Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Kai and I were supposed to be at ‘Krafty Kidz’ this morning (aliteration and creative spelling? You just know it was going to be all kinds of fun!) eating getting covered in paint and causing plenty of nice middle-class organised mayham. We are, however, not.

An old friend decided to pop round for a visit instead. But not a nice old friend who arrives with flowers and home-made biscuits. No. An old friend with teeth.

Yes folks, my very best friend the pain fairy has been to visit.

Kai has thankfully decided today is a two nap day (thus doubling my amount of sitting-on-ass time) so I do at least have some time to sit and put my feet up this morning and try and distract myself from the army of tiny microscopic beavers who seem to be gnawing at my joints, crapping in the resulting orifice and then lighting that crap on fire.

And because misery loves company, and because I know you’re all dying to get to know me better I thought I would sit and regale you with the story behind why there are a million tiny Yaks stampeeding all over my bones. And crapping on them. And lighting that crap on fire. See? I’m getting better with the metaphors! (And you just KNOW who that last one was for…)

I have Fibromyalgia.

Which is…well… actually they don’t actually know what it is too be honest. It’s kind of just a name for a collection of pretty horrible unexplained symptoms. Pain being the most obvious one. Delightfully agonising, unrelenting, ten billion woodpeckers all going to town on my deep muscle tissue pain (ok, I’ll stop with the metaphors now). And fatigue, lots of that. Plus the odd bit of incapacitating muscle stiffness, fog-like disruptions to my mental systems, and pins-and-needles alternating with completely numb limbs.

It’s quite a party I can tell you.

As I said we don’t really know why. The current theory is that it’s a neurological problem, with some schools of thought throwing in an auto-immune element or chemical imbalance. It’s probably a bit of a mixture of all three but the neurological explanation has always held the most water for me.

I reckon it’s a wiring problem. And the little man sitting at the control console in my brain likes to drink. And smoke dope. Plus I think he has a bit of a Kai-like tendency to find button pushing irresistible. It probably goes something like this…

Tiny Man: “Oh look there’s a lovely shiny button!”

Me: “Don’t you touch that”.

Tiny Man: “Understood. Nope. Definitely not touching. Umm…just out of interest, what does it do?”

Me: “That’s the button you’re supposed to press when I burn myself with the iron or trap my finger in the car door or push a giant watermelon sized baby out of my vagina. It’s the PAIN button tiny man and you must not push it unless you have a REALLY good reason”.

Tiny Man: “Right. Gotcha. No pressing of the button unless pain is justified. But… it’s just so shiny!”

Me:”Oi! I can see your finger on it!”

Tiny Man: “No no my finger’s just RESTING there, don’t worry. I won’t touch it honestly, I won’t…

PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN

Me: “ARggghhH!HH!”

Tiny Man: “Ooops”

Me: “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF GOD DAMN YOU!!!”

Tiny Man: “Umm… about that. I don’t seem to be able to. You see my mate popped over before with these DELICIOUS brownies and some beer and I may have inadvertently got some on this here brain console and now it won’t switch off. Sorry”.

Me: “ARggghhH!HH!”

Tiny Man: “Don’t worry! I’m sure it will right itself in a few hours, or days, or maybe weeks… it’s no big deal!”

Me: “BASTARD!!!”

I hate that tiny man.

Now I should point out, I’m pretty used to this by now. It’s been going on since I was very small, managing it has become second nature and I’m better now then I have EVER been (and actually have been since I became pregnant… hmm… hormonal element maybe? Partly the reason I’m so reluctant to give up breastfeeding yet! I reckon that glorious prolactin is the only thing keeping me going!). It’s not so bad these days, I’d even use the word ‘remission’. It just enjoys popping by ever so often to bite me on the ass when I’m not looking and remind me it’s still there.

