Summer days chez moi

I’m sitting on my bed in my dressing gown. It’s 10am and rather warm. An all too familiar clank-clank starts over in the corner and I realised that Chicklet has found the cat’s metal water bowl. Splashing sounds then mark his little hands playing and soon it will stop. The bowl has been upturned and a mini lake is now forming on my bedroom floor.

I think I should care about this, but all that passes through my mind is that I’m glad he’s found a way to cool down that doesn’t involve me getting off the bed.

Yup, I am well and truly in the slummy mummy category.

Some shade

It’s been superbly sunny here recently. Chicklet needed some extra shade, so I popped into a shop that sold baby accessories.

Qu-est ce que vous cherchez madame?” the assistant asked.

Un nombrile.” said I in my flawless French.

Aaah. Une ombrelle.” she repeated, turning to walk in the direction of them, with the hint of a smile crossing her lips.

Instead of asking for a sun shade, I had confidently asked for a belly button.

 

Hashi’s

There is a brief window, usually the three to five minutes after waking up, when I feel good. I feel like I have enough energy to make it through the day. I feel like I’ll be able to accomplish something. Finally. And then it hits: nope, not today.

Everyday a dense fog descends. My brain stops working. I have great difficulty remembering why I went to the kitchen, why I’m in a particular shop. My body just doesn’t want to move – my atrophying thighs feel like they’ll give way after a walk to the sitting room.

My feet hurt, the soles, so painful every morning, or if I’ve been sitting on the floor for a while and try to stand up.

My hair is tied up, constantly, lest Chicklet gets another handful of it in his chubby little fingers. There is no point in wearing makeup: my skin is so dry, scaly and wrinkly it actually makes me look worse.

Clothes are a nightmare. Truly a nightmare. Half a kilo a week weight gain. A little translation: that’s more per week than I was putting on at eight months pregnant, only I shan’t be having a little bundle of chicklet delight arriving in a month or so.

Occasionally there are deep, dark waves of horrible feelings that make me extremely glad for my little Chicklet, or perhaps I’d have bungee jumped – without the rope – from the Eiffel Tower months ago (taking the lift up, of course, no energy for stairs).*

Mid-night wake ups because my hands are so dry they wake me up. After a smothering of cream, I can sleep again.

A love-hate relationship has developed with Coca Cola. If I want to be able to a) gather my thoughts b) seem like I’m sort of on form and c) make it any distance from the apartment, I need some caffeine and sugar. That’s the love. Putting on half a kilo per week (and I’m doing that without the help of too much coke), that’s the hate.

And the fog, the fog, the fog. Why am I writing this? Why did I start telling you that story? Why did I want the pen I now have in my hand?

The bone-aching tiredness every day, mid afternoon. So tired, every cell in my body is fatigued, yet I can’t sleep. I don’t want to sleep: it’s the middle of the afternoon.

A funny feeling. Faint. Jittery. Extremely weak. My heart, it turns out, is under so much pressure, it starts to beat erratically.

I had no idea until last month that all these were symptoms of one thing. In Cairo I thought I was dehydrated and I thought I was lazy. Then I thought I was pregnant, so I was supposed to be tired, not be able to think properly, have swollen hands and feet. I thought everybody who gave birth was exhausted, everybody with a baby was tired, even if they slept through the night. I thought that clumps and clumps of hair in my hands, golf ball sized hairballs on my pillow in the mornings for weeks and weeks on end was what everybody has post-partum. I thought I was weak. I thought I had to ‘push through it’, so I pushed and kept pushing.

I pushed so hard that I ended up on the edge, luckily only the edge, of a very serious problem.

Turns out, I have Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. My body kills off the thyroid hormone that the thyroid produces.

I’m not dying. It’s not Cancer with the big ‘C’. It’s not motor neuron disease. It’s not a horrible, nasty thing that means I’m going to meet a horrible end.

And I’m truly, truly grateful for that, more than I know how to fully express.

That doesn’t mean that it’s ‘just’ a thyroid problem and “Oh well, at least it can be easily treated”. Both things that almost everybody I’ve told has replied and that I too would probably have said if someone told me they had a thyroid problem.

My life should go back to ‘normal’. I should have energy once again to do four hours in the gym and then dance for four hours after riding for an hour in the morning and working an eight hour day, even if darling Chicklet doesn’t allow such extravagances of time.

Should.

The tablets that I have to take every morning for the rest of my life should make me feel better. Fingers crossed they do – all my hopes are pinned on these little white pellets. But right now, although the lab results are changing for the good, the wait to feel better is on.

It’s not ‘just’ a thyroid problem to me, right now. It’s something affecting every cell of my body and every aspect of my life. As Mr S agreed to my tears this morning, “This isn’t a life”.

