Monthly Archives: February 2012

Phases past

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My little Mr 4 is growing up. I got my first genuine teenager style eye roll today! It was in response to one of my jokes too, which gives it even more street cred. His latest word is magical. He uses it when he means cool or tricky or amazing. Example, Mummy, I did something magical! Look! And he walks up the stairs on his tippy toes. You are magical darling, every piece of you. He also refused to take his teddy to day care last week for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic because it wasn’t cool.

I think 4 has been my absolute favourite age so far. Zero to one I don’t mind (ish), once you get past the night feeds. I don’t mind admitting I am no fan of one to about two and a half, maybe three. But once they hit the toilet trained, can put on own pants and hold a semi logical conversation stage, I’m lovin it sisters. The talented Mr 4 is my best reminder that all things must pass, so I remind myself that he too was once pooing in his pants, drinking from a bottle, screaming with irrational fervour and demanding every minute of my attention. It’s definitely good to look back at what we have achieved together (my husband and I) and know that this too will pass.

So far we have made it through:

  1. Night feeding phase
  2. Spewing after every feed phase
  3. 10 nappies per day (each) phase
  4. Dribbly messy pureed baby food phase
  5. Can’t look away for a minute lest they fall off the couch/bed/chair phase
  6. Have to carry them everywhere because walking is just too random and unpredictable phase
  7. Head banging phase (pretty much)

We thought we were through the waking in the night screaming phase but twin 2 has an ace up his sleeve. He is flying the flag for screaming night wakers everywhere. We are torn between the ignore and let him cry himself to sleep strategy and the create another crutch and hope he grows out of it strategy. Trial and error I guess. I look in on my gorgeous, sleeping Mr 4 and remember, in 3, 6, maybe 9 months, this will be a memory, we’ll roll our eyes as we remember this time. I just hope the cuddling Mummy phase never ends.

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Crystal ball

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My husband and I were predicting our sons’ future occupations tonight. It was so funny I laughed until I cried. That kind of can’t breathe properly laughing. We totally must retell this story to them at their 21st parties.

I remain adamant that I knew the twins in utero. I knew which one was which and what their names would be and what kind of people they were.  I knew Twin 1 would come out first and I knew he’d be the quiet, thoughtful type. A little more emotional than his brother, but more thoughtful too, kind and gentle. I knew Twin 2 would be louder, more boisterous, the first one to break a bone, but an infectious sense of fun, a grin full of mischief and a heart full of love. My predictions so far have proved correct (except the broken bone part, but he has split his lip open and fallen off a table). They are both loving, beautiful, kind and smart. When one is crying often the other will go and hug him. They give each other things like teddies, drinks, and biscuits when it seems like there’s a need. They sit close together on their little toddler size couch in the play room. Often I’ll leave them playing in the back yard only to come back a few minutes later to find them sitting side by side on the edge of the garden, just hangin’.

The talented Mr 4, according to me, will go into some kind of leadership career. Perhaps teaching, perhaps a writer or storyteller of some kind. Maybe a journalist. My husband says maybe an architect or urban planner. Funny that both our careers are reflected in those predictions.

Twin 1. I said a job that hasn’t been invented yet. Some kind of IT start up maybe. Something that we will both find a bit hard to understand and explain to others. Andrew said maybe a trade and I added that if he did, he’ll invent some new niche, create a ground up business and work for himself. It will be ingenious and meticulously run.

Twin 2, I said, will bum around Byron during his twenties and teach surfing. Or maybe he’ll travel and be a ski instructor. Either way, he won’t consider university until his late twenties. He will spend the bulk of his time after high school travelling, working odd jobs and at some point, predicts Andrew, become a stand up comedian.

His brothers will be in the front row.

From China to eternity part 2

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I felt hellishly smug that I had finally got some value for money out of an insurance company. I figure even with a lifetime of the maddeningly futile ‘private health insurance’ that we are forced to pay for and never use in Australia, I may still yet come out on top. Strangely the insurance company did not feel as happy about their 7 to 1 shortfall. When I enquired about renewing my policy the next year, not only had the premium increased to about $5000USD, maternity had been capped at $18,000 and there was a new clause whereby I had to buy TWO policies (one for my husband also) as maternity was no longer available on a single policy. So I may have been single handedly responsible for screwing international health insurance for the rest of you. Sorry about that.

Anyway, home with Archie, parents visiting from Australia, getting on with finding out how to be a mother. I did suffer from early baby blues, but took some action which really helped me feel better. I invited a friend around for a glass of wine, had a chat to the GP and bought some feel good DVDs (in a shop that may or may not have been legal). Finding Nemo cheered me up so much that it will always have a very special place in my heart. I started to find that motherhood was actually fun. I remember thinking how tiring and exhausting it was at the time. Oh you, I think now. All tired with your one little baby.

