A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: May 2009

Well it had to happen sooner or later.  Last weekend we had our very first trip to hospital with Birdy.  I suppose I should be pleased we got to two and a half without any major misadventures, but I was suprised by just how affected I was emotionally by the experience.

Birdy had had a temperature of 39.5 for two days and the GP was quite worried by how lethargic she was.   She’d done nothing but sit on my lap crying for the entire time.  She couldn’t even walk across the room, let alone eat or drink hardly anything.  So the GP packed us off to the Children’s Hospital to get some tests done.

The worst bit was having to physically pin her to the bed while they put a catheter up her, then holding her down for ten minutes, while she screamed hysterically when they did the blood test.  And then to top it all off, when we got home again, she wouldn’t let me touch her at all, because I’d pinned her down while all sorts of strangers did nasty things to her.  So I was Public Enemy Number One for the rest of the day. 

Birdy’s fine now.  It was just a virus.  But while we were at the hospital waiting for our results, we saw a young girl in the cafeteria who was really in a bad way.  She was rake thin and half her hair had fallen out and it was just heartbreaking to see.  And as we left the Children’s Hospital, I noticed a sign to the oncology ward and I just couldn’t imagine how terrible it must be to have a child with cancer.  Or to have any child who might not survive.  And I went home feeling so grateful to have such a healthy girl.

Do you remember your first trip to hospital with your child?  What was the experience like?  If your child is accident prone, perhaps hospital has become a second home for you….  If you have a child with a more serious illness or disability, how has your family coped?

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Me: “I’m having a nice cup of Mother’s Day tea in my new Mother’s Day cup.”

Birdy: (correcting me)  It’s Irish tea, Mum.

Me:  (Absently) Yes, Irish tea, all the way from Ireland.

Birdy: Yes, and my milk is all the way from Scotland!


And then yesterday, when I was about to get my guitar out, I started inspecting my fingernails to see if I needed to trim them first.  Birdy then examines my hand and says, ‘Your fingers have gone all mouldy, Mum!’ Why thankyou so much, darling.

Firstly, thanks to everyone who has contributed to our discussion about miscarriage and infertility.  (See below.)  I just feel so full of admiration and respect for the generous and courageous women who have shared their stories.

When you’re a parent, you can’t help but feel be moved when you hear about other parents who lose their child or baby to a terrible tragedy.  Just recently there’s been quite a bit in the news about the trial of Manju and Thomas Sam, whose baby died of severe eczema and malnutrition at nine months.  The couple is on trial for manslaughter by gross negligence because they allegedly failed to seek appropriate medical attention for their baby.  I can only imagine the agony those parents must be going through as they face the trial.  The baby’s Dad was a homeopath and they had apparently treated the baby with homeopathic remedies, but they obviously weren’t working and the baby later died of infection.

They didn’t have any explanation for why they failed to seek help sooner, but the baby was obviously in severe pain. So you can only assume that the parents had some kind of ideological commitment to homeopathy, even though it clearly wasn’t working.  And it reminded me of the recent case of the baby that died during a homebirth.  The baby’s mother was vocal advocate of freebirthing, (which is giving birth at home without a qualified midwife) and when her labour went on for four days, the baby became distressed and died.  Again, I feel for what that poor Mum must be going through.  But this means there have been two prominent tragedies recently where the baby’s death may have been prevented if the parents had sought timely medical help.  Of course, it may not be so black and white, but it appears as though in both cases, the ideology of the parents interfered with their ability to do the best for their child.

As parents we have to be prepared to reassess when the approach we’re using isn’t working, whether it’s in relation to discipline, healthcare, childcare, giving birth, going back to work or whatever.  Even though we all go into parenting with certain ideas about what we will and won’t do, the reality can be very different. I think that is particularly true with childbirth.  Many women have very strong ideas about what kind of labor they want, but when they’re faced with the reality, it all goes out the window.  And that just continues when you get the baby home.  For example, I never would have thought that I would use painkillers (like Panadol, Nurofen) as much as I have.  But the other day, when Birdy was teething, she was grumpy, she was in pain, she had a slight fever, she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep and then I gave her a dose of medicine and suddenly life was bearable again.  So I’ve had to change my attitude to fit in with the reality of my life. That’s a pretty trivial example, but the two cases of those babies who died is a good reminder that our decisions can have serious consequences.

