Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Love and Pain and Truth

I haven't even started writing this yet and there are already tears. This post has been brewing for over a year. I've procrastinated and pretended, but I guess it's time to say how I have really been feeling. To myself as much as to you. I know that I write here about my husband and children ... I have asked their permission, and as long as I don't embarrass or shame them, they have agreed. I have not written about this because I wasn't ready. It's difficult to narrate something that you are still living and feeling. But it's time, now.

I went through years of aching for a baby, then I did IVF, then I fell pregnant on my first try. Everybody said, "Straight away! It's a sign ... it's meant to be." Which always made me feel uncomfortable ... what about all the fellow infertile bloggers I had come to know and love, who weren't falling pregnant. Was it not their "time" ... was it not meant to "be" for them? But I accepted peoples good wishes and went along in the process of watching my belly swell, neatly placing my six pack of Chicken McNuggets inside my Quarter Pounder.

I was beyond elated. Finally, the thing I wanted the most in the whole world was happening ... I had MADE it happen, almost forced it. My intense wish to have another child was being granted. Life was amazing. 2007 and early 2008 was a wonderful time. It was just Dave, Max and I. Cruisy and quiet. I imagined what it would be like when the baby was here ... the cute little clothes, the tiny little miracle that was coming into our lives. I remember clearly thinking .... this could be as good as it ever gets. Enjoy these feelings.

I was so happy.

But there was something wrong with Dave. We thought it was because of work, or kids. He seemed "off' ... had bad heartburn, couldn't lose weight, and was not himself. Then his pain started ... a torn stomach muscle? A hernia? He asked me what side his appendix was on. I was annoyed at him. I actually said, "Come on, hon. I need you to be strong. I'm about to have a baby."

His pain got worse in a manner of weeks. He went to the doctor, the ER in hospital ..... finally, some random GP ordered some specific scans, as a long shot. I was so pregnant, so excited ... but the sheen started to wear off. I had a terrible feeling of foreboding, and said to him before his scan, "What if they find a black mass, hon??" Dave laughed at me, his glass-half-empty wife.

The instant Dave walked in the door after being gone for hours, getting his scans and results .... everything changed. Our entire family landscape got forever altered. Because cancer can go away, but it never actually goes "away". I knew that we would never be the same again - even if Dave beats this, we would always have to look behind and around and inside us, for the cancer can always come back.

The word "cancer" passed Dave's lips, and my pregnancy instantly took a back seat. And that did not stop once the baby was born ... Rocco was an afterthought. My entire pregnancy, I was most looking forward to being in hospital with my baby, just the two of us. And it turned out to be the worst week of my life. Dave was in oncology in a bigger hospital over an hour away; and we didn't know if he would make it.

Schadenfreude at its best. My enemies would have had a field day. It really, painfully sucked to be me.

So that's all background ... what I'm getting to here is Rocco.


He was a hard baby. He came into the world pissed off .. maybe because his birth was a planned c-section and he wasn't ready to come out yet. I could handle the cancer, the chemo, the fear, the nappies, the painful breastfeeding, the no sleep ... all of that. I am strong, and I could handle all of that.

But the crying.

That crying. I raged at God in those months. How can you fucking do this to me, motherfucker!!! Wave your fricken God-wand and make this baby STOP CRYING.

Alas, there was nothing anyone could do ... Rocco just cried a lot. My wonderul friend Anna recently told me that maybe he was crying for all of us. And maybe he was. But I swear it sent me over the edge. I felt like I hated him. I did not want a baby anymore. I had to walk out of his room many, many times, for fear I would hurt him. I walked around the block, around the house, around the kitchen, around the fucking bend ....... his crying sent me crazy.

And he would fight me at every turn - feeding, changing a nappy - everything. He was a hard baby. I couldn't help comparing him to Max. To my disappointment I realised that I had expected another Max. My dream baby, the baby who anchored me to Life in a way that nothing else ever could.

I didn't want this baby - this crying, flailing, cranky baby. I wanted a nicer, quieter baby.

