Remaining hopeful – cochlear implant assessment

Tomorrow, the Peanut, me and my Mum will fly down to Christchurch, and on Friday we will meet the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme team and have her cochlear assessment.

I am equal parts excited, nervous and apprehensive. I know better than to get my hopes up too high that this will be a magic bullet to get the Peanut hearing, but I know that this rational voice is just the facade that is hiding the very very hopeful me behind it.

We got the results of her MRI which was looking at the physiology of her ear drums, cochlear and hearing nerve yesterday and were told that yes, she does have hearing nerves. This is very good news. Without intact hearing nerves, cochlear implants are useless. She does have unusual cochleas and inner ears on both sides, which aligns with CHARGE Syndrome and doesn’t prevent cochlear implants from working but may mean the implantation of them is more complicated than with a baby with normal ear anatomy.

I am sure we will learn more about this in Christchurch. At this point though, it is just fantastic that what they could see on the MRI hasn’t made them say no to the implants and our trip to Christchurch is still going ahead.

Even if they implant them successfully, there are no guarantees in terms of what the implants will do for the Peanut. They may do nothing. They may help with background and environmental sound, or they may help her hear and understand speech. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but I can feel the bubble of excitement growing in my chest.

I know what it feels like when that hope gets crushed. I had it with her eye surgery which never amounted to anything. While I know I should be tempering my own excitement, part of me just thinks I should enjoy it. Even if it does amount to nothing and the Peanut remains profoundly deaf, I can enjoy this moment of hope and expectation. I am constantly amazed at the human capacity to remain hopeful despite the evidence stacked against you or the events of the past. While being disappointed is crushing, I would rather have that disappointment than never feel hopeful.

Wish us luck!

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Happiness breeds happiness

While we were in hospital last week a friend who I haven’t seen for a long time visited the Peanut and me. She had been following the blog so knew the basic run down on the Peanut, but had never met her.

She arrived shortly after I had been told we could go home, and I imagine I was radiating gratitude and relief. She cuddled the Peanut, cooed over her smiles and laughed at her squirms, and then she said something which got me thinking.

She said after reading some of the blog she had expected to feel sad when she met the Peanut. Sad, because I had shown in my blog just how low I had felt. Sad, because the things I have learnt about the Peanut since she was born are not what you wish for your own child. But when she walked in and I was smiling, all she felt was happy to see us. After she said it, I realised so much of what people think and feel about the Peanut has to do with what I put out there. If I’m sad and negative and see everything in a grey light, they will see it that way too.

But if I’m happy and positive, and show them who the Peanut really is, instead of the labels and diagnoses she has been lumped with, they will feel the same way I do about her. They will see her smile and giggles, instead of her NG tube and diagnosis. They will see I am happy and will feel there is nothing to be sad about.

I’m not saying I won’t have the occasional low day. Or that I will paint on a smile when I feel miserable. But if I see the Peanut as my little girl, and not a tragedy or something to cry over, others will see her the same way. If I want to prevent the pity in people’s eyes, I need to remove the look in mine that tells them to feel sorry for me.

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A week of extremes

This week has been busy and mixed, to say the least.

It started out with my last post being featured in The Mighty, a website which celebrates diversity and overcoming challenges. The piece was one I struggled to publish, because I knew it didn’t portray me in the best light. I was being honest, which is what I’ve tried to do all along, and I knew that I was taking a risk.

While friends and family and my blogging buddies have been nothing but supportive of me, some of the readers of The Mighty were less than. On their facebook page, my post generated comments ranging from

“I can’t believe a judge gave this child back to this misguided mother. Who knows when she will need more “vacation” time.”

and

“Children aren’t supposed to be disposable-we can’t brush them off on someone else to live and care for and pick up the pieces, while we shuttle of to relax in Hawaii.”

and

“This is her child she is talking about, not a car or a computer she has considering purchasing. We all feel there emotions from time to time, it’s called parenting, and its not easy. Not for any of us. Typical child or not.”

to other commenters who thanked me and said they appreciate the honesty. This woman’s one stood out.

