Two Plus Three in New York
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About the Author: Tanya Burke is a freelance writer. She writes on a wide range of issues with a particular focus on social contentment. Most recently an Australian diplomat in the newly independent Timor Leste, Tanya has also worked as an acrobat and a wilderness adventure instructor, among many other things. Tanya lives in New York with her husband, Buddhi, their daughters Kalyani and Sashi, and their son Marley.|
Dr B and the Search for a Soul Mate
I remember someone once asking me to keep an eye out for eligible
young men while I was working as a consular officer at an Australian
Embassy. I asked them how many times they had required consular
assistance and they said never. So... I suggested that they looked
elsewhere for their soul mate since the kind of person who came to my
attention was fairly often pathologically unable to take responsibility
Dr B has been working nights in a large rural hospital's Emergency Department and some of his stories took me back...
little girl of six years old had fallen off the bars at school and had
started vomiting during the night so her father took her into the ED
where she clung silently to him, her wide brown eyes declaring her
fear. Her father clearly doted on her and she on him. Dr B later
discovered that she had been fostered into this man's care for just
five months. In five short months she had placed all her trust in her
new father. But her father was tortured because what she didn't know
was that she could be taken from him at any time to be returned to her
dysfunctional family or adopted out or just moved on to another foster
family. And after one or two more moves her trust would not be so
Still pondering the child welfare system Dr B was
confronted by another side of the equation. A young woman suffering
from bipolar affective disorder and chronically unable to cope with
life had a long-standing drug habit. When she was sixteen she had had
her first child and out of her seven children three were still in the
welfare system being fostered out to various families while the other
four had left home as soon as they were old enough. Now Dr B began to
ponder the uncontested right to have children.
Next was a
sixteen year old girl flanked by her older brother and boyfriend, all
three of them in a high-pitched state of frenzy. After Dr B asked them
to reduce their number by one he learned that the girl had been the
victim of drink-spiking. Further discussion revealed that the patient
had drunk about 15 glasses of champagne ? but could handle her drink -
so her last drink must have been spiked as she had suddenly begun to
act very strangely.
Strangely looked to Dr B like intoxicated
so he left the young couple to flap about amongst themselves for a few
hours while he attended to other emergencies. The nurses quietly
advised Dr B against giving intravenous fluids because it would reduce
the girl's hangover and in their opinion a serious hangover would be
the best motivation to wise up once she had sobered up. Otherwise, they
warned, she could find herself in the same situation as the woman with
seven children cycling through the welfare system.
Hoping for a
simple cold Dr B was faced instead with another drama queen. This one
was a young man ? toast of the town for winning the regional
championships in a manly and exhilerating adventure sport. He had a
sore knee that had been strapped up and he hobbled around on crutches
while it healed. But what had brought him into the ED at two o'clock in
the morning was tingly toes. Dr B thought he might have misheard.
Tingly toes. Dr B asked if the young man had taken his sock off before
this episode of tingling. The young man had. Dr B suggested that his
toes may have been cold. It is winter in Australia. The young man
snorted. Dr B prescribed a blanket over the tingly toes. The young man
was outraged, did Dr B know who he was? No, Dr B didn't. Dr B was not a
fan of above mentioned adventure sport nor was he from this town.
Perhaps the young man could also massage his toes. The young man
snapped out an order to his fawning girlfriend who immediately began to
massage the sacred cold tingly toes.
While Dr B was dealing with
another patient he heard the young man yell at one of the nurses. It
was something along the lines of being treated in a manner beneath his
lofty station. He stormed out saying he would go to another hospital.
Apparently he never made it, choosing istead to go back home to bed,
where his foot warmed up and the tingling stopped. He was scheduled to
see his tingly toe specialist the following day so has now no doubt got
to the bottom of his vexing emergency.
Finally, and possibly
most entertaining of all, was the less dramatic but more manipulative
man who had cut himself. He had a history of cutting himself but had
been seeing a therapist for years. Therapy apparently didn't help him
with the enormous stress of having his wife return to work and leaving
him to look after their baby for about an hour each evening after
childcare had finished.
So he had stormed off after an argument
and come back with an impressive amount of blood on display. Dr B
noticed he had skillfully avoided damaging any arteries or nerves on
either wrist and that the wife was now most apologetic, considering all
kinds of changes to her life that she had previously thought
unnecessary. The baby was asleep in a pram beside them, it was almost
five in the morning by now, and Dr B wondered why, if the man had been
capable of taking himself off to purchase razors and cut himself
without telling his wife, he had been unable to make his own way to the
ED without disturbing wife and baby.
Dr B set about sewing up
the cuts. At this point the man began to scream and cry ? Oh Doctor
have you put in enough local anaesthetic? It HURTS!!
readers: do not cut yourself. Slashing your skin with cheap disposable
razors apparently does not hurt but being sewn up afterwards really
Yes yes there were real emergencies but really, how many
of us have ever fallen from a ladder at four o'clock on a winter
morning? Which is why I would never advise anyone to seek their life
partner in a consular office or an emergency department. Look instead
for someone who can organise themselves, take care of themselves and
take responsibility for themselves. Even when things go wrong.
Especially when things go wrong.
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2010 @ 08:58 AM | 23 replies View/Post Feedback
Kids Dogs and Aid
Some years ago I was called to the reception of the Embassy in East Timor to attend to some distressed Australians. They were a lovely couple of people who had devoted the last few years of their lives to building boats for villagers living in coastal areas of the country. When I saw them they were in some sort of trouble and what was distressing them was not their situaiton but the fact that nobody seemed to care.
"After all we've done for them..." They kept saying to me, over and over. "After all we've done for them."
As I listened to their story I began to see what was making those two Australians so unhappy. Nobody had asked them to come to Timor and devote their lives to improving the lot of their fellow human beings. So why had they chosen to live a life of deprivation, giving what they could to others? Their answer was clear: It was for the Timorese. But their answer was wrong. It was for themselves that they did it.
The same is true of parenting. Did I get pregnant for the good of my unborn child? Of course not - how can I be charitable to a non-existent entity? So on those days, like today, when I am exhausted because two of my three children vomited all through the night and the third woke up with a cold, I only have myself to blame!
More importantly, when I recognise that I am not doing any of this for the benefit of my children, when I see that I had these children because I wanted to, and I am bringing them up the way that I do because that's how I feel like doing it, not really because it is in their best interests, I feel more grateful for what I have and stop searching for appreciation at every turn.
And then I begin to see things in a different way. My children are not burdens, they are gifts. Investments. Teachers.
Which brings me to the dogs. We all wanted a dog. My husband and I had both grown up with dogs but we move around so much these days, and spend so much of our time tending to small (human) creatures that we were not sure it was realistic for us to have a dog of our own. So we decided to become a foster home for rescued dogs waiting for adoption. In theory it means we have the dogs for a short time until they can find a 'forever home'.
