Monday, October 31, 2005

Felix, Come Home and Have your Lobotomy

The first thing you learn in screenwriting 101 is that each scene should contain conflict. It can be external (eg: with another person, a force of nature, George Bush) or internal - with your inner demons (who look suprisingly like George Bush). A traditional story should follow a hero trying to attain a goal while hurdles are placed in his way. As a fledgling writerlet I remember thinking it would be difficult to find enough conflict and hurdles to fill an entire screenplay. That was before I had to deal with doctors on a daily basis.

Baby O was admitted to hospital today to prep for her spinal surgery tomorrow. After a lot of prodding and poking, the resident (an unqualified medical student who recently lost his milk teeth) pronounced her unfit to operate on. Her temperature was high, so he wasn't taking any chances. He sent us home and promised to call within the hour with an alternative surgery date. That was six hours ago.

You may see a news story about a crazed pregnant mother who goes on a crime rampage against doctors. If a policeman calls asking if you had prior knowledge of the crime, you can tell him that you know the woman well.

Her name is Felix Yeomans and she deserves to fry.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Note from Felix Yeomans

So Tomorrow little O is admitted to hospital. I’ve been quiet on the blogosphere the past week as Bub has kept us up every night screaming. I’d like to put it down to the fact that she’s psychically gifted and knows she’s about to have her back sawed into, but the doctors tell me it was the result of a bad ear infection that landed up bursting her eardrum. Now call me pushy, but I was under the misapprehension that the Universe would give O a break on the usual childhood nasties while she’s having her innards constantly surgically reworked. No such luck. It’s been torturous. She’s been in hideous pain and I chose this as my moment to have a minor personal meltdown. I came face to face with the frightening fear that I may not be able to return to work for a very long time. I worked out the cost of having three babies in full time childcare. Then I worked out how much I could earn full time as a script editor or in-house writer on a TV show. After tax, I would take home a total of two hundred dollars a week.

Two Hundred Dollars. That’s about enough to buy a half decent meal in Sydney.

My friends used to envy my TV salary. Yes, I worked for an evil empire of pernicious little megalomaniacs pretending to be Storytellers, but fuck me, it paid well. That was before I turned into a breeding factory and had to give nine tenths of it away to daycare centres…

An aside.
I am not a good looking person. My husband is attractive. Dark, swarthy, perhaps a little on the crazed terrorist side, but attractive. Yet it’s my bloody Lithuanian Jewish Peasant genes that have inflicted themselves on innocent baby O. And I fear I’m growing two more pale skinned little proletariat porkers. God, if you’re listening (I bet you’re a wicked blogger), please can R’s genes get a look-in? Actually, it’s specific genes I’d like to perpetuate. Can we have his lovely olive skin, but avoid that flabby stuff under his chin? Thanks.

And if you’re wondering what the heading of this post refers to... Just as I have an identity and career crisis of chronic proportions (I even yelled at my father ‘why didn’t you tell me not to bother getting three degrees if all I was going to become was a fat housewife!’), my kitsch little personalised notepad rebels against me. Remember I have a weird name? Remember that lovely R ordered me three personalised notepads so that, for the first time in my life I had something cute with my name on it? Well, on page three of my Note from Yidchick pad, I came across a frightening site.
A Note from Felix Yeomans.
I flipped through the pad and found that, interspersed with my name was this... This awkward, mass-murderer conjuring name that was not mine at all. Felix Yeomans sounds like the boy in your class who picked his nose then ate the snot. Felix Yeomans is the kid who once crapped his pants during choir rehearsal.
I am a fat housewife with three useless degrees and a daughter about to have her most major operation yet. And I’m crapping myself senseless.

Can you tell?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Warning: adult themes

And in the midst of all the madness, I manage to remind myself what an odd palooka I am.

I make an appointment to have my legs and bikini-line waxed. This is me making a concerted effort at moments of normalcy between the hours of insanity that my life has become since giving birth. Usually I have the luxury of showering before my appointment, but today I am too busy rushing to doctors to manage it. So I do what wise streetwalkers have been doing for generations. I spurt a bit of perfume on my knickers so that my hoo-ha doesn’t hum when the waxer is doing her thing down there.

