All the rain and glory

On balance, I had an amazing time at the Foo Fighters last night. I was volunteering on the mobility team – that is, being available to assist wheelchair patrons to their seats – and I was stationed next to the stairs heading down to the field. So, needless to say, my responsibilities were slim and mostly related to direction-giving. Which was just as well because it was raining raining raining.

But duties aside, I was free to watch the concert. I got amongst it down on the field and had an awesome time in all the rain and glory (and by glory I mean a not fully capable pelvic floor). There was something freeing about being down there on my own, not wondering where your friends are or what anyone thinks of you, just enjoying the music and cheering and dancing and jumping. The energy of the crowd was invigorating, the volume, the lights, the music. I was just one small dot in a stadium of 40,000 rocking on in the rain. The rain made it even more awesome. The glow from the stage lighting up slanting raindrops as they fell constantly throughout the night. The cool water dancing on your face. Everyone is wet and poncho-garbed and having an awesome time. Surges and crescendos of drum solos and choruses filled me with energy and made me break out into a grin. I felt like an actual person enjoying themselves in a world outside of nappy changes, refused food and constant whining. A bit more human.

But I also felt a tinge of being totally uncool. Like I wasn’t cool enough to be at a rock concert. I knew more of the opening act’s songs than of the Foo Fighter’s. (To be fair, they’re touring with Weezer so, yeah). I was on my own, and I didn’t even know many of the words to the songs I did know. I gave a ride home to two people who had met at the concert and were obviously going home together and thought about my child car seat in the back and how even in the past I never would have gone home with someone I met at a concert. I’d like to think that I would, monogamous relationship notwithstanding. But anyway, it sort of made me feel like I’m in “Mum” category, the one where you ferry your kids places and don’t stay out late except when you do it’s to volunteer at concerts not to actually attend them in full as an activity. Like being a parent means I can’t be a liberated partying concert-goer who hooks up with beautiful strangers. And it wasn’t even that they were young and I felt like I was the parent-taxi; these two people were approximately my age or thereabouts. So feeling sort of like a wannabe put a mild dampener on the evening.

But, on balance, I had a fun night. The Foo Fighters put on an amazing show, Weezer were fantastic (although I’ll confess the first opening act Ayn Randy were really not for me) and it was a great concert. I just got in there an enjoyed the music and the atmosphere and rain and everything.

And then I came home to my beautiful sleeping baby. (He was a pain in the ass challenge in the morning but hey I guess I’ll take what I can get.)

 

Sorry, no sweet concert photos because I DROPPED MY PHONE IN THE FUCKING TOILET.

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Trying to be a great mum or whatever

Where to even start? Some things seem better, some seem worse, all of it seems hard. I think it’s just always going to be hard one way or another. I don’t think I was prepared for that. I mean, I never thought that it would be easy, but I thought I would be good at it, and I had no idea how it would destroy me.

I can’t even be bothered complaining about the specific parenting challenges/difficulties/annoyances etc. It’s just same shit, different day, just some variation on a theme. Tried this, tried that, can’t do this because x or it doesn’t work because y (because why would anything work??) and yeah sure I could do it all differently but that’s not what I want to do.

The sleep training suggestions never stop.

Something has to stop though. Paid work and parenting and trying to manage mental health isn’t working. But we’ve already cut down to minimum amount of work. We’ve already accepted living in disarray. I take naps when I need to be working, I can’t work when I’m feeling too low.

I haven’t practised NZSL since we finished classes before the Christmas break. I have something like 20 unread books out from the library. I haven’t done any yoga for like a year. I haven’t read more than a couple of pages from my stats for ecologists text which I attempted to start reading two years ago. Actually I haven’t finished reading multiple books that I started when I was at uni.

I guess this is about not having time for anything. And when there is time I’m too sick/grumpy/tired/actually asleep.

I know there’s nothing special about any of this. Probably any parent could have written it. I’m just sick of feeling tired and shitty and unfulfilled and like I use my only “free” time to tidy up months-old mess because I can’t stand wading through half-unpacked suitcases or random oceans of variously sized and seasoned children’s clothes anymore. I hate when I hear people say crap like “the dishes can wait”. Well it can only wait so long til you run out of plates or your tiny kitchen bench is cluttered with overbalanced greasy dishes or ants start to take over or you find your already-precarious mental health can’t cope with nowhere to butter a piece of toast or pour a glass of fucking water.

I have pent-up rage, in case it’s not obvious.

