Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The loneliest hours

I have been absent for a long time, folks.  But you already knew that.  I wrote this post in August, but never got around to finishing and posting it.  There's been a few things I haven't managed to do over that time, some because they just weren't a priority and some because I just couldn't manage them.  Hopefully this post will help explain why.

The loneliness crept up on me. It wasn't a sudden jab in the heart like it can be for others.  I have lots of support; family, friends, Hubby, other bloggers. I had people I could turn to. I just didn't realise I needed them so much.

I was no stranger to the middle of the night cries from Gracie. I had come to expect them at regularly scheduled intervals and planned my own sleep accordingly. But as she got older her cries became more frequent as teething and winter colds kicked in. What I thought would be the time for cutting down her breastfeeding turned into a far more regular feed-on-demand routine, until we developed ourselves a horrible schedule of second-hourly waking that required the comfort of milk to get her back to sleep.  I was exhausted all day, which meant I was quick to scoop her out of her cot with each and every whimper in the hope that she'd drop back to sleep sooner.  The older Gracie got, the more determined she was to get what she wanted. And then she dropped her second daytime sleep. Leaving me without the solace of an afternoon reprieve.

There are many lonely hours in a sleep-deprived parent's day.  Sitting up all night while the rest of the house is tucked up in bed. Staying home all day because you haven't had a chance to eat, shower or pee, let alone get some shut-eye. You become your own best friend and worst enemy.  I became short-tempered, stressed, irritable. I would get heart palpitations at the thought of her waking up or Hubby heading out to work. Every evening her bedtime would arrive and I just knew I was in for another restless, lonely, dark night.  I would attempt to plan our day around her single nap time and pray like mad she wouldn't throw a tantrum in the car or at the shops.  She couldn't fall asleep on her own.  She would only sleep on my chest during the day.  We were stuck in this horrible daily struggle and I was losing, badly.

I didn't know myself there for a while. I would look in the mirror each morning at my grey skin, pale eyes and greasy hair and wonder who this zombie was. How had I let it get so bad? Do other Mums feel like this? Is this normal? And though I had all the comfort I could have asked for from family, I still felt totally alone and out of control.  I wanted to drop Gracie off at her Grandma's house and not go back.

A friend had recommended a sleep specialist to us a few times.  She'd come to the house and help us work out a way to get Gracie to sleep. But her prices were too high for our meager budget and we just couldn't get the cash together.  I got up the courage to see my GP about how "sad and down" I'd been feeling, only to be told I was being too hard on myself and Gracie. And that nature had not intended mothers to wean their babies earlier than 12 months old, or for them to sleep in their own beds before that age either.  I left feeling more deflated than when I'd arrived. 

It wasn't until a dear friend suggested seeing our community child health nurse for a referral to a local family care centre that I began to feel like someone was actually listening to me.  The nurse was frank and to the point. I filled out a mental health questionnaire and learned that I was teetering on the edge of Post Partum Anxiety; something I'd felt to be true for so many months but had not let myself believe it could happen to me.  I'd wanted Gracie in my life for so freaking long, and now I wasn't coping with her baby behaviour.

Two months later Gracie and I found ourselves booked into what I fondly called Baby Boot Camp. Five days and four nights of intense parent/baby re-education. We hit the ground running and by night one Gracie was learning how to gently cry/put herself to sleep.  She fought us, as we knew she would, she cried and protested. But by the end of the week she was able to settle herself in her cot rather than on my chest. I was able to shower and eat and have adult time with the other parents, but most excitingly I was able to sleep.  And for me sleep meant a change in my physical and mental outlook. I was enjoying being Gracie's mum again. I was enjoying my life again. I stopped panicking at nap and bedtimes. We left the house, caught up with friends who I'd made excuses with for so long.  And when I felt comfortable enough to explain why I'd been such a shut-in for so long I was met with understanding, empathy and similar stories to my own.

I'm not saying life has been perfect since that time, or that one week of Baby Boot Camp changed my baby permanently. She still struggles at bedtime. I think in some ways she may always do so. Her own Father has always been a night owl. But I learned something so very important during those darkest of days: depression and anxiety can effect ANYONE and can rear its ugly head at any time. But there are people who can help, who want to help, and know HOW to help you.  Sometimes they know you need them and sometimes you have to ask. But you can't be afraid to ask. For the sake of your sanity, your health, and your child and family you have to ask.  There is no shame in it, despite what your misguided brain might tell you at the time. 



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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Five things I've learned this week

Sometimes life can be a bit overwhelming. This year has been a supersonic rollercoaster ride of emotions and events. And with August already well underway it doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.  As this year speeds ahead so too does Gracie's first year of life. She's now nine months old. A toddler. A big girl.  And my time at home is speeding to an end very, very soon.  

With my impending return to work I have, in true Sunny fashion, been trying to make a plan for all the things that need to have been accomplished before I leave the nest. My list isn't long, but it is complex. And most of it surrounds Gracie's development and daily schedule.  She's still struggling with her sleep patterns and self-soothing, and she's still being breastfed.  

It has always been my plan to breastfeed until she turns one, and then wean straight onto cows milk. This doesn't seem like too much of a drama except that she LOVES the boobs. Just loves them.  But then there's her sleeping. She settles without too much fussing for her morning nap, is transitioning herself from two daytime naps to one (early, I know), and is slow to settle overnight with a dream feed in there around 2am.  I am anxious that she'll not be able to sleep well at daycare as she's not yet self-soothing at home.  

