Finding a new normal

We’ve had a number of milestones to celebrate lately: Aiden has been home for three weeks, he is now a month old, and this past Tuesday would have been his due date. With these events behind me I feel like I can finally find a bit of objectivity to write an update.

The first week home was incredibly tough. Having two kiddies under one roof was much more of an adjustment than I anticipated. I spent most of it on the verge of panic, feeling as though someone had turned the speed on the treadmill up to max and that it was only a matter of time before I face-planted into the floor! Cameron and Aiden seemed to have such vastly different needs and I couldn’t fathom how I was going to find any sort of rhythm that somehow juggled both. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the brotherly love we’d anticipated just wasn’t there initially. Cameron wasn’t aggressive towards his brother, but any time I was with Aiden, he pumped up his attention seeking antics a few notches. This meant a high energy toddler throwing himself around the room, shouting ‘Look at me’ and resorting to physical violence (towards his mother) if that didn’t garner the required result. I had also forgotten just how exhausting the newborn phase is. Aiden has been struggling with bad cramps which hasn’t helped and I am averaging four hours of very broken sleep each night.

But somehow in the weeks since then we’ve all adjusted. Cameron is much more settled and starting to accept his brother. He very sweetly imitates Col by saying ‘Hello boy’, asks to hold Aiden occasionally and doesn’t get as stressed when his baby brother cries. He’s also protective of Aiden and gets upset if other people go near him ­­– evidenced by him shouting ‘No’ and pointing an accusing finger at the guilty party until he or she backs off!

I have been surprised by how I’ve adapted to the lack of sleep. While it takes me half an hour to wake up in the mornings (and I spend most of it wondering how on earth I’m going to get through the next hour, never mind the day), when I’m up and going I’m generally okay. My short-term memory is completely shot though and I’m doing a number of incredibly stupid things every day, but fortunately to no detrimental effects yet! I am also feeling much stronger physically which is a relief as I found the recovery from this c-section much harder and more painful than my previous one.

The passing of Aiden’s due date didn’t find me as contemplative as Cameron’s did, but I think that’s because I’ve had too much emotional baggage from Aiden’s last month in utero, birth and hospital stay to work through. I am just grateful that it has come and gone as we’ve now caught up to where we should have been and I know that soon the pressure of this phase will lift a bit.

Physically Aiden is doing really well, starting to put on weight and developing some lovely rolls. (This does lead me to think that while I’m disappointed I didn’t have the natural birth I was hoping for, when I look at the size of him now I’m just grateful I didn’t have to push him out of my lady parts!) Aside from the cramps, the only struggle in his life is second-child syndrome. Cameron is such a forceful personality and at such an attention seeking age, that poor Aiden is getting lost in the whirlwind a bit. But our tiny man has a big voice and is starting to use it with gusto.

Despite the chaos that is our life right now, I find myself in a contented and grateful space. I am really enjoying having a baby in the house, probably because I am so much more relaxed this time. In the absence of anxiety there is far more space for delight and appreciation. We have also decided that we won’t be having any more children and consequently I’m cherishing everything about Aiden so much more because I know I won’t experience this again.

And as for Colin … he’s burning the candle at both ends! Work is incredibly busy yet he’s putting in plenty of hours playing with Cameron and bonding with Aiden. The pace is taking its toll, and while I’m trying to ensure he gets good sleep, the man is exhausted. But December is not far away and in six weeks or so he can take a well-earned rest.

But now I must wrap up. Aiden is stirring and once I’ve fed him, it’s time for me to snatch what sleep I can! Until next time …

PicMonkey Collage

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A season of Specklet

At the end of February, we made the happy discovery that I am pregnant again. A number of factors have resulted in me feeling far more relaxed this time round. Firstly, we weren’t worried about how long it would take to fall pregnant and were mentally prepared for a long wait. Then of course it took merely a month!