Well. The first dog we got was in fact two dogs, both about nine years old and quite obese. So we have to put them on a diet, walk them twice a day, one of them requires a warm eye bath and some eye drops several times a day (for the rest of his life!) and the other requires ear drops. The eye drops one is a sweet, content little fellow who only wants to be near us and asks for nothing else. The ear drops one has issues. He barks all day long at nothing in particular, seems untrainable and has some kind of psychological issue with steps. Or lines. I haven't worked out exactly what it is that sets off his panic reaction but if he has to go up or down stairs, or the curb, or across a sliding door track, he will pull back, his eyes wild with fear. If you keep pulling him until he can hold out no longer he will bound into the air like a lamb in springtime, leaping his fat little body as high as he can to avoid the treacherous fate below. It is quite comic, and very tragic.
So we all started to feel a bit annoyed about the barking little ear drops dog and all these quiet, nagging little voices in our heads started to say things about how lucky they were we were looking after them, who was going to adopt such a pair of misfits, now the chooks have to stay in their pen all day instead of roaming free, who is going to take the dogs for a walk, clean up the dog poo, put in the eye and ear drops... and of course it was never said because it is an absurd thing to say but we began to feel as though they should be grateful!
Well... they didn't choose to be neglected by their former owner, taken to the pound, taken out of the pound to live with an eccentric old lady and her 15 dogs while she took them to the vet and groomer and then brought here to a family with three kids and an aversion to such doggy behaviours as barking and pooping everywhere.
We wanted dogs for our own selfish reasons. So getting grumpy at the slightly deranged little bug-eyed fellow won't do anyone any good. And if I had hoped to teach our children about responsibility, caring for others and being charitable then I'd better lose the 'After All I've Done For Them' attitude and remember my gratitude.
But I have just managed to get all three kids to sleep, each of them pale-faced and running a temperature, and if that little monster wakes them up with his barking, After All I've Done For Him, I think I will strangle him...
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 @ 09:35 AM | 2 replies View/Post Feedback
I just spent the afternoon with a dear friend. She is not sure her relationship will survive another year. She is a wonderful person, married for more than ten years to a wonderful man and from the outside everything looks great. What could be so wrong?
But it is not just her, all around me friends are in the same position, we've been there ourselves. Nobody can seem to put a finger on what, exactly, is causing all this angst. No apparent addictions, no major abuse, no big changes in either partner, no third person. Oh wait... there is a third person, sometimes a fourth and occasionally a fifth. Our children!
But it doesn't feel like the children are the problem. It doesn't feel like something that could be fixed with a weekly date night or more child-free time to talk. In fact the more we talk the worse it gets... Does this marital crisis happen as reliably to childless couples, or to couples who outsource most or all of the childcare duties?
A University of Denver study showed last year that 90 percent of couples experienced deep dissatisfaction with their relationships within a year of having their first child. Having children creates a peculiar combination of an overwhelming desire to be in control coupled with an almost complete lack of real control. Your child could die in childbirth, die from SIDs, contract childhood leukemia or make it all the way through to his or her early thirties unscathed and then become afflicted with a serious mental illness. Parenting is terrifying. And since we can't control the unlimited sources of suffering for our children many of us turn to our partners and unleash our frustration upon them.
The Denver study shows that most other couples experience a decline in marital satisfaction as well but it is a more gradual process. Having children triggers, magnifies and condenses perfectly normal feelings of anxiety and discontent but these feelings are also part of a perfectly normal trajectory in any long term relationship. This is why they say relationships are hard work, right?
In fact the feeling of discontent is a sort of cognitive dissonance that occurs when what we want and what we have do not match up and we fear that we may not get our needs met. To feel discontent is to feel fearful or anxious and it is one of our most human attributes. But more and more we are taught, largely through the tireless work of the advertising industry, that we can and should learn how to be happy. If we do the right things, think the right thoughts and buy the right stuff we can be happy. All of the time. And while we're at it if we eat the right things, exercise the right way and follow enough of the contradictory health advice we are bombarded with we can be perfectly healthy. All of the time.
Only we can't. Life is always changing. Happiness comes, happiness goes. Good health comes, good health goes. The more we try to cling to the idea that we should be happy all the time and healthy all the time the more frustrated and controlling we become in our bid to achieve the impossible.
And here is the irony: the surest way to be unhappy and anxious is to be controlling. The more we cling to the idea that we can control those around us, or even events, the more anxious we become because despite our best efforts we can never be sure of the outcome. Like gamblers we seem to win just often enough to keep us motivated to try. The wedding went off without a hitch, thanks to our perfect planning. The kids are generally well-behaved, thanks to our perfect parenting and our relationships are doing ok, thanks to the fact that we are perfect (or at least I am). This kind of thinking feels great but it means we get to judge everyone else. Her wedding was a flop because they didn't spend enough on the flowers and catering. Those kids are horrors because their parents are too lenient. Or too strict. Or never around. Or overbearing. And their relationship is breaking up because she nags too much and he drinks, shouts, swears and punches holes in the walls too much. Judging others is another form of controlling behaviour and at the same time as giving us instant relief (I am better than them) it distances and disconnects us from others, ultimately causing us to feel alone and not part of a community. And strong relationships or feeling connected to others is one of the best predictors of happiness. Controlling behaviour and controlling thoughts result in the very thing we are all trying so hard to avoid. Unhappiness.
Posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 @ 12:04 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
While we were in Sri Lanka I was
reading a couple of Mills and Boons novels from the 1970s (trashy
romance... there wasn't much else to read) and I was shocked by how
bullying the male heroes were. Must have been the era, I thought.
But here we are again.
Twilight. New Moon. I mean... what?
Barely contained violence, stalking, confusion, keeping the woman off
balance and intimidated, interfering with her relationships with her
friends and support networks, cycles of aggression and carefully
calibrated vulnerability... you name it, an emotional abuser's took
kit is all here on display.
If your sons and daughters are
romanticising the bully and the enabling victim as hero and heroine
then they are in for some serious issues when it comes to a long-term
relationship because the paradigm is about his conflicting needs (to
have his physical needs met - in this case to suck her blood - and
to own her in a virginal state) versus her conflicting needs
(for him to care-take her emotional security and
... oh wait a good girlfriend doesn't have needs beyond being looked
little peek into the world of Dominant/Submissives. One of the
double-edged swords of the internet is that every minority can form a
community and everybody else can learn about things they might never
otherwise have imagined. From my short exploration Doms are Masters
and Submissives are Slaves. When a Master and Slave find each other
the Master trains the slave and the relationship then moves to the
next level of power imbalance.
basic assumption is that the ideal way to live is to take the middle
path but some people in D/s relationships know and understand
themselves and their own needs and motivations better than most and
make a considered choice to live the life of a Slave (or Master).
