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.


  1. AMEN! You are so very, very real and i love it. I too look forward to bed times but i'm to coward to admit it.

  2. Such brilliant honesty.Thank you for this. I appreciate being able to hear it.

  3. Oh mate this post is most definitely my all time favourite. Good on you for telling it like it is, so often in my hard HARD baby raising years I'd shock people with my brutal truth when describing a truly gruesome mothering day. I had no cancer to contend with. It was so hard for you, but you've crawled through the trenches and are now starting to celebrate the end of the war.

    I love that you are so honest. I guess it's a genetic condition ey?

    Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

  4. I could tell you stories, and maybe I will sometime off blog.

    Thank you for your candor. You are my hero.

  5. You know how I feel about this.

    I feel such guilt when I too feel the same way you do, bec of everything i went thruogh to get pg.. bec of the difficulty staying pg...bec of their births...
    we are allowed to feel this way.
    no one is talking about it. Everyone feels it.
    Love you.

  6. I won't name names but I know of other bloggers who have had the same feelings about their babies and their husbands didn't have cancer. I can't imagine what it was like, and what it's like moving on from that, but I hope you know that you're not the only one who's needed to walk away from their baby.

    You really are an amazingly strong, loving mother. All your boys are incredibly lucky to have such a tough and passionate woman in their life.

  7. Your sister put it better than I every could. I adore you even more for this honesty.

    I've let my boys cry at night (and plan on it again tonight). I've closed my door and turned off the monitor and just let them cry. And I have a little guilt for it, but not much. I also count down the hours to bedtime...not as much as I did before my Monster became mobile (ie happy), but it still happens. And I haven't had to deal with even an ounce of what you've been through.

  8. I wish for just the tiniest moment you could see yourself the way that so many of us see you. I really think you'd be blown away by all the love! :-)

    This was very brave, this post where you put it all out there. It is real. It is honest. It is Eden. And it is something that so many women can identify with--myself included--because it is life.

    You were plunged into a deep well of despair when life came and shit on your head (over and over!). Any person in your situation would react the same, I'd think. You hit the survival button and held on with all you had. The mere fact that you all continued on speaks volumes about YOUR tenacity and strength. So what if it wasn't always pretty? Hell, who cares if it was never pretty. Survival was what mattered!

    Now, you are finally getting the chance to claw your way to the top, and I am so happy that you are able to celebrate! When you start beating yourself up for the things that happened during Rocco's early days, I beg you to remember that Rocco won't remember what happened during that time. All he will remember is how you love him now, and frankly, that is all that matters!

    Much love to you, E!

  9. I have to email you because I'm too chicken to leave my respone here. But YES. Girl, yes. This is me hugging you, hard and fierce. I love you.


    (Of course NOW is the time Sam is demanding to be OUT OF HIS CRIB! WAAAAHHHHH!)

  10. Thank you again for your honesty. Reading your post was painful because I was upset for you and could recognise moments I've had. Sending you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

  11. Okay, I swear to God Eden the strangest thing...last night as I was going to bed I was thinking about that same short from UP. Honestly. I saw the little cloud sad when he thought the stork had abandoned him -- saw the stork returning in all the pads... and now I come here to read this. Some strange and wonderful fold in the universe my friend.

    I think often about the unknown of infancy -- what will it be like -- for me -- the thing is that it is harder than anyone tells you I think -- this cult of motherhood -- and how I've longed to be a part of it -- even with W I think that sometimes -- when he was little my big struggle was -- how do I love him unconditionally when he is not the little person I imagined in my life -- someone who would be sweet or throw his arms around me -- but instead he used to growl at me, make faces at me and push me away when I'd try to comfort him -- it's been a struggle in ways I've probably never written about.

    I'm glad you two have turned a corner -- in some ways I wonder if all that energy -- that crying energy -- he's not just railing against being in that small body the way W used to -- frustrated with the world that he wasn't as tough and strong as his old man.. all that testosterone -- truly!! -- .but he'll grow into such a strong man fiercely protective of his Mum...I can see that much already....

