Bed chats tonight

D “when am I going to be so big dat I am four?”

Me “not until next year, next February”

D “oh, but I want to be four already!”

Me “ah, but we don’t want you to grow up too fast because I like you how you are now!”

D “oh, and you will not like me when I am four?”

Me “I’ll still like you when you’re four! I’m going to like you forever and ever! Even when you’re all grown up I’ll like you. I’ll love you always and always”

D “even when I am a teenager?”

Me “even when you’re a teenager I’ll still like you and love you so much”

D “ahhhhh mummy dat is so good, dat makes my happiness go up when you say dat”

Shouting at the moon

Today as I was parking the car by our house, coming home from creche, D started yelling – he does that sometimes, these loud yells, just earsplitting and seemingly random, like mainly for the exhilaration of being loud? I told him it was too loud for my ears,  too loud for the car, so loud it might even be heard on the moon. He was pretty excited by this idea and I said “should we go into the garden and you can be loud outside then when we go in we’ll be quiet?” It was still light, but the moon had just appeared, a narrow crescent, sitting right above the hedge by the side of the house. He stood ready, looking up at the moon. Then he took a deep breath and said:

“RONA! RONA! ARE YOU OK UP DERE RONA?!”

Tiny know it all

At Zealandia, walking over a little stream, my mum said there might be some freshwater crayfish, kōura, in there, and D asked what that was, and we tried to explain that it was a bit like a crab. My brother and his girlfriend had recently watched a David Attenborough documentary with an interesting bit about crabs and my brother started trying to tell us about this, directed at D, but for everyone to hear:

Uncle L “Do you know I watched a video recently and it had this interesting bit about crabs-”

D “no no no, atchuyee, I have a video at my house, it is on netfwix, we have a yapdop you see and I watch tings on netfwix, and it is called Puffin Rock, and dere are crabs dere in Puffin Rock, and I watch dat video”

Uncle L “right, that sound cool. Do you want to hear about my video too?”

D “no tanks, I’m actually talking about my video, I was djust talking about my video on netfwix and it is Puffin Rock, and dere are crabs in it too, actchuyee”

 

 

Comfort food

We had a funny incident last week when I put peas in the kids’ dinner of egg fried rice. They both love egg fried rice, and B likes peas, but D does not like peas, and he was very displeased that they were in his meal. The next day I said we were having pasta for dinner, and he told me, very firmly, “no, no, atchuyee, we are having egg fried rice but dis time you have to make it right and not put peas in it betause yast time you made it wong Mummy and I was very sad and so tonight da best plan is for us to try again but dis time do it da way I yike it.” It amuses me so much when he’s politely bossy.

Getting the kids fed after creche is a bit stressful. They’re so hungry and so emotionally depleted. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to manage it, from a little plate of pre-dinner snacks to keep them going, to cooking their favourites a lot, to back-up dinners if something more adventurous is presented and rejected (back up of toast and peanut butter, usually). B tanks up on breastmilk in the evenings so dinner for him is less of a concern, he sort of nibbles at finger food and makes a mess of feeding himself, and refuses my offerings of feeding him with a spoon but enjoys chewing on the spoon.

It’s been a lot of trial and error since going back to work figuring out dinners when I don’t know how much they’ve eaten during the day. It was ok when I was working before with just D because I finished work earlier. Now, there’s zero time between getting home and needing to put food on the table.

Reflecting on the “Over-achiever Trap” post, I realised that feeding the kids interesting dinners is a parental performance indicator to jettison. Deliberately jettison, not jettison haphazardly on my way home when I decide they can have porridge because it’s Thursday and Thursdays are almost the end of the week and it’s honouring their Irish heritage to have porridge lots. Anyway – what they really need, especially on weeknights, is a comforting meal as quickly as possible. And, given that they get lunch cooked at creche, I’ve outsourced some of the exposure to variety and expectations of eating as part of a group anyway.

(Also: all of human history “Yay! My child likes eating the staple foods of our community”. Now “Hmmph, my child doesn’t want to try new foods all the time”. We’re making a problem out of nothing!)

