Feature Mum Friday: Therese

Hi, I’m Therese.

Thanks Sustayable Me for inviting me to be in your fabulous Feature Mum Friday.

I’m a mother, wife, teacher, creative gentle explorer.  I take life seriously but try to have fun along the way. It is the mother role I take most seriously, perhaps too seriously.  I am worried I’m going to screw my kids up and if I don’t screw them up I’m worried they will die, or both.  Why do I think like this?  I’m not entirely sure.  I’m just a naturally anxious person?  Or whether it is because my first experience with motherhood was blotted with trauma, pain and loss.

You see I am mum to three children but when I am asked I say I have two kids.  The pain of remembering and explaining is too much.  I have two boys, Dezzy is almost 5 and Jason is three.  They are about 18 months apart.

Ten years ago I also had a tiny, perfect baby girl, Sigourney.  She was born with trisomy 18. A genetic ‘incompatible’ with life.  She went undiagnosed through my pregnancy, I had declined genetic testing thinking that the testing was only for Down Syndrome (trisomy 21).  I wish I had done the testing.  It would have empowered my husband and I to make more informed decisions.  I think we perhaps would have carried on with the pregnancy but birthed her the way I had planned as a natural water birth at home.  She most likely would have been stillborn if left be born this way and it would have been the best and most peaceful life and death for her.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know the little one growing inside me had trisomy 18 so we carried on with my pregnancy excitedly preparing ourselves and our home for a baby.

I had a terrible gut feeling that my midwife wasn’t right and swapped midwives at about 35 weeks.   Chris was beautiful, caring, sensitive and had excellent knowledge and skills.  She was concerned that baby was small for dates so suggested that I could go along for an ultrasound.  She encouraged me to be mindful about my choice because it could change the direction of our story.

I went for the ultrasound at around 36 weeks.  The sonographer quickly grew quiet, little beads of sweat forming on his forehead.  It was not good.  He put his hands gently on mine and looked me in the eye.  He said baby wasn’t growing well, she was well below the 5th percentile and that placental flow wasn’t right, baby would need to come out soon if she was to survive.  He called my midwife. Told me to go home and have a cup of tea, she would come over as soon as she could.  I called my husband Jeremy.

I don’t remember how I drove home that day.  I was in a panic, frozen in fear. At home we decided that we would go to hospital.  We packed our bags.  Had a quick Thai takeaway dinner and headed to Waitakere Hospital.  They didn’t really want us there.  At about midnight they decided that the baby I was carrying was definably too small to be delivered in their hospital so they sent us to Auckland Hospital.  They were going to send me in an ambulance but after much negotiating Chris managed to convince them that she could be trusted to take us in her car.  They seemed worried that we might take things into our own hands and not front up to the hospital.

Finally arriving in Chris’s Combi at Auckland hospital  we eventually meet an Obstetrician who is willing to make a decision.  Baby is too small to survive a vaginal birth, we need to have a C-section and we need to do it now.  I was so scared.  For me for our baby.

The C-section hurt like hell.  It wasn’t right.  She came out.  She was so tiny.  She wasn’t right.  Didn’t make a sound.  She was alive.

They took her away.  Stitched me up.  Jeremy was asked to go with baby.  I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t want him to leave me.  Stay.  Go.  Be with her.  Stay. I don’t remember.  Blank.  Blackout.

I had to learn to express.  I signed something saying they were allowed to give her formula.  I don’t remember.  My husband says do we want that?  No we don’t.  I say no we don’t.  The registrar tells me I am being irresponsible.  I cannot breast feed my baby.  I stay up all night squeezing milk from my breasts into tiny syringes. I proved her wrong.

About 12 hours after her birth the geneticists and paediatricians come.  Talk to us.  Their words swim over me I don’t understand, I’m floating, not really there.  She will die.  Days, weeks, maybe months.  She will die.  Jeremy doesn’t believe them.  Refused to believe them.

We fight for her.  I don’t leave her side.  We aren’t offered infant CPR training like the other parents of tiny babies in NICU.  If our little one stopped breathing we were meant to let her go.  Watch her die.

