The Trauma of Trauma


I always thought that Liam’s first scar would be the result of something amazingly awesome he had tried to accomplish – like a failed attempt at diving off a piece of furniture, or a tricycle accident or falling out of a tree while trying to save a kitty stuck up there. Something noteworthy that would make for good conversation at kiddies parties or his 21st birthday celebration. So I was somewhat disappointed that our first trip to Casualty was because Liam ran into a wall – what a letdown.

It started as a normal Saturday morning, we had just returned home from  our monthly grocery shopping expedition, an abominable exercise – so already tensions were running high. Liam was helping his Dad unpack the groceries and I can’t say for sure what happened, but I knew by the loud thump and the wail that escaped his mouth, that it was serious. Moms are pretty good at deciphering the different cries that their children make and before I even got to him, my heart had all but jumped out of my chest and I knew that this was not the kind of booboo that I could kiss better. My fears were confirmed when I found him laying face up, blood pouring down the side of his face and looking like he was holding a golf ball in his mouth; his cheek was blue and swollen. The husband and I tried to assess the situation, while I poofed around his open wound with a dirty dish cloth – the first thing I could fine! I was reminded again that my husband and I do not handle emergency situations well – we first argued over various things like whose fault it was, whether it was serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, who would stay with Hannah who was asleep and who would go, why was I using a dirty dish cloth to wipe his face, what does it matter, etc, etc… you get the picture! Liam’s every increasing shrieks shook us back to reality and it was swiftly decided that I would take him to the hospital and the husband would remain with Hannah. And just like in the movies and just like good ‘ol Murphy predicts –  every traffic light was red, I was stuck behind two pensioners taking their cars for a walk, the short cut actually turned out to be the long cut, and when we eventually arrived at the hospital, more than a little frazzled, I couldn’t find a parking bay. With the effect, I had to park 5000 kilometres from the entrance and lug my big boy with his bloody dish cloth all that way, while trying to balance my purse and phone and car keys in my hand  – I forgot to grab my hand bag in all the mayhem and the husband just threw the necessaries at me.

 

We were third in the queue; could they not see my child was having a medical emergency, how could they let that infant coughing up blood and that old lady who was going blue in the face from lack of oxygen, go before me? I was livid. I was giving the husband a blow by blow account of everything that was happening, while Liam relayed the whole incident to the blue faced old lady, shame she was very sympathetic, but not enough to give us her place in the queue. Eventually we were called in to take his vitals, his blood pressure and heart rate were good which indicated no trauma to the head, hallelujah! All this time he was quite calm, more intrigued with all the machines, gadgets and the bed on wheels. But when the doctor appeared in his white coat, pandemonium broke out. Ever since Liam was old enough to understand that his childhood immunisations were administered by a man or woman in a white coat, he goes slightly barmy at the sight of well..a white coat. He wouldn’t let the doctor near him, he was clawing at me like a cat high on cocaine, the doctor had to yell instructions to the nurse who verified that the wound needed to be stitched up. I felt like I was going to break down from the stress of it all, but I had to hold it together – not for Liam’s sake, he was too far gone to worry about me, but I didn’t want the doctor and nurse to see me blubbering like a big baby. While they prepared the trolley with all the items needed for the mini operation, I had to administer pain medication orally and I had to drown the wound in some anaesthetic liquid in order to numb the area – all this while Liam was yelling like a banshee. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I wondered if they were going to make me stitch him up as well because they were too scared to come near him. I heard the doctor yell something and out of the corner of my eye I saw four big scary looking ladies coming towards us. They weren’t really scary looking, but I knew this wasn’t going to be good. They proceeded to wrap my son tightly, too tightly if you ask me, in a sheet in an effort to keep him still, I was horrified, as was he. He was screaming and looking at me as if to say save me and I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyeballs. They asked if I wanted to leave the room and as much as I wanted to run as far away from the situation as possible, because I couldn’t bear to see the pain my child was going to further endure, I couldn’t leave him on his own, in a room full of strangers in his most frightening moment. So while the five of us tussled with him, the doctor painstakingly stitched his face up. I thought I was going to pass out, as I watched that needle pierce his skin and the doctor sow it all back together again with the precision of a master tailor.  When he said “all done” I wanted to rip that sheet off Liam and pick him up and RUN. But I calmly gathered my stuff, even though my knees felt like they were going to give way at any second, the nurses ooh’d and aah’d over him and he even managed to bat his eyelids and give the ladies a smile. I felt emotionally and physically drained as I walked out of that hospital with my bloody dish cloth.

