Monthly Archives

March 2015

My Spectrum Journey

Eating Lemons, Screen Wash and Big Hugs

March 26, 2015
Michael Emerson

You need sunglasses to talk on the phone?

When my son got his autism diagnosis, my main concern was how he would progress socially. Play dates had been fraught with anxiety on both our parts. What I imagined would be a cup of tea and a chat with a friend would become an exercise in damage control. Before he started school, I enrolled him in a variety of classes. Football was a disaster. He made up his own rules and would go into meltdown if others didn’t follow them despite the fact he hadn’t shared said rules. He went to a Summer camp where he slapped the teacher in the face for asking him to switch places with another kid, “been watching too much Dynasty; bud?”. (I can’t waste the opportunity for a good Lost Boys quote, sorry.)

We were asked to leave Karate as he was “too violent”. Hadn’t they seen Karate Kid?  Some of those kids were sociopathic using illegal strikes and whatnots. I cottoned on to the fact that my son, like his fragile momma, did not like sports. I needed to tailor a class to suit him. Together with a couple of other Mammys in the same boat, we set up Ripples Ashbourne. We piggy-backed on to a successful support group on The Northside of Dublin, run by Anne Caulfield, also called Ripples. Our goal was to provide support for parents of kids with special needs and also to provide inclusive extra-curricular activities. The other mothers have run this with great aplomb. My organisational skills are shocking so I’ve probably been more of a hindrance to them.

Extra-curriculars… What would Conall be interested in?

Kids with Asperger’s typically have a special interest. Initially, Conall loved cars and would spend hours lining them up. Then he moved on to the Titanic and every conversation would be manipulated to talk about the captain (Edward J. Smith), the engineering, the chimneys (one was fake you know). Then he met the love of his life, technology and Minecraft. At the moment we’re stuck on Five Nights at Freddy’s, a game that I can’t fathom at all. He will wake up in the morning and his first words will be along the lines of “Do you know there’s a Golden Bonnie?” I have been introduced to a world of YouTubers, some of them with possibly more followers than Elvis. They have become very rich sitting on their asses narrating games. The world’s gone mad. He was watching an Irish guy called Jacksepticeye for awhile until he started swearing (shocking stuff) and saying I’m allowed cos I’m Irish. YouTube has been banned till he’s ten. Meanwhile my two-year-old is watching some woman open hundreds of Kinder Surprise eggs, is nothing sacred? They’ve managed to remove the surprise element from Kinders. (My son calls them tuntys, after Humpty Dumpty I presume. Try saying tunty and Kinder quickly, it doesn’t end well.) I googled the hell out of Minecraft and teachers in Ireland and eventually came across Computer Xplorers and the fabulous Nicola. She started inclusive classes for Ripples and has taught the kids so much. She has buckets of patience and a genuinely lovely disposition.

Conall is animated and engaged when talking about his special interest and oblivious to the boredom of others. This is a worry. He needs a lot of pragmatic speech therapy. Eye contact, interaction and reading verbal cues are all way off. His emotional regulation needs a lot of work. He is prone to major meltdowns that can frighten both of us, reducing the two of us to tears. I sometimes feel like Elliot to his E.T.

Anxiety can be a major issue for those on the spectrum. Conall can overthink things and is frightened of water, motorways, and being poisoned. I was doing the school run a few months back and had the three boys in the car. Koray was in the boot (it’s a 7 seater, I wasn’t channelling the 80’s) and he held up a container of screen wash (child locked) and asked what it was. I told him and immediately Conall asked what would happen if you drank it? I said it could seriously injure or kill you and he asked would medicine fix you?  I said possibly as he seemed agitated. Later on he was in the bath and he started freaking out asking for Calpol. I immediately guessed what was wrong and told him there was no chance he got poisoned from the screen wash as it was in the boot and had the cap tightly secured. I had to give him Calpol in the end to calm him. I’m probably going to have to give up on swimming lessons. He’s been going for a couple of weeks and shares the lesson with two other kids. He will not leave the steps of the pool and had to cut the last lesson short as he had a complete panic attack when the instructor tried to carry him to a different part of the pool. His poor little face when he got home. He was apologising and saying he didn’t know why he was so scared. This is a dilemma… do I continue with lessons or quit? I haven’t fully decided yet.