I tried going back to my initial dosage of meds (mostly – okay entirely – because I was too lazy to cut tiny pills in half to take an extra half) which was either a terrible mistake or coincided with a particularly angry patch. Everything was so very fucking irritating. You know, more than usual. So I went back to my extra half and there seemed to be some improvement. But I still hate taking them and it doesn’t solve everything. Do I need to take more? Who even knows. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. That’s what I really think. I hate that I think that, and I hate even more that I believe it.

But I do.

This isn’t meant to be a sympathy-grab sob story. I don’t really want reassurances of “you’re a great mum” or whatever. I appreciate the thought but to be honest it doesn’t really help. Besides, I know I’m a great mum. I do my best to give my child all the love I can while doing my best to encourage his independence, give him agency, respect his body autonomy, not give in to gender stereotypes, teaching him how to be kind. But I can be good at it without being cut out for it. It’s taking a toll on me and I don’t know how I’m going to sustain it. Parenting is fucking hard work.

Of course it’s amazing too. Hearing more and more words getting strung together into sentences, sashaying dance moves, exploring at the beach, seeing him sign dinosaur in NZSL, clambering carefully over rocks, singing to himself, using forks and spoons, jumping like real jumping with two feet off the ground, giving me a hug when he knows I’m sad.

It’s beautiful. He’s beautiful. But it’s still fucking hard work.

Inadequate

I feel like a ticking time bomb.

On the edge of the abyss.

Tense and waiting.

I’m falling down and struggling to get back up. I’ve been sick and thus doubly exhausted. I described in a Facebook group as “feel like you’ve been hit by a bus in the fog in the forest of double decker exhaustion and being chased by bears and drowning in rivers of phlegm and your own soul”. Q is especially needy and doing some kind of separation anxiety thing which is tiring and frustrating and draining.

I. Feel. So. Drained.

Mentally drained, physically drained. Everything drained.

But mostly I feel inadequate.

Is this my identity now? Inadequate? I’ve been thinking lately about how maybe I just have to accept that the way we’ve chosen to parent means I can’t do what I want to do, or be who I want to be. Maybe I won’t feel insufficient if I can believe that less is more and that I can do more when Q goes to school. Maybe I can’t be a parent and a scientist and maybe that’s okay.

Or it would be if I could even be the parent I wanted to be. I’m stuck in a cycle of wanting to do more stuff with Q but needing to rest more to be able to do it but not being able to rest because of all the whining and crying and neediness.
Oh and depression. That probably doesn’t help.

Even when I try to do something that should help, it doesn’t work out how I wanted. I never ended up doing that volunteer field work on Tiri (Tiritiri Matangi Island) because a) I hurt my back, and b) it just felt too hard because depression. Last week I took Q on a writing retreat with me (with childcare!) but I ended up just being really sick and then Q wouldn’t let me leave his side. So there were some good bits but in the end I was just really homesick.

Today I am just struggling. I feel like I’m not coping and I feel shitty about it because it’s all falling to Eddie and things are just not easy right now. Lots of trying to assert independence and test boundaries and learning and growing etc. Just life. It is what it is. Sometimes Q gives me a kiss or turns on the radio and dances and it’s wonderful but I’m finding it hard to enjoy. I use up the only energy I have to try and be sweet and calm with him, but even then my patience wears thin when the mood (and the sounds coming from my child) are not so sweet.

I’m trying my best but it definitely doesn’t feel good enough.

Big heavy sigh

Our little baby (read: giant toddler) started daycare this week. Two half days and a full day.

A. Full. Day. 
The half days were easy. Normal, even. He’s spent a few hours with other people on numerous occasions, and he does well with new people and places. (Are there things there he’s allowed to touch and play with? Then he loves it.)

But the whole day. It’s not so much being away from him – I do that often enough when I go to work – but more the acknowledgement that we’ve made this choice because I couldn’t handle keeping him entertained myself. I wanted so much to be an amazing stay at home parent who, while still having difficulties (because I acknowledge that we all do), is just able to roll with the punches and get on with it. I have so many things I want to do with this kid – for his benefit and mine. I want to visit new places with him, I want to take him camping again. I want to go splashing and exploring in streams. I know I don’t have to be that parent, but I want to be. And I know that not being able to is because of sleep deprivation and depression and all that crap, but nevertheless, I can’t do it, and that really sucks.

So, his first full day without either Eddie or myself. It went as I expected: he’d have fun as usual, wouldn’t nap when he usually does, and crashed into sleep at 4pm, waking shortly before we arrived to pick him up. We found him in the kitchen having a sandwich made for him (because apparently he didn’t eat much lunch – on par for the course). And then last night was another terrible night. No different than usual, I guess.