    Love to you my friend,



  12. First, have you seen the movie Igor? You might like Dr. Schadenfreude.

    Second, I'm glad you've finally been able to let this all out. It's not wrong to be frustrated, even angry, with your tiny little helpless baby - because that tiny little helpless baby is a tyrant who will not allow you a break and there's only so much you can take. As long as your feelings don't become actions, you're doing OK.

    I have a friend with 3 children - 2 boys and a girl. The girl is destined to be as big of a problem to my friend as she was to her own mother (who is crazy anyway, but that's beside the point). Due to what I'm sure is partially my friend's influence, her oldest son (almost 4) has been known to refer to his sister as Fuckin' Katie. The girl is sweet as can be when company is there, but otherwise is clingy and needy and demanding and exhausting. My mom had 4 children and waaay back in the early 70s, her doctor told her to go out and get a job to maintain her mental health. I guess my point is that you can find people (including your own children) to be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting - to the point where you don't want to be around them - even as you love them with all your heart.

    Stop indulging in the guilt and instead, look at how strong you've had to be to get through. Be proud of yourself for surviving yet another roadblock in life.

  13. ::Tearing up::

    Thank you for writing this. It had to be difficult. It was one of the most touching posts I've read in a long time.

    So many mothers go through what you did to some extent, but so many are ashamed of their feelings that they hold them in and let them fester. When my son was born i can remember thnking "Why did I think this was a good idea". I felt so frustrated that I was having those feelings, and like you, whenever I spoke with anyone about it I would always end the conversation with "But, I love him dearly", and I did, I just couldn't actually feel it at that time.
    I was lucky that I could be completely honest with my mother and she was so wonderful at that time. There's not much you can say in that situation because it's so hard to tell a new mother that EVENTUALLY the cloud will lift.

    As both of our sons were born in May of 2008, I feel like we were going through the same thing just oceans apart.

    As to the sleep training, mine was insistent upon not sleeping. For six months he never slept longer than 2 hours before waking up. Before having him I was convinced I would never ever let him cry, but that quickly changed. We went through sleep training, and then we had to repeat it 3 months later, and then again 4 months later. Each time he adapted fairly quickly, but it still pained my heart, and my husband had to hold me in bed for me to get through it. Do not let anyone bad mouth you. They don't understand, they are not in your house, and until they will come get up with your son everynight and put him back to sleep, they can't say anything about it.

    Wow, this was much longer than I expected it to be.

    Just, thank you...

  14. You have just described all that I am afraid of. Will I be punished for wanting a baby so hard?

    You've been through so much...I just can't imagine. ((hugs))

  15. I had a difficult baby. I know. I KNOW.

  16. I have been through 2 of these babies, and when I posted about having these babies and talking about CIO and these people chimed in with how evil it was I nearly lost it.

    No, actually, eden, in the interest of full disclosure, I DID lose it. I flipped the fuck out. Because how DARE they judge ME?

    I'm so glad that you and I ended up on the other side. It's hard. It's so, so hard. My sweet dream baby was my last one, and I'm so glad for that, otherwise, well, I don't know what I would have thought.

    Parenthood isn't for the faint-of-heart.


  17. What an amazing post. I am so proud of you for writing it. It's so sad how so many women make motherhood into a fairytale. Then the rest of us are left wondering why we're sucking at it so much. Thanks for being so honest about your feelings. We need more Edens in this world.

  18. Wow Eden. That HAD to have been tough to write. Of course, I haven't been through near what you have, but I can tell you this:
    1. Crying babies are crying babies. Nothing can change that. Not cancer, not crazy parents, nothing.
    2. Although I hate to stoop to using song lyrics, I have to say that one of my favorites is when John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Amen to that.
    3. When you start reading too much about how to handle crying babies/IVF/cancer/etc, turn the computer off, shut the books, and retreat into your happy place to forget it all for a while. Even though things might have turned to shit, you still deserve time to yourself and time to be at peace.

  19. The clouds/storks didn't get me (though I felt bad when storky came back with all his gear and then got shocked by the baby eel), but I sobbed when they went to the doctor's and she was crying cuz she couldn't have kids. Then when the movie was over Steve asked if I liked it - and I sobbed the whole way home. Who knew I still had all that crying in me?

    I am so glad you shared. Sometimes you wonder if God hasn't just handed you more than you can bear, but somehow, eventually, it gets better. So glad you have your beautiful family.

