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Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Mauritian Takes Flight

So the Mauritian braved a 36 hour flight back to South Africa to visit his ailing father who we believed would not be alive for much longer. It was a tough decision to make. Do we wait and see, drop everything and make plans, go as a family of does he go alone? We discussed, theorised and speculated for two days, speaking to this one, “Skyping” that one, phoned doctors and specialists. It was insane!

Eventually after a sobering discussion with my parents we agreed that he should go home and to keep the costs as low as we could the Mauritian would undertake this international trip alone. He was not thrilled with the idea at all. The Mauritian has flown internationally twice before, once at the age of eight the next when we moved to the end of the world. Both times he had simply followed instructions; the prospect of travelling so far on his own turned him into a bundle of nerves and his favourite sentence started with “What if...” The poor chap had managed to work himself up so much that he needed an interpreter at the travel agent. Mind you I’m not sure I fared much better because when we got home and really had a good look at the ticket we realised there were a few things that got lost in translation. They weren’t important really it just meant he had to change a few plans.

With the ticket sorted I set to work and had him packed and organised by Saturday night which left us Sunday to tie up any loose ends and go over and over what he had to do at each airport and how to make the trip easier. It didn’t matter how many times I told him to just follow the crowds or that there are signs everywhere as well as ground staff that will help, he was convinced he was going to get lost and miss his connection. Turns out all he had to do was get off one plane and walk to the boarding gate of the next and wait. The marvellous staff of Air New Zealand in New Plymouth booked his luggage from here through to Durban and his seats on every flight. That’s another gold star in my book.

So we said I goodbyes and off he went, the Butterfly waving enthusiastically and blowing kisses making everyone smile. I was relieved he was finally on his way and that the Butterfly and I could head home and settle into our time together without him. Easier said than done apparently, I paced the entire afternoon kept checking the time and guessing where he was and what he was doing. I found all sorts of things to do to pass the time and occupy my mind and the Butterfly’s. I didn’t sleep well at all those first two nights; in short I was a complete wreck! For the life of me I can’t figure out why I was feeling so lost, it wasn't like I was worried he would miss a connection or the plane would crash and it wasn't like he’d left for good even though this is one of the longest times we’ve been apart since we met. I spent two days telling myself to pull myself together and get a grip, I said it so much in fact that today when I reprimanded the Butterfly she turned on me and said “Get a grip will you!”

Wednesday morning the phone rings and the first words out of the Mauritian’s mouth were: “Polly, if one of us ever has to go anywhere again we go as a family, I’m not doing this again.”
My sentiments exactly!

Congratulations It's a...

Seventeen weeks and counting, twenty three more and there will be another one of us about.

Everyone keeps asking me if I want a boy or a girl, I keep saying girl because of the possibility of “hand me downs” from the Butterfly. Rather cost effective. But I have no illusions, just because I say I want a girl we’ll have a boy. Mother Nature has a wicked sense of irony! The Mauritian confessed to not being sure if he wants a boy or a girl, he’s used to girls so another one would be easier but a boy would be nice to carry on the family name. Ask the Butterfly if she wants a baby brother or sister she’ll tell you with conviction a brother one day and “a tista” the next day. My life long friend says she’s praying for a girl because she doesn’t like the boy’s name we have chosen. That really is one for the books, my lifelong friend praying, yeah right! My Auckland Angel says it’s a boy only because once I confessed to feeling hungry all day long. Our Chinese friend with his knowledge of eastern medicines and homeopathic healing sat one night and felt the pulse in both my wrists and declared we were having a girl. My favourite school friend always says if little boys are drawn to you while you are pregnant you are having a girl, in which case we’re having a boy because my neighbours little boy screamed “blue murder” when I went to visit them a few days ago. Suspend a crystal on a piece of string above the expectant mother’s wrist, or wait was it suspend a diamond, anyway its one of those two. If it turns anticlockwise, it’s a girl if it turns clockwise it’s a boy, or is that visa versa. Any way the point is that’s another way of telling the sex of the unborn child, just don’t ask me to do it. If the foetal heart rate is 140bpm it’s a girl, 160bpm indicates it’s a boy. In which case when I went for my 12 week scan it was a girl but a week later at my midwife visit it was a boy. If you’re carrying in the back it’s a girl, carry in the front, boy. What is it when you are carrying all over? I’ve even heard of people going for psychic readings to find out the sex of the child. The awesome thing about all these crazy ways to determine the sex of the baby is that they all have an equal chance of being right or wrong.

