After the Storm 

We’ve had a huge storm through South Australia this week, and prepared for disaster in various forms. The whole state was plunged into a blackout when major power lines went down. I cleaned up the house because walking Poppy around to calm her in near dark is a recipe for falling over a pair of shoes and winding up back in hospital. I also bought a bag of ice, more candles and extra milk and emptied the most needed items from the fridge into a couple of eskies so we could keep the fridge and freezer closed and cool throughout the blackout. Fortunately we have gas for hot water and cooking. I checked in with friends online to let them know people could visit us if needed, and went around to most of the neighbours to make sure they had candles, matches, hot water, and knew they could knock on our door if anything went wrong.

We cooked and ate dinner together by candlelight, no screens, phone batteries being conserved in case of emergencies. We talked and told stories and I took out James Herriot and read a few chapters… it’s a tradition in my family that books are read during camping trips, and Rose and I used to read each other to sleep most nights but since Star and now Poppy we’ve not had the opportunity. It was special. We talked again about family and rituals and values. Since then we’ve had a couple more dinners by candlelight together, and they’ve been beautiful. We’ve planned a trip away with friends in a couple of weeks, together as a family. We’ve celebrated Star arriving 8 months ago. It feels like something has changed again between the four of us, deepened, a sense of connection has grown stronger. It’s precious.

Rose and I are still recovering from all our health problems. She has been suffering from terrible pain due to sciatica and a tooth infection. She had a root canal started a week ago but things went badly wrong and she wound up with a severe infection that we were told was verging on life-threatening when a different, stronger course of antibiotics finally started to turn things around. Her face had swollen and blood and pus were dripping through the bored out tooth into her mouth. We’re both being told that we’re obviously run down and need to take time off to recover and get our immune systems functioning again.

I’ve had a bad bout of gastro (is there any other kind of gastro? – this one came with spasms that felt depressingly similar to labour contractions), I’m still got bad infections in my teeth and gums, as well as mouth ulcers and skin boils. We are both finally over the staph infections and a host of other problems though, so progress is slowly being made.

Our world is about basic needs at the moment – good food, as much sleep as possible, rest, affection, getting out in the sun when it’s around, staying warm, showers. We’ve made it to parent-teacher night, a myriad of medical appointments, and the occasional social gathering. We’re making headway on all the paperwork and admin that comes with a new baby, and making arrangements for Star to get her drivers license and a vehicle to learn to drive in.

Poppy continues to be spectacular. Every day she is awake a little more, a little more aware of and interested in the world. We get the most beautiful smiles and giggles. Breastfeeding continues to get easier and I’ve been able to process much of the trauma of the early weeks. We can now breastfeed in public, through appointments, and I can pump around 200mls for Rose to feed her so I get some sleep. I’ve made it past the 6 weeks mark – which means breastfeeding is considered established and we’re likely to be able to keep it going.

These two girls, Poppy and Star, are simply delightful. Our amazing girls, both with such lovely, loving hearts. Rose is a beautiful partner, we tag team and debrief and hold each other. I find it hard to believe that only a few years ago I lived alone, and now my world is this beautiful little family filling my every hour. They mean the world to me. My heart is full and my mind is stirring. The shutting down and enduring that happened through the end of the pregnancy has finished with, I can feel the cogs turning again and what I choose to concentrate on comes into focus. I can’t multitask as well as I used to but my mind is working again. I’ve read my first Terry Pratchett book since he died – something that was impossible before now. Death is present a lot of the time still but less overwhelming. I’m able to read and understand what I’ve read. The desire to write (if not yet the coherency) has returned and art is starting to call to me again. Nesting hasn’t left me – I still clean and do admin and organise and plan. I sometimes get days where thinking about what I’m going to next regarding work/business/career doesn’t make me panic, cry, or hate myself. This is a very new, fragile, and precious development. I’ve wanted my whole life to be a parent, and a huge driving pain about needing meaning in my world has eased. 

I find myself quietly haunted by how this could have gone if we’d been met with tragedy again – losing Poppy to miscarriage it stillbirth or early death, losing Rose or Star or other family or friends. I’m aware of the pain and bitter-sweetness my luck causes to those who are still childless and still hurting. I feel at times a sense of survivors guilt – it can be hard to give myself permission to let go and enjoy myself when I know so many still suffer on a road I’ve been saved from. At times I feel consumed by fear, waiting for the next crisis, the next terrible loss. Tragedy comes to us all. There’s only so much I can do to push it away. All I have is now, and all I can do is live in it, as deeply, fully as possible. This time in my life with my fledgling family is intense and consuming and painful and beautiful and exquisite. I’m here, giving myself to it, being as alive as I can be.

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