“I am the mother of a daughter diagnosed at birth with spina bifida. The emotions that come with the birth of a disabled child are indescribable. I kept my daughter and she is now a young adult trying her best to learn how to live independently. The only ones justified in condemning this mother are other mothers who have been in the same situation. If you have not faced the roller coaster of emotions that come from the fear and grief of this being unexpectedly thrust upon you, please delete your comments. Thank you Tessa for publishing this article. It would have helped me tremendously to have read this 23 years ago. What a relief to know that I was not the only mother to feel this way.” 

I’ve always known my honest approach may come back and bite me. I knew that not everyone would see it how I saw it and understand my story. I’ve been waiting for it, but it still stung. I guess one of the reasons is that I’ve always known some people must feel this way, but in person, people have kept their opinions to themselves. Which I’ve appreciated. Seeing those thoughts and that anger in writing just reminded me of not only other people’s judgment of me, but my own judgment of my actions.

The post they were responding to was very specific. It didn’t go into the Peanut’s (I got told off for calling her that too) diagnosis or other events that have happened, it was a snapshot of my emotions during our time apart. It was (as some readers commented) all about me. It was about my emotions and my time apart from my daughter. As a stand alone piece it could be read in a number of ways.

After reading those comments, despite the positive ones, and despite knowing these people don’t know me or what has happened in the last year, I contemplated stopping writing for a while. I thought, I don’t need this, on top of everything else. I’m happy. The Peanut is happy, we don’t need this in our lives. I’ve never been very good with things like this. I feel my pulse accelerate and a sick feeling building in my stomach.

And then my brilliant sister commented on the thread saying this.

“Many who’ve angrily commented here seem to feel that a person honestly describing a difficult time in her life necessarily amounts to “glamourizing” that experience. Or the idea that as a reader, to read and reflect painful account and feel some empathy for that experience is necessarily some kind of “glamourization”.
Or that anyone, even the parent of a seriously multiply cognitively and sensorily disabled child, is in a position to judge how another person felt in a time of huge stress and shock.
It’s a cruel kind of solipsism to say “I reacted in this (implicitly “better” – lucky I’m so perfect) way to a similar situation (or maybe not that similar – how much can you tell from one short blog post?). Any other reaction is wrong/should never be spoken of.”
It’s toxic and isolating to suggest that even a moment of pain, or doubt, or depression, or moral struggle – even if those things are what really happened – should never even be mentioned. If it is, it needs to be shamed and shouted down.
What that amounts to is the idea that there’s one correct script that you’d better keep to, at all times, not even lapsing for a moment, even if that script does not describe your own actual experience, or you’ll be attacked and shamed for wrong-think.
Parenting is a challenge. Parenting children with special needs has more than its fair share of additional challenges. I just wish one of those challenges wasn’t judgment, vitriol, and ungenerous scorekeeping from other members of that same community.”

My sister is very good with words. Her post reminded me of one of the key reasons I’ve kept this blog going. There is no script for dealing with this, and there shouldn’t be. What there should be is understanding and compassion, particularly from the relevant community. There should be the ability to recognise how hard this adjustment is for some people, and the acknowledgement that your brain might take you to some pretty dark places.

I have received nothing but love from the CHARGE online community, but it’s clear that there are pockets of people out there in the special needs community, and I guess just in the general population, who consider their way the only way and the right way, which means if your feelings don’t align you feel isolated and alone. Not everyone reacts to stress and shock and their life turning upside down in the same way. It feels so important for other parents, and me, to know that that’s ok. That other people have felt this way. That the world will keep spinning, just give it some time.

I put my life out to the world, so I’m not surprised that at some point I have received this kind of feedback. I was expecting it and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I am not trying to change the world, but I know when the Peanut was first born all I could find were positive people who were living their lives and I couldn’t relate. I needed to hear from someone who had felt like I had. Who acknowledged the low points.

Thanks to my sister and friends and some other internet strangers who stuck up for me, by the end of the day I was feeling better about the whole situation and read the negative words without taking them onboard.

The day didn’t get better from there. The facebook comments coincided with me taking the Peanut back into hospital. Not great timing. She has had a cold and cough for a couple of weeks and on Tuesday her cough started to worry me. I tried to see if we could get away with a simple GP visit but as I suspected, they sent me to the hospital to be checked out properly. When a baby like the Peanut gets sick, they don’t take any chances. It’s hospital or nothing. They checked her out and thankfully, because they’ve gotten to know her so well and know what her baseline looks like, said that she wasn’t too bad. We were admitted all the same just to keep an eye on her, but thankfully the doctors agreed with me that she was on the improve and they only kept us in for two nights. After the last admission taking two weeks, I had been prepared for a fight, but was very relieved they saw what I saw.