But there have been inklings recently, of feeling better, feeling more like an actual human with interests and skills and less anxiety and feeling enjoyment instead of just endurance. It’s fleeting, but it’s there. Q even slept for eleven hours straight one night, so there’s hope for us yet.

But sometimes I grab onto this hope and dare to dream with it; maybe I can do postgrad next year, maybe I could take a class in te reo or NZSL or spend some time re-teaching myself R or how to maximise Excel for data exploration. But then the draining happens. Whining or scratching or breastmilk-binging or just general neediness sucks all the energy out of me. I want to try to cut his fingernails because he keeps scratching but he doesn’t want me to and fights it and I want to respect his right to say no and his body autonomy but I also don’t want to get scratched by a child who is still learning to live in the world because it just makes me grumpier when things are already hard. It doesn’t matter what tricks I try or gentle lead-ins or giving him another pair of clippers to “help” (he loves helping)  So I feel defeated and throw the nailclippers on the floor.

Eventually, with help from Eddie and some books, the nails get cut. Most of them anyway.

So, that’s things. I managed to knock off a few things on my to-do list while Q was gone for the day, but I still didn’t feel very productive. I know I don’t necessarily need to – feel productive, that is – but I don’t want to feel like I’ve squandered away the free time. Free time being so precious and all.

To be honest I’ve kind of lost impetus for this blog. Even when I have things I want to write about, I’m too tired. Or thinking about it is too tiring. Instead I just waste heaps of time scrolling through Facebook. Probably time to delete the app again for a while. But sometimes something mindless to take my mind off things is nice in the deep of the night.

Anyway, I feel like I just write the same old boring stuff, and it’s boring. I feel boring. So I’m just going to leave it there, with a big heavy sigh.

Still still still

Same old, same old. Or worse, even. Things that should not be that hard to achieve take months. Not even for lack of time (though there certainly is little of that), but mental energy. Even filling out forms seem hard. I have a tooth that is slowly decaying in my mouth which needs attending to. I went to the dentist (in like February, probably) but after being quoted $300 per filling (I needed two), I thought I’d better quicksmart get my community services card.

Still no card. Still no fillings.

Still belongings slowly turning into garbage in the damp and neglected carport. Still my camera case I took caving over a year ago with mud on it. Still art to go on the walls. Still my bike to fix. Still cards I want to write, people I want to see.

Still still still.

And it feels like everywhere I look, there are people being capable. Doing things. Not just coping, but achieving, flourishing, loving.

I know it’s the depression. I know it’s exhaustion. I know it won’t always be like this. I know I know I know I know.

I know.

And yet.

Thinking that, or being told that – it’s not really helping. Not much seems to be. Working, not working, Eddie not working, having lots of different people look after Q. It’s all helpful – and definitely appreciated – but nothing seems to be getting better, and we’re running out of options. We are going to do the daycare thing, so that should help. Hopefully, once we actually get it set up.

I know I would love this life – parent life – if I wasn’t so tired and so mentally worn out. I want so desperately to feel love for it. I know I would be so much better. We would do more. We would cope better with the hard stuff. There will always be hard stuff. But right now it feels like all of it is hard. It feels like there is no way to get out of the cycle of fatigue and grumpiness and trying to give when you’ve already run out.

Even when I try to organise something that’s just for me, it either doesn’t work out or even if it could, I just don’t have it in me to do it. I miss lots of evening stuff, of course, but I’m supposed to be going to Tiritiri Matangi Island next week to do some volunteer work for a few days but instead of being excited I’m filled with anxiety. On top of that I feel too guilty leaving Eddie on his own when he too is exhausted and having a hard time. Packing seems too difficult, having to express and then chuck it out seems like such a waste, and I don’t see how I’m going to have time to make sure all my gear meets biosecurity measures.

I don’t want advice. I just want people to get that this sucks and not talk about it anymore. I’m kind of over explaining myself. People ask me how I am, I want to be open and real but I’m tired of saying I’m tired all the time. But I honestly can’t think of anything else to say. I don’t have the energy to go over my latest downfalls. But then I just have nothing to talk about and feel boring and like such a bad friend because it takes an incredible amount of effort for me to actually remember to ask how they are and what they’re doing. It’s not that I’m not interested. It’s just the fog.

The fog.

