Monday 30 November 2009


Or, lack of.

It's surely no news that babies bring lack of sleep. I've mentioned before that ours have awful trouble - not so much getting to sleep as staying asleep. And I knew that when we brought them home that I would be horribly sleep deprived. I used to have nightmares about it, literally - I would dream that I had to get up because my baby was crying, and then wake up for real and think 'phew! At least that's ONE good thing about having no children!' and snuggle back down.

So I was kind of prepared for the fact that I would never sleep again. What I wasn't prepared for was how it would affect me. When I've been sleep deprived before (exams, long hours at work, a thesis to write, etc etc) I've been upset, irritable, weepy and headachy. But this time... it's different. Instead of all that, I just feel like.... I'm fading away. To use a photoshop simile, I feel like I've had my opacity reduced to about 30%. I'm still here, but I'm feeling pretty...wispy. And.... unable to finish a sentence, or a thought. Or... something. (While in this weakened state, I will admit that YES I have probably been a bit too harsh on sleep-deprived new-parent friends in the past for some of the things they have done / said when I have been in particularly difficult phases of childlessness. Dangit, some of them have been crazy-insensitive, but I'm beginning to realise that hey, they were probably being equally rude to everybody - it's likely that the others just had the good sense to ignore them. I'm already freaking out a bit about who I must have already offended by both omission and comission in this twilight, catatonic state. Everybody, probably. If that includes anybody reading this, I'm really really sorry).

Anyway, this cannot continue. J has a job. I still have one or two friends left. They are waking up every HOUR. And since we've been home, their sleeping has just got worse and worse. They will only sleep on the bottle, or on my chest, and they are waking up, SCREAMING fit to shatter glass, then taking 1/2 oz and going back to sleep. Sometimes in the night they are genuinely hungry, but more often they just want to suck themselves back to sleep. And wow, I had absolutely NO idea how the whole twin-thing would just be a synergy of disaster in this area.

If someone else had written this post, say, four months ago, I would have read it, clicked my tongue and said 'oh well, adopted children, you know, I guess they are going to have sleep difficulties and you are just going to have to suck it up because of, you know, attachment and stuff'. And I'm sure that sleep and attachment are related. But I've begun to realise that other things that affect attachment are the ability to a) stand upright without wobbling b) play with my children on the floor without accidentally slipping into a coma c) have the energy to do all that attachment-therapy type talk that I memorised while I was waiting.

Oh yeah, and apparently bad sleep is at least as bad for the babies as it is for us. Worse, actually. And that's what tipped the balance for us.

(No, really).

(No, really, really).

We've bought this book (actually, we bought a few but this seems the best)

and we're going to sleep train them.

I know, I can't believe it either.

It feels like an admission of failure, even though I'm absolutely certain we're doing the right thing. I guess (like so much of the rest of this blog) I'm writing it down here because it's such an unexpected thing for me. Maybe rather than an admission of failure, it's an admission of 'maybe I didn't really know what I was talking about after all'. I'm sure it won't be the last.

But hey, did you see the bit where it says 'results in less than a week?' I'll keep you posted!

Monday 23 November 2009

They are Napping

I'd never realised just how magical those words really are. Especially in the plural - yes, they are BOTH napping, at the same time. It's my first day looking after them on my own, because J has gone back to work today, with his suit and his tie and his briefcase and his annual train ticket, back to the land where grownups do grownup things.

So far, it's been okay. The fact that I've fired up the computer means things must be okay. We have been for a walk, and delivered our official notification of adoption letter (hopefully to the right address! Failing to notify the authorities within 14 days of an international adoption turns out to be punishable by 12 months imprisonment, which seems a little over the top to me).

But anyway. Lately, here, it's all been about me-me-me when I know that the reason you are really here is to see the babies! I've been meaning to post photos, but have found it hard for two reasons - firstly, the two new little people in the house never letting me get near the computer, of course, but secondly - unexpected freaked-out-ness about their early little selves. I look at their early photos and they are still my beautiful babies, but honestly? They are so thin that I can't understand why I wasn't more scared at the time. Don't get me wrong - I was scared, especially after we went to a (wonderful, kind, local, cheap) doctor in Ethiopia who used words like 'serious malnutrition' but it's only now that they are filling out that I can really see how terrifyingly titchy they were. And that makes me feel all kinds of sad.

So, I am going to post the photos with a commentary about when they were taken, otherwise you'll think you're looking at different babies.

Stage one: This is the babies on their first day home. They are cute, but did I already say terrifyingly titchy? I can hardly bear to look at these photos, and that's not just because I look h.a.g.g.a.r.d. (By this point, we'd had a very difficult meeting with MO.WA, and had to attend court which was NOT fun (more about that, perhaps, another day) and we'd had my cancelled flight and pretty much no sleep and SURELY things were about to get easier, yes? Heh heh heh, says current-me to then-me. Definitely not).