  20. Tears from this side of the ditch over your beautiful and honest post.

    Eden, you touch my heart and open me up to my own fears and make me face them. I dreamed the other night that this baby, this longed for baby, this oh my god it's a miracle baby - was a baby that cried and fought and hated me.

    You've come through, and your love for Rocco has grown and survived. And I am holding on to that so damn tight.

    I am sooo glad you aren't sugar coating it all - I need to know the truth. Thanks mate, I heart you.

  21. The newborn period is not what Hallmark paint it out to be.


    Pluc the big C?

    It's no wonder it was all so bleeping hard.


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  23. Thanks again for your honesty. I am crying here. I had hard days after ex husband left me and Lyla would not sleep and cry for hours. I thought about how much easier it would have been if I did not have her, and how much I resent her father for leaving me with all the responsibility. The I felt so guilty for having those thoughts, I had waited for her for so long. I let her cry too, we were both crying for many many nights. I love her to pieces and loves me unconditionally and more and more I am sure that I am the lucky one for having her all for me!

  24. Eden you are the best. You have done so well with everything you have been dealt with. I have always loved your honesty. Going through a very similar situation with the cancer and a newborn, I don't have these feelings but I can certainly understand some one that would.

    Did you watch Insight last week ? I hope you realise that you are not alone.

    Courage my dear friend, you have plenty of it. You got trough it you are one tough chick. xxx

  25. Damn. This hurt to read. The real raw truth of things. I know what it's like to have that baby that won't stop, I know what it's like to have a lot of what you went through. But at the same time. Damn.

    You know that thing you hear in the rooms about god never giving you more than you can handle. If you had heard that in the midst of all that, you would have been justified in ripping someone's throat out. But what about now?

  26. Thank you for that post, for telling exactly how it was for you. I think there's too much of "Everything's going fine!!" and you see the mad glint in the girl's eye and you think, "My foot it's going fine."

    I'm so glad it does have a happy ending and you actually even miss Rocco now when you're apart. Love is an amazing thing, the way it endures.

  27. Oh my love. Rocco was just a hard baby. Whether you were fucking better crocker and dave was mr rogers. Whether you were all healthy or all had cancer. He was a baby who cried and fought you. It would have happened no matter what. And what kind of weird type of a parent couldn't act exactly had you done? Allison was my hard baby. It took two years, but I got her sleeping FINALLY. Waking 3-11 times a night was hard. EVERY FUCKING NIGHT for TWO FUCKING YEARS. And the things you described of what you did, what you felt, how you thought - I did too. I bet they were close damn to exact things too.

    You just had a shithole of cancer to have to deal with this ALONG WITH a baby who cries. One did not make the other one. You just had two pieces of hell to work with. That's all.

    And I truley believe it Eden.

    i love you.

  28. I couldn't comment when I read your post the other day. It resonated so strongly with me that it disturbed me and brought back feelings I'd squashed away.

    I had a fighting, crying wakeful baby and a sick (physically and mentally) husband too (now he's the ex). The combo is a completely dreadful one and it's a wonder anyone is alive in our family. At 7am one morning when he was about 2 or 3 months old, I walked outside our house holding him and our neighbour came over to coo at him. I told her we were out of the house so I wouldn't kill him and she looked at me strangely and giggled nervously. But I wasn't joking.

    The Little Guy didn't start sleeping through regularly 'til he was 22mths old. Sorry. He's 6 and he still wakes me in the night several times month. Which is crappy but nowhere near as crappy as it used to be. I am sending sleepy vibes to Rocco. You never know what can happen when you harness the power of blogland.

    You rock for telling it like it is. But you always do don't you? That's your power.

    And hey - do you remember Greg with the curly red hair from kinder?


  29. thank you for writing such a powerful blog. I sit here halfway through this much sought after many detoured pregnancy with the fears that motherhood will be to hard, I realize that women are strong and whatever happens, strong women survive and thrive. thank you for sharing.

  30. Being an adult sucks, doesn't it? Thank you so much for sharing your story. To have had the "perfect baby" and worked so hard to have another, in the face of cancer and with a husband who is holding on to survival with all his might. I can't even begin to fathom what you are going through. I hope it helped you to write your thoughts, emotions on "paper" and share them with us. It definitely helped to hear your story.