The important word there is choice. When I watch movies like
Twilight I wonder if many of us really get the chance to make our own
honest. Ladies when you watch something like Twilight isn't there
part of you that gets drawn in to longing for that safe feeling of
letting go and being taken care of? Isn't there a part of you, men,
that likes the idea of a woman always available, always on the look
out to be everything you need?
here's the problem. If a man has to take care of a woman then she
can't be everything he needs because there will be times when he
needs to feel taken care of or at least not to be burdened by the
emotional well-being of someone else. And if a woman needs to be
taken care of then he can't be everything to her since there will be
times when he will be self-centered, cranky or simply unavailable.
culture does portray real-life relationships, but not often.
Relationships are like life. If you accept whatever you're fed by a
society that basically requires workers and consumers then there will
always be something wrong, something missing. We all know that
relationships take work, but so does life. And work isn't exactly
the right word. Practice. Life takes practice. Relationships take
practice. Each informs and transforms the other.
something about the importance of being skillful in your thoughts and
being skillful in anything takes practice. But practice without
guidance runs the risk of entrenching bad habits. So who guides us
in our practice of life?
our parents are important role models for both life and
relationships. So as parents it is even more important that we are
skillful with our practice. I don't know about you but there are
plenty of times that I feel unqualified for the job of guiding a new
human being (or three) through the practice of life but we're not
alone on this journey.
my four year old daughter waited patiently for a very long time for
me to come and lie in bed with her while she went to sleep. She is
starting pre-school tomorrow and she needs a bit more affection than
she usually does. I expected to pull her into my embrace but instead
she slipped her arm under my head and lay my head on her chest. It
felt strangely humbling, as though she was comforting me. Maybe she
she was a baby she has been teaching me that I don't have to have all
the answers. In fact most of the time I just need to step out of her
way and let her be the incredible human she has been since her first
But it isn't just about us, we also need to try to provide her
with the tools to defuse the confusing, destructive messages that
will get in the way of her wonderful self.
Posted on Monday, February 08, 2010 @ 10:48 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Having traveled so many times we didn't take our trip to Sri Lanka too seriously. This time, however, we weren't the only ones traveling.
Kalyani slipped into life in Sri Lanka and her new preschool where nobody spoke a word of English with an earnest frown and a dogged determination. By the time we left she could sing, dance and correct my accent, all in the local language.
Marley picked up the language as well, at the same time as he struggled with his brand new command of English. But what he really struggled with was moving, again, so soon after we'd returned from New York. "This is not my home," he said, "my home is where the cars are." We had moved into a house where a young boy had lived previously and the back yard was littered with toy cars of all sizes, some of them tucked into tree trunks, some half dug into the ground. For a two year old with a love for all things on wheels it was a veritable treasure trove. And it was home. To pick up and move again so soon after he had discovered home was a blow to a little boy who thrives on certainty.
Sashi remained her calm, content self but we had to limit her world just as she was learning to crawl because we weren't able to child-proof the house or yard as we had at home. The house had cement floors painted with a red paint that she inevitably ended up ingesting if we let her loose on the floors, a couple of very old carpets and one little mat that we moved around to try to keep things interesting for her. But that's just not enough when you're six months old and ready to explore the world. And when the world outside the house is bounded by tel coombi (little red ants that stick to you like oil and bite and bite and bite and when you finally scrape them off it feels as though they are still biting you), there's no safe way to let that little girl explore alone.
So I felt a little sorry for her, despite her robust equanimity. And when we returned home and she spent three weeks unable to sleep on her own and having nightly fevers, crying for the first time in her short life, I wondered if we had done the right thing moving the family around so flippantly.
All in all it was worth it. We learnt so much and a new world was opened to us. Now we have friends in the tiny village of Bindunuwawa and we keep in touch with the little girl Kalyani and Marley used to play with every day after school, writing letters to her grandmother and calling her mother once in a while. And we send money to the preschool so the teacher can buy milk for the kids to drink every day. Maybe one day we'll go back. But right now it is time for us to stop moving and let our children settle into their home, make long-lasting friendships and build a quiet routine that suits each of them.
Marley has found his cars. He parks them at the end of each day, all in a row near the gate. Kalyani has been to her new preschool for an orientation day. The school year starts in February here in Australia and she can't wait. And Sashi is still learning to sleep through the night again after a long, slow recovery. She found her voice in those three dark weeks and hasn't lost it though she still complains less than anyone I've ever met. Now she is taking her first steps and she has freedom both inside and outside the house.
And life is good. As Christmas Day, the day Sashi was born, draws to a close, our house dishevelled from the many sticky fists hoarding food and presents, our ears still ringing from the dawn to dusk chatter of excited voices, we again realise how lucky we are to be surrounded by friends and family, to live without poverty and to be healthy. All the rest is detail.
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 @ 10:05 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
We're in Sri Lanka now. We thought we?d take a detour before life settled into a routine back in Australia. So about a week after we had finally unpacked all our bags and boxes after moving back to the Southern Hemisphere, we packed our bags again, hustled three young children onto three flights and arrived in hot, sweaty Colombo.
Usually when we visit Sri Lanka we stay in Colombo but thanks to the Dengue epidemic we thought we'd try something different and have found our way to a tiny village with the best weather in the world, called Bindunuwawa. Our house is a rambling, lovely, falling-apart colonial-style place with two caretakers who look after it, and us, beautifully. And to get anywhere we can either trek up the incredibly steep, bumpy "driveway" that spins through four hairpin bends to a long downhill street or we can trek down the incredibly steep, slippery, narrow and treacherous dirt ?path? that winds its way through jungle to the road. Either way is an adventure. The former generally results in at least one skinned knee per descent and the latter has us all pop out of apparently nowhere onto a road with buses and trucks swerving madly as they fly past at great speed.
And so we pass our days with mundane events. Learning Sinhala, getting the kids ready for preschool and walking them there and back, washing the clothes, swatting the mosquitoes, shopping at the markets or trying to figure out what could convince Marley to notice he has just done something smelly in his pants. Sigh. Change does not suit everyone and Marley appears to prefer routine over novelty as a general rule.
Still, a life full of routine keeps promising to keep us still at some point. Work, school, the all-encompassing "commitments". We have dodged it for another three months but it is hovering, waiting for us to return to Canberra, unpack and wash all our clothes and then clock in for the next round of dutiful living. And we are all quite looking forward to it, if only because living in Canberra anesthetizes us to the glaring inequalities of the world. Every waking moment here is spent in an internal dialogue. Part of me is enjoying the extra help and part of me feels horribly lost trying to grapple with the confounding issue of poverty.
