Here I am, hanging out on the couch, breastfeeding this gorgeous little bug and watching Blackadder. It’s not such a bad life. 🙂
Rose and I are trading misery. I’m on the improve and actually having patches where I feel good! Rose is laid up with severe sciatica and feeling particularly awful that she’s in too much pain to be able to babywear Poppy. It’s been a challenging week in many ways. I had to ask for help the other night to get Rose to the hospital for pain relief and to hold Poppy for a couple of hours so I could get some sleep. It’s hard to need help! I feel ashamed and afraid that we’ll be judged, afraid of annoying people or burning out our support. I keep reminding myself that if the situation was reversed I feel good about helping my friends and don’t judge them, that genuine community relies on reciprocity otherwise it’s just a bunch of people treating others as projects they try to fix. I remind myself that is okay to feel scared and ashamed but I still need to ask for help and keep being open about where things are really up to, that this is part of what’s keeping us safe, and it’s also valuable for others who may face harsher reactions when they try to share the painful aspects of their experiences. But it’s still hard to do, hard to make eye contact, to say thankyou, to be gracious, to let go of pride and shame, to say “thankyou” instead of mumbling “sorry”. I am practicing gratitude and lucky to be given the chance to do so.
We were able to get Rose to a doctor and a physio yesterday and we are hopeful we have a plan and some better meds that will help her rest and heal up.
We had a challenging night the other night with both our girls in tears, I held Star, and Rose comforted Poppy until she needed feeding at which point we swapped, Rose hugging Star on the couch and trying not to pass out with fatigue. We have been trying to arrange a family trip or for ice cream for over a week now with no success. Last night I explained the concept of the ‘fourth trimester’ to Star, how vulnerable and dependant human babies are, that things won’t always be this intense. I breastfed Poppy and helped Star with an English essay, wracking my poor brain to try and understand concepts like themes and literary devices. Then I stayed up watching Star Trek movies and was able to get Poppy to sleep in her pram bassinet and give myself a nap in the armchair. Parenting like a boss!
The roller-coaster continues. My days plummet into black depths that can be terrifying, evoking memories of my terrible exhaustion just before taking pregnant with Poppy. I run as far and as a fast from that place as I can. I push myself past my limits and then sob because I’m horrified to feel so resentful and frustrated. I’m learning not to push myself so hard, that I have to make sure burdens are more equally shared. Small revelations make huge differences. Recently I ran over to Rose and exclaimed – the role of coordinating all the household jobs that need doing, and assigning then to people, and reminding people gently about them, and decoding when to let people off because they are sick or stressed IS IN ITSELF A JOB. It is a stressful job because people often resent it, because it’s not thought of as a job in the way that doing the dishes is, and because I didn’t want it and don’t like doing it but no one else wants it either. I wind up doing a lot of these kind of jobs, the ones no one else wants, and I don’t like them either, I find them stressful and tiring. I was so excited about this realisation because it means I don’t have to just take it on, we can talk about it, and I don’t have to feel guilty for asking people to do jobs – if that’s not working then we as a family can problem solve it and find some other way, and yes it takes time and energy and counts as a legitimate thing I do for my family, like washing the dishes. I feel a lot lighter and less burdened by it now I can see it more clearly.
I felt the same way a little while ago when I decided that doing the household admin (paying bills, organising appointments, answering mail, filling paperwork, etc counted as a job too, not just something I do where I then try to ‘keep pace’ with everyone else by also doing cleaning etc. The invisible jobs, like putting everything left in the lounge room back where it belongs, like emptying the laundry cupboard and making new better places for all the linen to be kept, like talking bags of unwanted things to the op shop – the ones no one sees or appreciates, that don’t get counted or tallied when people are looking at shares of the workload, and that are not chosen or distributed but simply inherited by whoever is the bottom line in the family – these sap energy, motivation, and connection. Being able to see them, treat them as real, tally them, and possibly even share them makes a huge difference to me and to the quietly burning resentment that I work so hard to conceal when things are unfair. It feels like I can breathe. It’s one thing to take on a big share of a workload, it’s quite something else to take it on and have no one including yourself realise that you’ve done so and that’s why you’re busy and tired.
My family are wonderful. Everyone is working hard to adapt and be gentle with each other. I’m so proud of what we are creating, it’s imperfect and unbalanced but we muddle through and there’s a great deal of love.
At 6am when I woke from a delightful sleep for the morning shift, Rose and I sat in bed with Poppy and ate porridge for breakfast. I remembered the porridge I enjoyed in the hotel at Port Lincoln, for the mental health conference where I thought I’d found paid work and a future. All those memories have been such a source of pain, a sense of humiliation and failure and bewilderment. This morning I let go of the hopes and dashed dreams and just remembered the experience. I met amazing people and learned fascinating things. I drove myself across the country, sleeping in my van. I watched the dolphins in the bay. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but it wasn’t a pointless waste either. I’ve had many amazing experiences not many people in my position get. And I have a family and I get to be a Mum! Letting go and taking hold.