I’m desperate, itching, to get out in the world and do things, even if that just means taking Chicklet swimming and “making the most of Paris” while we’re here, but for now, I’m going to go back to one of the things I can do: painting a bedside table.

*Don’t worry, not only do I not have energy for the Eiffel’s stairs, I don’t have the energy to get there, so there’s absolutely no chance of any pseudo-bungying taking place. I also enjoy painting bedside tables far too much to try to end it all!

Image is Hashimoto’s Disease at 4x Magnification from Nikon’s MicroscopyU website – probably the coolest thing about all this! 

 

What I think you’ll think

I’m not a tidy person. Never have been. That I’ll freely admit. I can’t, however, stand dirt, dust, dust bunnies etc., chez moi.* I would clean – once a week would suffice – but arranging papers, folding clothes and the like, well, that could wait. So, I class myself as “clean, not tidy”.

Suddenly, now that Chicklet is here, I find myself cleaning and tidying frequently. I don’t really want to, but feel I must – something takes over! A wiping of the table, a sneaky little vacuum (yes, it was done yesterday, but there’s a little bit of fluff about to appear in the corner), arranging papers, straightening the duvet cover, polishing the tiles…

I came to the realisation that, as a student, if you came around and my flat was a mess, I would think that you wouldn’t think anything of it. Or I wouldn’t think about it at all. It’s a mess, so what? Add a baby to the mix and I feel a pressure: I think you’ll think that I’m “not coping” if things are untidy.

Is this how housewives are born? Eeeeek!

Off to plump a cushion…

*Rather ironically, I don’t notice these things at your place, so don’t worry!

Lips are for Lovers

“So,” a friend told me, “My friend was told off by a French lady for kissing her baby on the lips. Apparently, ‘lips are for lovers’”.

We were not sure whether to laugh or scoff, so we did both.

I came home and told Mr S this, laughing. He replied, laughing, “Well, it’s true.”

Mr S has a great sense of humour. It’s the sort where the recipient of the joke is often offended, or everyone sitting around the table laughs politely, if he’s lucky, while casting sideways glances at their neighbours, the air heavy with, “Is he serious, or is that a joke?”

Of course, he was joking, I’d seen him kissing Chicklet on the lips before. Just to be sure, over the next few days I checked him kissing Chicklet. I suddenly realised that the Gaelic nose acts a screen when it comes to pinpointing the “kissing spot”. After a few days of surrepticiously observing, so as to not change the subject’s behaviour (hey, I’m not an amateur anthropologist for nothing), I concluded that this latest joke, was indeed not a joke.

“Kiss him on the lips.” I suggested playfully.

“Nope. We don’t do that,” “We”, you understand, is French People, “And Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong.” That’s the name of a good, but irritatingly titled, oft-cited, book.

“Breastfeeding.” I replied, “Breastfeeding was unfashionable until recently, because of the French argument that ‘breasts are for lovers’ and look now, everybody’s talking about and doing it.”

He was stumped (a good moment in Franco-British relations). It seems I may have proven that Sixty Million Frenchmen can, sometimes, be Wrong.

And there is, sometimes, a grain of delight in at winning the small battles. As for Chicklet’s  lips, he’ll just have to make do with millions of kisses from Mama instead.

 

 

Ramps, electric doors and parting with cash

I’ve developed rather an affinity for ramps: if a shop has one, I will enter, solely for the reason of showing that it entices the pusher of a poussette in. Similarly, if a shop has an internal elevator, I will use it, regardless of whether it takes me to the prettiest dresses, or the grottiest of men’s underwear, solely to show that customers need it.

If a shop has a high step, I will not enter it. Unless, and this has rarely proved to be the case, a shop assistant spots me outside and voluntarily opens the door. Then I’ll enter, and most likely buy something too (luckily I don’t live near Hermes…).

If a shop has a level entrance, and, wait while I calm myself, electric doors, I will be a regular.

What will f*** it up though, are internal security who follow me around. I know I look a little dishevelled these days, especially for gay paree, but I.MADE. IT. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. WITH. CLOTHES. ON. Okay, that little mustard coloured spot on my cardigan isn’t exactly mustard, but I’m in proper adult attire and the big basket on my oversized pram does not make me a shoplifter. Truly it doesn’t. Not even a tiny bit. It does show the potential space I have for goods in your store – that I will pay for, in full, at the checkout. Like normal people.

Cos, I’m normal, right?*

*Smoothes hair back, pats pinny down and surreptitiously rubs at a little spot of “mustard”…

A bit of steel

There she is, there she is!

Last year I was chatting with a Parisian friend who told me that the “loves the Eiffel Tower”. I looked a bit puzzled. I didn’t really believe that she could “love” it, but she was adament.

Now, despite watching tourists in their hundreds, every day, pour into the Champs de Mars to photograph themselves with their fingers “pinching” the tower, or jumping in front of her or some other such apparently essential holiday snap, I thought my friend was a bit odd.

