Do I look any younger?! 

 

In the past year I’ve tried a variety of migraine prophylactics and analgesics. None of the prophylactics made any difference and the side effects were usually very similar: dizziness, lethargy, brain fog. In short, not that different from the migraines. There was one prophylactic which had a spectacularly intense side effect: I’ve had twilight anaesthetics which less punch than Endep! It’s sort of funny now, but on a day when I was the responsible for a child and a baby it was a scary feeling. It did not warrant a second try just to see if my body would get used to it and I was meant to try it for three weeks.

All this trial and error brought me finally to the point of giving Botox a try. In order to get it on the PBS, you have to meet strict criteria but it’s all worth it if it works. Not meeting the criteria would mean that you’ve either found medication which works, or the migraines have decreased in number and effect on your life.

My neurologist have me an information booklet about Botox for migraines and it was like reading a description of myself. Apart from the last year, I have been pretty high-functioning with the migraines so I have often found myself thinking, “Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe I’m making more of it than what it is”. There are moments of relief, when the neurologist first confirmed that I was experiencing chronic migraines, when I read that description of me in the botox booklet, moments that help me to accept that yes, it is real, I’m not making it up or making excuses for things that really are just personal failings.

Then I have a day like yesterday. A day when I can actually think clearly for the first time in what feels like forever. A day when suddenly,  things that I struggled with the day before, come so easily it is ridiculous. Yesterday gave me hope. Hope that I can get back to myself, hope that I can have a normal functioning brain, hope that I can be the person, mum, wife, friend that I really want to be but have been incapable of being.

I had my first round of botox injections nearly four weeks ago. 31 injections in total, in my forehead, head, neck and shoulders. The four in my forehead were really painful and the neurologist did them slowly. Those are the ones that will have the most obvious side effect of causing drooping eyebrows should the Botox not be infected in just the right spot. The rest were quicker to do, all up it took about 15 minutes for the actual injections, but there was a good 15-20 minute prep time plus the consultation immediately before to discuss again the possible side-effects etc.  In total the appointment was about an hour long. I’m just so grateful that #SnuggleBub is such a chilled baby; I’d taken her in with me because I was thinking the whole appointment would be just 15-20 minutes long!

I found it interesting that many of the injection sites were points that I know to trigger pain. In hindsight it makes sense but I was a bit surprised at the time. I did find myself thinking that I would never put myself through that just for beauty… But then realised that I was being quite hypocritical as IPL and waxing treatments are no walk in the park either yet I think nothing of putting myself through them on a regular basis. I guess the difference is that I don’t do that just for appearances sake either, it is all about being comfortable.

Though the injections were painful, when they were over the was a sense of, “Well, that wasn’t so bad really”. I was warned that the injections could make the migraines worse for the first month as my body adjusted, so I knew not to expect it to be a miracle cute where I would wake up the next morning with angels singing and no pain at all in my head. The first few days I was tender at the injection sites though not all at once. In the morning it might be one site that was show and in the afternoon a different site. I did experience fairly constant neck pain, especially on my left side. The neck pain worsened over the next 10 days, making it really painful to look down. Painkillers made no difference and I was thinking that as a trade-off, it did not cut the mustard. I found it far harder to manage normal life with the neck pain than I do with migraines. I foolishly jumped online to see if this was a common side-effect and read horror stories of people who still had the neck pain two years after having their one and only set of injections. I chose to focus on the people who reported neck pain for two weeks and then a massive improvement on the migraines!

In the third week, the neck pain began to subside and now it is only intermittent and is not affecting my daily life anymore.

The Botox took a few days to fully take effect on the muscles,  so at first I though there was going to be no change in my expressions. But no, it has now well and truly taken effect and although I can wrinkle up my forehead, I can no longer frown. It is the bizzarest feeling. I tend to crown when I’m concentrating or thinking, I’ve done it my whole life. My mum was always trying to get me to stop frowning and I’ve had so many people ask if I’m okay when I’m just lost in thought. So far it looks like both our children have inherited my concentration frown too. The first thing one of my work colleagues said  when I introduced her to a three month old #Monsieur was,  “Oh look! He’s got your concentration frown! I know that frown!” Well it turns out that Botox is the best thing for making me aware of when I’m frowning… Or trying to frown and failing as is the case now! It does feel very weird to have muscles which just won’t listen to you no matter what.

