Feverish Daze

I do not want to forget how difficult these first few weeks in April were. I was trying to cope with the new environment, the new territory, and the rules of my new house mate. However, I still had to be thankful for having a friend to stay with. I don’t think I could have coped by myself for the first few days. On our second day at our new home I was off from work, Robert was recovering slightly from the injection’s effects and I was busy trying to organize our room and our life. On Thursday I started what will be my routine for the rest of the month for morning shift work. I woke up at six – before sunrise, fed and clothed Robert, then took him in the pram towards his dad’s place. The walk takes about twenty minutes, and I always aimed to get there at seven or just after. I delivered Robert to his dad, with a bottle a change of clothes and diapers then ran down the hill to catch a taxi to work. When my shift was over I picked up Robert and walked back home with him.

The interim arrangement I had for April was to continue in this way, with dad looking after the baby when I worked morning shifts and Lucy, Jackie’s nanny/domestic worker taking over on the afternoons when she is off. Miriam let me completely down and I was left without a back up plan. To complicate matters further, I could not just employ whomever I choose, because Jackie is extremely paranoid about admitting strangers into her place.
I thought that the best solution to work around these problems was for me to work at night. I put in a request through to my managers for permanent night shift work. My rationale was that Robert sleeps through the night, and only needed someone to be there in case he woke up, which he rarely did. I was waiting for an answer for over a week now, and as luck would have it, I received my answer on that first day at work after moving out.
When I was notified by their refusal I was so upset I broke down and cried. It was something I have never done before in a professional environment, and it made me feel so ashamed. It was really enough for me to deal with the humiliation of telling my story, and asking for special working conditions, and now this. What I thought was the perfect solution for my problem was no longer possible but management compromised by allowing me to plan my own schedule, working whenever I can, until such time when my boy can be accepted in day care, and I can have normal working hours like everyone else. I was back to the drawing board on that one, trying to find another plan at work.

As if I did not have enough on my plate, Robert became feverish on Thursday afternoon. I gave him infant drops, bathed him and expected the fever to break quickly but it didn’t. I wasn’t feeling great either, my immune system must have buckled under the strain; I had a runny nose and the symptoms of the cold. I did not feel like facing the floor either, so I called in sick for then next day (Friday) and planned to take Robert to the doctor as well. Early on Friday morning I had a very bad fright; Robert woke up at dawn, and he was boiling hot. I took off all his clothes and started putting cold compresses on him, but I was in panic when the ear thermometer showed 42 degrees. I didn’t know what to do but wake up Robert’s dad and ask him to take us to hospital. In his usual calm manner he pointed out that at a temperature like this the boy would have been comatose, so perhaps it wasn’t correct. So I took another measurement with the rectal thermometer which arrived in Auntie C’s package, and this time the temperature reading was 39 degrees. This was still fever but not a death threat. I gave Robert more infant drops, and stayed up with him giving him cold compresses until he felt a little cooler and went back to sleep.

In the morning I made an appointment for him to see a GP in our area. Since I did not have access to the car I thought I might as well get used to the services available at walking distance from us. My appointment with the doctor was at eleven and after that I had also a meeting with the lawyer at 12 in town. The timing was a little tight but still doable. We took the long walk to the doctor, and made it just in time to see Dr. L. I was impressed with her gentle and thorough manner. It was clear that she was a good physician who was very good with children, she looked like she was expecting one of her own too. Robert’s diagnosis was upper respiratory tract infection, and Dr. L advised symptomatic treatment. She gave him a prescription for a different type of syrup to alternate with the infant drops I was already giving him. She also instructed me to monitor him for the next few days, and bring him for a follow up if the fever didn’t break. On Saturday I was supposed to work an early morning shift starting at five, so I had to get a certificate from Dr. L. to prove the reason for my absence. The last thing I wanted now was trouble with work. After the doctor I had to rush into town to catch my meeting with the lawyer. I had to call Robert’s dad to fetch him, and save me the time and effort of walking all the way up the hill to his place, then running down again to the taxi stop. Ron met me halfway up the hill and I rushed into town.

At the lawyers I had to sign some legal paper, then he gave me an affidavit that needed to be signed in front of a commissioner of oaths. So on my way back I had to make yet another stop at the police station to get this done, before walking back to get Robert. When I arrived he was asleep, and his dad said that he did not mind if I stay with him until he wakes up; he was leaving to gym anyway. While I waited I checked on my internet accounts and downloaded my mail. This turned out to be the last time I would use my computer in a month.

Robert recovered slowly from his ailments and fortunately I had three days off work where I could finally relax from running around. I just sat at home, played with Robert in our backyard, warmed my chilled soul in the gentle autumn sun and read. Jackie is very supportive of us, she loves Robert and interacts with him all the time. He responds to her quickly when she asks him to “clap handies” and loves it when she rough-houses with him. Robert is benefiting from our different styles of play, and Jackie has somehow -at least during playtime- jumped into what is supposed to be dad’s role.
When I am home I still have many things to do. I need to go shopping every other day, because I cannot carry too many groceries while pushing Robert in his pram; I wash our clothes by hand on every dry and sunny day; and I cook us some extremely simple meals. In the meantime I am still taking a lot of emotional strain; I am deeply aware of the chaos of my life, and I find myself craving the perfect order I used to reject in my previous life. I know that I am grasping at the outward order to compensate for the complete emotional and personal collapse. I get stuck on small details, and cannot get past the need to organize things that under normal circumstances I would have found unnecessary. A few days ago I wanted to replace the silicon nipple on Robbie’s bottle, and I walked all the way down our main road, asking in every shop. Then I retraced my way back to the other end of the main road where I finally found a replacement set. The exercise took two hours and Robert and I arrived home past dark, both extremely exhausted. It was one of the few days where I put him to bed without a bath.

