Posts Tagged ‘choices’

An old friend, my old life, knocks at the door.

April 1, 2013

Got a very unexpected email a few weeks back, asking if TMD, myself, or both of us would like to direct the camp we used to run. Just for this summer. With an old friend.

I’m getting to the point in my parenting journey I’ve heard so much about – the mythical, magical three year point when a set of twins is somewhat easier than a singleton would be. My kids are absolute best friends and play together all the time. They often get absorbed in their own world and don’t need me as much (unless, of course, I should decide to sit down and relax). This leaves me with more time.

More time to feel the exhaustion of the past 3.5 years. More time to realise there may be space for me to return more, the Existere I was before children. There may be room for me to have some reemerging selfhood right alongside my role as a mother and home educator. Or at least there will be room in theory, if I ever push past my inertia. As soon as I get two seconds, or two hours, free, all I want to do is lie in bed and watch The People’s Court, you know?

I’ve thought on and off about the offer to return to camp. If we were living in Country A, I have no doubt we would be camping professionals. It is what life was before we moved, an encompassing lifestyle, a fun lifestyle, a demanding lifestyle.

I don’t think there is any way to make our current life and family compatible with the intensity of summer camp again (laugh if you will, but at any level of working at camp, from counsellor through to director, it requires 24 hours of your time, every day). Can I go on my own with the children? No, not if I want to actually accomplish anything. Maybe as staff director I could hack it, but then the kids are away from TMD all summer.

Could we afford for TMD to take a three month sabbatical? No. Even with her paltry salary, it’s still more than camp would pay. Especially with the exchange rate. And not to mention there’s no way TMD would get a visa at this point.

So I will stay here this summer. But if my friend does go back to camp, I will imagine a life where we go to visit her, where things smell like campfire smoke and green, where children are living and laughing and discovering themselves, where sleeping outside for months at a time only makes you want to sleep outside forever.


Transitions and gymnastics.

March 4, 2013

Well, it’s that time again: the end of term is in two weeks, and we need to decide now if Snort will continue with football. For a long time it has been apparent that he goes for his friends, not the sport (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Increasingly he just wants to sit on my lap and wait for the class to be over so that we can get to the good part – all having lunch together before playing for a good hour or so.

Snort has mentioned he wants to go to gymnastics, but he wants all his football friends to go with him. During preliminary discussions today, I’ve tried to explain the choice is football and old friends, versus gymnastics and new friends. And he is saying gym. He so badly wants to start gym that he doesn’t want to go to the final two weeks of football.

I’m a bit sad because I’ve struck up good friendships with the other parents/grandparents, and because Snort really loves his friends. I know part of life is moving on, and all bar one of these kids is starting school next year so we will be ‘losing’ them anyway, but I am still wondering if this will cause major upset when he understands that football is properly bye bye. But on the flip side, a key part of my parenting/educational philosophy is being child led. If he wants gym rather than football, so be it. The way gym is set up, it’s more difficult to make good friends there, but I’m sure there will be other regular attenders. We will continue talking about it this week, but I do believe some desperately sad friendship times are ahead (though of course we will still try to see his friends, but it certainly is unlikely to be with such regularity).

On the gym front, well, I have a lot to say that is Coconut related. But we will leave it with saying that she is getting back to pre-broken arm enthusiasm. She asks most days if we can go do gymnastics, and this last week she decided she didn’t need Bunny anymore (Bunny being a constant since she broke her arm, though she never had Bunny before her accident). She is thrilled that one of her home ed friends has joined her class, and in fact she has made two other good friends from the gym….one of which I am going to invite for a play date when we see them this week.

Early last week we watched some floor routines on YouTube and she spent the rest of the week doing naked floor routines on the lounge floor, then asking for medals (no clue where she got the medal thing, as we only watched the routines!). She calls herself The Amaaaaaazing Coconut.

Coconut literally spends most of her time at home upside down. We are talking headstands about 90% of the time. As it happens, the grandad of one of Snort’s football friends has a daughter who trained and competed with Coconut’s gym 25 years ago. His daughter competed internationally, and at age twelve was preparing to compete in the next Olympics, when she was sixteen, and in fact went to the Olympics at twelve as an assistant or something. THEN SHE BROKE HER FUCKING NECK.

She was okay. Not elite gymnastics okay, but she actually carried on with smaller competitions and taught gymnastics throughout her university years. Apparently when she was a kid every fucking second was spent at the gym – the expectation was that she would formally train every day from 6-9 pm and all day Sundays, plus self directed training at school. Her schooling was all jacked up, she was very perfectionist, she developed an eating disorder. I suppose home educating eliminates one of those factors should Coconut (or Snort) have the aptitude and enthusiasm needed to train at that level, but talking to him had me worried.

He was all, ‘Yes, from the time my daughter was about three, she was always upside down and throwing herself around.’ Given that Coconut taught herself forward rolls when she was one – a mere few weeks after learning to walk, and as a baby was often trying to stand on her head, it made me feel cautious. She is definitely a big perfectionist already, and that is certainly a trait I am trying to help her tone down. Listening to this dude talk about eating disorders and broken necks was an eye opener…..though equally, he said his daughter loved the gym and felt joyful there.

So, I guess all things to be aware of. Given that the kids are only three I know all of this probably makes me sound like a crazy, overachieving stage mum, but still… I will wait and watch with interest.