It’s not always been so managable though. I spent most of my teens either on crutches or hobling round like a granny with a walking stick (did wonders for my high-school cool factor I can tell you), and most of my early twenties in a wheelchair, confined to bed or sofa for most of the day. To say it hasn’t been easy is an understatement. Not helped by the fact that a small proportion of the medical community still think it’s an entirely imaginary disease. Yep, that’s right, they think I’m a mad person who makes up the fact that I’m in pain to get attention. Isn’t that just what you want to hear when your 14 and think you might be dying because the pain is so bad? Alternatively they just thought I was just a HUGE drama queen who excessively exaggerated what are normal every-day aches and fatigue. Nice huh?

I can assure you that this is not the case. The pain is very real. I’m not an attention-seeking mad person. I am not over-reacting or a big wuss. The fact that I managed to give birth on two paracetamol and wiff of gas and air I hope proves that, as does the fact that I managed to keep smiling through the many tests and painful procedures they subjected me to as a child to prove whether or not I was making it all up.

But it is, I’ll admit, a bit of a mystery.

In any case, it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care who believes me anymore. I’ve got a handle on it and get to live a relatively normal life so I feel lucky. Other people with the same illness don’t do quite so well.

It’s been a tough journey but my goodness am I stronger for it. And that has to be a good thing.

Anyway, I hear the sounds of a little man stirring (no, not THAT little man – the nice one that will greet me with cuddles and kisses).

Catch you laters.

Advertisements

I wasn’t particularly popular at school (it’s ok ex-school mate readers, you can nod in agreement).

I was also clever, but not THAT clever. Average clever. (More nods).

But I wanted to be both. Desperately.

I existed on the periphery of the more elitist social groups. Kind of cool by association but obviously not cool, especially when trying to be cool (emphatic nods – ok you can stop now, I get the point). Occasionally one of the more charismatic members would notice I was there and grant me the privilege of their company for a while. Probably mostly out of pity.

I’m finding blogging a bit like this.

There are the popular blogs. They are shiny and polished. Their followers are dedicated, leaving scores of adoring comments. And there are the clever blogs. With their witty and flawless sentence construction; their outstanding use of metaphor and impressive vocabulary. They entertain us with the flare of (insert clever metaphor #1 here). Some are, quite annoyingly, both popular AND clever.

My blog is neither.

But I find myself wishing it was.

Once again I find myself back in the high school mind-set, that awkward teenager with braces on my teeth and milk-bottle bottom lenses in my glasses. Wondering just what it is that makes these shining beacons of blogginess naturally so much better than me? What makes people flock to them like (insert clever metaphor #2 here)?

But then I remember I’m not in high school anymore. I grew up (well, kind of). The braces are gone. The specs are gone. Ok I’m still awkward and gangly but that’s endearing, or so my husband tells me.

So I’ve decided. I’m not going to try to be popular or clever. Because if the same rules apply as when I was a teenager that will only inevitably mean I end up saying something weird and inappropriate and laughing too loud and everyone will look at me funny.

And I’m going to try not to care.

TOO much.

So I hope you like un-popular and un-clever. Because that’s all you’re going find here. But hopefully I’ll be endearingly awkward and socially inept and you’ll love me in that ‘I’d miss you if you weren’t here to bask in my light’ kinda way.  And if you want to invite me to your party, or share some of your chips over lunch and tell me a secret you haven’t told anyone else? Well that would be good too…

…and by the way I think your shoes are the coolest thing I have ever seen and that boy you like has TOTALLY been looking at you all through Maths.

———–

NOTES:

Possible clever metaphors

#1    a) a thousand glittering iphones.
b) a jewel beetle’s bum.
c) David Cameron

#2    a) a fat kid to cake.
b) Kai to dangerous electrical equipment.
c) Boy racers in pimped-out Renault Clios to a McDonald’s drive-through

Oh I give up.

Sometimes people ask me how I can manage to keep my patience with Kai through it all. This picture is how. Because no matter how bad the night’s been this is what I get to see when we all wake up*:

 

Kai-ranasaurus

Did I mention I love this boy?

*cot for decorative purposes only.

It’s probably about time I tackled a theme that underpins a lot of what I talk about on this blog, but that so far I’ve managed to avoid talking about too much.

