Saturday, 29 October 2011

Third day blues

Woke up this morning feeling stoned. Not flashbacks-of-napalm-in-the-Vietnamese-jungle stoned, just what the hell was in one of the four tablets I dutifully swallowed down last night? As far as I could tell, there was a bright coloured sleeping tablet, blue-and-yellow Synaleve's which I'm given three times a day for pain. Then some kind of muscle relaxant from a Pfizer blister pack, which is also three a day, and lately a brown-and-yellow capsule too, for iron, I think. I haven't downed this many tabs at once since my 48hr hotpants party days in the gay underground in Braamfontein! Enough, I say!

Perhaps I should pocket this morning's pharmaceutical delights in anticipation of the Third Days Blues, which will probably be dropping by later today.

Right now I'm not sure what will trigger the boo-boo hormones. It could be guilt over for my feelings for Ryan, the unfairness of Trav's situation, or just that I miss my husband and feel bad that he's Trav-wrangling solo while I've got my feet up in hospital, with room service to boot!

Complimentary snap of the Little King's post-boob bliss this morning...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Boy meets boy

Just another post on the run (or to be more accurate, from a hospital bed with a tiny set of gums trying to rip my nipples off).

Travis the Lionheart was wheeled in to meet his baby brother tonight. He wasn't pleased when we took him out of his safe space aka his pram. Hell, hospitals give us all the heebie jeebies!

When we brought Ryan over to the Lionheart, he seemed to notice him right away, and reached across the bed to place his left hand over Ryan's heart. So far, so good... Then he started digging his fingers into Ryan's shirt a little too enthusiastically, so we gently separated them.

And that was it. Travis didn't look at his baby brother again after that, but I'll take indifference over outright rejection, thank you very much.

Still, the whole time the Lionheart was in the room, and wasn't making eye contact with Ryan... he had this shy little smile on his face, his eyes looking up and to his left, which I know means he drank it all in, hanging onto our words.

And I did my best to focus on him, letting my husband snuggle Ryan for the visit (which was a challenge, because our newborn was yelling: "boob, I need more boob - not beardy stubble!"

So it was a start...

All hail the little king...


Ryan Sebastian Venter, born at Flora Clinic in Johannesburg on 27 October 2011 at 7.50am, weighing 3.62kg and measuring 49cm.

Ruggle status: 99% sure
Hair colour: dirty blonde or mousey brown (not sounding very glam that)
Favorite foods: boob milk
Hobbies: staring at mom's face, chewing fist and sleeping.

(Blogging and running before hubby confiscates my phone.)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Letters to Bump: the last one

Dear Bump

This is the last letter I pen before meeting you in person in... look at that... probably less than 12 hours. I want to write something profound; something that you’ll read when you’re in your 20s that reaches out across time and high fives you!

While you’re young, and making mud pies and skinning your knees, you’ll most likely resent being shackled to a big brother who isn’t nearly the same as everyone else’s. The best gift Travis will ever give you is this: by being so very different, he taught us how to love fiercely, without yardsticks or expectations.

This is how we love you already.
You are soaked to the bone in our affection.
And all you have to do to earn it is to just ‘be’.

Be nothing more and nothing less than who you are, boy or girl, ruggle or no – you don’t have to make up for anything, certainly not because of your brother, and certainly not for our sake.

But be patient with us, we might screw up sometimes. Sadly, it turns out that your dad and I are still human – apparently we don’t get an automatic DNA upgrade in the delivery room with you that makes us evolve into those omnipotent, all-knowing beings called ‘parents’.

(Still, your dad and I have learned some neat tricks that we’ll use to help you juggle through the three-ring circus that is ‘Life’.)

One more sleep, Bump.
We can’t wait to see your face in the morning. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sausage toes and a perfect 10 shrug

The Daily Hairball

My last few days of pregnancy and Jozi gets roundhouse-kicked with a heat wave. Lucky me! What was yesterday’s temp? 36 degrees? Good thing I invested in three new pairs of summer sandals to showcase my sexy sausage toes. They look like Fred Flintstone’s.

