Hospital Stay

Having a new baby makes doing anything (ok everything) more difficult.  Having three children, one at school, is an absolute hand full.  The day I came home from hospital, I was wishing that I had stayed longer, because they take care of things like meals and cleaning, and I didn’t have to do very much.

But then I remembered what it was like being in hospital.

For starters, labour sucked.  I mean, it was REALLY painful.  To be fair, that isn’t the fault of the hospital.  Mostly it was about me, and my inability to handle the huge amounts of pain I was in, partly from being already very tired, but mostly because, well, it’s a huge amount of pain.  I’ll spare you the details, but it felt a little like this:

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There is no labour, only Zuul.

Once that was all dealt with, and I had a wonderful, healthy little baby, I was still very tired.  Suddenly the little things that usually just irritate me, began to grate on my nerves at a whole new level.

There is the hospital attitude to linen.  I can understand with newborn babies, the need to swaddle.

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See? Makes sense.

New babies like to be swaddled.  New mothers, however do not.

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I’d press the call button, but I can’t move my arms.

As if being strapped down by bed linen isn’t bad enough, the toilet paper in my bathroom was installed to run down the far side of the roll, against the wall.  This is an abomination.

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YOU’RE KILLING ME!!

But the thing that stands out most is the interruptions.  I was there for about 48 hours, during which time I should have slept for at least 16 hours.  I think I may have managed 14 minutes in total.  I wish I was exaggerating.  It wasn’t because of any noise.  (Not like last time).  But because of constant interruptions.

There was the nurse who kept coming in to ask if I had been to the bathroom yet.

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She will lose that enthusiasm when I tell her what I think of the toilet paper situation.

Then the people related to the new mother in the next bed, who kept passing me by and peering in.

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They were super excited. And apparently unaware of the notion of peace and quiet. Or privacy. Or coloured fabrics.

The ritual of the breakfast tray lady, ridiculously punctual, serving breakfast at the crack of dawn.

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GOOOOOOD Morning Sunshine!

By this point I was trailing a sleep deficit of about 3 weeks, due to the end of pregnancy generally sucking and pre-labour going on for the two days prior to labour actually kicking off.  Eventually I cracked under the strain of fatigue.  I asked the midwives to take my baby to the nursery where they would mind her for a few hours, so that I could get a little rest.

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I want it back in one piece, you hear me?!

This apparently prompted more people to ooze out of the woodwork.  Like the nurse who came in 20 minutes later, JUST AS I WAS FALLING ASLEEP, and said “I’ll just give you this before you take your nap”.

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I named her “Nurse Deathwish”

Apparently word of my nap was getting around, because she was followed by another midwife who wanted to see if I needed any pain killers (paracetamol, sadly, not the cool ones) in order to help me sleep.

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Actually, yes, can I please have 500mg of Get The Hell Out Of My Room?

Curiously-Prompt Lunch Lady then came back.

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Seriously, is there a queue outside my door?

At which point the midwife brought back my baby because she was starting to get hungry.

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OH FOR THE LOVE OF – oh it’s you.

Well, that was thoroughly pointless.

Later in the day, a midwife asked how I was feeling, and I said “tired.”  I saw no reason to hesitate.  She said “we could mind your baby in the nursery for a while if you like, to let you get some peace and quiet.”  I said, honestly, “the baby isn’t the problem.”.  I did not take up the offer, I couldn’t bear to get my hopes up again.

However the day ended well, and eventually there was one interruption I was very pleased about.

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That sound you hear is my heart melting.

Although I never did get a wink of sleep in that hospital.

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Pregnancy Moods

I am so glad to be post partum.  Pregnancy was getting me down.  I mean, it’s physically really demanding to be all unbalanced, overweighted, your centre of gravity is not where it used to be, your ligaments are all loosening up and your skeleton feels like everything is moving around.  Then there’s baby kicking and punching… it’s hard work.

But what is less obvious is the emotional side.  The ups and downs, the weird logic that your pregnant brain cooks up for your own retrospective humiliation and your friends’, colleagues’ and families’ bewilderment.

Let me furnish you with an example.

Some years ago I worked in a small office, and a colleague there was around 6 months pregnant.  She had been there for many years, she was a very loyal and hardworking employee.  This was her first pregnancy.  She was thrilled.  But she was also a basket case most of the time.  She started coming in to work an hour or two early, and sitting alone in the conference room, watching and waiting for the other staff members to arrive.  She never said anything, just watched in silence.  Which it turns out is far, far creepier.

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I like to think she was also patting a cat while in there.

This was weird behaviour, especially for her.  But we grew accustomed to it, and eventually nobody noticed any more.

Then one day she went to the bathroom.

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She was gone for ages.  People were practically lining up to do that “did you fall in?” joke when she came out.  Except when she came out she was pretty much crackling with fury.  She stormed down to her office, grabbed her things, and then stormed even harder into the CEO’s office.

