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Dear Future Daddies

Dear Future Daddies

Congratulations! This is going to be such a soul-stretching, exciting time in your life. Your relationship will be tested and strengthened. You’ll learn more about yourself in these months than your whole life combined.

I have a request for you. Please, please, please be your partner’s champion.

Support her in her pregnancy. You’ll never know the pain and energy drain that pregnancy is. But try to be compassionate. 

Be her rock in the delivery. She will be in the worst pain imaginable. You need to be the safety in her storm. There will be decisions to make and there may be people you need to remove from the room. Do your homework, solidify your partner’s wishes beforehand and try to help her stick to them (unless it’s her who wants to change!).

In the first few weeks at home with your precious, potentially persistently crying bundle, be your wife’s superhero. She is recovering from delivery, she is learning to feed, she is beyond exhausted and there will be a deluge of well-meaning advice.

Be the guard dog. Limit visitors. Avoid them in the first two weeks if you can. And limit their time while they’re there. Watch your partner. If she seems tired or like she just wants to deal with the baby without prying eyes, send them off.

Be her advocate. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, advocate for her. Support this. Yes, breast milk is best. But there are many options and it is a two person relationship – mama and baby are equally important here.

If breast feeding doesn’t work or your wife hates it or your baby doesn’t take to it – whatever reason, then you support the formula route too.

It is your job to protect her from the people that would give their two cents worth. Choose your people to listen to and help your wife say, “we’re following the advice of…(gp, midwife, plunket nurse, mother etc)”

Your attitude and your support will be vital for your new mama. If she must fight you too, it will be the hardest time in the world for her. She won’t enjoy it. She won’t feel loved. She’ll feel alone. There will be some fluctuating hormones, this is the time to support her and honour her feelings. If she cries, hold her. If she feels bombarded, fix it. If she feels happy, celebrate with her.

Of course, you’re important too. I’m just offering the perspective of a new mama with fibromyalgia. What I wished for myself and didn’t always get. 

Good luck!

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Acceptance, Kinda?

When you have fibromyalgia or any ongoing illness, the grieving process doesn’t really end.

I came to a sense of acceptance years ago and have simultaneously mustered a sense of reality with a huge sense of hope. 

I believe that how I live can help me significantly. But I know that even having eight hours in bed, I will not feel rested. That even when only working five hours, my neck will still hurt so much that I wake frequently, changing pillows in an effort to be comfortable.

In the beginning I soldiered through because no one had any sense of what may be wrong with me, other than the physical practitioners I tried who saw my regularly tightly coiled muscles. That either didn’t respond to treatment or only had a brief, slight window of relief.

By the time I moved to Auckland with my family for a new beginning four years ago, I was at the end of my tether. Every day was a battle. I was hanging on by a thread. I coped til 8am waiting for the painkiller, I then til 10 waiting for coffee, then til 12 for lunch break. After that it was 3pm for an energy drink, to try to combat my heavy eyelids, and 5 for home time. It was nasty. I wasn’t alive. I was coping.

Since then I’ve come leaps and bounds. But that black cloud hovers.

It swooped upon me this week.

I wish I did have the energy to work and really help with our mortgage, and still have the energy for baby and then more still for exercise and other parts of life.

Three hours of work last week has stirred up my neck. And it’s hit me again what I must cope with in order to live.

I’ll need to continually walk the tightrope in order to balance work with my baby with everything else. I’ll have to find the new level of pain I can cope with, the trade off for financial stability.

It makes me sad. As I sit here with a sore neck and a gorgeous baby whose energy levels already outweigh mine.

It would help if my family got it. But people without these issues can’t “get” it. And there are those that want to understand and those that don’t.

I am fighting for myself. I will try hard to find my balance. It’s just hard to fight the people around me in addition to the fibromyalgia and myself, because there is no one more disappointed than me.

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Women, Jobs and Babies

Even with a fantastic husband, the burden of care of our baby is on me.

I never thought too much about feminism until I had a baby. I was, and remain grateful to the women pioneers who enabled me to vote, work and be independent.

Simone de Beauvoir believed that the two keys for safeguarding women’s freedom are paid work and contraception. (Deborah G. Felder’s analysis in A Bookshelf of Our Own p.137)

But now that I’m a mama I’m feeling the burden of being “allowed” to work. It’s expected. It’s necessary for our economic survival.

There hasn’t yet been a shift in the balance of responsibility for children.

I will still be the main caregiver.

I must somehow get up to him in the middle of the night, get up early, get him ready, work, get him through the evening grumps until his bedtime and somehow fit in some housework! (Never mind any hobbies – how I miss reading for longer than 10 minute stints!)

All while having chronic pain and fatigue – that is aggravated by my work.
I’m somewhat lucky, in that I am currently contracting and can earn (just) enough to enable me to work 20-25 hours. But full time would be ideal in helping to pay down a mortgage that’s had three interest rate rises this year.

Unfortunately I can’t physically cope with full time work. This is something my husband struggles with in living with me and the fibro/chronic fatigue.

The current circumstances are hard enough for me physically – my husband working 10 hour shifts, coming home exhausted, and me with our baby nearly 24/7.

In addition to this, there is an expectation that women breastfeed until baby is six or even 12 months.

Where are we to get the energy from? How are we to exercise? See friends? Pursue a hobby?

I have no answers. But this superwoman expectation is ridiculous.