Although things are extremely difficult for us at the moment, there are also moments of happiness that shine through, and kindness that comes when least expected. Jackie’s mom bought Robert a set of colourful stacking cups which I am now use for his bath. She also bought him a couple of jars of baby food. I guess Robert now has a Cape Town granny.

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Final Days

Sadly, my days together with Ron are numbered. Throughout this I am still trying to keep an outward facade to my family overseas who know no better. I do not want to add on to their worry. In the midst of all this, Robert’s long awaited Christmas present from Auntie Celia arrives. Its belated arrival made a sad testament to the changed circumstances. I picked the parcel up at the post office, and the it lay unopened for days. So I finally decided to open it and divided the presents, which were supposed to be shared. Ron got the tea, and I kept the chocolates, while Robert got the whole lot of baby goodies and a book.

During the past week Ron and I steered away from each other. He kept his usual morning routine, and at night he went to sleep soundly while I stayed awake, reading news feeds and blogs and writing my own. Just messing around on the internet to shorten the hours of the night and to keep the fear and desperation at bay. Many of my problems do not have solutions yet. Who will look after Robert while I am away at work? How will I manage work in the long term? what will happen next? I try not to think of everything at once, and deal with one problem at a time.

I had to explain my situation at work, thus making myself a novelty and a freak. People who have been at my work long enough know that I have been close to divorce before, and I can imagine the gossip that is spreading on the floor. I endured the pitying looks and asked for some arrangement to my shifts. The first solution that came to my mind was to work 20 hours of night shift every week. I thought that Robert slept through the night, and Jackie is home almost every night so she can keep an ear if he wakes up at night for some reason. I am still waiting for a response for my request, but if it is not granted I really do not know what else to do. Jackie is careful and paranoid about people who enter her house. It will be difficult for me to employ domestic help if they do not meet with her approval.
All these problems I try to forget while Robert and I are together. We are spending many hours at the park, and enjoying our final days there. Once I move in with Jackie it will be a much longer walk here, and I am not sure whether I can come here every day.

Robert crawls now very easily on the grass, and he can sit in the swing for a very long time.

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Miriam did not make it this weekend. She did not answer her phone, return calls or text messages. I was getting a little worried, so I phoned her husband, who told me in a muffled voice that she was in hospital with the little girl. I couldn’t understand anything else, so my active imagination went into over-drive. On Friday, and after many further unanswered calls, I received a message saying that she was in hospital looking after her daughter who has frequent nosebleeds. Of course her absence gave us a lot of problems, but I had worked myself into a worried frenzy, so when I finally heard from her I was relieved more than anything else.

Ron had to look after Robert for two days in a row, when I worked the long weekend shifts 14:00 to 23:00. I really do not like the long shifts anymore. The pressures of work and many other problems are taking their toll. I am trying hard not to transfer my feelings of stress to little Robert. He is getting less of me these days, so I have to make our time together count. The least disruptive shifts so far are the 08:00-12:00 ones. On these days I just wake up early and give Robert his breakfast. He stays awake while we have breakfast, and goes for his first nap shortly after I leave for work. I come home in time for his lunch and later we can take a stroll towards the ocean or to the park. Ron has to fill in for the bath and bedtime on the days when I work 16:15-20:15, and he doesn’t particularly like it. According to him, however, Robert enjoys their time together immensely. He bought him some new toys and clothes this week, and I can see how much he likes the new rattle toys.

These days he is starting to have some mobility, and when his rattle ball rolls he tries to follow it. The other day I put him in the middle of his play gym and went to fetch something from the kitchen. When I came back the play gym was empty, and the little one was on all fours underneath the table where I couldn’t see him from the door. I have to keep a watchful eye on him from now on. Soon he will start pulling things down or pulling himself up against coffee tables.

My friend Kirsten arrived from Germany on Tuesday; she is staying with Jackie. Robert has accompanied me on many visits with her, and whenever the weather cooperated we went for a stroll on the promenade or to the park. Kirsten manged to catch Robert in few interesting poses. For example his South African chilling mode: relaxing with feet up, and only the Castle Lager missing.

Kirsten brought with her some new presents for Robert: T-shirts, socks and a pyjama, all will be useful as the weather cools. Not to be outdone, Jackie chipped in and bought him a teething ring. It is the type that goes in the freezer or fridge and helps cool aching gums; Robert likes it. Mom bought a couple of summer things that he will use next summer at the beach.

Today’s funny picture: Robert crawling in the park. When I took the picture I did not see the comment that is showing right above his head, nor the wheel that he is dragging behind (the rattle ball).