No, it's because my beautiful girl and boy look like elf-children.

Stage two: The next few days. We've dressed them in tiny clothes that are somehow still way too big, and they are just beginning to figure out which way is up. We get some smiles, but there is a lot of uncertainty. As indeed there should be. (And that second to last picture? Yes we let my mother hold the babies. If she hadn't done all she did for us on that trip, I really have NO idea whether we all would have made it home. Not joking. While she was holding the baby, I was probably off in a corner either crying or throwing up. Or both).

Stage three: Ahhhh, this is more like what the babies are really like. They are starting to fill out and their personalities are really beginning to show. Tummy time is still a complete mystery to them, by the way.

Yes, baby girl, it's all been a bit of a shock to mummy too.
Stage four: A few weeks in. Is it just me, or are they starting to just look like ordinary spoiled children here? Maybe it's just the light, but I think they are starting to glow.

So, that's the baby pictures from Addis. They have woken up, so I must go. More later.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Day Four at Home

and this is the first time I have switched on my computer.

I'm guessing that probably tells you all you need to know about how upside-down things are here right now. (That, and I originally typed 'need' as 'kneed').

One of the things I was most looking forward to when I got home was catching up on everyone's blogs, saying hi, and finally leaving some comments - it's been driving me crazy not to be able to say things like - wow! You're travelling this week! (That's for you, T) Hi! Great to meet you! (for you, Amanda) Two of your recent posts made me cry! (for you, Emaye) and so on and so on. I think I planned to do this, ummmm, Saturday afternoon. Not so much, as it turns out - I spent at least 20 hours of Saturday in my pyjamas, taking it in turns with the other grownups to catch up on sleep and trying to convince the babies that they should take their turn too. I feel terrible about this, especially since you've all been so incredibly supportive while I've been away, but I'm going to have to crave your indulgence and ask you to accept my heartfelt apologies for my silence. I haven't stopped caring, I promise! Now, by day four, I've given up any idea that the babies will ever sleep so am trying to unpack a month's worth of detritus around them, (and just gave up resisting and switched the computer on too). I said that we didn't bring enough of some stuff (notably bottles, also formula) but we WAY overestimated on other things, which is why I have twelve packs of leftover antibacterial handwipes. I've spent a lot of the last few days just looking wildly around the house trying to find places to PUT all these things. Is there much of an ebay market for secondhand antibacterial handwipes? No, didn't think so.

I knew things wouldn't suddenly be easy when we got home, and they're not. The babies are hugely disoriented, again, which is perfectly reasonable. They are waking up 8 - 10 times at night and we are finding it tough. I know this won't last forever, and we are doing the things we've been advised to (eg no switching the light on, no talking at night, sleeping in our room etc etc) but this is probably going to take some serious time to settle down. They are still jetlagged, I'm sure, and the cold and the new smells and change in air pressure has got to be difficult for them. At the moment we are trying to make things as easy as possible for them, with lots of cuddles and all the milk they can imagine, whenever they want, even if that means waking at 4, again at 4.30 and again at 5. Which it does, every day. And we are tired.

Like every new adoptive mother, (and probably every mother, I guess) I'm struggling with the transition between wanting this thing and getting it. I knew that things would be hard, and they are, but knowing and experiencing are always two very different things. At the moment they feel more hard than rewarding, and I'm doing my best to let myself just be in that place without going into meltdown. I'm really glad that I read some books (like 'The Post-Adoption Blues') and some blogs (hi Julie, hi Julia!) that warned me that this might be the case. Knowing that this is somehow normal helps me to deal with it. I can deal with things being hard - I cannot deal with adding a layer of guilt about wishing things didn't feel so hard when I wanted them so much. Clearly, another thing I cannot do at the moment is construct a coherent sentence, but I'm just going to have to learn to live with that too.

And believe it or not, despite what I've written above, I know how blessed I am and I am so grateful. We put the babies in their bear suits today and took them for a walk - one in the sling, and one in the pram. They slept and smiled and none of us walked into a pole or fell in the river, despite our sleep deprivation, and it was so good to all be together, our family of four, in our little town. Now they are downstairs with J feeding them while I go through all the clothes that need unpacking (and type this).

It's going to be a while before things feel like they are anywhere near normal again, I think. But am I allowed to be really, really cheesy for a moment here? A month or so ago, while I was crying a lot and waiting for our court date, I went to an afternoon showing of the new version of Fame. I'll be frank - it's a pretty bad film. I don't want to ruin the plot for you, but basically, they want to live forever, they want to learn how to fly. (So you're not disappointed, I should probably let you know that none of them actually do learn to fly during the course of the film, which is a shame, I thought). But there's a really nice song near the beginning that Marco sings for his audition, and it's been stuck in my head for a month now. I would hate to think that I've sunk to the point where I'm getting philosophical input from a Disney film, but I keep looking at those babies and thinking - we're just ordinary people, kiddos. Maybe we should take it slow.