Back home, Liam bounced back quickly, he was proud of his wound, he even let Hannah touch it. By the evening, he had picked out one stitch – I mean really, after ALL that??? We need to take him back on Wednesday to have the remaining stitches removed. I already know what a palaver that’s going to be, but I will be more prepared this time, I will take my Prozac and Valium beforehand. I’m considering phoning the doctor and asking if Liam can’t take them out himself, he did a pretty good job with that first one.

Yes I know that children, especially boys, get themselves into these situations and I have no doubt that this is not my last trip to the emergency unit, but I do hope that as I age as a mother, I will have more control over my galloping heart rate and my knocking knees every time my babies get injured. In hindsight, I honestly don’t know who was more traumatised by this whole experience, mother or child? The scar that will be left behind once the stitches are long gone, will serve as a reminder of the day my son got his first real booboo, and his mother almost wet her pants in fear.

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Previously Loved Goods


I like making a quick buck. Who doesn’t? If there’s money to be made, I want in on that action! With this thought in mind, I was pondering the many milestones my babies have reached and how so many items and accessories have now become obsolete in my household. When I think of the thousands of Rands we spent on all this paraphernalia that’s now just cluttering up my garage,  it makes me want to have another baby just so that I can get my money’s worth. What? Did I just say that? Slip of the finger.. If God so wills, I trust my family is COMPLETE! But seriously, being the frugal tightwad that I am, I am considering having a garage sale or opening a second hand baby store to get something out of this baby business.

Why not donate it or give it to another family having a baby, you ask. Let me state for the record, that I have graciously offered my leftovers, but these days ALL NEW parents want ALL NEW goodies – especially for their first born baby! I have given many things away to charities and to those less fortunate, I’ve even boxed old clothes and sent them as far as rural KZN, but now I think I’m going to get my own back and start a mini business selling baby leftovers. I could call it “Used But Not Abused” or  “Worn But not Torn” or “Hand Me Down Couture.” Ok, the name needs work but that’s the least of my worries, my leftovers will actually sell themselves!

Presently I am hoarding a walking ring, a feeding chair, a car seat, NUK bottles which Liam has outgrown, a Bumbo seat, a breastfeeding pillow, a changing mat, toys for every age, clothes and shoes galore, a breast pump (missing one small vital part, but I won’t tell if you won’t – hey sales is a cutthroat business). I have cot linen in all shades and colours, and receiving blankets upon fleecy blankets upon crotched blankets, a humidifier which I must admit was a real blessing for a croupy baby, but now stands stagnant. Bottle warmers, flasks, dummies in an array of colours and shapes, nappy stackers and a cupboard dedicated to baby bags – for what? What about all the items that looked useful at the time but actually proved to be useless – like the bath ring which both my children couldn’t stand to sit in, the cupboard locks that both my Macgyvers could unlock, small umbrellas – children don’t know what umbrellas are even for, they think it’s fun to get wet in the rain, not cover themselves up – DON’T EVER BUY YOUR KID AN UMBRELLA, no matter how cute it looks in the store, it’s a waste.

What irks me the most is that babies grow so quickly that you spend very little time at every stage, so just as your baby starts to enjoy something, they outgrow it! Hannah spent a lot of time just “lumping” in her walking ring, then she realised her car could take her places, but no sooner had she made this discovery, she started walking and we said goodbye to the walking ring. I’m beginning to think that babies should be left to run around naked in their first year of life and perhaps we could wrap them in a piece of cloth during Winter – they sprout so quickly out of their clothes. I have many beautiful treasured outfits that neither of them wore, because I was saving it for a “special” occasion – only for them to have outgrown it by the time that occasion came around.

So that’s it, I am opening shop! If you’re looking for previously loved baby goods, in excellent condition, I’m your (wo)man! I’ll make a fortune and probably spend my riches on more useless kids stuff. It just doesn’t end until they actually pack up and leave home and get their own garage to fill with useless stuff.

 

The “Vaalies”


At the eleventh hour, my husband finally gave into my demands (actually it was more like begging and pleading than demanding) and decided that we could spend the long weekend in Durban. This meant that I had about five minutes to organise a trip I’d usually spend a week preparing for, but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I made it happen.