Here’s our new meal plan:

Weekends

Saturday – pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs (I don’t eat the meatballs, but other than that we eat together. I make and freeze this sauce and my husband makes meatballs by cutting the casing off fancy sausages and turning them into balls)

Sunday – wildcard  but we eat together (takeaways, attempt at new foods or less favoured foods with back-up of scrambled eggs and toast)

Weeknights

Pre-dinner snack plates of fruit for B, and fruit and nuts for D. It seems weird giving them fruit before dinner but it’s instant and it immediately takes the edge off the post-creche energy dip and I don’t really see why the fruit should have to come after the meal anyway.

Monday – Egg fried rice for both kids with a Token Vegetable. We’ll eat after they’re in bed, and have rice with food from the freezer – my additional hack is that the rice for the kids is pre-cooked and frozen, then quickly defrosted with boiling water. This meal is almost instant. I put our rice in the rice cooker at the same time as making the kids’ dinner, and freeze any leftovers to replenish the instant rice.

Tuesday – Tofu and noodles with a Token Vegetable and soya sauce. This can also be nearly instant. The tofu I slice in the morning, and leave in the fridge between two paper towels, then in the evening dust with cornflour and fry, then sprinkle with soya sauce before serving. They’re kind of like tofu nuggets. D calls them tofu snacks and he loves them. We can then have a stir fry ourselves once they’re in bed, also quick.

Wednesday  – this is my day home with the kids so dinner can be slightly less rushed and I don’t quite so much need to plan it in advance. Another wildcard. Also scope for something baked in the oven for desert, especially on days I try something new-ish they might not be keen on.

Thursday – Pasta with something other than tomato sauce – D likes pasta with walnuts and olive oil. We will also offer a Token Vegetable. We can stir pesto or similar through our pasta for something quick to eat after they’re in bed.

Friday – Challah and shakshuka. Mainly challah for D. He’ll just fill up on challah and eat nothing else almost every time it’s an option. And of course grape juice. Friday we try and eat together, or at least, we intend to!

[Weekend and Wednesday lunches – bread rolls with assorted toppings. Weekend and Wednesday snacks – smoothies, home baking, popcorn, nuts, crackers, fruit]

A few wild card options to inspire me for the next few weeks:

  • A double up or minor variation (rice with tofu! noodles with egg!).
  • A less favoured but still accepted meal:
    • Baked beans – perhaps turned into the plainest nachos ever
    • Rice with tinned tuna
    • Rice with dahl
  • A favourite that takes a bit longer
    • Fish fingers with oven chips
    • Pizza
    • Quiche
  • Something that we haven’t tried for a while but he liked when we did
    • Bourekas
    • Cauliflower florets coated in egg and fried
    • Sushi
    • White bean fritters
    • Potato salad
    • Meat other than sausages or fish fingers (when my husband cooks). It’s going to be strange as the kids get older being the only vegetarian in the household, and I haven’t thought about it much, other than feeling anxious about the whole “dead animals” conversation whenever that happens and wondering whether the kids will decide not to eat them. But D knows about fish and doesn’t care at all. Ha! Maybe he will be similarly unmoved at death of more personable animals.
  • New things put together with familiar things so that at least he can eat the familiar things. (Or, unfavoured things put together with favoured things).
  • Eating out / takeaways
    • E.g. a trip to Burger Fuel on the way home via the supermarket (“Hi, can we please have a tofu burger but just the tofu and the guacamole and the bun? Yeah, like, no salad or satay sauce or relish, just literally bun and tofu and guacamole and nothing else. Thanks. And kumara chips. And a soy malt thickshake. No, he doesn’t want the kids meal he wants his random bizarre stripped back tofu burger. With a soy thickshake. I’m only moderately a hippy, but he’s lactose intolerant. Please stop looking at me like I’m completely off my rocker coming to a burger place and getting a tofu burger then taking out all the bits that make it have flavour. I know it’s weird. He’s three.”).

 

Lost draft found

I found this draft from last November:

It was good having a whinge here yesterday. I needed to get out the sheer frustration. Funnily enough, today has been totally fine. Sometimes you jut need a whinge eh.