Wipe that look off your face. A girl likes to be fresh, you know.

Unfortunately, I can’t find my perfume so I use R’s deodorant. It’s some sort of Power Uber Sports stuff and it leaves a dreadful white stain. No matter, I think, I’m sure it will be absorbed in the ten minutes it takes me to drive there.

As I drive I think of the spinal surgery O has coming up. I worry that it won’t be simple or painless. I fear the recovery will be long and difficult. I question whether they’ll find yet another problem lurking like they did the last time they operated. This has become my default thought, constantly sitting at the back of my head, waiting for a moment to rear up and spit itself at me. Then I feel a burning sensation. In my punda. At first I think it's my own fear, eating me from the inside. Then I realise the fecking Uber deodorant has leaked through my undies and is giving me a feeling I last felt after a particularly dirty weekend with a pervy microbiologist.

I scratch. It makes it worse. I race around the corner and park outside the beautician’s house. I pull my jeans down, use an old tissue to wipe the deodorant from my vujak, then spit on my fingers and start to wipe the stain off my panties. I’m wiping up and down, enthusiastically making some progress when I notice a shocked face staring at me through the window. J, the woman who recommended the beautician to me, has finished her appointment. And she thinks I’m masturbating in the car before mine.

I do the only thing I can. I fish my finger out of my crotch and wave at her. She grimaces back, waves quickly and dashes into her car. I notice her pick up her mobile phone and stare out of the corner of her eye at me as she talks.

Fuck it, I think. Maybe I should take to wanking in the car. It’s a stress release, it beats listening to the ads on the radio, and best of all, it will give people like J something to talk about other than my daughter’s medical problems.

I'm feeling frisky already...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

News, news, more news

I should have known it was going to be one of those days when I woke up and stepped in dog pee. Our beloved hound, Pepper, has been toilet trained since she was six weeks, so I rechecked the smell three times. Definitely urine-de-canine. Already late for doctor number one, I rushed into the kitchen to get some roller towel and was met with the entire contents of the garbage bin on the floor. Vegetable mush mingled with nappies and Indian take-away. Seems Pepper tipped the bin, which then blocked the back door, thereby cutting her off from her en-suite in the garden. I cursed my heightened sense of smell and started cleaning up.

Rush. Rush. Rush.

An hour and a half of driving to get to Westmead hospital where the surgeon tells me he will schedule O’s next (and hopefully final) bowel operation for December 6th. Only 2 more months of the dreadful colostomy bag. Hoorah ! (Bizarre that I have now started looking forward to the surgery). He also said he may cut a part of her bowel out, to help with the constipation problem. A quick call to my dad put an end to that idea. Dad quoted me something in Latin about doing the least amount of harm. I agreed, then quoted him something off a Marlboro pack – Vini, Verdi, Vice.

Drive back to Prince of Wales Hospital for neurosurgeon. Realise I have half an hour to spare so pop to the local real estate agent and peruse their three bedroom rentals. (Throughout this medical ordeal, we’ve also been house hunting. We need a bigger place as O can’t share a room with the twins. Each house makes me feel like I'm visiting murder scenes. I describe them to R according to the type of murder. Stabbing on the Carpet, Death by Boredom, Asphyxiation in the Kitchen. I almost convinced myself that Suicide in the Study, one of the less offensive places, was worth taking). Nothing suitable so I head back to the hospital. By this stage O is ready for her afternoon sleep but there’s no chance of that.

She fills the waiting room with loud screams. I rock her, hold her, feed her, dance with her (note to parents: ‘Thriller’ is not a dance that comforts babies). She won’t be consoled. My dad joins me. An hour of waiting and the neurosurgeon sees us. A lot of technical jargon while I bounce O on my knee. Something about tethering at the L2. Something else about the difference between a normal spine and O’s. A lot about the risks of the operation – leaking cerebral fluid, infection, possible paralysis if they get the wrong nerve. Sounds horrific so I ask whether the risks outweigh the benefits. He tells me leaving it is not an option, then lists more horrible possibilities if it’s left. Permanent nerve damage, muscle wastage. Then, with the words ‘permanent nerve damage’ and ‘possible paralysis’ still ringing in my ears, he says – how about two weeks tomorrow? Sure, I nod. Zombie like, I take the paperwork and leave.

