Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It Freaking Pours

I always get an omen before something major happens. This time it’s an oddly weird one. I wake up on my birthday. It’s bashing down with rain. O is screaming. R’s voice booms from somewhere outside “Fuck!”. I peer out of the window of the holiday apartment (a free weekend we got from one of those dreadful timeshare presentations) and notice R, three stories down, looking particularly dishevelled, fossicking about in the bush. R has the ability to grow hair faster than anyone I know and in places on his body that mean he may technically be classified as an animal. I watch his hairy back and face dipping in and out of the shrubbery for a while before making contact. He looks pleasingly Neanderthal. Perhaps this is some bizarre Austro-Hungarian birthday ritual he picked up from his relatives. He must be burying a lush treasure for me to find. After ten minutes of watching him hopelessly forage, I call out to him. He is startled and immediately looks guilty. “Sweetheart”, I start, empathically, “what exactly are you doing?”. “You’re not going to like it” he responds, always a terrible thing to say to someone. Particularly as it’s the first thing he’s said to me on the morn of my 33rd birthday. He then hesitates for a long moment. “Remember how you put your swimming costume on the balcony to dry?”...

Let me interject momentarily. I never put my costume out to dry. The aforementioned costume is somewhat of a luxury item. It’s tailor-made to women having twins and it allows a lot of room in the belly area, but at the same time is supportive and comfortable. I bought it at a maternity shop as a birthday present to myself. It was overpriced and it’s only going to be used for a very short time but I love swimming almost as much as I love self-administering pethidine and my non-maternity one was starting to strain horribly.

You put it out on the balcony” I remind him “I thought it was a silly idea”. “Whatever” R responds, “the point is, it blew away and now it’s gone”. I consider shouting but am afraid of what I'll say. Instead I pop my head back inside and tend to the screaming O.
This is going to be a fabulous birthday.

The details of the rest of the day are unimportant. They involve the worst torrential rain the seaside town of Port Macquarie has ever seen and an incident with a restaurant manager who insisted on charging me for bringing my own diabetic-friendly bread to his smug yuppie eatery. I hate using the word ‘discrimination’ about myself because it always drips with irony given I grew up white in Apartheid South Africa, but I heard myself telling said restaurateur that he was discriminating against me because of a medical problem. Sometimes I wish I’d never studied law. It brings out a particularly prattish side of my personality. We end up paying the surcharge and suspiciously inspecting our food for any signs of spit.

By 6PM, I am tired of waiting for R to give me a present so I ask for it. He looks guilty again and then admits he ordered it online and it hasn’t arrived yet. Cake? A candle? I venture. R explains cake will just push my blood sugar levels too high and ultimately upset me. He's right, but it feels miserable not to have cake on my birthday. R makes up for it by giving me the most fabulous hand-made card and indulging me in some of the best birthday sex I’ve had since I turned 22 at an army base in Israel (dark, horny men deprived of female company can be intensely satisfying). My day is almost salvaged when the phone rings. My brother in South Africa. He’s talking quickly in euphemisms and I know something is horribly wrong. Finally - it’s dad. He’s gone into heart failure.

Everything is blank for a second. My father is a strong, stoic man who has refused to see a doctor about a leaking valve he’s had since childhood. He’s also a fitness freak who does weights and runs every day. He seemed to be getting away with it. My brother tells me that ever since Dad arrived in South Africa for the holidays he’s been under the weather. Finally my mom forced him to see a doctor. He will require valve replacement surgery as soon as possible. As my parents are no longer insured in South Africa, he’ll have to come back to Australia for the operation as soon as he’s fit to fly. Doctors are saying next Monday. Which means little O will go in for her op the same day as my dad, but at hospitals one and a half hours away from each other.

I desperately hold back my tears as my dad’s weak voice leaks through the phone. He’s trying to wish me happy birthday and convince me everything is ok but he starts crying. My father is a man who never cries. He has to hand the phone to my mother because he is openly weeping. I hold in my own sobs until I get off the phone.
He’s going to be okay, I keep telling myself. He always is.
Sometimes it’s better to Anthony Robbins yourself into believing.