This anxiety, MY anxiety, has caused me to research and trial a number of different methods in helping Gracie become a more independent sleeper. None of which have worked as yet, all of which have upped my stress about the situation and confused our poor baby girl.  

This weekend we tried a well-known, and pretty hardcore method of sleep training that did not go well. AT ALL!! Hubby and I had our reservations going into it, and at the end of two hours of screaming, our Gracie Girl just wasn't playing the game. It was a nightmare! And for the next 24hrs our usually confident, bubbly toddler was a clingy mess. I felt terrible. What had I done?! Why did I mess with her working routine? Why did I put her through that? Will we ever find something that works for her?  I broke down, sobbed like a feral mess, and then called Grandma. 

After a good vent and cry, she and Hubby helped me realise some things. I wanted to share them with you. 

1.  Babies grow quickly. Too quickly. They go from being tiny, helpless, little humans to rambunctious toddler people in the blink of an eye. She doesn't need me as much as she did. She's happy to play and crawl and climb and chase the cat all by herself. 
Cherish the time that she relies on you, comes to you for reassurance, cuddles, instruction, sustenance and just because she misses you. The older she gets, the more independent she'll become and this time is precious and fleeting. 

2.  Your baby is never going to be the baby that the books/experts/doctors etc. are talking about. Your baby is different from every other baby.  They will eat, sleep, poop, cry, talk, crawl and walk when they're good and ready. And that's ok. 
Trust your Mummy-instinct. No one else knows your baby like you do. And no one can tell you that something will definitely work for you - or won't for that matter!  Sometimes you need to write your own baby user manual. And sometimes you go back and edit the pages you've already written.

3.  It is alright to just survive a day/week/phase. You don't have to win the Mummy/Daddy/Human Of The Year award. Some days you won't brush your teeth, change your clothes, put the dishwasher on, cook a meal... So what?! Who cares!! 
Do what you need to to get through the day.  And sometimes that means living in your PJs the whole day. Sometimes it's going through Maccas drive-thru without a bra or makeup on. And sometimes not showering for the better part of the week because that takes up precious sleep time! As long as you and your family are alive and healthy at the end of it all, that's what matters. 

4.  Everyone has someone they can lean on. If that person offers you help don't act bashful or ashamed or self-righteous or embarrassed to accept their offer. Parenting is HARD with an exclamation point!!!  
Asking for help means someone CAN help you. It's nice to say you don't need it, but then there are days where you want to paint an SOS on your roof and wait for rescuers.  If people offer, say YES. If they don't offer, ASK! Ask your husband/wife/parents/siblings/friends because there's got to be someone who'll help you out. If it's something you think needs a professional opinion - go get one. Again, there's no shame in telling your GP that you're struggling emotionally and/or physically. If you don't say anything they can't offer assistance. 

5.  It's hard not to blame yourself for your baby's behaviour/mood/schedule etc. I mean, you're the one who spends the most time with them. You're the parent.  They're your responsibility. Just remember that some things are out of your control. 
Be kind to yourself! This kind of goes hand in hand with asking for help. You can't do everything. You're not the responsible for everything. Take pride in little victories like lack of lunch time tantrums or changing a nappy without getting poop up your arm. You're doing a good job!!  
And for heaven's sake - give yourself some alone time or pampering or take a walk/toilet break/shower alone. You need time to clear your head. You're allowed to want to be alone! 

So there you have it. I'm no expert in anything at all, but I do know good advice when it's given to me. Hope it can do you some good too!

Sunny xx


Monday, 28 July 2014

Nine months old (and I'm not ready)

On the day our Gracie turned six months old I tucked her up snuggly in her bed, and then I curled up in Hubby's arms and had a big cry.  I was completely overcome by this enormous amount of emotion; love, pride, happiness, and sadness. My baby wasn't so much a baby anymore. Six months had come and gone so quickly...too quickly, and I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my newborn yet. I wasn't ready to accept that she'd been in the world a whole half-year and could already giggle and roll around and scoot across the floor. I just wasn't ready...

Well, that was three months ago. Tomorrow our Gracie Girl is nine months old. And regardless of my objections the world hasn't stopped turning or the clocks stopped ticking. Time has rolled along just as fast as ever and our baby girl is now a toddler.  She is a little person with a big personality. She knows what she wants and when she wants it and can easily bring your attention to that fact. Our girl is only weeks away from taking her first unassisted steps. She already stands up tall, walks between the furniture, and pushes her highchair around the living room. She has learned to climb the stairs, and races up them ever so quickly at the mention of bathtime each evening.  Bathtime no longer requires her bath seat; instead she prefers to stand up and hold onto the tap as we wash her hair under the shower.  If she decides she'd like to sit down and splash she'll reach for the bath plug and promptly put it in it's proper place so the bath fills up with bubbles.   

Gracie loves flipping the pages of her favourite Peppa Pig book as her Daddy reads to her every night. This has become a very beautiful little routine they share, and as much as I'd love to join them in their moment, I always leave them to be just the two so they can read and cuddle before sleep time.  In just a few days after starting her Daddy book time Gracie surprised us both with her first fully formed word - Dad. We both beamed with pride. 