For now, I think slow is okay.

Friday 13 November 2009

And suddenly, things started to happen very fast...

We've had a very difficult and stressful few days trying to sort out
visas (the entire
casework team at the Home Office was down with Swine Flu). We wrote
many strongly worded emails, and made some strongly worded phone
calls, and finally got good news yesterday that they were being
processed. We picked them up this morning and then went across the
road to the Ethiopian Airlines office, where our skills at wording
things strongly turned out to be needed even more urgently.

We were told that we wouldn't be able to change our flights to any
date earlier than Wednesday, which would have meant that Mum was at
risk of missing her connecting flight to Australia on Thursday.
Fortunately, J has a very impressive ability to sit in a chair and
not move until someone does something helpful, and after 1 1/2 hours
of this we were told that we could fly tonight. I think they did this
just to guarantee we wouldn't come back tomorrow.

Anyway, this means that we are flying tonight! After weeks of not much
happening, we're about to go. We're going to miss lots of things about
Addis, but not the being-new-parents-in-a-hotel-room part. We'd
probably better go and finish the packing... more later.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

I kill technology

About three nights into the all-night-feeding marathon that has become
my life, my watch stopped. This was pretty annoying. If you're going
to be up for hours feeding, you want to know HOW many hours you were
up for, feeding, so you can claim the appropriate sympathy from your
spouse the next morning. [No OF COURSE I'm not doing all the feeding.
We're just not always up at the same time]. Also, you can find out
whether that cry really is for the next feed, or if you just fell
asleep out of sheer exhaustion for about sixty seconds and actually,
that cry is part of the same feed you were already doing and thought
you had finished but the baby was only faking being asleep and now
wants MORE MILK, darnit, MORE, NOW.

Anyway, after a few nights (and days) of no watch, and J getting a
little fed up with me saying 'what's the time, sweetie?' about every
ten minutes, I decided enough was enough. I bought a new watch, for
the princely sum of fifty birr. This was great! That night, I knew
that when I woke up, it was 12.30. And then, next time, it was
12.45.... what? That doesn't add up, especially since the first feed
had taken about an hour.

And that was when I found out that my second watch had stopped, too,
on the very first night I owned it. (And no, it wasn't a wind-up. We

So anyway. I think I have accepted the no-watch situation, until we
get back to the land of branded replacement batteries. But that is
really just my way of gently introducing the fact that today,
completely out of the blue and unexpectedly, my LAPTOP died. Utterly
and completely - I can't even turn it on. It was only three months
old, and I really loved that little machine. I loved that it enabled
me to send email. I loved that I could download my photos onto it. I
didn't, but I could. I loved that it had all my music on it, that I
could play through its tinny little speakers in the middle of the

For now, I'm typing on my mum's. But it will go back and live in her
room, and mine is staring at me blankly, with its empty screen mocking
me. What's the point of all this? No idea, really, except that I now
feel even more cut off from everything and everyone.

And since it seems my powers of killing technology are increasing... I
really, really hope that there are several spare engines on the plane
on the way home.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Me again...

It's really hard to know how to write at the moment, because my
thoughts are so jumbled up inside my head. Maybe one day I will be
able to make sense of all this, but at the moment, in the middle of
it, I definitely can't. Some of what I'm feeling seems really
negative, and I hate the fact that this sounds like I'm complaining.
I'm really not, I promise. I look at those two little faces grinning
at me, and I know I'm the luckiest woman in the world.

But. Parenting is famous for being something of an adventure. And
being in a foreign country, with (as it turns out) NO idea of when you
are going to be able to go home, is also something of an adventure.
And I've discovered that I like my adventures one at a time, please.
What's getting me down is just all the really boring stuff - we are
staying in a guesthouse that is mostly okay, but the bathroom door
doesn't close, the shower doesn't really work, the drainer doesn't
drain, there are loads of cockroaches, there is (obviously) no clean
water coming out of the tap and mostly we are just a looooooong way
from home. We had to pack our bags for our first month of parenting
with no freaking CLUE what we were really going to need. And now that
we have more of an idea, we can't get any of the stuff. I'm beginning
to obsess about how wonderful it would be to have MORE BOTTLES. I'm
going to embarrass myself here and admit that we only brought four.
Yes, you read that right! Four! For twins! We have the whole Playtex
drop-ins system, which is fine, and means the bottle bodies don't need
to be sterilised, but ack! This means that we can't make up any more
than four bottles at a time, which is absolutely no joke when we are
faced with two tiny malnourished panic-feeding babes. I'm sure there
are decent bottles somewhere in Addis, but I don't have any idea how
to find them, and I don't really have the time to scour the city - see
above, re: two tiny malnourished panic-feeding babes.