And O’s surgeon has suggested she have a more major op this Tuesday. It was meant to just be a reversal of the colostomy so that she’ll no longer have to wear a bag (hoorah!) but now he’s suggesting a bowel resection, which involves cutting part of the bowel out. It’s a controversial operation but when it succeeds the results are fantastic. We’re unsure what to do. I’m madly trying to get my hands on any publications that deal with the surgery.

My life never used to be an episode of General Hospital but I fear I’ve become the tragi-comic character the show’s writers secretly despise. I can see them in the writers’ room “Let’s chuck in an ailing father for Yidchick this week. We’re getting bored with all this sick baby stuff”. Thing is, if someone pitched me a character having twins who gets gestational diabetes and also has a baby who constantly has to have surgery, a father in heart failure and a chronically underpaid husband who’s frequently mistaken for an Al Quaeda operative, I’d tell them they were stretching believability. No one will buy it, I’d say. You can’t burden one character with all that melodrama. That would never happen in real life

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Four days til I get old

This is sad. I’ve started doing fantasy shopping. I go to exclusive online maternity stores, choose a whole lot of gorgeous clothes, put them in my basket and never check out. It’s tantric consumerist porn - I get rough and ready, tease my credit card out of my purse then… withhold. I suspect I am punishing myself for being about to turn thirty-three. Bloody hell, how did I get here so fast? I’ve reached the age that Jesus was when he carked it and I'm yet to perform a miracle. Have been keeping an eye out for Romans bearing crucifixes heading intently in my direction. Not to compare myself with Christ. He had much foofier hair and far sexier sandals.

And before I alienate all Christians out there, a moment of context. I’m rambling because I’m nervous. We meet with the bowel surgeon tomorrow to find out when O’s bowel surgery is. She’s recovering well from the spinal surgery but I’m not sure if she’s ready to go back into the cutting room again. Surgery is scheduled for ten days time, so we’ll see what he says.

And just when I need them, my parents have jetted off overseas for a month. They selfishly persist in being independent. They have careers, friends, interests outside of me. What’s the point? Why have kids if you’re going to treat them like adults instead of living in their pockets, pandering to their every whim?

It drives a girl to online shopping. Maybe this time I’ll actually consummate.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

So you're having Twins...

One of the things I love about living in New York, as I did a few years back, is that no matter how esoteric or freakish you are, you’re bound to find a group of people who share your whimsy. If you’re a Zoroastrian armpit fetishist (a group I identified with briefly while dating a wrestler), you’ll find ten others just as hyped about underarms as you. It was in New York that I started to enjoy joining groups. I joined a group of Jews Opposing Racism, (and was nearly tempted into joining a group of Racists Opposing Jews when they showed me the free SS boots you get in the start-up pack. Man, those Nazis knew how to wear shoes). I joined the NYU Screenwriters’ Association and went to a couple of meetings of the Africans in America society. Although I was the only person with an African passport there, I was ostracised for being white. Nonethelss, every group I joined, I found people I could really relate to, people who shared similar experiences or feelings to myself. I felt validated in the knowledge that I was not the only freakish Nork on the planet who felt the way I did. So it was with great excitement that I recently went to my first Multiple Birth Association meeting.

A group of women as large as myself waddled through the door of the exquisite, spacious house with their world-weary partners in hand. We all plopped down on couches and chatted politely. Two, three or four? How far are you? Are they identical? Are there twins in your family? (This last question is very thinly veiled code for ‘Was this an assisted pregnancy?’ and it carries a tacit judgement with it that annoys me. Even though my twins were not conceived through IVF I almost feel like telling them they were just to get the smug looks off their faces).