As for how it is affecting the migraines, well I’m still having them but I haven’t had a full day’s dose of pain relief in two weeks, which is huge for me. Yesterday I didn’t even take pain relief until lunchtime; until now it had been pretty much the first thing I’ve done every morning. I’ve had a couple of nights where my head hasn’t been throbbing when I’ve gotten up to feed #SnuggleBub. I don’t usually take pain relief overnight so sometimes the middle of the night feeds have been challenging. I’m also noticing that the pain relief is not zombifying me the way it has been. The side effect of drowsiness had not been mixing well with broken sleep so it had reached a point where deciding to take Relpax was choosing to be completely zonked for the whole day. It felt like a no-win situation – I was either plodding through the brain fog of a migraine or  the zombie state of being medicated.

As I write this, I’m on day three of not having severe brain fog. The pain is still there but it is such a relief to be able to think. To be able to focus enough to write this post. Not to have used all my week’s worth of focus and concentration on work, leaving nothing for my personal life. Given that I only work two days a week, I should have plenty of brain power leftover each week for my own life, but that’s not how it has been.

I am cautiously hopeful.

Next assessment, and Botox treatment is in early November. Then there will be another assessment three months later, by which stage we will know whether this is a treatment to continue. In total, six months trial but given that it’s had more effect so far than any of the medications I’ve trialled over the past year, the six month trial doesn’t worry me.

I wanted to include before and after photos but the photos of me trying to frown just look like I’m squinting, so I recorded a video for the full comedic effect!

Fathers’ Day – an early celebration

I remember once hearing something about how there should be a Grandparents’ Day, the way we have Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. At the time I thought that it was just another excuse for companies to market cards and gifts and make profit. Now though, I think that there is something in it. Each year, we straddle the line of wanting to do something just with our immediate family unit (after all, it is Monsieur and SnuggleBub who made us parents) and wanting to celebrate with our parents (after all, they are still our parents and it is still their Mothers’/Fathers’ Day as well).

Our solution has been to have our little, immediate family celebration on a different day and then usually to go to Pt Lonsdale on the day to celebrate with R’s parents – my parents live too far away to day trip it and we prefer to stay two nights at least so don’t usually go up for those particular celebrations.

Anyhoo, today we celebrated R’s Fathers’ Day. The morning always starts with card, present and pancakes for breakfast! Then the activities for the rest of the day is totally the choice of the parent being celebrated. This year, R decided that he wanted to go to Scienceworks and the Planetarium. Scienceworks is a fantastic museum of science and technology; full of interactive exhibits and activities for everyone. 

It was the first time in years that I actually got to walk around the different exhibits. The first few years of going there, Monsieur always wanted to go to the one area and stay there the whole time. 

Both Monsieur and SnuggleBub were captivated by the Planetarium show.The show in the Lightning Room was also fascinating.  We all had a fantastic time today and came away promising ourselves to go there more often.

Excitedly telling SnuggleBub about pancakes

All set up, ready to cook

Building a new marble run with the Trix Tracks set

SnuggleBub awakening from her nap, ready to go!

In their element, making ball runs!

SnuggleBub watches the process

A good selection of things to be used

Refining the ball run

The Workshop was closed but it looked intriguing

The Test Lab was full of fun things to play witb

Indeed


We had one of these in our typing/computer lab – it and the electric typewriter were the coveted seats!

Zip disk – when 100MB was huge!

Endless fascination for watching how things work

Chillin’

Why, hello there!

“Let me take the nappy bag; give you a break”

The Lightning Room

SnuggleBub wasn’t keen on the last demonstration in the Lightning Room, so we left to enjoy some sun and fresh air outside. Mostly I just played around with my new phone camera settings and  took photos of her after that. 

