Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Love is not Love

This morning started rather badly. As have most mornings in the past week. We entered this latest monster stage last Thursday.

Both kids have entered said monster stage.

Normally, it's just one at a time. But no. Not this time. I'm blaming the end of the school year. I always have to blame something.

Master J wakes up between 6.15am and 6.30am. He opens his bedroom door and starts pottering around rather noisily. I stumble out of bed (my dearly beloved blissfully asleep), put him back in his bed and silently curse his Momo Monkey clock, which stopped working a month ago. And then I swear silently because we can't afford to get him a new one because of the recent huge car bills, and because we need 2 new tyres, and because life is just flippin' expensive.

So I stumble back to bed wired up and thinking about how I could earn a few extra dollars ever week But then I start panicking because how on earth could I fit anything else in without losing the plot?

Then I usually hear Miss L get up and go to the bathroom, shortly followed by Master J who  never wants to miss out on any toilet fun unless he's the one having to go. The bickering starts.

I stumble out of bed again. Master J goes back to his room with the threat of going down the "ladder of consequences" if he gets up again.

Miss L goes back to bed. A few minutes later, one of two things could happen:

1) Master J goes to the bathroom and I jump out of bed and run to get there before he's taken his stinky poo-y (how does one even spell that?) nappy off and spreads the stuff everywhere.

2) Miss L comes into our room declaring that her brother has pooed  and that his nappy is about to overflow. So I stumble out of bed again, a little faster this time.

By this stage, dearly beloved has usually emitted a few grunts and has very occasionally got up himself.

Dirty nappy incident averted, I look at the time. Is it worth going back to bed? Usually the attraction of my hubby's warm body and strong arms is too strong and I snuggle up for a very few minutes of bliss and tenderness.

7.15am. Miss L's Momo Monkey clock opens his eyes. Both kids come running to be the first to jump on me and give me a cuddle. Kind of sweet, but mostly irritating as inevitably one comes second and starts whining and screaming.

The hubby and I get up. Miss L, who has been getting dressed by herself for months, now whines for help. My patience breaks down very quickly with whining. It winds me up at the speed of lightning. So despite my best efforts, my tone changes. Miss L picks up on it. She starts whining and telling me that I'm mean. I try to help her get dressed despite my mounting irritation. She finds every possible way to slow us down. But the time she's dressed, we are both close to tears.

In the meantime, Master J has been crying and shouting "me sad" for who knows what reason. Dearly beloved is nowhere to be seen. I usually manage to calm him down by putting a Spiderman clip on my phone. As soon as he is settled, Miss L starts whining because her hair isn't done, or because she wants to watch Spiderman too and her brother won't let her, or because her sock is on sideways. You get the idea.

My dear beloved starts making breakfast and asks the kids what they'd like. "Wice kwispies", says Master J. "Oats, blueberries, milk and glucose", says Miss L, "but I put the glucose myself after you've put the milk". If we get the order wrong, all hell breaks loose.

We give the children the 1 minute transition warning. Spiderman will have to go during breakfast. The minute passes. The mobile is turned off. The crying, whining and "me saaaaaaad" starts. And goes on. And on. And on.

It usually takes me 15 to 20 minutes to calm him down with bribery, threats, taking him on my knees, reading a story, cuddles, or whatever works, for goodness' sake

Finally, usually at about 8.25am, 2 hours after being first woken up, things settle down. They put their shoes on, get in the car, and we go to school and kindy (on a kindy day). 

Calm. Quiet. Sweet silence.

On the days when Master J and I hang out, we usually have a great time. He's fun and even tempered and generally helps me forget the hideous start by about 10am.

But I hit a wall this morning.

I told both kids that I was tired of being treated like a slave and being disrespected. I will now stubbornly ignore them if they are whining or if they are disrespectful. My life is going to be hell. I have no illusions. And I hope it doesn't take too long for them to change their attitudes.

It strikes me that God is probably often fed up with me just as I am with my kids. He must wonder why on earth I'm never happy with what I have and why I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Why I ask him for things more than I thank him for what he's already given to me. Why I don't listen when he speaks to me. But just like I love my children with all of my being, he loves me. And he forgives. And he forgets.

This is my favourite Shakespear quote.
It means a lot to me.

Kia Kaha! Be strong!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

50 random facts about me

Okay, so I had writer's block this morning. I'm sitting there, child free, with a delicious coffee and I can't remember a single thing I wanted to write about this week. That's the problem when you're a working Mum and you only get very limited time to yourself.

Writer's block on this Saturday morning.