Yep, you’ve guessed it. It’s the big fat horrible Sleep Monster.

Those of you that know me well will have had to listen to me drivel on about most of what follows for the last 12 months so can be politely excused to go and do something more interesting. Those of you that don’t know me quite so well but have often wondered why it is I look like an ageing zombie with a slight hysterical edge to my voice when you bump into me in the street, you’re about to find out. And those of you that don’t know me at all? Well then I guess this is all going to be a treasure trove of new delights and excitement.

You see, Kai is a bit of a problem sleeper. And when I say a bit, I mean a rather extraordinary large bit. Continent sized. Small orbiting moon sized.

Now before we continue I don’t want you to hold it against him. He is probably the loveliest (albeit slightly odd and hyperactive) child, you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. He does lots and lots of things very, very well.

It’s just that sleeping isn’t one of them.

It has been from day one, which is my one small comfort that I haven’t done something horribly wrong to make him this way. It started out with colic – 12 weeks of screaming punctuated only by marathon breastfeeds, with any little sleep achieved solely through repetitive motion and/or holding and copius amounts of Infacol suspension. Once the crying stopped, the sleep battles continued for long months during which I desperately tried to find a way that Kai would fall asleep without a great deal of assistance and failing miserably. At it’s worst, Kai would wake every three quarters of an hour (the length of one sleep cycle) all through the night. On average it was every one to two hours, at best maybe three or four (and I can still count on two hands the number of times he’s slept longer than a four hour stretch). Each time he woke he would need a great deal of help getting back to sleep, no matter how hard I tried to encourage him otherwise, and even with help, would find it almost impossibly difficult.

Just for the record (and because if you mention the fact that your child is a poor sleeper, people feel compelled, no, OBLIGATED to bombard you with advice and I’m sure you’re eagerly waiting for you opportunity suggest one or more of the following), here’s what we’ve tried that hasn’t made a blind bit of difference:

  • Not feeding Kai to sleep
  • Feeding Kai to sleep (well, works to GET him to sleep, just not to keep him asleep)
  • Putting Kai down awake and encouraging him to fall asleep on his own. Featuring the torturous ‘pick-up-put down’ technique. I’m not kidding I stuck at this one religiously for months and all it did was give me a bad back and made me ill to the point of collapse.
  • Putting Kai down only once he was in a deep sleep (thanks Dr Sears for that one)
  • Music (featuring every bad pun of a baby album known to man – Baroque a-by Baby was my fave)
  • A hammock cot (seemed to be working for a month till Kai steadfastedly refused to go in it again)
  • Leaving an item of my clothing with him
  • Dream feeding (that’s when the baby’s asleep right? It doesn’t count if he just wakes up wanting milk)
  • Introducing a comforter (just becomes another thing to play with or throw in the middle of the night)
  • Sleeping in his own room (no improvement in sleep, in fact it got WORSE! and quadruple the work for me)
  • Black-out curtains
  • A variety of assorted sleep wear and coverings
  • Changing his nappy half way through the night
  • Not changing his nappy and instead padding him out like the Michelin Man
  • Starting solids (they told me this was the key when he was 4 months old. Guess what…it wasn’t. The boy eats like a horse and it STILL hasn’t made a difference)
  • Giving him more milk during the day (seriously? Have you seen how often this boy feeds?)
  • Cutting down breastfeeds in the night
  • Working on his day time naps
  • Wearing himself out more during the day. Learning to crawl made no difference. Long sessions in the pool made no difference. In fact you’ve probably never met a more active baby than Kai. He just doesn’t do still.

And before you say it….

  • a bedtime routine. I could win awards for my bedtime routine. It is flawless. It includes a long wind-down time and all the right sleep cues. It just doesn’t work.

Two things I haven’t done:

  • Forced him to night-wean.
  • Left him to cry.