Back home it is unusual to come across a couple who are willing to wait until birth to know the baby’s sex, here at world’s end waiting till birth is the norm. I don’t know if I want to know the sex, I think half the fun is in the speculation and having a name for both sexes just in case. When I was pregnant with the Butterfly I was adamant that I did not want to know but on instinct during a scan I asked. I have no idea what made me ask but I have never regretted the decision, at the time there were so many reason why knowing she was a she was a good thing. This time neither the Mauritian nor I care really if it’s a boy or girl as long as it’s healthy and has all its fingers and toes. (Which I already know it has because at the first scan the doctor was able to see and count each individual digit.)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sam I am Not!

A little while ago I was in the bank sorting out a few things and had the displeasure of dealing with a real twat. It wasn't that he wasn't good at his job; in fact he was efficient and concise but far too familiar for my taste. When I worked in a bank we were taught to always address our clients by their surnames unless otherwise directed by themselves, to never ask personal questions that did not have any relevance to their requests and to never assume we knew them well just because we’ve served them a few times before. This numb nut I was cursed with obviously missed those sessions when he started on his post. He started off well enough with a greeting and an offer to help, but one look at my passport and he was off: “Do you have your account or customer number with you please SAM?” The hairs on the back of my neck are standing to attention. Now, now calm yourself it’s a common enough occurrence for it to be innocent! So I gently correct him and hand over my card, he smiles and I foolishly thought he’d got the message when he rested his elbow on the counter and his head in his hand and ask what exactly it was he could help me with today “SAM?” my response was to call me Samantha for a start and then to blah, blah, blah! That didn’t work either because then it went on with: “Your address please SAM... what amount SAM... how do you spell your surname again SAM” Yes ten minutes into the interview I was seething and must’ve been physically red in the face. Is it really possible that this twat can be so dense as to not get the message? I choose to believe he was getting some sort of evil pleasure out of making me seethe with anger at having my preference about how I am addressed ignore, no one is that dense surely.

I can count on one hand the people in my life that call me “Sam,” these are friends who I have known for many years and who when first meeting me never assumed to abbreviate my name until they had taken the time to get to know me. These are also friends who have never been able to get used to calling me “Mantha” or outright told me that as they are the only ones that call me “Sam” they shall continue to do so regardless. I don’t like to be called “Sam” but these few friends get away with it because it was something that naturally occurred over the course of our developing friendship like a nickname unique to that one person and not a short version of a long name. My entire family call me “Mantha” and in fact would not have a clue who “Sam” was if anyone referred to me as such. Apart from those privileged few most of my friends call me” Mantha” there are the exception who have latch onto the nicknamed “Polly” which was coined by the Mauritian not long after we got married. My name is not “Sam” it never has been and never will be, so don’t call me that I don’t like it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the name Sam, I in fact share my name with two other friends and I call them “Sam,” the difference is they don’t mind the abbreviation, I do! I never greet a complete stranger by anything other than their full name until I have gotten to know something about them and their likes and dislikes. I expect those people to show me the same courtesy and get to know something about me first. If they do bother to take the time one of the first things they learn about me is that I don’t like to be called “Sam.” I especially don’t like it when I’m in a bank either as client or staff and a complete stranger says: “Good day Sam!” Grrrrrr... Not any more it aint mate!

Call me “Sammy,” “Sammy Joe,” “Samsam,” hell even “Sambo” will be okay. Just don’t call me “Sam!” My name is not “Sam” I don’t like it and it don’t suit me.