I love this little bubble we are in right now.   The eighth month was a long, hard, sick month. But it was also lovely and fun and adventurous. Gracie's little personality grows bigger every day as her mind and body expand and she becomes SO much more capable.  I want time to slow down. I want Gracie to slow down!  I know the months ahead bring even more milestones that will resemble less of the tiny baby she used to be and more of the little girl she's becoming.  I am not ready to move on yet. 

I love our Gracie Girl with her Daddy's cheeky grin and love of chocolate. I love how she can sit so still and calm staring at the trees blowing in the breeze one minute, and be chasing after the cat, giggling with excitement the next.  I love that we share our own special Mummy-Gracie language made up entirely of little grunts and growls. And that I can bring her back from tears with just the right sound and start a whole conversation. I love that she still sleeps in our room, in her cot, so that she can share our heating and I can listen to her snore. And I love the bond of breastfeeding. 

But I am sad because I know that soon winter will be over and she'll move back into her own room. Because my time at home with her everyday is coming to an end soon and we must start preparing her for daycare. I am sad that the time has come to wean her off the boob and encourage her bottles.  And I worry that she won't understand why there are so many changes at once. 

Our dear, sweet Gracie Girl has brought so much love into our home, into our family and into the world.  We are truly blessed to be her parents.  These last nine months, plus the nine while I was pregnant, have been the greatest of our lives.  Who knew such a tiny, perfect little person could take such a hold of your existence? 


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Keeping my cool

I'll admit I'm a bit of a hot head sometimes. I can get pretty cranky pretty quick if the situation provokes it. And with the recent events of sickness and lack of sleep in our house I've felt myself losing my cool faster than usual.  I haven't always been this way.  It's only a semi-recent behavioural change in me that I don't love at all and work every day to counteract. So yesterday I felt a surge of pride (is that the right word?) when a particularly demanding and annoying day could have got the better of me. 

Gracie's nap schedule has changed around AGAIN this week. Her usual twice daily hour-and-half sleeps have been replaced with a brief 30minute nap that leaves her neither refreshed nor happy. And as much as I shush and bounce and cuddle she fights me off and tries to play. This is fine until about 5pm when all hell breaks loose and she becomes an overtired monster who wants dinner early, refuses to sit still, doesn't want to get out of the bath and won't let us put her PJs on.  And as predicted she falls asleep super early.  Which brings us to yesterday. 

Gracie's day started at 3.30am. She woke and made her usual "gimme them boobies" noise and so I complied. This usually lulls her back to sleep til about 7am. But no, not yesterday. So we bounced and cuddled for 30minutes with no effect. Rather than tearing my tired hair out I put her warm gown on and took her downstairs.  We ate a very early breakfast and had some paracetamol for teething pains and within an hour she was asleep again. SUCCESS!

She woke later that morning at 8am to restart the day a little happier and so did I. But come 10.30am and her morning nap and we repeated the same as the day before. After 35minutes she was awake and bright-eyed, ready to play. So instead of trying to wrestle her back to sleep I popped her in the highchair for lunch. She was visibly tired, but ate a big bowl of fruit and yoghurt before reclining with a rusk to watch me finish my bowl of soup. No tantrums, no crying, just chilled out. SUCCESS! 

After lunch we played in the garden. I watched with held breath as she scooped a giant handful of mud from the garden and put it in her mouth.  But we just washed her mouth out and kept playing. By 2pm she was struggling. The playing had turned to whinging and she was refusing to let me pick her up. So, mustering all my calm I held her hands as she walked up the stairs in front of me. We climbed into bed and had a feed. Within 20minutes she was asleep. SUCCESS!  And the best part of all, so was I! DOUBLE SUCCESS!!

I woke first at 5pm. Ah crap, we overslept and the evening routine is going to be all out of whack. Dammit dammit dammit! So I woke Gracie who rolled over and gave me her sweet, sleepy baby smile.  Downstairs Hubby was on the phone speaking with a mechanic.  Apparently his car wasn't running well and had refused to start, requiring him to pull it apart to find the problem. Not the battery - crap, that means it's something bigger and more expensive. And to make matters worse he needed his car for work early tomorrow morning. DOUBLE CRAP!  Luckily we were able to borrow his sister's car for the remainder of the week until we can get his repaired over th weekend. Unfortunately this meant dragging Gracie out after dinner to go and collect it. And we all know how much Gracie loves a car trip!  

So cut to our drive home. It's already 7.30pm and we are now cutting into bath and bed time and Gracie knows it. She screams the whole way home, voicing her utter discontent over the fact that she is squished in her car seat rather than playing with her bath toys and getting snuggly in her PJs. I sing and talk to her from the drivers seat, trying to calm and reassure her that all will be back to normal very soon. We arrive home and immediately head towards the bath. I strip her off and in she hops. Order is restored. SUCCESS! She's now very tired but the simple task of having a bath has brought order back to her evening. She knows now that soon it'll be pajama and Daddy book time, then milk and sleep. I keep singing and talking to her and the next 30minutes of routine go quickly and smoothly.  SUCCESS! 

You have no idea how much of a win that felt like. A big day with a big change of schedule that could have put us all in a bad mood. But I consciously did everything I could to not let it get the best of me, and the best of our day.  And it felt so good to see the positivity paying off. I can't help the fact that Gracie may do something different every day, but I also know she thrives on routine to keep her calm and help her feel supported.  I can't predict crappy circumstances like a broken down car, but I can change my reaction to it.  I don't want to be a
cranky, anxious Mum. I don't want to be snappy and overwhelmed. And yesterday felt like a major step forward. So yeah, maybe proud is the right word. 