Now think back to your youth, do you remember how we Durbanites used to laugh at the Joburgers who would flock to the coast during the school holidays? The Vaalies would infiltrate our beaches – even during July, wearing their VERY short khaki shorts, socks and sandals; they’d apply sun block to all visible areas, except the moms who’d literally play dead in the sun in order to catch a tan and then prance around proud as peacocks, as if the boiled shrimp look was hot. Yes, you remember? Well it turns out that I have become a Vaalie – sans the khaki shorts and socks of course.

The kids started sweating almost as soon as we drove past the “Welcome to KZN” signboard.  On cue, my hair shrunk back to its roots – literally – and my sleek Highveld look morphed into coastal “croos.” It was the middle of June yet Durban was as warm and inviting as Joburg in October. My first thought was that I had packed completely wrong for the kids. All the fleecy jumpsuits and polo necks which had taken up MOST of the space in the suitcases, were packed in vain, I knew that the most we’d be wearing was one layer, as opposed to the four layers we were accustomed to in Joburg.

How nice to wake up to the sun splashing across your face – in Winter. We wasted no time greasing up with sun block and made for the beach. Although the Golden Mile was packed with revellers enjoying the sunshine, there weren’t many swimmers, except for the Vaalies! Liam and Hannah made a bee-line for the water, I was ill prepared for the splashing, cavorting and frolicking and had to call for back-up when my beloved Blackberry almost drowned – while trying to take photos and holding two children afloat. We made it back up to the picnic spot, the four of us looking like drenched drain rats.

I have come to realise why us Vaalies love the coast – the eternal Summer, the warm Mozambique Current, the fact that your ice cream melts faster than you can eat it even in Winter. Just that fresh sea breeze alone is an automatic mood enhancer, it’s no wonder I had such a happy childhood!

Durbanites, be thankful for your mild winters, your roaring ocean, curried pines and Murkoo, Britannia bunnies and Ushaka. One day when I’m big, I’d like to retire in the city of my birth. Perhaps my loving children will see to it that I have a sea facing room in my old age home.

The Wonder Years


On sound advice from a good friend, I’ve decided to chronicle important events of our times, in a bid to give my grown children a feel for the economic, political and socio climate they were born into, and grew up in. Personally, I was born at an amazing time in history – I was alive at a time when the world was rocked by events which changed humanity forever.

I have lived through euphoric moments, with the release and election of our first Black president, Mr Nelson Mandela; the end of Apartheid put South Africa at the forefront of the global arena. South Africa took centre stage again in this decade, showcasing probably the world’s most cataclysmic pandemic – AIDS. Yes it was a worldwide problem, but the South African statistics shocked the world. On a positive note, the Soccer World Cup came home, and it was one of the proudest moments to be a South African. Terrorism reached new heights with the 9/11 attacks on America, as the world continued to wrestle over oil – how would I explain that to my children? America swore in their first Black president. We witnessed firsthand the highs and lows of influential people whose names will forever be ingrained in the sands of time: Mother Theresa, Bill Clinton, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe, Oprah Winfrey and many more. We’ve lived through other people’s lives, as reality TV overtook the airwaves.  Social networking opened up a whole new world called Cyberspace. Babies could be created in test tubes, sheep could be cloned, and cross-gender /cross-culture relationships became the norm. And sadly natural disasters unhinged the world as they plundered ferociously through continents, killing thousands, leaving millions destitute.

I was a child at a time in history when children could be just that – children. We played in the street until the lights came on, we were in and out of our neighbours homes and everyone was called aunt or uncle. We played games with sticks, tins and leftover bits from our mothers pantyhose. Your teacher was your parent away from home and we were disciplined with canes and rulers and that was ok, because abuse was almost unheard of, so we knew we were being deservedly punished. We’d walk to the local swimming pool, without fear of being snatched, we’d have sleepovers without fear of our friend’s parents. Our own parents trusted our neighbours enough to leave us with them overnight, while they went dancing. I grew up in a time when it was cool to be a kid.