  31. Thanks for this post Eden. Its so honest - its refreshing to see someone putting out to the universe what so many (me included) try to keep quiet. Motherhood is not always a joy.
    Newborns are no joke, and its a shock to the system. Dealing with one while your husband is also sick....god, you went through a war.

    In my opinion, us Momma's that went through IVF to get pregnant are prone to carry more guilt. I wanted a baby so very desperately - there must be something fundamentally evil in me if I have moments when I would now like to sell the little buggar to the black market. Cheap.

    You are not alone!

  32. God, E, like everyone has said here ... we feel you on the hard baby part ... I can't even comprehend having to contend with cancer at the same time. It was an inhuman load to bear.

    The worst part is ... there are so many women out there who have never known anything but 'easy' babies and they judge you accordingly when there is really no comparing the ride.

    My first year with Sofia was brutal. She only catnapped. She screamed herself to sleep ... by 2am if I was lucky. I tried ~everything.~ Read every book. Nothing helped. Except time. It was an ordeal that could not be solved only endured.

    we started out on the wrong foot ... a long labor ending in an unexpected c-section. I lost a lot of blood. What I needed was a couple of weeks to recover. What I got was colic and a parnter who had to travel a lot overseas. In a new town where I knew no one.

    Breastfeeding was a nightmare. My nipples were tartar. I went through three LC's and no one could help. The usual BF adjustment period was three times as long (I think it was my fair skin?) My father was utterly insensitive about giving me privacy and I yelled at him over it. So he took my mother and left when I still needed her help.

    My in laws came when Sofia was a month old. I killed myself to clean up for them (that kind of company was the last thing I needed). They came and trashed the house (cooking crazy meals, etc). Over bearing and obnoxious is too mild to describe my MIL's behavior. And then ... on the last day, she went around taking ~pictures~ of the wreckage. To show her friends and family. And to this day she will tell you that Mike and I were just being ~precious~ about the baby having ~colic~.

    She never saw the screaming because they went to a hotel each night. And by the time they returned, the baby was finally too exhausted to look anything but placid and innocent. MIL has done many things over the years to dismantle our chances of a relationship. But denying the colic ... was probably the last straw of last straws.

    She mailed pictures of us to Mike's host family (he was an exchange student in high school) in Norway (MIL has always tried to keep herself in the middle of that relationship for some reason and as a result, it's a little fucked up). The host sister commented once how pale Mike and I looked in those pictures. Pale is right. We were trampled by a herd of buffalos and then expected to smile. It was all about MIL.

    And that was just the first four weeks. LOL.

    I never made the mistake again of allowing MIL anywhere near us when things are chaotic and when we are likely to be vulnerable. Not that she doesn't try to insert herself.

    I was so insane and exhausted that first year. One of the many casualties was that I lost my best friend. The whole 'having kids' thing was awkward to begin with because she was childfree by choice. And then I was in such a state that I withdrew because I was exhausted and incoherent ... let alone to someone who had never BTDT. I was sure I sounded like a complete basket case. That was a ~huge~ loss. I feel it to this day.

    All of that was just a thimble full of agony compared to what you went through. Never forget to give yourself credit. Honey, there isn't enough credit in the world for you.



  33. This is what I love about you. And why I let you posts pile up for a week or so in my reader. Because every post makes me think and feel so hard that I need to have the time to devote to them. I love your honesty. There are so many women who just ooze about how wonderful being a mother is and all the wonderful parts of it. It scares the crap out of me sometimes. I want to be a mother so very bad but yet the idea of never having enough sleep and there being only me to care for that little life sometimes scares the pants off me. You make me feel like it can still be done. Even if there are times I have to put the baby down to cry and leave the room. Thanks.

  34. I know I'm a bit late in commenting but thank you for writing this. My husband was using when our son was born. Gone for a week at a time and I was angry. I wanted our son so bad and then here he was and I was angry with him for keeping me home. For crying, for being a baby.

    There were several times I had to leave the room. Several times I was NOT in a good place.

    I think that's what you miss in all the newborn videos. The fact that sometimes it's not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes it's really, really hard.


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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