Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friend, I miss you

I have a friend.
We share a raft of uncanny similarities and often call each other doppelganger. Actually I call her doppel, she calls me ganger.
Not all the time.
Actually, not very often at all.
Maybe it was once, and I initiated it, and therefore think it to be funnier and a longer-lasting joke than it actually was. Leos can be like that.

Whatever the official statistical facts on the term’s usage, the point is the foundation reason why we/I decided upon such a term: we are very much alike.

We have not been friends very long, maybe a year, but we realised pretty quickly that a “clicking” was underway, and complete, within about three emails between us (she worked in an outer office of the newspaper where I work).

In-jokes, the crafting of a new pseudo-language, outrage over grammatical faux pas, tears of laughter over a random assortment of YouTube clips, primarily from the 1980s, tales of woe from our respectively mental family units, tips on tweaking our blogs: we have shared them all in rapid succession.
In my more vain moments, I may consider it plausible that we look alike in a sisterly way, although she is stunning. Well, we are both brunettes and tall, and that’s good enough for me.

We might not see each other very often, or talk all that regularly...but when we do, we slot as neatly into a rhythm of candour and affinity as a Scalextrix car into its tracks.

The spooky, mirror-imagery of our relationship reached a peak about six months ago when we became pregnant at almost exactly the same time.

There were, in fact, seven days separating our due dates.

Seven days.

It wasn’t planned, it just happened that way. And it was accepted as yet another example of two lives in parallel.
In those early months, before we lost the baby, I was so overjoyed to have strengthened our connection in such a freaky way.

What are the chances?

I told someone at work how great it was. “It’s like having a mother’s group before you’ve even given birth,” I said, smiling.
Smiling, and anticipating all the wonderful times we’d have complaining about being bloated while slurping mocktails and shoving her home-baked cookies into our endlessly-starving gobs.

Crying together when the hormones just got too much, laughing at the insane changes in our bodies and falling into that inevitable, non-malicious tit-for-tat dance all mothers – expecting or not – get into: have you felt the baby kick yet? No, I heard it won’t happen for another few weeks. How are your ankles? Huge! Same as my boobs. And will I ever stop going to the toilet? I know! Are you feeling sick at all? No, but really really tireddddddd – I barely had the energy to finish typing that word. Yeah, me too and I cannot sleep. I am eating so many almonds right now and heaps of tea. Be careful of the types of tea you drink – have a look at this website. Thanks, have you checked out baby paraphernalia yet? There are some great forums and product tests at this site. Good one, when is your 12-week scan? This week, Friday.

This week, Friday.

And that is pretty much where all the good stuff stopped. That’s when the beauty and colour went out of the world for a while.

That’s when bleak was an understatement. When tragic seemed a cliche not dark enough, or sufficiently devastating, to describe what we went through.

But I am lucky to be able to write that sentence in the past tense now, and realise that today, exactly three months on, things are slightly better.

Some hesitant watercolour brushstrokes are gradually bleeding into the stark white parchment of our lives (and I use the term bleeding both figuratively and literally...more on that later).

What picture are they painting? I don’t know yet, but I am grateful it is starting to take shape, and in living colour no less.

So what has it been like seeing her in the three months since?

There is no easy answer to that question.
I don’t mean to sound vague, but it has honestly been an equal and intense mix of heartbreak, elation, jealousy, joy, sympathy, sadness, anger and delight. The good feelings outweigh the bad ones. They have to, for sanity's sake.

Of course, when we see each other, I am not the type of person to let the bad stuff out face to face. It’s not as if I sit there drinking tea with her, seething and picturing myself slamming her head into the table.
Actually I must admit I don’t even have that thought when I am not with her.

I will admit, however, that in my quieter moments – often when I am going off to sleep at night or driving in the car – I feel a physical pang of what must be jealousy. But it is more about me wishing so desperately to be still pregnant, rather than me wishing she was not.

I would never dare think that. I am worried, in fact, about even writing it down.