Because pregnancy is all about the hot momma factor: leaky boobs, skin tags, thunder thighs, clownish maternity wear with bows and polka dots, pigmentation that makes your face looks like a dirty, trolley-pushing street lady’s... My husband must love me dearly to put up with this nine-month transformation from hot girl to gargoyle.

But the end is in sight.
Thursday morning, 5.30am, Flora Clinic labour ward, be there or be square.
We’ll be there.

As will... The Shrug. I’ve spent the whole afternoon working on The Shrug.

It goes like this:
  • Bump’s room is still just a pile of clothes and furniture? Shrug. 
  • Clever social media plan for posting pics and Tweets of the birth? Shrug. 
  • Haven’t packed my hospital bag or bought any of the items on the list? Shrug. 
  • Baby coming in less than 48 hours and haven’t wrapped up copywriting projects? Shrug. 
  • All three of us have been struck down by killer flu (yup, it just gets better). Shrug. And sniff. 

On the bright side, I've booked that Brazilian for tomorrow, in case you hear screams of agony shake the very skyscrapers at around 10am.

A great irony is that Travis was an unplanned pregnancy, but before he was born we had everything prepared: baby room, every brand of dummies and bottles and formulas and nappies, child care books...

Bump is a planned pregnancy, who is being born into... well, it’s like I’m giving birth in the middle of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Let’s hope they give me enough Dormican and all those good drugs, that I futterwacken with abandon on the table in the delivery room.

Bump update: Two days until the doc hits the eject button.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Crossing the finish line

The Daily Hairball

Participation trophies. Celebrating mediocrity. Everyone is a winner.

It’s a load of codswallop. When I became a mother four years ago, I’d imagined one of the big perks would be competing in science fairs, Eisteddfods, or yelling “Go, Travis, ride like the wind!” from the sidelines of dusty motocross tracks.

Competition builds strength of character; it instils a sense of direction, the drive to succeed at what you love: whether it’s your day on the podium or you’re bottom of the log.

So how do I reconcile these feelings...
...with the reality that my first-born is both physically and mentally challenged?

I’ll say this: even though the Big Guy Upstairs and I have become, what’s a good word, somewhat ‘estranged’ since Travis was diagnosed with a brain malformation, I’m aware when my Lionheart is being used as a ‘divine tool’ to re-shape me.

Yesterday was the Wiggles & Squiggles Sports Day.

The Jozi sun beamed down on banners of red, green and blue. The sportsfield smelled like sun-cream and crisps. The grass had been freshly mowed.

Seated on the right-hand side of the stands, the red team families sang: “R-E-D! We are ready, we are ready. R-E-D! We are steady, we are steady. R-E-D! We are go, go, GO!”

I felt like a flipping kid again, man.

It took Travis a while to adjust to the cacophony. After a few races the Lionheart stopped pressing his face into the side of his pram and turned to watch the races with interest. When I judged we’d reached “normality”, I coaxed him out of his safe space and carried him to the Start line to wait our turn to take part in one of the events.

Travis bulleted our first try: the plastic bike race. The next event, dribbling a soccer ball down the short length of the field, was more his kettle of tea.

I braced him under one arm, and Teacher Angie took the other arm, the whistle blew, and off we went! Travis is still miles away from being able to walk unassisted, but between the three of us, and a stand of cheering Wiggles families, we step-wobble-stepped-kicked and got that soccer ball over the finish line.

(The cheers could have also been for me wrestling my mega Bump all the way, too.)

Travis came stone last, scoring the red team only a single point for finishing the race, but jislaaik, the Lionheart was a CHAMPION!

And I wasn’t the only one with a chest puffed with pride. The ruggle siblings took part in some events too, doing a ‘happy dance’ on their strong, nimble legs when they helped score points for their less-able brothers and sisters’ teams.

Wheelchairs and walkers and bracers. Leg splints and orthopaedic shoes and thick spectacles. Pushing themselves to cross that finish line, even if it took all day! Even when the little athletes faltered, the cheering from the stands never did. No one went to get an ice-cream while some kid took agonisingly long to get from one end of the lane to the other.

