thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “mother”

In my next life I shall be a world-famous pop star or actress

I decided, during my drive to work in the Panda earlier this week, that I was doing something wrong.

Why, you may ask?

Well, it’s simple, really.

I work hard at my job: I strive constantly to improve my general knowledge and my writing skills. I keep a tidy and functioning house for my family’s comfort levels. I support my children with their general school work, their projects and their sporting interests (and here, of course, I must acknowledge my children’s grandmother and their father, who also play significant roles with homework and sporting interests: I can’t take all the credit).

But on an almost daily basis, I seem at the moment to be more stressed and tired than I would like to be. One of the major issues, I think, is trying to make time for me.

me-time

So yes, I am painting again, which was one of my recently stated ambitions.

Yes, I am writing my books again. (Note to publishers: #JustSaying.)

I always find time to read: it’s ingrained.

And yes, I just recently got back onto my bike to once again feel the joy that comes with riding downhill with the wind in your hair. (Okay, okay, I’ll get another helmet. Bike riding in Joburg sans a helmet is, granted, not a good idea.)

But sometimes I have to do these Me-Time things till midnight and beyond (not the bike, of course) just to fit some more of my own personal joy into the day. Which is tiring, to say the least.

“So what, exactly, am I not doing right?” I mused, as I negotiated my beloved Panda through the green, leafy streets of Parkhurst while heading inexorably towards that mecca of Africa’s business landscape, the golden, shiny towers of Sandton.

sandton-city-shopping

And then it struck me while I was still en route.

When my pre-earthly self was up and out there in the nebulous spiritual-world’s ether, some time before I was born, and the Creator Being was handing out gifts to all us spirit beings before we came down to our earthly lives, I think I stuck up my hand for the wrong things. (At least the wrong things for a life with abundant Me-Time.)

Oxygen Volume 14

Instead of asking for long, pretty hair that might or might not be blonde on any given day like, say, Jennifer Aniston; or legs that start under the armpits and bee-stung lips like Jen’s once-arch rival, the skinnier half of Brangelina; or the world’s sassiest booty to flash in gold lamé hotpants like Kylie Minogue, I stuck up my hand for other things.

In other words, I didn’t choose the options that would have allowed me to still have my (beloved) children as well as be sitting with millions in the bank so that I could pick and choose my work projects.

“No, no!” quoth my ethereal spirit self earnestly at the time. “I don’t want bee-stung lips or legs that start under my armpits or hair that seems to do exactly what I tell it to do, ALL the time. Although granted, it is tempting…

jennifer-aniston 1

“But no…That doesn’t seem to be quite the me I’m planning to be. I think I’m going to be more one of those ‘behind the camera’ people, you know: not one of those red carpet types. I mean, the pressure to be beautiful all the time, right?”

“What about the booty, then?” said the Creator Being, kindly. “You and your family are going to end up in Africa at some or other point, you know. Might help you when you are shopping for Levis, because the time will come when Levis is going to bring out that particular brand of jeans that suits curves.”

“Hmmm. Okay, maybe that’s a good idea, thanks,” replied my ethereal self. “But not too much on the booty, okay?”

I think the Creator Being ignored me on that front, but then I think He/She also foresaw the rise (and rear-end spread) of the Kardashians…

KimK butt

…Jennifer Lopez, Nicky Minaj and that incredibly fake blonde who’s married to Ice-T, forget her name right now but Chanel springs to mind (?), so today I’m kind of okay with it.

“So what DO you want, then?” said the Creator Being, with a pointed look at the time. “Your future parents are waiting for you. It’s nearly time to go. Tick tock…!”

“What’s on offer?” I stalled.

“Well,” said the Creator Being, “I think I should put you down for the misunderstood art of procrastination, because you seem to be doing that one quite well already. And being a bit pedantic and fussy about your options, I mean ‘extremely meticulous’, for the same reason.”

“Huh.”

“I can also offer you a spot of brains, a fairly decent claim to a face and body that won’t curdle milk, a great work ethic and a strong dash of kindness towards your fellow man. Oh, and a love of animals also, except for scorpions, snakes, slugs, snails and spiders. I’m saving that misunderstood section of my creation for the sometimes equally misunderstood Weirdy Beardies…

JB

…who are going to make programmes for NatGeo Wild and other environmental shows, if that’s okay with you?”

“That’s fine, thank you. I think I already don’t like scorpions, snakes, slugs, snails and spiders, so no worries. So what’s the overall picture then?”

“Well,” said the Creator Being, “here’s the overall package. You will, essentially, be kind to people of all ages as well as most animals, you will be good with words, you will look okay on a bad day and perfectly acceptable on a good one, you will have a great work ethic and a bum that comfortably fills your Levis, whether you like it or not. And in due course, your mothering instincts will be fulfilled by having two boys one day, to love and cherish and share with them your love of animals and words.”

creator God

“Will I be wealthy?”

The Creator Being checked His/Her notes. “I can’t promise that it’s on the cards, although it’s not impossible with the mix we’ve agreed on. But I’m afraid I must warn you that most of the really big money goes to the girls that have always-pretty hair, legs that start under their armpits, bee-stung lips and a booty that looks great in hotpants.”