The convenor, a gorgeous woman in immaculately stylish clothes, introduced herself. Her name is A and she has identical twins boys who are eighteen months. She shows a picture of the delightfully cherubic lads, and we all smile and breath sighs of relief as we notice that neither of them seems to be 'special' in the mentally or physically disabled way that twins sometimes are. She insists that we help ourselves to the delicious spread of cheese and dips while she shows us a video. I'm just starting to think that this is all going to be a breeze when the la-dee-dah middle class charade ends. The ‘video’ (henceforth referred to as The Horrorshow) opens with a couple screaming at each other while two newborns cry incessantly in their arms. It goes on to follow the pregnancies and births of four women carrying multiples. By the end of the pregnancies the women are so gargantuan they look like ten of Pamela Anderson's breasts have been pumped into their bellies. Then they show the births. Seeing one alienoid head emerge from a vagina is disturbing enough. Watching two should be grounds for a compensation claim for Post Traumatic Stress. A few of the babies are horribly premature and have to be kept in intensive care for months, with thousand of tubes hooked up to their birdlike translucent bodies. If you’ve ever seen newborn mice, picture them pinker and smaller and you have an idea of what these premmie twins looked like.

The couples who do get to take their babies home seem worse off. They’re constantly feeding, burping, changing, settling the babies. At a certain stage the man invariably returns to full time work and the woman is left at home staring at a wall while the babies scream. Each mother describes the horror and endless exhaustion of having multiples. None of them end their quotes with anything that approximates a hopeful or positive angle. I keep waiting to hear that ‘it’s all worth it’ or ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way’ but the Horrorshow starts to become so bleak I feel like I’m watching a Ken Loach film. Ken Loach if he spent two days in a prison cell with Mike Leigh while taking downers. Finally it ends. Our lovely hostess smiles sweetly and asks if anyone has questions.


Then the fuckhead next to me puts her hand up. I expect her to ask if there's a way of terminating the twins at 32 weeks, but instead she wants to know if The Bugaboo Frog is the best stroller to get for twins or if the Mountain Buggy is better.

Does she not comprehend what we just witnessed? Has she no internal organs?

R and I stay for a half an hour but are forced to leave when another Knobhead wants to know if a foam rubber breast-feeding pillow is better than the rubber blow up ones.

Denial and Consumerism. The only way we multiple-carrying-humanoids cope with the crushing reality that we’re about to embark on a feckin tough journey.

Am thinking of popping the twins out then rushing back to New York to join the Mothers Who Deserted their Families Opposing Reality Association.

Anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lard, cheap lard for sale...

And in the midst of being swept away in relief and joy, I realise there is the small matter of me being hugely overpregnant. I say overpregnant because, although I am only 24 weeks, the doctor is measuring me at 33 weeks. It’s quite normal for twins, he assures me. My body disagrees. There’s nothing normal about the fact that, for once, my arse is not my biggest appendage. Also I have a spot of gestational diabetes. Probably more a large splatter than a spot. This is common amongst twin pregnancies. And fat Eastern European Jews. And members of my family. So it’s not like I wasn’t expecting it. But it means I have to prick myself four times a day to check my blood. And I have to avoid most carbohydrates, tropical fruit and men with moustaches. Will you think me sick if I admit I actually enjoy checking my blood? There’s something quite satisfying about seeing the effects that food has on my body. R and I now have a tipping competition where we each guess what my blood will be. The closest gets to eat a diabetic lolly. God we know how to party.

The Type A competitive elements of my personality also enjoy the fact that I’m constantly putting myself to the test. At this stage of the pregnancy I’m mostly passing. Any blood glucose reading between 4 and 7 is acceptable. I feel good about fives, but slightly nervous about sixes. When O was in hospital I had one or two nines. I was astounded at the impact stress has on blood glucose levels. I did a few little tests where I’d eat nothing, ask R to give me a big fright, then test my blood. Once, it got to ten with two frights and no food. Fuck, my body’s dumb. If only I could trick it into making me thin, we might have a working relationship.