While the week started off poorly, this discharge from hospital turned it around and today it took a steep step upwards when the Peanut’s BLENNZ worker (Blind and low vision education network New Zealand) visited with a “little room” for the Peanut to explore (truth be told, it’s not that little and I have no idea where I am going to store it). The idea is that you put her in there with various things she can reach out and touch and she gets to explore on her own, learning about her affect on the world around her. I’m not supposed to talk to her or move things in the little room, which is incredibly hard to stick to, but I’m doing my best.

Here’s a clip of her first go in the little room. You can see she’s really liking it! The fake pearls seem to be a fave.

It’s so fantastic to see her interacting and exploring, and the other benefit is it keeps her occupied and I’m supposed to leave her to it and not interact with her, so I have a window of time to get a few things done! The Peanut can’t play in the same way as other babies her age, so it’s so nice to have something built for her that can keep her occupied and happy and stimulated.

So we went from vitriol and hospital admissions to exploring the little room in just a few days, and tomorrow the week will get even better when my brilliant big sister of the message above arrives in Wellington for a few days. She lives in Vancouver, so this visit is very exciting. She will get to meet her niece for the very first time and enjoy her old stomping ground for a few days.

This week has been interesting but we are ending on a high note.

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I’m looking forward to the drive

Looking back at those two months I spent without the Peanut I feel like I was being torn in two. I could never pin my brain down and constantly flitted between rational and irrational, love and pragmatism, optimism and despair. I would settle on something for five minutes only to feel part of my brain breaking away in another direction.

One day I would wake up feeling sure of myself, confident of what I wanted to do, that I wanted to have the Peanut back with me. The next morning I would have visions of our life together. Just the two of us alone in a small home. My life as her carer, rather than her mother.

I can remember trying to stop the constant shuffling in my head and feeling incapable of any focused thought. The counsellor I was seeing at the time kept trying to tell me that I couldn’t force this decision. That this wasn’t an intellectual decision. That it would just happen, but that frustrated me even more. I like to think things through. I like to weigh things up. I like to consider my options and draw pros and cons lists. But no matter how I tried, this one never made sense when you put it on the scales.

To a purely rational and pragmatic mind, taking the Peanut back didn’t make any sense. She was with a foster family who adored her and I was alone, without a permanent place to live and months away from going back to work. I had been given another chance. A chance to start a fresh and live my life. But when I even tried to make some headway towards that life my resolve crumbled and I collapsed in on my self. I tried to apply for a part time fixed term teaching job at a school I’d love to teach at. The job would have been perfect and would have taken me through till the summer. At the interview I had that sensation I get when I’m sick. I’ll feel ok at home in bed or curled up on the couch and then when I get into the real world or try to go to work the sickness overwhelms me and I can think of nothing else. I sat in the reception of the school and felt a huge wave of anxiety tip over me.

I was not ready for this.

In the interview I ended up crying in front of the panel. They asked me something I couldn’t quite answer straight away and it felt like I would need to tell them what had happened. I panicked and instead of any number of straight forward and vague answers, I let the tears spill onto my cheeks. While the Principal and other interviewing staff were very kind, I left feeling humiliated and foolish. I drove home crying and hitting the steering wheel with the heels of my hands. Frustrated that I had crumbled, but also annoyed that I had put myself in a position like that. I was so keen to get going, but it wasn’t my life anymore.

I wasn’t ready to start life again. Starting life again meant admitting I wasn’t taking the Peanut back. And while a huge part of me wanted to move on, and bigger part of me wanted her back and couldn’t move forward until I had acknowledged that.

I remember those two months as months of internal conflict. There was always a battle between two sides being waged in my chest. My stomach. My heart. I was constantly saying the phrase I’ve just used, “one part of me wants this… but another part wants that.”

I wanted her back but I wasn’t brave enough to look at that version of my life in the eye and accept it. I was still hanging on to some vision of my life I had had before she was born. I also wanted to not want her. I wanted it to be simple. I wanted to be able to erase this part of my life and start again, move on. But I knew that was impossible. There was no going back from this, and while I could have left the Peanut in foster care, the only real way forward for me was with her.

