Can’t I Use My Wit As A Pitchfork?

Hello! Anyone still here?

I was last seen making a wedding cake. Happily, the cake itself was munchable, consumed at a gratifying rate, and thus I wasn’t precisely displeased with it… yet vaguely grieved that the finished article had not turned out exactly according to the picture in my head. In my aesthetic defence, not very many wedding cakes are A) constructed to withstand a 100 mile journey in the back of my car and B) made without a single structurally bracing currant/raisin/sultana.

P1070410

The weight of the cakes militated against a trial-stacking of the tiers with all the icing damage risk inherent in that process, so I didn’t realise quite how zigguratty the middle tier was until I actually got there and… yeah. This is interesting to no-one except me, correct? It was edible. Everyone important seemed pleased. Call it a B-minus pass!

Harry and hotels mix badly in our imagination, so  we towed the caravan down and stopped in Wellington Country Park. I’m not much of a one for forest campsites, generally – my primeval lizard hindbrain likes to spy predators coming early – but this was a collection of In The Night Garden-like sunny glades, which was really very pleasant indeed. Our particular pitch boasted a fallen tree, which served Harry as boundary marker, climbing frame, racetrack, horse, garage, and balance beam. Entry to the adjoining park was free to campers, and Harry certainly had our money’s worth out of everything.

Highly recommended for active Smalls, but take either a packed lunch/bank loan for their cafe.

The wedding was lovely. Just lovely, lovely, lovely. I felt so privileged to be there and we had simply the nicest time. Harry was, broadly speaking, quite well-behaved –  although his single episode of screaming, spitting, kicking meltdown, during which he was escorted (‘Mind your backs, folks!’) to the quiet front garden, did manage to rather discombobulate some of the older children, one of whom asked me, wide-eyed,

‘Is he… OK? He looks like he’s about to be…’ she backed away a little, eyeing his retching, lawn-punching little body with barely-suppressed horror, ‘really sick!’

It’s fair to say that Harry’s behaviour has taken a distinct dive again recently; linked uncleverly to some unusually late and disturbed nights. I’d forgotten quite how tricky it is to subdue a small yet resourceful Ultimate Fighting Champion angry toddler into a car seat. My specs were 10ft behind me – in the road – where he’d kicked them off my nose, he had an iron grip on both the door frame and the car, his feet were drumming all over my face and chest and God help me if I strayed within reach of his teeth. I used to get this on an almost daily basis, and while I am enormously thankful that his communication skills – and hence, his temper – are so much improved of late, I was depressed to discover that he’s now 6 months more developed in strength and cleverness. I’m worried that one day soon, I may not actually win.

The school holidays are a mere week away, and I was curled into a tight ball of misery at the thought of EIGHT long weeks of NO School Fabulous. Jesus God. What to do? What to DO??

Answer: bugger off, get a job and let some other poor sap worry about it.

In answer to the prayers of both my husband and the Hairy Exchequer (synonymous), I am going back to work. In what has been termed the laziest career move ever, I am going back to my old job part-time, except it isn’t actually my old job because the original organisation went bust earlier this year (my foreseeing this inevitable event was a core reason for staying on maternity leave forever) and has now been bought by a chap with whom I always got on well. The industry playing field has shifted substantially because of this liquidation, but the goalposts in terms of my role are in the same relative position, so I am hoping it won’t be too much of a shock to my poor 3-years-off-work system.

I am being deliberately vague because A) the (tiny) industry in question is inextricably meshed into local and regional politics as well as B) being a focus of the local media – who, thanks to the MAD awards, know exactly who I am, and that I write this blog. I have no intention of writing anything defamatory about the clients – even in the unlikely event of my wanting to: I have read Dooce, thank you! – but I am a little squeamish of the thought of sitting in a meeting with a bunch of awfully professional suited chaps who have been reading eye-popping details about my undercarriage.

You know how it is.

I am officially Not Sure how the childcare thing will work out this side of September, when Harry settles into 15 hours a week at pre-school. I have pulled him out of the local daycare centre for various cogent reasons, so Mum is having him 2 days a weeks for the short-term and John’s mother is having him for at least one day a week; I can also get work done during the evening when John is home. Of course, that thing called Harvest is rapidly approaching and will trample over absolutely everything time-wise. We’ll figure it out, I expect, and New Work understand very well about Harry and are happy to be flexible.

I am still playing happily with my stationery business, and it keeps me nicely in pin money (unfortunately, I spend great-big-knitting-needle money. Harry has expensive tastes, you know.) although I will likely never set the world alight with it. I am off to a fete tomorrow and spent most of Monday in a Birmingham hotel getting quite ridiculously excited over a preview of my new Christmas stock. Don’t groan!

How does one end blog posts when one hasn’t precisely finished, but one actually wants to go to bed? Ah. A fullstop. Like this>.

Advertisements

Delayed Eviction

Thank you for your lovely words and kind wishes.

I’m still here. I feel tired, wretched and poorly, and haven’t the energy to do anything after Harry-wrangling except stare listlessly at the screen before heading toward another early bed, into which I collapse like a mighty tree-trunk afflicted with Dutch elm disease, oak leaf roller moth, red band needle blight, great spruce bark beetles, AND savage axe-wounds.

I saw my lovely consultant in her lunch hour yesterday, for which I had to pay, as my pregnancy was officially Nothing To Do with her NHS clinic, which evidently has a waiting list of Horrendous. I haven’t had a bill yet, but I feel she’s worth the dollar.