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She resigned, on the spot, and went home.  She meant it too, she did not come back.

Later that week, someone asked the CEO what had upset her so much.  He said that there had been no toilet paper in the bathroom.

So, you know, totally worth throwing 8 years of loyal service away.

The fact that there were around 50 rolls in the store cupboard right beside the bathrooms apparently didn’t change things.

Anyway, that’s one of the more extreme instances I can think of, where I have been on the outside looking in, and it looks very much like the proverbial basket case.

However, when you are on inside of that amount of crazy, it’s very hard to see it as anything but logical, rational sense.

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Of course, I am above all that.

You just can’t understand why nobody else thinks the same things are as important as you do.

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In my defence, I was really, incredibly thirsty.

All I’m saying is, I’m glad that is behind me.  I can go back to being my normal amount of insane, instead of the super-pregnancy-hyper-insane that can cost you your job.  Or your marriage.

Now if the oedema would just go away, I could start to feel like my old self again.

Fear

I am 39 weeks pregnant today.  I’ve gone past the ‘wishing pregnancy was over” phase, and I’m now firmly in the “Oh I give up, this baby will never be born” phase.  I’ll just be pregnant forever.  (Actually a friend just pointed out that this can occasionally happen, but it’s an extremely rare, and rather grotesque, occurrence, known as a lithopedion, or a “stone baby”.  DO NOT Google this unless you have a very strong constitution and a high tolerance for some extremely macabre facts of life.)

However in my case, by turning my back on labour,  think what I’m doing is protecting my delicate psyche from the idea of labour.  Because labour is, let’s face it, hard damn work.  And it’s painful.  And there are many unknowns, all sorts of things can become urgent and complicated with no warning.  There are things the baby may present with that haven’t been picked up on ultrasound.

In short, if I think too much about it now, I will be a bundle of nerves.

Yet this is not my first pregnancy.  Which actually doesn’t help much, because the other two had their extreme moments, and some of those I would rather never repeat.  Most of it has been blocked from my memory, so I am eternally grateful for post-partum amnesia.  It is my happy thought.  Which is weirdly ironic.

I keep reminding myself that this is not the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  Not even by a long shot.

For example, when I was about 3 years old, I was given a dolls house.  It was huge.  And this was back in the 1970s when things were made solidly, built to last.  That dolls house was only wood, but it would have easily withstood an apocalypse or two.

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In fact, better built than many houses these days.

This dolls house was taller than I was at the time.

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I didn’t catch up until I was four years old.

Given that it was so large, it was probably just a matter of time before I decided to crawl inside it and pretend to be a doll.

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Three weeks, to be precise.

When I was three years old, I crawled inside the “living room”, reached out and closed the door.  I quickly decided I’d had enough, so I reached out, up and around to the clasp, and pressed the button.  The door swung open and I crawled out again.  Nobody any the wiser.

However at the age of four, in a moment of blind, childish insanity, I did it again.

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The fact I couldn’t breathe even at this point should have been a warning sign.

The door clicked shut.  On the old 1970s clasp.  This was before the invention of the consumer watchdog, and that clasp was solid as a rock.  This would never happen these days, as modern dolls houses only have magnets to keep them closed.  Easily pressed open from either side.  Not to mention they are mostly pretty flimsy.  But not back then.  Not my dolls house.  I would bet t was strong enough to withhold an angry wombat tripping out on crystal meth, if such occasion ever arose.  It was certainly strong enough to hold a panicky, four year old nitwit.

I was bigger than I had been the first time I did this, and I couldn’t get my arm around enough to press the release button.

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I should never write children’s stories. They would be like “BURIED” for the under-8s.

I also couldn’t really breathe, as my legs were competing with my lungs for real estate, and my knees were somewhere around my ears.  And I was alone in the play room, two rooms away from the nearest adult.  I didn’t have the air to scream, so I began to whimper and make small sort of infantile mammalian panic sounds.  In times of doubt, I find it helps to stick with what you know.

Thankfully it worked, and my mother eventually came in.  Presumably to find out what the weird scratching animal noises were.  I can barely imagine what the scene must have looked like.

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Left: My mother, struggling to decide whether to laugh or flip out.

From that day onward, I have held a soft spot in my heart for Alice in Wonderland.  Alice may be the only other girl to have ever experienced what I went through that day, although she had the good sense to stick a foot through a window.   And in all honesty, if a drugged up caterpillar had shown up and offered me half a mushroom, I would have devoured that bad boy in a heartbeat.  Whole mushroom and possibly the caterpillar along with it.  ANYTHING to shrink even just a little bit.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  One that has held me strong for the past 30+ years.  That lesson is: don’t ever lock yourself in a dolls house that cannot be opened from the inside.  We could all take something from that.