I’ve never had to make a decision like this before. I’ve tortured myself over break ups I felt mixed up about, and job offers I questioned, but nothing as all consuming as this. Nothing that felt so edge-of-the-cliff monumental. Nothing that reduced me to mush every time I considered the options, on either side.

I felt like I was damned either way. I either took her home and resigned myself to a life as a carer of a highly dependent daughter for potentially the rest of my life. A life where I may never meet someone new, because who wants to get involved with a single mother with a special needs daughter? A life where work may be too hard to balance with the Peanut, and I have to give up my career and live off the government. Or, I give up my daughter and spend the rest of my life hating myself and my decision. I spend the rest of my life thinking about her and wondering how she is. I spend the rest of my life seeing her progress and milestones through photos.

I remember once when I moved away from my teenage boyfriend to go to university. He was my first real love and I was devastated by this move (although it was my decision to leave). Before I moved away I kept picturing this one stretch of the road between his city and mine. Whenever I imagined the road the rain was always pelting the ashvalt and wind was whipping the neighbouring trees. I fixated on this stretch of road as if it was to blame for keeping us apart. It represented the vast distance (2 hours drive feels a lot to an 18 year old) between us and came to feel like it symbolised my feelings of hopelessness at this move and what it would do to us.

I did the same thing when picturing the Peanut and my life together. I pictured our house and saw only the bad. I saw her in a wheelchair, me watching TV beside her. I saw me getting older. More tired. I saw a life unfulfilled. I saw this image over and over, any time I truly considered taking her back. I pictured us in a dingy flat. Mould on the walls. Crappy furniture. Me getting up at all hours to attend to a baby, child, adolescent Peanut who didn’t know I was her mother.

It took me a while to realise this thinking wasn’t just unhealthy, it was depressive. I’ve never been depressed before, but I certainly think I was teetering on the edge there. I think I probably fell in. I had been sad and in crises mode for so long that my brain was becoming accustomed to it. I was dealing with the total collapse of the life I had. Aside from my friends and family, which have been a constant throughout, nothing looked the same. I could laugh, but I hadn’t felt happy in months. I couldn’t go a day without crying and even talking about the Peanut made me sob.

Once I started to come out of that, with the help of both counsellors, my friends and family and medication, I could see things more clearly. (I debated including the fact that I used antidepressants to help me through this time, but decided to put it in as I have discovered some of my students read this blog and I want them, and anyone else, to know there’s no shame in getting help. And that with that help, it’s possible to come out the other side.) I could visualise our future without that dark haze hanging over it. I began to be able to see sunlight pouring in the window of the house we would live in. I could see us going for walks on the waterfront and meeting friends for coffee. The image started to change to a house where I wanted to live.

It didn’t happen quickly. In the beginning I still felt like I was taking two steps forward and one step back. But then something did happen that changed things.

Hawaii.

This beautiful place will get its own blog post, but I truly feel like I owe my state of mind and sense of calm to that holiday (they should send all new special needs parents away on a retreat. Scrap that, they should send all new parents). I came back positive, optimistic and calm, but most of all happy. Happy in the moment without thinking too much about the future. Happy with the Peanut as she is. Happy to face what comes next, even though it will be hard. But also determined to make it work. To keep my career and sense of self while still being the mum the Peanut needs. I know it won’t always be easy, but it’s going to happen.

For anyone who knows me, or who even has read this blog from April till now, I hope it’s clear just how much of a transformation has happened in the last few months. I feel like a different person, but still very much me. I’m stronger, more resilient, braver and gutsier. But I don’t feel hardened. I also feel kinder, more accepting, more empathetic and more laid back. I don’t take the people in my life for granted, and I cherish new and existing friendships. I now feel like I can enjoy the moment in the moment without always looking to the next thing.

I feel like there were a few moments when I was teetering on the edge where I could have gone the other way. I’m so glad that I didn’t. Words don’t really do justice to how thankful I feel to be where I am and not in some other place. When I pictured my life and it seemed like nothing but bad things, I couldn’t see what I see now. I couldn’t picture the feeling of watching the Peanut sleep and feeling this swelling in my chest of love and pride and protectiveness. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to hear my baby girl giggle and light up when I touch her face. I couldn’t understand that my love for her would trump all the other worries. It’s going to be hard at times. The lows will feel much lower, but already the highs have felt so much higher. I couldn’t see that, but I think I wanted to believe it was true.