One of my greatest fears as a parent today, is sheltering my children from experiences that they NEED to have, because of my own fear of what society has become. I’m too scared to let Liam play in the street because I’m afraid a drunken driver will run him down, or a preying paedophile will be lurking close by. Besides, there’s NO kids playing in the street anymore! I’m too scared to leave him at a kiddies party because I don’t know the other school parents well enough, so I stand on the outskirts watching and waiting. This is fine now, he’s two years old, but I don’t think he’ll appreciate my presence when he is at a 16th birthday party. I read the back of every label of everything they consume because I am so afraid of them being obese, or being exposed to tartrazine or too much salt or too many fatty acids because childhood diseases are on the rampage and kids are falling down dead from diseases that we can’t even spell. I spend more time in the doctors surgery than I do in front of the TV because they are always sick and constantly on antibiotics. I remember getting standard childhood illnesses like chicken pox, mumps and the odd runny nose, but not constantly needing a humidifier and allergy medication??

I want my kids to know the value of a well meaning stranger who honestly just wants to help them across the street, or to be able to run half naked through a sprinkler at the park, I want them to wave good bye to me at the school gate without being scared of being hassled by an older kid looking to steal their lunch money. YES we were hassled by older kids, but bullying today is nothing like what it was even five years ago. The suicide rate directly related to school bullying is terrifying!!!

So yes, these are the signs of our times. It’s difficult to be a good parent – I’m afraid of underexposing my children to the evils of the world – they need to know about stranger danger and about NOT touching their friend’s blood when he/she gets hurt and about the perils of Mxit, Facebook and other social networking sites. But do I really want to over expose them unnecessarily, and instil in THEM, this fear that has gripped me?

So my children, when you read this, I want you to know that I tried as far as possible to raise you “normally” in an otherwise crazy world. But I also want you to know that I didnt do it alone. I only got this far because of “He who is in me, who is greater than he who is in the world.” I pray for and over you, I’ve dedicated you and I believe that God’s favour is upon you. So although my fears and phobias do keep me up some nights, I know that there’s a greater force looking out for you and loving you even MORE than I do! And that kinda helps me sleep at night.

Getting my Groove Back.


Little boys get to an age where their lives no longer revolve around their mothers. They begin to understand that their fathers are actually way more fun, they’re less panicked about absolutely everything, they don’t keep dabbing on your face with spit every five minutes and they don’t ask 20 questions about everything you do, like, how was school, what did teacher say today, what did you eat, did you use the potty, etc, etc. I thought my little boy would never get to this stage, so imagine my surprise when last week he let his father into our (mine and his) circle of trust. I had been waiting and longing and praying for this moment, but I couldn’t help feel a twinge of sadness and disappointment, at the fact that I wasn’t his #1 anymore.

 

Liam had always been MY baby. Maybe because he was my firstborn, or perhaps it was just the bond that mothers and sons have – but I was most definitely Liam’s favourite. Hannah has always being ambivalent, and maybe it’s her inborn female guilt that won’t allow her to choose a favourite at the risk of hurting the other parent. But secretly I know her dad is her favourite and I’m ok with that! Me being Liam’s favourite used to upset his father but we soon realised that it wasn’t all fun being the favourite. In fact, it’s downright hard work being the favourite. When your child won’t let anyone else put them to bed, or feed them or change their diapers. When your child goes into Chucky-mode (that evil doll in horror movies) in the middle of the night because their dear old dad just tried to pacify them so that mum could get some rest. When your child calls out to you for EVERYTHING from asking your opinion on how he looks with his mismatched clothes and his shoes on the wrong feet, to showing you the contents of his nose. I used to resent my husband who got off scot-free every time, simply because Liam didn’t want him to help put his shoes on, or brush his teeth or sit next to him and watch hours and hours of that purple dinosaur.

 

Of course dad was #1 for other less stressful things, like chasing each other around in the garden, making faces at me behind my back and laughing until your juice came out of your nostrils, but the real slog, the hard graft, that’s where I was the favourite. Up until last week of course. The transition was slow, but steady. The first night Liam let his father put him to bed  without calling out for me, we put it down to chance, a fluke; he had probably had a very busy day and was dog tired, so we let that pass. The second night I thought that perhaps I had made him angry, but my interrogation the following morning yielded no results. By the third and fourth night of daddy doing doo-doo duty, I came to realise that my baby was growing, and didn’t need me as much as he used to.

