An unexpected visit to the ER

Last summer (2018) I left my work conference in Washington DC a day early – I took the greyhound home because it was the quickest I could get back.  Chris described his symptoms to me…he was crawling up the stairs, his legs were extremely painful – inexplicably painful that he could barely walk.  He had numbness and tingling spreading up his legs.  Chris went to urgent care where the doctor couldn’t really explain what was going on, but took several gallons of his blood to test for various things including Lymes Disease.  The doctor sent him home and told him if it started to spread up his body to immediately go to the Emergency Room.  I made it home and it was clear Chris was very ill, with what exactly we had no clue.  It was all very worrying.

The next day when Chris woke up the numbness and pain had started to spread to his hands and arms, so we sent Aviana off to daycare and headed to the nearest ER.  It was there that Chris was admitted into hospital for tests and observation.  The doctors were very concerned and he became that patient that would have had House M.D. appearing at his bed.  It was a mystery.  Each day they ruled out various diseases with tests and observations, new doctors and specialists appeared with their theories and hypotheses.

It was very difficult for me to leave Chris in hospital and go home to look after Aviana in the evenings. It was difficult for Aviana to understand why daddy couldn’t play with her.  The hospital is generally a terrifying place for a toddler, beeps, noises, wires, strange people etc aren’t overall very welcoming.  I had friends who helped to look after Aviana whist I visited Chris in hospital.  Of course this all happened when our regular sitter was out of town otherwise it would have been a whole lot easier to handle.  It made us realise how far away our family is in a time like this. Of course we were all worried.

Eventually Chris was discharged and told it was probably a virus and one of these things that happens. (Ummmm yeh, just one of those things???!)  When he became an outpatient Chris had some nerve tests done which confirmed he had nerve damage in his legs…and so was diagnosed with acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, also known as Guillain Barre syndrome.  It is basically an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attack the outside of the nerves and damages the myelin insulation.  It is often triggered by an infection of some sort (he had some kind of stomach bug thing a few weeks before), but it can happen to anyone, anytime. They don’t know why it happens. Scary. Chris was told his recovery could take from 6 months to a year.  He was off work for several weeks, exhausted as he slowly gained his strength back.  He also suffered from a lot of ‘brain fog’ as well, so mentally he has had to build his strength back up before going back to work. There are still unknowns if this would ever come back again (chronic form), but so far, it’s looking promising.

Chris was lucky that this did not spread further to their parts of his body and that the damage did not require him to need physiotherapy nor need much longer hospitalization.

So that’s where I was and where I went to.  It was a crazy summer and I decided to take some time off blogging to focus on my family.  Then I got busy with learning how to sew and knitting blankets for local families who lose their babies (that’s another story for later).

I miss blogging but I have also been thinking very carefully about this blog and what I write about here.  At the forefront of my mind has been Aviana’s privacy, especially after reading an article about a kid asking her mother to stop blogging about her and her mother refusing to.  I don’t want to be that kind of parent, but at the same time I want to share my experiences as a parent. So I will return to this blog!

(Ps. the post I posted the other day was SOOOOO old and incomplete, sorry about that- I have a lot of draft posts I have yet to finish!  My goal is to finish them within the month!)

Goodbye 2018, you have been full of highs and lows.  Hello 2019 – what will you bring us this year??

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

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We will never be equal

Last night after Chris read my blog post Chris told me the truth of the matter….we won’t ever be equal because of my work travels. And he is right. If I travel 8-10 times a year, some of these trips being 8 days long then I will struggle to make that up to be equal. Admittedly he will travel occasionally for work but it would be in the US and not transatlantic and for a few days at a time. Also, if he travels I have the leave to be able to travel with him (if he gets to go somewhere fun!!).