Generally speaking, the custom in China is that the mother and newborn baby do not leave the house for the first 30 days. This is mainly to ensure that the baby and mother do not get sick and to help the mother recover from childbirth. It makes sense, on many levels, but it wasn’t something I would consider. I was told by my husband’s boss that because I wasn’t housebound and swaddled in warm clothes that I would suffer from arthritis later in life. Can you imagine the ruckus I caused at the local supermarket when I took Archie out at one week? I had a gaggle of squealing (yes, actual squealing) Ayis (older ladies considered to be about my Mum’s age) flapping their hands to their faces like they were about to faint. Anyone would think Justin Bieber had just swanned in.

This brings me to the curious case of pseudo celebrity. Prior to Archie, we were an anomaly that was worth a good stare whenever we went out in public. After Archie, we were a travelling freak show. I was completely uncomfortable with the almost frenzy to touch, look at, photograph and fuss over my baby. Once, I heard running steps behind me on the street and suddenly a breathless young girl appeared and tried to shove her camera in his pram. Another time, we were standing at a hotel check in counter and the pram was beside me. I noticed too late that the lady standing next to me had reached in under the shade cloth and was gleefully snapping away. Once, while changing Arch in public (partially hidden behind some shrubs, I turned to see a line of women watching. Even young men would go silly in the presence of my mini celebrity. At an art gallery a super cool group of 20 something dudes were giggling and pointing like schoolgirls. At our local shops, next door to our apartments, Archie was known by name. As we’d walk past, a line of Ayis would gather on the verandah above calling out his name as we passed. I could go on and on.

It is important to me that I don’t sound as if I am trashing China. It’s an amazing place with some really incredible sights, people, customs and history. Some of the challenges in living there were hard to overcome, and this was the hardest as it went so much against what I was used to, how my own country operated.  In our own country, we largely close the doors and get on with the business of raising our children alone. Customs, history and the advice of others be dammed. In China, the child is kind of like communal property. You only get one shot at it (for the most part) so it is a hugely exciting thing that everyone wants to share. And with that one shot, why take any chances of infection and illness, especially in brutal winters with no heating in your house. Hence the 30 day confinement. It’s easy as a foreigner to deride antiquated or strange customs. Thinking about where those customs come from and the intent behind them though often reveals that we are the ones doing it strange.

From China to eternity part 1

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My husband and I really wanted to live somewhere overseas for a few years. This was pre-children of course. We both had a preference for somewhere in Asia. I landed a teaching job in an International School in Suzhou, a lovely canal ‘town’ (of a mere 2.5 million) near Shanghai. My husband took a TESOL course, took leave from his government job and looked forward to not being locked into any particular course of action. Amid visas, packing, shipping and farewelling, we researched a really good international health insurance policy. We knew that there was a very good possibility that we would have a child while we were in China. I didn’t want to take my chances with the public hospital system over there (of which there kind of isn’t one, for a foreigner anyway). We got the kind of policy where ‘covered’ means ‘covered’. 100%. I am not even sure if such a policy would even exist nowadays. For a one year policy with full maternity cover, we paid $1600USD. Our second year of cover cost us $1800USD. This seemingly inconsequential detail will become much more interesting later on in the story.

I fell pregnant in our first year in China and had Archie in 2007. There is nothing quite like an intense experience with the health care system of another country to really highlight that although you may like to think you are over the culture shock, you are most definitely not. My first appointment of a, shall we say, intimate nature, was enough to alert me to the fact that the concept of patient privacy was somewhat different in China. There is no fury like the fury of a woman in stirrups in a room where the nurse keeps going in and out leaving the door wide open. As waiguoren (foreigners) we got stared at wherever we went. Most of the time you could ignore it. Not this time.

Bedside manner was another story. After some early (minor) complications, I had to attend the local emergency department and was given shots of something. No gloves was alarming enough, but the spent sharps all over the floor was quite another matter. What was worse, was when talking to the obstetrician, and having checked that everything was alright, she told me flatly, your baby is alive now but might be dead next week. She took my breath away.

I was also very much in charge in many ways, and used Dr Google to self diagnose a few times. It was hard not having that absolute faith in the medical advice you were getting. One doctor told me to take aspirin for headaches. This advice came after 30 minutes of conferencing with his boss about the question. I was already taking blood thinning medication so to take aspirin would have been quite dangerous. Dr Google said paracetamol so I went with that.

I was able to dictate more than I would have in Australia what happened with the delivery. When told, on day 7 of week 40, that Archie would be at least another 10 days away, I said no, he won’t. I asked to be induced two days later and I doubt that in Australia the doctors would have agreed. We were also camped out in Shanghai at a hotel near the hospital and we didn’t want to be cooling our heels for days. Suzhou on any given day could be up to 4 hours drive from Shanghai and I didn’t want to take that risk of sitting at home waiting. We were actually told that if something were to go wrong NOT to call an ambulance but to call a taxi instead. Ambulances are not paramedics in China and do not come quickly. Knowing the way Chinese taxi drivers drive, I knew a taxi would get me there way faster anyway.

In the end we arrived calmly by taxi in the early evening, ready to be induced overnight. The hospital was one of the (if not the) most expensive in China. Given we had a kick ass insurance policy, it was reassuring we didn’t have to worry about a thing once we’d arrived. Our talented Mr (now) 4 arrived by emergency caesarean the next day just after lunch. Pretty much everyone has caesareans in China, so I wasn’t surprised when my labour went that way, although there was a legitimate reason. Archie had his cord wrapped around his foot and with each contraction his heart rate dipped dangerously low. I was never desperate for natural birth so this seemed fine with me, and a good way to get the whole thing over with.