‘That’s really NOT fair!’ she exclaimed, when I told her it was all over bar the shouting. I nodded vehemently.

I wasn’t really expecting to discover anything on the scan. I didn’t seem to be very far along, I’d been bleeding and cramping heavily, and my peesticks had gone awful faint. Strictly speaking, reading them within the recommended time window, I was absolutely and totally un-pregnant.

Consultant has never scanned me before, so I have to give the lady full credit for the lightning-like speed with which she oriented herself, and instantaneously announced that the pregnancy was ‘definitely, 100%’ located in my right uterus.

‘Score one to me,’ I remarked, drily, marking on an imaginary scoreboard.

(It’s doing exactly this sort of thing that earns me a reputation for being exceedingly odd.)

I have an 8.2mm sac still in residence in Cameron, albeit empty of any sign of life; the several areas of echogenicity previously flagged up as likely adenomyosis were obstinately lurking in there too. Blair has produced its usual decidual reaction and, despite the heavy bleeding to date, there’s a helluva lot more of it to come. Awesome.

Consultant thought that Cameron looked like a ‘fabulous’ uterus, especially now she is significantly increased in size post partum. I was obliged to pull a face and inform her that my son might vociferously disagree with her.

Back in the office, she announced that – and I can’t do justice to her wonderful accent and exclamatory intonation – ‘I have made my decision! I would like to put you on heparin and aspirin. Straightaway! From now!’

‘Oh! Erm. Good? It’s just… there’s this thing with my heart… I keep getting palpitationy arrythmia thingies which are probably nothing at all but they’re a bit… worrying. Is that going to be… ok?’

Cue much quizzing on what, actually, WAS the nature of the matter with my back-to-frontness – which I couldn’t answer, because I don’t know if it flows the wrong way around, is completely flipped, or just tangled and twisted around a bit. She said that a cardiology opinion was requisite, both in terms of how my heart weirdness is likely to affect – or, likely, not – my general health, but also in terms of conception, pregnancy, and my forthcoming laparoscopy. Once I’d seen a cardiologist, I should start anti-coags. I told her that my GP seemed pretty relaxed about it all, but that I was sure he would refer me if I really twisted his arm, whereupon she told me in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t possibly object, ‘he won’t even query it!’, that a cardiology workup was absolutely necessary, that I should look on the internet to find the best cardiologist locally and ensure I was referred to him, and that there would not be a problem, at all, with my GP.

I held my tongue. An appointment with my GP’s a tough gig.

I asked about our recurrent miscarriage investigations, which were done back in 2006. She scoured my records – I began to feel as if I was really getting my money’s worth around now – and elicited that my Factor 5 Leiden has never been done. My lupus has, but she arranged a repeat of the thrombophilias in any case, to be taken once the pregnancy has fully departed.

‘Lovely hormones!’ she remarked, peering closely at the screen. God only knows what ancient test results she was looking at, but my mood swings and chaotic ovulation would dearly like to call her out on that one.

She insisted, once she had seen my stubborn resident sac, on taking a beta HCG, despite my assuring her that it would be quite ridiculously low. If I had to put money on it, and judging from my intense study of the pseudo-science of peesticks, I’m guessing it’ll come back around the low teens. In any event, if it comes back below 50, I get to avoid a 62 mile round trip in order to repeat it. 

We talked about weight – again – and I explained that her scales had been pretty optimistic, to the point of actual inaccuracy, and that I actually had over two stone to lose. Bless the woman, she looked absolutely crushed with vicarious disappointment, and said lots of nice, encouraging things. I never got around to telling you that I’d had an absolutely lovely letter from her following the previous clinic appointment that had incensed me so much (upon re-reading that post, I see that I expressed myself about as badly as usual. My frustration was predominantly directed at NHS incompetence and my own sad inability to shed the pounds. I was, not very far beneath the indignation, crossly aware that I must, to my own detriment, have somehow snuck under her FAT! PATIENT! radar first time around, as opposed to falling a tragic victim of moving podgy goalposts.) emphasizing that there was now an increased anaesthesia risk (heart) and that she was absolutely confident I would be shedding the required weight in jig time. She said it all again, and was as sympathetic about the horrors of excess tonnage as a woman with a fabulous, gym-honed body can be, but let us stop this comparison woe. We agreed that Ann must diet.

So, I left, feeling rather thrown by the clinging sac and – particularly – the prospect of daily injections for rest of my child-bearing life. I’ve self-injected as much as the next addict IVF veteran, and needles hold no fear, precisely – I refused to use the cartridge-thing to depress the plunger, in any event – but I’m not precisely grinning about the prospect, either. However, I accept I’m presenting a reasonable case for pre-gestation anticoagulant therapy, what with 3 out of my 5 pregnancies being Surprise! ones – and I’m puzzled, in retrospect, why I wasn’t prescribed them during my troubled pregnancy with Harry.

Speaking of Harry, I arrived at his nursery to find that he was just as savagely grumpy and Totally-Coming-Down-With-Something as he had been during the morning, only now with an extra helping of exhaustion. He ended up a screaming thrashing heap on the floor 3 times between the school door and my car, located, due to School Fabulous’s nightmare parking, half a street away. Grappling with his struggling form in the middle of the road, in full view of about 25 waiting minibuses and taxis, I became horribly aware that the wanding of my cervi an hour before had provoked… tsunami. Convinced that I had just visibly miscarried the fluid equivalent of a entire bloodbank all over my trousers, I made a herculean effort and rammed a loudly-grieving Harry highly unceremoniously into his car seat before scurrying into cover in the driver’s seat. Surreptitious investigations revealed that I had, in fact, merely expelled a large quantity of ultrasound gel over my clothing instead.

