Calling Doctor Google

Driving my baby girl to the ophthalmologist last week, I was bracing myself for the bad news. We had noticed a few weeks before that her right pupil was a lot bigger than her left. A quick consult with Doctor Google and the diagnosis was made. It wasn’t good news. Trusty old Dr G sat me down, held my hand and explained. He was certain it was an optic tumour. The prognosis wasn’t good. He went into great depths with his descriptions of the different types of tumours it could be. He explained that the treatment process would be lengthy. There would most certainly be surgery, which would then likely be followed by radiation and finally, months of chemotherapy. Even after all this, he couldn’t guarantee my daughters outcome.

ImageI was beside myself. I was losing sleep and struggling to keep my worries in check. The panic and anxiety was all consuming. After having worked very hard to kick my comfort eating afflictions this year, I was back with my hand in the cookie jar. I started buying large blocks of chocolate again, and not sharing. A trip to our family doctor for some reassurance was met with a distinct lack of commitment either way, and a hasty referral to the Ophthalmologist was made.

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It was a very long two weeks waiting to see the specialist. My ever efficient mind went to work, busying itself with the planning of logistics. We would surely have to go to Auckland for her treatment. Auckland is an 8 hour drive from Wellington. How would we juggle this? The best plan would be for me to go with my daughter and my husband to stay at home with our son. We’d have to arrange childcare for the days when Mr4 is not in Kindy. Should we just pack up and move back to Australia before the treatment? Would she get better care in Sydney? In all, it was a very productive 2 weeks. By the time our appointment came around, I had all the logistics very clearly mapped out.

Sitting in the clinic room while the Ophthalmologist examined my baby girls’ eye, I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. The palpitations of my heart were thumping at my eardrums, making it hard to hear. I had to work hard to concentrate on what the specialist was saying. He talked about all the different things he looks for when someone presents with an enlarged pupil (which of course I already knew about, thanks to Dr Google). He then said that our baby girl didn’t have any of the other symptoms that would give him cause for concern.

I had to ask him to say that bit again.

She was going to be fine. She simply had one pupil that was about 1mm larger than the other. It was called Physiological Anisocoria, and it was nothing to worry about. Casting my mind back, I recalled Dr Google mentioning something about it possibly being entirely benign. Interesting how we quickly brushed past that fact in our long discussions.

So, thankfully our baby girl is completely healthy. There will be no trips to Auckland for treatment, and family life can continue as normal. Reflecting on all the anxiety of those few weeks, I wonder why, oh, why I consulted with Dr Google over this? He never, ever brings good news; and it’s no secret to me, that he is so very often wrong with his diagnoses. It makes me wonder if he actually has a medical degree!?

Do you consult with Dr Google?

Has he ever given you palpitations?

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Plan B

After a few months of floating in space wondering how the hell we were ever going to get back to Australia, we now have a plan. Another plan. I guess you could call this Plan B. It is not my usual style to have a plan go awry, but that is certainly what has happened so far this year. When we sat down at the end of 2013, we agreed a plan of action that would have us selling our Wellington house and moving back to the Lucky Country by May this year. At the latest. It’s now June. That plan obviously fell through.

Last week, I started making another plan. A different plan. In this plan, I was going to renew my New Zealand Occupational Therapy Practicing Certificate. I have been on maternity leave for a while now, and I am itching to get my business up and running again. I work with children who have developmental problems, and I absolutely love it. I have been treating a friends’ child over the past few weeks, just as a favour. What a revelation this has been for me. It has reminded me just how much I adore being an Occupational Therapist. The difference we can make to a child’s life is nothing short of profound, especially when you have a child and a set of parents who are totally engaged. This taste of my old professional life as made me hungrier to get back into it. I have so many ideas for developing my business, and I’m impatient!

So, I figured since we were still in New Zealand with no real plans of getting out of here that I should just get on and get started with my business ideas here in Wellington. I got out my note pad, and started making a list. I was getting very excited and the ideas were flowing. I have heaps of contacts here in Wellington, and I knew that I would have clients knocking at my door in no time. Hoorah! A plan! This was going to be great!

This past weekend I had a dream. In this dream I was living in Brisbane with my family. It was stinking hot and we were renovating a house. It was a chaotic dream and certainly devoid of any glamour or romance. But we were there, on the other side of the Tasman, getting on with the life we want to be living. When I woke up from this dream I was so totally pissed off. How damn annoying to still be here in Wellington, when the plan was to be in Brisbane by now. It put me in such a bad mood and I just couldn’t shake it off.