The Creator Being then gave me a sneak preview of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Spinning Around’, which of course is the reason she introduced those gold lamé hotpants to the world in the first place.

Gold lame hotpants

“But that’s not fair!” gasped my ethereal pre-earthly-body self. “The lyrics are rubbish! The song is just an excuse to waggle her booty around!”

The Creator Being looked a bit annoyed. “Agreed re the song lyrics, but you must admit the tune is catchy,” He/She retorted. “And you must also admit that that booty is a work of art! But we are getting side-tracked…

“Now listen here, time is ticking… are we agreed on the final parameters of your earthly bodily self? Because it really is time for you to head off to earth now, where you will promptly forget all about this conversation until some time in your future when you are driving a silver grey Fiat Panda en route to work. And then, in any case, you will most likely think that you just imagined it all, or that you need to make enquiries about stress medication.”

“I guess that’s fine… thank you, O Great Creator Being, I can see you’ve put some thought into this.”
He/She smiled kindly.

“Have fun on earth and don’t forget about the Me-Time when the children are getting bigger. You can find ways. And don’t worry about the money, if it doesn’t come in supreme abundance. It’s not everything, you know.”

the-universe-carina-nebula

And then I imagine that we must have said goodbye, because I don’t remember much else until I was about three or four, when we lived in Port Elizabeth for a while and I shared our garden with a pet tortoise, and from then on memories and life started moving forward.

So now here I am today: a bit tired and stressed and not yet abundantly blessed by the Money Fairy, but I guess that’s okay. I have many other blessings to be thankful for.

Although here is just one last, random thought.

Perhaps, if I keep on cycling regularly and cut way, way down on the carbs, I could eventually go and look for some lamé hotpants the same size as Kylie’s.

Just in case she becomes ill with a gastro bug some day while filming her latest video, conveniently around the corner from where I hang out, and suddenly needs a body double. That could be worth some decent moolah, even just for a couple of days?

Not to mention… fun!

MAIN--Kylie-Minogue-Bottom again

Advertisements

My daughter, my dad

In the midst of a life that has blessed me with our two amazing boy children…

LIam and Matthew philosophers

…I have still, at moments that always take me off guard with their painful intensity, yearned and yearned for a girl, as well.

A girl child.

I breathe out sometimes when I think it, with a tiny stab of hurt.

A soft, small, mini-me who would grow up understanding what it is to want to wear dresses (or not), apply make up (or not) and understand the trauma of a bad hair cut that needs to be grown out.

 

A girl child.

A soft, green-eyed (maybe blue?), fair-haired being like I was when I was younger, who would understand me in a way that my little boys just don’t always get.

 

A girl child.

A delicate baby to dress in pink or white or pastel green; a little girl whose face and body would stay soft and eventually grow curves and never stubble; a young woman who would read the kind of books I read and react to emotional issues as I do, and who would eventually speak the language of women with me.

 

A girl child.

And I did not have her, and I have mourned.

Even as I loved my boys with all my being, there was still a little hole in my heart that felt not quite filled, which sometimes I forgot about and which sometimes came back to haunt me unexpectedly.

 

It returned to haunt me about ten nights ago. I was sitting in our back garden enjoying the moonlight and the wind on my face, looking up at the night sky and the stars. I was feeling peaceful. I love a big open sky, night or day, and I don’t sit under it often enough.

And as I absorbed the peaceful night air and the sky with my body and my soul, the haunting was back, and with it the sudden tears in my eyes. But I wasn’t ready to go inside and ignore the hole in my heart this time; I was really enjoying being under the stars, and so I stayed and I felt the pain return all the way through my body. And as I enclosed it inside me, I remembered a long-buried fact – two long buried facts.

I remembered that, before Liam and again before Matthew, I was also pregnant for a very brief time: two pregnancies where the babies did not quite come all the way down to earth, or else they did come down but did not stay.

I remembered Frank and I together in the doctor’s office that first time, and the look on the doctor’s face when the expected heartbeat did not sound through the monitor and he braced himself to tell us the bad news. I remembered hearing the term ‘blighted ovum’ for the first time, where there was no heartbeat, only a tiny empty shell.

 

blighted ovum

That first time, there were apparently hormones in my body but no life, and an operation to follow – when enough time had passed for us to be certain – to clean out my womb. And I woke up in the hospital bed with Frank standing beside me, and a shadow hanging over us because we did not yet know that Liam was still to come.

And then we had Liam, and joy returned.

And then we had a second miscarriage when we were trying for Liam’s sibling – before Matthew’s safe arrival, and more joy.

 

But the second time, Frank is convinced, was slightly different, because he swears he saw a heartbeat flicker, and even the doctor was not quite sure but said, “Let’s give it ten more days.”

And I hoped.

And we hoped, together.

But instead my body bled.

 

And again there was the operation, only this time we had felt – we thought – a stronger life pull. And this time round, Frank had to be away on a work trip and so my dad, instead, was beside me at the hospital bed when I woke up – my dad, younger and stronger than he is now, with a sorrowful face and unsure of what words to offer.

And this memory returned as I sat under the big night sky, and as the stars shone their light on me, I sobbed as I have not sobbed for those lost babies for many years. And I sobbed also for my father, who is battling so bravely with the disease that is unceasingly ravaging his body and taking away his strength and his clear speech. And for my mother, who has loved him for so many years and who loves and cares for him still.

