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Monday, September 06, 2010


World Fantasy Award article

I mentioned before that Alison Flood of the Guardian was covering the World Fantasy Award nominations? Well, here's her article; you can read what I said in it.

Short comment - Great to see you back.

Medium length comment -- by interested to know how Mika is taking this total upheaval of her life. Because, as a cat, everything is about her.

Longer comment - and quite serious - how different does the world look to you today than it did a year ago? Has the whole process of giving over a hostage to fate made you feel differently about the world? It is, after all, something you are now husbanding for Nat future use. You wrote a series of interesting posts about the different ways you experienced movies when you were pregnant -- I would not be surprised if you find that watching movies as a parent is also an altering experience.

One of the reasons I ask is that watching my mother die has changed even the experience of watching the evening news. Now, for example, when I see refugees fleeing the floods in Pakistan I am especially aware of the old. I wonder what it is like to know that one's mother or father is simply too arthritic, too weak or too fragile to escape. The news commentators talk endlessly of people leaving all their possessions behind and I wonder about the people who have to face the dilemma of being able to only save one of their parents.
Hi there. :-)

Mika: well, not much. She's a bit more easily rattled than usual, but mostly the same. Sometimes she sniffs him, and then decides he's not especially interesting and wanders off. She is, amusingly, bigger than him.

The world: To be honest, right now I haven't the space to think about the world. I'm still not over labour either physically or emotionally: walking is hard enough that I don't leave the house, and I get weepy every time I remember the whole birth experience. Meanwhile I'm with Nat 24/7 and we're busy learning together, plus my husband, who's only just finished his paternity leave, which means a whole new stage of coping for me. We get an average of two wake-ups a night, and sleep at odd times of day, so exactly when is when is an open question - we both managed to spend almost all of last Wednesday convinced it was Thursday, for instance. If I try to keep track of anything, I fail: I can't even tell the health visitor how many times a day I feed the baby, and feeding the baby is a major part of my life now.

So right now, the world is basically something outside my window. I'm avoiding the news because bad news feels like more than I can cope with - facing a hard world with a baby to care for is harder than facing it as an independent adult, and we have to look after him in the world we've got - and, as we've got a conservative government, the news is pretty bad. But while Nat is, as newborns go, a pretty easy baby, even so I'm just not ready to engage with the world in any kind of systematic way. I probably won't be for a while.
Never having given birth I obviously cannot say that I know what you are going through but I do have two pieces of - I am not sure if you could call them advice. -- and a comment.

First -- pain is exhausting. Leave aside everything else your body has gone through you have been (and still are) in a lot of pain. It doesn't just fray at you physically it depletes you emotionally. If people expect you to be cheery and to buck up just tell them to fuck off. Animals who are in a lot of pain retreat into a mental shell. That is healthy because you need a lack of distraction and lots of time to heal.

Second, it takes a long time to process events that have a huge emotional impact on your life. If you weren't still feeling enormous swings from elation to depression and everything in between then I would wonder if something was wrong with you.

Comment -- your internet buddies keep asking you questions because we aren't physically close enough to drop in and offer to wash the dishes and tidy the kitchen while you have a lie down.
Yes, we wish we could do more than beam our ineffectual good wishes into the ether toward you. But for what they're worth, you have them.

What you describe reminds me very strongly of the first few weeks after my own stressful birth experience (induction followed by Caesarean, and just general weirdness). I remember the first night home from the hospital: the baby cried, I cried, my husband fretted about both of us, the dogs whimpered, and the cats would have nothing to do with any of us. Thank God my mother arrived the next day, and was able to stay for a few weeks till I was feeling stronger.

It does get better.

I see from your comment over at Slacktivist that you're aware of the possibility of postpartum depression, as I would have expected of you, of course. I hope you find the support that you need, if you don't start to feel better soon. And I'm glad that all the stress isn't affecting your relationship with your "pleasant little chap." As long as that's true, you'll be okay.

I hope that doesn't sound patronizing: again, just meant as an observation from someone who's been there. I've heard women rhaposodize about the instant passionate joy they felt about their baby from the minute of birth-- maybe so, but right after the kind of stressful experience you seem to have had, I'm not sure you're capable of that kind of strong emotion. I wasn't, anyway. Doesn't matter, as far as the love you'll feel for your child for the rest of your life.

The "health visitor"? Is that a regular feature of obstetrical care under the NHS? What a good idea; hopefully any little problems with mother or baby will be spotted before they turn into bigger problems. I'd love to see something like that here; it wasn't fun to drag myself out of the house for my daughter's first few checkups, or mine for that matter.

Anyway, best wishess to all three of you, and let us know from time to time how you're doing. When you feel up to it, of course.
The comments quoted in the article sound exactly like you on Slacktivist, so the journalist presumably got the quotes right. It's a good article.

And as mmy said, good wishes are all we can send, except for those who have the experience to offer advice. (Much as I would like to show up with a casserole, the conveniently placed Atlantic Ocean prohibits it. The convenience is yours--my cooking is the stuff of legends, but they are not particularly nice legends.)

No advice from here, but very best wishes for good rest and recovery.
When I had my son (32 years ago!) the first 3 or 4 months were exhausting and I was in a constant state of anxiety that I was doing something wrong. Yet by the time he was 6 months old I'd completely gotten over that; I'd throw a couple of diapers in the bag and swing him up on my hip and take him everywhere. So a little advice: don't WORRY, or try to live up to some kind of timetable about how soon you should do things. Take each day as it comes, and if that means just hanging around the house and not "getting things done," so be it. Being with my child was its own reward for me, and I hope it'll be so for you too. Best to all 3 of you (and Mika!)
Actually I'm surprisingly unworried, about the baby at least. Shaky about the birth experience, but when it comes to my son, I tend to assume he'll be fine. Occasionally I wonder whether I'd be more anxious for him if I was a better mother, but as I'm not ignoring him when he cries or anything - I just usually reckon he's probably well and normal, but if he cries, I run through the List* until we hit something that makes him feel better - I'm hoping this means I'm more restful company for him than if I was tearing my hair out. He just seems pretty well-adjusted and healthy, really.

*The List: Are you hungry? Do you need your nappy and/or clothes changed? Do you need winding? Do you have a tummy ache? Are you otherwise uncomfortable? Are you hungry again?
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