The Black Dog is back

I’ve got that skin-crawling-uncomfortable-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling again. You know what I mean – or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you’re perfectly happy with your life. Perhaps you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

Black dog

Or perhaps you do.

It has been a familiar companion of mine for years. Like … so long, I can’t remember the first time. It’s the claustraphobic feeling of being trapped and not knowing how to get out of it. It’s the bone-tiredness of not wanting to deal with the everyday drudge that is life. It is the dread of work the next day. Wanting to bury yourself in bed. Guilt that you’re playing the role of a person that is ‘perfectly fine’ but you’re really not. The wanting to not ‘be’.

I usually share these blog posts on Facebook because I know more people there than Twitter (no offence Twitter, but I really don’t get you) and honestly, if you didn’t Facebook it, did it really happen?

But I won’t be doing that with this one.

I don’t want my partner to see it. (Yeah, you guessed it. He’s not a Twitterer.) I feel ashamed of feeling this way. If I was to actually mouth these words out loud to him, I would feel so stupid and ungrateful and at a complete loss to explain why … just no.

He’s seen me in childbirth. I shall spare him this. Try to keep the romance from completely dying out.

Of course, my logical brain – the one that doesn’t get swayed by the huge behemoth that is emotions – knows, or at least suspects, that this is due to being in lockdown for 4 weeks.

And also spending the last 4 weeks averaging 9-10 hr days working from home on things that are slightly outside my comfort zone because of changes in circumstances (yeah-dohy), new opportunities and the desire to appear indispensible should the shizzle hit the fan for our company and hard decisions need to be made.

Ooh. That last point made me tear up. Must be the one I’m most worried about.

So yeah. Not a good place. I do strongly suspect I’m not the only one and this is indeed a traumatic experience that we are all working hard to make light of when in fact it has changed the way we work, play, view our world and plan for the future.

We had a family get-together planned for end of July. Two-thirds of my grown-up kids and my mum were coming over to spend a week in gorgeous Queenstown. We’d booked an AirBnB and paid the deposit and everything. Now we don’t know if they’ll be able to come over. Should NIH and the littlest princess and I still go down there and spend a week in a huge house, just the 3 of us? If the bans on international travel still exist, should we ask local friends if they’d like to join us? Should we see if we can get the booking postponed until another time?

These thoughts swirl around in my head. First world problems, to be sure. But damn, we’ve been planning this for a year! And we are not exactly flush with cash – it’s taken so long to gather the savings to pay for it. But I haven’t seen my grown up kids since last May. Nothing makes me feel the distance as much as now does.

And whilst I can neither confirm nor deny it, there may or may not be an impending addition to the family tree in mid-November. Will I be able to be there to support the arrival of this impending addition? It’s so hard to say – at the moment, we’re just hanging out for contactless takeaways to be reinstated.

So much emotion pressing down, it’s hard to breath at times (no covidesque pun there).

I feel like the proverbial rat in a trap, wanting to gnaw its own leg off to get out yet knowing that’s not an entirely wise course of action. Thoughts and prayers, right?

Thoughts.

And prayers.

Taking notes

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel compelled to blog. Just like that option about relationships on Facebook, it’s complicated.

I do like to think of myself as a storyteller and if I can get a few laughs along the way, all the better.

Perhaps Mr Morley, my 6th Grade teacher, is part of it. Even since he kindly but succinctly critiqued my attempt at a retelling of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” – Michelle, I appreciate your hard work but your writing is verbose – I’ve felt the need to hone my writing skills.

Maybe it’s a way of quieting the voices in my head. I find putting thoughts into words on a page brings clarity and some sense of order.

My love affair with blogging actually started about eight years ago. I was going through (what I hope will be) the most disastrous time in my life. I had the trifecta – career; family; marriage – all in the shitter. There’s no nicer way to put it. Everything was crappy.

I was suffering deep anxiety and depression at the time (of course, had no idea that’s what it was) and I credit taking up writing in a journal for helping me through those really tough days.  I committed to writing one page per day, last thing at night.

At first, it was so very, very trite. My entries read like that nasty classic “What I did in my holidays”. It was just a recount of what I’d done for the day.

At the same time, I discovered you could actually do this on the internet and I started my own blog – The Blah-Blah. Nothing controversial. No deep inner revelations. No dark secrets. It was just like my journal – dull and boring and nothing at all of the real me in there.

Some time later I re-read both the early days of my journal and my blog, knowing full well what was really going on, and I could see how much of a liar I was. There was no hint of any distress at all. They were positively dripping with sweetness and ‘hail-fellow-well-met”.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Then the shit really hit the fan. My dad died. And all the crap came spilling out as life as I knew it exploded around me.

Finally, my journal did what it was supposed to do. It released all the pent-up angst, all the hurt, all the sorrow. Some nights I struggled to condense it all onto just one page.

Unfortunately, my blog took a turn for the worse as well, diving into diatribe. I took a good look at it one day and deleted the whole thing. It had become nothing more than a moan about things that were either out of my control or of my own doing. I felt embarrassed to have all that out for public display.

I kept my journals (there ended up being 5 of them) buried in the back of my cupboard for a few years. I made NIH promise to find them and burn them if I died. He knew everything about me so I wasn’t worried about him reading them (it’s one of the reasons I love him dearly – he knows it all and loves me anyway) but I worried about anyone else finding them.

About three years ago I did a big spring clean. Life was relatively good – there was still that pesky little issue with infertility but apart from that, I loved who I had become and where I was in life.  I pulled the journals out of the cupboard and flicked through them all.

Oh, that me was so sad and lost. Even now, I get a lump in my throat thinking of her. She was a total mess.