I saw one girl (a ruggle) from the blue team win her race, and then turn back to help a girl (a lionheart) from the red team cross the finish line.

Waddling back to the car later, clutching Trav’s small prize – yes, everyone got one – I couldn’t help but feel ashamed about my last whiney blog post, where I threw a pity party for myself and my exhausting To Do List before Bump arrives on Thursday.

Because the finish line is in sight, dammit...

Bump update: With four days left on the clock, I’ve finally learned how to steer this bump-mobile! I haven’t accidentally done a belly-print in someone’s jam-and-toast for days.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

When the stitches come out

With only seven sleeps left until Bump arrives, it's time I admit that I've lost control of the situation. This is Bad, because I'm a stiff-necked, carrot-up-my-butt Control Bot. Not the kind that has a slightly erotic relationship with their label machine. I need to be in control of situations. Don't try surprise me with a romantic weekend away... it won't go down the way you'd imagined it.

My usually formiddable time management skills have crumbled. I've tried to squeeze too many writing projects into this short time frame. Deadlines woosh by, and I'm becoming one of Those freelancers. The unreliable ones. It's grating my tits. But I'm soldiering on... up at 5am, typing like a demon.

The race car ya ya was almost repossessed this morning. Another area where I've clearly dropped the ball (long story). Then the Lionheart's school phoned: he'd had a bit of a 'boom' and sliced his head open. Off to the doctor for stitches. Okay, it was just one stitch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working, trying to get something ANYTHING through to my clients while Bump does his (or her) damndest to shatter my ribs on the right-hand side like toothpicks. Speaking of Bump, this kid still has no room prepared. I haven't packed my hospital bag. Or booked that all-essential Brazilian wax torture session so that some kinky nurse doesn't try shave my nether bits on Thursday.

I have no idea what burn-out feels like, but this must be it. When your fire burns unchecked for too long, and then it... just... burns out. I'm too exhausted to feel tired - does that make sense?

I almost WANT to go into labour just to spend a few hours in a hospital bed with nothing to do but eat those chocolate pudding cups you get for dessert.

But I'm hanging in here because I have a family that needs me. My husband needs me. Travis needs me. (And mommy needs a drink, really she does.)

Whinge-fest over.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ten fingers and ten toes

The Daily Hairball

Last check-in with the gynae this morning: with nine days left on the clock, Bump weighs in a 3.5kg (and I weigh in at 79kg, just for the record).

It’s a silly straw to grasp onto – that birth weight is an indicator of good health – but yeah, that is what’s happening here. When the black-and-white sonar scans began revealing that Bump would definitely weigh more than Travis did at birth (2.9kg), at first I felt astonished. And then even disconnected, like: “Who the hell is this stranger in my uterus? Surely this is no genetic offspring of mine?” Those feelings eventually gave way to relief, because at least Bump won’t be a mewling, skinny-limbed, floppy-necked newborn. Walking out the doc’s rooms earlier, I even felt vaguely smug.

We don’t grow no runts here on the West Rand, folks!

Look, Lionheart fans, even though we’ve done the genetic counselling and the tests and the ultra-soopa-mega scans, don’t think we’re expecting a 100% healthy baby to be wrested from my nether regions come next week Thursday. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. We’re already in the 3% club. That’s the club of 3% of South African babies who are born with some kind of defect.

But... it’s looking good. Ten fingers and ten toes kind of good... And you hope, and you hope, and you dream. Just a little. Not too much, because you don’t want to attract the attention of the Universe, who has been known to bitch-slap the occasional dreamer.

Bump update: I feel like a zeppelin. A leaden zeppelin. Definitely not Led Zeppelin - although air guitaring in my present state would make a most hilarious YouTube video. (9 days to go!)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Life in the fast lane

The Daily Hairball

First of all – regarding this whole boy/girl/giraffe vote I’ve got going on the site... I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of y’all seem to think that Bump is of the ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ variety. This is HILARIOUS because I’m still convinced that there’s another boy coming (and I finally get my own bathroom, where the toilet seat is not permanently up).

On names, we have: Ryan Sebastian for a boy. Licked. Stamped. Mailed.

