one of my life-long dreams. When my dad was close to death on 2 separate occasions, one of my prayers was that he would live long enough to hold his grandson in his arms. (Another was that he would live long enough to see Janel matriculate, graduate, and married.) Thanks to God for making this moment a reality.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jonathan Ross

British comedians are fabulous. I really miss having access to good British comedy, so much so that I've signed up to follow two great British comedians via Twitter. While it's not quite the same (they aren't quite as funny), it does have its benefits. Just take this photo of Jonathan Ross (Woss)...

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I mean, let's get real. WHO wears that kind of get-up anymore? I don't care that this was a radio broadcast?!?! But then Jonathan always did have his own style.

In case you're wondering - he managed to inhale all 8 Ferrer Rocher chokkies in about a minute. Hmm... chocolate.... must... have... chocolate...

The gory details

Graeme has already told the basic story of Nathan's birth on FB here. I will spare you a repetition of them. However, what is missing is the description of my feelings & thoughts during the process.

While my only priority was to get him out alive, I was very tired to begin with. I hadn't slept well on Mon night, and then being woken at midnight on Tues eve didn't help. Unfortunately, with the contractions taking place I couldn't really get back to sleep. I was really looking forward to a quick labour, so became very frustrated as the morning dragged on with very little progress.

By lunchtime, I was in a lot of pain, and already exhausted. I chose not to have pain relief, because I realised fairly quickly on that we were in for a long haul, so wanted to save something for later on. Apart from which, I wasn't sure I could sit still long enough to put an epidural in.

When Steffi then told us my cervix wasn't co-operating & I should get in the bath, I started to think we were heading for a caesar. I was quickly running out of steam. With the contractions being so irregular, some of their effect was being undone in the quieter patches.

Anyway, when I got in the bath & the clots started showing up, I started to panic. However, being in the water triggered something. Having said that, I was in such pain by then I barely had the strength to voice my fears. I came very close to asking for a caesar - I honestly didn't feel I had the energy to push Nathan out. By the time I had decided that was what I wanted though, h had started crowning. While pushing though, I could feel I was out of strength. After several ineffective pushes, Steffi had me turn around. Then we started to get results, but even so I became convinced she was going to have to pull him out, because I couldn't push. As I finally reached the point of giving up, and looked up to tell her I couldn't do any more, I saw his head was already out. Amazing how seeing the object of your actions can be such an inspiring thing! From somewhere (and I really couldn't say where, because I was FINISHED by then) I managed to find the strength for another one or two pushes, and out he came.

I was so relieved he was out, I'm afraid to say I couldn't really consider anything else. Steffi put him on my chest, and I basically passed out. As Graeme said, he was very blue in the face, with his cord around his neck. Graeme then helped cut the cord, and shortly thereafter he & the midwife took Nathan to ICU.

My goal was always just to get Nathan into this world alive. Nothing more. With him out, and alive, I was suddenly faced with the future of raising him. It's taking me a while to bond with him, I think because I didn't allow myself to really contemplate a future with him, just in case. It's happening, but slowly.

After being returned to me in the ward, and his first feed, things regressed again. We couldn't wake him, and thus he wasn't feeding. He spent the night in ICU again, with both nurses and the paediatrician a bit worried about him. However, after 2 bottle feeds (I tried expressing, but that didn't work) he has been much better.

I think the thing I have to remember is that he's prem, even though he isn't technically termed prem anymore (babies have be younger than 36 weeks to be termed prem). As a result, he's feeding every 2 hours, which is exceedingly exhausting. I'm being sensible though and after breastfeeding I've started giving him formula 'top ups' so that he sleeps a bit longer so I can sleep a bit longer too - otherwise I only just get him fed, burped and changed and it's time to start all over again!

He does have a bit of jaundice, so feeding him is vitally important if we want to keep him out of ICU. Other than that though, he's dong really well.

Thanks to everyone for their tweets, FB comments, sms's, emails, phonecalls and visits. Thank you even more for your prayers. It's incredible to think that Nathan is alive and well! Thank you for the part you played in making his birth take place. (By the by, Nathan means 'Gift of God', which he is!)

Nathan 10 June 2009

Sunrise from the labour ward & several taken from NICU shortly after his birth.

Mommy's boy!

The new family - check his face!!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A sense of humour loss

I think I've lost my sense of humour. Browsing through my recent posts, they all seem so serious. I know I've laughed a lot recently, both long and hard, but always at stuff other people have said. Somehow I seem to have lost my sense of humour when it comes to reflecting on my own life (which I tend to do in blogging). I'm not sure how that happened, or why, but I'm hoping it returns soon.

