Thursday, 7 May 2009

from over here to over there

I am supposed to be at work today, and I was supposed to be at work yesterday. Instead I am wandering around the house wrapped up in scarves and wheat packs, coughing and wheezing. If I sit really still I can almost feel like I am getting better, but as soon as I do anything that requires the slightest physical exertion, or if I lie down, my lungs start drowning, my heart starts thumping and I am under no illusions.

I am at that depressive stage of my illness cycle.

A few weeks ago Wil got a cough that wouldn't go away and that led to several cough till you spew episodes. Totally delightful, especially at 2am. I confess that at least once in the darkest moments of the following weeks I simply picked him up out of the cot, laid a fluffy towel over the offending wet patch and put him back down.

So his cold was rumbling along and then D went away and the very next day Amy had an emotional outburst which screamed illness coming! And sure enough within a few hours she was vomiting fit to burst. The trouble is, with Amy you can never tell whether vomiting signals a stomach problem or something else, since a chuck is her standard response to any kind of problem. So I had my fingers crossed that it was just the cold coming on and we'd have a relatively peaceful night.

Instead we had the night from hell, starting at 9pm or so when Amy surrendered all control over bodily functions and I started changing sheets and PJs on an hourly basis between her fitful 30 minute naps. Of course mid her nap cycle Wil chose as his wake time, so for the next six or so hours I was up to one or other child every 20 or 30 minutes.

I used pretty much every sheet, doona cover, towel and PJ in the house, washed sick buckets, wiped noses, showered, filled water bottles and hung out washing and all on one of the coldest nights I can recall. Amy finally fell properly asleep at 3.30am and at 4.30am Wil declared it was morning time.

And at the first decent hour I rang David and hysterically told him I just couldn't do this parenting on my own thing anymore and that if I sounded a bit extreme it was because I had just been through an extreme experience - there were three loads of washing covered in shit still to do! - and now I was looking down the barrel of another day home alone with 2 sick kids - one still shooting from both ends at hourly intervals (and you know how I feel about vomit - it is not my thing!) - and I had no sleep at all and no end in sight and tomorrow I have to teach a 6 hour workshop and (cough) I can feel illness taking hold in me too.

I should be familiar with this cycle, I mean I am familiar with this cycle but it just doesn't make it any easier knowing it is just a cycle. The kids get sick, and I get no sleep, doubly so if D is away which is quite often. We all get stuck indoors together, sharing germs, eating poorly, getting on each others nerves, not sleeping and getting crankier.

Then I get sick, which completely undermines any coping skills I do have, and means I can't go to work which depresses me enormously. I know, there was a time I used to love a sickie too, but these days I love to get to work and when you work two days a week it doesn't take much sickness and you're missing whole weeks.

Then we do the rounds of doctors visits (which is particularly fun if D isn't around because it means taxis and strapping a thrashing 2 year old to me in a car safe pouch) for whoever hasn't managed to recover on their own, which is usually at least me since I no longer produce a particular kind of immunity that gets me past anything associated with my respiratory tract, and that means drugs. And then we start to recover (I'm the slowest out of all of us of course) and then just as I can taste the beginning of the end I get asthma.

So today as I was determining that I would most definitely make it to work, and got up and ventolined by lungs inside and out and showered and put on fancy duds and make up and all, I only made it as far as the tram stop before I knew I couldn't go any further. Despite my steely resolve, and the pull of a really fantastic training course I was booked to start today (having pulled out last year due to illness), there was really no way that pushing myself was going to work.

The thing I am learning about asthma is that it is kind of like a kid with a tantrum. You can't fight it, or reason with it or force it into submission. Restoring order takes time and patience and calm. A time just sitting and being with the frustration and anger and sadness of the injustice of it all. Waiting for things to settle in their own good time, for the tightness to ease, for things to open up and start working again.

Yesterday as I could feel the asthma creeping in as the fever of the cold was subsiding I was thinking about a line I read recently about motherhood. I read it in a article, but I think it was actually a quote from somewhere else and I kept the article but I can't find it now. The author wrote that she had imagined when she fell pregnant that motherhood would be like being a foreign correspondent, sending dispatches home. But on becoming a mother she realised that motherhood had become home and everywhere else was now a foreign place.

I was so struck when I read this by how closely it resembled my expectations and then experiences of becoming a mother, about how instantly and completely everything had changed because I had changed. No one could share the experience from over there any more than I could fully comprehend the experiences of people who had lost a child or been addicted to gambling or won a million dollars, people who resided in other foreign lands.

With those words in my head I sometimes look back on the PC days - the pre children days - and they do seem deeply foreign to me. Sometimes, on bad days, I feel keenly the impossibility of ever returning and the foolishness of my own insularity when I lived there.

But yesterday I was thinking about how illness, particularly recurrent and chronic illness has the same transportive qualities, only worse since you neither chose to come nor get any upside to being there. The land of good health is now the far off shore, the place where other people live and the gulf is so much wider and more impassable than you ever understood before. The compound effects of illness so quickly stack up that even where the physical ailment leaves you with some capacity, it is hard to release yourself from the feelings of fear and loneliness and frustration.

So today I am here with my tantruming lungs, doing my best to sing them a lullaby of happy music and talk them down off the ledge so together we can return to the place we used to live. I am trying hard not to think about all the things I would rather be doing, or the things I really need to be doing, and thus trying to hurry things along prematurely.

Also and less depressingly my mind is somewhat preoccupied with the many scenarios which constitute the possibilities for our sabbatical trip. You may recall our original plan was to move to Darwin for the second half of this year, and you may also recall a few lines here about the difficulty we've had with finding both a tenant for our house and a place to stay in Darwin. As the time to depart gets closer these things do not appear to be falling into place as we'd hoped.