Phwyoooo! Feels great to return to my old neuroses and plague myself with something other than tethered cords and the impact of morphine on an infant.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


We're home! Am so exhausted I can barely lift my fingers to my keyboard, but little O is doing amazingly well. She's sitting up and playing and laughing and being her funny self. The relief has washed me away, I feel like I'm a black and white (or grey, more accurately) cardboard person. I truly believe that everyone's good wishes and prayers helped O and R and I to get through this. Now if all you wonderful people could come over and play with her for an hour so I could sleep, I'd be truly grateful.

More, much more, later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Letter to my Daughter

My darling O,

I hope you will read this on a day when you have been running and jumping and stretching and rolling around. A day when you will be amazed to hear that you once had a spinal problem. And I hope you will feel the joy and amazement that I am feeling now. I am so relieved the operation is over. Now you can start to heal and grow, unhindered.

You are so brave, my precious girl. When the doctors poke and jab and examine you like a specimen in their Petri dish, your patience astounds me. Each day you bring us so much happiness, but today you have truly humbled me. Your spirit and purity and innocence give me the strength I need to endure the endless hospital hallways, the incessant beeping machines, the garish fluorescent lights. The torment of seeing you in pain. You came out of surgery and still managed to smile for me as I sat by your side. Each moment, I watch you become yourself. A self so beautiful, so lovely, so pure that it sometimes startles me.

Velvet child, you have taught me to feel with a depth I had no idea I could experience.

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's On

Long day at the hospital. Thankfully, they've deemed O fit to operate on. Surgery scheduled for tomorrow. Warned me again about potential paralysis and leaking of spinal fluid. Also told me more details about the surgery that are a bit unsettling. Too tired to elaborate but am feeling so unsure. R couldn't be there as he had to work. Ironically, while O was being investigated by the neurosurgeon, R had to host a meeting of international neurologists. You'd think for all his dedication he'd be on a decent salary but he's earning a third less than I earn as a script editor. But that is a subject for an entirely different conversation.

Have been inundated with lovely messages that make everything a lot more bearable.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Attack of the Soppy Hormones

I won’t tell you about the last two days spent waiting in doctors’ offices because I can’t bear to drag you through the tedium. Okay, maybe one sentence. Baby-O-still-has-a-temperature-new-round-of-antibiotics-goes-against-my-every-instinct-will-she-be-better-for-surgery-no-one-will-say.

Something else now. While this whole medical shenanigan hullabaloo has been going on, I’ve tried to have one activity a week with my little primate-esque bub that doesn’t involve doctors or the word ‘colostomy’. I take her to music classes with other bubs her age. A has-been folk singer who has been on the turps for too long strums cheesy guitar songs while the kids clap their hands. Then they’re given drums and maracas to play with and the mothers are encouraged to join in. It’s all very Stepford Wives, but at least no one mentions ano-rectal or spinal anomalies.

Here’s the thing:
All the other bubs are crawling and standing up and my little O can’t even sit yet. I know this shouldn’t hurt, but, because of all she’s gone through, it does. It forces me to admit that her frequent hospitalisation has delayed her development, that she’s missing out on the ordinary, fun, exploratory things her first year of life should entail. I feel like it’s my fault. I see all my Yiddishe Mama ancestors shaking their heads at me – for what you punish the child by always sending her to doctors? You want she should be normal? Leave her alone for five seconds!

I have six close friends who are currently having problems conceiving children (!). It is so ironic to me that I - the girl who doctors assured would never have children - am not in the same boat. I feel like I stole one of their tickets and soon someone will figure out the mix-up. I was dreading telling them I am pregnant, with twins no less. It didn’t seem fair. Each one of them admitted that they cried soon after I told them. One of them pushed me away physically. I understand this so well when I see baby O struggling to sit while her contempories are crawling and standing. Especially when the other mothers look at O with pity dripping from their faces.

There’s an Afrikaans word for pain. Eina! It can be used as an exclamation (like Ouch!) or to describe a wound. I feel like my heart is Eina sore. It’s leaking sadness (sadness, not pity) for little O. And for Ova Girl, and LB and NG and NS and DJ and AI, whose babies are all somewhere in the Universe, just a smidgeon out of our reach... waiting to meet their wonderful mums.