Actually, thinking about it, I think I can probably guess why. It's called panic. While I'm very excited about going into hospital tomorrow, a large part of me (that I'm trying very hard to ignore) is quietly panicking that this baby is going to die. Thus far, he's been active and healthy, but because all that can change in the blink of an eye (he could go from alive & healthy to dead in less than 20 minutes), I'm too scared to believe he's going to be okay until I can see his eyes open and hear him take a breath.

Is that a lack of faith? I'm not sure. I know that God understands, though. He understands my frailty. He's seen my tears, heard my pleas, felt my fears. He also knows that I know that this process is in his hands alone. There is nothing I can do to change the outcome. What will be, will be. Choosing to hang onto my fear is more about trying to protect my heart than anything else.

Unless someone has lost a child, I don't think they can understand my mind-set. I believe that God can save this child. I believe that God wants to save this child. However, those two facts together do not mean that God WILL save this child. That's the lesson I learnt with Zoe.

I feel like the sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, and that with each passing hour it drops closer to me. Only when my child is born, and alive, will I feel we are free and will I be able to fully experience the excitement of his birth. I just know I'm going to sob a LOT in the next few days and hours - either from sheer relief and joy, or from extreme heartbreak.

Oh dear God, let him be born alive. Please. Please.

I have no fear of the labour, although I'm not looking forward to the pain and although I keep wondering how I got through the last two. My only fear is that I'm going to go through this only to lose him. I guess contemplating the death of a child is enough to make anyone lose their sense of humour.

So I'm praying I recover mine, because that will mean he's born alive. I don't care if he has to be in ICU for weeks. I just want him alive. Please God.

36 weeks

Tomorrow I go to hospital. I am so ready for this!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mawwage: that bwessed awwangement....

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something." (If you don't know where that quote is from, then I humbly suggest you get a life.)

I've been married now for just over 11 years. Shocking. I know. Doesn't feel like it. I can still clearly remember walking down the aisle, all those years ago, feeling panicked, but thinking quietly to myself that it wasn't too late - I could still back out of this. All I had to do was say 'No, I do not' when I was asked the pertinent question.

Clearly, I didn't. I'm not sure whether it was because (at the time) I was too scared not to follow through when ALL THOSE PEOPLE were watching me, or because I loved my man enough that the love overcame the fear. Probably somewhere between the two.

Do I regret my decision? On balance, no. I'm very fortunate to have married an incredible man. The longer we are together, the more I appreciate him. He's funny, intelligent, caring, dependable, (usually) thoughtful, supportive, cooks, takes care of me, and loves our daughter enough to get down on the floor and play with her. (He happens to have a bunch of faults, but who doesn't?) Oh yes, and he listens to me!! There are few men in the world today who can tick all those boxes. (Of course, I also happen to love him, which helps a hang of a lot!)

Does that mean I've never wanted out? No. There have definitely been times where I've had enough, or been bored, or thought there must be something (or someone) better out there. At times like those, if thought that if there was a feasible way out I probably would have taken it. However, especially with a child, divorce is not (to me at least) a feasible way out.

Now don't hear me wrong: I am NOT saying that no-one should ever get divorced. There are definitely times when divorce is the lesser of two evils, or when it should actively be sought out. Having lived through my parents' divorce though, I made a vow to myself and to God that I would never go that route. So, when things get tough, I eventually give myself a stern talking to (because the source of the problem, let's be honest, is usually blown out of perspective in my perception of the relationship). 11 years on, and we're still together.

Some of our family though, are not so lucky. I know that certain family members would not want to be identified publicly here, so I'll simply say that there are currently two close family members who are both have marriage problems. The one has had a trial separation and is now back together (although things aren't 'fixed' yet), while the other is going through a divorce. The first, thank God, has no children. The second has 2 kids - the youngest is not even a year old yet. In the midst of all this, and despite all this, one of Graeme's brothers is about to get married (hooray!) after a period of co-habiting.

In a recent edition of Time Magazine, there was a short article about the international trend away from marriage in favour of co-habitation. Aside from the spiritual perspective (which is no small thing for a large sector of the world), marriage was often seen as a way to get a tax break, and to ensure that women (in particular) & children were provided for. The article pointed out that because the laws in most countries now provide at least some measure of legal and financial protection for a surviving partner, or for partners left destitute after the relationship breaks up, or for children born out of wedlock, much of the reason for marriage has fallen away.