There’s a children’s book with that name, about a little bird that likes human-watching but then a huge fog comes and they can’t anymore and eventually everyone else forgets what it was like before the fog and even the bird starts to question it. Anyway, I took it all at face value and didn’t think much of it but then Eddie pointed out that it was about depression and it obviously was. (Intentionally or not, I don’t know).

It’s a beautiful book, by the way.

Anyway, to any friends reading, I’m sorry if I haven’t been around or seen you or anything. Hang in there. It won’t always be like this.

Riding his bike watching David Attenborough way too close to the screen because that’s just where we’re at right now

A fraction

I don’t even know what to say anymore. I’ve said it all already or I’m too tired to articulate my thoughts or I want to write them but then I’d rather sleep or scroll mindlessly through Facebook or just try not to get pre-emptively anxious about getting through the next day.

There are actually so many things to say. I’m just not myself and I don’t like it but what can I do? I cancel on friends, or keep postponing, or worse – don’t even make plans with them at all. And even when I do see them I feel like I’m not a good friend because I’m such a fraction of who I used to be and trying so hard to operate on empty. And I worry that people can’t tell that that’s not me. The Real Me is some distant person in the past who used to fight with vigour and naïve optimism. But maybe everyone just thinks this is how I am. Who I am. Grumpy and negative and tired all the time and bailing on them or not making an effort to even have an opportunity to bail on them in the first place.

This isn’t even what I wanted to write about tonight. I wanted to write about how I keep not really wanting to look after my child and how I hate that I feel like that. It doesn’t even feel like it’s just about being too tired or too depressed. I just don’t want to. Of course I often have to anyway, and of course sometimes it’s even fun, but I find myself wanting to have more and more space and time to do my own thing. And I get that that’s a normal thing. But I, unlike many primary caregivers, have been in a situation where my partner not only has been at home a lot but also able to take on considerable amounts of childcare. So I do get a lot of reprieve. But it never seems like enough, I never feel rejuvenated. Well, that’s how I feel at the moment, I guess sometimes I probably do. But the thing is, I really want to be at home with Q. I want to be playing with and exploring with and learning with and parenting him. But sometimes I also just don’t want to have to. I just want to pursue all my interests and not be whined at and take a break without hearing sad calls of “mama-mama-mama” piercing through the walls. Maybe I just don’t have it in me to parent. Maybe my style just isn’t sustainable. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes. But I mean, other people choose different approaches that mean spending less time with their kids, for loads of different reasons. And one of those reasons must be that they don’t want to parent fulltime. And that’s cool. Maybe it’s just not for them. But… what if it’s just not for me? Is simply wanting it to be for me not enough?

What is enough?

Good enough is good enough, they say. Well, my mental health isn’t good enough. Maybe my parenting is, but is that enough if I’m so unhappy all the time? I want so much to be enjoying this life more and I hate so much that I’m not. It’s not even that I don’t enjoy it, and I would never trade having this amazing kid for a different life, but I’m so tired of struggling to make things easier on me, on us. I just don’t think I’m cut out for this parenting lark and that makes me so sad.

Remembering

I’ve been thinking lately about going back to writing down my birth story. Aside from the obvious lack of physical/emotional space/time, I feel like I’m worried about it for other reasons. 

I’m not worried about the fact that re-visiting it is going to be a very emotional experience. Rather, things like not being able to remember all the little details. I want to put everything down, no matter how small or important it was to the whole story. I think I will struggle remembering it all more than a year and a half later and I think I will find that upsetting. It was already upsetting at earlier times when I knew I wanted to get it down but wasn’t ready/didn’t have the energy/time to try.

I’m also worried that I won’t be able to get a complete version of my notes from the hospital. I seem to have only been given part of the notes from my hospital stay. I noticed this at the time but didn’t feel at all empowered to ask for the rest or even that I would be allowed to have them. But anytime I try to make a phonecall my child whines the entire time making it impossible to concentrate on what I’m saying, let alone hear the other person. So I haven’t called. I haven’t even looked up the appropriate number.

I just want to write it down but I don’t even know when I could do it. I don’t know long it will take. I don’t know what kind of support I might want/need while writing it. But I feel like I need to work on it all in one go. But life is interruptions and snippets and exhaustion and trying to make sure we still earn enough money despite cutting work down more every month.

And after writing it all down, I want to – finally – write and send in feedback to both the hospital and my midwife. Better late than never. I couldn’t do it sooner because it was too raw and too hard.

I haven’t thought about it too deeply for a long time. So I’m not sure what will happen when I do. But I feel like I need to. I need to get it out, to cry again, to feel the pain so maybe by writing about it I can help others to understand, and more importantly help others not to have similar experiences. And maybe, just maybe, I can help myself to heal.