You get the message now?

New Year Realisations

Apparently that blur that’s just gone past me was the year 2010. How the hell did that happen? What was I doing that allowed the year to go by unnoticed?

I know I spent a lot of time on housework, ironing, cooking and being a mum. I know I wrote a few blogs and emails and had “chats” with friends and family via “Skype” and “Facebook.” I know I spent many hours outdoors soaking up the summer sun, went on walks on the foreshore or through the park with friends and shivered through the winter. I know I grew another year older and my Butterfly now has three birthdays “under her belt.” I know we became official residence at “World’s End,” went out for dinners and lunches, travelled north to visit friends, drank wine and too much coffee. I know we sang, talked, argued and discussed. I know we baked muffins, roasted chickens, moulded chocolates, had picnics in our back yard and ate far too many crumpets. I know the Mauritian changed his job description, the Butterfly discovered how to “back chat” and I learnt that getting published may be harder than I thought. I know two of my closest friends buried their fathers and my neighbour gave birth to a very well behaved little boy. I know we went shopping, paid accounts, watch television, listened to music and danced silly dances. I know I have spent endless nights dealing with a Butterfly who will not sleep and a Mauritian who battles insomnia. I know I was consumed by the first trimester of my pregnancy but what is it that kept us so busy that we allowed the year to literally just pass us by?

The truth is we spend far too much time on the menial and don’t take the time to just stop and enjoy the sights and sounds around us. For an ex Durban girl the winters at the end of the world are devastatingly cold. But the garden looks so pretty as the sun rises and reflects off the layer of frost on the ground, it sparkles like a well cut diamond. The mountain looms white and desolate but it glows pink and orange in the setting sun. We spend too much time sticking to a schedule and ensuring that all the daily tasks are done on time and nothing gets forgotten. We forget to watch our children amusing themselves with the simple joy of filling up a watering can from a pool and watering the garden that not twenty four hours earlier was soaked in 100mls of rain. We spend so much time filling in silences with the television or the radio that we miss out on the cacophony of bird song and Christmas beetles. We use up so much energy chasing that better salary, that more satisfying or challenging employment or working out how to afford that new fangled gadget that everyone else seems to have. We don’t take the time to just stop and be thankful for the roof over our heads, even though the damp seeps through the floor on very wet days. We don’t take the time to be grateful for the food we devour which is more than what some families eat in their lives. We don’t bother to respect our trusty mode of transport even though there’s a horrid crack in the windscreen and it has mismatched coloured doors. It takes us where we want to go even though we could walk there if we had to. We are too stubborn about getting our own way to just give way to others and avoiding unnecessary stress and disagreements. We are too busy living to take a moment to stop and thank God that we are alive after all He’s the reason we’re here. Life is just too short to let it pass us by, we need to burst that bubble we find ourselves floating in and hit the ground and just stop running. We need to absorb the beauty and the life that revolves around us.

So my New Year’s resolution is not to lose weight, or finally publish my book. It’s not to save money or look for work, I’m not even going to attempt to give up chocolate. No this year I’m going to leave the beds unmade and roll on the wet grass in my pjs with my Butterfly. I’m going to brave the freeze of the winter sunrise and walk on the frosted grass and listen to it crackling beneath my feet. I’m going to switch off the television and try and find that bird with the beautiful song. I’m going to puddle jump in the rain instead of doing the ironing, I’m going to lie on the grass and watch the sky, and I’m going to forget about the dishes and try and catch a butterfly. I’m going to grow sunflowers and watch the mountain change colours in the sunset. I’m going to stop and enjoy the miracle of a sunrise and a blossoming rose, I’m going to eat my food slowly and savour the taste, and I’m going to forget about washing the bath and watch my Butterfly while she plays.