It’s an odd one, figuring out whether you attitude to your circumstances needs to change or whether your needs are unmet. It can be hard to figure out. And sometimes both are true. I find myself often defaulting to “I just need to be better”, because of this privileged existence as part of the 21st century developed country middle class. A really big part of me feels like I don’t get to fucking complain. But another part of me is like, well, sure I have a fridge and lights, but I’m on my own all day with the kids and company is a pretty baseline need. Especially whenever I get snappy with the little dude, I always think – fucking fuck, I should be able to walk away from this situation BUT I CAN’T. It’s so lonely, but you’re not alone, there’s no peace.

 

Like water

After being sick and out of action for the kids, they’ve both been extremely eager for my attention. Overwhelmingly eager! So puppyish and bounding and grabby.

I picture a jar that needs to be filled to the top. It can be filled with all sorts of things – maybe their dad will put some beautiful stones in it; maybe a creche teacher will add some fine soft sand; maybe a grandparent or an aunt or uncle will put in some coloured shells. But it is not quite full unless I’m there to add enough water to bring it all the way up to the brim.

Something about mum is different for them, not interchangeable with others. Others are important and missed when they’re not there, but in their minds, mum adds something that no-one else can quite give.

I want their jars to have treasures from all sorts of places, different gifts that help them feel connected to their family, their community, their history, their world. If filling the jars was left only to me I’d worry about missing something – I’d spend too long trying to find a green cats-eye, then I’d realise my collection of shiny paua fragments had washed back out to sea in the meantime. I would feel their jars were lacking if they only received things from me, I’d always wonder what others could give that I couldn’t. But to them, no matter how much others contribute, it’s not quite right unless mum fills things all the way up.

I wonder when this will change. Sometimes I wish they needed me less. Sometimes I’m scared that one day, there’ll be nothing unique I can give. Which reminds me that they need me to fill the jar with water, but they also need me to find that green cats-eye so they remember me giving them something special. After all, water is invisible.

Living with prolapse

I’m feeling the need to whinge to the world in general. A living with prolapse post is one that for ages I’ve been wanting to do, but also not wanting to do, because it is so so personal. Yet, the very worst thing about this particular injury is how hush hush it is. I was stoked to see a proper mention in Clementine Ford’s mothers’ day post, because the silence and the hidden nature of the problems are a big factor in feeling shit about things. I feel worst about it when another mum says something that indicates she has a functional pelvic floor and this wave of resentment and isolation washes over me. I don’t wanna be the bitter killjoy who’s sneering at a happy tale of jumping on the trampoline, but fucksacke, I want to be able to say I can’t do something and tell the real reason without looking like I’ve scandalised everyone. It’s just a broken vagina, what’s so scary about that? Bodies can get injured and this is an injury caused to my body when a baby came out of it.

I have a rectocele prolapse, which means the back wall of the vagina is damaged and the bowel protrudes into the vaginal canal, in my case eclipsing the opening of the vagina. When the little dude was a baby, the rectocele was significantly worse and the bowel would often protrode out of the vagina, causing a painful and uncomfortable bulge about the size of a golf ball. This was hell. By the end of the day, I would be unable to stand because the protrusion would get worse and worse, very painful and uncomfortable. I would have to lie down with my legs up to try and recuperate. I spent a lot of time playing games with baby D where he’d lie on my raised legs and I’d pretend he was a plane, it was about the only thing I could do over and over that didn’t hurt.

I also have a cystocele, which means the front wall of the vagina is damaged as well and the bladder protrudes into the vaginal canal, eclipsing the opening at the other side. This means that the bladder and bowel effectively collapse into each other within the opening of the vagina, which causes discomfort whenever I walk or stand. I also need to be careful how I sit. However, compared to the situation when the little dude was a baby and the bowel bulged out, it’s fairly manageable.

I had a three hour second stage of labour with D, and this caused immediate damage. There was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it except go back in time and have a totally different birth. No-one told me that I shouldn’t lift heavy things after the birth, or do activities that create impact on the pelvic floor, and I didn’t know so in the first few months after D was born I did things that certainly would have made it worse. When I talked to my GP about the symptoms, she referred me a to physiotherapist, and I went fortnightly for several months. Since the physio, I’ve been able to manage it to try and repair some of the damage and avoid further strain – including though the second pregnancy.