Last night I was asleep for long enough to get into a proper REM
cycle, and here's what I dreamed - I dreamed I went to the supermarket
and bought more bottles (and some chicken… sorry vegetarians). This is
how much I am missing having access to standard consumer goods - I am
dreaming about those fluorescent-lit aisles as if it was some kind of
paradise, rather than the kind of place I would normally spend a week
eating mouldy fridge leftovers to avoid.

In case it's not obvious, yes I do feel incredibly guilty for how much
I miss the comfortable bits of my life at home. I know how great it
is, technically, to be spending all this time in our babies' birth
country. But the thing is - we're not really in Ethiopia here, we're
in a hotel room. We have a view of Ethiopia from our windows, but it's
incredibly difficult to get out during the day (see above, re: two
tiny etc) so we're not really adding anything to our sum of fabulous
Ethiopian experiences during this trip, we're just trying to survive
our transition to a family of four and that feels like quite enough.
Last trip, and this trip, I've been hit hard by how much lower my
capacity for thrilling new experiences is than I had assumed it would
be. If you haven't travelled yet, I think my one piece of advice would
be - plan to take it slow. Becoming a parent to a child who has no
idea who you are is a huge and giant thing. And if you had gone into
labour and delivered a child in a hospital in Addis, you wouldn't even
be thinking about doing sightseeing during that same week, no matter
how physically great you were feeling. Getting to know Ethiopia is
hugely important, but I think we (as an adoption community) have
unrealistic expectations about combining this with parenting a new
child, especially if it is our first child.

Personally (and this little sidetrack is just my own personal opinion,
I'm sure others will disagree) I think this is part of the reason that
it's too easy to fall into one of two schools of thought on Ethiopia
travelling - a) it was horrible! I couldn't take a proper shower, and
it was impossible to get decent cheese! (or baby bottles, if you're
me, or whatever). Or b) Ethiopia was great! It is a wonderful land,
full of rich culture and beautiful friendly people! I'm exaggerating
a little, but I know that I personally can be prone to this, and I'm
sure I'm not alone. We get this strange, short time here, and all our
experiences are polarised through the lens of this bone-crunchingly
intense experience that is new adoptive parenthood. Like everywhere on
earth, this is an incomprehensible place, especially after a length of
time measured in days, or at best weeks. But things feel awful and
beautiful and it's all too hard to make sense of it. Our
cognitive-dissonance-o-meters are WAY in the red zone, and I think
that in order to get that one part of our brain labelled 'Ethiopia'
back into neutral, it can be easiest to just go with a or b.

I don't think I need to point out the dangers with a, especially since
that's the camp I'm most in danger of falling into right now, with all
my supermarket fantasies. I think option b is a little more subtle.
[ha, yes, 4 hours sleep and I used the word subtle with a straight
face. Don't worry,I think that's ridiculous too.] I started to think a
bit about this when I did the whole 'beautiful country rich culture'
speech to some Ethiopian friends and they basically told me that I had
to be kidding. I've come to think that the main risk with option b is
that it can just be us being wilfully, arrogantly ignorant of some of
the more difficult things that are going on here. As adoptive parents,
we have a vested interest in creating a happy theme-park version of
this place, (whether we give into that desire or not) and I've come to
believe that this is no less arrogant than choosing option a). I
mean, we're only able to adopt in the numbers that we are because of
endemic economic and health problems in this country. I hate that
fact, but we have to face it. I think that pushing option b too hard
sort of says: Hey guys! I have considered your social problems and
your poverty and I have decided that they are A-OK with me! And
really, in the end, I'm not sure that's any more respectful than a).

And no, I have no idea what the answer is, except that I don't really
think there is one. At the moment I'm trying to learn to just feel the
tensions and learn to live with them, which is harder than it sounds,
especially when people ask questions like 'so, how was Ethiopia?' I
think my stock answer is going to have to be 'complicated'. I'd be
very interested in other people's thoughts on this one, whether you're
yet to travel or did it ages ago. Those of you who are
na-blo-po-mo-ing, here's an idea for a post for you! A little gift
from Addis from me.


One last thing, since this post just got totally away from its
original intention (and in the end has taken about four days, see
above re two tiny etc!) . I wasn't kidding when I said I don't know
when we're going home. Having (finally) acquired for the babies their
court papers, translations of same, birth certs and passports, we were
able to apply for their visas yesterday. And, long story short, nobody
will commit to a processing time except to say it could take up to TWO
MONTHS. And of course it probably won't, but I wanted someone to
promise me it wasn;t going to be more than, say, another week and so
I'm just trying to adjust my expectations again and stop fantasising
about my house, my kitchen, and a shiny row of fifteen brand new baby
bottles by the middle of November. Prayers for a speedy process would
be much appreciated.