What makes you snap? 
Have you got any sure fire calming tips?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Weekly brain dump

So I haven't kept up with this little feature since April because I'm a slacker. So I thought I'd give it another shot. And since it's a lazy Saturday afternoon I've got five minutes to spare!

Gracie's ears are much better now. The antibiotics worked their magic and she's no longer pulling and scratching. Unfortunately stopping the antibiotics made her susceptible to Hubby's horrible flu bug, which she promptly picked up. That too brought us several days and nights of crying, coughing, boogers, belly aches and very little sleep.

In order to maintain sanity and achieve a somewhat acceptable sleep regime we fashioned a pillow prop for her cot and then used bolster pillows to stop her from rolling onto her belly. And let me tell you SHE HAS NEVER SLEPT BETTER, sick or well. It's like magic. Something about laying on a slight 45 degree angle and being tucked in tightly has changed the sleeping game entirely. And now she's starting to recover we won't be changing a thing! 

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I have finally reached the end of my parental leave and have begun cashing in some annual leave at work. Which means the countdown is officially on to when I go back. I think I'm having a panic attack just writing about it. I have less than four months to go.  

I haven't receive final confirmation from Gracie's daycare on which day they can take her and that's making me quick nervous as I need to start the return-to-work prep and paperwork. I know I should harass them a little more to get it all locked in, but I think deep down I'm kind of hoping they'll tell me they don't have the room for her anymore. Not that we can afford for me to stay home without an income. I just don't know if I'm ready yet for everything that's fast approaching. 

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It's been a week of tragedy. Both in our immediate lives and around the world.

Two very dear families we love have both lost pregnancies within days of eachother. Both requiring hospital visits and surgery. There is nothing you can say to ease their pain, all we could do is offer our unwavering support and love.  It has been something that hit a nerve in me that I didn't think was still so raw and fresh. And yet I found myself weeping at that all-too-familiar feeling of heartache and confusion and loss that I knew they were experiencing. 

And then we turn on our TVs to hear horrendous news of a plane being shot out of the sky and lives being torn to pieces. There are people fighting  all around the world and so many innocent lives are being caught in the crossfire.

On behalf of the Sunny Family I want to offer our deepest condolences to all the families of those who have perished. Not a minute goes by where we don't think about you and feel your grief. We pray that God brings you some peace in these troubled times. The world mourns with you. 






Saturday, 5 July 2014

One sick girl

Winter is here. It took its sweet time but it finally swooped down on us in a flurry of super cold nights and windy days. We went from 15'C to 4'C evenings overnight. And no, we were not prepared. And neither was our little Gracie. After a fortnight of craptastic sleeping and behaviour we were not so shocked to find out she has a double ear infection. 

I had suspected she wasn't well for a week or so. And as the doting nurse/Mummy that I am I took her to the GP and demanded that they look into her ears, feel her glands and check out her throat.  The result was a very nonchalant reply that went along the lines of "it's just a growth spurt and you just need to keep an eye on her and blah blah blah". So I took her home and did as instructed.  Five days later Hubby and I found ourselves up til 4am with a screaming baby girl who hadn't slept in eight hours and, despite dosing her with ibuprofen and paracetamol, could not be consoled.  The next morning I stormed back into the GPs office, armed with an appointment with our usual doctor, and asked for a second opinion. He took one look at her ears and declared it as a full-blown infection. I was livid; we started antibiotics that afternoon. 

I suck at having a sick baby. I am a nurse and I am horrible at having a sick baby. I thought I'd be able to rock this kind of situation but I feel like I've done the opposite.  I got short-tempered and frustrated. I cried when she cried. I attempted to force antibiotics and pain relief down her poor little throat and when she refused I handed her over to her Daddy instead. At work I didn't cry over patients. I didn't slip meds into their food.  But I wasn't their parent. I wasn't their Mummy. They weren't my first-born baby with their very first illness. And we've never had to deal with all this stuff before.

So it's been a week. Gracie has reluctantly swallowed each foul dose of antibiotics. She's spent many a night falling asleep on my chest and sometimes stayed there the whole night.   And she really has been a bloody champion about it all. She's put up with my incompetence, with her aches and pains, and the horrible belly cramps that come with antibiotics. She's giggled and played, chased The Boo around the floor, and given us the warmest cuddles.  And finally she is getting better. Thank goodness!  

Oh, and isn't she just the cutest little sickie? 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Sleep deprived

All I wanted tonight was to go to bed early. When I say early I mean some time before midnight. I can't remember what it's like to find myself tucked up in bed, every task for the day completed, not scrambling to do last minute jobs, carelessly dozing off before the beginning of a new day. I also can't recall life before coping on an average of five hours sleep. Oh, how I long for those lazy Sundays spent hanging out in bed in my pjs, taking a long afternoon nap only hours after a late breakfast. I miss those days. I don't think I truly appreciated those days until now. 

Gracie has hit another rough sleeping phase. Can you tell? We just had ourselves all sorted out with a fabulous routine and then BAM, we're starting from scratch again. This time around it's hard.  Sleep digression at this age feels personal. It feels like rebellion. She fights so hard to stay awake. She claws and bites and cries.  And I have really taken it to heart. I have felt useless. How can I not settle my own child enough to ensure she gets adequate sleep?  I have felt cranky. Why can't it just all work the way it used to? I have felt depressed. Will it ever get better?  I don't think I'm cut out for all this! I have gotten so inside my own head. And right now it's not the shiniest, most uplifting place to be. 