While we were in the UK, I did a year's course called 'Workshop' (run by the Anvil Trust) that looked at everything to do with Christianity. While on that course, we did a very interesting study on marriage, and how God views it. Essentially, in God's eyes, it was proposed that marriage equates with (consensual) sex. The piece of paper, or the ceremony held in front of witnesses, is only there as a protective measure for both the parties marrying and for the community in which the couple exists. The real deal, as it were, is whether or not you've had (or are having) sex with another person. If you are, then God sees you as married. (Thus, in God's eyes, co-habiting IS marriage.)

A lot of research has been done over the past 30 years, gathering statistics about co-habitation. It is interesting to note that only about 50% of co-habiting couples get married; that the remaining 50% break up within 5 years; and that for the 50% who do marry, their chances of divorce in the first 5-7 years are double that of any couple who has not co-habited. There are lots of very good reasons for this - like the fact that many people who choose to co-habit rather than get married already have a tainted view of marriage because their parents got divorced, or that they place a much higher value on independence & personal freedom, and therefore view marriage in a less committed light than those who do not co-habit. (Here's a really good summation of the various relevant points about why marriage is better than co-habiting, and why some people still choose co-habiting over marriage, for those who are interested in reading further.)

What many people seem surprised by is that the break-up of a co-habiting relationship is just as painful and messy as a divorce. If you accept what Workshop teaches about how God views marriage, then it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. God's view is that through sex, two people become one entity. Divorce tears that one entity apart, which is why it hurts so much. In addition, there is the dissolution of the household and finances to negotiate, possibly including pets, and sometimes children need to be considered as well.

Co-habiting does not make a subsequent marriage any easier. It does not confer any advantages on the couple's relationship. It is therefore highly advisable that ANY couple choosing to marry (but especially those who have been co-habiting) get some pre-marriage counselling.

My marriage went through a very rocky patch in our first year, and that despite having attended a good pre-marriage course. Everyone who marries finds the first year tough, but we had additional problems to deal with: I was very, very ill for the first 9 months. I got sick with flu on honeymoon, then had several flu's in quick succession, and thus proceeded to develop bronchitis, pneumonia and then pleurisy. I was flat on my back in bed for months. Not a great way to start a marriage. Our first year was also not helped by the fact that we had a tremendous amount of baggage to deal with, as we had had a relationship (with each other) previously that had broken down. The only way to fix that breakdown was either to marry each other, or never see or speak to each other again. The issues that caused that first relationship breakdown were still present when we married (hence my extreme reluctance while walking down the aisle). Combined with my illness, our marriage was set to self-destruct.

Our salvation was - ironically - the marriage itself. We had both taken a vow and we both took our vows seriously. Our vows included the words "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health". In order to honour those vows, we went for counselling. We learnt how to communicate with each other and we learnt a lot about each other. Our marriage has survived, but I don't take it for granted that it has. I recognise that many marriages break down much later on - around 15 years, or else around the time when the kids leave the house (so for us that would be in another 20 years time, or so). I recognise that unless we continue to work on the relationship we will only be steering a course for the rocks. There is no such thing as a divorce-proof marriage. It doesn't exist. Even I, who abhors divorce, could wind up getting divorced.

While I love my hubbie and I love our life together, while I'm really REALLY pleased I said 'I do' and not 'No, I do not', while I could not imagine life without my hubbie or our kids, while I think marriage is a lot of fun, it has also been really, really hard work. In some senses, to paraphrase Wesley: Marriage is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise has never really committed to it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The botched cake

Doesn't look too bad, does it? Doesn't taste too bad either. And that's not just my opinion (I had one slice, to check). No, my naughty dog (Baggins) decided it smelt so good he would find a way to climb up and start licking the icing off.... hmm... maybe I shouldn't tell Graeme that, since he has to eat it. Hee hee! (Never mind, my love, I cut off that part and fed it to Alyssa, so you're safe.)

Attempt #2 also botched, but I haven't iced it yet. It looks a lot like attempt #1 though, so I'm sure it will taste fine. Attempt #3, however, was a complete disaster. The good news is that Baggins now gets to eat it, which is what he wanted to do in the first place.

After all these attempts, I've narrowed the problem down to one of two things - either it's the eggs, or it's the oven thermometer. I'm hoping it's the eggs, cos it's a new oven, so if the thermometer is broken, I'm going to put someone's head on the block. Or maybe I should just shove attempt #3 in that person's face - yes, I like that option. Nothing like a bit of raw cake in the face to drive home the point that the thermometer isn't working.

OK, so here goes attempt #4. Watch this space!


This is the tale of trying to get my maternity benefits...