Have you ever had to change your attitude when your approach to parenting hasn’t been working?  What have you done differently to what you thought you would do before you had kids? (eg. bribery) Have you sometimes found that what works for one child doesn’t work for another?  

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The thing about having just one child is that nearly every day somebody says something like, ‘Are you planning on having more children?  You don’t want to leave it too late.’  People I barely know make these kinds of comments to me all the time.  And yet, every time it still surprises me.  Does the general population not understand that for many, many people, having babies is not an exercise that works to a schedule?

For me, falling pregnant has not been the issue, at least not recently.  Last year, after Birdy turned one, we decided it was time to think about another baby.  We fell pregnant straight away.  The baby’s due date was December 4.  Unfortunately, at eight weeks, we discovered that I had miscarried the baby some time earlier.  We were heartbroken.  I had been so excited about the idea of a new baby at Christmas.  I found it hard to accept that this would no longer be the case.  I just hoped I would be pregnant again before Christmas rolled around so I would not feel the loss so keenly.

Our doctor told us there was no medical reason to wait before trying again.  And that there was no reason to believe things would go wrong again.  I fell pregnant straight away.  I told my family the happy news as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test.  I wanted everyone to feel better.  Two days later, I was no longer pregnant.  The embryo had failed to implant properly.  Feeling foolish, I called my family to say I wasn’t pregnant after all.

Two months later, I was pregnant again.  This time I was more cautious and told nobody.  I didn’t even go to my GP.  I just waited to see what would happen.  At about five weeks, I started to feel dreadfully ill with abdominal pain.  A few neighbours had mentioned they’d been really sick with a gastro, so I thought I’d caught it too.  Later the bleeding started.  Eventually I went to hospital and was told I’d experienced an ectopic pregnancy that had naturally aborted (An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that is not located in the uterus).  Once again, there wasn’t going to be a baby.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  We took a break from babies for a few months to get our heads together.  Suddenly everything seemed uncertain, everything was stressful.  I started to feel anxious about the idea of another pregnancy, but I knew I wanted to give Birdy a brother or sister if I could.

In November, I discovered I was pregnant for the fourth time that year.  My husband and I did not want to get our hopes up.  We went cautiously to an ultrasound at five and a half weeks.  The embryo was where it should be.  An early heartbeat was visible.  It all looked promising.

At seven and a half weeks my obstetrician could not find a heartbeat. He sent me over to the hospital for a more powerful scan.  I’ve never felt so tense in my life.  I felt sick.  I couldn’t believe it was happening again.  The internal ultrasound showed that the baby’s heart was still beating, but it was not as strong as it should be and the fetus had not grown as much as it should have.  After I pressed him, my doctor admitted that he expected the baby to miscarry.  I hoped and prayed he was wrong.  Most of my friends and family told me things would be OK.  The doctors were just being cautious.  You can have too many ultrasounds these days, they said.  Too much information will just make you worry unnecessarily.  It will all work out, they said.

On December 3, a week later, we were told the worst – the baby’s heart had definitely stopped beating.  So on December 4, the day I should have been giving birth to my second baby, I was admitted to hospital for another D & C.  Meanwhile, a close friend of mine was having her baby at another hospital down the road.  In the exact time that my friend had carried one healthy baby, I had lost four pregnancies.  While she was welcoming her child into the world, I was having mine suctioned out of me.  I know that sounds crass, but its not a pleasant procedure.  The sadness was suffocating.   As I lay in my bed, the grief overwhelming me, I had an image of myself being dashed against the rocks in a raging ocean, completely powerless.  If I did not have Birdy to cherish, I don’t know how I would have got out of bed.

