Lawyers, Telkom, Ex-husbands and Hospitals.

I feel drained and very upset today. My eyes are red and itchy from crying and my head feels like I am suffering from a hangover, but it is just the pent up frustration and depression.

My depression started yesterday afternoon, as I was desperately trying to finish a translation assignment before the deadline. Robbie was hanging around me, crying, cranky, clingy and unhappy. I should have known that something was wrong with him when his teacher at the day care said that he slept during his five hours there. Later he became warmer and I gave him a suppository; but it didn’t do much. His appetite hasn’t been good since he had the ear infection last week, but today he didn’t want to eat anything, and when I managed to get something into his stomach he threw it all up after a few minutes. This is the second time this happens in the last 24 hours. The first time he threw up on Sunday afternoon while we were out for a walk; the mess was phenomenal but he didn’t seem worse for wear, and was quite chirpy while we had a bath so I discounted it as an isolated event and took him to the daycare Monday morning.

As if work and a sick baby was not enough to keep me busy I also had a Telkom technician install my phone line yesterday. The phone proved useless when I wanted to phone Robert’s pediatrician and I had to use my cell phone. The pediatrician advised me to give Robert only liquids tonight and see how he is tomorrow. He told me to bring him into hospital if I was still worried. I was trying to control my feeling of worry, but once my job was safely sent I started to feel guilty and decided that perhaps Robert needed more medical attention. His temperature was still high, he was unhappy, and had a dazed look in his eyes. I had to call my ex-husband to take me of course, and although he agreed readily enough it was again one of those days when I wished I had an alternative.

Robert’s dad moved out of our area, and now lives closer to Cape Town center, so traveling must be an issue for him. By the time he arrived I was getting exasperated and felt my nerves fraying. Robert’s condition probably did not justify my intense reaction but my feeling of helplessness towards his sickness did. When we arrived at the hospital I fumbled with filling forms, and was unable even to remember my own cell number. I felt completely inadequate and emotionally out of control; I did not cry but I dithered and blabbered endlessly. I must have felt sorry for myself and my situation as a single mom. My ex-husband brought up the name of a woman a couple of times; how she helped him move and stored some of his furniture at her place. In contrast I felt alone and helpless, having to rely on him again if I wanted to provide my child with proper medical attention.
I watched the rapport between him and Robert and how my little one preferred him to me as a playmate, even in his sick condition. It brought a lump in my throat to see them together and I wished my ex-husband really had in his heart the love he was outwardly projecting onto his son. I also wished I was in a position to provide my boy with a substitute father.

Between myself, Robert’s dad and a kindly nurse we gave Robert a sponge bath and his temperature was brought down. A terrifyingly young-looking doctor examined him and diagnosed an ear infection. He did not give any medication for the stomach ailment and only prescribed an antibiotic. Obviously Robert’s earlier ear infection was not cured. My conscience bothered me about this one; perhaps I should have given him the whole bottle of anti-biotic, but for god’s sake it was a huge amount that would have lasted 14 days. The GP initially prescribed five days and when I feared that he was developing a cough I continued with it for three more days, what is wrong with that?

On the way home my ex and I spoke and again the name of the woman was dropped and I felt really miserable. I always suspected the existence of a woman, but now she has a name, and I am sure she cares about him (or whom she thinks he is) a great deal. Life is so unfair ! A single man like him gets the help and devotion of some willing woman, while I struggle with my child without any help. Even my supposed friend has decided to shut me out of her life because of a dispute over money.