We have talked about this quite a bit recently and it’s going to be tough. It’s not exactly a holiday for me, but I will get a ‘break’ from parenting (except the huge guilt I will feel) and he won’t. We have a nanny once a week and maybe we can use her to help out Chris a bit more when I am away. Only time will tell how tough it really will be. Almost everyone else in my team has children and they survive. Just got to figure out how they do it well!

The dream? All working parents created equal

I was inspired to write this post after I read a ‘Working Mother’ article “14 things my parents never had to do because my mom didn’t work“.  It was going good up until points 10: Manage the household from the office; 11: Manage the household at home; and 12: Worrying about traveling for work.  The author says that she has to “…make doctor’s appointments, go grocery shopping, plan birthday parties in between meetings.  This is true, it’s got to get done at some point during the working week.  But your working husband also probably can do that stuff too? Right?  She then says she is “…still primarily responsible for cooking dinner, cleaning the house and organizing their social life“. Hmmmm, your husband can also do that too, no? Finally, when she goes on work travels she has to “…prepare everything in her absence from my daughter’s wardrobe to preparing frozen meals for my husband“.  OK, so yes, sure, when a partner goes away on work travel you need to be supportive and help make it easier on the person left behind.  But the choice of ‘chores’ that need to be done are soooooooo stereotypical.  Really?  Your husband can’t make wardrobe choices on his own?  Is he able to dress himself?  I presume so because it sounds like he still makes it to work everyday without getting fired. So why can’t he dress a child?  He really can’t cook his own food? My goodness, how did he ever survive before he met you?????  After reading this and getting me mad and upset, it got me thinking more about the ideal working parents situation and equality.  Are all parents ‘created’ equal?  Is it actually possible??

Chris and I are pretty equal in most things.  Before Aviana arrived into our world we shared chores.  There are some things that Chris is better at doing than I am and vice versa.  There are also some things that Chris prefers doing than I do and vice versa.  So we always tried to make things equal: one night Chris would cook and I would wash up, then we would swap the next day.  I would put the washing on, Chris would hang it up, the next time we may swap.  And then we negotiated on other chores.  I did X if Chris did Y.  We also hired a cleaner (Something I would happily give up anything else for….clothes, tea, haribo, driving to work….if we ever needed to financially cut back somewhere, it’s a marriage saver in my mind). Grocery shopping, decorating, tidying, gardening, organising, bill paying….etc.  we are pretty equal.  Yes, there are odd times when we have to assess the balance, but we often do it on conditions at the time: our health and work.

We are also pretty equal on the work front too.  We take home similar amounts of pay.  Although Chris gets a bonus whereas I do not!  We are also the same age, and therefore have similar amounts of work experience.  We are progressing similarly in terms of accountability and responsibility, although we do very different jobs, and therefore different types of stresses, but our workloads ebb and flow for both of us.

Now we have new jobs to add to our life resumes/CVs.  Parenthood!  We are equally experienced in this new role…as in, we both have very little experience!  The question I have is, is it possible to be equal parents in life too?  Does it matter if Chris is mummy and I am daddy?  Do these labels mean anything in terms of the roles we play as parents and how we raise our daughter?

Currently there is an imbalance.  First of all, physically I grew Aviana inside me and I am also the milk provider.  Chris does feed her bottles, so it’s not like he has zero responsibility for this.  Secondly, I have just spent almost 7 months off work on maternity leave.  I have been Aviana’s caregiver during working hours and weeks and past couple of weeks I have been on ‘vacation’, getting things in order around the house, enjoying two weeks of holiday with my family and relaxing a little bit.  Although I have been back to work for a couple of odd weeks during my maternity leave and a few days here and there, this week I am back to work officially, properly, full speed ahead.  Eeeek.

The balance will shift.  But to what? Will it be equal? How will we adjust to our ‘ideals’? How will we negotiate chores?  How will we decide whose meeting is more important when we have to pick up a sick Aviana from daycare?  How will we decide who does each parenting task like feeding, bathing and dressing our baby?  Because we are both equally capable of these tasks.  And pretty much any other future task.  Party planning, birthday gift buying, holidays, doctors, caregivers, blah blah blah.