So we have been forced into exploring a few other possibilities, changing dates, possibly changing destinations, radically changing the deal around work and childcare and other projects. And I won't complain about this - really I know and genuinely feel very fortunate to be able to contemplate another great big adventure - but it is proving to be very confusing for me.

Where do I really want to go? As long as it is warm we really could go pretty much anywhere, so is Darwin,or anywhere in Australia the right place? But if we go somewhere other than Australia that probably cuts out me working in anything like my current day job, but might that be a good thing? Could I find some other kind of project that could develop me professionally, or earn me a little money doing something remotely? And what about the kids? What kind of school/childcare configuration could work and how would we deal with getting a place/cost/location and transport issues and what if the kids didn't like it?

All this makes me reflect that my decision making behaviour is clearly divided into two streams - either fairly linear or jump off the cliff style. I like a straightforward set of variables that I can contemplate, research and decide or to grab some kind of unknown but predetermined set of options that just present themselves as a going concern. The big leaps I have made have been just that - come here! do this! - and I did. India on my own as a young lass. No idea, just went. Thailand as a depressed young mum. Nothing to lose.

But this one is the 'time to buy a new camera' decision only much much bigger. There are almost no concrete parameters, but endless options, a thousand opinions, lots of pitfalls, and not nearly enough real information. I feel like I have no basis for assessing any of the possibilities and all the variables seem interdependent and yet entirely unstable. So I am spending my days down the rabbit holes of international schools, visa conditions, correspondence courses, childcare centres, real estate agents and the occasional day dream about writing a book or eating smashed catfish salad whilst on the banks of a lush river...

So forgive me if I seem a little scattered and self absorbed, well more so than usual. Truth is, I have absolutely no idea what's gong to happen next.


sueeeus said...

First, my deepest wishes for you and your family's swift recovery.
Second, I think you've got a great way with words. You express things so very well in writing. (In person too.)
Third, I'm glad to hear "my decision making behaviour is clearly divided into two streams - either fairly linear or jump off the cliff style" --you're SO not alone!

trashalou said...

I hear you on lots of this post but especially on the having gone through every item of clean bed linen in the house and having to use towels as sheets. (Plus I too have covered over the damp patch and let the exhausted child sleep).

Tania said...

Whoa. I thought things were getting a bit out of control here but I'll just thank goodness for small mercies and a house currently free from lergies (touching wood, as I type).

I truly hope that things start heading on the up in a very speedy fashion, that the fog clears and suddenly all that needs to be done and decided is seen with great clarity.

thetwowindmills said...

Gosh, that sounds terrible. Hope you all recover soon, or at least get a linen service. I am not sure what to say re: the life changes, I find it so hard, myself, to not have everything planned out.

Leonie said...

We had that bug, where the baby then 15 months, had the coughs that ended in vomits, every single time he coughed and he coughed multiple times a day for about 6 weeks, not pretty. I hope you do get the time and space to recover and that your crazy up in the air plans for the remainder of the year settle down and make themselves clear to you.

Ali said...

Sounds like you have a lot of balls in the air just now.

Some wise person once told me that only small, minor decisions can be made rationally. For big ones, there are simply too many variables to be able to use logic to reach a conclusion. These are the times to go with your gut and jump. All the nitty gritty can usually be worked out if you can just commit yourself to making the leap.

And that is possibly one of the most hopeless helpful comments I've ever left. I should have cut my losses with 'get well soon'.

travellersyarn said...

Hope you feel better. I have just realised that the 6 year old is not the only sick one here.... I have covered vomit with towels and then gone back to sleep. I have also changed into clean sheets, and then put towels on top of the sheets, so that only the towels need to be changed. I am sure this makes me a bad mother.

I loved the bit about motherhood having become home. 2 weeks ago I was trying to explain motherhood to a friend who was just about to have her first child. I just blithered on about birth inspiring a soup of hormones that irrevocably changed your brain....

Jump off the cliff. You will find work (even if that is a struggle) and moving a family overseas can not be planned to the enth degree. If you do move overseas, the biggest issue to pre-plan is health insurance, and then the kids education. Everything else can be worked out. Families live in other courties too!

CK said...

From all the wonderful blogs, yours is the one I come to first. Your expression of the truth is what draws me in mostly. And those truths I often experience myself, being a parent. I truely wish a short illness cycle for you. I wish you a long spell of health before you have to deal with sickness again.


Melanie said...

Holy Crappy few weeks Sooz, I feel your pain. We've only had a part of what you're dealing with - the coughs and (ahem) explosions from both ends (all family members), plus a newborn, but dealing with it alone is the worst part of all - I have at least had another parent to share the load a bit. I sincerely think the universe should cut you a break now. Oh, and I'm not going to end with a 'something will come along' style bit of 'wisdom', but I hope it does, anyway.

eeloh said...

my God. I thought I'd only read the blog a few days ago, but it seems I've missed out on... well, all this stuff. You poor thing. that is the night from hell. Far out!
You're a great writer! You're just miserable cause you're rundown.

I am definitely in at work tomorrow if you want to catch up for a coffee/lunch. sorry the last few weeks have been crazy. First Piaf got sick thrice in two weeks, then my work got full on. now it's at a nice simmer. so... if you're there and up for it, lemme know.
Btw, I've found a Pilates/yoga place around the corner that do lunchtime classes. keeps me sane. i think.
if not, take care...

Anja said...

Oh. This is us. I only have one child, but as I'm typing I have ventolined-but-still-not-functioning lungs, an absent husband and a boy who fortunately isn't sick, but who is stressed and teething. No doubt, you've got it worse, but my I can recognise your feelings. And you're not a bad mother, by the way.