A few years later, I found new a way to humiliate myself.

The high diving board. It’s my white whale.

By attempting to overcome my fear of heights.  On the high diving board.  In public.  In a swim suit.

With a queue of increasingly irritated people waiting behind me.

The biggest psychological difficulty was that it never seemed that high from the ground.  And once up there, I would become so startled by the height, that I would freeze up for a moment.  That one moment was long enough for my imaginative little brain to construct a few worst-case-scenarios for my extended contemplation, as I stood there, alone, and exposed, several metres from the ground.

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I really should write advertisements for Australian tourism.

Most of the time when we visited the pool, I would just swim about and ignore the high diving board.  But on at least ten separate occasions throughout my youth, I climbed that board and stood there, drying out in the sun, holding up the queue while I fantasized about my impending death, and the sun slowly set in the west.

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I once heard water is ‘hard’ depending on how far you fall before you hit it. That fact alone fed my anxiety for 6 straight years.

I managed to actually jump a total of four times.  Spread over a period of almost ten years.  To this day I still cannot tolerate heights very well.  That is, specifically, I do not enjoy being up high, I do not get a pleasant rush from it.  And the idea of climbing up high specifically to hurl my squishy little breakable, water-based body downwards, still fills me with dread.

As I grew, I found new things to be terrified of as a teenager.  That is, along with the usual bag of horror goodies, the things everyone is scared of, that comprise most of hallowe’en and Tim Burton movies.

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Meh, I’m more freaked out by dolls houses and diving boards.

Through my love of reading, I learned new things to be afraid of by proxy, like yowies, yetis, pookahs, mummies, wendigos and investment bankers.

But it wasn’t until I was about 14 that I saw my first wild snake.

Not in a sterile, manageable way.  Or even in that sleepy-and-doesn’t-give-a-damn kind of way that you hope for, when you see a wild snake.  No.

Allow me to set the scene.

I was swimming in the dam behind our house, with my brother.  It was a hot day, very bright and sunny, most importantly there were no diving boards in sight, and things were fine.  My brother and I were just chatting and floating about and doing nothing much, which anyone can tell you, is great fun.

We were only about a metre or so apart.  (That is 3-4 feet by way of reference.)

And a brown snake just swam right between us.

Didn’t say a word, didn’t look at us, just swan straight down the middle of the dam, from one side to the other.

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Hey look! Who even knew snakes could swim? … Wait, AARGH!!!

We stopped, and watched in silence as this snake passed between us, long, lean, elegant and terrifying.  The colour of sand, twigs and clay.   It moved just like the “charmed” snakes in the cartoons, it’s long body fishtailing along behind it, and it’s beady little eyes never moved from its destination.  It was horrifying and magnetic.  And it passed us without incident.

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It was a magic snake too, because at that moment, we both suddenly realised we could walk on water.

That is as close I have ever been, and ever want to be, to a brown snake.  That was enough.  I’m done.

There is really only one other thing I am scared of.  And for me, at least, it’s a big one.  Which is ironic, because in reality it’s tiny.

leeches

Just drawing this filled me with dread.

To be honest, I am more afraid of the one on the right than the one on the left.  I realise the foolishness of this phobia.  I mean, I’m an intelligent, tool-wielding human, standing around 5’6″, and the thing I’m most afraid of is a 2″  swamp-dwelling invertebrate.

I mean, gosh, it’s not like I couldn’t just out-run it.  Even 39 weeks pregnant, I’m pretty sure I’m faster over land than a scrawny vampiric slug.  OK so my top speed at the moment is about a 4km waddle per hour.  That’s still faster than a water-dwelling oligochaete.  (This is a family that includes earth worms.  Also not widely known for their speed.)

There are no leeches where I live, and this is entirely intentional.  Because if there were, I would not live here.  I would move.  I fantasize sometimes about living in the middle of the desert, where I have 800km of hot, dry sand in every direction to ensure that no leeches ever come near me.  And even then I would still want to sow salt in the earth and carry a flame-thrower, just to be certain.

And yet here I am, at 39 weeks pregnant, and the thing that most fills me with dread at this moment, is this:

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IT’S A TRAP! DON’T DO IT!! THOSE DOORS WILL CLOSE BEHIND YOU!!

 

So I am sort of thankful to my brain for trying to shield me from anxiety about labour, by throwing up memories of the scariest moments from my past.  Sort of, kind of, maybe, thankful.  Because there’s nothing like a good old dose of terror to make some common anxiety look utterly mundane.

So I’ll stop worrying about labour now, and wrap myself in a comforting psychological blanket of dolls houses, diving boards, brown snakes and leeches, and – wait.

Well, at least at the end of labour you get a cute little baby to play with.  That’s more than you can say for the diving board.

Expanding Family

Once upon a time, I thought family life would look like this:

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Probably with it’s own upbeat soundtrack too.