Yes I know, you’re now all sitting back with an air of smugness thinking “well, what does she expect!”. Don’t judge me for it. Maybe it worked for you and your child. But it’s not for me. Because Kai doesn’t just moan for a bit. He sobs. And he sobs. To the point of hysteria. For hours and hours. Till he chokes and is sick.

I can’t do it. Not to him and not to me. And the night feeds? Well I think he’s the best person to decide what amount of milk he does and doesn’t need. And I’m convinced that the night feeds are what have allowed me to carry on producing milk for so long and grow such an incredibly healthy chunky boy. So we’ll leave those two things alone thank you very much.

Moving on…

So why does he have so much trouble staying asleep? It’s a mystery to be honest. On any one night half a dozen or more things seem to be the culprit (and wanting to feed is by far in the minority here for reasons why he wakes up). Separation anxiety is a biggy, teething another (this boy teethes like you wouldn’t believe). He gets tummy ache. He gets nightmares. He sleep crawls and climbs about his cot. He gets distracted by the tiny line of light from between the curtains or from the digital clock and decides that must mean it’s time to get up. He thinks 3am is a very good time to be wide awake and practice singing and jumping about on mummy and daddy. And sometimes, yes, he seems to get genuinely hungry and need to down gallons of milk before being able to go back to sleep. But not by any means every time he wakes up.

In short, he’s just hopeless.

In short, it’s been a complete and utter nightmare.

A turning point came when I gave in. When I threw all the sleep books out the window, bought a co-sleeper crib that allowed me to deal with Kai without getting out of bed, and stopped trying to fix it. Because by the looks of things I was going to burn out loooong before Kai got the hang of things. I HAD burned out, in fact. I’d lost weight, I was exhausted, I was making myself ill.

Enough was enough.

We’re now a few months down the line of the ‘No Try Sleep Solution’ (haha that was a sleep training  joke – you won’t get it unless your name is Elizabeth Pantley) and do you know what? Giving up was the best thing we could of done.

Because at the end of this long dark tunnel there is emerging a tiny little glimmering light of hope. Since I’ve given in and just gone with it, there have been some improvements, small ones but significant ones none the less. Kai’s waking up less. He’s feeding less. He’s even falling asleep on his own and re-settling himself when he stirs (well… sometimes). Twice this week I’ve managed to have an entirely uninterupted evening.

Yep. He’s actually getting better.

Ok we’re rather a long way off him sleeping through the night but we are definitely moving towards maybe only 2 or 3 wake-ups a night, at least on a good night anway.

And that my friends, is MORE than good enough for me right now.

Thanks for listening. And if you see me in the street looking slightly frayed? Well now you’ll know why.

And buy me cake.

Foot Note:

Did I mention that I was an appalling sleeper as a child? that I didn’t sleep through the night till I was three? That my poor mother resorted to drugging me so she could get some shut-eye?

Yep. Karmic payback is a bitch. At least it proves that the Universe has sense of humour I suppose.

Thank You

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all the people that have contacted me to say how much they are enjoying the blog and have taken the time to give me so much encouragement to keep writing.

I’m quite good at showing a confident, self-assured front, but I am not so good at believing it, so your positive feedback has meant the world to me. Really. I can’t quite tell you how much.

For my little Facebook Army – you can leave comments on here you know! Don’t be shy! It’s always lovely to hear what you’ve thought about something or for you to throw in your two pennies worth.

And in response to a frequently asked question: I don’t know whether I’m going to take this further, flattered as I am by the suggestion. I’m still playing around with this writing business and seeing where it takes me. So who knows?

Watch this space I guess.

(and keep telling me whether or not it’s all rubbish!)

Pieces of Me

I have to say that I am REALLY enjoying this blogging thing. I’m eagerly anticipating the moments when I can steal a little time away to write. It’s becoming a kind of refuge this blog. A way of de-stressing and unwinding, of laughing at myself and helping me not to take things too seriously. And I realised today that I have been keeping it faithfully for over two months.

I guess that doesn’t seem like much to some, but to me this is quite an achievement.