How will we adjust when we have different ways of doing these parenting tasks?  What will we do when one of us thinks we are doing it wrong, do we let it go?  Do we debate?  Do we continue to negotiate?  Do we have time to be equal?

How much do we want to pay for convenience like we do with our cleaners, gardeners and other services such as online shopping, food preparation, holiday planning etc?  How much is our time worth in ‘outsourcing’ so we can spend more time with Aviana?

I’m nervous.  I have expectations to be an equal working parent, but in reality it will probably be different.  I’m just not sure how it’s going to be.  Will my annoyance with that article I read be proven to be naivety on my part?  I hope not.

How equal is your parenting with your partner?  Is it what you thought it would be?  What would you do differently if you could go back in time? Does any of this ‘equality’ ideals even matter?

 

Let’s just be honest here

Life is like a box of chocolates….you never know what you are going to get (well, if you have the picture guide then it’s not much of a surprise, but hey just sayin’!). It is true that you can’t choose whether or not your child is going to be an angel newborn or satan in disguise.  We all want the angels, but we don’t always get what we want.  I hear you say, “Yes, Dani, we know that”.

Chris and I have differing views looking back at our time with Aviana as a newborn baby.  We also have differing views on looking forwards on the subject of growing our family again.  But that’s OK because we often have differing views on some of our important life aspects and we still survive today to tell the tale.

Looking back, for me, Aviana was not an easy newborn baby, but she also wasn’t hellish either.  There was that time when we were figuring out her silent reflux when I thought what did I do to deserve this nightmare?!  There was the worry of whether or not I was feeding her enough because she was an IUGR baby (I still worry BTW!) There were times when I was creeping around quietly, anticipating Aviana to wake up because she didn’t nap well and I am not a good napper during the day so I struggled with the 2 hourly feeds.  The times when I counted down the minutes to Chris coming home from work because Aviana had been fussy and I couldn’t help her no matter what I did, wondering if I would always suck at being a mother.  The times when I wished our family and friends back in the UK could be there with us to see Aviana achieve her milestones.  But I also put a lot of pressure on myself.  I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months.  I wanted to keep up with my work’s executive development program. I wanted to shower every day – haha!

So being honest, looking back at the newborn months, it was tough.  And now it isn’t so tough – it is actually fun!  I wanted the newborn phase to pass quickly, in the moment it seemed to drag.  Now here I am looking at my daughter wondering how she grew up suddenly as an almost 6 month old, eating solids, giggling, interacting, playing, standing and sitting up.  I can already sense she will want to be an independent kinda lady.  And I’m cool with that.  And now I want to spend MORE time with her, not less which was how I felt at times during the newborn phase.  May be it’s because I know her better, I know myself better and I am catching on to the parenting thing that it seems easier.  But raising a newborn baby is hard, and it does get easier (Although I am not naive to think that there won’t be tough times in the future, so I’ve been told teenagers are the worst!!!)

Would I do it all again?  Yes.  Would I do it all again with a toddler?  Yes.  Would it be harder?  I think yes and no.  Many of our friends are on their second child and I get a sense that I’m on the right track with this answer.  It’s only until the next child comes along that they  ever realised that they had an angel or a devil newborn baby.  And their second one usually ends up being the opposite of their first.  Because that is the whole life is like a box of chocolates thing  (and it sucks if you were lucky to get two angels in a row then get a devil for the third!!)  So this leads Chris and I to have the conversation about what Aviana could be considered as (angel or devil), what would our second baby would be like (with a toddler in tow don’t forget!) and do we want to make life harder for ourselves?