As I’m writing this, I know there will be people who are going through the same thing, who don’t yet have their precious child.  It must be even more devastating for them.  But I have found it helpful to read and hear about the experiences of other women and that’s why I wanted to share my story.  In fact, a number of friends have asked me to write about miscarriage on my blog.  I recently finished reading a book called My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed.  In the book, Naomi shares about the five painful miscarriages she experienced.  I found it helpful to read her story, although she was clearly writing with the benefit of hindsight, from a time when her three boys were safely in her arms.  Naomi felt that God carried her through that difficult time.  I’m afraid I haven’t felt that.  And I haven’t even felt that something good will eventually come from all this pain.  I have another close friend who has had several miscarriages; she now has two beautiful children.  Their stories give me hope that one day I will also be on the other side of this journey.  But I wanted to be brave enough to share this experience with others while I’m still on the journey, when I don’t know what the ending will be, when the raw emotion of loss has not been dulled by the safe arrival of another baby.

I don’t know what the future will hold.  I feel sad for what I’ve lost.  And I feel sad that pregnancy is no longer a state of joy for me, but a time of fear and anxiety.  I dearly hope and pray that I will not have to go through the pain of another miscarriage, but only time will tell.  I don’t think I will ever make sense of what has happened to me, but I hope that one day I will be at peace with it…  If that’s possible.

Have you been through the pain of a miscarriage or infertility?  How do you cope when everyone around you seems to be having a baby?  Have friends and family been helpful or do you feel that nobody understands your situation?  If you’ve come out the other side, how has your point of view changed over time?  Please also feel free to share anything that helped you deal with your loss and grief (and those things that were definitely NOT helpful.)

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The way kids see the world can be really unique.  The other day, on the way to the shops, we stopped at a red traffic light.  “Look Mum,” Birdy called out, excitedly.  “That traffic light matches your hair.”  It took me a while to realise what she was talking about.  “That traffic light is ‘reg’ and your hair is ‘reg’,” she patiently explained.  So my hair looks like a traffic light.  Thanks so much, dear.  

On the upside, Birdy has learnt a fantastic new phrase, taught to her by Daddy.  “You’re the best Mum in the world.” She likes the sound of this new sentence so much she says it over and over.  Warms me heart every time.

The other day, I walked into the lounge-room to discover that Birdy was flicking through a bible.   She looked up at me and said, ‘I’m reading the bible, it says ‘Love you God.’  I’m not sure exactly where she got that from – I guess it’s a variation on ‘God loves you’ –  but it made me realize that even very young children can have an interest in and an awareness of spiritual stuff.

When it comes to talking about God, I think most Western people either fall into one of two categories… they teach their kids nothing about spiritual issues, because they’re not sure themselves, but they believe they are letting their kids choose for themselves.  Or they’re really sure what they believe so they indoctrinate them totally and give them a black and white view of the world.  (And don’t think atheism is a neutral position.  Atheists are just as likely to indoctrinate their kids as are people of faith.)

So what’s the problem with that?  Well, if you give your kids no spiritual input, then you’re really not giving them any choice. They simply won’t have the tools to seek God out if they wanted to, or to exercise any kind of spiritual life. We give our kids a teddy bear so they can seek comfort in that, but if we don’t give them any kind of concept of God, then they won’t have the option to turn to God for comfort or guidance or acceptance or forgiveness.  On the other hand, if we try to indoctrinate kids too much with our own particular strain of theology (or atheism), they’ll get a real shock when they get out in the real world and discover that there are many different views, even among people of the same faith.

The best way I can demonstrate the difference between teaching and indoctrination is that if your kids ask you a curly question, the indoctrination answer sounds like ‘The answer is x and anything else is wrong/stupid.’  A teaching approach says, ‘Well some people think x… other people think y… I believe x for these reasons.’  Or take the example of praying.  You can teach your kids how to pray, but you don’t have to put the words into their mouth.  For example, the other day Birdy prayed for her cousin, ‘Dear Lord, Thank you for Ella Bella so she can have a good sleep. Amen.’  It doesn’t quite make sense but the idea was there.  Like everything, what we do is ultimately going to be more influential than what we say.  So if we want our kids to learn certain values then we need to model those values.  And of course, if we don’t offer them any spiritual guidance, they’ll eventually find their answers somewhere else, in their friends, their TV shows or magazines. 

Have your children shown any interest in spiritual stuff?  What do you most want your kids to know about God?  If you don’t have a faith or are unsure, how do you deal with questions your kids have?  What do you do when two parents have very different ideas about God or religion? 

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