This year I’m going to be grateful to wake up to a new day and another chance to enjoy being alive. This year I’m not going to waste today wishing for tomorrow. This year I want to remember with clarity all the things I do and achieve, this year will not slip me by is a blur of activity. This year I will embrace the miracle of life and really take the time to stop and smell the roses.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bad Advise

All the pregnancy books I've read suggest keeping a diary of the pregnancy. Keep a record of how one is feeling day to day to help you deal with, share and ultimately remember the experience. Now you all know that I am a strong believer in the power of the written word, but come on now. Who on earth wants to sit down at a computer or with a pen and paper and describe how she is feeling in those first 12 weeks? My diary would have gone something like this:
Day 1: WTF?
Day 2: The Mauritian can get his own breakfast
Day 3: Ginger biscuits do not work
Day 4: Blah!
Day 5: You must be kidding!
Day 6: Midwife appointment at 2.30pm must write on forehead so don’t forget
Day 7: Keeping a diary sucks
And that would be that.

One gets far too caught up in the misery and agony of morning sickness to care about writing it down. Besides, who wants to remember how crappy they felt? Morning sickness is not a pleasant experience, one that is best forgotten. To those who think keeping a record of one’s first trimester is better than wallowing in well deserved self pity I say: “Bite me!”

Another piece of advice is to keep a “food journal” so one can insure one is getting all the required nutrients per day and avoid those “empty calories.” Of course it also helps one remember what one has eaten that day. Now I don’t know about other mums, but I know for myself that I don’t need to keep a journal, my body is not afraid to remind me what I had for breakfast all day long thanks to severe heartburn and everything that goes with it. My question to these well meaning authors is: “Do you really think anyone is actually going to admit those “empty calories” let alone record it?” All the mum’s I know were careful about what and how much they ate, most of the time, but the reality is that sometimes that packet of crisps, chocolate bar and can of soda is a welcome indulgence and distraction from the constant concerns about what’s good for baby and what’s not. I certainly will not feel guilty about the three glasses of “Sprite” I had with Christmas dinner after three months of no coffee, tea or fruit juice and only water and milk. Neither will I deny myself that milkshake after a long walk on the Foreshore in the December sunshine; a glass of water with a slice of lemon just won’t cut it. Food Journal be damned, careful is important neurotic is dangerous.

One book even advises one to clean out the fridge of any old, unappealing and expired foods. Ah, correct me if I’m wrong here, but shouldn’t one do that even if one is not pregnant? Apart from the fact that it takes up room the fridge will begin to smell!
Then there is that little piece of advice that makes one think the author believes all pregnant woman are lacking brain cells: “...when your underwear is tight, treat yourself to a few new pairs...” or “...custom made suits are not a good purchase right now...” I’m like well “Duh!” honestly can you be more obvious?
But my favourite piece of advice came from my midwife; she very gently told me that the best way for me to remember things right now is to write everything down. “That’s all well and good,” I said with a grin “but I still have to remember to write down what it is that I need to remember!”

But when all is said and advised it really comes down to one’s own individual choices and needs. I don’t need to keep a diary or a food journal and I do keep a daily “to do” list, always have, but I do like to write and I do like to share. So now with that horrid first trimester behind me I am able to settle into the prospect of a second child, new challenges and a theme for this year’s blogs.

So watch this space for more gestational moments!