Two hours later, I lugged a sleepy, hot, hysterically distraught and sensory-overloaded toddler down to the GP. He had some cream promptly prescribed for his eczema, which had flared horribly overnight; the school nurse had rang me to discuss the awful state of his lacerated back (Harry had attacked himself with determined nails earlier that morning) as I left the hospital, which didn’t improve my sense of self any. I then immediately presented Harry with books he hadn’t seen for a while to keep him quiet while I discussed the Heart Thing in peace.

It failed. The book ploy, the discussion, everything. Harry screamed so loudly I could barely make myself coherent, and threw himself around the room in protest. GP, as I fully expected, thought that my heart was Fine, and I was Fine, and heparin would be Fine, and my palpitations were almost certainly just Fine muscle spasms. I explained – I think I explained – that it was bugging me, and Consultant wanted it Looked At. He said he would ‘write to the heart people’ to arrange for me to be hooked up to a heart monitor for a bit – I assume, days? – and see what the machine made of my palpitty things, which are pretty frequent. He said ‘they might want to see you first’.

Gah. I know when I’m outmanoeuvered. And I probably AM merely another manifestation of GP’s ubiquitous Worried Well.  Harry was heaving on my hand with all his might, trying to remove me from the room, so I let him take me – returning only to grab a prescription for hefty amounts of codeine, which GP handed over like an obedient lamb. We came home. We both went to bed.

I picked Harry up from School Fabulous today – which he loves with all his toddlery heart – to find his little classmate lay motionless, unresponsive on the nursery floor. Some members of staff and his mother, a friend of mine, were crouched over him; she was calm, but I saw her pallor. I enquired, briefly, if I could do anything to help. She told me no, they were good, but that she wouldn’t be able to make our coffee date next week. An ambulance was on its way. The last I heard from her, 4 hours later, he was still in Resus.

I keep seeing his tiny, still form lying on the floor. His mother’s stricken face. As with so many of the things in this life that I wish I’d never seen, it reminds me that my own burden is not, comparatively, very heavy at all.

Death Of A Thousand Cuts

I was looking down the menu in the Italian restaurant last night, searching for a pasta dish. All I could see was pizza upon pizza; absolutely dozens of the buggers.

‘Not much fucking variety!’ I moped to myself, before vaguely looking around and noticing that there were a fair few Pizza Express signs. Above the door, for instance, and on the top of the menu.

I had a pizza.

Towards the end of the night the cramping ramped up, and I was unsurprised to find significantly increased amounts of bloodloss – God alone knows where from – when I got home shortly before midnight, to find John vicariously suffering from the pregnancy sleepies; he had to be prodded awake to hear my Pain! Blood! news – and duly provided me with warm feet and a cuddle, which was pretty much all I was after at that stage of the day.

Because most of my body definitely reckons it’s pregnant: my boobs ache, I can barely keep my eyes open, and I’m vaguely frisky. Very vaguely, John. Yesterday morning’s peestick – I am a neurotic and compulsive peesticker – was significantly darker than the one I photographed. This morning’s was somewhere between the previous two, but I’d downed an unaccustomed amount of fluid the night before.

I was absolutely horrible to Harry this morning. The poor little lad did nothing wrong except try to get my attention when I was half-awake and unhappy, and I was totally fucking rotten to him and pushed him away from me and called him a Name he doesn’t understand.

God help me. I sobbed and sobbed in shame. 

I have to do better than this. In fact, I hope I never sink so low again.

John came home at breakfast and enquired how I was. I don’t think the Pain! Blood! conversation sank in properly last night and he was quite sad when I explained it was going tits. He’s always had a better opinion of Cameron than I have, and he really rather wants another child.

I took Harry into town after breakfast to buy him a new book – an airport and aeroplanes one – and have his passport photos taken in a studio, after I wasted £4 in a booth yesterday trying to persuade a tray of snakes overtired toddler to stand still on the stool, don’t touch the curtain and look at the blank wall while Mummy kneels on the floor preventing topples.

Harry and I have no passports currently, a fact that disconcerted me enormously when my mother fell ill abroad recently. Running away somewhere is my stock reaction to miscarriage, and while we cannot afford a holiday in the slightest, I expect we might end up somewhere once John has finished lambing. This is assuming the cost of the preparations themselves do not bankrupt me. £8 in the photobooth. £7 for Harry’s studio shots. £77.50 to renew my passport. £49 for Harry’s first passport. £8 to have the Post Office check the documents. £3 to have them sent back on special delivery. Plus whatever it’ll cost to send the fat bastard envelope containing Harry’s birth certificate, our marriage certificate, photos, completed forms, and Uncle Tom Cobbley to them by special delivery in the first place.

Bah.

This evening, the pain has died down to a grumble and the blood loss has tailed off to a brown trickle again. My second, IVF  pregnancy stretched on for weeks, bleeding and cramping from very shortly after transfer, even growing as far as a normal 7 week-sized fetus, but without ever developing a heartbeat. I was off work for nearly 8 weeks with that one. I was a mess.

Do. Not. Want.

I know what I want. I want to be warm, magically 5 stone lighter, sat with a good book and a nice snack, on a balcony, looking down a Mediterranean hillside, watching the sea twinkle in the morning sunlight. There are fishing boats. John & Harry – who behaved impeccably on the plane – are somewhere stage left doing Fun Stuff, and laughter can be heard floating up the hill.