But to understand anything I need to at least be able to speak the language. So that is where I am starting. Again.
Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 @ 10:31 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Happy Birthday Marley
Tomorrow is Marley's second birthday. Technically he will be two years old about sixteen hours later when the same day rolls around in New York City. No matter, he knows he is turning two and he sings himself Happy Birthday regularly, often miming blowing out candles so that he will be in form on the day.
Marley has grown out of his screaming tantrums, thankfully. He now throws himself dramatically, but carefully, at the floor in sudden bursts of tears when he is tired and cranky. I find that much easier to tune out so I appreciate the progress. But mostly he spends his time laughing at life with a twinkle in his eye. He rushes to his little sister and brushes a fly off her head, remonstrating at the fly as he does so. "Naughty fly." He half runs to get a cup of water for his older sister, or a mandarin for his cousin. He loves nothing more than to help peel onions for dinner or work with the tools out in the garden and with a few cars to play with and two gentle sisters, he is fully engaged in and delighted with the world.
Sashi is quietly bringing up the rear, turning six months just a couple of days from now and convinced she can crawl. Which she can, if you count a painstaking backwards shuffling movement. And that brings Kalyani up to about three and a half years old. We're getting there.
A colleague mentioned she had three children under three as well. She said she didn't know whether she was coming or going for twelve long months and then, she said, things started to even out and life became easier and now her three children are wonderful friends and she is thrilled to have had them so close together. These stories encourage us. We can imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, a time when sleep might become less broken, might even stretch beyond the dawn. When we may be able to read or write or play music or simply think quietly for entire minutes at a time.
But the truth is life has been incredibly easy for us. It has been a rare stretch when either of us has had to look after all three children alone. Sashi has been so gentle and content that she imposes almost no extra demands. And what is life going to be like in the light at the end of the tunnel, anyway? What is all that great reading and thinking we are planning to do?
While I love watching my children grow up I have finally understood how some people can become addicted to babies and toddlers and to having children. Have you ever visited online chat sites for parents of more than three kids? They are out there, people with more children than fingers on their hands, and they love it. Three is enough for me and I can't wait to get to know these little people as they grow but I just know I am going to look back at the photos of these years and sigh when my three are long, lanky, pimply teenagers with no time for their uncool parents.
Ahh Marley, two years old already. So big and so tiny. So much life ahead of you and so much already in you. May you never lose the loving, joyous, mischievous you that we love so dearly.
Posted on Monday, June 22, 2009 @ 09:07 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Right. Tonight's the night. I can't stand any more sleep dramas.
With Kalyani life is easier the more boring and predictable it is. Which doesn't really suit our new environment. If we do nothing all day, better still if it rains and we are stuck inside all day, no one drops by and absolutely nothing occurs, she will calmly and happily go to bed for a nap after lunch and again at bedtime. That's one end of the spectrum. Then it progresses to the other end of the spectrum where she has had a wonderful day full of friends and family and fun things to do and exciting things to eat. Then bed time looms large as one giant, contrasting disappointment. The negotiating begins, the wheedling, the crying, the getting out of bed and then, finally, the over-tired screaming. And by then it is almost time for me to go to bed and my couple of quiet hours have gone up in a stressful, unpleasant puff of smoke.
Marley goes predictably to bed and slowly puts himself to sleep, more or less regardless of what else is going on. Kalyani's screaming prolongs his entry into dreamland, as does the sudden loud banging resulting from Papa's urge to fix something right at bed time. But nothing moves him far from his path and as soon as there is a lull for just a few minutes he is happily asleep. Even Sashi, at five and a half months old, wakes fewer times each night than Kalyani. Indeed she slept for a full twelve hours the other night. The night that Kalyani had growing pains and woke us about nine times. There must have been something soothing about the dramatic wailing that lulled Sashi into a deep and lasting sleep.
So we have tried everything to encourage Kalyani to welcome her sleep a little more warmly, including fabulous new pink bed clothes for her fabulous new bed. Maybe she just prefers to be in a crib, and at almost three and a half she can still fit in to one so why don't we just give in and let her have the security of being behind bars again?
I know, I know, I have to be firm and consistent. It is the only thing that has worked in the past. We were erring on the side of leniency given she has lived in a state of flux for the past six months, gained a new sister, lost all her familiar friends, places and things and moved country but having three kids under three and a half is tiring enough without the oldest waking us up hourly from dusk 'till dawn. The fated hour is drawing near. Earplugs, everybody, tough love is a-coming. Or is this just what kids do at this age, maybe we should just ride it out...
Oh I'll give it one more night.
Posted on Tuesday, June 09, 2009 @ 09:04 AM | 2 replies View/Post Feedback
I Like You, But...
It was a long journey home.
The kids were amazing; after the interminable flight from New York to Sydney we spent weeks and weeks on the road, staying with various family and friends on farms, in the city, near the beach or close to a rainforest. Finally we were on the home stretch. We'd made it to Canberra and were staying
with my mother-in-law before moving into our own house a few minutes
down the road. I asked Kalyani if she would like to go for a walk up the hill to see the kangaroos and she said no. Again.
"Not having much luck today, am I?" I said to her, somewhat ruefully since I had barely seen the girl during our trip. Someone else always seemed to be the man, woman or child of the hour so the few interactions I had with her mostly involved the dreaded task of putting her to bed.
"No." She agreed. Then she must have felt an explanation was in order so she raised her right hand in a 'you see it's like this' gesture and said the following words: "Mum I like you. But... not much." With the emphasis on Much.
I simply looked at her, my mouth open. My husband said something appropriate but I couldn't get a word out. What do you say when your daughter matter-of-factly tells you where you stand. And it isn't at the top of the pile. Buddhi and I sort of dismissed it as the kind of thing a three and a half year old says but when I went in to another room to pick Sashi up after her sleep I could have sat right down on the bed and had a good cry about it. Instead I picked up the baby and hustled myself back into the fray so I didn't have time to dwell on it and sure enough as the evening wore on and she grew tired of all the new faces Kalyani ended up sitting on my knee and wanting nothing to do with anyone else. Mama's lap is still warm and safe when life is too exhausting.
Nonetheless it is easy to get caught up in the ego trip of being a parent. When your kids are young and affectionate, like Marley - he would happily spend the entire day slung around me like a monkey - it is tempting to believe it is thanks to great parenting or some unbreakable bond. But children are just people. I like to think I get along pretty well with my kids but the truth is I could pour my heart and soul into raising my children to have them grow up, move away and be completely disinterested in maintaining contact. Nannies must have to deal with this all the time.