Why does this all matter?  Because it begs the question what is next for our family (Oh and of course everyone always asks us if we will have another baby!).  For those of you who may remember from the great pudding club hunt, we still have one frozen embryo stored away (that we pay $60 a month to keep there).  It’s not an easy question to answer because we don’t have the luxury of planning when we can procreate another child.  We are infertile and unexplained infertility means our future remains hazy.  Plus there is the added risk of an IUGR baby again, we were lucky the first time that Aviana has not been affected too much, we may not be so lucky with a second.    All of this confounds the basic question of do we want to grow our family for the second time?  And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Chris and I have different views on siblings and age gaps….. :-p

The guilty mother

The guilt is bad enough going back to work when your baby is only 5 months old, but to leave her for 8 nights and travel to a different continent for work?  The guilt just pours out of me.   Eughhhh.

It was a tough week leaving Aviana behind.  Especially as the first night I was away she decided to wake up three times in the night rather than sleep through (typically what she has been doing for the past few weeks).  Poor Chris has had to deal with that, and on top of that, she caught her first cold.

I feel guilty that I was not there to cuddle and soothe her when she wakes in the night, I feel guilty I was not there to share the load of care, I feel guilty that my husband doesn’t get a respite, I feel guilty that I get to sleep without being woken by a crying baby (although I did have several dreams where I woke up in a panic that I had lost Aviana somewhere in the hotel room!), I feel guilty that I couldn’t store enough breastmilk for Aviana to have the entire week (I was only able to freeze 70oz and I needed twice that), I feel guilty that I couldn’t nurse her.

It has been a strange first week back to work.  I saw people who last time saw me with a big bump, or people who have only ever known me pregnant!  I reunited with a few people who are obviously sensitive to these things, and gingerly asked if everything went alright with the birth. I was impressed at these people, I won’t forget their sensitivity and made me secretly wonder what sad stories have touched their lives in the past.

The great news is that I can shed some of my constant burden and guilt is that I finally graduated from my 9 month executive development programme!  Whoop whoop!  I presented my team’s project to some of the most senior staff in the organisation and it went down very well.  I’m sad that my team has disbanded, I got to work with some of the best my organisation has, we worked well through a tough problem, through conflict of opinions, and with time always against us, but we got it done, and it was actually fun at times. The past few months of my maternity leave I have always had the weight of our team project on my shoulders, in addition to undertaking all the distance learning modules.  There were times on my maternity leave that I was on a team conference call at 7AM (because they are all in Europe) whilst rocking my crying baby, or writing meeting minutes whilst breastfeeding my baby.  I always felt guilty that I was never giving my all – to both my daughter and to my project team.  But I needn’t have worried because my team never noticed or even had a hint that I was multi-tasking during these calls.  It’s over now and I can finally shed that weight off my shoulder.

I will have to travel for work some more, that is just the nature of my job.  It’s going to be tough on both Aviana and Chris.  I don’t know how Aviana misses me because she can’t exactly communicate it clearly how she feels, but I know it will get harder as she gets a bit older…or may be not, may be she will just be used to it as I travel from an early age.  I don’t know how these things work, we will just have to go with the flow.

So yes, feeling guilty here, I didn’t think I would miss Aviana quite as much as I did.  I missed her so much that when I think about her my tear well fills up to the point of almost over flowing.  I just wanted to run across the airport when I landed home to get back as quickly as possible to see her. Is it hormones?  Is it love?  I’d say probably both.

The greatest thing that happened is when I got home and saw Aviana for the first time in a week…she smiled, giggled coyly and reached her arms up for me. THE BEST feeling ever.  Just wish I didn’t have to feel so guilty when I leave her.

Daddy’s going back to work

Dani’s thoughts and feelings on Chris going back to work….

…it sucks.

The end.

That is all I wanted to write….but perhaps I should explain myself a bit more.  Although I reckon that many of you mums out there won’t need me to write an explanation because we probably feel the same way about our partners returning to work after parental leave.