And as I sat there, I felt a presence somewhere deep in my body, and words that were not words spoke in my being and told me that there was, indeed, a girl child once.

But she had to go back.

And all these years later, when my dad crosses over into the spirit world, she will welcome him to his final home.

blonde shadow fairy

Somehow this is what I learned as I sat under the stars, through the voiceless words.

And the hole in my heart was almost filled.

 

I believe I had a daughter once.

I shall call her Skye.

 

painting baby

 

Postscript:

I found comfort, after this emotional experience, in these words from Journey (click on the link for the song):

 

“Remember me”

 

 Remember me, remember me
Find myself all alone

In darkness without you

Now I can’t turn away

From what I must do

You know I’d give my life for you

More than words can say

I’ve shown you how to love someone

I know you’ll find a way

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

I’ll live on somewhere in your heart

You must believe, remember me

 

No way I can change my mind

I don’t have the answers

If you could see through my eyes

You’d let go of your fears

And though I have to leave you now

With the thought of each other

I’ll miss your touch, you call my name

I am with you forever

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

Be there to watch over you

Remember me

Feel I’m gone, my heart lives on

Remember me

 

Don’t you think of this as the end.

I’ll come into your dreams, remember me

 

Close your eyes, say goodbye

Remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Close your eyes, remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Say goodbye, remember me

Heart sore

Dear Blog.

Nice to be back.

Sadly, I am not my usual ‘every cloud has a silver lining/the glass is half-full/I can do this; yes I can’ self today. (Sorry President Obama, you actually didn’t invent that last one; you just globalised it, and good on you by the way and yes, I’m a fan, but just for the record I was there all by myself with the Yes One Can scenario like I said.)

I digress.

Today I am heart sore.

I am heart sore for a few reasons.

Where to start.

I am heart sore today because.

Amongst others.

Not a completely comprehensive list.

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because of the Oscar Pistorius ‘fallen hero’ desperate, desperate story that has been invading us through the media for nearly two weeks now. So many lives ruined. So, so many. So much human sorrow encapsulated in the bitter story of this fallen demi-god.

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because little Layla died a week ago, despite so much love and hope and optimism and energy and goodwill that got poured into her brave, wonderful mother’s ‘Love for Layla’ campaign’ and the bravery of the little girl herself. And their family, and the community at large.

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because little Adam’s  condition is unlikely to improve significantly unless stem cell research and miracles come together super-fast, like, oh, say, no really – super fast.

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because of the children – yes, children – who are raped and stabbed and left for dead and outright murdered in South Africa every day. Male and female, birth to teens. Cry, the beloved country. Cry. For shame.

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because of the corruption and ineptitude that seems to be endemic around us at the moment. For shame, I say again. For shame

Because my father is so fragile now.

Because today I am not in my twenties and I now know I am not invincible.

Because sorrow has etched its way across my heart.

Because I can’t fix it.

Any of it.

None at all.

I will look for silver linings again tomorrow. Today, I am heart sore.

Because my father is so fragile now.

And because my mother is so brave.

You and me, we’re heroes too

Sometimes I like to scribble down a few lines of poetry. Sometimes the lines are not bad and other times they are not really terribly good, I suppose, but they serve a purpose, at least at the time I write them.

Here’s one I always thought could be a song. It’s for the unsung heroes – all of us. We know who we are.

(I think it’s that aspirant 60s child in me coming out again…. )

 

You and me, we’re heroes too

Two warring leaders went to peace;

The world gave a ringing cheer.

Greenpeace waved the whaling finger

Their principles blindingly clear.

The cameraman fell in the gunfire;

He fell in a blaze of glory

And he, in a way, was lucky –

His, too, was a public story:

But unsung heroes are heroes too

And everyone knows at least one or two.

 

A medic died of ebola;

The media promptly went ape.

The Red Cross braved the conflicts as

The borders changed their shape.

Some single guy traversed Antarctica–

Quite alone, no dogs in sight

While back at home the babies cry

For solace in the night.

And single mothers are heroes too

And I say they deserve their due.

 

The boy-soldiers went to war on

The old men’s dashing whims

And of all the things that tap my tears

Disability’s the dreaded thing.

Yet we all of us have our crosses

And our losses, and our pain

And sorrow’s returning burden

Is the world’s oldest refrain:

So we just carry on; it’s what we do –

Yes, you and me: we’re heroes too.

 

copyright Vivienne Fouche 1996

Weekday mornings are not the same as they used to be

I’ve recently re-discovered the music of Barbra Streisand and have been playing it loudly in my car on the way to work. And singing along too, also very loudly. Which as any ‘Babs’ friend (and yes, I am sure she and I would be friends, if we had ever met) knows is the best part: the loud singing along to this awesome amazing voice, which so effectively drowns out your own feeble cheeping noises that you can pretend that Barbra’s voice is actually yours. It’s a great fantasy.

So anyway, Barbra and I sing very loudly all the way to work these days, once I have dropped off my two boys at pre-school (Matthew) and ‘big school’ (Liam). Where matters are currently quite interesting.