It is funny, I was so looking forward to going back to work but now that my start date is drawing closer I have begun to dread it. Still I believe it is the best thing, most of all for me, who needs to work on other areas of life to get some perspective and renew the dormant parts of myself. Perhaps when Kalyani comes home from visiting her aunt and flails, desperately trying to get out of my arms while screaming as though I were a murderer because she didn't want to come home, I will be too preoccupied with my counter-terrorism initiatives to worry about being best friends with an overtired, overstimulated, out of sorts pre-schooler. Or maybe it is never going to get any easier, watching my children grow up and need me less and less.
Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 @ 09:46 AM | 2 replies View/Post Feedback
Home Sweet Home
After losing a day in a flying coffin we all arrived in Coffs Harbour on the North coast of NSW, Australia. We stepped out of the small plane onto the tarmac and I took a long, deep breath. Rain on a tarmac runway surrounded by rainforest and beach.
"Ahh Kalyani, smell that, we're home!"
Kalyani inhaled deeply. There was a moment of silence and then "Peeee Eeeeew!"
What makes a place home? We walked into the small town of Dorrigo from my parents house and met two of my high school teachers. The librarian knows me so was happy to put a big pile of kids books onto my father's library card and a number of random acquaintances stopped to say hello and comment on the children and my lack of a New York accent. People here know me. I know my way around, I know the way the mountains meet the forests and I remember the never-ending sunsets from our balcony. The damp misty afternoons bring back memories but, more than anything, the smells make this place more familiar than any other. But we will stay here for a short while and then move on again. And then
again. And as life progresses and changes, so do our needs. What
might have worked for us as a young couple looks less attractive now
that we have three young children.
For Kalyani and Marley this place is a holiday paradise with plenty of space and freedom and enough buckets of water for everyone to get muddy. For Buddhi this is a house full of in-laws and history that he was not a part of. This is no longer my home, either, despite my nostalgia as we drive past my old school. I can't live here anymore, my work is in another city and my old friends have all moved away. But it makes me wonder, again, what makes a place home? Is this the kind of place we could settle in and put down roots? I have moved thirty, maybe forty times since I was born and I ask the same question every place I go. Could this become home?
Posted on Monday, April 13, 2009 @ 11:07 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
The Birth Debate
I read an article about home birth recently, and I can't even bear to reference it. No, it wasn't even about home birth, it was about Cara Muhlhahn, the midwife we chose to help us with our two births in New York. And by the time I finished reading it I felt like I had just been almost hit by a car.
The woman is a cowboy. A crazy! No regard for protocols or patients or safety. She could have killed me and two of our children! But wait. Think. I have known this woman for over two years and through two births. She never struck me as crazy, certainly not a cowboy and with a very high regard for protocols, patients and safety. So who do I believe. Me, or this journalist?
And as I descend off my cloud of self-righteous fear and indignation a few other things pop into my head. The fact that much of what was written was factually incorrect, for example. Cara does not routinely take on high risk cases. She has great respect for doctors, luckily, since my husband is a doctor. She doesn't 'dump' her patients. Indeed she generally stays with birthing moms way, way beyond the call of duty, sometimes sleeping in her car so that she can be about seven seconds away should she be called.
Also telling was the fact that nothing we said made its way into the article. The journalist was apparently interested in my husband's perspective, being a doctor and a willing participant in the home birth process, but evidently Buddhi's views during our interview were, like Cara's, just too moderate. Indeed another interviewee commented on the article online, saying all the journalist wanted from her was an admission that she was nothing but a big old hippie. She wasn't, it seems, so she also was not represented in the article.
Another person who was largely absent from the article was Cara herself. An entire article aimed at discrediting a single person and no right of reply. Cowardly, to say the least. Biased, patronising and more than anything a shameful waste of what could have been a useful discussion on a fraught area of health. I don't care if you are into home births, hospital births, free births or something altogether different, one thing we should all agree on is that the health of the baby and the mother are the first priorities and we should be designing a system that starts from there.
The AMA has already taken sides and it looks as though the obstetrician-based birthing system is not going to allow midwife-based care a foothold despite the fact that, when done properly and in cooperation with obstetric care, the more comprehensive approach yields better outcomes. Midwives with the time to come to the woman's home or place of work for antenatal care, the ability to provide continutity of care and who are highly experienced in dealing with normal births are able to support a woman so that medical interventions are rarely necessary. And they are able to pick the point at which interventions become necessary, whether you are at home or at hospital or in a birth center. Home birthers like to wax lyrical about the experience and the power of a natural birth. It wasn't my first concern but society in general should be worried about these things because they mean more women giving birth with no (or fewer) drugs, expensive equipment or major operations. And that means the cost to society of birth would dramatically decrease. In theory that would mean lower taxes and lower health insurance costs.
So only a very few people win in a system designed to push all women into a highest-risk process instead of triaging and developing a tailored system that ranges from births like mine - no complications, half an hour of active labor, two pushes and out pops a healthy baby - to the octomum at the other end of the spectrum. And when I read an article like the one discrediting one of New York's finest home birth midwives I have to wonder just who is really behind this classic neo-conservative hatchett job: focus attention on a sensationalised destruction of one person's credibility and rational debate about the actual issue is obscured or forgotten altogether.
Let's not be fooled again, and let's not use this as a forum to start attacking the choices of other women. The health system and the way we bring the next generation into the world is too important to get bogged down with politicking and name-calling. There is a better way, the World Health Organisation has already done the research and made the recommendations, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. All we have to do is stay focussed on the issues and demand a model that allows women to birth where and how they are comfortable, supported by experienced professionals and, where necessary, high-tech medical back-up.
For Cara's perspective, her book Labor of Love was recently released. I am looking forward to reading it.
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 @ 09:13 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Time to Go
from Marley, talking softly to himself as he drifts off to sleep, the house is
quiet. Buddhi sleeps with Sashi in the crook of his arm, her head nestled
on his chest and her hair moving softly with each of his slow breaths.
She too is soundly, blissfully asleep. The kind of sleep she only gets
when she is wrapped in his arms.
night I heard the low hum harmony of books being read in each bedroom before bed. When I
am the only parent at home we all go to Marley's room and all three kids lie in
his bed while I read a book, then Sashi and Kalyani move to Kalyani's bed for
two more books and finally Sashi goes to her own bed. There is something
sweet and special about our little bed time juggle but there is also, for a
child born second or third, something exquisite about having a lap all to one's
seems, where children are concerned, the more the better. More adults
means there is always someone to cook, clean up, read books and play with the
kids. More children means the toys suddenly become new again, there are
more favourable alliances to form when the going gets rough with the little
brother and you can get away with a whole lot more.
so we are going home. It is time now to surround ourselves with family in
a place where the back door stays open all day.