I recognised this darkness almost immediately and I reached out. I reached out my big sister, who reassured me this was all normal and that all babies go through sleep patterns, several hundred times over. And that it's ok to feel horrid, as long as you're still talking about it and asking for help.  I also reached out to a group of fabulous parents-post-infertility bloggers, who shared with me some really helpful articles and advice for coping with this rough patch.  Through reading these articles I learned that our little Gracie is just adapting to her new memory function, object permanence. She has learned how to miss us when we're not around. And how confusing that can be when you don't understand it. She is also in the middle of a major growth spurt, which has be prompted by her desire to be an early walker. And on the eve of her turning eight months old she's also teething again.  Through every long night and frustrating bed time all I could think was "why is she doing this to me?"  And yes, I know how illogical that sounds considering I am the adult and she is the child. But sleep deprivation does that. It is a nasty, cruel form of attack on your mind and your body. You don't think logically. All you can think of are ways to become unconscious as soon as humanly possible, and anyone standing in your way is the enemy. Relationships suffer. Warmth becomes cold.  I was feeling like a shell of my usual self and I did not like who I was becoming. 

I am thankful I have people to cry out to, people I can call day and night to cry to and ask for help.  I'm not sure how I would coping if it wasn't for them. Parenting is so hard! I love my daughter so very much. But I am not a perfect parent and some days are not fun. And that is something I am learning is ok. That is something I am reconciling every day, because to think it makes me feel guilty.  We did everything in our power for three years to ensure that this little girl existed, and now I feel like this.  It is a hard reality. But it is a true reality that I am sure many others would agree with. And I am working on it. 

I am tired. I am tired because I am her Mother. And if she is awake and unsettled there is nothing I care about more than making sure she feels comforted and safe. I am tired because I give her my everything.  I am tired because on top of being her Mum I am also a wife and I am doing my best to not that that relationship fall by the wayside.  I am tired because this is all so new and terrifying and exciting. But it's ok to be tired and it's even more ok to admit it and ask for help. 

We have a long way to go to perfect sleep. And it's only going to get harder before it gets easier because introducing new routines can be so tricky and exhausting.  But I've even told it's all worth it and everyone will benefit in the long run. 


I hope you have someone to talk to when you need it most. 
I hope you know it's ok to say things are a bit too hard and you need help. 
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write a post, but I'm sure now you understand why. 
Reach out, let me know you're still hanging in there. I'd love to head from you! 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Guest Blog - My Little Soldiers

When my wife and I were struggling to make a baby I found it hard to vocalize my feelings. My failure at fatherhood ate away at my very being and made me feel less of a man. Friends later told me that my body was physically hunched from the emotional weight of my baby wait. I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone and certainly not mates. I would walk past children playing in the park and I’d feel my heart breaking into tiny pieces. Consumed by Bugaboo envy I’d see couples pushing their baby strollers and want to punch them in the face. I would oscillate wildly between anger and depression. After learning a friend of ours was pregnant I didn’t leave my bedroom for two days.

But although as a couple we were, by the World Health Organisation’s definition, officially infertile there was one small life raft I could hold onto – it wasn’t me with “the problem”.
I am ashamed to admit that when my wife and I both had our fertility tests I sat in the doctor’s room waiting for the results silently praying that my sperm would not be judged to be ineffective and that instead it would be my wife’s eggs at fault. So when the doctor opened up his beige file of notes and read them in silence before matter-of-factly announcing that Iza had polycystic ovaries, I almost whooped for joy.

Imagining what it would be like for a man to have faulty sperm was the basis for my novel – My Little Soldiers.

In a modern world where the role of men is being questioned by men themselves, and conferences are even being held discussing what it is to be a man, male infertility is a very useful device for exploring modern masculinity, as well as a good arena for comic material. At its heart, my novel is an unconventional love story but I wanted the comedy, much of it drawn from my own experiences, to contrast the heartbreaking tale of loss and yearning.  

 
I hope the novel gets more men to open up about their infertility problems, and also for their partners to realise that whilst they may be on the frontline there is man next to them who is just as emotionally invested as they are.

Already one woman has told me that after reading it she saw her husband in a whole new light and for the first time they properly discussed their previous years miscarriage.  

My Little Soldiers – by Glenn Barden (Piranha Press) is available here http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IX5S6MI
Extracts can also be read at
www.mylittlesoldiers.net
Twitter: @glennbarden    Facebook: www.facebook.com/mylittlesoldiers


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Sunday, 11 May 2014

My first Mother's Day

My first Mother's Day with a baby in the world was a very sweet affair. I had told Hubby that I had no expectations or requests for the day, all I wanted was what I already had, our Gracie. 

I was four months pregnant last year on Mother's Day, and although I already felt like a mother we didn't really celebrate in a big way. Something along the lines of not jinxing things and rough patches and wanting to lay low meant the day was like any other, with the addition of a slightly swollen belly full of tiny arms and legs.  This year that tiny little body is a bouncy six month old baby girl, who goes by the name Gracie and is beautiful beyond compare.  This year I'm not worried about pregnancy stress, feotal development or morning sickness. All that has been replaced with blonde curls, early morning cuddles and a goofy smile. She is all we could have ever asked for.  And all we have ever wanted. 