Yesterday was also supposed to be a good day because I finally received the revenue from the sale of the house in the Eastern Cape. My lawyer’s behavior, however, left a bad taste in my mouth.  He charged me a fee for supervising the sale of the house in Gonubie, and took a dent out of what I figured would be my net sale revenue.  When the house was sold some lawyer in East London (who was contacted presumably by the real estate agent) started the process of transfer. When my lawyer found out he wanted to be in on the process because the order of divorce stated that he was the one who was supposed to do the transfer (and collect the fee from the buyer). From my perspective, I did not give a bent farthing which lawyer did the transfer as long as I did not get to pay anything, and that was what I told my lawyer. His response was : He had to be involved to look after my interest and make sure that I get paid my money, and no I needn’t pay for the transfer.  I did not pay for the transfer, but the dear lawyers decided to share the cake : The purchaser pays the lawyer in East London ( as it is normally the case) the lawyer in Cape Town crooks his client for a fee and everyone is happy : both lawyers get a cut (when normally only one would), and the ex husband gets his money in full (because the lawyer did not act on his behalf duh), and the poor client gets to pay for the pleasure of everyone. Crooks or what? The bill for my lawyer’s “supervision of the transfer” read like a bloody essay and there is not a single thing on there that I couldn’t have done myself for free. The only thing that I might have missed is the commission that they charged me for the occupational rent, but that was about R 1200. So in effect the lawyer charged me four thousand Rands to save me twelve hundred. I was quite unhappy with this and wrote to the lawyer who gave me a discount (returned to me 15% of the fee he unfairly charged me). I accepted the discount because I learned that when one is in a losing position, anything is better than nothing. The business relationship however between me and this lawyer is over. I am going to make some other crook’s day for estate planning (a fancy legal word for writing a will, maybe to justify the horrific fee).

Today things started crumbling further for me when I discovered that what Telkom technicians installed for me was an analog line, and I had to wait another 30 days to upgrade it to DSL. Again, I spent hours on the phone trying to get some sense out of anyone. Mostly perhaps WHY did they install me a normal line when I specifically order a DSL line? I tried to explain to the machine-like people on the other side that I would now be waiting for 2 months to get my internet connection, which was the main reason why I wanted the phone in the first place. Their bland voices just said that they do understand, but in the end Telkom does what Telkom wants and never mind the wishes of the customer. I have had every possible unpleasantness from Tekom, yet they are somehow regarded as above reproach. None of their consultants is ever willing to give you information on how to submit a complaint.

I was still reeling in shock with all these developments, but my baby looked fine and I decided to go to the bank and collect my replacement credit card. I am slowly starting to replace the contents of the wallet I lost over two weeks ago. So I am here standing at the queue, and I it was almost my turn when Robert decided that it is time for another episode of projectile vomiting. This time I was mentally and physically unprepared and I just abandoned the queue and ran out of the bank. At the next block there is the pharmacy where I usually buy our prescriptions, I stopped there to get some tissue and wipe my son up and bought a pack of re-hydration fluid. At the checkout I just broke down and started crying in front of the cashier, who was trying to tell me that things will be alright, but at that point all I could think of was : Enough Already !!! I am done.

At home I was in for another episode of dealing with a sickly child. Cleaning him up, trying to make him eat, trying to get him to drink and wiping up the resulting mess, from his face, from the floor and the carpet. Tomorrow I am taking him to his regular pediatrician which means another call to a reluctant father and another unpleasant day, but let us just get over this one first.

What Am I Doing Wrong?

I finally got around taking Robert for his Chicken Pox immunization. The logistics got complicated by Jackie working. I had asked my friend Jenny to give me a lift there on Wednesday, but on the day I first had to wait until Jackie’s mom came with the municipality evaluator. Residential properties were re-evaluated by the Municipal Council last year, and the property taxes were calculated accordingly. Most people found that they have to pay a lot more to the Municipality as a result, and therefore opted to try and re-evaluate. Jackie’s mom is one of these people, and I can’t blame her. Jenny came right after that business was finished and we headed to Cape Town Mediclinic. Nurse B has now seen me twice without Robert’s father, and if she wondered what the story was she never said anything. Robert had his injection and was good as usual. The shocking realization for me however, was his weight.
He did not put on any weight in the last month and is now clearly below average. This trend started already last month, but the difference now is almost one whole kilogram, I was very worried for a second there.
The conclusion that the nurse drew from questioning me was that he was not drinking enough milk. A baby his age is supposed to drink 750ml of formula day and in Robert’s case I would be lucky if he finished 250ml; this excludes the one or two feeds he gets daily from the breast, which are impossible to measure. Nurse B followed with a number of suggestions like sprinkling his veggies with olive oil to add more calories, and feeding him cheese. The main thing however was to increase his intake of formula. She tried to calm my panic by pointing out that his height continues to be above average, my feelings of guilt however remain strong, and throughout the day I kept asking myself what I had been doing wrong in the past months. It is not good enough to make excuses and cite the strange living conditions and circumstances; I am the child’s mother and I am supposed to put him first. Up until now he has been a good child, but feeding him is a bit of a struggle because he is always interested in what’s going on around him, and does not sit down willingly for a longer period of time. I try tying him down on the feeding chair, but my success there is also limited. I will have to dry harder before my next visit to the nurse.