Other side of the West Gate

Professional photos – A week and a bit on

At the time of booking Robert to come to the hospital to take photos, I also asked that he come to our house a week or so later to take some family photos. I knew that I would be pretty dopey after the c-section and wanted some very early photos where I wasn’t completely out of it or confined to a bed, unable to move. Robert came to our house when SnuggleBub was about 10 days old. Monsieur alternated between competing for camera time and wanting nothing to do with the photos. At that time, he wasn’t at all interested in holding SnuggleBub or getting too close to her. He professed his love for her, but was very happy to love her from a safe distance. All the same, Robert captured some beautiful photos. He even returned one more time to get some additional shots of SnuggleBub because he felt that he hadn’t taken enough of her the first time. So generous.

Here are some of my favourites, all taken by Robert Wagner of Robert Wagner Photography

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Professional photos

One thing that I regretted with Monsieur was not getting professional photos taken when he was a newborn. It wasn’t something that I prioritised because I thought that it would be an unnecessary expense considering that I could take good photos of him. Also, most newborn photography seems formulaic and really does nothing for me. Babies in flowerpots, or sleeping peacefully on folded up towels – they make very cute photos but don’t really say anything to me about the family, how people might have been feeling or even anything about the baby, other than the fact that they are very poseable when asleep.

This time I wanted to find someone because I knew that having the skill to take good photos is completely irrelevant when stacked up against sleep deprivation. Apart from a few grainy iPhone photos (back when the iPhone camera wasn’t anything special), I just didn’t take any photos of Monsieur while he was a newborn. It took six weeks for me to get my camera out, and I had to ask a friend to come over and help me do a photo shoot of him. I still didn’t want the “pretty” newborn shots. I wanted someone who would look for the moments and capture them. Basically someone who would do what I wanted to do but knew I wouldn’t be capable of. It was also really important to me that a photographer be on hand when Monsieur met SnuggleBub for the first time at the hospital. I really wanted his expression captured.

Fortuitously, just before Christmas I got to talking to a friend of a friend who was setting up his photography business. When I looked at the galleries on his website, I was excited to see that most of the family photos were of moments instead of classic poses. I booked him to come to the hospital the day of SnuggleBub’s birth, as well as a week later once we were home. One of the benefits of having an elective c-section – I knew exactly what day and time our son would be coming in to meet his new sister and could book Robert in!

Robert took some gorgeous photos which I am thrilled to have. It worked really well too on the day. SnuggleBub had to be under a heater for several hours so she was out of reach from me. When everyone came in and crowded around her bassinet, I couldn’t see anything. I certainly couldn’t see Monsieur’s reaction to her; but I was relaxed about not being fully part of it because I knew that Robert was taking photos and I would get to see everything later on. I wasn’t worried that I was missing out on witnessing important moments that I would never get a chance to see again.

I also asked R to take his camera in to the hospital so we could have photos of SnuggleBub’s birth – only one support person is permitted in the OR so having a photographer present for the birth was not an option. R unexpectedly took photos of Monsieur’s birth last time and was a bit traumatised by the experience (the OB told him to peer over the curtain and take a photo; he was expecting to see a fully birthed bub, not bub coming out of my stomach) but I love love LOVE those photos so much. I look at them and get such a rush of love and awe and All The Feelings. I didn’t want to put R through that again, but I really wanted those photos this time as well. I said that we could ask a nurse or the anesthetist to take them (last time our anesthetist took R’s camera to take photos of all three of us), but R took them on the day. My hero <3

These are some of my favourite photos from SnuggleBub’s birth day. All but the first photo are by Robert Wagner, of Robert Wagner Photography.

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Slipping away

So often when Monsieur was a baby I was told to treasure each moment, that I won’t know how quickly the moments pass by until they’re gone. Every mum has heard advice to that end. I used to think to myself, “I *am* treasuring this time. And it doesn’t feel like it is passing too quickly”. Because it didn’t. Each stage and age with Monsieur, I have felt pretty present for and that I have been appreciating them. The tough stages maybe not so much! But I’ve never felt like I missed out on a stage, or wished that I could go back in time to a particular age. I still don’t. Monsieur is growing up to be such a delightful (most of the time) boy and wishing to go back to an earlier age would feel like going back to a time which was harder and not quite as much fun.