We’re still uhming and aahing over the girl’s name. We binned ‘Anastasia’ because we’re not overly fond of calling her Anna for short, so we’ll have to call her ‘Stac’ for short instead: which of course is MY name and makes me look like a pompous donkey. (Funny family story, my dad loves to tease me and say that they were planning on naming me Annapeppalina.)

My husband really liked Rosalie, which was okay with me because I’ll just call her ‘Rose’. Yeah, I’m all about the Golden Girls names: Rose, Joy, Dawn... But I’ve been struck on ‘Lily Grace’ for ages now.

If you’re all right about this girl thing, one of you had better get over to Flora Clinic and distract my husband while I fill in the birth certificate forms!

On the Lionheart front, Travis has left me slack-jawed all weekend. It’s like he’s flipped a switch on somewhere and has decided that big brothers should be able to DO things, like pull himself into a standing position up against the kitchen counter and against the tiled bathroom wall to investigate the towel rack and against the retractable gate at the front door.

On Friday night I had to scrawl the threatening message “Check the counter for knives!” in big black marker above the stove so that we’re all reminded that our four-year-old’s adventurous fingers can now reach new heights.

Lionheart fans know that that our little guy sleeps on ‘ground zero’, with his mattress on the floor. Yesterday my husband installed the wooden bed in his room, and Travis slept blissfully some half-a-metre off the ground. “Yay! You’ve got a big boy bed!” I’d been enthusing all afternoon, while stacking mountains of pillows around the bed. When Travis awoke this morning, he nonchalantly slide bum-first off the side, for a perfect 10 landing and busied himself unpacking his book case.

Little champion.

Speaking of little champions, my fellow preggie fairy over at Life with Luca delivered a healthy, squishy-faced bundle of cuteness this morning. Welcome Mika!

Bump update: I’d fall over forwards if my butt hadn’t gotten so big these last few weeks (10 days to go!)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Three in the bed

The Daily Hairball

Remember the Marauding Midnight Bum Slider? He’s ba-a-ack!

At 2.30am I heard Travis giggling in his bedroom downstairs, but I’m like a semi-comatose sloth these days after I hit the sack, so I hit my mental snooze button. Then 15 minutes later I listened to him slide his buns out of bed (I can hear the shloof-shloof sound of his pyjama pants dragging through the fur pile of his carpet), and start unpacking his bookcase – in the dark.

Okay cool, little man... whatever. Bang the mental snooze button again.

It was at 3am, when I identified the sound of the freezer door being cracked open that I swung my feet over the edge of the bed, and shuffled-grunted-waddled-limped my way down the stairs to take my toddler into custody. Travis adores hanging out in the below-zero climes of the open freezer! Problem is that eventually the ice begins to melt, and he’s left sitting in a pool of ice-water. Which is why the freezer door is usually secured with a piece of black insulation tape! Clearly not last night though.

So we were three in the bed at 3am. And the cheeky Lionheart had me massaging his feet under the blankets for an hour before he fell asleep.

Needless to say, I feel like the bride of Frankenstein this morning. Please let this not be the start of another Midnight Bum-sliding cycle. With Bump on the way in a few days, this could be setting the stage for my first complete mental breakdown.

Bump update: Perhaps if I ignore this belly it’ll just go away. Don’t look down, DON’T LOOK DOWN! Damn, I looked... (14 days to go!)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Shameless nanny thieves

The Daily Hairball

It’s ‘Did You Know’ day!

Here’s an interesting factoid about special needs moms. You know, those saintly ladies with halos around our heads that gaze benevolently out at you from behind the mini-wheelchairs and steel-frame walkers.

We will fleece you of your five-star star nanny so fast, it’s like you’ve just had an encounter with Mr Accidental Boob Graze at the office!

A really good caregiver is a treasure on the special needs market. Sure, you get live-in au pairs that have been specially trained to work with disabled children, but man, are they expensive. And we’re already tapped-out with school fees, therapy costs and medical bills.

Saint Irene has been with us since before Travis was diagnosed, so she’s evolved over the years from a regular nanny with basic first aid training to a bona fide special needs caregiver. Irene has walked every step of this rock-strewn narrow road with us.

