Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Sleep. When you're a parent of small children it becomes an obsession. When I'm awake I'm structuring our day to make sure both boys are stimulated and fed enough (but not too much) to make sure they are perfectly worn out and drowsy at night. When I'm asleep I'm usually concentrating very hard on staying asleep, and praying that I get enough to make it through the next day. Anything that disturbs the balance - a fever, a nightmare, the dog, a thunderstorm, a f**king jackhammer in the daytime, is met with an exhausted rage that would make me cry if only I had the energy. Quite simply, I live, eat and breathe sleep. After 12 weeks of getting 4 consecutive hours at the most, I am barely functioning, and definitely not "firing on all cylinders," as my husband so eloquently puts it. When anyone asks me how I am my response is usually, "so freaking tired." Sleep has become such a precious commodity that if someone offered me a choice between a gift of diamonds, or 24 hours, by myself in a hotel, I would take the sleep without giving it a second thought. It's boring I know, but I cannot think or talk about anything else until I get some sleep.

The old "sleep when the baby sleeps" goes out the window when you also have a toddler, and if there are less than 3 adults in the house, the chance to catch up evaporates faster than my patience. For something so essential to survival, I cannot believe that babies are born not knowing how to sleep. It's not rocket science kiddies! They don't know that they need it and as their parents you need to help them, for your sake as much as theirs. It's a delicate balancing act, and what worked for one kid might have the opposite effect on the other. So my days and nights have been spent tweaking things ever so slightly looking for the magic combination. Charlie doesn't like to be swaddled, and he sleeps better when the fan is on instead of the air-con. We need to give him a dream-feed, something we never did with Josh, and he prefers to go to sleep with white noise in the background, rather than music. It also helps when I am absolutely shattered and don't hear him fussing. I've been getting him up and popping a boob in his mouth whenever he stirred, pre-empting a crying fit which would wake everyone else, but it turns out I didn't need to. Last night we got the balance right, we found the holy grail, and the little guy slept for 12 solid hours! I slept through every whimper and grunt, and when he was done, Charlie just carried on sleeping. The urge to feed woke me before he did (they don't call it a let-down for nothing...) but I know now that he doesn't need to eat as often as I was trying to feed him. I'd be cross with myself for not figuring it out sooner if I wasn't so overjoyed. I feel like a new woman, like I could take on the world. I know there will always be bad nights, and tonight could very well be one of them. If I have learned anything from this parenting gig, it's that things always change just when you think you've got them figured out. But I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

It's official - Charlie can sleep through. Now we just need to convince his big brother to do the same...

For those of you in the same boat, you are not alone. This is old, but it still makes me smile -

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Lottery

I've stolen the title for this post from friends who have recently experienced a devastating loss in the genetic lottery (Read here and here). My heart goes out to them, and while our own genetic shortcomings are nowhere near as traumatic, I can certainly relate to the confusion and guilt and overwhelming sadness that comes with the realisation that procreating isn't going to be as straightforward as you imagine it will be. Seriously, I have no idea how there are 7 billion people on Earth, because it all seems so freaking difficult right now.

With the Pandora's box that we opened on a random Tuesday a few months ago, came a new language, and a whole new set of things to worry about (because as parents, we simply don't worry enough...). Learning 7 months into a pregnancy that you unknowingly passed on a potentially debilitating condition to your firstborn isn't the happy news you hope to hear at that point, and I spent an extremely anxious few months waiting to see if my little BITO was also affected. We have yet to have it confirmed by professionals, but for now it looks like Charlie's eyes are fine (fingers still crossed). We always said that if Charlie escaped any genetic mishaps we'd consider having a 3rd child. It was always in the plan, but that 25% chance of ELeP put a shadow over any dreams we had for a big family. The Geneticist we consulted recently was somewhat helpful in this regard, but we've learned that genetics are a murky business and it really is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I won't bore you with the technicalities of what we have been told but at this stage we have more questions than we have answers. When it comes to future babies, we need to wait until we know more about what has caused ELeP in Josh.

I want to wait, but I can't stop thinking about it. Well-meaning friends and family have told me I shouldn't worry about it for now - there are bigger things to worry about after all. Rest assured, I am still worrying about everything else, but being a very capable multi-tasker, I'm managing to worry about it all at the same time. We've been told we have three options, something to think about until we're ready to think about it some more. We can spin the wheel and take our chances again, knowing that J got off lightly and baby # 3 could have a more serious case of ELeP (in other words, be born blind). This condition doesn't just cause a vision impairment, but an obvious physical deformity of the eyes as well. It's not immediately apparent what is different about J's eyes, but they are definitely different. I've seen some pretty frightening images of others with more serious cases of the condition, and they will haunt me every time I think about how bad it could be. The good news is that, while it won't get any better and his eyesight may deteriorate over time, the deformity itself isn't progressive - a small mercy. But if we took our chances, I'd never forgive myself if we had another baby with ELeP, I couldn't, in good conscience, take such a risk.

We've also been given information on "Assisted Reproduction" - IVF followed by screening of embryos for specific genes. It seems crazy given how easily we reproduce, and it opens up some ethical issues that I'm not entirely comfortable with. While I don't like option A, I like the idea of a "designer baby" even less...  It may be the only way we can have another child that is biologically ours, without the risk of passing on ELeP, but there are so many, almost too many, what ifs in this scenario. Like, what if we end up with twins!? Or what if we go to all this trouble and end up with something else going wrong!!? Is it worth putting ourselves through the physical, emotional and financial toll of this process when we already have two awesome little boys...?

Option C is the least appealing, and that would be admitting that we are done having babies. Our Charlie is only 9 weeks old, but he has been so delightful that I can't bear the thought of never experiencing this again. My life is full, and our family is more than I had ever hoped for, but I'm not sure that I can say it's complete. On learning that we might have to call it quits prematurely my heart broke. If we made this decision, no matter how right the reasons, I would grieve. I am immensely grateful for the two perfect children I have, but it's because they make me so happy that I want more. Is that greedy? Maybe, but the heart wants what it wants.