It’s good. It’s better than waiting, I tell myself. It’s for her benefit.

I was never a person who courted catastrophe. I realise now that most people aren't. The events of our lives find us, wherever we hide, and play themselves out, however they need to.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Get out Your Raincoat...

I am Puddle Woman. I melt to driplets of water if you touch me. People are being exceptionally kind to me and it makes me feel strange. I find it difficult to be a Taker. My close friend K told me she’s sourcing second-hand equipment for the twins. She wants me to have everything in place for when they’re born so that I don’t have to spend money.

Drip. Splat. Puddle.

I’m so looking so forward to a time when I can give again. Giving is a privilege reserved for the powerful.

Tomorrow is a 3 doctor day - for hors de oeuvres we’re seeing the surgeon who performed the bowel operation, the main course is the neurosurgeon who will tell us more about the severity of O’s condition and when he wants to operate and dessert is my obstetrician, who will look at the scan I had last week and tell me if the twins are doing okay.

And little O has sprouted a second tooth, which she’s using to chomp cucumbers with. She also waved for the first time today. She’s a little trooper.

Splish. Splosh. Puddle.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Diagnosis

There are some people who just shouldn’t be nurses. Nurse Panic, who rushes up to us as we approach the ambulatory care ward is one of these people. We’re checking our daughter in for an MRI but Nurse Panic is already shouting that we’re late, they’re calling for our bub, we’re going to mess up the entire day’s schedule. I don’t get a chance to explain we’ve been waiting in an admissions queue for an hour because she whisks O out of my arms, dumps her on the scale and shouts to the anaesthetist that the baby weighs 6.5 kg. I gently ask Nurse Panic to weigh her again – she weighed 7kgs yesterday, and I don’t want them to get the amount of anaesthetic wrong. Nurse P hasn’t taking her anti-freak-out pills, so she screams at me about wasting time. I plop O on the scale and point to the 7kg flashing in front of us. Oh, she says, and shouts at the anaesthetist to change the weight.

The funny thing is, Nurse Panic is a welcome distraction from the fact that we’re soon going to find out what’s wrong with O’s spine.

The general anaesthetic routine is now very familiar to both O and I. The anaesthetist puts the mask on her, she screams and looks at me with confusion. I feel the guilt of a thousand Jewish mothers, the guilt of my ancestors and their ancestors who all know that a baby shouldn't be put under this kind of stress. O falls asleep. I go back to the waiting room with R. We pace for an hour, talk about the shopping list, and rush into recovery.

Only this time she won’t wake up.

The nurse shakes her and puts water on her face. I have a sudden flash of being 14 and drunk outside Zanzibar nightclub. Andy Hirschberg, a girl on my outer circle of friends, is slapping me across the face and dousing me with water. Cunt, I thought then. Which is what I think of the nurse now. I stop her and say I’ll take over. I gently try to rouse O. She won’t wake up. I wipe some gauze in water and R and I take turns gently rubbing the gauze on her face.

Finally, she stirs. I pack out crying.

R gets the MRI scan and we stare at it. Nurse P explains that the report will be sent to our doctor, and we’ll have to wait until Monday for the diagnosis. We’re unbelievably frustrated and I start to second guess what the scan means. I point to the base of the spine – this bit looks stuck, I say. Nurse Panic shouts at me for jumping to conclusions. R has to go back to work so I’m left in the ward with a scary nurse and a semi-conscious baby.

Just then, my father shuffles in.

He takes the scan and comes back half an hour later. In his amazingly quiet way, he manages to get directly to the man who performed the scan. There’s no doubt about it. The base of the spine is stuck to the back. Our fears are confirmed. She has a tethered cord.

She will need spinal surgery. How much and how soon, we don’t yet know. How effective the surgery will be is also unknown. There is only one known in my mind at this moment. I’m taking all my hurt and pain and fear and I’m shoving it aside. My baby needs me to be strong. That’s what I’m going to be.

Two minutes later, Nurse Panic has her arms around me as I weep inconsolably into her chest.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Rather Me than You

When the frig did I become the person other people are glad not to be?