Secondly, we are no longer clueless parents-to-be. We know what we are in for! I know what exhaustion and chaos awaits, but I also know how one manages to adapt as one goes. Neither am I as obsessed about how the birth of this child takes place (by that I mean natural versus caesarean). Having had such an eventful previous pregnancy with going into labour at 32 weeks and then Cameron being delivered by C-section at 35 weeks, I’m really not planning too much for this one. I learnt last time how little I have control over this process and just rolling with the punches seems to be a better approach.

Being our first child and the first grandchild on both sides of the family, Cameron was such a highly anticipated baby that I felt constant pressure to share what was going on. Granted, much of this was self-inflicted pressure, and in many instances I was processing things as I wrote them for this blog. This time I am feeling much more protective of my journey.

I do still want to write about it because the record these posts provide is a real treasure to me already, but I am sharing a bit more selectively and much more in my own time. My anticipation and enthusiasm for this baby is by no means less than what I felt when carrying Cameron, I am simply enjoying the process for myself before opening up to others about it.

So here is to the season of Specklet! The due date is 5 November. This means that I am preparing for arrival any time from the middle of October, and in truly ironic style, this baby will probably go way past term. Our two scans to date have shown a thriving foetus, and all seems to be progressing marvellously so far. The thrill of those first images gave me goose bumps and the miracle of a growing life is blowing my socks off afresh!

sonar 1

Due date

If things had gone to plan, Cameron would only have been making his appearance sometime around today. It’s quite strange for me to consider this alternative – another month of pregnancy, possibly a natural birth as opposed to the C-section I had, only now starting with the daunting task of caring for a newborn. These post-post-partum reflections have been simmering in my mind over the last weeks, but this auspicious date has brought them all to the fore and now they are demanding some serious attention.

An abrupt ending

I have had moments over the last month when I’ve missed being pregnant. There are two reasons for this: firstly I never got to the really uncomfortable stage so was still enjoying it; and secondly, my pregnancy ended so abruptly that at times I’ve felt a bit short changed. But in those moments I remind myself that there wasn’t much awaiting me in that last month except a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be a beached whale. That quite effectively shatters those rose-tinted glasses.

An unplanned route of arrival

Having my stitches taken out 10 days after Cameron was born acted as some sort of trigger and I started having these flashbacks to the C-section. My plan had been to have a natural birth, but I remained open to the idea of a caesarean if necessary. When crunch time came, it was really a very simple decision to go under the knife, but once it was all over I realised that during all my preparation I never actually thought it would become necessary for me to go that route. This left me in the very odd position of trying to mentally prepare myself for something that had already happened.

Then of course there was dealing with the actual op. At the time there was so much going on that I zoned out and just did what needed to be done. But it’s a stressful procedure and at some point that suppressed emotion had to be dealt with. I remember sitting in the theatre waiting for the spinal block with my legs shaking like the last leaves of autumn. Once that had been administered it was utterly bizarre not being able to feel more than half of my body and at times I had to fight down a sense of panic. While the op was actually taking place, I couldn’t feel specific things, but I could feel general tugging and pulling. I tried not to think about what they were doing, but when the bed bounced around beneath me it was hard not to imagine what was happening. And then that magical moment arrived when Cameron was born. But after that brief island of relief and joy, all attention switched to him and I was left feeling like a slab of redundant meat.

Dealing with all of these feelings after the event resulted in me reacting very negatively towards my scar for the first few days after the stitches were removed. Combined with my flabby tum, leaky breasts and general state of tiredness, I had never felt more unattractive in my entire life. (Reassuringly, my books all state that most women feel this way and that patience is the order of the day during recovery.)

I am sure that the natural birth process brings with it a myriad of other factors that play havoc with one’s state of mind post-delivery, so it’s hard to know which of these feelings I would have had to deal with anyway. I must also confess that when I look at the size of Cameron now (small as he still is), I am immensely relieved that he made his entrance when he did. Whichever way one does it – birthing a baby is no walk in the park. So in juxtaposition to my feelings on pregnancy, I am so grateful that the birth is behind me and this last month has left me feeling a lot more at peace with all that it entailed.