So, I thought that instead of getting deep and telling you why I love my Muslim sister and brother-in-law, I'd tell you 50 random facts about myself, in no order of importance. Here goes:

1. I have one obsession at the moment: nail art.

2. I'm very particular about spelling. I spot spelling mistakes a mile away. And it irritates me a lot, especially in professional and published writing.

3. I love God and believe that Jesus Christ is my saviour. I'm a practising Christian.

4. I have a Masters in French and English languages and literature. I have a Bachelors in Sociology.

5. I love my husband and my two children with every fibre of my being and every breath I take.

6. I wish I could paint, or draw, or be arty in any way. But I'm not.

7. I can't play a single instrument (in contrast to my very accomplished pianist husband), and I can just about sing properly. Not in public though. Ever.

8. I've always had body image issues.

9. I love fresh flowers. Sunflowers, peonies and callas are my favourites.

10. I have a passion for baking and cooking. 

Fructose free chocolate cake and icing. In a Tupperware box of course.

11. I will never have enough cook books.

12. I lost 20 kilos after the birth of my second child. I haven't put them back on!

13. I was born in Ferkessedougou (good luck saying that one!), in the north of the Ivory Coast, West Africa. I lived there for the first 13 years of my life.

14. I have 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister.

15. My parents were missionaries.

16. I don't know where Home is.

17. I have dual citizenship: Swiss and English, and New Zealand permanent residency.

18. I'm pretty obsessed with boxes of any kind. So of course, I love Tupperware.

You could say my pantry is organized. Blame the Swiss blood.

19. I'm terrified of, and disgusted by, cockroaches (13 years of life in West Africa, need I say more?).

20. I enjoy flipping through interior design magazines and dreaming of my future house.

21. I love buying new clothes but can rarely afford it.

22. Before I go to bed, I go on my knees next to my children's beds. I pray for them and I inhale (read "drug myself with") their smell. I can never get enough.

23. My sister and my brother-in-law are Muslims. I love them to the moon and back.

24. I am unable to watch horror movies, let alone remotely violent movies. The latest James Bond was probably my limit of tolerance. There is enough violence in the world. I don't need to see it in my relaxing time.

25. I'm halfway through and I don't know if I'll make it to 50!

26. My favourite dish is lasagne.

27. I hate doing crafts with my kids because I can't stand the mess at the end of it.

28. I'm a little OCD about tidying up. Everything has to have a labelled box. I own a label maker and lots of sticky labels.

29. I'm pretty nutty about good coffee. If it's not good enough, it goes back to the kitchen.

30. I don't eat sugar. My family mostly doesn't eat sugar.

31. I show people how much I love them by cooking and baking for them.

32. I dream of driving around Australia with my husband once the kids have left home.

33. My favourite ice-cream flavours are coffee (no surprise, right?) and coconut.

34. I passed my driver's licence at age 18. I failed the first time, and passed the second time.

35. I don't like exercising. At all. It's like torture. I only do it, sometimes, because I  know it's good for me. If you know of a way to learn to like exercise, I'm all ears. Really!

36. I eat the Trim Healthy Mama way. 

37. The meaning of names are very important to me. My names are Ann (grace) Christiane (follower of Christ). My husband is Serge (to serve) Raymond (wise counsel), my daughter is Letitia (joy) Awatea (the rising of the light), and my son is Joakim (God has established) Arthur (strong as a bear). All our names suit us so well. It's almost freaky.

38. I love perfect poached eggs. I can cook perfect poached eggs.

Perfect poached eggs on mushrooms and bacon. My idea of heaven.
39. I prefer warmer weather to colder weather. 10 years in Wellington has not been easy.

40. My favourite cars are BMWs (they are so silent, so powerful, so elegant) and Audi TTs.

41. I can't decide on a profession. I have so many ideas.

42. I recently discovered that I'm an introvert who likes socializing. 

43. I'm a highly sensitive person.

44. My husband and I both had PND (Post Natal Depression).

45. My favourite colour is coral blue.

Two of my favourite things: coral blue and nail art.

46. I have asthma and don't go anywhere without my inhaler.

47. I wore glasses until I had laser eye surgery 3 years ago.

48. I remember places by the caf├ęs and restaurants I visited.

49. I'm a procrastinator and I love that word.

50. I speak French, English and German. I understand Swiss-German.

And there you go. Wow, that was harder than I expected it to be.

I would love to know some random facts about you too. And I'd love to know where you are in the world. Please do leave me a note. I love connecting with you, my reader. That's the reason I blog!


