“Wow… You look amazing, considering!”
Said every person I’ve come into contact with over the last three weeks.
Which is lovely.
But also, you know, ever so slightly misleading in the grand old scheme of things.
See, I’ll say to you what I’ve said to every one of them…
Two words: PAT LEAVE!
Husband was off on paternity leave for a full two weeks. Then, because he’s ever so kind and thoughtful, he took an extra week of annual leave so as not to throw me in at the deep end with three kids on a half term holiday, without the use of a car. (Or, indeed, abdominal muscles, come to that!)
Cheers me dears! (He’s definitely a keeper!)
What this means, however, is that I’ve had three whole weeks to become accustomed to the following luxuries:
Yep, you read me right. I suffered with pretty bad insomnia in the last couple of months of pregnancy and was largely, solely responsible for two young, energetic children for most of the waking week. Since Tiny arrived, however, Husband has been on Tinker and Toddler duty whilst I’ve taken full advantage of every blessed non-feeding moment to close my eyes and sleep! No jokes… I’ve had more shut-eye in February than I’ve had since at least November. I should flippin’ well hope I look better for it!
2. A Steady Supply of Chocolate:
“You look… Well… You don’t look as… How can I put this…?”
Nope! That is because, for the last three weeks, I’ve used one hand to support a consistently-hungry baby, whilst the other’s been arm-deep in a tub of Celebrations. That new “glow” you see in my hamster-like cheeks? That is one third sleep, two thirds Mars Bar, my friend. And do you know what? I’m not even sorry!
Three weeks ago, as I sat on the operating table, waiting to see if the Anethetist was going to allow me to have surgery or not, I became upset one final time over yet another conflicting medical opinion.
“You’ve been keeping your blood sugar below seven?!” He scoffed, “that’s far too low! Below ten is fine; below seven for a pregnant woman is ridiculous!”
Throat lump. Heart pump. Conclusion jump.
But…Do you know what?… Sack it.
Just deliver my baby and get that placenta OUT already… Et Voila!
That very second, I am no longer diabetic!
Thank dear God for that.
I have many, many good intentions for the rest of my life… But right now…
Merry McFlurrin’ Christmas!
Parenting three under-fives is hardcore, I’m sure. Not least when the older two are energetic, outdoorsy types who have been quarantined by chicken pox; over-stimulated by the short succession of Christmas, birthdays and gift-baring visitors; and, even on a normal day, set the bar ever-so-slightly on the more exhausting side of “mental”.
What is not hardcore, however, is sitting in the quiet comfort of your own bedroom, right at the onset of witching hour; listening to Daddy wrestle with the onslaught of silliness, squabbling, tears and tantrums; whilst you put your breasts on auto-pilot, read a book, sip some tea and think, after a cross-country move and difficult pregnancy; this is the longest “holiday” I’ve actually had in months!
4. Crisis Control:
That said, (before I do all parents a disservice by suggesting that recovery is anything remotely like a holiday!), there have also been some much darker, but altogether more vital, uses for Husband’s time at home. For example…
One of the most terrifying things I remember about having an episiotomy, besides the event itself, was the prospect of the first poo. I mean seriously, man knoweth no fear like a woman contemplating how, in just a few hours, she’s likely to push a stool through her stitches! However…
Having had a c-section this time around, I didn’t actually give the idea much thought. I mean, I had no injuries to interfere with the transaction, so, when the time came, what could possibly go wrong?!
Well… Constipation, that’s what!
Constipation and crippling indigestion; to the point where the pain inside my stomach was ten times more distracting than any external wound, and the abdominal swelling gave pregnancy a run for its money! By day three I was drinking peppermint tea like it was going out of stock, and massaging the offending organs with complete disregard for major surgery. Close friends sent the usual post-birth messages of love and support, asking if there was anything they could do? By day four I was brutally honest: “if you love me, please pray for poo!”
To be fair, the first one came and went without much event and so I thought I was off the hook. (I also think I lost about a stone that day- my stomach went down that much!) Then a friend sent me a link to a popular blog, with this hilarious but horrendous story; and I laughed with relief that mine wasn’t anywhere near as bad, but was clearly a common side effect of surgery.
But then… About a week later, the same situation occurred and I didn’t feel quite so lucky. The health visitor was due to arrive any moment, but my bowels just didn’t care; my stomach started churning, my derrière started burning and I knew I only had ten minutes to spare! The kids were playing happily and so I handed Husband Tiny; headed to the bathroom to relieve myself, but found that relief didn’t come so easy. It was a bigger job than anticipated, in every sense of the term; half in and half out, Husband ran up to my shouts, as I cried with real tears; “this hurts!”
Yes there was blood, but still no results to speak of; this monster was cutting it dry! Meanwhile, the kids had started shouting and fighting downstairs, and poor Tiny had started to cry. Husband was providing moral support from outside the bathroom door; but I knew even though I couldn’t “go”, I also couldn’t move, and he couldn’t hold her any more. SO… Eventually he handed me our hungry baby, while he ran downstairs to keep the peace. As for me? Breastfeeding on the bog, whilst coaxing out a log, I couldn’t help but laugh to think… Just exactly what would the health visitor do if she came in and she saw this?!
Thankfully she didn’t have to, as –albeit painful!- relief arrived just before she did. Thankfully, also, we have a guest loo now; so I could close the door on the one I just flooded… Oops!
Sadly, after her visit though, it turns out I somehow forgot. And in the meantime, Tinker made her way upstairs… and emptied her own load on top!
So, come tea time, Husband heads upstairs with a plunger and rubber gloves…
“You CAN’T do that!” I protest-
“But neither can you,” he insists, “this is Pat Leave!”