It’s awful. A few pseudo-friends have said that every time they start complaining about how their kids won’t eat/sleep/perform on demand like circus elephants, they think of me and are grateful for what they’ve got.


Today it reached a new low. A pseudo-friend told me her child is forever complaining, so to put the child in her place she tells the child she should count her blessings she’s not like little O, who has to go to hospital all the time and whose mommy is going to have two more babies before little O even has enough time to enjoy being an only child.

Fuck you very much, I thought. Glad I can be your worst-case scenario. I hope your child finds horrible new ways to make your life difficult.

One of the reasons I was initially reluctant to tell anyone about O’s bowel condition was because I didn’t want them to pathologise her. Yes, she has a medical problem but she also has a wicked laugh, beautiful knowing eyes and the sweetest nature. Plus she’s clever and funny and lovely. And has big monkey ears that hear all. But people are starting to look at her with poor dear eyes. All they see is a girl with a bowel problem who may also have a spinal problem.

I’ve been thinking lots about the shaven headed kids I see every time I take O to hospital. Even from a distance they seem to have CANCER written on them. How crap must it be to constantly be identified by your disease? I hope their parents never run into my pseudo-friend.

And today a real friend told me she’s pregnant again. She has a daughter O’s age. My internal reaction – is she nuts? That’s so soon! So I guess that means I am officially in Denial-ville about my impending brood.

Come in.
It’s safe and warm here.
And I can’t hear anyone telling me they’re glad they’re not me.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

When is a gift not a gift?

And then, just as suddenly, it leapt onto us. We got a call from my dad today to say he’s managed to get an appointment for O’s MRI even sooner than expected. That’s brilliant! How soon? Tuesday. Four days time.
Slap me across the face for being weird but suddenly I’m crapping myself.
The end of November – the previous date for the MRI - felt too far away, but there’s something safe about distance. Little O will have to go under yet another general anaesthetic – her third this month. The good thing about the MRI is it will tell us if she has a severe spinal problem. The bad thing is. . . the same.

In South Africa, I know a lot of people who suspect they are carrying HIV but refuse to get tested. They reason that if they’re going to die anyway, why live the rest of their days knowing? This logic has always struck me as preposterous, absurd and selfish. Denial is weak, I thought. But there’s a part of me that suddenly understands the desire to not know, to be able to pretend.

I want so badly for the MRI to tell us that, although the anomaly the surgeon spotted when he operated exists, it is benign, innocuous, even character giving. I want to think of it like the bump on my nose, or the way R’s toes seem to stick together in a little furry clump. A funny little physical trait that distinguishes you from the person next to you, but that doesn't mean you have to be sliced up and put back together.

I don’t want him to tell me she has to have spinal surgery.
I don’t want him to tell me she has to come back in another few months for another MRI.
But I have a horrible feeling he might.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Baby Been Bad

I had five straight days without a doctor and then I had to ruin it today by going to see an obstetric specialist. I’ve been referred to her because my pregnancy has been deemed High Risk. For once, this is not because of my lack of fashion sense or the fact that I tend to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. (I once suggested to my delightful friend B that he looked like a paedophile. It was the way he was smiling smugly next to a small Mexican boy, and I swear for that moment he looked like he’d just had some little boy action.) Anyway, apparently having twins, combined with my family history of diabetes, makes me someone they need to poke, prod and point at a bit more regularly. So off I trot to Ms Dr Powerbabe and she tells me I’ve been very bad. I ask her to use a word that doesn’t have a value judgement attached. She tells me she’s judging my behaviour, not me. We somehow get into an argument that involves me calling on Descartes (I think, therefore I am), quoting Shakespeare (If you prick me, do I not bleed?) and reminding her that Dr Atkins, of the Famous Atkins Diet, died of heart problems.

I suspect I have become an annoying prat who badly wants to put my English literature degree to some use, so I shut up as she weighs me. She mumbles something about me being bad again, but this time I gravely agree. Then she realises I’ve actually lost a kilo and suddenly pronounces me good. I restrain myself from leaping through the window to my fat death.

And in happy news, little O has surprised us all by secretly sprouting a tooth.

Lesson to all parents – don’t be so busy looking up your child’s bumhole that you forget to look in her mouth.