As Spring tentatively peeks its head up, the first flowers bravely opening despite the cold snap, it seems we will be leaving behind so much. Friends, work, our favourite Sushi shop, Kalyani's wonderful school, our excellent pediatrician, Spring, our house, our home and everything we created in the past two and a half years. When you tally the little things that make up a life the strangest things can make the list. Squirrels, for example. Watching Marley shake and jiggle to the rhythm of the Long Island Rail Road train passing by as he shouts "Papa's train!" at the top of his voice. Kalyani holding hands with her best friend as they walk home from school to have lunch at our house.
Kalyani was the first to realise she would feel sad at leaving. Long before we had really thought about it, she was already aware of what she was losing. Next came me. Buddhi usually doesn't notice until he is on the plane and Marley might not consciously register it at all, but at some level he will miss the only home he has ever had. We all enter the journey of letting go at different times and we all experience it in different ways. I only hope the journey of building a new home in Australia will be as inspiring as our time in New York has been.
Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009 @ 12:52 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
We are a petri dish. Our family is just one big germ-breeder.
Kalyani will submit first to one of the dazzling array of illnesses available to her at preschool and just as we begin to believe that Marley has a stronger constitution he comes down with it, but twice as fast as though he is trying to catch up. So he'll be sniffling and heating up as the fever cycles through him at the same time as Kalyani is sitting, pale and zombie-like, on the lounge not even well enough to complain. Next Sashi wakes up with the sniffles and I wonder why she doesn't have my immunity to this bug. I am doing all the right things and breastfeeding is supposed to be some miracle cure-all, isn't it?
Sashi was a part of my body for nine months and now she is an extension of it. As I watch her begin to cough I see my impending fate and groan with realisation. She does have my immunity. Soon enough I am lounging around in my pyjamas whining and wishing I could be having my cold in a lonely hotel room like Buddhi is right now, tucked up in his crisp, freshly made bed feeling sorry for himself with nobody to interrupt that thought. And then, finally, my Mum submits. By now Kalyani is bouncing off the walls going crazy with all the dullards in their snotty pyjamas who don't feel like getting out of bed let alone taking a stroll to the park.
And if someone, somewhere along the chain, manages to break the cycle, Kalyani has a whole new selection of illnesses to choose from back at school, now that she is well enough to return. Or the same bug could just mutate slightly and continue its merry rounds of our family.
Hand washing, apparently, is the best way to stop the cold from spreading. Well my hands are sparkingly clean but my entire body has been salivated, sneezed, snotted, coughed and cried on by either the toddler who screams if I try to put him down, the preschooler who needed a good long hug to make up for days of being patient or the infant who has no idea why she can no longer breathe effectively through what was once a perfectly satisfactory nose.
Maybe this is one of the reasons you are supposed to space your kids a little more widely than we have. I don't know anyone else with three kids between the ages of three years and two months. I wish I did because I'd love to know when or if we will become less susceptible to repeat bouts of colds, ear infections, asthma, sore throats, sore tummies, sore legs, and fevers.
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 @ 09:55 AM | 20 replies View/Post Feedback
In the battle to grab attention and market share false
advertising has become a way of life for all of us. Instead of accepting the claims of food manufacturers or product advertisements or even news headlines, we are learning that we have to read the fine print or be fed a string of sensationalized claims. These days when I read a news headline I use it only to decide if I am interested in reading the story, not to learn something.
Take this headline, for example, in AAP:Aussie
baby formula contaminated: China.The first, one-sentence paragraph reads "The Australian manufacturers of
a baby milk formula and a milk powder rejected by Chinese authorities say their
products are safe". So are they contaminated or are they safe? By the second paragraph we still don't know.When I studied
journalism we were taught that the headline alone should provide most of the
story. The first paragraph would contain
all the pertinent information and beyond that was the detail for those who had the
interest or time. Now news is more about tricking the reader into viewing the story
than providing information.
how about the 100% juice in just about every variety that, upon closer
inspection, consists of water, reconstituted concentrate of a number of juices,
some synthetic vitamins and a preservative. So what does 100% mean?What is the definition of "juice?"
News has become a form of infotainment designed to lure consumers into purchasing the advertising that accompanies it - after all you would hardly buy a magazine or newspaper that admitted it had nothing but advertisements inside. Advertisements are covering more and more of our living spaces so that there are few moments in our waking lives without them. Which of us thought it a good idea to design a society bombarded by false advertising, toxic chemical products marketed as real food and infotainment instead of news? Nobody? Then how has it happened?
My mother is staying with us at the moment, providing life-saving support to this new mum of three (almost) under three, and as she walks the streets of Manhattan, fresh from her small Australian town, she sees signs of incredible wealth everywhere. And where, she wonders, is this economic melt-down? Not here, at the fashion week tent, not there, in that stretch Hummer, not filling the seats at the most expensive brunch in the city. To her, the 'meltdown' is just another way of redirecting money. And who knows, really, since most of the news we get is hardly objective investigative journalism. Maybe she is right.
I know there are laws against false advertising but wouldn't it be great if there was a
culture against it too? An expectation that manufacturers, advertisers, reporters all just called a spade a spade.No
tricks, no secrets, no redefinitions of generally accepted English terms.In a democracy like this I fear the Big Corporation far more than Big Government. In a democracy like this we are supposed to be the government, we choose it, we judge it, we change it and we can become a part of it, if we want to. The conservative rhetoric about individual rights, freedoms and opportunities is another way of saying every man for himself and too bad if you started so far behind the pack that you will never catch up. "We believe the American people can do anything if we take away all the pesky regulations" is just another gigantic example of false advertising.
Posted on Monday, March 09, 2009 @ 02:17 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Having a third child is fun. It is really a different experience from having one child or even two. The third child might miss out on all kinds of attention but they get confident parents; by number three there is no more second guessing, no more sweating the small stuff and no more imagining the worst.
Sashi sleeps through the night already. According to the bizarrely meaningless definition of five hours per night, she has been sleeping through for a long time but according to my personal definition of letting me sleep uninterrupted for a decent length of time, including the wee hours between midnight and five in the morning, she has just started to sleep through at eight weeks old. Getting here took almost a year for Kalyani and something like nine or ten months for Marley. In my opinion the reason there are so many 'how to get your baby to sleep through the night' books is because there is no real answer. Which is because every child is an individual. Some will like sleeping, no matter what you do to them and others will resist. Night times are still Kalyani's biggest demon. Marley loves being in his bed.
This time I was nowhere near as uptight about all the rules and regulations. Sashi was never bundled up and forced to sleep on her own, on her back or according to any schedule. In her two months of life she has spent most of the time in someone's arms (bless that wonderful grandmother of hers) and almost no time at all on her own. She sleeps best on her tummy or snuggled up to someone so that's where she can be found. So whether she is sleeping through because she is just a natural sleep-lover or because we gave in to her needs over the directives of a risk-averse society drowning in out of context research we will never know.