Oh… poor man… That is love!
Moving swiftly on…
One of the great philosophers of our time, Shakira Shakira (so good you have to say it twice), sings: “lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains…”
Clearly, however, she had never given birth at the time of writing or she might have opted for a more volcanic metaphor!
See, from one swell stage to another, I’d forgotten just how comically engorged the old puppy dog ears get on the day the milk comes in. I’m talking giant, heavy boulders with inbuilt automatic weapons… Impossible for a baby to drink from but, the second you take off your bra, you find yourself launching involuntary milk missiles at unfortunate targets across the room! Intimidated by their sheer explosive enormity, the baby is unable to latch on, becoming hungry and distressed; whilst mother, about to topple over, soaks her clothes and everything else. At this stage, what you ideally need is back-up. In our case, this was Husband, sat ready to feed Tiny with the first boob bottle, whilst I frantically expressed to try and empty the other. (FYI: To rectify: Combine this process once again with two or three hot showers; just, you know, be careful not to ‘over-pump’ or you’ll be repeating it every few hours!)
6. The Chauffeur:
One major difference this time around- and, indeed, one of the most restrictive elements of this kind of delivery- is the instruction not to drive for six weeks. Therefore, as nothing is ever straight forward, I’ve had a few appointments and need Husband to ferry me about. Last week, for example, I saw a physiotherapist for Diastasis Recti; which is when the abdominal muscles stretch and separate during pregnancy, but make zero effort to come back together on their own. This means that, whilst I am lucky enough not to have any baby weight to lose, my skin also hangs like sack over my scar tissue and my stomach threatens a more long-term protrude. (It also, consequently, means poor Husband had to drive me into town specifically to replace my unsexy netty knickers with some big, beige Bridget Jones pants and a granny girdle for the next few months! Lucky, lucky man!)
I’ve got exercises to do for the muscles, but am a little less confident about the skin. I’ve got natural remedies galore from good ole Pinterest though, so will report back if I ever win!
7. The Chaperone:
As well as driving me where I need to be, Husband and I decided it would be wise to build up to going out all together in his final week. And I’m so glad we did, as the first trip was definitely worth doing with two! See, Toddler has been potty trained for over six months now, but I didn’t think I’d actually forget what to do…
So, we went to the park last week, with Tinker and Toddler in the double buggy and Tiny in the sling. Just as we sat down with our picnic, however, Tiny triple sharted and needed a change. I took her to the nearest facility, but found the area out of order. Cue a good ten minutes of searching the grounds, before hunting down a key for the disabled toilet. Once inside I laid her out on a sort of bed and naively stripped her off; just before she fired yellow poo across the room and weed all over herself too; needing a full change and ideally a wash! At this point I found the resurrected nappy bag devoid of wipes or cream (?!), so used her dirty clothes to clean the bed and rinsed her in the sink. Drying her off with more spare clothes, I finally got her changed. Then, you know, looked at the loo, with pelvic floors still loose, and realised I obviously needed it again. So, not only did this involve the usual balancing act to secure her to the bed, but- thanks to the Bridget Jones pants!- the one-armed removal of coat, sling, and girdle too; landing on a floor that was suspiciously wet.
When we finally made it out, questionably clean and dry, and had returned the key; all I could think was come next week, how on earth can I do this alone with three?!
8. Cue… The Therapist:
A couple of years ago now I wrote a post called The Fear.
If I remember rightly, it was all about the sudden, emotional and hormonal grip of dread; when your body realises it just ejected a most precious part of itself, to live independently in the world instead.
You know, this world.
* Shudder. *
This time, The Fear turned up on the way to the park, after the hospital dropped yet another clanger: “we’ve found six weeks of discharge meds in a cupboard… Have you not had it?! I know it’s been over two weeks now… but as it was for blood clots, you should probably come and grab it!”
The Fear sunk its claws in with a headline about another kidnapped child. So that, while out, all I could think about was I have three kids now… But only two small eyes.
By the time we drove home, The Fear had full control; either I or we were going to die. At least, if not from clots or kidnapping, then by distracting Husband with it as he tried to drive! But, once again, he managed to coolly and calmly fulfil one of his main roles; to talk me out of spirals, pray me out of pits… and equip me to actually leave our home.
9. The Bodyguard:
At the other end of the scale, however, we find that Husband is mainly here to protect me from myself. See, despite feeling easier than the rest; there are so many more rules and restrictions this time, for the good of my long-term health.
“Don’t lift that!”
“Don’t bend! Don’t stretch!”
It’s driving me up the wall.
Where were these rules when I was sat on my wounds?!
(Where were these painkillers an’ all?!)
10. The Help:
But, nevertheless, I was specifically told not to lift anything or anyone, do any housework or drive a car for the first six weeks. Husband has taken this very seriously, it would seem, and will barely allow me to sneeze. Which is why, as described, he has not only been fulfilling the role of stay-at-home-dad-slash-zoo-keeper, but has also acted as cleaner, chauffeur, waiter and, in the final week, also chef.
I strongly suspect he can’t wait to get back to work, just to have a rest!
I’ll also admit, for a control freak like me, this all becomes annoying after a while! I no longer feel rough, the novelty has worn off, and I want to adapt to our new normal, in the least amount of time.
For the last couple of weeks?
Having a house-husband to meet my needs…
Well, it’s been necessary,
But also really nice!
Truly, thank you.
I am one very blessed wife.
(I mean, I’m obviously also, clearly, cranky and disgusting, but… you know, blessed at the same time!)