Matthew, aged four, has a girlfriend. Little ‘T’ is a tiny-boned, fragile-bodied child with flaxen hair (truly, it’s not often you get to write ‘flaxen’ and be accurate) down to her waist. Her eyes are a pale ethereal blue and her skin is porcelain fair (again, I use ‘porcelain’ and am entirely accurate). With her exquisite face, she looks like she has just stepped out of fairyland. And my Matthew, who is quite a pretty creature himself, even for a boy, is absolutely smitten.

Cicely Mary Barker's 'The rose fairy'

Lately, he likes to bring her flowers in the morning. Posies of rose buds that my mother makes up for him to hand over with as much love as if T belonged to her too.

And Liam, six-almost-seven, thinks it is just too icky for words. This ‘love stuff’. He cringes at the mere mention of it and tries to block his ears. Certainly this was his reaction when we were taking a drive one day recently, when all the schools were still on holiday. In the interests of revving up some back-to-school enthusiasm, I said brightly to my smallest son: “So, Matthew, who do you think will be back at school tomorrow for you to play with?”

“T…,” chirped Matthew confidently (as if there were any shadow of a doubt). “Because she loves me and I love she.”

I was so surprised and touched, I nearly drove into the pavement while trying to stifle a sudden burst of what would surely have been very inappropriate and hurtful giggles.

“Aaaaauuuuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh! Accccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkk!” roared Liam from his spot in the back seat beside Matthew, trying to block his ears and simultaneously making vomiting noises.

Upon which Matthew got very offended and started punching him forthwith, so that was the end of the icky love stuff. For a few short days, that is, until everyone was fully in the swing of the back-to-school energy that always seems to flow at the beginning of a new term.

We were visiting my parents on the second Sunday after school had begun when Matthew requested one of my mother’s famous roses from her garden. For T…. To take to school the next morning. Ignoring the loud vomiting and roaring noises from his older brother, he took possession of a rosebud with a very satisfied look on his face as we drove off home.

Sadly, though, when we got home we discovered that the little rosebud had got a bit battered during the short car journey, probably due to the proud manner in which he was clutching it safely to his chest. I decided to ask my mom to let us have another one the next morning. After all, when giving flowers, it should be done right, right? With flair and panache and above all pristine floral specimens.

The next morning we were all ready to collect a new rosebud for the unsuspecting fairy friend. First, though, we had to drop Liam off at ‘big school’, where he is newly in grade one and suddenly looking very small and forlorn – in comparison to the big children – as he wanders onto the playground in the mornings.

And this is an odd repositioning of my perspective, because Liam is actually very big for his age. One of the biggest, according to the paediatrician, because whenever the good doctor has checked him out over the past few years, Liam has consistently hovered at around the 97th percentile for his height and weight. (In other words, out of every 100 children exactly his age, he would be about the 3rd or 4th tallest and biggest in the group. Or something like that, but anyway it’s quite impressive.)

So there was Liam. My tall blonde curly-haired confident handsome son: suddenly looking small again in his new school uniform, wandering around a much bigger playground than he’s been playing on for the past four years, surrounded by loads of children much bigger than him. Heck, quite a few of them are bigger than me, and that’s just the girls. (Children are getting bigger these days, have you noticed?)

Matthew and I stood together and surreptitiously stared after him while he walked away. This was after I’d kissed Liam goodbye on the lips and he’d jogged off, wiping off the kiss, and I had called him back to insist that we try this small gesture of affection all over again, with no wiping off, or there will be a scene in front of everyone, see? (He really doesn’t like this ‘love stuff’.)

“I see Liam!” said Matthew excitedly, while continuing to grip my hand very firmly. As I said, the playground is much bigger than they are both used to.

“Me too,” I said, thinking to myself, Go on my son! Find someone to play with! Find a place to belong for the next ten minutes before the teachers call you to the classroom. Don’t remain all alone looking so small and lost – find a friend…

And he did. My little trooper. A male friend of course, but then again, if it had been a girl I would have been looking for the aliens and their cloning machine hidden in the bushes.

Happy again, I next zoomed off with Matthew to my mother’s house, where we collected a posy for T…. Picture some artistically positioned tin foil and wet tissue paper encasing a perfect cream rosebud, some rose leaves and a bit of fern for luck and there you have it: the little flower of yesterday had been magnificently upgraded. Bless my mother, who is also intent on raising sorted young men.

Consequently, there was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing when Matthew and I walked through the gates of his pre-school as he clutched his posy (we don’t have to go into detail on how the rose fell out of the posy as we were crossing the road and I had to run back for it). We were quite early and T… wasn’t at school yet, so Matthew put her posy into her locker. The teacher beamed. I beamed. Matthew beamed and then ran off to play in the classroom. I went back to the school gate so I could leave for work – and there was T and her mom.

“Matthew has brought T… a flower,” I whispered.

Her mother dissolved instantly into a puddle. We all walked towards the classroom together, where I stood outside and looked through the window so as not to embarrass my small son on his brave new journey.

“Look T…!” said her mom. “Look what Matthew has brought you!”

The little fairy child bent down, picked up the posy and dropped her perfect rosebud mouth into a classically feminine ‘Oooooh!” of surprise and pleasure.