Ten days later we take her home.  We tube fed her to start with.  She wasn’t strong or coordinated enough to breast feed.  Eventually we worked out a system where we could use a supplementally nursing system with my breast milk which was pretty close to breast-feeding but less tiring for Sigourney.  This felt better.  She was feeding herself, keeping herself alive.  I wasn’t force feeding her, keeping her alive when she shouldn’t be.  She fed, she would often choke, stop breathing, scream, dark yellow eyes, pain and shock, she  looked like she had died.  Floppy, pale, grey, lifeless.  Then she would gasp and come back to life.  Over and Over again.  Pain.  Morphine. Pain. She lived for four months.  It was torture.  For her, for me, for my husband.  For my mum who came over to help.  For Jeremy’s mum.  For my good friend Jo who gave herself to us and Siggy.

Feature Mum Friday
Siggy, six weeks old

She died, it was horrible, I held her.  I will never be the same again.  I want to forget. It didn’t happen.  Too much pain.  It is not fair. Life isn’t fair.  I didn’t know.  I know now.

In the year before Siggy and after I had a bit of a roller coaster with lots of momentous experiences started a new career,  got married, became a foster mum to 16 year old girl, became pregnant, moved from Tasmanian to NZ following my husband’s work, had a baby, sick baby, baby died, separated from my husband.

I think the fact that Siggy’s birth and death was in the middle of all these other significant events made it even more traumatic for me.  After her death I spun into a deep, dark depression, lost in the world, angry and full of anxiety.  It has been a long road trying to recover from that.  Eventually my husband and I grew back together as we both healed.  It took me six years to be ready to try for another baby.  I thought I never would be ready.  And it is true, I’m not ready, I’m not good enough, I’m not brave enough, the world isn’t safe enough.  But yet, here I am, a mother to two beautiful boys who I live for.  That is who I am.  A very long introduction.  But how else am I to introduce myself?

What does a typical Friday look like?

There is a saying that children are not empty vessels to filled.  But I kind of think they are.  Not to be filled with knowledge and facts but to be filled with love and sensory experiences which will make them who they are.  I try to fill my boys lives with rich experiences in the bush, at the beach, parks, rivers, swimming, jumping, riding, wrestling.  Fill them up with fun, challenging, risky stuff.  Let them explore, be wild, be free.  I really like this quote:

‘The best thing we can do to support learning in children (or adults for that matter) is to provide as many diverse, visceral experiences as possible. When it comes to formal education, then, building a strong foundation for creativity in students involves broadening the types of experiences we provide them with. The more children see, hear and experience, the more they will expand their senses of possibility, the more elements of reality they have in their repertoire, the more productive their imaginations can be. The more energetic and lively children’s imaginations, the more facts in their minds will find themselves in new combinations.’  (cited in Cultivating Curiosity, Ostroff, 2016)

That is what I try to do with our Fridays and every other day I am with my boys.

Feature Mum Friday
Therese and Jason

What is the best thing about becoming a mum?

Seeing the world again through the eyes of a child.  Their sense of wonder and curiosity is beautiful.  I love to see their joy.

What can you do to get a giggle out of your children?

My boys laugh easily and often.  Dezzy even laughs in his sleep.  I don’t think I make them laugh, they make each other laugh and find things that they see and hear around them amusing especially words like bottom, fart and poo.

What is the biggest challenge at the moment

I am struggling with depression and anxiety.  I am never good enough.  I find it hard to just be in the moment with my boys, anxiety haunts me and tries to steal away the joy of the moment.

How do you handle the days/times when nothing goes right?

I drink.  It is not good.  I know.  I’m trying to stop.  Trying to use a healthy alternative like mindfulness, breathing, and exercise.  I’m working on it.

And I scream.  I haven’t  done it often, only twice really, but I really scream.  Not at the boys.  At the world.  Like a wild animal who has lost its baby.  I scream.  It scared the boys.  I don’t want to do it again.  I pat my puppy.  She is 9 months old.  She has been the best therapy.