He lets his dad get involved in other ways too which frees up a lot of my time. With Hannah asleep and my husband seeing to Liam, I am actually quite bored in the evenings! And with the two of them doing “manly” things on the weekend and Hannah still requiring lots of day time sleep, it seems that I am able to get my groove back and can once again start enjoying the things I gave up for motherhood. A luxurious bath or shower while dad does the evening shift, watching my favourite tv series which I had to put on ice because it coincided with the bed and bath time routine. Nursing a cup of coffee, instead of gulping it down while scalding my epiglottis, to get to my son who needed me NOW. Sitting on the phone and having a girly catch up without Liam demanding to say hello to whoever I was talking to. Yes, I could enjoy this!

 

So while I feel somewhat melancholy at the prospect of adjusting my apron strings to give Liam just a bit of leeway to discover life outside of our little bubble, I must admit I feel a certain degree of euphoria at been able to do non-mom things again, even if I have to do them with the baby monitor in my pocket, just in case I’m needed back at the ranch by one of my little lambs.

But Baby its Warm Inside


So winter is upon us. It’s funny how you can’t actually remember how cold it gets? Yesterday I said to myself “wow, this is the coldest I have ever been in my whole entire life.” Then this morning I corrected myself – TODAY  is actually the coldest I have ever been. And tomorrow I’ll probably say the same and let’s be honest, winter hasn’t even really started. In the summer, I usually complain nonstop about how I prefer winter because at least you can protect yourself from the elements by padding up and keeping warm, whereas with summer, unless you have an internal cooling system like a camel, it’s quite difficult to keep cool, even with no clothes on. Alas, now that winter is here, I’d much prefer that summer sizzle, letting the kids run around with only their diapers on, feeling my husband skin to skin, instead of through four layers of clothing. So here’s what winter in my house has been like so far…

Although Hannah’s room is the toastiest during the day due to some serious UV rays hitting that side of the house, the room temperature drops to below zero (in my mind) at night. I’m beginning to think that Hannah suffers from some sort of claustrophobia, as she refuses to have any sort of covering over her body. With the effect, I dress her in sleeping gear fit for Alaska – vest and leggings, cotton romper and then fleecy romper. I’ve tried a cap to cover her ears, but she becomes hysterical about her ears – hysterical like Mary’s brother in There’s Something About Mary. These layers seem to work, except she can hardly move so if I put her down on her back, she lays there and calls out for assistance, until someone turns her over. Then it’s like caring for an elderly patient who needs to be shifted to avoid bed sores.

Liam doesn’t seem affected by the cold at all. While I dress him up, he prefers to dress himself down – usually to his vest, and that only stays on because he hasn’t yet mastered the art of unclipping his vest from between his legs. He thinks a hat is pretty cool and wears that without anything else on, so at least his ears and head are warm. I console myself with the fact that with all the running around he does, he generates enough body heat to sustain himself through the cold spells.

In terms of their eating habits during these cold months, I’ve tried my best to provide nutrition that would warm the cockles of any heart.. usually supplied by Woolworths, but it’s organic so it’s ok. Liam enjoys soup purely because he finds the slurping sound created by drinking his soup, most amusing. Hannah turns her nose up at soup, as if to say “I have teeth now, give me a bone to chew on or something.” They both enjoy warm Milo – with NO sugar, and if it didn’t cause such a mess, I’d give them a “Ouma’s” to dunk, but no – I don’t want to be on my hands and knees cleaning crumbs in this cold! So the husband and I eat the rusks and tell them it’s medicine. I do have one problem in that they both love yoghurt, and unfortunately that is one thing that can’t be served warm, I’ve tried and it sort of turns to curdled drinking yoghurt when heated.

Of course an entry about winter would not be complete without an insert on colds and flus. So far we’ve had three doses of the flu, two rounds of antibiotics, we’ve had eye colds with excesses of pus, we’ve had mucous in every shade and texture. My kids have coughed as if they smoke a pack a day and I’ve restocked my precious medicine chest twice over and it’s still AUTUMN!!! We keep re-infecting each other, so when and how will we get better? My doctor keeps going on about how this is actually good, that this will in fact strengthen their immune systems in the long run – huh? that’s some sick kind of reverse psychologically right there. “Doctor, my kid is coughing up a lung.” “No, it’s good, his immune system will be strengthened with the loss of that lung.”

And we won’t even get into nights been longer in the winter months, because we all know how little sleep I was getting in the summer.. now to endure even longer nights with a son who doesn’t appreciate the true beauty of a full night’s sleep. PLEASE can it just be summer again??