Freeze frame.

Yawn

It’s 3am and I have been driven from my bed by my usual demons: a tormenting mixture of insomnia and recurrent waking nightmare-type things, in which I invariably end up cradling my dead son. It appears that my years of infertility, miscarriages, eventual knife-edge pregnancy, NICU and possession of an over-developed imagination have left me a tad prone to anxiety and disproportionate existential dread. Quelle surprise.

Between 1am and 2.30am I tried, although not concurrently, sex and sobbing; both were entirely satisfactory in their way but ultimately not helpful, so I’ve left Hubby in peace and sought solace downstairs in a large mug of sweet tea, twinkly fairy lights, and eBay retail therapy. If I look like I feel, then be really, really thankful I don’t have a webcam to scare you with.

Harry was curled peacefully in his cot when I came downstairs, undisputed King of the jumbled heap of soft toys he has carefully amassed before falling asleep over the top of them. I am so happy to say that his tantrums have markedly reduced this month – (fortuitously, as I elicited this week that the paediatric psychology service A) lost his referral and B) said he was too young to be referred there in any case. I have left his Paediatrician’s secretary chewing on that particular problem. I also have days when I think know that if I didn’t, de facto, administrate his medical paperwork myself, we’d never even have made it out of the blasted maternity unit.)

Harry has started to (potentous intake of breath) play with other children. I first noticed this about 4 weeks ago when I saw him chase, giggling, after some older girls at the soft-play barn. I smiled. Then he began playing alongside other toddlers at playgroups without always resorting to his usual unpredictable wild aggression if they so much as looked at his toy or stood too close – although I’ve been careful not to take him out tired or peckish. Yesterday afternoon we hosted 8 children aged 7 years to 7 weeks for a playdate and I was fully expecting the usual toddler rodeo. Mind you, I always quietly sympathise with his indignation: if someone who I only vaguely recognised walked into my house and promptly started rifling through my stuff, there would be kicked arses ere long.

Harry was… angelic. Simply and wonderfully angelic. He took the hands of the other children and led them toward his toys. He gave them enthusiastic bear hugs. When I saw him take toys from other children, he handed them back obediently when I asked him to. By 5pm I was sat in a bemused heap on the floor, staring in wonder at my son – who admittedly was just beginning to turn a little tired and tetchy over his toys, but entirely within normal parameters for 28 months – while behind me, two of his peers squabbled loudly over a tractor. It felt wonderful to be able to tell John when he got home that Harry had been so fabulously good; I simply couldn’t praise him enough. He had even shared his absolute favourite toy: perching as a contented, albeit wobbly, passenger, whilst F (a month older and 50th centile for height, to give you some scale…) piloted him jerkily around the dining room.

It’s now 4am: the cheeky fucking laptop has just shut itself down without consulting me in order to install updates. I went to the kitchen in a huff, made another cup of tea, took a couple of paracetamol, and bid on a jumper. This insight into my insomnia will probably cure yours.

John’s snores are audible from here  – and likely in the next village along, too. The man deserves his rest; he will doubtless end up picking up the slack in the morning when it’s nearly time get Harry in the car and I am once again too wiped out by my own insomnia to have actually successfully dressed or fed our child. John managed to rip a muscle playing hockey yesterday – he is also the possessor of several flesh-wound scars and the conspicuous non-possessor of a number of teeth due to playing this sport for Stratford with entirely too much gusto and a fair dollop of accident-prone-ness. Instead of tearing down into his groin it has, more unusually, torn up into his abdomen. He can hobble about ok, but only has limited use of one leg. Our wonderful and kind GP neighbour, a sports injury specialist, has told him to take it bloody easy for 10 days and then start Pilates. If that doesn’t mend it: it’s a surgical job. Which is a bit of a shit, really, because John will be utterly incapable of taking it easy at work; at home I can barely shift the bugger off the sofa, but his farming ethic is fairly demented.

I am first in the queue for abdominal surgery, at any rate. He’ll just have to wait his bloody turn.

The last two months have inexorably reduced me (alas! not in literal size) to a limp, slack-jawed slattern with a monumental headache. Today was the last day I’m working before Christmas; I now merely have a house in acute domestic disarray to sort out while maintaining Harry’s weekly schedule of nursery and play groups: now with an extra sprinkling of Christmas parties to add to the chaos.

Apropos: the adage about never working with children or animals? True.

Last year’s outfit… no longer appears to be a fitting option for this year.

Wiping his nose with a Christmas Pudding hat. Really.

Ran off to play peepo.

Having a crisis of confidence regarding his motivation for playing this reindeer.

I rest my case!

5.20am and the main road outside is starting to get busy.

Will try another go at this sleeping business.

Some Perfectly Adequate Crying

One of the Piddle Mums is a proper sweetheart. Really and absolutely a sweetheart. Every time I’ve looked a little down, a little stressed, a little distraught at babygroup – she’s been on the phone or texted that night. She is absolutely the type of friend I would like to be to other people – and know I never could measure up. 

Late this afternoon she rang my doorbell, prompting John, who often divests himself of his diesel/chemical/shit covered trousers in the hall, to dive entertainingly for a pair of baggies. 