I cannot deny it is hard sometimes seeing pregnant people, or mums with kids. I am such a bitch that I actually have flaring flashes of white-hot anger when I see some feral, disinterested teenager with two toddlers already hanging off her tattooed arms, pregnant and whining to her B-Boy wannabe boyfriend about the price of chicken nuggets or two-minute noodles or something. How dare she. She doesn’t deserve it. The baby, I mean. Everybody has a right to two-minute noodles.

It is easier to direct those sorts of feelings, fleeting though they are, to people I will never know or talk to. But I am not someone who would even contemplate feeling that way about my pregnant friends.

The fact is, good always beats evil with them, because I care for them deeply. Our friendship gives me an in-built cut-off switch for any of that bad stuff. But it’s a switch that never moves anyway. It’s taped stuck in one direction. That’s why, I think, we are friends in the first place.

Again, I am sensible and mature enough to know that hanging on to those toxic kinds of feelings will only contaminate your soul.

Yes you are allowed them for a while when life deals you a truly shitty hand, but letting them rule you day-to-day does nothing but leave a permanent and very ugly stain.


Every individual has one very powerful thing when crafting their own: choice.

I choose to recover from this. I choose to concentrate on all the wonderful things in my life more often than the bad shit that has happened. I choose to let myself grieve and remember and never forget, but I also choose to move on. I choose to feel whatever my hormones, environment and thoughts make me feel. But I also choose not to get too carried away by extremes. I choose to realise that having a purpose gives me the strength to push the darkness away. I choose to take refuge in the unconditional love I am so fortunate to have as my constant cloak. And I choose to make the effort to make good, not bad, on this short life.
What alternative is there?

So, friend, I love you. But I miss you almost as much as I understand why you are sometimes absent from my life. Please don’t worry about me or for me. Don’t ever feel you have to run and hide your big old pregnant self from me.

Tell me everything, keep me in the loop. Don’t anticipate or wonder how I might react. Just know that I will react, and 99% of the time I will be filled-to-overflowing with happiness for you.

If I’m not, if that 1% creeps in, well that’s my cross to bear; but it’s one I am trying to shuffle off.

I won’t be that type of crucifixed martyr.

I choose not to be.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory Foam, I presume

*This post is delivered with most humble apologies to Stephen Fry, whose esteemed chronicles I may or may not be reading at this very juncture. Please partake in visual and brainal enjoyment, if I may be so flib-gibberingly bold as to assume such a pleasant feeling should overcome you in the impending minutes, of the following few words and decide for yourselves whether or not I may have been so influenced by so mellifluously garrulous a scribe.

I LOVE this time of year and not because it’s when senses are assaulted by tinsel, carols, an over-abundance of red, white and green and the sudden appearance of a furry animal sporting a red nose that looks essentially like a horse with antlers.

Nope, my fancy is tickled by much more than mistletoe, wrong-hemisphere worship of snow and enormous, expensive birds that don’t fit in roasting ovens that frankly should be set to “off” on a 38-degree day in downtown, midsummer Australia.

Right now, I am in a different kind of heaven – the one that comes immediately after Heavens One through Six.

It’s Christmas catalogue time.

Merrily they arrive with lip-smacking regularity, deliciously glossy wads of wonder. I literally gasp each time I pull into my driveway and see those delightful letter box protuberances garishly announcing their arrival.

Two for one, they scream. 50% off, Christmas special, today only, cheaper than last year, accessories not included (damn! I really wanted those plastic grapes, empty LA Ice Cola bottles and painted cardboard box cleverly disguised as Kornflakes – a box which no doubt tastes inordinately better than Kornflakes when shredded into bite-size chunks, drowned in cold milk and drizzled with honey. Special, grammatically-challenged K indeed. The best was a recent Aldi catalogue that featured a picture of pork chops, sitting on a grill plate with a tiny piece of parsley in the middle of the meat. “Garnish not included” the catalogue warned with typical German no-nonsenseness. Fraulein, you can keep your superfluous greenery, but what, I wondered, about the grill? I shall let you know how my correspondence to the Advertising Standards Board is received.)