12 seconds

I’m so sick of the same old fucking shit. Child whines about EVERYTHING. Probably because he’s hungry, because he refuses to eat. Oh, except for breastfeeding, which he is going crazy on like it’s going out of fashion. Please mama, feed me a billion times a night because I didn’t eat much during the day. Oh actually can you breastfeed me pretty much constantly in the day as well? Wtf child, you’re like 17 months old. Why wouldn’t you eat like this when you were newborn??

Yes, I know I could give up breastfeeding. I don’t want to. It’s just a bit fucking tedious at the moment. It would be less so if this kid would actually eat a substantial amount of anything else and stop whining all the goddamn time.

So much whining. Ugh.

Then the whole cycle of hating how I can’t cope with it.

But parenting just isn’t fun when you spend most/pretty much all of your energy trying to get food into your kid and make sure they don’t have poop stuck to their butt all day. I don’t have energy for tumbling around the living room or running round at the playground. Or if I do, it lasts about 12 seconds. A lot of the time I let him do his own thing because he seems to like that and I like the idea of him being independent and exploring and finding his own fun, but sometimes I’m just doing that because I don’t have energy for anything else. The hard stuff is just too draining.

Goodbye, nīkau

At the hospital I had, from home, a crocheted blanket and a small nīkau in a pot. These items were my tiny way of fielding the sterile white of the maternity ward, a far cry from our intended home birth.

I actually think there were brightly coloured children’s artworks on the wall. But I only remember white. A grey, gloomy kind of white.

I guess the colours were greyed out by what turned out to be a very negative hospital experience for me. Birth trauma, they call it. Though for me it wasn’t the birth itself – a beautiful giddying moment for which there are no words – that was traumatic. Just everything else around it.

Anyway, I had these things, these precious items that I could look at and see life, home, and comfort. I could tug up the wool, all purple and maroon and two kinds of blue and warm, and pretend they weren’t hiding starched white hospital sheets.

Hospital sheets, hospital pillow cases, hopsital towels. Even labelled in that sans serif washed out blue HOSPITAL.

And the nīkau. A bit of green, a bit of soil, a bit of bush, a bit of nature. Green and growing and reassuring. This would be my baby’s plant. After he’s born we could plant the placenta under its spreading roots and return this shared part of us to the earth. It would be his plant. One day I would show it to him and tell him about how this plant was there from the moment he was born. That its gentle fronds kept me company in the lonely nights.

We took weekly photos of our beautiful baby, next to his nīkau. Him all small and fragile, his nīkau small but strong. I thought we could watch them grow together.

But times were hard, birth trauma and depression curled their shadowy tendrils into my heart and there was only time and energy to care for the one whose tiny breaths dusted my cheek, whose cries swallowed me up whole.

The nīkau was resilient at first. It stood strong and I thought, just like my baby. They can conquer anything. But slowly, slowly, the fronds started to brown. One by one they drooped and withered. There were some attempts to revive it, but it would soon be forgotten again.

My placenta was still in the freezer.

Eventually, the nīkau died. I was sad about it but was not as upset about it as I expected I would be. I knew I had been dealing with bigger things, that getting well and looking after our baby were taking everything I had, and that it was okay if some things were not quite perfect.

But every now and then I would feel a bit like I had let us down, a tiny pang of something, like a part of our journey together was lost. One of these times, Eddie said something different to usual. He said that maybe it was a good thing that that nīkau had died. That maybe it died and it took with it all that was bad about our new beginnings. Like all the sadness and trauma and bad experiences at the hospital withered away with it, and we could leave all those things behind us. We could start fresh, move forward.

Our baby will still have a plant. Maybe a nīkau, maybe something else. But whatever it is, we can all grow with it together.

Love/hate

I love re-folding laundry for the fourth time because it lives on the couch and never gets put away.

I love putting a nappy on a screaming writhing child so I don’t have to deal with carpet cleaning.

I love trying to prepare food while being whined and tugged at.

I love getting pushed around and climbed on when I try to sneak away for a moment to breathe.

I love needing to pee for several hours because it’s easier than dealing with either waking up my child in the night or stopping them touching everything in the toilet.

I love having to make sure my child doesn’t get the knives out because there’s no time to find a better place to put them.

I love it when a book gets roughly shoved into my face accompanied by copious whinging.

Just kidding. I fucking hate all these things. In case that wasn’t obvious.

Do I love being a parent?

Yes.

But I don’t love every moment of it.