A Rough Patch

I ran into a friend yesterday as I was going back from a walk along a very cold beachfront.  She said she found this blog by chance and she liked it. This is the first time I get independent feedback on my writing in this corner, and I am really pleased.  She wondered -among other things- what happened after the cream cupcakes and why I have been away from this blog for so long.

The short answer is that I have been overwhelmed with so many things.  I figured out this month that while I juggle so many committements and responsibilities it is impossible not to drop one ball or the other at any given time.  It is challenging enough when things are running their normal course, but when things start to go wrong it is plain awful.

It all started in the middle of last month when I was called at work to get my son from school because he had pink eye. I haven’t blogged about it at the time, but this turned out to be the first of a chain of ailments. He later had diarrhea which lasted almost a week. The week after that he developed a cough, which turned out to be a pneumonia, we spent two days in the hospital for that.. soon after that he had another ailment a combination of stomach bug and sore throat with temperature.

Between the middle of May and today I visited the GP at least five times for Robert and once for myself, it has been rough. In the middle of all that I had two demanding freelance projects to work on and on some days I had to go to my day job… It was just too much.

At times like these, and I am merely human, things start to drop or come close to unraveling.  I needed leave from my daytime job to attend to my son in hospital, and I had to extend both my translation and proofreading assignments. The level of care I took at the household level went to near zero. The chores that did not relate directly or indirectly to the well-being of my son were postponed indefinitely. My clothes lay in a pile,  I wore the same thing two days in a row, and I ate whatever was left on Robert’s plate.  I know it sounds desperate but sometimes you do what you have to do. The worst though was the lack of sleep. I survived on four to five hours of sleep a day and worked every free minute that I had..

Even within my own set of priorities things started to suffer. My son had to put up with a preoccupied mother,  I arrived frequently late at my day job,  I had to phone sick once, and had to leave early at least twice because of my son falling ill at school. It is small wonder under the circumstances, that I neglected this blog.

During this difficult time I also came to realize that the way I am doing things is not working. Sooner or later something is going to give, and I do not want to breakdown or loose my health. I need to be here for Robert.  Some of my responsibilities and commitments need to be rethought, delegated or let go off completely. Maybe then I will have more time to devote to things that give me pleasure like blogging, knitting and reading. Amen.

Cream Cupcakes, Not Guilty ?

When I emailed my mother yesterday and mentioned Robert’s runny tummy, she said maybe he is teething.  I dismissed the notion immediately, because my boy is almost fully grown, how could he be teething again? Besides I was too busy blaming the cream cupcake. I guess I was brainwashed by my ex, who used to claim that even a small ice cream gives him indigestion.

When I picked Robert up from school today he looked tired and unhappy. His teachers told me he has slight temperature and he hadn’t eaten. One of them mentioned teething as well because they noted that one of his cheeks was red and hot. I was still unconvinced until I tried to investigate his gum this evening, and sure enough the gum is swollen on the right bottom side his mouth, so I think we are both going to have some interesting times ahead.

Eating has been almost non-existent, and the runny tummy continues. He also has a little temperature, we are in for some challenging time.

Apart from that the weather in Cape Town is still great, it reached 28 degrees this afternoon. So we did get to the playground, runny tummy and all.

This is another picture of today’s sunset from the playground on the promenade

Two Definitions for Nasty

Robert and I both can attest to the definition of nasty this week.

The little one has been teething and his canines (eye teeth) are giving a lot of trouble. At the beginning of the week I noticed that his top right canine has cut through, and two days later the bottom one followed.  Then of course it was the turn of the teeth on the left side. I saw him during the week rubbing his gums, and even resurrected the teething ring which was a gift from his ex-aunt Jackie. He now frequently asks for it, calling it “bite” and rubs it vigorously against his aching teeth.  I always heard that canines are the worst, and now I know that this is probably true, because this was the first time I saw Robert crying with teething pain. This did not even happen when his four molars erupted at once.  On Thursday, he developed tiny red spots of rash which were localized to the left side of his face. I did not think much about them at the time but on Friday the teachers were worried and asked me to get the ladies at the office to have a look. One of them gave me the diagnosis of “measles” and I was extremely annoyed with her.  She is already out of favor with me because she keeps calling me Mrs Jxxx, which annoys me to no end because I never took my ex-husband’s surname while we were married,  and was definitely not going to start adopting it after I divorced him. Her grim diagnosis not withstanding, Robert was allowed to stay at school, because he simply did not have any other symptoms. The principal said that they will call me if he developed a fever.  As my luck will have it, Robert did develop a little temperature, but only when we got home, and we spent some miserable time on Friday night and all through Saturday. I still maintain that the teething is the culprit, because it is obvious that only his gums are hurting.

While Robert slowly gets used to his teething. I am suffering my own teething pains with the translation project I am currently working on. I have never experienced such slow progress since I started freelance translating. I sleep very little, I eat on the run and only get out to buy the necessities,  but still I cannot seem to catch up. A good friend of mine is in Cape Town on holiday at the moment and I was only able to meet up with her for two short visits, I feel bad but I cannot help it because my deadline is looming and I am not even halfway there. All I want is for this job to end, and I promise myself and my son that I will never ever accept such horrible work.

Guilt Trip

My mother wrote to me today. She has had a bad dream about Robert. He was walking the street, barefoot and crying, and she thought he badly needed a bath and some attention. Her email took me again on a trip I very often travel, the road of feeling guilty. This particular penchant of mine, finding fault in whatever I do and examining my very life made me stick around for nine years with Robert’s father. Now I am torturing myself with the guilt over my son’s state of health when it is completely outside my control.