I had waited so long for him and it was all terrible. Dave couldn't help because he was sick, so it was all on me. I despaired. I thought Rocco hated me, I didn't play with him, didn't drink in his newborn-ness like I had imagined. I ignored him when I could, left him at home with Dave at nights so I could just get away.

Serves me right .... I wanted too much, and look what happened. Greedy, greedy girl.

I would write a bit about how hard it was, but always end the posts with, "but I love him so much and snuggle him and thank my lucky stars he is here."

I lied.

My sisters knew .... thank God there are no filters with us, I have told them the most terrible, shocking things. And they understood and didn't judge, and in some ways, have been there too because not all babies are easy ...... WHO KNEW.

When Rocco started daycare back in April, I was appalled at my relief. Driving off, having him looked after for for a few days in a row .... my God I needed the respite. I'd count down the days until daycare days would start again. I had wanted him so much, yet couldn't wait to palm him off. And left it til the last minute to pick him up, and then counted down the hours until his bedtime.

To this day, I wake up in the night with a racing heart. His night wakings have been like ..... like my fucking PUNISHMENT for doing something wrong. He cries because his leg is poking out, or his sheet is off ... or just because he wants to cry. So I go through the whole rigmarole of training him - again, letting him cry it out, reminding him that night times are for sleeping. I have to tell Dave to put his ear plugs in, otherwise he gets up and pats him.


I am wild, in the middle of the hard nights. Wild and angry and just fucking tired. I have punched pillows and wailed and stomped around. Recently I read a blog discussion on letting your baby cry - how damaging it is, detrimental to the babies mental health, and all the damage done in the first year if you let them cry. It made me feel really bad, all these women chiming in with "hold your babies close" .... "just rock them" ... "can't understand how a mother can let her baby cry."

I can understand it. I've learnt so much compassion and empathy for other mothers who struggle. It's easy to judge, especially when your so loved-up living in newborn land.

I wonder what kind of a baby Rocco would have been if Dave had not gotten cancer. I wonder if Dave would have still got cancer if I had not been pregnant. I wonder if I did not do the IVF, if the desire to have another child would have faded. If a baby cries in the forest and the mother is off having a mental breakdown, would the baby be scarred for life?

Years from now, I will probably look back on photos of Rocco at this time and my heart will do the usual, "Ohhh! He was so tiny and perfect and beautiful!" And he was and he was and he is. But I will never forget how hard it's been.

These days ... these new days, when he walks up to me and hugs me, when he looks into my eyes, plays with his brothers, says words, and is just so SO much more content in the world .... it's getting better. Rocco and I have turned the biggest corner together. We dig each other. I'm starting to understand now why I did it all ... those moments where your heart melts and I hug and hug him. And for the first time, he lets me.

Rocco is a beautiful, funny, adorable child.

Last week I took Max to the movies to see Up. We sat in the theatre, but before the film came on there was a short film called "Partly Cloudy." It's shows clouds making beautiful babies for the storks to come and deliver to people and animals. Gus is a lonely grey cloud who creates dangerous babies like crocodiles, porcupines, and rams ... the stork who delivers Gus's babies gets pummeled, punched, and beaten. This poor stork has to work so very hard ... and at one point, looks around at all the other clouds creating wonderful, contented babies.

I start to cry. I got given the most beautiful baby too .... but he pummeled and crashed into me. He rebelled and raged, fought me at every turn. In the end, Gus's stork flies off and he thinks he is gone - but he's not. He flies back, and has on his head a helmet. And got on with the business of looking after the babies he was entrusted to deliver.

I was sobbing, lost in thought about how this applied to Rocco and I. I've learnt so much ... the biggest thing being how to love him. I feed him and take care of him ... but really love him. The credits rolled ... Max turned to me so confused. "Was that it??" I couldn't talk. "WHAT? Is that the end of the movie??" His confusion so strong it made me laugh.

I miss Rocco now, when I am not with him. It's such an awesome feeling to have. I never want him to feel like I don't love him. One day I will tell him the story about his birth, and how tricky it was for us - all of us. And I will tickle him, and tease him about his crying, and smoosh my head up to his sweaty face and drink him in.

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