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This little girl is making it all worth it.

I don’t know where this road is going. But in my mind’s eye it’s not raining, or windy. The sun is shining and I’m looking forward to the drive.

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Laughing – a milestone

Today I heard the Peanut’s first honest to goodness giggle. I was tickling her before her bath and she let out a breathy, continuous giggle. I’ve heard the beginnings of this before where she would sort of hmmm of enjoyment as if she was about to start laughing but it wouldn’t amount to anything. But this time it kept going and she wriggled in delight as she laughed.

I immediately burst out laughing myself and looked around the room for other people who could verify it.

“She laughed! Did you hear that? She LAUGHED!”

I kept tickling her and laughed along with her as she giggled and squirmed.

I couldn’t get it on film because my phone is so jammed up with video footage there wasn’t enough space, and by the time I had cleared it, her giggles were turning into the breathy cries of an over tired baby, but I can hear the sound in my head even now.

It’s so nice to see her so happy and expressive. Even with all her appointments and tests, she is still a super happy baby and seems to be loving life.

In lieu of sharing that actual moment, here’s another of the Peanut giving this gorgeous blue bunny a kiss and cuddle. The bunny came all the way from Canada, and my sister’s sewing machine.

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A summer of surgeries

As I looked over my shoulder at the Peanut,  already asleep from the gas and looking very small on the adult sized gurney, I wished her problems and issues had just been spread out a bit further afield. Did they really have to all come to one baby?

The Peanut, at just 7 months old, is having her second general anesthetic, her third MRI and her first CT scan. And she’s luckier than most little CHARGErs who often end up in major surgery in their first few days of life.

This scan marks the start of a summer of surgeries, including cochlear implants (provided the MRI gives us the right news today); gastrostomy and Nissen for her feeding tube; eye surgery to debulk her left eye; and hip surgery to put her left him back in place.

It’s a lot.

Thankfully,  the Peanut is blissfully unaware.

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Just a quick P.S. to say we are back home after the quickest hospital admission ever. They didn’t end up putting her fully under and just used the gas, so she was back up and being fed within an hour and a half. One procedure down. Many more to go. 

A normal sadness

Months ago, I wrote about my lack of a birthing plan here. Having never had a baby before, I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was I didn’t want anything off the table in terms of pain relief and I didn’t feel too worried if it ended in a caesarean section.

I’m glad I had that perspective, because the Peanut’s birth wasn’t allowed to go according to nature. At 37 and a half weeks I developed itchy hands and feet that kept me up at night. I googled the symptom (as you do) and the first thing that popped up was Cholestasis.

Chloestasis refers to to any condition that impairs the flow of bile — a digestive fluid — from the liver. It’s fairly harmless to the mother, aside from the crazy itching, but can increase the risk of stillbirth in the baby.

Instead of waiting day after day for the first twinges of labour, I was admitted to hospital to be induced. I won’t go into detail about the labour. Induction isn’t fun. The initial stages took longer than expected and the later stages, much less. It was hard. I threw up. I swore.

But then the Peanut was born. It was clear almost instantly that something wasn’t right. She was floppy. Too floppy. Instead of the classic cry I had been lead to expect from so many too-easy TV births, she was blue and lifeless. She was placed on my chest for maybe a second where she took one gasping breath and then she was whisked from me to the paediatrician. She started making mewing, cat-like sounds and struggling to fill her tiny lungs.

At the time my alarm at her state was heavily outweighed by a huge rush of post birth hormones that made me feel pretty damn good. My Mum, who could see everything better than me, told me the Peanut would be fine, and I repeated that to myself, as if there could be any doubt. Plenty of babies need help breathing when they are born, I heard a voice inside my head say. She’s fine. It’ll be fine. I felt positive of it. So sure I didn’t feel even a hint of worry.

I was tidied up and then eventually wheeled down to see her. I was weak from low iron and the epidural, and felt a little bit like I might faint, so I didn’t cuddle the tiny baby lying in front of me with tubes going in and out of her. I stroked her hand and was wheeled back to bed.