Yesterday I took another trip to the GP. Robert is still suffering from a runny nose, and his eyes keep getting infected whenever I stop the antibiotic drops. Dr. J. thought that my concerns were valid and wanted to see him again. This time he sat quietly through the test, perhaps he became accustomed to the proddings from doctors, or maybe he is just comfortable with Dr. J.  Even the people at the pharmacy know me now. The woman who burst into tears at the checkout just because her son had a bout of vomiting. The cashier asked me how long I have been in South Africa, I must have looked terribly lost and out of place that day. The adventure at the doctor and the medicines cost me over R500, which is of course a small price to pay for my son’s wellbeing, but still, I am feeling the pinch now that our Medical Savings Account has been depleted.

Now I am an expert at treating the ailment of children. I know that a babies hate eye drops, but the can occasionally be taught to accept their fleeting discomfort; nose spray, in contrast, is a waste of time and no amount of cajoling can make a toddler accept it even near his nose. My futile attempts landed the spray on his cheek and eyelids but never near his nose. I know that every anti biotic requires a pro-biotic, because the medicine kills all types of bacteria indiscriminately, another medicine has to keep the good bacteria alive. Each medicine of course has special techniques of administering : The pro-biotic drops are surreptitiously added to a spoonful of food, while the antibiotic dose has to be given quickly and decisively with the right amount of encouragement before, and overabundant fanfare and hand-clapping after.  All of this of course is exhausting to this poor mother’s nerves.

Still I question whether I am giving my son enough time, perhaps my worries and stress are robbing him of precious bonding time. Maybe I shout too much at him when he plays with washing machine door, destroys his board books, or breaks unbreakable plates. My mother’s email did not help this self doubting side of my personality. I badly need someone to tell me that I am doing my best under the circumstances.

Fourteen Weeks: Runny Tummy Time

It is typical that we have to get sick right after a routine visit to the pediatrician. Robert had a runny tummy over the weekend; there were no painful cramps, but he seemed lethargic and lacking his usual spunk. Today he is a little better, but still not quite right. Hopefully this little thing will get sorted by itself.

Over the weekend we went to the Sea Point Christmas market. There were many interesting things to buy, home industries, jams, sauces, liqueurs, biscuits, chocolates, and lots more. I resisted the impulse to buy and buy. As in all Christmas markets things look pretty, but they are rarely useful. The only thing I would consider useful are the sweets and cookies, but Ron doesn’t like them.
On Saturday we drove to Camps Bay to see the Summer Festival at Camps Bay High School. The trip was a great flop, and at the school grounds there was only a huge sign announcing the cancellation of the event. We hadn’t planned anything else, so it was another nice and hot day wasted. At least we got to walk a little bit on the main road to Camps Bay, which was hopping at this time with tourists. We could have had more summer revellers if the weather wasn’t so fickle. The south easter was blowing again on the weekend, and it keeps pushing cold weather systems into the Cape.

Since our visit to the doctor I started giving Robert one extra feed before I head to bed. He still wakes up at the crack of dawn for his first meal of the day, but at least I know now that he is getting one more meal per day- better than last week. Now that his interest in the outside world is increasing he doesn’t seem to fuss too much about hunger. In fact, he keeps himself amused for a long time in the morning before he finally decides to raise his voice for our attention. He is slowly getting used to the play gym and a few times he carried on a conversation with his reflection on the play-mat’s mirror. He still prefers being held and carried around, though. When I carry him or lift him up, he has the annoying habit of turning his neck to glance backwards over his left shoulder. Initially I thought that he was trying to look at something from this uncomfortable angle, but whenever I turn his body in that direction, his neck remains twisted in the same position, looking backwards. I never know what he is looking for.

Ron is keeping track of Robert’s motor development, and I think his attention to exercising with him makes Robert quite advanced for his age. Even the doctor remarked on his good progress in that area. His head is steady, and demonstrates very little head lag when pulled up to a sitting position. He has mastered almost all gross motor skills for the average fourth months baby. He can now sit with support, and he quite enjoys being wedged in the middle of the leather sofa, or in the corner of his crib. His expression is normally one of amazement at the new perspective.

Rough Times Thrown Into the Mix

After a couple of peaceful days with Robert, today turned out to be a mixed bag of some good time, and a lot of rough times.
First bad thing I noted was that his left eye had worsened. I had to clean it with salt water at every nappy change, but the lids were still glued shut with sticky yellow discharge.

The only good time of the day was taking Robert out in the baby carrier for the first time. We decided to take the chance and inaugurate it, because the weather wasn’t too cold, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. As it was our first trial run with the carrier (or pouch) we took a short circular route around our block, but we still had to stop every few minutes to check on baby’s position, and whether he was okay and still breathing. I don’t think either of us got much out of the walk. Robert, for his part was fast asleep, and was not bothered by our frequent poking and pushing.

By evening the day took a definite turn for the worse. Robert started fussing, and when he finally went to sleep it did not look like it would last very long. I had to eat my dinner in a hurry, to avoid a very likely interruption. My discomfort at gulping such a good meal (oriental chicken with jasmine rice) was compounded by Ron’s talk about loosing my pregnancy weight. The crowning of my day though came when Robert started crying before I even managed to take my empty dish back to the kitchen. This signaled the beginning of a long night shift. Robert had awful cramps and gas, and I spent a miserable night trying to comfort him. I ended up sleeping on the sofa next to him, trying to stay warm under a thin blanket. Of course I did not get much sleep, I only nodded off a few times. Robert and I finally got to bed at 04:00 in the morning.