The hospital was like a 5 star hotel. The best food we’d ever had. On our last night they wheeled in a white draped table with a 3 course dinner and bottle of lovely red to go with it! Being a really private person though, I didn’t like the endless parade of ward assistants who came in and out of my room, keen to help in any way they could. A friend who stayed in a Suzhou hospital actually had the assistants sleep on the couch in her room every night! Then there was the nurse who gave me a needle in the leg muscle (the most painful kind) at 5 am after I’d only finally fallen asleep at about 3. Kinda took me by surprise, you know, being ASLEEP AND ALL!!

Still, I was sad to leave as the whole hospital experience had been wonderful. My Midwife (MK) and Obstetrician (Nini Ji) were simply fabulous and I knew I’d never find food that good anywhere else!! As we left it was a formality to sign the discharge paperwork and the bill even though the insurance company was picking up the tab. I nearly fainted when I saw it. I would have if we’d been paying for it. $24,000USD. You read right. My Archie is the twenty four thousand dollar baby.

It might have been eye opening being pregnant and having a baby in China but actually HAVING a baby in China was a whole new world. To be continued…

I did a blog while living in China and it can be found here: http://nancyshack.blogspot.com.au/

 

 

It’s a passing phase!!

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Something has passed, a change blew through and the sun is a little shinier today. Every time it happens, I am surprised.  It happens again and again and again, yet I still forget, still get despondent, still feel hopeless.

I really can’t believe how things have changed around here in the past few weeks. For a start, I feel a world away from the way I felt when I wrote Listen on February 5th. Putting it out there, both here and to my GP was not only therapeutic, but incredibly empowering. I felt truly in control of my own story, my own world. Strong enough to say well, I’m here and I’m not coping. Far from feeling weak and like a failure, I felt completely lifted, whole and hopeful.

Six weeks ago we thought we’d never see the end of twin 2’s screaming. And his night waking. I thought regularly, why can’t they just be happy for just one whole day? I thought, will I ever feel anything other than total exhaustion by 10 in the morning? Let alone 5 in the afternoon? Will this be fun anytime soon?

I haven’t heard twin 2 do his special scream for….actually I can’t remember when I last heard it. The twins seems to have stopped or greatly reduced their frustration head banging. This morning I sat quietly on the couch drinking my coffee while chatting with Mr 4. Twins downstairs playing happily. Just when we set up the portable cot downstairs because we had decided to separate the twins at night due to one of them screaming through the night and waking his twin, the neighbours and Siberia, he’s stopped. We only split them up for one night. My toxic hour afternoons (on my own until my husband gets home) have been largely peaceful and very enjoyable. I’ve been falling in love again. With each one, individually. Having fun.

We sat down last night and remembered, again, that a phase had passed. Just like all the others. Ready for the next one. It’s not the end, we will tear our hair out again, I’ll be imperfect, yell, cry in a toilet, then up will come the sun, the phase will pass, we’ll laugh and love, and round again.

Shock

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I posted a week or two ago about dark thoughts like wondering if I’d really be sad if I lost one of my twins. It only takes a couple of near misses to shock you right to the core of what is actually real in your heart.

We moved house about three months ago. On moving day, we were waiting in the backyard for the Parents in Law to come over and pick up the kids. We were all just hanging out and playing. We had a fence to a steep driveway that led to a very busy road. The twins had worked out how to open the fence weeks before, but we were in close supervision that morning so (we thought) all’s fine. I was holding S and I saw R heading toward the fence. In the two seconds it took me to alert Andrew, R had opened and closed the fence and was running down the steep driveway. I screamed as Andrew got the gate open and ran for it, grabbing our boy by the arm less than 2 meters from the road. We sighed in relief and locked the gate again. About 10 or 15 minutes later I dissolved into tears. It was a weird delayed reaction. I couldn’t get the image of my boy running toward heavy trucks out of my mind.

This morning I was heading down the stairs to the playroom. I had R in my arms and S was walking down the stairs himself. They have been pretty good on the stairs lately so we’ve been letting them climb down independently. He slipped. Right in front of me. All I could do was watch him fall. He fell forward and then flipped over on his head continued down about 6 steps. I screamed like an idiot. I guess when you physically can’t do anything your body goes to the only other thing you have – make a loud scary noise so people come running. It was awful. And this is one of the things about having twins which is really hard. What do you do if you actually can’t save your child because to do so would be to drop the other one? My husband was too far away to have helped, and I traumatised poor R in my arms with my screams. Poor darling. Thankfully thankfully my little tripper was OK, but I was a shaking, crying mess. My reaction surprised me more than the fall I think. I couldn’t stop shaking or crying for a good while. The twins were over it before I was.

I didn’t need a reminder that I wouldn’t want to lose any of them. Of course not. That love, that utter fear when they run a little too far, too fast toward a danger that you may not be able to protect them from, what a reminder.