Somewhere, somehow, as winter slowly gave way to a bright and sunny spring, spring into a rainy summer, when I walked past the steel skeleton in the early morning, at high noon or waited with visitors to watch the flickering bulbs, she grew on me. I love that she’s a different colour at the top than at the bottom. I adore checking her out against a steely grey sky and in brilliant sunshine. I wait with excitement in the dark for her bulbs to twinkle, I find it funny when her head disappears in the mist.

So that’s it folks: TG loves Paris.

Words I’m a bit scared to utter, because I’m sure that that will set the wheels in motion for another move…

Not a birth story

I can’t decide if I want to put my birth story online. On one hand it is such a major part of my life, I want to put it out there. On the other, it was a deeply personal experience, I’m not sure I want to share it with you, when in all likelihood, you won’t be sharing something as personal with me! So, I’m undecided for now.

However, what I will share is that it was not, absolutely not a nightmare, it left me able to see how orgasming through childbirth could be possible (I didn’t really get it before) and I’m really, truly looking forward to being in labour again.

What was a nightmare was being 42 weeks pregnant. That was really awful – for me. The fear of an induction was haunting. The 15, yes F-I-F-T-E-E-N times a day, during weeks 40, 41 and 42 either verbally or by email, I was asked if I’d a) had the baby. I hadn’t, obviously (well, I thought it was obvious, because I had I’d have probably, somehow let people know? Just perhaps?) or b) if I was feeling any contractions. I wasn’t and even if I was, it doesn’t mean baby is about to appear any second. And then there was c). We can’t forget c) did I know when the baby was coming? Unfortunately, my comp-uterine system had had to reboot and I’d missed that particular email.

Let’s not forget the advice:

- eat pineapple (didn’t they realise the markets in Paris had sold out of pineapple? That was me. I ate it all – and can never look at another pineapple again)
- eat curry (curry isn’t what you mean, it’s chili and for what it’s worth, I was adding hot chili sauce to almost every meal)
- walk (I was very much trying, but with legs the size and weight of sequoia trunks, it was rather difficult, not to mention painful)
- raspberry leaf tea (I was doing that, thanks very much)
- evening primsrose oil capsules applied to cervix (done)
-  jumping (yup, did that when I felt able and it wasn’t too painful)
- sitting on the toilet for hours, because it ‘opens everything up’ (thanks for that well meaning piece of advice offered freely in public, and with the best of intentions, I know, but there are some reasons that that is NOT a good idea, if you know why, you know and if you don’t, lucky you!).

There were more, I’ve just forgotten them.

But let’s not forget the best bit: the congratulations! Yes, I received a message along the lines of, “Wow, TG, I haven’t heard from you and it’s ages since your due date so you must have had Chicklet by now, so CONGRATULATIONS!”. Lovely, except I hadn’t.

I think that the last two weeks passed, and I’m not joking here, in inverse warp speed. Minutes and hours have never taken so long to tick. I’d fill my days with distractions, I’d do fun things and laugh with friends in the late summer days, but time just did not seem to move.

And the most infuriating part of it all though? Every single person who got in touch to ask me or offer advice (or their congratulations!), did it with the best of intentions. Nobody wanted to make me feel bad and I knew it at the time. I was just fed up, hormonal and maybe just a little, little bit emotional!

As for the passage of time, inverse warp speed has been replaced with “Full speed ahead!” – in a blink of an eye, it’s next week. This side of birth is definitely more fun!

Being Mama Grouse

It’s funny, we talk about parents and “their children”. We hear parents say, “my son” or “my daughter”.

I thought I couldn’t get used to refering to Chicklet as “my son” because it was surreal: I have a son!

And, quite honestly it is – in the most perfect of ways.

But that’s not why the words trip uneasily off my tongue. If someone were to ask me if I thought that Chicklet came from inside me, or if he was delivered by a stork, despite the fact that I’m still recovering from the pregnancy, labour and birth, I would have to say that I find the latter more plausible.

I don’t feel he is “mine”.

I feel he is his – and I’m just the luckiest person to be given guardianship of him.

Feeding Chicklet

Baby grouse has arrived. He’s gorgeous. He’s nearly three weeks old and has already a beautiful personality. I’ve no idea what people find boring about newborns, this one at least is cute to the nth..according to his parents!

I was just reading Girls Gone Child’s 2006 post about her boobs. It’s a funny old thing, as she points out, because those who have them, generally don’t want them and those who don’t, do. Until we finish school and then more important things in life take over. Except, if you have really big boobs, like around a G cup with a 30 inch band, they never really leave you alone.