Things are much worse at the end of the day though, a whole day of gravity and fatigue makes it hard to do the physio-recommended trick of slightly engaging the supporting muscles to help minimise the collapsing sensation.

It won’t necessarily be like this forever. There is the option for a pessary to be inserted into the vagina to hold things into place, however there is also a chance that things might improve spontaneously after B is weaned (hormones have a big role). I haven’t looked into a pessary yet because they are best used once symptoms stabalise, and throughout B’s first year there was ongoing gradual improvement. But I should probably make an appointment about a pessary soon because it’s probably not going to get much better until weaning. There are also surgical options to consider once B is weaned. These carry risks, including the potential for future surgeries, and given I’m fairly young it might be best to put off surgery if I can manage with the pessary. Almost definitely on the cards for the longer term future though.

There are lots of activities that exacerbate the symptoms, causing the bladder and bowel to protrude lower. This feels like a dragging weight in my vagina; or, when it is caused by something sudden, it feels like a downwards punch through the pelvis. I experience significant discomfort when I do things that increase the gravitational pressure on the pelvic organs, for example:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Lifting heavy things
  • Carrying heavy things (like the kids)
  • Standing for upwards of fifteen minutes, and even less at the end of the day (walking isn’t so bad as long as I’m not carrying anything)
  • Defecating – and I had a tummy bug recently and it’s why the symptoms are worse lately.
  • A lot of yoga poses,  but yoga is also good for strengthening, so I should keep doing it but be very careful to modify the routine and be aware of my own limits.
  • Stumbling or tripping over
  • Shouting
  • Standing on a bumpy bus
  • Going up in a lift
  • Bouncing the baby on the edge of the bed to get him to sleep

There are also things I can’t do at all because they might cause further damage, like jumping and running, or carrying heavy things for more than a few minutes. I kept babywearing D after I should have stopped because I didn’t realise. But with B, I stopped when he got to be about 7kg.

Living with prolapse means living with a constant, nagging discomfort, except when I’m lying down or sitting just right. Whenever I’m walking, I have to very carefully try and engage the muscles a bit and walk as smoothly as I can. I can’t carry the kids very far. Often, I’ll sit down because it feels uncomfortable, and then I’ll forget why I sat down and get up to play with them, then be reminded – oh, yeah, damn. Sometimes I do things like spin D in the air because it’s nice to feel like an active spry parent, but I almost always regret it quickly. I recently signed up for a work volunteer day on Matiu Island but now I’m worried, that was stupid, that might involve lots of activities that exacerbate symptoms (bending and pulling weeds, stomping down on a spade, carrying heavy things). I feel like crying because I forgot, I forgot that I can’t do all the things I used to enjoy.

I feel flustered and anxious when I hear of professional sportspeople getting pregnant. At least my job isn’t made any harder. 

I know there are much worse injuries, much more serious limits on what our bodies can do, but I still grieve the body I had before kids. The body that ran a half marathon. And it’s so hidden. There is no way anyone I meet would know unless I told them. Perhaps someone else with exactly the same problem might notice based on small behavioural things like spending an oddly long time in the bathroom, or not jumping on the bouncy castle, but probably not. To anyone who sees me I look like a fit and able-bodied young mum.

One big factor in how prolapse makes life harder is the chores. Isn’t that stupid? At the end of the day, I’m too sore to run around and quickly get chores done. My life would be so much easier if I could do more things in the evenings, but it is quite painful by then. A big issue for me managing the symptoms while living my normal life is the fear of being seen as slacking off or piking, which I should probably let go of. For example when we went camping while I was pregnant with B, I did none of the dishes because by that stage of pregnancy the extra baby weight meant that standing up to do the dishes was extremely painful. But I felt anxious the whole time that I wasn’t doing my fair share. My husband forgets sometimes, and I feel so pathetic reminding him that I need to sit down, I need to walk more slowly, I can’t carry these things, I’m a bit injured and broken. And it’s all the time.

Sighhhhhh. Please, no-one tell me that having kids young means you bounce back more quickly after the birth. Especially the use of the word “bounce”. It’s just too cruel.