Hidden Fear

So I am officially into my second trimester and what a relief to be three and a bit months pregnant. Two years ago I suffered a miscarriage and I did not realise just how much that loss affected me psychologically. That pregnancy came at a very bad time in our lives as we prepared to move our lives and home to “World’s end” and in hind sight our first year here would have been that much harder with a new born in tow. So I rationalised then that perhaps it was for the best and I still feel that way now and I don’t “regret” the miscarriage. I had an awesome doctor whose clear thinking and ability to explain the “why” and “how” of the miscarriage helped me immensely to cope with the trauma and I will always be grateful to her, and her phenomenal pain killers! The Mauritian, never someone to make a fuss of me, watched my every move and constantly checked on me asking how I was feeling and I even got away with being a nag for a while. I rationalised then that I coped with it all because it happen very early in the pregnancy and that it would have been worse had this been my first pregnancy. I remember telling a friend that I never felt a connection to that pregnancy like I had when I was pregnant with the Butterfly; it was almost like I knew something would go wrong. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not blasé about the miscarriage it was a traumatic and painful experience that I would not wish on any woman. The feelings of loss and emptiness are real and unexplainable and they stay with you for life no matter the circumstances. I was lucky, I had an awesome doctor who dealt with me with frankness and empathy, and I have the best support structure in the world in the shape of my family. My parents listen, commiserate and empathise and then carry on as normal, life after all will continue with or without you in the end and of course my husband with his strong shoulders and indomitable sense of humour were an incredible source of strength. I made it through the most traumatic time in my life almost unscathed, or so I thought.

Fast forward exactly two years and I wake up one morning and realise that it wasn’t something I ate that made me queasy yesterday. So we follow all the steps and confirm my suspicions and settle into accepting and dealing with the consequences of raging hormones, low blood pressure and lack of oxygen to the brain. Then it hits you: “What if something goes wrong this time?” and out comes the pregnancy books and Google gets fired up. Time to inform yourself! I was in a frenzy and “knee deep” in information and managed to tie myself into knots of confusion and panic because I went against my golden rule of never saturating myself in too much information. I was unwilling to let anyone know about the pregnancy until the first trimester was over and irrationally made my poor Mauritian swear to be silent, even though he was bursting to tell someone. He of course agreed to respect my wishes until it was safe for him to rationally explain why he needed to at least advise his colleagues at work in case he needed time off. The “morning sickness” was severe enough to make me wish I’d never fallen pregnant, then on the days I felt fine in the mornings I’d panic that something was wrong and be unable to do much except worry all day and look out for other warning signs. Then the next morning I am again paralysed with nausea and cursing hormones and the Mauritian of course. Up and down I went back and forth I swung for close on eight weeks, “what ifs” floating in and out of my head all day, every day. Until one morning I was so caught up in my own panic that I, for the first time in her very short life, raged irrationally at my Butterfly and actually scared her to tears. It was worse than a punch in the gut, a punch that was both necessary and deserved. Bang! Suddenly there I was cradling my sobbing precious Butterfly while realisation and rational thinking replaced panic and stupidity. I realised then just how much the miscarriage had frightened me, that I had locked away my fear and fright behind a door of reason. I realised that though due to our circumstances at the time we were better off without a child then, I had suppressed my real feelings. In short, I just had not dealt with the psychological trauma of losing a child. I had submerged myself in our move, in making a new life for us and in the doings of the Butterfly. I had allowed the “scars” to fester quietly in the background, and there they stayed until twelve weeks ago. So there I was sitting on the bathroom floor, the Butterfly on my lap, her tears soaking through my top while I apologised through sobs of my own for my selfishness and self absorption. I got so caught up in my irrational panic that I lost track of reality and what was really important. The reality is that no matter what I did nothing would prevent the miscarriage or “blighted ovum” which is the medical term given to the type of miscarriage I suffered. In short, before it is a foetus it is a “zygote” a collection of cells that multiply rapidly and sometimes for no known medical reason the cells stop dividing and the zygote “dies” which triggers a process that we call a “miscarriage.” The important thing was to concentrate on being a mum and try explaining to my child what was going on even though she may not fully understand. The important thing was to learn from my past experience and realise that this time round I felt that same connection as I had with the Butterfly. The reality is that nature will run its course despite me, the reality is that life continues forward without a backward glance and so should I.

So I resolved there on the bathroom floor to embrace the fear and discard the panic, to put away the books and delete the information, to just follow my instinct and trust that all will be well. Then I took my Butterfly by the hand as I headed to the kitchen, took the ice cream out the freezer and two spoons out the draw and we sat on the kitchen floor eating ice cream out the tub while we talked about the day Mummy would bring a baby brother or sister home to the Butterfly.