What most of the SIDS research fails to demonstrate, for example, is the breakdown of situations. I simply cannot get my babies to sleep for any length of time by themselves flat on their back on a hard mattress with nothing comforting in sight. I am, however, perfectly capable of making sure there is no smoking in this house, that nobody gets into bed with her after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, that she doesn't sleep with her siblings or with her head jammed between the mattress and the wall, and that she doesn't get left in a room far away from the action where nobody can keep an eye on her.
Recently we spoke to a friend of ours who was seeing a rise in the number of infants coming into his medical practice requiring corrective head gear. All this fear about sleeping on the stomach meant babies were spending so much time on their backs that their heads were becoming misshapen, he said. Furthermore, it was taking much longer for them to develop the kind of neck and back strength required to roll over, sit up and ultimately crawl, delaying all of these things so that some kids were skipping the crawling step altogether in favour of walking. Crawling apparently helps the brain make some important connections and without that developmental milestone, some experts say, children are much more likely to experience certain learning difficulties like dyslexia. What is the result, generations down the track, of teaching every parent to put their babies to sleep on their backs? Nobody knows.
The problem with our addiction to the scientific method is that we have no way of putting things into perspective. We keep breaking things down to try to isolate the critical factor. What causes cancer? What cures it? Weight gain and weight loss... illness in general... we all want answers because we all want guarantees. But there aren't any. I have been searching for an answer to Marley's asthma ever since he first had trouble breathing. I tried probiotics, fish oils, wheat and dairy-free diets, I got our carpets steam cleaned and had him tested for allergies. I am still searching but I have to admit the simple truth. There is no one answer. We are incredibly complex organisms and the more we break things into their component parts to research them the less we seem to understand.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part about having the third child is that I have learnt to trust a little more. To trust that my child knows how to grow herself up and to trust that things will work out even if I don't have all the answers.
Posted on Tuesday, March 03, 2009 @ 12:54 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
Toddlers at an All-Inclusive
Going on holiday with kids is harder work than staying at
home. The worst fights my family ever
had when I was growing up seemed to happen on the few real holidays we
took. Just when we should have been
reveling in the novel experience of staying in a hotel, jumping on the beds,
flicking through the four TV channels and pilfering the little wrapped soap bar
my gentle, peaceful brother was slamming me up against a door. Instead of singing camp songs in the car, my
parents were demanding to know if we wanted to turn around and go home.
Which may be why all-inclusive resorts are fun with
toddlers. Humans aren't designed to have
nothing to do but enjoy themselves. It
makes people crazy to have to have fun all the time. But toddlers don't respect the fact that you
have just one week to relax so even when everyone else is waiting on you, they will
still treat you like their personal slave. Toddlers at an all-inclusive. It
is the perfect balance.
To me this expresses life's fondness for
using juxtaposition to help us explore what we thought we wanted.
Each night, as I drag myself out of a dream to look after
Sashi's newborn needs or Kalyani's quiet 'I am too sleepy to pull my blanket up
and I am too cold to sleep' sobbing or Marley's random, infrequent and
unexplained shouts, and each morning as one after the other calls out, I long to be able to simply lie on my bed and sleep, uninterrupted, for as
long as I sleep. To wake up when my
dreams have finished and my body is well-rested and not before. Yet if my children disappeared I would lie
awake wishing for them. I would be
willing to do anything to have them back, happy, sad, sick, healthy or
screaming in my ear and crawling all over me. Anything rather than be without them. And so no matter how tired I feel I can never truly wish for anything
different. What if my wishes came true?
I have spent most of this winter wondering why anyone would colonize a place that gets as cold as New York does. Finally, when a good percentage of two Australian states caught on fire, I realized that we are a whole lot better off watching big, lazy snowflakes drift past the windows here than sweltering in 115 degree heat with a newborn. And our house in Australia has no air-conditioning. It gets so hot in there you have to go stand outside to cool down.
Anyone associated with those fires would consider a good fall of snow right about now a blessing.
Without a tragedy to judge them against we are tempted to feel devastated by life's inconveniences. And to see inconveniences where others might see blessings.
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 @ 08:39 AM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
The Great Reinvention
is taking this time of global disarray as an opportunity to reevaluate. It seems like a good way to create a silver
lining to a large, threatening cloud and a long overdue chance to gather together, physically
or metaphorically, and re-envision our societies.
organizations create a vision statement; a written summary of the values and
goals of their organization. Countries
do too. The Constitution, for example. But then what? Any
life coach will tell you that you should keep going back to your vision
statement to look over your goals and update them. Vision statements must be dynamic or they
become obsolete and then we end up going on without them, rudderless.
This is as true for an individual as it is for a group, a company,
a community or a country. Many people
have been taking this economic downturn as a chance to look at their lives and
make changes. Wall Street bankers are
becoming poets, there have never been as many people writing that book they
always dreamt of and others are pulling out and dusting off the old guitar
again. Retrenchment can mean more family
time, a few role shifts and a reorganization of what we eat and what we do with
our leisure time, among other things.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked two Nobel prize winners to lead an economic
analysis of his country and he wants to include happiness as one of the
indicators that will effect the nation's economic statistics. Cynics see this as a way of covering up poor
economic performance but I see it as an attempt to return to a more whole way
of viewing life.
I don't remember when the economy became the crucial indicator
of our success as a nation but after I studied high school economics I began to wonder why every news broadcast now ended with a few economic
figures that had nothing to do with the average person and that were being used
to indicate whether our economy was doing well or poorly. In fact the statistics they showed us each
night meant almost nothing in isolation. They simply served to place the economy on par with the weather as
something we all needed to absorb into our daily consciousness.
And so we began voting governments in and out based on the
economy. Or rather based on our patchy
understanding of that mysterious creature. Later in my career, when I studied economics again, and then again, I
was interested in how many highly educated people struggled with the difference
between the neat models of ideal worlds used in economic theories and the real
world. The real economy in the real
world is something like a birth. No one
can predict exactly what is going to happen, not even the experts. Which makes voting based on economics alone a bit of a lottery.
This country has just welcomed a new President in the
midst of the worst economic crisis in... well you've read the news... so the time
is ripe to revisit the wise words of our forefathers and have another go at
reorienting our society. Where do we
want to be in ten, twenty years time? What kind of world do we wish to bequeath to our children and
grandchildren? How do we get there? Simple questions with no right answers but a
world of dialogue. And right now, more
than a clearer understanding of an unpredictable monetary system, what we need
is dialogue. An unending conversation begun by the founders of the nation but somewhat forgotten in the blind chase of a happiness based only upon wealth and what it could buy. A conversation that asks who are we now and what are
our collective values and how can we, together, create something even greater
than the great nation we inherited?