Breastfeeding twins.

September 8, 2009

Today is, quite possibly, the last day my children will receive my breastmilk. At exactly four weeks old, they are too young to get anything but the best from me. But the past month has made me search and explore what my idea of ‘the best’ is. It’s been painful, joy filled, confusing.

When the twins were born, they were both very healthy weights. By five days old, both had lost dangerous amounts of weight. This was due to a number of things we knew then, as well as discovered afterward. My past breast reduction did cause a problem with milk supply and delivery, my little boy has a tongue tie, my SPD was not healing because breastfeeding required me to stay in the same position most of the time. And there’s that word: time.

In a land without two infants, time is plentiful. (Or at least I imagine.) I have never had just one baby, so I have little to compare having two with. My mother in law is here again; she described caring for the twins as ‘relentless.’  A harsh word, perhaps, for something I embrace….but also true.

We were forced to stay in hospital because of the weight loss, and emergency measures put into place. We were forced to start topping up, which I resisted, cried about, felt like a failure because of. Words like ‘dehydration’ and ‘failure to thrive’ were said. So were words like, ‘You have done better at breastfeeding than most mums with only one.’ None of these words made me feel good. It was a huge responsibility for two mums with no idea what they were doing, really, to make emotional and demanding choices when there was so much at stake.

When we got home, the topping up lessened, and they lost weight again. We paid for a renowned lactation consultant to come to our home and help us; she was fabulous. She said we would need to continue topping up, taught us ways to make their feeding more efficient, spoke with me about ways to get them more breastmilk.

I felt very positive when she left, but it took fifty minutes to latch on my son that evening. I was in a huge amount of pain from the SPD, I was tired, I was emotional. We caved and gave them bottles, and my god, it was great. I felt like a sinner of the worst degree. Relief and regret were there in equal portions.

But: time.

In the three hour cycle that is an infant’s life (and ours were on a longer cycle at first, even), it is tough. If your babies are not synchronised, you breastfeed a baby, top that baby up, breastfeed another baby, top that baby up. Then you are expected to pump for twenty minutes. By the time you have done all of this, you have exactly twenty minutes before the whole schedule starts again. Sleeping, showering, eating, coherent thinking – there is no room for it.

If your babies ARE synchronised, well.

We need two adults for breastfeeding. Our little girl latched on excellently, but both babies were slow and sleepy feeders. And then there were the problems with my breasts. Feeding one baby required me to latch him/her on and stimulate them to keep them feeding; TMD was required to manipulate my breasts in various ways in order to encourage the milk to keep flowing. Imagine doing this for TWO babies at the same time; you cannot. It’s simply not possible. So our daughter would get ignored and often fall asleep at the breast, while our son required both of us to even latch him on.

I don’t want to write too much, because I feel like crying. My mother in law is out pushing the babies around the neighborhood right now. Just before they left, they each had the last bottle of expressed breastmilk. I wish I had been able to feed this to them both, to watch my body nourish them in this way for the last time.

I only pumped once yesterday. I did not pump today. I am still feeling slightly tortured about it; my breasts and heart ache.

But ‘best’? Best is a mother that can walk. Best is babies who are gaining weight and not at risk. Best is having time to cuddle and love the babies, not spending every minute of the day and night in a military operation, forcing the babies and my body together in a way that soothed us all emotionally, but left us all physically drained. Best is not weeping in the middle of the night because I cannot produce enough food for my children.

Two sessions of fifteen minute pumping a day takes about an hour in total. From this, I do not get enough milk to feed them even one full bottle. Not even half a bottle. It is a lot of time spent tied to an expensive machine while TMD cares for the babies.

I just ate a Snickers bar – my first peanuts in months. Does this mean I will not pump? I don’t see what carrying on the facade of one pump a day will do, it will only draw out my physical discomfort while not actually producing any real milk. In this struggle to do what is best for my children, I took drugs to increase my milk supply, I pumped hours and hours with a hospital grade pump, I cried on the phone to the lactation consultant again and again, I felt crazy and depleted and hopeful and crushed. I still feel many of these things, but in reality, I am now walking in the house without crutches. I am enjoying feeding my babies, talking and having little staring contests. TMD is able to feed her children as well. We have time to (occasionally) talk. At nighttime, we might have the chance to hold hands while we both sleep for half an hour.

I don’t know what ‘best’ is. I won’t pretend I didn’t want to exclusively breastfeed both babies until they were six months old and solids entered their mouths. I also won’t pretend that it wasn’t hard…and amazing.  In the hospital, before we realised they were losing too much weight, it was a joy. They slept on either side of me at night, we cuddled. I fed them and they fell asleep on my breasts, smiles milky and dribbling.  I loved breastfeeding my babies with a fierceness I could not have predicted.

Perhaps I made the decision to stop feeding at the breast too early; we had only been home a few days. Perhaps I was lazy in not pumping a zillion times a day, but I felt so much happier and connected to the babies and TMD when I spent time with them instead of that pump.

I teeter and totter, knowing that at this point the decision is made anyway.


I’m sorry, babies. I feel like this is something best for me, but best for you? I only want to do everything out of love, to give you everything I can. It seems I reached my body and mind’s limit in this one area, but I hope it can help me expand what I can offer you in other ways. I love you both.