So I ripped them apart and burnt all the pages, even those heart-wrenching entries just before and after my dad passed away. The journals had served their purpose and I didn’t need to hold onto all that pain anymore. It was past time to let it all go.

I started “Creative Midlife” as a way of discussing my journey from librarian to graphic designer. It was meant to be a showcase of my work whilst being an amusing little aside at my life – a token diary without too much angst.

I decided to be real but not offensive. I wanted to write stuff that might leave me vulnerable but at least be my truth. I didn’t want to be a liar anymore.

It’s interesting to see how the blog has evolved around my life – first as a foray into a vastly different career, then as an IVF war veteran, then an immigrant to a different country and now as a second-time-around mother. I’m so glad I have kept a written record of the highlights. Sure, it’s not been all wine and roses but still it’s been good.

I don’t think I’ll be deleting it any time soon.

Don’t worry bout a thing …

bob-marleyMost of this pregnancy has been smooth sailing. And I’m not talking about the fun physical changes to me or the little life inside either. I’m talking about the emotional hormonal pregnant woman rollercoaster.

Calm. Happy. Going with the flow. Not particularly worried about anything, really. Just like Bob with a well-lit spliff hanging off his lip.

Until I hit 30 weeks.

And then HELLLOOOO anxiety! Where have you been? You almost missed the party! Only 10 weeks to drive this woman and her poor husband truly crazy before Little Miss arrives and all hell really breaks loose.

It started with antenatal classes. I decided a while back that it was worth doing them because:

a) NIH needs to have the ‘full’ experience and it’s only fair he has some warning of what’s coming; and,
b) it’s been a while and I thought a little refresher course for me couldn’t hurt.

And it was all fine … right up until the end of the first class, when the leader (lecturer? labour whisperer? ) said two little sentences:

“Partners, listen to your wives’ breathing during labour. When she goes from pushing sighing breaths out like this “whewwwwwww” at the end of a contraction, to a deep guttural “wherrrrrrRRRRRRRRR”, that’s a good sign she’s going into second stage and wanting to push.”

When she made that noise, crystal clear memories of that EXACT feeling that hits when you’re getting to the business end of childbirth came rushing in and I barely managed not to exclaim “Holy FUCK!” out loud and scare all those poor sods who don’t know what’s coming.

But I remember now. I know what’s coming. As I explained to NIH later, just because I’ve done it three times before doesn’t mean I like it. I cried at home afterwards.

And since that little meltdown, it’s like I’ve opened the worry flood gates and everything is getting to me.  I spent a good two days sitting at my desk at work with headphones on – not listening to music; not making or taking a phone call – just to stop people from talking to me. I was mortally afraid I’d cry if they asked me a question I couldn’t answer … like “How are you?”.

I am exhausted but only sleep about 4-5 hours a night, waking up at 4am to worry about anything and everything.

I worry about work. I’m currently recruiting for my job and feeling the pressure. What if I can’t find anyone? What if the person I pick is shit? Or – even worse – way better than me?  Will there be enough time to train this person or is my co-worker going to be left carrying the load?  If I’m going to be completely truthful, the biggest fear I have at the moment for work is losing my shit and crying in front of someone.

I worry about money. We are so very fortunate that I qualify for maternity leave here in NZ and get 18 weeks paid plus enough unpaid leave to have a year with Little Miss before heading back to work. But we still have a house back in Oz that we haven’t been able to sell. Luckily, we’ve been able to rent it out for almost a year but it only covers half the mortgage, so we’re picking up the slack on top of the rent we pay here. That’s fine when you have two incomes … but things will be very tight after July.

Of course, I worry about labour. The clock is ticking down to the moment where I will be required to push something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. Last time – in fact, the last two times – I had a hot bath to soak in for most of labour and it worked absolute wonders in taking the pain away and making those hours leading up to the main event much easier to deal with.

We don’t have a bath in our flat. That scares me. The bath was my go-to. I knew it worked. How will I cope with the pain this time?

Of course, there’s the classic – Will she be ok? Is everything going to go smoothly? Will there be complications? And I can’t even bear to think about worst-case scenarios. My mind just completely does a 360 degree turn.

And then there’s the afterwards. I have 18 years of care ahead, starting with nappy changes, breastfeeding, colic and a few years of no sleep.  I’m not in my twenties anymore.

What about my other kids? Sure, they’re grown up and all but how’s this going to affect my relationship with them? Will they like her? Will she understand who they are? When am I ever going to have the money or the time to fly home to see them again?

Around and around and around in my poor shrinking brain cell head.

Funnily enough, now that I’ve written it all down and am reading it back … things really aren’t so bad. I mean, sure, labour is hard and painful but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long.  I can choose a water birth in the pool at the birthing centre or just go in when things start getting interesting and sit in the normal bath to ease the pain.

Nine times out of ten, childbirth goes well. And if it doesn’t, we are very close to the largest teaching hospital on the North Island, with all the medical facilities to cope with emergencies.

My kids are grown ups now, and lovely warm-hearted human beings to boot. They’ll be fine and the addition of Little Miss will only add to our shared relationship. Besides, they have their own lives to lead and don’t rely on me anymore.

I’ll cope with breastfeeding and nappies. I have infinitely more patience than I did 20 years ago and after dealing with three kids under five years old, one tiny baby seems much easier to handle.

The house will re-rent for more money or sell.  And if all else fails, I’ve crunched the numbers and know that we will cope. We won’t be living the life of Riley but to be honest, we will be more interested in sleep than anything else for a while – and that’s free.

Whoever takes over at work will be fine. My co-worker is an awesome teacher and so easy-going. He’ll take care of the newbie. At the end of the day, work will go on without me and I’ll be missed about as much as the proverbial hole in the bucket of water.

In the end, perhaps Bob Marley was onto something … even without the toke on a giant spliff.