Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Moments like these...

And then I find myself in the children’s hospital again, all neon lights and bossy nurses. Little O has the anaesthetic mask on and is screaming, her eyes fixed on mine. Slowly, slowly, she relents to the drug. Her eyes haze over then close. This time it’s an MRI to check the progress of her spine. It’s over relatively quickly and we’re in recovery. Am half expecting shouts of “Norm” (from Cheers) from the recovery nurses who all recognise us. O is angry. Like me, she’s had enough of this hospital caper. She’s older now and can understand it slightly better and she wants out. And this time, she gets her way.

Three hours later we’re in the sunshine. And a visit to O’s neurosurgeon last week to discuss the scan. He has good news. The spinal cord hasn’t re-tethered. As long as she has regular checks with the neurologist he only needs to see her when she starts school. And suddenly we’re there. That point I was dreaming of when she was having monthly surgery. She’s okay. She’s more than ok. She’s bloody marvellous. And she hasn’t progressed from standing to walking but she’s learning each day.

So the twins may be driving me insane and I may have no life of my own but for this one moment it’s all peaceful and manageable. More than manageable actually. Bloody great.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mothering 101

When the water washes over me and I’m deep, deep under, the sky above and the liquid below become indistinguishable. And so it is that my Mondays become Wednes-Fridays and the weeks swoosh past me, a faint blur of nappies and tears and toothless smiles and endless excretions and ablutions and confusion. Not last week, however. Last week I came to an abrupt crash-hault. I was admitted to a family residential centre with my three bubs. The aim was to help all of us learn how to sleep properly. Disappointingly, without the aid of marijuana.

My arrival at the hospital-esque complex was inauspicious. They slapped a band on my wrist with a number on it, grabbed my children and did the same to them. Call me paranoid but we’re Jews. We’re naturally suspicious of anyone who rounds us up and whacks a number on our arms. Before I can say “Arbeit Macht Freiheit”, I’m separated from my babies and pushed into a small room with fluorescent lighting and carpets that were last washed when people wore Disney shirts without irony. The Admitting Nurse, who I’ll call Anna R. (for Rexia) explains the Regime. (An aside: have you ever noticed how nurses are either frighteningly skinny or alarmingly huge? There’s got to be something Freudian in there about having to look after everyone else without knowing how to look after themselves. Either that or they’re actually all ordinary sized but I have a visual disorder that only kicks in when I see nurses. Nothing Freudian in that).

Anna tells me the babies will be placed on a strict wake-feed-play-sleep routine. (And they’ll have fun when they play goddammit!). They will be left to cry for a certain amount of time so they learn to self soothe. (This is the equivalent of hitting someone to stop them from being violent. There’s nothing soothing about being left to scream). Anna talks me through the regimented routine, explaining I will need to be on hand at all times as they can’t hire extra staff for me. She reminds me I’m taking up the place of three women (surprisingly she’s not referring to the size of my arse - usually patients come in with only one child).

And so the Monday becomes a Wednesday becomes a Saturday and my three babies now hate me. I’m the person who leaves them to scream while I nervously pace outside examining the vomit-mustard carpet. I’m the one who comes into the room and pats them (a lame gesture they obviously find condescending because they scream louder when I do it). I’m the one who used to pick them up and rock them but who now mumbles “Shhh, shhhh” then walks out. I’m the nasty old bag who brought them into this cold, over-airconditioned hole so I could listen to the advice of strangers who wouldn’t know maternal instinct if it patted their bottoms in a heart-beat rhythm, held them close against its soft bosom and sung sweetly until they fell asleep when they were good and ready.

During one of these sessions in which the nurse forbids me to pick the children up, I am struck by how funny it is that I’ve come to a specialised home to study what is effectively how to neglect and ignore my children. Crack Whores have been onto this technique for ages. Leave a child to cry. Wander in occasionally without making eye contact. Pat them while looking the other way, not even bothering to pick them up. Mumble to them to keep quiet then leave again only to come back hours later.
This I need to pay someone to teach me?

It wasn’t all bad. No, let me rephrase that. It was all bad.

Needless to say, I discharged the family early. I’m sick of being told how to care for my children. I know how to screw them up by myself, thank you very much. My family’s been doing it for generations. Plus, the Learned Neglect Technique didn’t seem particularly effective. The twins still weren’t sleeping properly. O went totally off her food and starting having tantrums every time I put her down. I began to question why I came here at all. I was doing just fine with my own Overinvolved Slightly Inconsistent Irritable Mother technique. Sure it didn’t allow me to sleep. Or shower. But we were saving a crapload on water bills.

The in-house psychiatrist explained I was resisting change because I’m using denial as a method to cope with my extremely abnormal situation.
I’m not in denial.
What’s abnormal about my situation?
I’m not the only woman who ever had three babies in thirteen months, one of whom has had constant surgery and can’t yet walk, the other two who don’t realise that sleep is something they need to do for more than ten minutes at a time.
And, get this... she was wearing a jacket with padded shoulders. And pleats. And she’s talking to me about denial?

So for now we’re back to rocking and holding and endless screaming.
But all is not lost.
I have a Crack Whore called Muffy lined up for next week. She’s giving me a class on sleep and settling that I’m sure will be invaluable.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows


The member of the Parent Support Team who barges into my house should have been trained by the Apartheid Police. She is patronising, invasive and – I’m sure – a whiz with a cat-o-nine-tails. She proceeds to tell me everything I’m doing wrong. The list is extensive. It starts with relatively innocuous things like the way I’ve positioned the cots in the room (I asked for support not interior decorating). It goes on to include the fact that I let the dog on the couch, that I play inappropriate music to the children (what’s wrong with Black Sabbath?) and that I let O still use a dummy. But the kicker is this – she insists I’m underfeeding the twins. Despite the fact that they’re thriving, putting on weight and eating as much as the paediatrician recommended they eat, she tells me I’m starving my children. Then she asks me if I have a lot of play time with them. “Not as much as I’d like” I stammer. Wrong answer. She launches into a diatribe about how I’m not emotionally connecting with my children enough and not stimulating them, which will lead to horrific problems later on.

Then she asks if I’d like her to come back next week to ‘help’.

Did I miss something? The troll comes into my home and tells me I’m not feeding or loving my children enough. The two things a mother fears most. Then she wants me to invite her back? I asked for support, not a session with a dominatrix.

After she leaves, I load up the triple stroller with babies, I put the dog on her leash and I walk. I walk and I walk and I walk. I am Fury personified. I am Rage with a Mummy-Tummy. I am Rotund and Restless and Angry.

And half way between putting O’s dummy back in her mouth and picking up Pepper’s poo, it all clicks into place. This woman has done me a favour. When I was pregnant everyone told me if ever I was offered help I should accept it. Since I’ve had the twins I’ve been inundated with people ‘helping’. I’ve accepted every offer. But this help has often manifested in advice, always conflicting. Sleep them on their backs. Turn them on their sides. Sleep them Together. Apart. Together in the Day. Apart at Night. Feed them at the same time. Feed them on Demand. Feed them four hourly, three hourly, only so much, as much as they’ll take. Burp them sitting up, burp by patting backs. Hold them, don’t hold them, eat, drink, be merry but not too merry, go rapidly mad as people constantly tell you what to do… I asked for support, not a Bob Dylan song.

And then I realise these are my children. If there's anyone who knows how to look after them it's dazed, muddled, sleep deprived Me. They asked for a mother, not a spineless amoeba.

Wish them luck...