‘I can’t stop,’ she said (and the frantic sounds of trouser-fighting behind me subsided), ‘but I thought you deserved these.’ She held out Thornton’s chocolates. ‘I felt so sorry for you this afternoon. I followed you out into the street when you left, but Harry had gone a bit quieter and I didn’t want to set him off again.’ I choked back the fast-rising FLOOD OF SELF PITY and sadly told her he had merely been taking stock of the change of surroundings. It took me several minutes – and some reasonably forceful handling – to insert him into his car seat and get the straps done up safely. Longer than it should have done, because he’d ripped my specs off and thrown them in the road – whizzy with cars – behind me, and I couldn’t rescue them because that would have entailed actually losing my tenous grip on the spitting hellcat that was my child. She twisted her mouth in sympathy. ‘If you ever want to talk… I know it must be hard…’

Bless the woman. She’s right. It is hard. He has dozens of smaller meltdowns everyday, and it’s by no means the first time I’ve lately been obliged to bodily remove him during a Harry ‘Special’ for the safety of the children around him, not to mention his own. I tend to have to carry him out past a row of wide open eyes, all watching in silent amazement at the sight of a child who has absolutely and spectacularly lost it.

But… plenty have it much, much harder. He fills our lives. That’s my actual son headbutting the door over there, everyone! He’s fabulously lovely, really; a tiny knight continually charging off to do battle, or at least prod some serious buttock with his lance.

lance 1 

His Portage worker came today, and I took the time to explain to her how awful his behaviour is becoming. I empathised with his communication frustration and she pursed her lips. ‘Well… he does point… and tow you about… ask for things… signs a lot better now… I suppose it could still be frustration, but perhaps… I don’t know… he’s a bit young, still… don’t usually do anything before 3… it might be worth exploring… referral to a behavioural psychologist?’ 

So I’m now back with the worry that Harry’s communication delay is incidental to the rages and he is actually simply a particularly cross toddler, with an extra-concentrated dollop of our worst character attributes to boot. I can… ummm… see ourselves. In him. Clearly. I am generally at least as furious and indignant as Harry is when I don’t get my own way; I am also, under the fluffy babble, a high-handed and imperious bossy-boots. John… cannot count altruism among his good points.  He frequently has minimal regard for anything or anyone that does not directly benefit his own sweet self. Come to think of it, we sound just like a pair of classic toddlers ourselves.

John surprised me a little this evening by accepting the suggestion of a paediatric psychologist without demur – but on the other hand, he has been kicked an awful lot lately. Whether we manage an NHS referral is another thing altogether, as I rather expect Harry’s Paediatrician will be slaveringly keen to discharge us when we see him next. Physiotherapy, apparently, can Do Nothing For Us.

I walked out of his physio assessment last week completely bemused. I couldn’t shake the feeling, paranoid ol’ me, that I was being fobbed off. She let slip knowledge regarding Harry’s background that made me suspicious that she had spoken to Harry’s Paediatrician already, as by the physio department’s own admission, the referral he made to them had contained hardly any information.

He did fall during his assessment, often. Mainly, as the Physio correctly said, through not looking where he was going, or simply not taking any care not to fall. Such face-plants make up probably 60% of his total overall but were maddeningly predominant that day; his inexplicable collapses and sinuous wobbles he didn’t really exhibit properly. She put him on a ball and swayed him about to test his muscle tone, and he actually responded wonderfully well. I mused as I watched them: lately, he never knocks the back of his head coming down slides – he has greatly improved the muscle strength around his tummy and neck without me actually noticing it.

She conceded that he had hypermobility in his joints and ‘floppy’ muscle tone. She told me he had done well to hit his physical developmental milestones on time: she saw children with this degree of hypermobility and floppy tone not walk at all until they were 2. Generally she would prescribe exercises to increase muscle strength – but Harry is already unusually and ferociously strong. I may have rubbed my bruises reflectively as she said this. She commented that he was a quite exceptionally high-energy child, and consequently: his own best therapy. A less active, driven and determined toddler would have been significantly less mobile, which did make sense.

She told me she could see no evidence of any neurological complication – and could see nothing to support our impression of low trunk muscle tone. Which puzzled me no end, because floppy muscle tone IS low muscle tone; I understood them both to be terms for hypotonia. Her explanation of her explanation confused me still further – something about him being congenitally floppy in tone, but it not being anything to do with his brain. Ummm. Ok. She wasn’t clear, and neither was I: doubtless his Paediatrician will give us a precis when we see him.

A part of me thinks I should relax and play the watch&wait game. Irrespective of what’s causing Harry’s wobbles, a paediatric physiotherapist has told me there is nothing we can do to improve his walking. The other part is screaming in frustration and considering a private referral to Second Opinion Land. When Harry goes to nursery, he has to walk holding my hand along at least 200 ft of pavement. Harry doesn’t do straight lines or exciting outdoor situations very well, so he generally falls about 6 or 7 times during that walk. I notice people noticing. And then I think they must be noticing all his bruises, too. On Tuesday, he fell about every 10ft and a waiting Mum asked me if ‘he’d hurt his legs?’ 

I came home and sobbed, because I don’t want my son to be the one that everyone looks at because he can’t walk properly and can’t talk, or be the mother that people feel sorry for and give chocolates to. And then I decided I’d better snap out of it because A) all I wanted was a child to love and care for – I don’t remember making conditions about exactly what sort and B) John wasn’t taking a blind bit of notice, bar a quarter-turn away from his on-line bridge session* and a vague pat on the leg, so it seemed a waste of some perfectly adequate crying. We had a bit of a row about that. (And… umm… about Mandatory Forcible Toothbrushing Being A Bad Thing For Children, too… and about the fact that John thought we actually didn’t need a fireguard because, a-ha, get this… Harry (just two) COULD BE TRAINED not to go near or touch the incandescently hot woodburner. I usually reserve the exclusive right to criticise my spouse, but feel free to tell him what you think about that one, coz the daft old sod still thinks he’s in the right.)

