An emotional melting pot

Emotions run wild when your child is in hospital. Here's an amateur mommies account.

Sitting tucked away at a quiet table, in the corner of the hospital coffee shop, trying to catch up on some urgent work items, I’m struck by breadth of emotions around me. To my left, excited extended family celebrates a new addition, surrounded by “It’s a boy!” balloons and blue teddy bears. To my right, an elderly couple stare quietly at each other, the husband wears a pained expression as he looks worriedly at his wife, who sits motionless in her nightgown, an ominous drip-stand at her side. In the reception area, an anxious-looking teenager, asks her mom a thousand-and-one questions about the surgery she is being admitted for. Behind me, a huddled family, silently mourn the loss of their matriarch.

As I sip my coffee, I begin to consider my own fatigue, concern and stress, all underwritten by cautious optimism. My not-yet-two-year-old son is lying in the paediatric ward with his “another mama”. He’s got some sort of demon bug that only responds to IV antibiotics and comes with relentless, unbreakable fevers. He’s been here less than 24-hours and is already showing significant improvements. He’s doing better than so many of the other kids in the ward and for that I am so grateful. There’s a little girl a few beds down who has the same thing Fletcher has, but she’s been here for three days already and is likely to be here for another three. I’m filled with gratitude at the robustness of our boy, suddenly glad for his insatiable appetite and the way he burns through clothes, for his skimmed knees and all-around toughness. He’s like the Hilux of toddlers.

It’s inevitable, in a hospital, that you start chatting with the people around you – finding out their stories. There are surgical cases – bones that need setting, burns that need dressing – pneumonia cases and mystery viruses – all manner of things bring people together in hospitals. People who you would never otherwise speak to are suddenly your closest confidants. You confide in them. You share with them. You open up to them as you would your nearest and dearest friends. You are bound to them by an invisible thread – your sick or injured kids. You’ll probably never see these people again, and if you do, the chances that you’ll recognise them are slim because they’re out of context. The invisible thread that bound you will be gone – your sick or injured kids will no longer be sick or injured, and suddenly any potential future interactions seem awkward and forced. 

Our two night stint in the paediatric ward was blessedly brief and our thug is recovering well at home. But many of our new confidants were left behind as we hastily bid farewell to the nurses and hospital staff, as we rushed for the door. The overriding emotion for both of us as we made our way to the car was relief. Relief that Fletcher was on the mend. Relief that it was over. Relief that we were all going home, together. Relief that we were all going home. I looked around the coffee shop as we walked out, silently considering the emotions of the people around us. There was laughter – some of it born of stress, some genuine – there was anxiety, there was joy, sadness, grief, elation, relief, resignation and acceptance…

Hospitals are a melting pot of emotion and it is our emotion, in each situation, that shapes our experience of the place. Three and a bit years ago, I was in this same hospital, crying into my coffee as we bid farewell to my beloved grandmother. That day, I hated the place. Last year, around this time, we were there with Fletcher. He had pneumonia and was in a bad way for the first two nights of our stay, but by the end of our stint, I had grown to love the hospital and the people who worked there. This time, I felt like an old hand, experienced, calm, ready to face it all. I hope never to have to be back there, but if I do have to go back, I hope not to experience the darker emotions, the ones that leave you cold.

For now, I’ll take my relief (and my son) and we’ll head home, together.

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How easy it is to lose your temper with someone so small and innocent…

This tiny human that we have been blessed to parent is one of the most trying and difficult things in the world. We cannot control it, we cannot keep it in the same place (good luck once your little ones are mobile, parents), and we cannot make it listen no matter how loud we shout. Since our little man started walking we have been on a constant marathon of madness around the house. He is SO busy! The cat food, the toilet, the glass cabinet, the T.V remotes, the underwear drawer, the detergents cupboard and all the plugs, and light switches are constantly under attack. And boy, is he on a mission to be a one-man demolition team. The speed at which he manages his destruction mission is also unbelievable! One of us is hovering around him at all times, picking up bits and pieces, stopping him from bumping his head and generally damage controlling as much as we can while the other one of us is doing all the other “mom things” that need to get done – cooking, cleaning, washing bottles, etc. When he finally goes to sleep we are absolutely knackered!

The newfound freedom his walking has bestowed on him, and his curiosity for absolutely everything is awesome! It means we have a little man who is growing and learning and becoming independent and we couldn’t be more proud! But, it also means the frustrations he has in being confined (like when we have to change a nappy or put him in his high chair) are world-shattering for him. For such a little thing, his temper tantrums are huge! The tears turn on, the lip drops, and the pitch of his cry reaches an ear-splitting crescendo. It takes just a moment for him to get to the point of no return when he doesn’t get his way (like when we won’t let him eat the toilet block straight out of the toilet) and it takes me just a moment to absolutely lose it with him. Although we’re not big on hidings, we quickly realised that smacking has absolutely no effect on him. He is already crying and now he doesn’t understand why the person he loves more than anything in the world is hurting him. To say nothing of the fact that he doesn’t understand why he can’t eat the toilet block in the first place, because he’s only 15 months old and logic and reason are far from his mind.

It’s in this moment that you have to take a step back, take a big breath and remember that you are the adult, here to teach your little human the ways of the world and, in order to do that, you will need all the patience in the world (and some wine chilling in the fridge for later). We have found distraction to be the most
effective method of dealing with his tantrums – changing his mind set and getting him engaged in a more suitable activity, away from the “danger zone”. But it takes a lot of self-control not to lose your temper, raise your voice and turn into a dragon. We explain to him why he can’t do it and we know he understands a
lot. They are like little sponges absorbing everything around them at a rapid speed so it’s critical that he absorb the right things – and hitting people is not on the list of things that are “right”. The list of words in his vocabulary increases all the time and soon we will have a little being we can effectively communicate with. But, until then, it’s one baby step at a time, one big breath at a time and one big glass of wine at a time.