I certainly have never understood how gooey people can get over a newborn baby. I’ve heard so many people express how you forget how little they are, to treasure every moment (of course – it is the mantra bestowed upon all new parents by older, supposedly wiser parents), that they wish they could go back to their children’s newborn days. I’ve heard all these sentiments and thought, “No way. I’m happy to be past that.”

Until now. There was a 2 day old baby at Monsieur’s swimming lesson yesterday – the third child already attending older siblings’ activities! (Off topic, but I am completely in awe of that mum! The day after having SnuggleBub I was still bed-bound and a bit loopy on morphine and here she was, bringing her children and new one to swimming lesson. Just, wow!)

The newborn baby was so small and cute and sleepy, still with vernix remnants on her head, and I completely melted inside. I desperately wanted to go back to SnuggleBub being so young and little. She didn’t seem little to me at the time, not the way Monsieur did. Seeing her now though, I know she was still so little and I just really want to go back to that for a day. I suddenly felt so sad and bereft that her newborn days are already gone. The emotions that parenthood unlock are truly brutal sometimes, not to mention extremely illogical and impractical.

I feel like the first three months have gone by in the blink of an eye and I missed it. I haven’t missed it, not really. I just didn’t expect it to go by so fast. It feels like just a couple of weeks ago that she was born, not three months. I feel like I should have spent more time watching her sleep, cuddling her, completely banned my phone from the feeding chair – except that then I wouldn’t have any photos to remind me of those days which are fading so fast in my memory. That makes me sound so old! But it’s all the new memories of SnuggleBub and Monsieur which are filling my brain, pushing out all but a few poignant details from their earlier days.

I think what makes it so different this time is sleep, and the first child. This whole baby experience is so different without the profound sleep deprivation. It sounds gloomy now, but I had been viewing the pregnancy and first year as being things we just had to get through. Once we were past them, then hopefully we could start to enjoy having a second child. I honestly thought that there would be very little joy and a whole lot of “just surviving” happening in the first year.  I was certainly right about the pregnancy. Each day was simply a matter of surviving it. It is very lucky that my first pregnancy wasn’t as rough as this last one. We would have stopped at one child, had that been the case. I wasn’t right about the first year though. So far, I am loving it and truly enjoying the time with SnuggleBub. I am having fun! And there is so much joy, with this beautiful child, who was the subject of many a midwinter wish.

Days also go faster when juggling the needs of a bub with the commitments and needs of a five year old. It seems obvious now, that time would speed by in a continual round of kinder runs, swimming lessons, feeding the baby, sleeping the baby, playing with them both. Again though, I was assuming that I would be doing it all through the heavy fog of sleep deprivation, which would make the days stretch out endlessly, and make every step as difficult as if I had iron balls tied to my legs and I was walking through waist-high tar.

About a month ago was when I first realised that this time was speeding past. I started leaving the phone alone during feeding, not worrying about spending an entire day rocking her, letting myself get lost in her smiles without feeling guilty that the washing didn’t get done for yet another day.

That said, I still don’t watch her for hours while she sleeps. Quite apart from her no longer sleeping for hours during the day, that is the best chance for me to do some things which help keep my sanity; and I still pull out the phone to take photos during feedings. I simply  limit it to 1-2 feedings a day! Or try to anyway;  just don’t ask how many photos I take in a week! Second sibling syndrome is not happening here. There are WAY more photos of SnuggleBub than there were of Monsieur at the same age. Most of all, I am trying to see her for as small as she is, so that I don’t look back in three months time and say again, “I just didn’t see how little she was. She seemed so big to me, I can’t believe I missed her being so little”. I can also console myself that when the future comes and time travel is possible, I can jump back for just one day of her being a newborn again!

 

Just over a week old – so tiny!

 13.5 weeks old – so much bigger, but still small.

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