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So then I hatched a different plan. Plan B. The plan I referred to at the beginning of this blog. Starting my business up again here in Wellington is a bad idea. Sure, it would be great to sink my teeth into my therapy work here in Wellington, but it would be a distraction. I would be taking my eye off the ball. I need to focus on the Grand Plan, which means selling the house and getting to Australia.

So in the newly revised Plan B, we will spend June getting the house back up to show home status, and by the beginning of July we will have it back on the market. We have decided not to use an agent this time around which means with the money we save we can be more flexible with price. This will mean doing all the sales work ourselves, but it can’t be that hard, right!?

Come hell or high water we will be in Brisbane by the Spring!

Have you ever sold your house without an agent? Any tips welcomed!

Fijian escape and a baby on a bender

The holiday started at a crowded and chaotic Wellington airport. We were off on a much anticipated family trip to Fiji. There was fog; a lot of it; and yes, it was lingering. Air traffic around the city had ground to a halt. Our plans of being poolside, cocktail in hand by 3pm were diminishing fast. The weeks leading up to this trip had been fraught to say the least. The hubby was doing some crazy hours at work (often 12-14 hour days), which left me lone-wrangler to Mr4 years and Ms9 months. Mr4 had also been experiencing some health problems which resulted in some minor surgery just before our trip (thankfully with a positive outcome – phew!). Add to this, the stress of trying to sell a house and voilà, you have one pretty stressed out mama. Yes, I was in desperate need of a nice, relaxing tropical holiday!

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So, back at the airport. With the hubby on his way back home in a taxi to collect his forgotten passport, I found myself in command of a wayward luggage trolley, several large suitcases and two small children, one of which was harnessed to my front, the other manically speeding around the over-crowded Air New Zealand check-in area pretending to be a jet. It occurred to me at this point that things hadn’t started well. In an attempt to quell the rising anxiety, I felt it was time for a little mindfulness. I really needed to put aside the stress of the past weeks and the frustration and uncertainty of how and when we were going to get to Fiji, and just concentrate on what was happening in that very minute. I knew we’d eventually get that poolside cocktail, and I just needed to go with the flow until we got there.

With a passport holding husband back in the fold, we hunkered down, waiting for the fog to lift. Long hours were spent playing any and every child’s game that involved a pen and paper. Every shop in the airport was explored. Twice. We watched the Duke and Duchess of Cambridges’ plane land (interesting how their plane seemed to have no troubles navigating the Wellington fog!?). We ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen for ages. We chatted to other stranded passengers. My husband and I chatted with each other. It was actually a very pleasant family day out. In the end our flight didn’t leave until late afternoon, which meant staying in Auckland overnight and then an early morning flight the next day to Fiji.

By 11am the next day we were there. Hoorah!! The resort was gorgeous. White sandy beaches lined with coconut trees and recliners. Enormous pools that snaked their way around the resort. We had arrived and it was going to be bliss! There was even an adults-only pool, the Holy Grail. Two years ago, we’d had a Fijian family holiday. There were only three of us then, back when Mr4 was Mr2, and Ms9 months was not yet here. Back then, the hubby and I devised the most perfect holiday formula. We would take it in turns (day-on, day-off) to be on child-duty. On your day-off you could chose to do what-ever you liked. I would often spend the morning with the family, but then take my leave in the afternoon, heading straight for the much coveted adults-only pool. Book in one hand; cocktail in the other; the rapturous sound of silence in my ears. What could be better!? We left Fiji feeling renewed and refreshed. Family holidays are awesome!

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Or are they!?

So, the hubby and I figured we’d just apply our winning formula to this holiday. Eeeeeasy! However, there was one particular variable that we failed to factor in; the small matter of Little Ms9 months refusing to sleep in the hotel cot. In order to get our cherub to sleep I ended up having to share a bed with her. Given that Ms9 months is still breast feeding, sharing a bed with the milk truck was just a little too exciting for her. She managed to work her way through the entire week on a constant milk bender. It was almost like she was a teenager away on an end of year schoolies trip, but instead of binging on Midori and lemonade, it was mums milk all the way. The milk truck was exhausted! There was little hope of me catching up on sleep during the day, since our bundle of milk would only sleep in the daylight hours whilst being chauffeured around the resort in either the front pack or pram. The minx! I hasten to add that she sleeps perfectly well in her own cot at home, so this was a complete surprise to us. I spent the entire holiday in a sleep deprived state and feeling utterly wrung out.

Dad, forget sleep, where's the milk truck?

Dad, forget sleep, where’s the milk truck?

Sadly, our winning holiday formula didn’t make it out of the bag this trip. There was no time hanging out by the adults-only pool and neither of the two books I’d packed for the trip made it out of my suitcase (two – what was I thinking!?). We did have lots of family fun though. Mr4 spent hours swimming and digging in the sand. We took a boat trip out to a gorgeous tropical island. We ate out for every meal. The sun shone every single day and the sunsets were just simply stunning. We spent time all together, the four of us as a family.