Matthew got up from the circle of children seated on the floor around the teacher and walked shyly towards his sweetheart. He suddenly looked taller and was wearing an air of pride. Slightly embarrassed pride, but pride nonetheless. There was a new dawning in his eyes as he staked his first ever claim to a lovely young female’s affections.

I brought that for you. Nobody else. And sure it’s a little awkward – I get that now – but know that it was me.

“Thank you Matthew!”

“You’re welcome!”

With T… clutching her posy they sat down together in the circle of children around the teacher. Looking really happy and proud, Matthew put his arm around her in a brief hug and then dropped it again to concentrate on what the teacher was saying.

I drove off with a song in my heart and slightly moist eyes. When I finally turned on Barbra’s music, it was to one of the songs that Frank and I played on our wedding day. Which Barbra had composed especially to sing on hers.

Listen here...

Lots to think about… second time around

It seemed that my second pregnancy brought with it a few more issues and concerns than the first time around…

 

25 December 2006: Merry Christmas!

So there they were: two blue lines on the pregnancy test. I had pretty much been expecting it as my period was five days late. I smiled evilly. I knew just how to play this one.

“Come,” I said to my husband, taking his hand, “I’ve got a little present for you before we go through to my parents for lunch. Right, close your eyes and hold out your hand… okay you can open now. Merry Christmas!”

Frank opened his eyes, smiled at me, stared into the small object in his hands, blinked, turned pale, muttered “What have we done!”, gave me back the test and stalked outside in a few fluid motions to stare thoughtfully into the distance for a while.

And so the news was broken. I laughed – he’s so easy to wind up! Later that day, when the shock had worn off, he took great delight in winking surreptitiously at me every time – to my father’s great astonishment – I politely refused more of the festive wine. Over the next few days he hit that endearing mode of becoming very protective and refusing to let me lift a finger around the house. I had no complaints!

November 2006: one baby or two?

Life has a funny way of working out sometimes. Just a month or so before, we had taken a much-needed week-long family holiday to theCapewith our then 18-month-old firstborn. Sitting in our hotel room every night overlooking the twinkling lights of Simonstown harbour, we had enjoyed our nightly treat ofCapewine, sea air and relaxed conversation while the little man slept peacefully in his cot inside. During this period of unwinding, I ventured one night to bring up the on-again-off-again topic of a second pregnancy – or not?

At this stage, the tally was three pregnancies, two early miscarriages, one baby. We had been trying for Baby #2  (who was always intended to be a little girl) since Liam was 4 months old and thought we had been successful, until I landed up having miscarriage number 2 just before Valentine’s Day 2006.

That one was even harder to recover from mentally than the first time round, but we moved on and were still trying, simply by dint of not stressing too much and not using any contraception. Now it was seven months later. We were on holiday and we had time to think.

We found ourselves in a space where we were thrilled with our little boy, busily trying to get our finances under control for the long term and wondering what was better for our small son overall: more money in the bank, or a sibling to share his life with and teach him all those lessons money can’t always buy?

The upshot of the conversation that holiday night was that we would give it one more month and then, if there was to be no baby by the end of the year, we would resume contraception. We would plan a life in which Liam would be an only child and – we trusted – we could afford to give him all the financial benefits we wanted to, from private school education to owning a pony to family trips overseas.

One month later it was Christmas Day and it looked like the universe had made the decision for us. You have to laugh – sometimes it seems like your real prayers get answered when you aren’t focusing on them with every fibre of your being.

January 2007: it’s real!

However, having been down the road of two early miscarriages, nobody was more aware than I that this pregnancy might not come to ultimate fruition. Having been denied a heartbeat at the first scans not just once, but twice, I would not – could not – believe it in my heart until I saw a flickering heartbeat on the screen at the 8-week scan.

Our kind gynaecologist smiled when he saw us in mid-January. I think he wanted this baby quite badly as well, being himself in the unfortunate position of having performed two D&Cs on me, but not being there when Liam was born due to an unexpected illness that had caused him to refer me to a locum gynaecologist when I was 36 weeks pregnant. So there were three quite tense people when the light was dimmed and the monitor became the focal point of the room. I told myself quietly that if there was no heartbeat then this was really it: I was not going to subject myself to this mental and emotional strain any more.

And there it was straight away: a good-sized little blob with a strong heartbeat. I think I breathed a collective sigh of relief for all three of us.

February, March… is it possible to be so tired?

It was quite surreal at first. As with my pregnancy with Liam, I took a while to show and was instead subjected to the indignity of looking chubbier than usual without actually looking pregnant. Oh well.

The early weeks and months were characterised by a little more nausea than the first time round (but thankfully, again, no actual throwing up), a lot more metallic taste in my mouth and a great deal more fatigue. As far as my exhaustion was concerned, I supposed that the joint pressures of working as well as having a busy toddler to look after in the early mornings and evenings didn’t help, but it really seemed as though I was far more tired this time round. Maybe it was also advancing age… All told, however, it felt quite different from before, so I assumed happily that there was a little girl inside.