The trouble is, you think you have time

The last time I wrote a blog post was sometime before Christmas, which seems hard to believe as now the Valentine’s Day cards are already all over the shops (bleegh). We hope you all had a fantastic festive season! Our festive season was an exciting one, we took our tiny human to the beach over our holidays where he devoured some sand, ate his first soft-serve ice cream, and explored the rock pools on our little beach. Bliss! He is also starting to master the art of walking (quite a lot of the ”bear walk” happening, with the occasional “drunk, old man stumble” too). He says a bunch of words which we can understand (boat, car, cat, dog, mama, go, bye, bath) and
some we can’t, but he’s trying so damn hard to talk and it’s just too cute! These milestones that our precious boy seem to be flying through are making us so happy and so proud, but at the same time SO terrified! My tiny, sleepy baby who could fit lengthways in one of my arms is long gone, and now we have a full blown little destroyer on a mission.

Father Time is cruel. I remember other parents saying, “enjoy him while he is so small, the time goes by so quickly!” How right they were. When you are pacing the passage for the 5th hour on a long and sleepless night, with a crying, new born, you can’t wish it away fast enough. Before you know it, that time will be so far gone you can’t even remember those damn awful midnight pyjama parade hours. Savour every second you have with them. The dishes in the sink can wait. Your unread emails can definitely wait. The television show that will probably be repeated a bunch of times should not be your priority either. If you have even just a moment spare, spend it with your child. Your family will never again be as young as it is right now. They grow every single day, and if you can try and catch the little moments as they happen before they pass you by, it will give you the most intense happiness. Explore with them, be curious with them and grow with them. I know it’s easier said than done and we have all jobs to do and supper to cook and traffic to battle through. But all the chores and the loads of life will feel a lot lighter if you and your child have had a little laugh, a little cuddle, read a story, picked a flower, drawn a picture or just sat together for a moment. There are only so many tomorrows.

A note from Barbs

When we went back to work in January, Becs had started a new role at work and I had taken on a big project at the office that was proving to be an absolute monster. We both had to be out of the house in the morning by 07:00 and when we got back in the afternoon, time was tight to get done everything we need to do.

I found myself looking down at the tiny hands grasping desperately at my pants leg and saying, “not now boy, I don’t have time.” Or, “just a minute Beans, mommy’s busy.” When I realised what I was saying, I wanted to cry. Here I was telling my one-year-old I was too busy for him. Who does that?? The answer, sadly, is most likely “all of us”. We’ve all said – or at least thought – I just don’t have time for that or I’d love to, but I’m just too busy.

Bull shit.

You absolutely have time. If you think you don’t, make time. There is always time for the things we prioritise. Last year someone at work was telling me they still hadn’t finished unpacking their house, 9 months after they moved in. He cited not having time as the reason and then he caught himself, saying, “Well, that’s not entirely true. I mean, I had enough time to go fishing with my son and I went to my daughter’s “Dads and Daughters” weekend away with her school, but the house just hasn’t been a priority for us.” I though to myself, this guy has his priorities straight. Your family comes first. Everything else is background noise and you choose what you turn the volume up on.

Next time you find yourself telling your little one you’re too busy or don’t have time, stop for a second and think about it, maybe you do actually have time.

Has it been 6 months already?!

Amateur Mommies: 6 months in

It’s hard to believe, but our little man is six months old already. Six months ago on Friday, Fletcher was born. As we went through our busy weekend routine this past weekend, thoughts kept popping to my head, like: six months ago, we were sitting in the NICU counting the hours until Christmas, hoping against hope that our little boy would be home for his first Christmas. And six months ago we were going home, leaving Fletcher in the NICU.

Six months ago today, Fletcher came home, so we have officially been full-time parents for six months today. It’s one of those paradoxes of time – “has it only been six months?” but at the same time, “woah, it’s been six months already?!” In that time, so many things have happened. Our little boy has grown and changed in unimaginable ways. When we look back at the photos of that time in the NICU and those first few days at home, it’s hard to believe it’s the same little guy. He’s grown into this absolute thug of a human – way above average in height and weight and strong and sturdy! A real rugby forward in the making (or ballerina, or scientist, or whatever he wants to be!).

Over the last six months, Becs and I have come along in leaps and bounds too. Six months and five days ago, I’d never changed a poo nappy, and now I’ve changed two just this morning! Six months ago, I thought I’d still be breastfeeding him when he was six months old, and we all know how that worked out. Six months ago, we were floundering along, with little-to-no clue what we were doing, and now we’re bounding along with a moderate clue that maybe we’re doing OK. Motherhood is a tricky thing, you never know at the time if what you’re doing is right – I mean we thought we were doing the right thing in swaddling him, and that worked out dismally. But, when you do get something right (and we must be getting something right, because Fletcher is a rockstar of a human), it is so gratifying, so rewarding, to know that you are (at least in part) responsible for shaping the awesome little being in front of you.

Six months down the line, I’d hardly call myself an expert. I still question every decision we make a thousand different ways. I still look to Becs and ask, “do you think I should…” instead of confidently saying, “I’m going to…” almost every time because I want the reassurance that her agreeing with me brings. We both lean on each other through difficult times and we both fall down some times, but at the end of the day, it’s all been such an incredible experience and one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.