I had mine reduced in Egypt by a lovely surgeon, Dr Galil Greis. Not only was he a gentleman to deal with, he was also skillful with the knife. He cautioned me beforehand that there was a chance I would not be able to breastfeed and that if I could, there was no guarantee of the quantity. Well read-up on the surgical technique he was going to use, I understood the risks. Having had my neck in a collar a few months previously, following 10 years of funding the annual holidays of various chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, physiotherapists and getting back muscles a bodybuilder could be proud of (unfortunately not their same lean body mass..), I had had enough and me, with a phobia of hospitals, went under the knife.

Waking up was the best feeling ever. The recovery was fairly straightforward, painful, but straightforward and I have not regretted it for a second. I didn’t actually know that there were men, other than the odd few, who REALLY DID look at women in the eyes before checking out their chest. It slowly dawned on me too that perhaps not every girl grew up with boys at school groping them. I discovered that when breasts were a more ‘normal’ size, there are less comments in the street (I don’t just mean in Egypt) and that they are considered ‘yours’ rather than there for general discussion or for random men, drunk or otherwise, to cop a feel of. I also became less of a ‘threat’ for some women who, it appeared, thought my boobs were out to take their man. Seriously. None of those realisations are reasons why I had the surgery: when you are used to being treated a certain way from the time you become womanly, whatever the age, how are you supposed to really believe that it’s not socially acceptable and not ‘normal’ for all these things to happen?! So, not the reasons behind the decision, but fab outcomes!

Fast forward a few years. I’ve now had my precious Chicklet. And he needs breastfeeding. Everybody has problems with breastfeeding: sore breasts, cracked nipples, delayed milk coming in, too much milk etc. It’s not easy for anybody and that’s before healing from a major physical experience and hormones are factored in. The breast reduction adds another layer to that: how do you know if you can or are making enough milk?

My poor chick suffered a fair bit when he was born. It was touch and go if we’d be able to take him home with us when we left because he was losing too much weight and fast. One night when he’d been screaming (note, not crying) the clinic down for about 5 hours we were told that he was so hungry and dehydrated that there was serious risk of his organs shutting down unless we gave him something. That something was, my mind held out the crossbones, formula.

Lying in bed, unable to get out, watching my little boy’s body being held by a plethora of nurses, sitting up on the big padded changing table in our room and my husband beside, feeding him 10ml of formula with a syringe at about 4am was utterly, utterly heartbreaking. I could barely see through my silent tears, but I couldn’t possibly look away and leave him. His little body was too precious and too young to have artificial stuff put in, especially by an artificial method (not that I know of a natural method!). It was for The Best, I was reassured. Even The Best didn’t reassure me. My baby didn’t feel reassured afterwards either; he screamed bloody murder for hours. It turned out, he was so much in need of food, that 10ml was effectively a mise en bouche. We had ‘opened his stomach’ as my husband put it.

In the morning a few more people who knew a thing or two about feeding after breast reduction were brought in and were shocked at how quickly he’d deteriorated. Even the La Leche League lady advised to “give him as much formula as he wants, don’t stop, just keep feeding him formula until he stops”. You know when LLL say something like that, you’ve got to do it!

Eventually, after a nerve wracking wait for the paediatrician on our last day, Chicklet had finally, finally gained some weight and we could take him home! Yay!

Then the fun and games really started. Chicklet needs me to make as much milk as possible AND make sure he’s getting enough calories, so he has formula to supplement breast milk. In order to maximise production, (aside from me eating fennel, drinking breastfeeding teas, taking homeopathic remedies, eating a lot of good stuff and taking it SUPER easy) Chicklet needs to be on the breast, sucking, as much as possible. It’s also best that he’s not fed from a bottle to avoid nipple confusion. That’s where the Lact-Aid comes in. This is what it looks like in the pack:

Taken from www.lact-aid.com

 Sexy, eh?

And this is what it looks like on:

Taken from www.lact-aid.com

So sexy, I wonder if I’ll ever be having children with my husband again…

Now, that pipe that goes to the nipple is very, very flexible. Imagine putting a wet strand of spaghetti in your baby’s mouth – and it has to go in straight. Then imagine doing it at night with minimal lighting, severely myopic and unable to find glasses with baby just wanting to EAT, MAMA! Remember, a wet strand of spaghetti… There have been a few f-bombs in our room at night. Of course, someone has to do the nighttime run to make the Lact-Aid up in the first place and the lactation consultant cleverly/kindly showed Papa how to do that..not Mama! “Making the Lact-Aid up” involves cleaning that slippery pipe…

I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to breastfeed in public with it, especially in Paris where breastfeeding is still not socially all that acceptable, never mind with a plastic sack of milk around your neck and a pipe feeding the baby. Add in that it’s nearly impossible to do it without fully exposing the boob because of the spaghetti-pipe. Anyway, Chicklet is currently getting some natural milk alongside the not-so-natural stuff and so far is doing very well.

And that makes Mama Grouse very, very happy.

And that makes the House of Grouse a very relaxed place to be!