My heart feels full. My home feels baby-fied. My Hubby is now a Daddy. I am her Mummy.  And I have never been happier. I have a lot to be thankful for. 


Happy Mother's Day to you all. I wish you a day full of things to be thankful for. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Philadelphia Fertility Project

Recently Sunny Hubby and I have been approached by a number of university and college students from around the world to participate in research regarding the infertility experience.  It makes me happy and proud to be able to share our point of view and aid these students in researching such an important and life-altering topic, as we know that it effects so many couples and individuals around the world.

The most recent request came from a student named Hannah who is a Masters student in the Psychology Department at Drexel University, Philadelphia PA.  She has kindly asked me to share her questionnaire with you all.


Philadelphia Fertility Project

The purpose of this survey is to learn about the social, mental, and emotional experiences of women with fertility problems. It will take about 10 minutes to complete. Your participation is completely anonymous. Women who are between the ages of 18-45, not currently pregnant, and have difficulty conceiving naturally through unprotected intercourse and/or carrying a pregnancy to term are invited to participate in this study.
In appreciation of your participation, two $100 donations have been made to the American Fertility Association and Resolve: The National Infertility Association by the research team to thank you for sharing your experiences and to benefit others who struggle with fertility problems. If you have any questions about this study, you may contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Pamela Geller, Ph.D., or the research coordinator, Mona Elgohail, at 215-553-7121
Click on this anonymous survey link to participate:http://tinyurl.com/PhillyFertility

I have already taken this survey.  It's quick and easy to fill out.  Lots of boxes to      tick and thought-provoking questions to answer.  So take 10 minutes and help further fertility research.
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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Portraits are powerful

This week marked the magnificent milestone of our little Gracie girl turning six months old.  And to help us celebrate my dear friend Elizabeth, owner and photographer at White Acre Photography has offered to take some family portraits for us.

Whenever Elizabeth offers me her services in the form of a professional portrait shoot, and not just my friend taking some happy snaps, I always question whether it's really necessary.  What's wrong with a bunch of casual piccies taken around the house or at birthday parties?  Well, nothing at all.  These are photos of every day moments captured to fill albums and help us remember days past.  But there is something very special about having your family's portrait taken by a professional (and not just because you'll finally be in front of the lens and not the one who misses out behind the camera).

As part of a branding and image makeover of her brand, Elizabeth has taken the time to explain the importance of keeping photographic memories.  And because she has been a part of and shot so many of my family's most memorable occasions I just have to share her with you too.  Check out Elizabeth's Portraits Are Powerful series.  You may even spot Gracie in a pic or two.

I'll be back later to share some of our most recent milestone portraits with you.     

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

It's not all bad!

No one ever said that being a parent would be easy.  And no amount of pre-game pep talk would ever have been enough to prepare us for life with a baby. There are books you can read, friends and family who give you advice, the internet, mummy groups and so on and so forth.  But none of it really means a damn thing until you've got your tiny little bundle of half-mum-half-dad loveliness home and are living in your new, unknown reality.  And it's in those first few days and nights on your own that you attempt to recall every morsel of information, every tidbit of advice people tried to spoon feed you.  And it's right then and there that you realise none and all of it helps.  Am I right?!

Recently I realised something, as I sat on the couch with a sleeping baby plonked on my chest, unable to eat when I wanted, pee when I wanted and smelling up the joint from three days of non-showering; new parents (and by new I mean every single parent of any child of any age) tend to get bogged down in what their kids SHOULD be doing instead of reveling in what they are doing.   It's easy to feel like you are achieving absolutely nothing when you've got kids. It's easy to wake up in the morning only to check your watch and find that it's five hours later and you're still in your PJs with your hair in the same old greasy ponytail and your breath stinks. It's easy to look around your home and become overwhelmed by the dishes  in the sink and the washing piled up in baskets.  It's easy to forget to get something out for dinner or that you ran out of milk two days ago and still haven't made the five minute trip up the road to the shops.  And it's easy for one bad night to turn into two or three, and for sleep deprivation (or zombie brain) to take over and you find yourself grinding your teeth, muttering under your breath about why you'd EVER want to have another baby, or just plain old sobbing into your cornflakes for dinner.  

But something that's hard to do is to make the connection between your stinky trackpants and unwashed hair and your child's happiness.  The fact that I haven't showered today or put on a load of washing isn't indicative of what I HAVE been doing.  In fact there is a direct correlation between my own personal dishevelment and the giant smile on my daughter's face (and not just because she thinks I'm hilarious)!  Because it means my day has been spent being her Mum first, above all other menial tasks around the house.  She is smiling because we have spent the day snuggling, playing, learning, eating, pooping, discovering.  She is smiling because I have put her first and she feels loved and protected and safe.  But you won't read too often about that in the parenting books.  Well, not in my experience anyway.

I have always taken parenting advice with a huge grain (or tablespoon) of salt.  I think anyone who cares to write a book and call themselves a "parenting expert" is more along the lines of a delirious moron.  How can you be an expert in parenting, or a "baby whisperer"?  Do they teach that at university now?  I have read a few parenting books with the hopes of learning a thing or two that I can use to help make my days a little easier.  But this is hard because despite the fact that ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT, each one of these experts claims to have the right way to discipline, the right way to schedule, the right way to calm.  And when your own baby doesn't respond to any of these methods these books also (for no extra cost) make you feel the right kind of inadequate and guilty.  Sounds fun, right?  Nope, no it's not!