I used to fall asleep some nights about six thirty when I was putting little man to bed. Liam still slept in our room in his cot, so it was easy to collapse on our bed and crawl under the covers while he was drifting off on his night-time bottle. I used to try so hard to resist but oh, the flesh was weak and the bed was so soft and tempting…

My kind-hearted Frank was reluctant to wake me and would generally leave me to sleep, but inevitably I awoke about eleven and then had to stumble around the house en route to the great expedition that was the brushing of teeth and the bleary-eyed pulling on of pjamas. (I simply can’t sleep through the night if my teeth haven’t been brushed, and I don’t like sleeping in my clothes either.) At least missing supper on a regular basis was temporarily good for my weight.

 

April… weighty matters

Ah yes: weight gain. I was horrified at the next couple of weigh-ins after the 8 week scan. It looked like I was starting to pick up a lot of weight really fast. The doctor warned me that second time around was even harder to control the weight gain than first time round, but even so I was not happy. If I compared myself to where I was during my pregnancy with Liam (week by week), matters became even worse!

I had picked up a total of 13kg with Liam, which I knew was really not at all bad, but I was already feeling burdened with extra weight even as I started on this new journey. I’d managed to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight for some months, but I had never quite succeeded in getting back to my pre-wedding weight (a common story, I think!). And that was a big problem for me.

Even as this new pregnancy was progressing, I felt that I was already (again) burdened with a starting weight that was 5kg more than it should have been. So I took action and found a friendly dietician who gave me some really good tips and advice. Thanks to her input, I discovered how making just a few simple changes helped me to control my weight gain going forward and also helped me with my fatigue levels.

In the end, the pressures of being a working mother saw my pregnancy visits to the dietician falling away, but I planned to resume them once the baby was born so she could help me lose the pregnancy weight – and maybe even get back to my pre-wedding weight! – as soon as possible. (All told I was eventually to pick up 14kg, which I was happy with.)

Early May: girl or boy?

We found out definitively at 22 weeks that we were having another little boy. Having set my heart on a girl, I was bitterly disappointed. I didn’t show it in the doctor’s rooms, but back at work the urge to cry was something I felt all day like a hot spring waiting to explode through the earth.

It came out in the evening when Liam was safely asleep. That night and the next, I sobbed uncontrollably for hours. Frank had never seen me like this, ever. I was almost hysterical and simply couldn’t stop until something gentle that he said on the second night managed to break through the barrier of self pity. In between being supportive, Frank’s take on things was more stoic: “Oh well, I’m a bit disappointed myself but life moves on and there’s a little being in there who’ll be joining us soon, so isn’t it great! We’re having a little boy and all that I care about is that he’s healthy.”

Not able myself to adopt this generous attitude quite yet, I asked Frank a few days later to phone the gynae’s rooms to be absolutely sure there wasn’t some room left over for doubt. There was no room, said his receptionist… So I cried some more.

I told myself that I wasn’t a bad person, and I didn’t blame myself for how I felt, but I did feel guilty towards the small blameless person inside. It wasn’t him I was furious with; it was the universe. I reminded myself about all those people who so badly wanted children and couldn’t have them, and how lucky I was to be expecting my second baby, but deep down I remained angry and resentful.

I can’t say I felt as though somebody had died, but certainly a small, happy dream of a little girl to dress in pink and frills was no more. My image of my future self had been forcibly steered in a direction I had never seen myself taking. And I really hate feeling like I’m not in control.

Late May: the quiet baby – a taste of hospital

And where was the new baby in the tale thus far? A valid question. By now I obviously looked pregnant to the world, I felt pregnant, the baby was moving nicely inside… but where was my intense heart-connection to this new soul? I mean sure, it was there, but it wasn’t like it had been before… and it was painful to feel.

Often I came to the end of the day and, having flopped exhausted onto the couch once little man was asleep, would then feel a polite little kick inside, to which I immediately responded with a huge surge of guilt. I was now almost six months pregnant and it seemed like I wasn’t connecting enough with this new life.

Somehow, it just hadn’t been the same as it had been first time round. There didn’t seem to be the same amount of time to think, to dream, to bond… My feelings were only mildly assuaged by a conversation I remembered many times from early in my pregnancy. A friend who was already a mother of two warned me well in advance – at just 12 weeks – that the second pregnancy would fly past and that it would be different from before. Why?

Well, add up being a working mother plus looking after a busy toddler plus all the increasing demands of my job and the merry-go-round of life in general – plus of course all the resultant fatigue – and you start to come close to an answer of sorts. Perhaps the biggest factor in feeling that I wasn’t bonding enough with my unborn child was the presence of my first-born. Let’s face it, toddlers are demanding! You can be dropping with fatigue and if your toddler needs attention, somebody has to respond. At times I did wish that the gap between them (it will be 2 years and 4 months) could have been greater. However, due to biological clicks ticking furiously (hers AND his) we had needed to try for a small gap or not at all – we felt we didn’t really have much choice.

And then I contracted pneumonia quite suddenly at the end of May and went to the casualty department of our nearby hospital late one night, where I remained – much to my surprise – for five days, and where things changed a little bit.

My physician was concerned about the complication of my being 26 weeks pregnant on top of the pneumonia. It was decided that I should be cared for jointly by himself and one of his gynaecologist colleagues, and I was placed in the maternity ward. Over five days and nights, I shared a room with three other pregnant women and the treatment included regular monitoring of my baby’s heartbeat, daily visits from both doctors and two scans.

Liam was brought in to see me on my third day in hospital, but he became so upset that we decided not to bring him in again.