Often, such is their bulk come December, these wondrous Christmas catalogues come rolled up en masse in a tube held in place with a taut rubber band so that, fancifully, you can imagine you are Captain James Cook sailing the high 18th-century seas as you sluck the prized tube of paperwork under your arm and chortle inside to peruse your stash.

Zzzwwwiiickk, you tease and roll the rubber band from its moorings with deliberate and practised patience, all a ploy to prolong the pleasure. Fling, you throw the band to one side and greedily unfurl your bounty, as Cook no doubt did all those years ago with ship’s maps laden with talk of tides, compass points and furlongs.

Instantly you are Chief Quality Control Sorter, ruthlessly relegating the lower-grade and dodgy pamphlets to one side and tidying a neat stack of reading to another.

If it’s printed on daggy (probably environmentally friendly) paper, if it pathetically employs atrociously lazy and bland black and white drawings (Bunnings anyone?) and especially if it has no pretty pictures or too many jagged edges horrendously exposing its cheap mass-producedness – it’s out of there. Slapped angrily onto the crap pile. Honestly, why bother producing such wasted opportunities? How can these people who claim to run legitimate businesses put their names to such rubbish?

High gloss, heavy weight paper, minimal use of comic explosive boxes to illustrate pricing. Yes.

Catalogues that are bound, actually bound, and weighty like a book? Give them the Pulitzer. Golden, special things they are. Myer, I am looking at you.

Catalogues that proclaim themselves to be anointed with such specialness that they come wrapped and protected in their own clear plastic packaging? They hold as much value as the Dead Sea Scrolls – but they are of course infinitely better than those deceased papers. Aesthetically at least, for I have not read the Dead Sea Scrolls, although I hope to rectify that if my Christmas wishes do indeed come true.

And besides, have you seen those scrolls? Neither have I, but frankly, I imagine they look like you’ve given a Bunnings catalogue the pirate treatment (remember in primary school when you’d soak paper in coffee and burn the edges to give it an ancient, pirate’s treasure map look?).

The true higlight of my catalogue reading thus far is from a catalogue of a sort I would not normally read. At least it’s from a section of a catalogue I would not normally read. Apart from those ridiculous catalogues that all of a sudden go upside down half-way through your reading them, forcing you to waste precious life time closing them up, turning them over and starting again, my other pet hate is catalogues that try to cram too much in with no seamless transition.

Harvey Norman, that’s me shouting at you. I know it’s because you are so big you seem to sell basically every human goods requirement on the planet, from televisions, blenders and rugs to pool lounges, vases and double adaptors.

There you are, being swept away as you soak up catalgoue pages of glorious beachside apartments featuring the latest lounge, rug or dining setting and suddenly BAM! you turn the page and it’s boring old mattresses. White, boring, white.

But it was here, by happy accident, that I stumbled across Catalogue-Reading Season 2010 Moment of the Year.

There is, can you believe it, a bed product in existence called Memory Foam.

(I am so enamoured with the enormity of this discovery that I have emboldened its accompanying sentence.)
That right there is the most frightening piece of foam on earth.

Kinda makes me feel like this.

My extensive research tells me Memory Foam was actually created by NASA in 1966 – a good year for polyurethane – and it has only now weevilled its way into the bedding market.

So, what? It is a mattress that remembers your body shape and whatever lumps or bumps it may possess? You can go away, to work say, and come back that night, hours later, and it will inherently know who you are, your every single shape?

It is a synthetic material imbued with a very human ability to remember? Is that right? And if it is so human, so real, does it indeed hurt as its squishy memory is being formed? As millions of overweight Americans sink their enormous super-sized backsides into this Memory Foam foaminess, do these mattresses utter in unison a silent cry of pain, a cry that is sustained for the entire life of the memory, and therefore, the mattress?