I have heard many mothers talk about the grief they feel for their birthing experience. Mothers who wanted natural births and got C-sections. Mothers who wanted to go pain free and ended up with epidurals and forceps. Mothers who experienced traumatic tearing and episiotomies that changed their lives for weeks and sometimes months after the birth of their babies.

I couldn’t relate to that grief. I had bigger things to grieve. But today, in a facebook group of amazing mothers that I belong to, a few brave mums posted their post c-section photos of them with their babies. The mothers looked tired, but victorious. The babies were wrapped up and lying across their chests. The fathers were smiling and proud.

And I got it.

While I never had a plan for my birth – I didn’t mind if there was pain relief or not, if there was intervention or not, as long as it came to an end at some point – subconsciously I had wanted that end part of the process to be a certain way. I had wanted that moment where they put your new baby on your chest and it’s just you and them and you get to (if not fall in love) at least marvel in the fact that this little creature just came out of you.

The Peanut was whisked away from me, and even when I did see her I didn’t have that moment. I remember seeing pictures of my mum with me (or maybe it was one of my sisters) and we are so little, wrapped in a hospital blanket, and she is lying back in the hospital bed. Exhausted but happy. The closest thing I got to this moment was the next day in the SCBU where I was sitting in an armchair, jammed in between plastic cots, with Eva in my lap.

I don’t mean to say I wish I had had that moment to the detriment of the Peanut’s health. I know she needed help breathing in order to live and the doctors did what they had to do. I know this is true. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a bit that I didn’t have that time.

I know, from other mothers telling me, that even when you do get that moment it isn’t always the blissful bubble I’m picturing. I believe them, I guess I just feel a little robbed that I didn’t even get the chance to realise it’s not always as special as it looks. And that within 48 hours the Peanut would start to receive one diagnosis after another which would make it very hard to be anything even resembling happy for almost four months.

While I wouldn’t have been bothered by a C-Section, it bothers me that our beginning was so tainted by tests, doctors and bad news. The bad news was always going to happen. It could have waited a few weeks. They redid a lot of those initial tests anyway, so what was the point in hearing it all so early?

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My version of the post-birth photo, in the SCBU, looking tired and puffy, but at this point, still happy.

I know the Peanut and I have time now to create new memories and take precious photos. I won’t mourn this forever. But seeing those mothers with their babies just made me realise I did have a plan, I just didn’t know it, and the Peanut’s birth didn’t follow it.

The Peanut is not a fan of plans.

Seeing those photos made me sad, made me mourn for something I feel like I missed out on, but it also made me feel a huge amount of empathy and connection with all those mothers I hadn’t understood before. I suddenly felt the loss that the mother who had an emergency C-section felt, and the loss of the mother who just wanted a natural birth but had to have intervention instead. I always dismissed it, not meanly, but just because I couldn’t relate. But I do now, and it’s so personal to each of us, and so heartbreaking.

For so long I have been processing so much. My brain has been on hyperdrive trying to take in and accomodate new information, medical jargon and diagnoses. But now that the Peanut is back with me and we are getting on with our lives, I can start to think about how we began and the small things that have contributed to our lives so far. I’m not consumed with thinking about foster care, or adoption, and her diagnosis is starting to settle in my mind, so I’m just thinking about us and what we have been and will be. I can begin to process the normal things that other mothers think about in their first few months.

I know what comes next, our lives, will make this feeling of loss seem small and unimportant. There will be more big events to put this into perspective, but also to outshine it. While it feels sad, it also feels kind of nice to be able to think about a normal mum thing that isn’t connected to special needs or Eva’s diagnosis, per se, but is something many mothers struggle with. It feels good to have something in common with other mums without having to stretch my circumstances to fit the normal complaints and issues. It’s nice to have a normal worry. A normal sadness.

A preview of things to come

Now that things have calmed down a bit and we are getting into the day to day life of being a baby and Mama, I’ve started thinking a bit more about the future.

At the moment, the Peanut and I are living with my very good friends, and possibly two of the best people ever, and their 11-month-old son. They are the same couple who had me and the Peanut to stay when we were first out of hospital all those months ago, and then when I was trying to decide what to do for those two months when the Peanut was in foster care, they offered me a place to live if I chose to take the Peanut back into my care.

They hate when I thank them or gush over how great they are, but I really cannot express the gratitude and sense of being so lucky to have these two wonderful people in my life that I feel. They have provided the Peanut and me with a family home, when that was the one thing we were really missing.