I was having this conversation with two friends today, both with daughters in varying stages of toddler-dom, about which books we'd found helpful, what techniques we've tried for what, and what advice we wished we'd known.  And not surprisingly we all came to the same conclusion.  Yes, there may be days when we want to cry about the lack of sleep or how much one tiny creature can disrupt our lives, or the fact that you no longer have the time or energy required to kiss your husband on the mouth let alone get bizzy anymore.  But you also get a front row seat to the greatest show on earth! No one else gets to shape and mould your children the way you do. No one else gets to marvel in the ingenuity of the mind of a child as they mimic and discover how to do those things you're teaching and showing them.  I can quite literally spend hours watching my daughter's face as she figures out how to grasp her toys, reach for her dinner spoon, and use her baby language to ask for what she wants.  This month alone she has learned how to sit upright unassisted, pull herself up to standing position and begin crawling. And I got to be there for every second of it! 

So no, we don't have a cemented schedule yet, she doesn't go to sleep at the same time every night, and she still sometimes cries on car rides and throws tantrums when she's tired. But who cares?!  Because she is so incredibly smart and loving and affectionate. Every day is an adventure because you never know what to expect next.  And I wouldn't trade a second of it! 


                          
                          
                          

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Weekly brain dump

Teething sucks!  That's all...

                                     

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

It has started again...

What's started you're asking?  The counting, the mind games, the estimating. That's what!

At 12 weeks (exactly) post-partum I got my period. It was painful, crampy and horrible. It was exactly how I remembered them being before I got pregnant. I was not impressed. Far from it actually! I spent the next 10 days bleeding, aching, getting pimples and cursing my uterus for starting this horrible tradition again so soon after giving birth. BAH!! And then to my surprise six weeks later I got another period. And so I started marking them on our calendar. Can you see where I'm heading with this yet? And then I waited and waited and six weeks came and went and my period hadn't arrived yet. And, well, being the total airhead that I am I started thinking, could I be pregnant?? I mean, it's never happened naturally in the years since my PCOS diagnosis, but now I've had a baby maybe it could be different. Because we all know that's how life works out, right?!  Don't judge, I know how stupid I sound! 

So I spoke to Hubby, who looked at me like he may have to call someone at the looney bin to come collect his apparently crazy wife. But he also pointed out the fact that we had been doing the biz-ness recently and we did still have a leftover pregnancy test in the upstairs bathroom. Basically I blame him for what ensued because you're not supposed to encourage stupid behaviour in your spouse!  He told me to make up my own mind about doing to test, laughed in my face and walked away. Of course I did it! Curiosity didn't just kill the cat, it peed on my home pregnancy test and then set it on fire. Of course I wasn't pregnant! And I knew that!! But I did it anyway because regardless of the last four years I am ever the hopeless optimist. And I still felt all those same darn emotions I used to feel: my heart raced with nervous excitement, I became a little short of breath as I counted down the minutes until it was time to look at the results, I put my head in my hands and quietly debated with myself whether a positive outcome would be a 100% ridiculously scary prospect or if it'd simply be a massive blessing in disguise. And then I looked down at the big fat negative in the window and felt sad, a little relieved and exhausted.  I'd known the test would be negative and I'd gone ahead and done it anyway. And it felt exactly like it used to all those other times. Like a big fat kick in the guts.  

If I had of been pregnant this would have been my reality: Gracie and the new baby would have shared the EXACT same estimated due date. Yep, that's right! Crazy stuff!  If I had of been pregnant we'd have two babies under two. If I had of been pregnant my estimated return to work in November and the end of maternity leave would actually mark the beginning of another round of maternity leave.  If I had of been pregnant I would now already be at the end of the first trimester. And that thought blows my mind!  Would I be ready for round two of the pregnancy and baby game?  

I love our Gracie girl. Like I really, really love her.  But pregnancy was so freaking stressful.  And her newborn stage, which isn't that too long gone, was single-handedly the hardest period of time in our lives so far.  She was, undoubtedly, THE cutest baby on the face of the planet, and she was so good at feeding from the very first minute of her existence, but EVERYTHING was so hard! She didn't sleep well (and still doesn't), she had awful reflux and/or colic, and she wouldn't go to anyone else but me.  She's now finally at this gorgeous little phase in her life where she's giggly, wriggly and loves to cuddle her Daddy, and I want to cherish every second of it. BUT it's also this shining light at the end of the fourth trimester black hole that makes me seriously consider baby number two.  Was it all really as bad as I remember? Could I do it all again while Gracie is so little? 

To be frank, yes it was and no I don't think I can really see us with another newborn any time soon.  I am just now starting to get the hang of this parenting thing and I'm loving it. And that's all because of the beautiful little girl I call our daughter.  Everyday she learns something new, teaches us something new about ourselves and makes our home a happier, cuddlier place to be.  And I'm quite content right now to keep her our number one priority.  But does that mean I'll stop keeping track of my periods, no!  Because even though I'm not actively trying to get pregnant, I'm certainly not trying to prevent it if it happens naturally.  There's no contraception in our house people!!