Chris technically doesn’t get parental leave.  In the US, you are lucky to get any parental leave.  Chris saved up his annual leave to allow him to take 3 weeks off for both the birth and learning to become a dad.  Fortunately some of the days include public holidays – Christmas, New Years and Martin Luther King Day.  So that was lucky to get an extra few days without eating into his leave.

Chris’s company does give him a ‘transition week’, which when you add up the time off equals 2.5 days of parental leave.  What is a transition week? Well, he gets to work half days from home…allowing him to support his new family but ease both him and us into working life again.  Makes a lot of sense.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

So Chris’s last day of leave was last Friday.  It has been amazing to have him around.  He has been amazing.  I don’t know how mums do it when their partners go back to work within a few days…or worse, they are simply not around because they are deployed or for some other work related reason.  Why has he been amazing?

  • He has given me confidence that I can do this.
  • He supports my breastfeeding, by making sure I have everything I need – water, food, pillows, blankets, burp cloths, entertainment, timing the feeds.
  • He changes Aviana’s diapers/nappies.
  • He gets up at night to wake up Aviana, give Aviana to me whilst I am in bed so I can nurse her, then put her back down to sleep.
  • We share the burden of dealing with Aviana fussing at night.  But sometimes he takes on more of that share.
  • He has done the cleaning, washing, cooking, tidying, driving etc.  All the things I haven’t been allowed to do for the two weeks of my post partum recovery.
  • He is an expert in all things bath related for Aviana.
  • We take turns in dressing Aviana and trying to figure out what is and isn’t appropriate to wear!
  • He has dashed out to shops to get things we hadn’t thought of or ran out of sooner than expected.
  • He looks after Aviana, even when she is fussing, so that I can take a shower in the morning, and a bath at night (helps with my postpartum recovery).
  • Read the books, googled advice and hacks on looking after a newborn.  Sharing his newfound knowledge with me.
  • Tells me he loves me and how he loves seeing me being a mum.  He also makes me feel like I am more than just a mum to him, I am still his wife.
  • Encourages me to achieve one personal goal a day.
  • Cries with me when I randomly cry (which mostly has been at happy things or pure relief things have worked out well for us)

😦 Dani’s sad face.

The Inconceivable Adventures of Parenthood

Welcome to the Inconceivable Adventures of Parenthood!

Please let us introduce ourselves! We are Dani and Chris… We moved to Virginia, USA from the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, UK in 2013. Although we speak the same language, life in the US is a little different to living in the UK. Our amazing daughter Aviana  was born in the US in December 2016 just 5lbs 1oz as she suffered from Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR).

photo-dec-28-4-26-06-pm

Our new family of three – Dani, Aviana and Chris

Becoming parents wasn’t easy for us as we battled infertility.  The moment Aviana arrived into our world we were instantly smitten with her.  We had hoped and dreamed of becoming mummy and daddy for so long, you would have thought we were well prepared!  But no amount of classes, reading, family story telling or googling can prepare you for the whirlwind of becoming a parent.

This blog is a place for us to share our adventures in parenting.  It’s a place to vent, it’s a place for us to communicate with other parents, it’s a place to reflect openly on the things we have learned – the good, the bad and the ugly.  We may also talk about the observed differences between the UK and US as we navigate our way through the maze of advice, hints and tips on being awesome parents.

Sometimes we may talk about infertility, just because we have a daughter now it doesn’t mean our infertility has been cured.  We are still infertile.  Our perspectives on family may differ as our lenses have been coloured by the disease, both in the past and in the future.

Please join in the discussions by leaving us your thoughts in the comments section in each blog post!  We would love to hear what you think 🙂

If you want to know more about our infertility journey, I have a separate blog where you can find out more about how our family grew from 2 to 3…and may be in the future it will grow again!  I will still be blogging here on IF related posts.  Visit her at www.thegreatpuddingclubhunt.com

Dani X

Ps.  We are just getting this site up and running so forgive the cosmetics as we construct our blog home!