A head start

Last night Col and I had a braai while Cameron slept upstairs. When we look back on the last month it seems both incredibly short and unbelievably long. Caring for a newborn is a fairly routine and mundane process and provides ample opportunity for getting up to speed. (As an example, Cameron needs roughly eight nappy changes a day, which means we’ve already changed at least 176 nappies. One’s proficiency improves pretty quickly with that kind of repetition!) Having said that we are still experiencing new things every day, and the last month has had its own special brand of stress to deal with. As with the birth, we are glad that it’s behind us!

Having discussed all of this though, our overwhelming sense at the moment is one of gratitude. Arriving a month ahead of schedule seems to have done Cameron no harm. Despite its trauma, the caesarean went as well as it could have and we are actually a lot more positive about that route than we were before. I’ve recovered quickly from the op, the breastfeeding is going well and our boy is growing beautifully. Our family and friends have provided incredible support. We are privileged to have so many friends, that three weeks in there are still people waiting to meet our little man (and we’ve had visitors as often as we can manage). There is much to be thankful for. Yes there is indeed!

‘You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!’

Psalm 139:5-6 (NLT)

And now we are three

At 17:25 on 26 August, Cameron Mervyn Rip was born! He arrived a whole month ahead of schedule yet clocked in at 2.6 kilograms. In order to try and process everything that’s happened in the last 48 hours I thought I’d write about it. Plus I am confined to my bed at the moment so there’s not much else I can do.

The story starts on Saturday. Colin and I were at the shops getting the last items we needed for Cameron’s arrival. On the way home I started having contractions and realised the baby was attempting another prison break. So we fetched my bags (a lesson well learnt from last time) and headed for the hospital.

As I was only 35 weeks pregnant they decided to stop the labour with medication. Having been through this process only a month ago Col and I took for granted that it would work. I started popping the pills and the wait began.

Saturday night’s observation showed that the contractions had subsided. I urged Col to go to his golf game the next morning, which he duly did, leaving for Joburg at 6:30. And then at 08:00 the contractions started up again. The doctor decided to give the meds more time to work and told me we’d reassess in the evening. But by 10:30 they had just become more regular. The suppression wasn’t working and our baby was on his way into the world.

Col and I now had some decisions to make. The doctor was happy to let me try for a natural delivery but warned me that I would have an incredibly long and difficult labour because I was only 35 weeks. After giving it some thought I decided not to put my body through a process that it wasn’t ready for and elected to have a caesarean.

And so at 17:00 I went into theatre. I was incredibly nervous – about the procedure but also about what would happen to Cameron once he’d been delivered. Col was my absolute hero and supported me through it like a champion. Initial checks on our boy showed that he was having a bit of trouble breathing but I was allowed to hold him for a minute or two before they took him to the Neo Natal ICU.

Cameron was put on oxygen and had x-rays taken of his lungs which showed that he might have a mild infection. While Col kept an eye on our son I was stitched up, cleaned up and taken to the maternity ward. The next few hours passed in a blur of smiling grandparents but at about 20:30 they wheeled me into ICU so I could see my baby.

I haven’t been able to see him yet this morning but Col checked in on him before he left for work. They haven’t put him on antibiotics which we assume means he doesn’t have an infection. He is also no longer on oxygen so it’s seems he’s doing superbly. Col says he looks like a giant next to all the other preemies!

That’s all the necessary info at this stage I think. Now I’m going to make the most of this down time and have a nap!

Is information always power?

This is the question a shell-shocked Colin and I have been asking ourselves since attending ante-natal classes on Saturday. After six straight hours of information overload (including videos on natural and caesarean births) I’m leaning heavily towards the ignorance-is-bliss school of thought! Continue reading