A friend very helpfully told me about a small UIF satellite office in Goodwood. This is good news, because when my mom went to the Bellville office the queue was already around the block at 7am! On that visit she was told I hadn't completed one of the forms correctly - the one which lists how much your employer will be paying you (if anything) for your maternity leave.

Now, I should point out that in SA, the statutory benefits are nearly zero. You get 4 months unpaid leave. That's it. If your employer chooses to give you anything, then you're lucky. You may also only apply for benefits on the first day of your maternity leave, not before - even though it takes 8 weeks to process. Just a thought - I am getting something from my employer. What happens to those women who only get the statutory unpaid leave, who have no money coming in, and now have to wait for 8 weeks before they get their first benefit? How do they survive those first 2 months with NO money whatsoever?? Yes, that sounds very reasonable and helpful, doesn't it?

So - having re-completed the form, off I go to the Goodwood office. Only 9 people ahead of me. Yay, I think. It still takes me a good 40 minutes to get to the front of the queue. Once there, I'm told that the form is still not correct. It's not enough to say how much I'm getting each month. I actually have to write out the dates for each month that I'm going to be off, and next to it the amount I'm going to get in that month. Oh, and I have to resubmit the form that tells the Dept of Labour that I've been contributing to the UIF fund. Sigh. OK.

Back to school I go, with said forms in hand, to be re-completed. With this duly done, I returned this morning. 7 people ahead of me, but only takes me 30 minutes to get to the front.

UIF officer: The UI-19 form (the one I'm resubmitting) is still wrong.
Me: Why?
UIF Officer: The termination date hasn't been filled in.
Me: but my contract hasn't been terminated. I'm just going on maternity leave.
UIF officed: No, if you're on maternity leave then your contract has been terminated.
Me: but I'm still being paid a reduced salary. How can my contract be terminated?
UIF officer: It just is.
Me: So what are you actually looking for then, since my contract has NOT been terminated?
UIF officer: The last date on which you were at work.
Me: OH! You mean you want the last date of work, not the termination date!
UIF officer: That is your termination date.
Me: No, it's not, but OK. Let me fill it in for you.
UIF officer: No, it can only be done by the person who signed the form.
Me: Sure. I'll just sit here while I phone the person who signed the form and you two can sort it out between you.
UIF officer: No, you have to resubmit the form. You can have him fax it to us.

Umm... ok then. So, according to my employer and according to me, I'm still employed, but according to the Dept of Labour, I'm "terminated". Yes, that's eminently logical. It also explains why the government is in such turmoil, and why it takes 8 weeks to process my forms (ie, no benefits for 8 weeks). Quite simply, they don't understand English, can't think for themselves and have to stick to the letter of the law, rather than get the job done.

Later, after form has been "corrected" and faxed, and I am back at the front of the queue...

UIF officer: Your UI-19 form is still wrong.
Me: WHAT? Why?
UIF officer: It's an old form and is missing the codes on the bottom as well as the last two columns, one of which says that you have been contributing to UIF.
Me: You're kidding me!
UIF officer: No, but we can accept this one, even though it's still wrong.
Me: (speechless with frustration and rage)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

One little frog, sitting on a log...

The poor dogs are bored. I know this. I need to take them out for a walk. As a result, Baggins has started chewing things again. Sigh! So when he started scratching at one of Nellie's toys on the stoep, to move it, I assumed he was after a pine cone or something else he wanted to chew. I went over to help him, only to discover a frog in the corner.

This frog moved in shortly after we did. At least, I assume so because he only started croaking a few nights after we'd been here. He's a sweet thing, only about 5cm long. I did take some photos, but they were rubbish - I was moving too much. Anyway, I moved said amphibian out of Harm #1's way, so that Harm #1 couldn't chew it up. Harm #1 was not impressed with me.

Sigh! If it's not the child who is unimpressed with me, it's the dog.

Baby 3 photos

He was fast asleep and not interested in having his photo taken at ALL. But, we can confirm that he already has hair. Nellie had no hair for a long time, then got this white bum fluff; Zoe was ginger and curly. I wonder what colour his is?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reap the whirlwind

Tonight Nellie was a little demon. First she threw herself on the floor having a tantrum about going to bath, then screaming so loudly and persistently in the bathroom that I had to smack her to stop her getting hysterical. (Thank God we have no neighbours on that side of the house or I'm sure they would have called the police... she hasn't screamed like that in ages.)

I hate having to smack her, but she really was being such a manipulative and petulant child. I felt awful for doing it. She cried all the way through the bath (although no longer screaming), so much so that I was worried she was going to make herself throw up. (Yes, she has perfected that little trick already.) However, after a looooooong cuddle she then turned into the perfect angel. When I said it was time to pack away her toys, there was no argument - she just got on and did it. When I said it was time to go to bed she whined for all of 1s, then just went to her room so we could pray.