This arrangement is medium term, however. While we joke about starting a commune where all our friends can live a stone’s throw away from each other, eventually the Peanut and I will have to go it alone and start our own family home. This doesn’t fill me with dread, but let’s just say I am really enjoying being part of a busy house where I am seldom by myself.

I got a taste of what that will feel like this weekend. I had the house to myself while my housemates went to their hometown for a few days. All of a sudden the busy house of five turned into a quiet house of two. Where only one of us can talk.

I spent very little of it by myself contemplating the silence, but there were a few moments where I sat and felt the weight of being by myself and though “this is what it will be like”. But instead of having a house to myself for 48 hours, it’ll just be me and the Peanut every day. Since I left home I have lived with at least one other adult person. Either a partner or a collection of flatmates. When the Peanut and I move out, it will be the first time by myself. It’s not that I am afraid to be myself. In various flatting situations I have fantasized about having my own place where I didn’t have to angst about flatties not doing their dishes, or who hadn’t payed their share of the power bill. But now that it will be happening not as a matter of choice, but as a matter of life, it does feel a bit different.

I consider myself a bit of an introvert. I like my alone time. But that alone time only feels good if you have an alternative to turn to. Otherwise it’s just lonely.

I had the good sense to see this state of quietness coming this weekend and arranged a potluck brunch with a few friends. We each supplied a different brunchy dish and drank coffee and talked for most of the morning. When they left to their respective weekends I thought about what a lovely morning I had had. I’d slept in the lounge to keep an ear out for the Peanut’s coughing (yes, she has another cold, but I’m not acknowledging it in a big way because I am confident she is going to kick it herself without the help of the hospital staff) and I woke to sun streaming in the curtains I had failed to close properly.

It was a beautiful day and while the Peanut napped I cleaned the house with music almost loud enough to hear over the vacuum cleaner. I drank coffee, and danced around the house and then started cooking french toast for my contribution to the brunch.

Having my friends around me, talking and laughing, just felt fantastic. And even after they left, I still felt buoyed by their company and the knowledge that while eventually it would just be me and the Peanut in a house together, I will have friends to visit and laugh with.

I did realise a few pertinent things during this practice alone weekend. We don’t have a TV in our house and when I had put the Peanut to bed one night I had exhausted Facebook and blogging for the day and didn’t feel like reading, what was I going to do with myself? When the Peanut and I go it alone, a TV is going to be a must. I know I use it as a crutch, as noise to fill the void, as company, but I’ve always figured I could be turning to the bottle, so a TV addiction isn’t such a bad thing. I can see myself opting to buy one before a table or chairs. Priorities, people.

I also realised the necessity of regrowing my friend circle. Before I was pregnant I had the most amazing and tight circle of friends. But New Zealand being what it is, people are always leaving  to go overseas and lives are constantly changing, and where I once had a regular crew of people in my city to rely on during weekend days and nights, I now find myself with far fewer people to call on. The ones who are left are fantastic, but we all have our lives and people get busy. Having a baby, and having other friends who have babies, means timing gets complicated. You can’t rely on your friends to drop what they’re doing to hang out. So I need to expand that circle.

I have lots of friends in other cities too, and would love to be able to catch up with them in person regularly, but phone calls will have to do for now.

So I’m making it my mission over the next little while to get back in touch with the friends who I so enjoy but just haven’t kept up regular contact with, and I’m going to try and make brand new friends. I’m going to actively seek them out and build up my friend circle so that when it’s just the Peanut and me at home I don’t feel desolate after discovering the few friends I have are busy with lives that don’t revolve around nap times. I’m going to ignore my inner shy girl and put myself out there.

In the mean time, I am just enjoying being an honorary aunty to one of the cutest little boys I’ve ever met and having the privileged position to watch him grow and achieve milestone after milestone, and having the company of two fantastic people who can cook a mean curry, show a level of caring for their friends that is above and beyond the norm, and are pretty great at holding up a highly entertaining conversation. I hope this family never has a crises which leads to any of them needing place to stay for an extended period of time, but if they ever do need it, no matter where I’m living, they will be welcome. Since I was very young my friends have always been a very important part of my life, and now I have friends who I consider not just my friends, but my family.

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