Suddenly I had not much else to do (when I wasn’t being given food, tea, medicine or physiotherapy) except lie in bed, read or sleep, and think and dream. Suddenly I had time to connect with my new baby – the “quiet baby” as I had been calling him for so long. It was then I realised how much being the mother of a little person who was barely more than a baby himself had impacted on my second pregnancy – just as my friend had warned.

And one day while I was still in hospital I didn’t mind any more about not having a little girl. Finally I felt like I had a connection with this new little soul in his own right – a real person; a boy person. It was a proper connection at last.

June, July… VBAC or Caesar?

With Liam’s birth, I had finally chosen an elective Caesar at the end of my pregnancy for the main reason that a friend’s baby had died during natural childbirth. I had vicariously relished every moment of her pregnancy with her, wishing at the time that it was me too, and was distraught at her baby’s death. When it did become my turn, I thought long and hard about my options and finally, when I was about 37 weeks pregnant and now seeing the locum gynaecologist, decided to opt for a Caesarian.

However, second time around and back with my own doctor, I felt calmer and thought that it would be good to experience a natural birth – or at least try.

I discussed it with him when I was about 30 weeks and he said “Let’s wait and see” – which I understood. He explained his position: he wanted us to try only if the baby looked like he was presenting as a “super-favourable, super-fast labour – and at the first sign of complications, off to theatre and no chances taken.” I had no problem with the latter; the baby’s safety was of course paramount.

            I was later to read a well-balanced article in Your Pregnancy on VBACs and it was reassuring to discover that my doctor’s attitude and thoughts tallied quite closely with the information presented in the article. One of the issues to think about was the baby’s size when thinking about a natural birth after a Caesar: a birth-weight approaching 4kg was deemed to be potentially too much of a strain on the existing Caesar scar.

So as luck would have it, my baby started to grow.

Liam was born weighing 3.5kg and his little brother, reckoned my cautious doctor at about 35 weeks, was very likely to match or beat this weight. If so, he said, he would prefer no natural birth as he felt the strain on the existing scar would be too risky. He said, however, that he was happy to consider a natural birth if labour started spontaneously some time before term but after 37 weeks (when the baby’s lungs should be fully developed) and if everything looked favourable – including size. So we would be playing a waiting game – or was that “weighting” game!

I was simultaneously a little disappointed and a little relieved at the probable thought of another Caesar, but happy to accept this position in the best interests of the baby.

August – almost D-Day

I had my very last check-up on a Thursday, when I had reached 39 weeks and 2 days. It was then a given on all sides – mine too – that it would be a Caesar. By now I was tired and sore – much more on both counts than I had been with Liam – and quite frankly at that check-up I was ready to have the baby the next day! However, I’d only stopped working the previous day (my choice) and felt I still had a few things to do to prepare myself for the baby’s birth – including a spot of relaxing. So we scheduled the baby’s birth date for the day before my due date – a Monday.

Over the next few days I continued feeling tired and sore, in the main, but the excitement was building and it was so good to know that I was finally going to see my Little Man No 2 face to face. Frank and I both agreed that the road had seemed longer this time around. I suppose that’s what happens when you seem to have more to think about.

D-Day!

Matthew Ian Daniel Fouché was born on 27 August at 13:47 weighing 3.66kg and measuring 53cm in length. There is a part of me that still wishes I had experienced a natural birth, but my choice brought him to me safely and after what my friend went through, that, for me, is paramount.

Matthew was shown to me almost immediately after his birth, and then given to me just a few minutes into his life, where he stayed for the next few hours, breastfeeding almost from the word go. My Caesar was handled with dignity and respect for both me and my baby, and my main worries about the procedure (becoming woozy during the operation and feeling “not quite there”) were rendered null and void by the marvellous anaesthetist, who visited me before the operation and took note of my fears.

Matthew’s second names are for three beloved and great men in our lives: the late Ian Gillies (he owned Giles restaurant in Johannesburg), a wonderful humanitarian and friend to Frank who remains sorely missed; the late Ion Williams, wise conservationist and surrogate father figure to Frank, and my Great-Uncle Danny, an inspirational go-getter from Newcastle in the UK, who’s now in his 90s and still going strong. Wonderful role models, all three.

And Matthew itself? Well, it was a name we both liked which was in my head for a long time. It means “Gift of God”. When I found that out – after all my ragings against the universe once upon a time – I had to smile. It is, of course, absolutely true.

(Written 2007)

The Gemini – and other – me’s

So yes, I’m a Gemini. An aspirant author, avid reader. Mostly the Gemini-me shows the face of the nice twin to the world. When the other twin is around, my nearest and dearest tend to run away in fright. She doesn’t come out often though – I keep her tamed as much as possible.

I’m new to blogging, and slightly intimidated as I get started. But I love to write. It’s my hopeful assumption that with my blog site, I’ll be able to write short bites as they occur to me and exercise a big part of who I really am.

The Mom-me has two boisterous wonderful boys who have both inherited my chatty gene, sometimes to my consternation when I’m ‘trying to think’!  This in turn gives my parents great amusement. The Daughter-me lets them have their laughs at my expense.