Robert’s measurements for the day : Weight 9400 g; Height 76cm; Head Circumference 45.8 cm.

It was one of those warm winter days today, and Jenny and I spent the day around her neck of the wood in Vredehoek. The area nestles up high below the flat summit of Table Mountain, and is traditionally very windy, but on the calm days like today it affords a great view over the city bowl towards Table Bay and beyond. You can see Robben Island if the sky is clear of fog or haze. We walked around negotiating hiking trails with the stroller, and then Jen took us to an abandoned quarry. We walked through an abandoned tunnel, and once we emerged out into the sunshine, the whole noise and hubbub of the city had disappeared and there was only the peace of the mountain wall and the calm pool of the abandoned quarry pit. Robert found the stones and pebbles fascinating, but Jen and I just hung out in the sunshine, we talked about work, and life in general and it was a very pleasant time.
Later we had lunch at her place, wonderful German bread with Wurst from the German bakery in town. Her quaint flat and the lovely area made me again yearn for a place of my own, where I can start building a life for myself and Robert.

When I arrived home I started what will become a quest for stuffing more and more food into my son. I kept the bottle of formula ready at all time, and tried to give it to him whenever I had a chance. I cut chunks of cheese and gave them for him to nibble on. I even sprinkled olive oil on food as the nurse suggested.

Apart from my feelings of inadequacy and guilt, I had a good day. Jen was recently in Germany and brought Robert a nice present. A soft toy, that can be also used as a sponge for the bath, I am going to call her Patty, although she is a bear ( I don’t understand why all teddies have to be male). She also bought a cuddly blanket, which will sure become a hit with the little one, he snuggled to sleep with it tonight.

First Weight Assessment

Today we wanted to take Robert for his first weight assessment at the Well Baby Clinic. Sister B is available for walk-in consultations on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, whereas on Tuesdays and Thursdays she is only there by appointment.

Robert woke up this morning with a wet nappy which completely soaked his clothes, so we used the opportunity to give him a bath. This time everyone –including Robert- had better control over the situation. Ron had the idea of using a wet flannel to cover baby in the bath, and that helped keep him warm in our chilly bathroom. Robert did not complain about bathing at all after that.

When Robert had his feeding we headed straight to the clinic. This was our first ride in the car with him since coming back from hospital, and Ron had to revisit his strategy for buckling and unbuckling the car-seat. He got the procedure figured out after a couple of practice runs, and I do not think he will have to wrestle with an anaconda seatbelt again. Unlike our trip from the hospital last week, it was overcast and rainy today, but I still took the backseat next to Robert. I needn’t have worried because he slept as soon as the car started moving, and was still asleep when we carried him in his chair into the clinic.

It was amazing to see all the little babies with their moms and dads. Our little one was by far the youngest and the most fragile-looking. The five and six-week olds looked huge in comparison.

He weighed in at 3.24 kg, which is still less than his birth weight. According to the nurse his weight gain of 140 grams is on the slow side since breastfed babies are expected to gain between 150 to 250 grams per week. I explained to her the mishap I had with feeding earlier, and she said that this could have affected his weight. I showed her his left eye where the yellowish discharge was getting worse. His eyelids were glued shut because of it. She advised regular washing with sterile cotton dipped in salt water. She also recommended some ointment for sore breasts, which I planned to get then forgot with the confusion that accompanied our departure from the clinic.
Ron and I did not have the moves quite right; I got on his nerves with my usual slow and deliberate dressing and undressing of baby, which in turn made me fumble even more. I don’t think anyone else noticed, and if they did they would have just put it down to the obvious lack in experience. Sister B. advised that we should come in next week for another weight assessment to check again on Robert’s progress.

Robert’s little outing did not alter his good mood, and he kept on his feeding and napping schedule, which gave me another chance to go for a walk on the promenade on this cloudy afternoon. He was also sleeping in time for supper, so Ron and I could enjoy our nice steaks and then tea and cake. We are so lucky to have such a good baby.