The world, I am sure, has now officially gone mad. Next there will be talking carrots, card-playing horses and psychic octopi (vale Paul, vale).

I, as a sensible Australian, choose not to be known or remembered by something as ridiculous as a mattress. It is highly disconcerting.

Instantly, I imagine this famed Memory Foam thusly, in human (kind of) form, as apparently it carries a very human trait. Spooky, if you ask me, but it comes from NASA so spooky is part of the brief.

It looks like this:

“Ahhh, I see you have returned to me at last. I trust your time away from me was devastating? There, there, I’m here now. I remember every last curve of your body as if it was my own – how could I forget? Come now, lie down with me...let’s remember together.”

It speaks like this:

Although the speech is tweaked just a teeny bit so we can actually make out that the English language is being spoken (lo siento, Antonio, but stick to Spanish if you want to be understood).

That is all*.

Thank god they call it the silly season...I’m the number one season pass holder this year.

This smattering of light relief proudly brought to you by Sanity: driving the world crazy with normalness since 1712.

*Garnish included

Monday, December 6, 2010

Record downpours

Since last Wednesday, it has not stopped raining in Queensland. Not. Stopped.

Last Wednesday was December 1. It is now December 6.

We have not had more than four minutes of sunshine this ENTIRE MONTH.

I'll tell you where else there have been record downpours. My uterus.

Right, that's really crass. There you go, I acknowledged that, let's move on.

At 2.14am on December 1, I was woken by that frightful fear that I was wetting myself. Now, that hasn't happened for at least two years (joking) but it was weird to say the least.

I ran to the loo, casting a glance at the alarm clock (hence the very specific time reference) and quickly saw that there was a shitload of blood pretty well everywhere.

From 2.14am that day until about Friday night (Dec 3) I bled like I have never bled before. Toilet times, which were frequent, were reminiscent of the culminatory scene in Carrie.

Instantly the word haemorrhage flashed in my mind and I started feeling dizzier as the days wore on. I do not know to this day if that was because I was freaking myself out at the sight of all the blood, or if I was actually reacting to the blood loss.

Every time I went to the loo, it was as if a massacre had been committed in the bowl. Every time I went to the loo, I had to flush twice before the water returned to clear. I know you think I am being melodrammatic. I know the stark, bright red that some blood can colour looks damn frightening when contrasted against the white porcelain.

I know that. But I had a period less than three weeks before - and it was slightly heavier than normal. Now I was spending my days - excruciatingly at work, which was hard but necessary - racing to the loo every 20 minutes for fear the pad would not hold.

(Sorry for any grossness in the next little bit.) There were clots. Big ones. Like jelly. And fleshy. Every time I went to the loo, the sound of urine hitting the water would be punctuated with a staccato machine gun plop plop plop of bright red tissue smashing the toilet water meniscus to oblivion.


I rang the doctor, feeling slightly weird as I wasn't technically a patient under the strict definition. On his advice, I had an ultrasound and politely declined the offer of an internal scan while lying on the table (are you off your face?? I am bleeding?!!!) I had a blood test last Friday and another today.

The doc rang tonight and, drum roll, it's nothing to worry about. He doesn't really know what it is, or what caused it, but he knows what it isn't and at last I can legitimately use Arnie's famous Kindergarten Cop line: "It's not a tumour!"

(If it was a tumour, there would have been the pregnancy hormone HCG coursing through my vines. And, sadly, there is none of that hormone there anymore.) It could have been something called an arteriovenous malformation, but they are rare in the uterus and congenital anyway and unlikely to form after a pregnancy.

The weird thing was that my case and symptoms mirror those of another of the doc's patients, and one he saw only two weeks before me. Her bleeding, the same as mine, resolved itself normally.

I have a physiological doppelganger out there and she lives within a 50km radius of me!!! Huh, imagine the ad in the personals I'd have to place to find her...

Anyway, that news is something of a relief.