How much time was there between you children?
Would you do anything differently?
HOW CAN I MAKE MY BABY SLEEP??
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Monday, 24 March 2014

Weekly brain dump


Argh! This week has broken my brain several times over. Lack of sleep has left me sobbing on the loo at four in the morning because I couldn't believe I was awake again, walking round the house with a baby strapped to my chest, and learning how to eat, pee and put washing on while moving with such smooth elegance and poise so that I wouldn't wake up the baby I was so desperate to keep asleep!

It was four-month immunisation time this week. Oh how I love needle time (sarcasm senses tingling?)! Gracie does so well at the actual event, sits up tall on my lap as I am forced to hold her little body as close to mine as possible. She cries because the needle startles her and then we rotate to do the other leg. A big cuddle and a booby after it's all done and she's back to being her cute little self.  It's in the hours that follow that the real effects start to take hold and my gorgeous little cuddle bear becomes a howling, drooling, puking, non-sleeping monster baby.  It's completely not her fault, but oh man does it make for a rotten week all round!


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We just got our health insurance renewal notice only to find out the premiums are going up to a whopping $265 a month!  My brain hurts just thinking about this.  So I have been madly calling and inquiring with different insurers regarding switching to lower levels and lower priced companies and it turns out we're getting just about the best deal we can considering the need for top hospital to cover IVF.  Boo!

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Next week is Hubby's birthday.  He's requested to postpone all birthday celebrations until later in April because of our crappy chock-a-block schedules.  So instead we'll just have a nice dinner at home and I'll make his favourite chocolate cake.  I had a big birthday present idea all lined up, but as per his request that too will wait...
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I've noticed I'm getting pretty slack with this whole weekly brain dump idea.  I'd like to keep it going if people are really interested in reading it.  Also, I find it hard to gauge if anyone is reading these days.  It's ok if you're not.  I just need to establish who my target audience is/if I still have an audience, so I can cater to your needs better.  I'm working on a bit of an idea to start getting you all more involved, but recent lack of time and brain activity have slowed the progress of this idea, so I'll keep you posted!
Drop me a line some time.  Drop by my Facebook page.  Let me know you're stilling hanging in there!  


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Thursday, 20 March 2014

It's inevitable, isn't it?

As I lay in bed feeding Gracie this morning I gently leaned over and grabbed my phone from under the pillow. My alarm was quietly buzzing away and as I swiped the screen to tell it to shut the heck up I noticed a pair of little eyes staring up at me.  This was followed closely by a tiny hand stretching up to grab the phone from my hand.

I didn't want us to have those kids. The kind that pop out into the world and immediately become addicted to technology. But it's inevitable isn't it?! If a smart phone can already draw the attention of a four month old, while feeding no less, what hope do I have of keeping her sheltered from it all?.  She's already so atune to the visual stimuli that comes in the form of a tv or computer screen, the touch of an iPhone or the pressing of a remote control. Though at the moment I wonder how much of this fascination is about what is happening on the screen and the beautiful bright colours or if she is pondering whether she can fit it in her mouth.  Either way she's already way too clever and I know it won't take her long to figure it all out. 

It's hard to imagine that our children will grow up never knowing a time before the internet, Facebook, smart phones and the digital age. When I was a kid we had one of those old Commodore desktop computers. It didn't even live in the house, instead it held its place in Dad's shed on top of an old filing cabinet full of tools and other Dad stuff.  My Dad held a big, fancy, very technical job in the RAAF and as a result worked with computers all day every day. We inherited the old Commodore second-hand when they were upgrading to Apple Macintoshs on the base. My brother and I loved it, but we had no idea what it's real purpose was. Instead we played with it on a blank black screen, it's neon green cursor flashing away at us, as we pretended we worked in a bank or a newspaper, typing jibberish just to see new letters appear on the screen.  

When the Commodore died we were upgraded to another second-hand beauty, but this time it was a Mac. Like an original Macintosh desktop before they became the IT computer to own. We weren't even hipsters!!  The Mac was even more fun for me and my brother because it actually had a few programs we could use, AND it was moved inside the house!  Our favourite program was called "Say it Sam". It was pretty simple, you typed a word, any word, and Sam would read it back in his robot-like voice. At first we typed our names over and over just to laugh at how he pronounced them. But as we got more confident and cheeky we started typing in naughty words. Bum, poo, fart, willy... All the words we weren't allowed to use ourselves.  You get the idea. Pretty soon Sam became a bit of a potty-mouth and we were only allowed to use him when Mum was in the room. 

I think the modern equivalent of Say it Sam would be Siri. Except she actually does the things you say. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally held down the home button and activated her by mistake only to end up googling something along the lines of "oh f$@k off Siri!"  Anyhoo, I guess what I'm trying to get at is that the technology we grew up with was quite innocent. I'm sure if Sam had of searched poo or willy as many times as we made him say it the computer would have been taken out the back and set on fire. Now all phones and computers are connected to the internet. Siri doesn't know the difference between me accidentally pressing her buttons and speaking to her and a child doing the same. Our kids will always know what a Siri is, and they'll always know how to use her, even if it's not me who teaches them.  And the internet can be a really scary place. 

Am I naive to think that I can stop the technology bug from spreading?  That I can shelter my kids from things like Xbox online and Facebook when I myself use them in plain sight. Can I stop my children from demanding their first smart phone or tablet at the age of five because their school friends have one and they don't?  I just don't know...