Her experience with Travis is priceless. Well, not exactly – there is a price tag. Obviously I compensate her well above the norm for her patience and skill, because having her as part of our family is a privilege that I don’t take for granted.

But I’m always aware that there are other special needs families that are better off than we are, and who could be in need of extra help. Most likely, it’ll be a mom who has a disabled child that’s very similar to Travis in ability and temperament... because that’s how it works: it has to be the right type of caregiver for the right kid. Like matching socks...

It’s needle-in-a-haystack stuff, finding a Saint Irene for your special kid.

That is all.

Bump update: My belly now bulges out of the bottom of my maternity tops too... it ain’t pretty, folks (15 days to go!)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Nope, that’s just a snack

The Daily Hairball

I’ve been editing in-house at a magazine for the last few weeks on a freelance basis. It’s a good way to build up the cash reserves before The Big Arrival. And building up reserves is something I know plenty about. I’ve been carbo-loading for days!

I stopped in at one of those quickie shops at a petrol station on my way in to “the office”. There is a canteen in the building where I’m working, but I’ve learned to come armed with extra snacks (and my red fineliner and a sense of humour).

I handed over my slave money for two Black Cat Peanut Butter booster bars, one Niki Coconut Cluster chocolate bar, a large packet of smoked beef crisps and one litre of Coke Zero. On my way out the shop, I politely stepped aside to let some guy squeeze past me.

“Thanks!” he said, and then blinked down at the planet-sized sphere that is home to Bump. Then he patted me on the shoulder, and blurted: “Shame, man.”

Yeah. That really happened.

Bump update: I’m slowly evolving into a zeppelin. A waddling zeppelin… (17 days to go!)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

An only child (for now)

The Daily Hairball: Saturday edition

I am crazy in love with Travis today. This morning at 6am I crawled under his stripy duvet with him and we snuggled fiercely for 45 minutes. Then we spent an hour in the swimming pool splashing and rescued two waterlogged butterflies. We’ve just shared a bowl of ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

It’s not even noon yet.

Forgive me, Bump, for lavishing so much attention on your big brother. It’s not that I’m not excited to meet you. It’s just... complicated.

What if Travis forgets how much he means to me? For four years now, he and I have shared something... rare. It’s not your vanilla mother-and-first-born-son experience. Hell, it’s not even rum ’n raisin. He’s my silly bear, my monkey face, my boo-bah-la. The stuffed toy that’s missing an eye and the stitching has come loose, and I’ll KILL anyone for even suggesting I throw away.

(Keep a lid on that ‘boo-bah-la’ thing, okay).

Travis and I get to spend the whole Saturday together, because my husband has the small business of a nappy party to attend to. It’s a quaint social custom in our circle where, for the entrance fee of a packet of Pampers, the men get to practice drunken cannonballs into the pool, do upside-down beer funnels and vomit up their boerrie rolls.

In light of this, tomorrow is officially Hangover Sunday.

Bump update: Did I say the size of a beach ball? I meant ‘exercise ball’... you know those giant ones that some smarmy people take to the office and sit on instead of an office chair (19 days to go!)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Braxton tricks

The Daily Hairball 

Since finding out that Bump is going to be significantly bigger than Travis was at birth (Trav weighed 2.9kg at birth, Bump passed 3kg a week ago), every twinge and spasm I’ve had in the vicinity of my belly has raised alarm bells... you know, just in case this wriggly piglet has decided to drop out of my nether regions early.

Yeah, yeah – roll your eyes heavenwards. I may as well be a jittery first-time mom.

My gynae, of he of the extremely small hands and spectacles, tells me that Bump is a textbook pregnancy. This is a family of Lionhearts, though... we tossed the textbooks after Travis was diagnosed. Now I find myself feverishly paging through baby magazines and browsing pregnancy websites for clues as to what’s (and you know how I hate this word) “normal”.

Which is how I came to Google: “What do contractions feel like?”

Long story short, there’s no textbook answer for this one. Some women say it starts out as back ache. Other say it’s more like a rippling spasm that starts low down in your abdomen and works its way up past your navel. This sounds a lot like the pain (just the one) I felt on Friday night and then again twice last night. Personally, I always imagined it would be like severe period pains.