What do you miss most about your life before children?

Sleep and time to myself to do nothing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new mums?

Do it your way!

Feature Mum Friday
Dezzy and Jason

Thank you Therese, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your story.

If you would like to be a Feature Mum please email me. jane@sustayableme.com

Feature Mum Friday: Katey

Hey there. I’m Katey, Sydney-based mother of four boys, lover of chocolate, a good cup of tea and the ocean.

Katey Feature Mum Friday Sustayable Me
This is Katey when she has to make an effort but is very tired.

I studied early childhood education at university and have been a preschool teacher since 2004. My favourite age to teach is the threes and fours. They still have that amazing childhood innocence but also have the language to ask about and interpret the world around them.

A typical Friday in my house goes a little like this:

Wake between 5:30 and 6am. And by wake I mean get rudely awoken by a baby crying or a five year old asking for a shower or a three year old asking for breakfast.

Feed and change baby. Feed the three other boys. Feed myself. Put baby back to bed. Make school lunch for the two big boys. Get them all dressed. Baby wakes up, put him in the pram. All five of us walk up to school and deposit two children there for the next six hours.

Come home and curse the cleaning fairy for not coming while I was out. What happens next depends on my mood or sleep levels from the night before.

I will either tidy up, sit on my butt, go to the shops, hang out with friends.

Then Sam has swimming lessons st 11:30, which I often forget about. Home again for lunch, another sleep for baby Leo and rest time for Sam and I.

I’ll usually try to cook dinner before I pick up Hayden and Noah from school. Sometimes I’m successful, often I’m not.

Then its school pick up, afternoon tea, play, Hayden to indoor soccer, dinner, bath and bed.

The best thing about having children is being able to call myself a mother. There is so much that goes along it’s that such as seeing the world through their eyes, knowing unconditional love, learning so much about myself, meeting fellow rock star mothers.

I have been lucky enough to grow four new people inside me. I’ve experienced a Caesarian birth, a vacuum birth, two normal vaginal births. I’ve tried breastfeeding and hated it.

Having children is incredibly grounding and brings everything back to basics. And that is a wonderfully freeing way to live.

To get a giggle out of my children changes with their ages. But there is nothing like the sound of children laughing. You can’t help but laugh along with them!

The biggest challenge for me at the moment is trying to get everything done to keep the family afloat, along with making time for fun with the kids, as well as looking after myself, all on limited sleep. Some days are way more challenging than others, but I’m learning to let go of my own standards sometimes. It’s ok to leave the washing up til the morning if you’re too shattered to face it.

When nothing goes right I just succumb to the fact that there’s no point fighting against it. Embrace the crazy, let go of your own rules and pick up again tomorrow. There’s no one judging you except yourself, and you need to give yourself a break.

Ask for help, send a text to a friend saying you’re having a shitty day, have some chocolate, have a shower. It really will all be ok. I’ve found sending a text or calling someone shares your crap day, which makes it seem way less crappy!!!

I miss having the time to relax and do things at my own pace. I can’t say I miss only thinking about myself as I was constantly thinking of others and what I could do to help before kids came along.

I miss being able to wake naturally. I miss being able to sit in a silent room in the sunshine and read a book. I miss a clean house. I miss disposable income. I miss that feeling of going out with friends and not watching the clock as it gets later and later and you know you’ll be woken up very early the next day.

To the new mum: enjoy one part of each day. Even if it’s just a smile from your Bub. You’ll look back on this time fondly and wish you’d soaked up more of the baby time.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Soon enough you’ll be wearing someone else’s wee, poo, vomit or all three.

Be kind. Especially to other mums. You don’t know how much they’re struggling behind closed doors.

Be honest. Other mums will appreciate it far more than you realise. Share your stories of losing the plot or exploding poos or being woken every hour through the night.  Everyone struggles from time to time, or all the time. Pretending everything is ok is just unrealistic.

Katey is my local mum friend whom I met through parent group. She is an inspiration for me as a mum and as a blogger. She has a brilliant blog Hello 1am.

Thanks for reading and thank you Katey!