*Incidentally, if you happen to frequent http://uk.pogo.com/games/bridge at all, and you encounter Big Hairy, DHairy, or The Hairy One, or some hirsute equivalent… yeah. It’s him. He’s quite good: even his genial soul of a father remarked dryly one day that ‘his beady eyes can see round corners, I reckon’. On our neighbour’s annual Whist Drive, watching John’s eager scramble to leave any table where he has been landed with me as a partner is… priceless.

Where was I? Oh, yes! Moaning! Which is a bit misleading really, because, bad afternoon today aside, things are Really Not Too Bad. I have cheerfully and shamelessly told a whopping great Untruth to the nice lady from Portage, telling her that I am reducing Harry’s daycare Tuesday and Friday sessions to just Fridays (I am… come next month. Or the month after. The new year, say. In the new year.  At some point.) and taking him to his special needs nursery on a Monday (which I totally, totally am, they having most obligingly agreed Not To Mention To Anyone about his cough Wednesday session). It might not work out, as, together with his visiting Speech Therapy and Portage, it’s a lot of input, and my calendar is a bit scribbled-on, but Harry does seem to thrive on excitement and activity. There’s none of it we can’t decide just not to do for a few days if it suits us to take a break.

I’m sat here munching the chocolates – having already lost Not One Jot of pre-laparoscopy weight – and occasionally coughing like a blocked machine gun, as I have a cold I can’t shift. I had planned to catch up with my commenting or sort my delivery out, but I’m actually going to go and watch Scrubs with John instead, and remember, today, to feel thankful for the fact that I am able to take photos like this

Whizzy car

and revel in the fact that I can take half an hour out to ignore the housework during the day while Harry naps and play with frivolities like this instead

wreath

while the tiny chap upstairs in bye-byes land gears up for another full-throttle day tomorrow.Shark!

Shark!

Rock, meet Hard Place.

It’s not been a cheery day, so let’s start things off with a nice little photo. John was Harry’s whipping boy Nominated Parent on Sunday, so I kicked back and relaxed by re-arranging my kitchen cupboards. This is almost everything I found that was out of date, often by an impressive 4 or 5 years. (Feel quite free to be Topper and comfort me, BTW.)

cupboard contents

We will now take a brief moment, in which everyone who has ever eaten a meal in my house, bloggers among them, can quietly disappear to throw up absolutely everything they have ever consumed.

Better?

The predominance of seeds is as a result of John’s brief fad of being a baker: we have been married 6 years in March and received a bread maker as a wedding present. Hubby got all keen and baked a number of really quite edible loaves, buying in large stocks of pumpkin, poppy and sesame seeds. Then he lost all interest; the packets have been gathering dust ever since.

Our garden birds did very nicely out of it all on Sunday, particularly as I also found a pack of lard (out of sight and mind at the top of the fridge) with a date of January 2009. Yum.

If Harry survives his childhood without falling victim to Campylobacter, E-coli or Salmonella, then he will one day look back on his formative years – these years – and form an opinion on whether I make a bad or good decision this week, and I’m wriggling uncomfortably on the pointy horns of a daycare dilemma. If you have clever advice – or amusing assvice – for me, I will give it my close attention and gratitude.

Harry currently receives Portage, a weekly home-visiting education service for pre-schoolers with additional support needs. Harry’s home visitor has undoubtedly assisted him: by following her suggestions and games, Harry has certainly come to understand the concept of taking turns, after only a handful of visits. Putting the theory into practice outside a controlled home environment has been uphill work for the lad, but she has helped improve his communication. She’s the closest thing he has to a key worker, and liaises – theoretically – with:

Physiotherapy: his Wobbles assessment is – finally – Thursday morning. I am grimly prepared to get Harry drunk and suddenly stick my foot out in front of him if he refuses to fall over for her.

Speech and Language Therapy: achingly slow progress. ‘Djess’ has, depressingly, sunk slowly back into the formless quicksand of his babble, and Harry, at 26 months and 82cms, is once again officially Wordless. He is progressing with his language; his eye contact is significantly better and his signing is coming along nicely this week – he has learnt to sign ‘hand it over now, woman’ ‘please’ – but he’s still desperately behind, and I sometimes get twisted up inside with panic and anger and OMFG I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A SINGLE DAMN THING YOU’RE BABBLING ABOUT AND I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU’RE POINTING AT AND YOU’RE LOOKING AT ME LIKE I’M THE KNOWER OF ALL THINGS OR YOUR BLOODY MOTHER OR SOMETHING  BUT YOU DON’T REALISE I SIMPLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THE FIRST THING YOU’RE SAYING AND I CAN’T HELP YOU I CAN’T HELP YOU BECAUSE IT’S ALL JUST RANDOM SOUNDS AND MY HEART IS BREAKING.

And… yeah. That’s generally the time you’ll find me howling in a corner. Even the most determinedly awful mother would find it hard to purposefully not intelligently respond to any single word her child said to her for an entire year – but that’s exactly what I’ve done, in effect. I worry about the damage to his personality this incomprehension causes; Harry doesn’t know that he isn’t intelligible.