We’re cool customers, though. We haven’t pulled a ‘Hollywood’ and rushed into an emergency room, me in a wheelchair, wailing dramatically and gushing amniotic fluid yet – so far, so good.

The caesarean is scheduled for Thursday 27 October (39 weeks, 4 days), sometime in the afternoon. Hang in there Bump; mommy has a lot on her plate right now!

Bump update: we’ve zoomed past ‘watermelon’ and are fast approaching ‘beach ball’ (20 days to go!)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shitake mushrooms! Fudge sticks!

The Daily Hairball

And October marches on relentlessly!

The stork will be crash-landing into our lives in three weeks. So far, Bump’s “bedroom” is a 2.5m x 3.5m demarcated area in our loft, next to the staircase. If it wasn’t for the teetering piles of teeny weeny clothes, baby products and stockpile of nappies, you’d never know a newborn is about to take up residence there. Randomly, the main attraction in Bump’s bedroom is a metal stepladder that goes up into the ceiling where the household geyser is. Not sounding very cosy, eh?

Shitake mushrooms! Fudge sticks!
Oh, fuck this cutting down on swearing. I need the comfort of four-letter words right now.

This is the difference between first and second-borns. The night before Travis was delivered we’d had a beautifully colour-coordinated room ready for him. Painted in powder blue; matching carpet. Shelves loving installed, packed with teddies and remote-control cars. We didn’t realise he’d spend the first few weeks of his life in a camp-cot at the foot of our bed.

Speaking of the Lionheart...

We accidentally ran out of Trav’s behavioural meds, Risperdal. He missed three doses. Now, if you’ve ever taken some kind of anti-depressant or perhaps epilepsy medication, you’d know that withdrawal is not pretty. This poor kid hung in there like a champion until I raced home at 5.30pm yesterday, clutching his refilled script and a till slip for R493 (our medical aid refuses to class the Risperdal as chronic). Let’s not let that happen again, folks.

So yes, basically, it’s chaos here. Ground zero. 
I envy moms who get four months’ paid maternity leave.

Bump update: we’ve upgraded from ‘basketball’ to ‘watermelon’ (21 days to go!)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Oodles of doodles

The Daily Hairball

“What the flagnog?” My Thought2Text Translator Mabobble (patent pending) appears to be broken, and I can’t squeeze a decent post out. Like licking cookie batter off the beaters, writing blog posts is something I like to take my time over. You know, spin a little yarn for the Lionheart fans. Made with love, and all that…

But time is not something I have in abundance lately. Heartburn, yes. Hormone-fuelled tantrums, yes. But not much time for yarn-spinning.

So for the next few weeks, as I prepare to launch Bump into the world, and perhaps for a few weeks after that too… I’m giving you The Daily Hairball. Where I cough up a quick snippet of what’s happening at Castle Lionheart, without fussing too much about crazy metaphors and making funnies and punchy endings.

Today’s snippet: This morning I started teaching Travis how to use our new Lenovo IdeaPad (for non-techies, it’s like an iPad, but runs on Android). Realistically, our boy will never speak, and I have serious doubts that he’ll ever learn to read. But there is a very real chance that he could learn to interact with this touch-screen tablet.

I’m kicking off with the Drawing tool, which is basically a giant electronic sketchpad. All he has to do it pick a coloured pencil from the virtual pencil box, and swipe his fingertips across the display to draw. Sound simple? Oh no no no no.

First, I have to control my urge not to snatch at the (fucking expensive) IdeaPad when Travis yanks it from my grip to put it on his own lap. He’s also rather partial to licking the screen. Eeek! Remember, Travis has below-average fine motor skills and cognitive ability. It’s slow going and he’s still learning basic cause-and-effect.

After 30 mins my oodles of patience were rewarded with Picasso-like doodles and a chuffed sketch artist. Gold star, Travis!

There must be a way I can export one of his sketches to the blog…

Bump update: it looks like my bellybutton inhaled a basketball (22 days to go!)