IMG_6050Since we got back, I’ve been reflecting on the trip and the mismatch between how I thought the holiday would be, and how it actually was. I have come to the conclusion that I have probably been a little selfish in my expectations of what a family holiday should be. Holidays have always brought out the hedonist in me, and I guess this one was no different. Looking back, I now realise that I was so focused on the things I wasn’t doing (i.e.: sleeping, relaxing by the pool, reading my book etc), that I struggled to focus on what I actually was doing. It’s a shame that the mindfulness I had been practicing so well back at Wellington airport didn’t join me for the Fijian leg of the holiday. Family life is busy and family holidays are no exception.

Is there such a thing as a relaxing family holiday? Any tips welcomed!

When the Glitter Rubs Off: Adjusting to a New Baby

In any family, the addition of a new baby brings with it a period of adjustment. The dynamic that once was, will never again be. The new baby of course, has been much yearned for and is a welcomed and treasured member of the family. But the shifting and shuffling that happens after this new little being enters the world can bring many challenges. This has certainly been true for our family since the arrival of our daughter almost 8 months ago.

Our son, Mr4 had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of his new sibling since the moment we told him I was pregnant. He sang songs to the bump and frequently had conversations with it, often planning out the things they would do together… and then when you’re bigger we can take turns on my scooter… After we found out she was a girl, Mr4 was the first one in the family to choose a name for her (which has since become her middle name). As the arrival date got closer, he told me not to worry about setting up the cot, because the new baby would sleep with him in his bed. He had it all sorted out.

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Oh, we were smug, the husband and I, so very smug. We wouldn’t have to worry about all that sibling rivalry business. Oh no, that wasn’t going to happen in our family. Our well balanced, gentle natured little boy would welcome his sister with open arms, and we’d all live happily ever after.

And this was how it was for about the first 6 weeks of our daughters’ life. Mr4 fell instantly and completely in love with his baby sister. We would often find him gazing at her as she slept in her cot, all the while cuddling up to his own little baby doll. He was my helpful little assistant, immediately at hand with a clean muslin, a fresh nappy, a cuddly toy for his sister. It was adorable and just as we had imagined it to be. Ahh, the blissful smugness….

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One morning when our daughter was about 6weeks old, Mr4 dropped a bombshell. The four of us were all snuggled up in bed discussing what dreams we’d had the night before, when from out of the blue Mr4 said ….mama, I think it’s time we put baby in the bin…. And with that, the glitter had quite suddenly rubbed off. Our gentle, caring, doting little son suddenly turned into an irritable, short tempered, tantrum throwing rogue.

The gentle kisses and cheek stroking he had once bestowed upon his sister were soon replaced by rough and vice-like ‘cuddles’. When he thought we weren’t looking, he would stand on her tiny hand as he walked by her or squeeze her cheek just a little too roughly. For months, the littlest thing could trigger a complete meltdown (like not having enough brown sugar on his porridge), and often mid-tanty he’d yell at us that … you hurt my feelings or that …I don’t want you to be in my family anymore… I’m not sure if he was talking to us or his sister in those moments?

It’s safe to say that at this point, we were cured of all smugness.

These were some long, hard months, and in my sleep-deprived state, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. Up until this point, I had always prided myself on my gentle parenting style. And while I knew that Mr4 was grappling with some huge changes, I really struggled to give him the support and reassurance that I knew he needed. My respectful and gentle approach bit the proverbial dust, and I spent most days feeling utterly furious with him and his impossible behaviour. I was rigid and shouty. I used the Disney Chanel and Time Out too often. I’m not proud of my parenting-self when I think about those months.

I think the change started happening when I began paying more attention to my own state of calmness (or lack there of!). By being calm on purpose, I found myself less reactive to every little thing my son did. I can’t emphasise enough how powerful this was. Mr4 and I had created this volatile dynamic, like two sparring roosters fighting beak and claw to the very end. By being calm in the face of his raging anger, there was no longer a battle to be won.

IMG_5737I can now confidently say that I have re-established my gentle and respectful approach to parenting and thankfully feel much more connected with my son. The meltdowns do continue, but gradually they have become less frequent and angst filled, and he seems to recover from them more easily. Mr4 has also started to be kinder and gentler with his sister once again. Interesting how his behaviour seemingly mirrors my own. He has even admitted to me that …it’s good having a baby in the house. I can play with her when you’re busy doing stuff

Have your children struggled with the addition of a new family member?

Did your parenting style change in the face of these new dynamics?