Harry’s behaviour, unsurprisingly, is heading downhill quicker than the shares I bought for him with his child trust fund and they’re pretty damned precipitous. The baby groups we go to are beginning to fall silent when he launches into one of his Specials – particularly when I’ve just stopped him hitting another child, so he starts violently attacking himself instead. Eventually, when I’ve either restored some sort of calm, or simply clamped his raging form hard under my arm and announced our departure, one of them will carefully clear their throat, blinking and ask ‘Bad day? Is he really tired?’

Yes, all of them currently, and No, he’s just woken up.  And I’ve cried every day this week because when he headbutts me and I don’t dodge in time it really bloody hurts and my nose bleeds and I bruise and I’m tired of fighting my poor angry child and looking useless.

Cough. I was supposed to be telling you about daycare. Yes. Daycare!

Harry is no longer Cool with his 2 mornings at Local nursery. I don’t entirely blame him: last time he went, Mummy didn’t come home for 2 days. I took him Friday morning and he kicked off in such spectacular fashion at the gate that I eventually had to take him home again. John cycled past it yesterday and asked Harry if he liked the place: he shook his head. Ahhh. Bugger.

A friend in the local village runs a playgroup called, let’s say, Abacus – albeit the parents leave the children there – for children with special needs. I am only just coming around to the fact that Harry is, in fact, one of those children. The labelled, different ones. Special Needs. Statemented. Exceptional. StrugglingI know we didn’t get off the plane in Italy, but I’ve never been entirely convinced we were really making a stop in Holland, either, until – well, today, I suppose. I suppose I was thinking of us as being more… western Germany?

But we toddled along this morning, as it was a friend and she’d invited us to come take a look. (Harry promptly lost his mind with anxiety as soon as he saw it was a daycare centre, which bodes badly for me and his usual Local drop-off tomorrow.) There were 7 kids and 6 adults: the ratio is usually about one to one, sometimes even more adults than children, depending on the need. (The staff at Local daycare take Harry’s difficulties seriously and are keen to help him, but the ratio is 1:4 kids.) There was a ducky little lad with what appeared to be mild Downs, and another kid who was using a mobility frame, although he could also wobble along unassisted. The remaining children were all language impaired to a greater or lesser degree, but no other issues that I could see. I’m told there are usually between 6 and 10 children attending a session, a couple of whom are very severely functionally impaired, but the majority are simply language delayed.

It wasn’t the most inviting-looking building in the world, dark and old (in a bad way; we’re not talking Tudor here) although with a lovely garden attached, turfed throughout, with no hard edges and a smallish selection of nice toys.

They asked me, in the course of finding out about our history, if I had ever applied for disability living allowance for Harry. I sprayed my coffee in most ecumenial fashion over everyone in the vicinity, near and far. Say WHAT, now? *Splutters* He’s cognitively spot-on, people! Even a little ahead of his age! But… yes. Apparently, the level of agency involvement with Harry is a fair indicator that we could quite likely qualify for the lower level of state disability payment. It’s about £18 a week and would cover the lion’s share of his daycare costs but… there’s that D word again. It does insist on cropping up and I am never, ever suitably prepared for it.

The activities were fabulously well-aimed for kids like Harry in… Holland. They used makaton and visual aids for absolutely everything and kept the kids’ attention beautifully. (Harry blatantly thinks circle time at Local daycare sucks a clown’s balls and it’s generally his cue to slope off outside on his own.) A speech therapist comes nearly every week and they have regular physio, occupational therapy and paediatrician input too. Although Harry was actually climbing determinedly up the fire doors for most of the activity-time in a frantic effort to get outside and play, I know that once he settled in he would derive infinite benefit from their one-on-one approach. It’s run by a superlatively trustworthy friend, it’s breathtakingly cheap, it’s exactly what Harry needs – and of course, there are mighty snags.

Abacus is probably 10 miles away, in a town and on an estate I used to live in and have darkly unhappy memories of. The sessions are only 2.5 hours long, and even though it’s only a piddling £3 an hour, it’d barely be worth, in fuel and time, me coming back home.

Harry’ Local daycare is 2 miles away, attached to the primary school that Harry will – I am currently assuming – attend. John went to school there. They have more toys and are the Italy to Abacus’s Holland.  We really wanted Harry to become accustomed to Local place this year, so that pre-school in a year’s time did not come as a shock – if he actually ends up attending Italian mainstream pre-school. I like Local place, and so does Harry when he’s not in the throes of major separation anxiety.

Simple! I hear you cry, bored and desperate for coffee stimulation by now. Send him to both! 2 sessions at Local, 2 sessions at Abacus. Blow the budget and you’re sorted!

Yeah. If Harry exceeds 2 daycare sessions a week, he loses Portage services. Sending him for one session in both places is half-arsed and not considered a good idea by Local, Abacus OR Portage – who are unhappy and apologetic about the recent reduction in the cutoff level from 5 sessions to 3. We have to choose between the three of them.

If I cut Local out and instead spend 2 or 3 mornings marooned in a random coffee shop near Abacus… I’m not only sad on my own account, because I like Harry going to Local but it also means that I’m taking several steps backwards organisationally and will be more behind and stressed than ever; Housework: Nil, Business: Nil, Time To Self: Nil.

If I don’t send him to Abacus, then… well, I can’t do that. I have to send him to Abacus. As it’s just over the county border, I am considering asking them to keep Harry’s presence there a Big Administrative Secret, but I think in practical terms it’d be like concealing a secret airbase: people do tend to notice the odd jet flying in and out. Plus there’s paperwork and stuff.