That conversation has begun, in pockets, all around the world. The election of a president who inspires with his ideals rather than his experience in toeing the party line is this nation's grandest statement yet to the effect that we are still in the game. We have not yet been completely fooled by the one-dimensional consumer culture. Now let the voices rise, sometimes lyrical, sometimes passionate, sometimes wounded and fearful. And let us listen. To each other, to ourselves, to the world around us. This is a rare opportunity to reinvent that world around us.
Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 @ 03:16 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
I watch my friends with no children or one child, now growing into full nights of sleep and somewhat reasonable conversations, sit holding Sashi moon with love dripping from their eyes. Afterwards they opine... how they would love a(nother) baby. And I nod sagely. Oh yes, it is just the most exquisite thing to have a baby.
Then at four in the morning, the time when Sashi decides she is awake and ready to play for several hours, I wonder if I should call aforementioned friends and ask them over to babysit until about eight o'clock. I imagine four hours would be all it would take to remind them that babies don't only lie in your arms sleeping like an angel while gripping your finger in that mesmerizing way.
My brother tells me honestly that he and his wife are ambivalent about having children because they like their sleep too much and that strikes me as a realistic appraisal of the situation. Whatever your perspective on children you will never sleep the same as you did before you fell pregnant. Even on the nights when everyone sleeps through I tiptoe into each room and check blankets. Of course I don't have to, I would soon hear if anyone was too cold to sleep, but it is a habit. A moment of quiet contemplation when each little face is at its most innocent and angelic. And a time to sweep away all the loud, chaotic negotiations of the day and remember the wonderful little gems that sometimes get hidden or forgotten but are the reasons that, no matter how exhausted, you remain devoted to these mysterious creatures.
I remember hearing our neighbors screaming at each other not long after they had had a child and at the time I shook my head and thought how sad it was for that baby to feel such fury surrounding them. The fights subsided as the baby grew older and sleep became less elusive and they remain a happy (and large) family to this day. Yesterday after I snapped at my husband I felt guilty that I wasn't providing a better role model and then wondered if we had reached the end of our patience when Kalyani was a few weeks old, or Marley. The truth is, I can't remember. The first few weeks after the birth of a new child seem to develop a hazy film around them, like the numbing of labor pains in the collective memory of mothers. What is it that makes us so forgetful in the face of one of the most monumental moments in our lives? In a few months I will have forgotten and Sashi will
already be beyond that placid baby stage that induces such maternal
reveries in others. Thank goodness for the amnesia induced by tiredness or evolution or those precious moments spent watching the sleeping faces of angels...
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2009 @ 04:48 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
The Last Miracle of 2008
It happened one night. After months of prevarication no name had presented itself as suitable and my husband and I were beginning to despair that our third child would be born with no name.
First Kalyani had been stricken by a mysterious vomiting illness that had left her cranky, weak and, well, vomiting day and night. Just as we thought we were beating that, my husband and I got the same thing, within a few hours of each other. We spent that Sunday in our pajamas lolling about on the lounge feeling sorry for ourselves and for Marley who was full of beans and could not understand why the rest of his family would want to loll about on a lounge all day long.
That night I slept downstairs on the couch, my belly swollen with a full-term pregnancy. Buddhi slept upstairs, neither of us able to stay asleep any longer than it took for our bodies to begin the next cycle of gripping cramps and nausea. And at midnight, almost exactly, the baby in my belly must have grown tired of the uncertainty and spoken to us. The following morning as we all gazed queasily at breakfast, I told Buddhi half heartedly that I had thought of another name. He said he had too. We had both written the name down at the time in case we forgot the next day so we looked at each other's names. They were the same.
There on paper was a tiny miracle. A strange coincidence. A moment of relief. Our baby had a name. Sashi. It means moon in Sanskrit and now that she has arrived we understand why. Her face is perfectly round, her manner perfectly serene. Our little moon.
Thankfully Buddhi and I recovered fairly quickly and there came a day without vomiting. One day. The following day Marley began vomiting and our collective shoulders slumped as we changed his bed sheets multiple times a night, waking to hear him wretching on an empty stomach. His eighteen month old body, already lithe, took on the pot-bellied, bandy-legged appearance of a child without enough food and he became more and more listless as the days passed and his appetite remained elusive.
One day Marley sat on the kitchen bench with me as I baked cookies. He reached into the bowl and started eating sugar. Fistfuls of plain sugar. I looked at him and he had a mischievous grin on his face. He was eating! He was hungry! The following day, Christmas morning, a baby was born. Our little daughter Sashi moon.
And then the feasting began.
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2009 @ 05:19 PM | 1 reply View/Post Feedback
We live in a risk-averse society and as parents, bombarded by information, it can sometimes reach the point where it is hard to put things into perspective.
It seems we have some raccoons making their home on our balcony again and the other day I caught Marley with raccoon droppings in his hand. I immediately took him inside, scrubbed his hands, took his clothes off to wash in boiling water and got rid of the droppings but had he put it in his mouth? Inhaled it? Apparently raccoon droppings have roundworm eggs in them that can infest children and cause blindness, coma and death. The more my husband and I read about this the more panicked we became so the following day we took Marley to our pediatrician who, of course, had never heard of it. And that should have been it. But we couldn't get it out of our minds so we ended up giving him the preventative course of deworming medicine that apparently has the only chance of killing this particular worm before it causes an infestation (if you wait until there is an infestation there is no cure).
Our pediatrician wasn't the only expert who had never heard of it. Buddhi works with a wide range of doctors, including infectious disease specialists, and none of them had heard of this incredibly rare complication from what must be an incredibly common event - children coming into inadvertant contact with the residue of raccoon droppings.
If I hadn't been searching the internet for information on how to deter cats (not realising they were, in fact, raccoons), I would never have stumbled into this particular deep, dark worm hole and we would have gaily sailed past this invented crisis. And if Marley had been unfortunate enough to contract encephalitis some time down the track we would have been devastated, but we would not have blamed ourselves for one random act of curiosity gone wrong.
With so much information but so little real understanding of risk and statistics or the ability to impose an objective perspective upon our emotions it is all but impossible to avoid irrational judgements. According to our reaction to that little episode we should be paralysed at the very thought of leaving our house to venture onto the deadly roads that surround us on all sides. Of course we are not. We brave the traffic every day and feel no guilt or remorse about subjecting our children to such danger. Kalyani goes to school and picks up an illness that has her vomiting every day for a week and while it isn't much fun we aren't considering taking her out of school for the rest of her life lest she faces similar predicaments in the future.
In fact the only thing we really learnt out of our most recent collision with the absurdity of trying to control minute risks was that some strict internet discipline is required in this house. If you are worried about something don't, whatever you do, do a google search. Call an expert, or two, or even three; and then leave it at that. There really is such a thing as too much information.
Posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2008 @ 12:02 PM | 0 replies Start the Discussion