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

My man had PND

My first child, a girl, was a few weeks old. I cried all day. I was a mess. My husband didn't know what was happening to me. He looked at me with despair in his eyes, with sadness, with a sense of powerlessness that made me cry even more. He got angry and yelled at my Post Natal Depression. I felt like he was yelling at me. I hated my PND. I hated myself all the more for putting my husband through the pain of witnessing my distress. 

With counselling and medication, I got through it. My husband was relieved to have his wife back. Our daughter was 2.5 years old.

We didn't want her to be an only child. I got pregnant and gave birth to a gorgeous strong boy. The birth was hideous. The first two weeks were okay. My husband got up with me at night when I was feeding. I thought, "it's going to be okay".

The third week I started crying. Every time I breastfed and the milk came down, an intense and overpowering sense of despair would overcome me. A friend, who was a La Leche League volunteer at the time, recognized the signs of D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, which is caused by a "sudden drop in the feel-good hormone dopamine, which pre-empts the release of breast milk. This leads to strong negative emotions and lasts for as long as milk let-down continues - usually  between 30 to 90 seconds". It was aweful and with every single milk let-down, I wanted to die.

But I could also feel the claws of Post Natal Depression latching on to my head, my heart, my senses. My desire to do anything was disappearing, my sense of self-worth was withering, my interest in my kids was dismal to say the least.

As I went downhill, so did my husband.

He was angry. He yelled. He slammed doors. He didn't want to have anything to do with the kids. He was impatient. His jaw was constantly clenched. He accused me of being the one who wanted children. He said he didn't want children.

I cried even more. I was desperate to get better because I couldn't bear to see my husband like that, and yet I could not.

The fourth week, my parents arrived. My Mum took over the cooking and looking after my daughter. My Dad took over looking after my son. Rocking him. Burping him. Getting him to sleep. Over and over again. He was doing what I had dreamed my husband would do, but was incapable of doing. 

At the time, I was so disappointed in my husband. Disappointed that he wasn't living up to my expectations. That he wasn't ready to step-up and be the Dad I had imagined him to be. Couldn't he see that I couldn't do anything and that it was his job to fill in where I couldn't? Why was he letting my parents do everything? Why did he have to work such long hours when I so desperately needed him close to me?

The fifth week, I was having panic attacks and crying all day. I wanted to die. I didn't care how, but I just didn't want to exist for another second. So I asked my Mum to take me to the hospital. I left my Dad with my baby. I knew he had formula and bottles that we had bought a few days earlier as a back-up plan. But really, at that point, I didn't care.

I got help that day. The CATT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) team took over. They put me on anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, both of which meant I had to stop breast-feeding. After my parents left, friends took over and were there for me.

But my husband suffered in silence. 
He didn't talk. 
He exploded occasionally. 
He was angry.
He still clenched his jaw. 
He hated the lack of excitement in our lives. 
He felt helpless and hopeless. 
He felt powerless. 
I felt like he resented me, when in fact he resented my PND and its implications in our lives: he felt like he had lost the woman he married. He would yell and say "I've got bloody PND too, so give me a break!". And so, several times, I encouraged him to go see our doctor to talk about what he was going through.

But he never did.

For quite a long time, I was resentful of that. I mean, why should I get help and get treated for the benefit of our family, if he wasn't going to do the same? I looked for support groups online for men with PND, but couldn't find any (this was 3 years ago now).

So I gave up. I let him deal with it on his own. I was there for him when he wanted to talk. And always reminded him that doctors were there to help. But his fear of being put onto medication held him back. I strongly believe however, that had there been more of an awareness of PND in men, he would have reached out. He wouldn't have felt so alone.

The first two years of our son's life were pretty hideous, both of us navigating the roller-coaster of depression, all the while running a business and raising two gorgeous kids. I'm sure that our marriage survived because through it all we continued to:
  • go out on a date most weeks, even if we just went for a walk or out for a drink or a movie. We didn't always talk much. We quite often argued. But we always respected our two golden rules: no talk of work and no talk of the kids;
  • ask for forgiveness and forgive each other every night for what we had done and/or said to hurt the other;
  • give each other child-free space every weekend;
  • communicate, communicate, communicate.
Remember these four tips!

Three years after the birth of our son, things are a lot easier. I'm still taking meds, but am starting to consider coming off them. My husband is back to normal. And the kids drive us crazy with love and crazy with frustration, depending on the moments.

I hope this post has encouraged you in some way. It's hard for Mums with PND to talk about this stuff, and it's even harder for our men. The more we talk about PND in fathers though, the more they will feel able and confident to reach out for help.

If you know of support groups for men with PND, please share them with us.

See more on PND in Dads here.

Kia Kaha! Be Strong!