You see I’ve always been someone that took interest in a great number of things, picking and choosing between them all depending on my mood, but I have never been very good at maintaining focus on just one thing. I leap from one subject or hobby to another like some kind of giant human thought-association research project. The slightest thing can set me off. One book could set me off an frantic journey of discover taking in Arthurian Legend, onto tree lore, spiralling my way through Ecology and Environmental Campaigning, onto Green living and knitting, finishing up with remembering to separate my paper and my plastics.

It’s quite exhausting.

As such I find myself perpetually juggling a dozen or more different projects, all half pursued and half finished, left on one side as something new and more exciting steals my attention and my enthusiasm.  Over the years I’ve picked up no end of different skills and bits and pieces of knowledge.

In the interest of getting to know me better, here’s a few:

I draw, paint (and once won a competition), make cards (when I’m too broke to buy them), am a reasonable calligrapher, (producing stationary for two weddings), can knit jumpers with pirate motifs, embroider and undo knots that most people would find impossible, produced two (unfinished) patchwork quilts. I’ve had a go at amateur film making, featuring myself as both a hooker and a bearded doctor, and had a stab at photography. I’ve sang in public (not something I plan to repeat). I became quite adept at yoga, learning to contort myself into any number of positions, turned my bathroom into a laboratory whilst making my own beauty products and home remedies and cured my mum’s menopausal mood swings (well… almost). I’ve played three different musical instruments. I’ve read about philosophy and religion, argued extensively about both, making my mind up then changing it all again. I’ve ran for my local council and got a lot more votes than I was expecting. I’ve written letters and been on tv waving a placard. I’ve traced my family tree back to 1750. I’ve read ten billion books on every subject known to man.

And that’s before I’ve even mentioned my jobs. Let me see… I’ve sold shoes and waitressed (badly), I’ve organised filing cabinets and typed invoices at a double glazing firm. I’ve taken disabled children swimming and been a teaching assistant. I’ve taken care of elderly patients, wiping bums and changing giant nappies. I’ve bathed several old and wrinkly men. I’ve ran a school library and literacy projects and children’s book clubs. I’ve even sat with someone as they died.

Quite a list isn’t it?

But don’t get me wrong, this is not supposed to be a brag. Because although I am a bit of a jack of all trades, I am a master at none. At best I could be called ‘competent’ in most of the things I undertake but I’ve never been really good at anything. Maybe because I’ve never stuck with one thing long enough.

On first consideration, motherhood seems to be much the same. As always, I’d get points for enthusiasm but no-one is ever going to consider me an expert in the subject.

And yet now I come to think of it, it actually IS different this time.

This time I’m being FORCED to stick with something. As a stay-at-home mum I can’t give up changing nappies, or getting up at 6am every morning, or making toast highly delicious and varied and nutritious food stuffs. Well, I guess I could. But Kai wouldn’t be very impressed, and he has a great ability of pointing out my shortcomings in a very loud not-to-be-ignored kind of way.

This is one job I can’t quit.

And do you know what? I think it’s doing me the world of good. I think I have learnt more about patience and discipline in the last 12 months than in the whole previous 26 years combined and throughout all my other weird and wonderful occupations. I’m actually COMMITTED to something. And even stranger, I’m not bored or losing interest. I’m actually enjoying it. And looking forward to doing it a whole lot more.

Most surprisingly of all it’s making me want to change. It’s making me want to be more disciplined in other areas of my life. There’s the blog of course for starters. I’m trying to keep the house tidier and am making more of an effort with the cooking (and even better, so far I haven’t killed ANYONE! Result!).  Determined to know a bit more than ‘a bit’ about something I’ve enrolled on a part-time self-study degree course that I start in a month. The cynic in me tells me I’ll probably change my mind after a year and do something else, that the blog posts will dry up in another month and the house revert back to it’s old slovenliness, but actually I don’t think that’s true.

Because do you know what? I think I’ve changed.

I think I’m almost… *gulp*… becoming a grown up.

Now where’s that book on Quantum Physics I started?