The Wife-me is married to one of the nicest men on the planet. Frank also happens to be a brilliant handyman, as well as amazing at catching those enormous rain spiders that so freak me out. He is one of those people in life who is able to sort things out – plumbing and electricity issues, hanging and fixing doors, putting in a car seat (I always wrestled with those), building a deck in our back garden…  He’s gifted. Add in oodles of the sexy factor and I have much to be grateful for!

The Sister-me has one of the most interesting and passionate siblings you could ever meet. You can blame her for my presence here also, as she introduced me to WordPress. Thanks LG!

So that’s the family introductions. I have a great family. We all share a very corny sense of humour.

I am blessed with my extended family also with my in-laws: Frank’s mom, Marie, and his sisters Marie-Louise and Adele, who is an artist in Paarl in the western Cape (you can check out her work here). They are actually all very gifted in the art line, as well as somewhat eccentric. Within my first month of meeting them I was informed of their connections to the Pleides star constellation. Apparently the nightly connections are made through their bunions as long as there’s no cloud covering. I was made an honorary member almost immediately. I figure you can’t do much better than that with a new family, can you – be given an instant hot-line to a star constellation through your big toes? And the Pleides-me does love to star-gaze.

In my spare time I write fiction. It gives me great pleasure to invent new people and see what they get up to. The Writer-me has not been as much in evidence lately as I would like, but I’m working hard on bringing her back.

I’m thinking of going the self-publishing electronic route but would love if possible to have my two (to date – more in the pipeline) unpublished works taken on by an established traditional publishing company, and get hard copy success in book stores. This is partly because of the Old Fashioned-me who loves the smell of new books, and partly because I want someone else to be responsible for the marketing! The Salesperson-me is not the biggest part of my overall personality. But I am open to suggestion. (Note to publishers and agents: waiting for your call!)

Basically, I like life.

I like to retain the ability to keep on surprising people, especially myself. The Overall-me loves to laugh and I am grateful for my many blessings. This blog is here for me to remember that, with as much humour in the mix as possible.

Here begins a good journey.

Welcome.

When in doubt, wipe up the wee with your trousers

So there I was, a temporarily single mom of two small boys. Hubby was overseas on a trip of a life time that I – foolish me – had encouraged him into.

“Go!” said I. “You’ve wanted to visit Scotland since you first bought that Celtic Airs CD and discovered – that night I’d had a bit too much wine – that I can do quite a good impromptu Highland Fling. Go, my love! I have a little windfall coming my way and I’m giving you the ticket there – you just have to find your way back and sort out the spending money. Go, my darling spouse, with all my love. Mmmmmwaah!”

He’d left five days ago and I’d since come to regret my generosity – a few times over. This was to become one of those occasions.

I was in the kitchen multi-tasking, as one is required to on weekday mornings before one goes to work. Only a mother on a time warp is capable of feeding herself, baby, pre-schooler, one dog, four cats and a parrot while simultaneously microwaving baby’s bottles, washing and drying a few dishes and putting loads of washing variously into the washing machine and tumble dryer. It’s a busy place, our house in the morning – about to become busier.

I suddenly noticed Matthew wearing that look of intense concentration on his face – the unmistakable look that means only one thing when you are 13 months old and taking to solids like a Peking duck takes to a Highveld rainstorm.

Time to take the nappy off and clean a dirty bum.

So I did. I was about to put the clean nappy on his little bum when a shriek from the kitchen area alerted me to the fact that someone – the parrot, I guessed – was trying once again to eat Liam’s breakfast instead of its own.

Code Blue.

I lifted baby off the bed so he wouldn’t fall off (Code Black) and dashed off to the kitchen on the rescue mission (no mean feat, because I was wearing beloved spouse’s pyjama trousers – absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that – and as he’s about a foot taller than me, it was more of a speedy shuffle than my normal Supermommy Sprint).

False alarm. Not the parrot, just the dog. (Much easier to discipline.)

Smacked the dog on her nose, chased her outside, started making Liam some more toast…

Oops! Where’s baby? Forgot baby.

Enter baby, on cue, still naked from the waist down and looking extremely pleased with himself. Which meant only one thing…

Code Yellow.

I dashed back to the bedroom from whence he’d come and slithered – quite gracefully, under the circumstances – through the doorway in the large puddle of wee that I’d somehow known was just waiting there… I was still silently swearing, when came from the kitchen the new sounds of mayhem breaking out, which meant that baby was going for big brother’s toast and big brother was taking umbrage.

Code Red.

Time to regroup. Which urgent thing to do first: 1: mop the floor? 2: throw self out of window? or 3: throw children out of window?

Think, think. Oh, right! Can’t do either 2 or 3, because one of the things that attracted us to our house in the first place was the functional yet very decorative burglar bars on all the windows and doors. Okay, so time to mop the floor then…

(Wails and screams getting louder.)

Think, think. No towels to hand, time is ticking and I’m not dressed yet – aha!

Which is how I came to find myself also naked from the waist down, mopping the floor with my husband’s pyjama trousers. (I was in the middle of loading the washing machine, after all.)

One of these days our tenant in the cottage is going to walk past at an inappropriate moment and see something really inexplicably embarrassing.

Until then, the Supermommy Mantras rule. Today’s mantra: When in doubt, wipe up the wee with your trousers.

(Written 2008)

Post Navigation