If I send him to both Local and Abacus and lose Portage, then we’ve lost a weekly visitor to our home – no fuel! no travel! no stress! fun games! all positives! – who has demonstrably done Harry some good. I value her input a good deal.

Crap. Arse. It’s got to be Local for the choppy-chop, hasn’t it?

Bloody rules. We are not amused.

Culture Vulture

Just like New York, Paris and Rome, London is both soaringly beautiful and nose-crucifyingly smelly, and I had forgotten both of those things. I’ve been such a tourist it’s almost embarrassing, although I should really save that word up for later on.

I used to work in London a good bit at one time and we honeymooned there for a few days before disappearing into the depths of Jordan (a destination which proved to be a choice speech topic gift to John’s best man), so I’ve trooped around the more obvious landmarks before. As this was a solo trip I felt I could indulge myself; John, while not a history lover, likes art as much as the next man (the Hairy exchequer has unbelted reasonably freely on the stuff in the time of the seven fat cows – before the breeding-related plummet into the era of seven anorexic and anaemic cows) but would squeak a bit at the thought of two days exclusively devoted to it.

I lap the stuff up. My father and his side of the family can paint, exceedingly well, dammit, and most of them – except him – have a daftly, and I use the word advisedly, artistic temperament to boot. I have the soul of an artist, the mind of a shopkeeper and actual talent of an artistically pedestrian 3 year old. It’s a proper bugger.

So: National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery it was. I took a good look at some well-known and fabulous works I had only ever previously seen reproduced and was repeatedly clobbered upside the head with unknown, stunning, luminous pieces. I was alone, and could sit and stare for 20 minutes if I pleased, and I often did.  I’d be more arse-numbingly boring than usual if I attempted even a short precis, but I did fancy this self-portraiting chap – died 1743 – like mad.

NPG 3822, Michael Dahl

Busily sketching primary school children were fairly thickly strewn underfoot, which was fine, and had remonstrating and blatantly clueless teachers in tow, which was more of a trial. One particularly irritating woman loudly bossed her group into stillness before reading – extremely haltingly – from the information panel; she announced self-importantly that Lady Jane Grey had been ‘disposed’ after only 9 days. Awesome.

Compensatingly, there was the little kid who, obviously consulting his gallery guide as opposed to his common sense, walked straight past Delacroix: Christ on the Cross

delacroix-christ-cross-NG6433-fm

to Gericault: A Shipwreck, complete with bollocks

a shipwreck

and pronounced solemnly, in awed tones, ‘That’s JESUS, man!’

Incidentally, I can’t find a bigger photo online (updated: here’s one) as the National Gallery won’t actually acknowledge that they have it currently hanging on their wall, plus I keep getting into trouble for explicit links, so that’s your lot.

I spent a lovely number of hours in the British Museum, too, and kept the ancient historian in me stoked and happy. That’s one honours degree I’ll never see a profit from, ever.

I got back late last night, beginning to miss my chaps. When Harry clapped eyes on me this morning he point-blank refused to come close and climbed possessively into John’s arms with a worried expression. I was desperately attempting to conceal my mortal anguish. It took him a good 10 minutes to change his mind and decide that he wanted a cuddle after all; he had no sooner thrown himself into my eager arms when he spotted the contents of the Hamley’s bag and promptly fought his way out again.

He then decided that he wanted, nay, needed ice cream for breakfast and commenced a 15 minute protest in front of the the dog room freezer.

In fact, he has made my life a mild form of living hell today. I have cried 3 times in sheer despair and frustration and I am not even hormonal: this is bad. He has alternated unusually intense touchy-feely affection with screaming like an outraged and rabid gibbon whenever he was thwarted or disappointed in the Least Little Thing (eg, his satsuma had not grown enough segments for his liking, or the jigsaw puzzle box failed to obediently spring open to his questing fingers within the first pico-second of trying). I have retreated in abject maternal shame from baby group and even Tesco, grappling madly with my frothing, thrashing, shrieking, headbutting, face-clawing toddler.

I’m not sure how cognitive Just-Turned-Twos actually are about parental absence, but I might have supposed this to be punishment, were it not for the fact that he behaved in identical fashion the day before I left. Tell me this gets better soon, or I may have to run away to sea.

Talking of sea, he has pissed on the lounge carpet again today, twice. There must be more pee in that carpet than the average public urinal; I’m struggling to keep up with the soapy water. It’s my own fault: whilst not intending to potty-train him yet – anticipating that not having spoken or signed language might be a tad hindering – nevertheless, I have bought him a potty, and have spoken to him about What Happens. The latest result is that he now enthusiastically removes his nappy whenever my back is turned. He promptly piddles or shits on the carpet next to the potty, before sitting on it with a pleased expression. Sigh. Close, with a brown cigar.

When pre-emptively placed on the potty by me, he immediately and dutifully strains industriously, ignoring my frantic admonishments about The Risk Of Piles. Once this resulted in business, which made a big impression on him and me both, but he generally only emits a series of thunderous farts. He then leaps to his feet, whirls around and examines the potty closely to see if he has produced anything apart from noxious turd-gas, whilst I try not to laugh.

He plays up gleefully when I try to replace his nappy, and I end up – laughing and nonchalant at first, and then increasingly vociferous and grumpy – pursuing his twinkling little bottom all around the house; when I do eventually distract him into sitting still for a replacement, I turn my back for two minutes and off the nappy comes again.

If I could play the yakedy sax Benny Hill theme to this, I totally would.

%d bloggers like this: