Dear readers of this blog, it’s been a while. This is the second large lapse in our blog since we left New Zealand and a lot has happened since we last blogged, some good some bad. I’ll get the bad out of the way first.
When I gave birth to our son Toby on the 18th of May I was torn badly. What is called a 4th degree tear, and what to me meant a loss of mobility, a great deal of pain and loss of control of my bowel. I know dear reader that you don’t want to know about this in great detail, to be honest I don’t want to talk about it in great detail either. But the sense of complete isolation in what I was going through when I tried to google other women who had experienced this complication in child birth compels me to be honest with my friends and family and anyone else who might stumble upon this blog. It was the most terrible thing I have ever faced, and in the space of moments I went from a young healthy woman to a person who could not venture out of her flat, for fear of episodes of incontinence, and a keen walker and cyclist of many miles, to a woman who triumphed in the month of August, three months after giving birth in her ability walk a slow mile. It was difficult reality to come to terms with.
It is getting better, very slowly. Now in September I am able to walk two miles, I hope that in a few months I will be up to more. The rate of improvement is slow and gradual. The control of my body is more slow to return, this is in part because the muscles in the pelvic floor were damaged, and in part because the nerves connecting them to my brain were severed and have to grow back and new pathways must be formed. This takes time, and in the meantime physio visits are a regular part of my schedule, tests are booked and with any luck will eventuate in October and I have taken up yoga to try to take control of whatever I can take control of. One of the more difficult things that I have been told, is that it will not be a 100% recovery, there is no guarantee of how much things will improve, but it will not go back to the way it was. To be entirely honest this was a devastating thing to hear in May/June, but as things have slowly improved it becomes a disappointment rather then the despair from earlier.
Motherhood was a bit of a kick in the teeth initially, due to being in incredible amounts of pain for the better part of a month I was not able to hold, carry, lift, sit up, walk any further then the bathroom etc. and so the vision I had had of motherhood, realistic or not was vastly different to the reality of it. I did imagine that I would be able to carry my child, feed him sitting up (though this leads onto another story), go for little walks with him in the pram, and all the other things that I had seen other mothers do, that I had seen my sister and my friends do with their babies. This wasn’t to be. We soldiered through breast feeding, one day at a time using a side to side lying down position so that the baby’s weight did not rest on my body. In retrospect I am surprised that I did not give up on this, but as breast feeding afforded the cuddles with Toby that I wasn’t able to otherwise have, I was motivated to keep going with it. The first month was very much about just feeding the baby.
In the hospital had I not felt that it would indicate some kind of depressive state of mind I would have asked the nurses to take Toby away and bring him back when he needed feeding, I was so tired, in the way that a person is tired when recovering from injury I was tired, and in the way that a woman recovers from three days of labour I was tired. But when I got home this is what my family did for me without judgement. For the last three months after being discharged from hospital I have been surrounded by friends and family, who due to the fact that we lived so far from home, went to enormous lengths, in some cases literally the other end of the earth, to be there for us.
At this point when we both feel the need to exclaim “but we love Toby,” which we do, but have to keep explaining to medical professionals who seem to only catch us at our worst possible down swings (Jeremy has suggested the the encounters with some of these people might have some correlation to these moods). Of course we love Toby, we love him with the ferocity and paranoia of new parents. I have never been more frightened, and more confident in equal measure then when I suddenly had responsibility for this new person. And Toby is a fantastic person.
It’s amazing what you end up loving about a baby. I was in love with his long little fingers when he was born, and the way he curled them together, in this evil genius way. Sort of like Mr Burns from the Simpsons. During the week after the birth in the hospital he spent a lot of time in the night co-sleeping with me in a single hospital bed, the nurses having become frustrated with having to keep getting the baby out of the plastic crib by my bed for night time feeding, ended up just leaving him in bed with me between feeds. I use the term co-sleeping liberally, I didn’t sleep, I did spend a large proportion of the night watching him uncurl his little fingers and recurl them again. I had a theory that this was what he had done in the womb after it got to cramped to move around terribly much. Developmentally we have watched Toby free his hands (on the sudden realisation that there is more space on the outside of the womb) and then find them, (which is where I guess he realises what hands are, and that they are connected to him and can be connected to each other again).
In writing this it occurs to me that I have memories apart from those that dealt with the 4th degree tear. What is more interesting is that the memory of Toby’s little Mr Burns fingers are more powerful then those of grief and pain. I feel lucky, because although the memories associated with the accident are not insubstantial or faded at this point, the memories of Toby’s first hours and days of life are more powerful and more real then even that trauma. I guess that is what being a parent is about.
Hopefully now we can move onto more exciting news. We are about to embark on a house move to Warwick, Toby is four months old today, and we have two New Zealand back packers called Myf and Georgia staying with us for a few weeks to lend a much needed hand.