I think the problem is mainly of our own making though. Trying to move house with a small child is hard at the best of times. Doing it when you're also pregnant is incredibly difficult. As a result, we've relaxed the boundaries, allowed too much TV, not spent enough quality time with her. All the things good parents should do we've failed to do in the past few weeks. Now we're reaping the whirlwind. Now she expects to eat in front of the TV. She expects to be able to watch TV whenever she likes, for as long as she likes. She expects to be able to call the shots. Combine that with the usual bed-time tiredness & traumas and you get a disaster waiting to explode.

Of course, this makes me really worried about the next few months. Nellie's been through a lot of change with the move. It's upset her, although she has rolled with the punches a lot more than I expected her to. She's started saying she doesn't want to go to nursery in the mornings and she's started crying again about going. She hasn't been like that since the end of last year!

Now though, when I'm at my most tired, I really need to have energy to be a good parent to her. Then, once the baby is born and I'm even more tired, I will have to deal with her sibling envy as well as trying to re-establish the boundaries we've lost over the past few weeks.

I know that millions of other parents have been through this and survived. I'm just not sure how they did it. How did they get through it without either murdering their kids or letting them become tyrants and spoilt brats? I have no doubt that we will survive this period. I just wish I knew how to tackle this issue in the correct manner - I wish there was a manual written specifically for our family to get us through this season.

Putting the myth of the perfect woman aside, my hope and prayer is that through this whirlwind time I can be the mother that Nellie needs, the wife that Graeme needs, the mother that this baby boy needs and not kill myself (metaphorically!!) or the dogs or Nellie or Graeme in the process.

Conversation snippets

Overheard at various times this afternoon/ evening:

Nellie: Mommy, you have to have both hands on the steering wheel when you're driving.
Me: You're right.

Nellie: Mommy, you need to have the flashy light (indicators) on when you turn, like all the other cars.
Me: Thank you for reminding me, darling.

Nellie: You promised me I could watch TV when Daddy got home. If you don't let me watch TV I won't be your friend anymore.
Me: You're right, I did promise. OK, you can watch TV now.

Who needs a conscience to remind one of the proper moral standards to apply? All one needs is a 3½ child.

Monday, June 01, 2009

One week to go

Yes, indeed. This time next week will be my first evening in hospital. On the one hand, I simply can't wait. On the other, I'm getting seriously nervous. All the "what-if" scenarios are starting to do more than just play through my mind. Crazy, I know.

I'm already sleep deprived (keep waking up between about 3.3am and 4.30am and then can't get back to sleep), but I can't wait to get my body back to myself (to some degree). Specifically, I can't wait to have my hips put back together. Today, shopping for some of the last few house things we need, I walked from one end of Canal Walk to the other. By the time I'd walked one way, I was nearly in tears and wanted to ask someone to call centre management to get me a wheelchair. Fortunately, there was a Mugg & Bean (thank God for Mugg & Bean) right there, so instead of humiliating myself, I took myself out for lunch. I was amazed by the number of diners out on their own. It almost made me want to go over to some of them and say, "Hi, let's not eat alone, let's have lunch together", but looking at some of their faces, I don't think it would have gone down too well.

Anyway, I managed to get just about everything on my list for today, which is great. Of course, I still have what feels like a gazillion things on my list for the week. Most of them I can't do by myself because I'm physically compromised. I'm looking forward to getting some independence back too. Of course, I recognise that it won't be instantaneous - it's taken months to get to this glorious state of unmaking, so I'm sure it will take at least two months to be remade, but I'm comforted by the fact that it can't get any worse.

Graeme has been an absolute star through all this. In the past week he has really stepped up to the plate. Despite having a really sore back, he has diligently drilled holes and put stuff up for me, lifted and carried and moved stuff for me, and all without complaint. I know this stuff doesn't bug him the way it bugs me, and of course I have the added complication of going through the nesting thing in a big way at the moment, so it must be very frustrating for him to be presented with lists of things that "absolutely have to be done right this minute otherwise I'm going to explode". He is such a hero!!

So, tomorrow's task? Get the garden sorted. Thank God I have a gardener. He doesn't know how hard I'm going to make him work tomorrow. Poor man. Also, get the kitchen sorted. (Thank God I have Priscilla to do that.) Also, get the books and bookcases sorted. (Thank God I can do that sitting down.) After that? Well, the things still on the list after that aren't urgent, so I think I might just take Wed off.... maybe.