However I can honestly say that it looks nothing like that, and looks everything like this:

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Soundtrack to this image is “mum! mum! mum! mum!!! MUM!! MUM!!!”

You have to imagine that we are also knee-deep in toys, but I couldn’t draw them all in.  Also three minutes after this picture was taken, the youngest child declared that the reason the banana was in her nose was “to get out the pea”.  Don’t even ask.

 

Bad Holidays

We recently returned from a summer holiday.  It did not go particularly well.

At least, it started out ok, and Christmas day was great.

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I love Christmas.

But after that things went rapidly down hill.  And stayed there.  Not even in a good sort of “you’ll laugh later” kind of way.  More in a depressed, dragging its heels, sort of “let this be over soon” kind of way.  Which got me thinking about all the holidays I’ve had over the years where things have been worse.

First thing that springs to mind is the time we went to the beach and myself and our daughter somehow got pneumonia.

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This is how I cheer myself up. Compare the dismal of today with the downright horrific of yesterday.

I used to get terribly car sick as a child too, on any car trip lasting longer than about 30 minutes. But I will spare you any drawing of that.  Suffice to say I would invariably put a damper on any family holiday, well before we’d even arrived.

At least as an adult I have outgrown that.  But now I have responsibilities, and this means I have potential to make some truly awful judgement calls.

And make them I do.

Such as the time we took our brand new baby girl to some historically significant lighthouse, and it poured cold rain on us the entire time.  We were not prepared for that, and got soaked through, really quickly.

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Pictured: possible metaphor for marital relations among first-time parents

This pales in comparison, however, to the time I was in an airport in Paris, right before Christmas in 2001, and some jerk had decided to put explosives in his shoes and then tried to smuggle them on to a plane.  He failed.  And Charles de Gaulle airport ground to a halt.

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I’m not even in this photo. I’m two-storeys down.  It will be another 3 hours before I’m this far along in the check-in queue.

Speaking of Paris, there was the time my then-boyfriend got sick, and sent me to the pharmacist for medicine.  He had a stubborn, hacking cough, and I confidently went to the counter and spoke to the ladies in my best French.

However I forgot the French word for “throat”.

Loudly and clearly, I told the pharmacists that I needed some extra strong medicine, because my boyfriend had bad taste.

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This being France, they were really concerned.

Speaking of overseas travel, I once holidayed in Thailand.  I don’t recommend it.

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Seriously, even America is not this American.

Then there was the time I received poor communication from some friends, and went hiking up mountains in the most inappropriate attire that you can possibly take camping.

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On the bright side, in all the photos of that trip, I am by far the most fabulous.

This reminds me of my earliest holiday memory ever, which was also a camping trip.  I don’t remember anything about the camping part, just that at the end, when it was time to go home, the car got severely bogged in a huge mud pit.  Took ages to get it out again.

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Come to think of it, given my age at the time, this was probably the highlight.

But coming in at first place would have to be the time my now-husband / then-boyfriend and I took our first weekend away together.  He went to pick up the keys for a holiday house his parents owned, a few hours’ drive away.  I packed meticulously, and we left in good time for the long drive down there, in order to arrive just closing in on dinner time, Friday night.

Except…

Except that about 20 minutes’ from our destination, after being in the car for over two hours, I made some joke along the lines of “hope you didn’t forget the keys!”…

Silence.

A long silence.

I slowed the car to the sound of more silence.  I repeated the line.  Possibly as a question this time.  A desperate, nervous question.

“Hope you didn’t forget the keys?”

Silence.

And then he said… “er… um… that is… ” Because he had, in fact, left the keys at home.

And I turned the car around, drove all the way back again.  He got the keys.  Got back in the car, and we did the entire drive again.

The whole thing was executed in a deafening silence.

I was thinking the whole way of all the things I COULD say, but was just too tired, angry and plain astounded to say anything at that point.

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Oh, did I roll my eyes out loud? I’m so freaking sorry. Not.

Instead of arriving just before dinner time, we barrelled in, cold and hungry, just after midnight.  I don’t remember clearly, but it is quite possible one of us spent that night on the sofa.

Somehow it must have improved, because I married the guy a few years later.  (And spent our honeymoon in Thailand, as shown above.  My bad.  So that pretty much makes us even.)

All of this makes the recent holiday seem like a complete picnic.  Just had one car breakdown, and a bit of cruddy weather.  Not even bad enough to illustrate.

See, I feel better already.

Holidays

I am now on holidays, away from my usual computer, so the doodles will be sporadic, as well as clunky.  Had to draw these with the track pad.  Let me assure you, that is even harder than it sounds.  Will be too busy on Xmas day doing the whole Xmas thing… so here is an amalgamation image based on possible projections of my next few days. You have no idea how much I had to simplify this to retain clarity.

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Which coincidentally sums up my whole year.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!