Sensory issues affect kids on the spectrum also. His sense of smell is turned up to max. We were having dinner in an aunty’s house once, a chicken curry. Conall started crying because the smell was so powerful it was hurting him. He had a dilemma as he was desperately hungry. I asked my aunt, who I hadn’t seen in years for a peg and he sat and ate the dinner with a peg on his nose. She just took it in her stride and thankfully didn’t take offence. At night he tells me to cuddle him but I’ve to turn my back to him, “cos you know… your breath”. I’m not reaching for the Corsodyl yet as he says this to everyone, no really! He has no problem eating a lemon like an apple and will often crave sour or spicy food. He wears a hat with long ears so he can chew on them. His pencil case is filled with chewy pencil tops. He likes to lick people. I’ve had to appeal to his fear of germs to quell this habit as the teacher called me aside to say it was inappropriate that he was licking the boy’s arm that sat next to him. Is it wrong that I was secretly delighted that he wasn’t being aggressive? Most parents of kids with ADHD or ASD will be familiar with the international teacher’s signal for your child has been a little shit today so could you stay back and I’ll discuss it with you in a very condescending manner; It’s a raised finger and simultaneous head nod, similar to the international sign for getting the bill at a restaurant. Conall will throw me a “who knows” look and shrug it off. I was such a good kid in school and completely toed the line so this is very unfamiliar territory for me and I always feel I have to tell the teacher “but I was so good in school”, “I went to university you know, a good one!

My impression of people with Asperger’s previously was that they were slightly robotic and had no feelings of empathy. I remember a car journey to work with my friend Catherine way before diagnosis when I was crying over something Conall had done and she asked could it be Asperger’s and I said definitely not, he is so loving. And he is loving, not the same kind of loving I get from my other two who love me ferociously and competitively. “I love you Mam more than anyone else in the world, you’re mine and I’ll marry you one day”… typical Oedipal stuff. Conall is so intuitive, he knows when I’m upset or completely overwhelmed by this parenting malarkey. He’ll give me a thumbs up and a wink (his signature move) or he’ll say something completely profound like “it’s going to be a good day Mam”. He craves and needs deep pressure so big hugs are almost medicinal. He likes to be cocooned in a blanket at night. Something that was recommended to me and is great are those tight, long sleeve vests that athletes wear. He likes to wear this under his clothes as he feels like he’s getting a hug all day. The reason for all the deep pressure is that typically kids with ASD have problems with their vestibular self… this is one of our senses we take for granted and don’t fully understand (I know I don’t so forgive my ham-fisted description). It is our sense of spatial awareness and controls our movement and sense of balance. Kids on the spectrum can often feel a bit afloat and need that deep pressure for security and comfort. It’s also another reason for clumsiness. Conall will walk into a room and upend everything. He’d do well in one of those old black and white movies with Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. He’ll trip and when he recovers look around in shock and say “what happened?”

TV and movies have covered the spectrum of autism from Sheldon to Rainman and while some of their traits are ASD, they are obviously quite polarised and one-dimensional for entertainment value. One of the best portrayals of a kid with Asperger’s in my opinion was Kevin in the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin in 1989. That is such a great movie, well deserving of a re-watch. Also I quite enjoyed Adam (2009). If anyone has seen Mozart and the Whale, let me know. Can I watch Josh Hartnett in a movie? Has enough time passed since Pearl Harbour, although I have forgiven the lovely Ben, so maybe.

The Americans

It’s been a rocky road… kind of like walking cobblelock in heels. However with the help of teachers and family, Conall has come on in leaps and bounds. He’s in mainstream school and although he will always be a bit socially awkward (who isn’t?), he has a small group of friends, including a very loyal and admiring girlfriend. He is smart as a whip and technologically savvy. He cracks me up as no one else can and is fiercely loving and protective of me. He can be bluntly honest but that’s inherited from my Mam. He loves to start a sentence with “I don’t want to say this but… you’ve put on some weight/your breath smells ” (Just added Corsodyl to the shopping list). Yeah we go head to head, a lot but as long as there is an open line of communication, even if that’s at a high decibel all is good!

One point I’d like to address is how intensely annoying it is for people to say “he looks normal”.. Don’t say this to the parent of a special needs kid, EVER.. you have no idea of the daily challenges we go through and when you say this it belittles our struggle, it makes us think you don’t believe us, there’s that fear of Munchausen by proxy again …nuff said.

Stinger BarAlso, please don’t say “in my day kids were a bit hyper or bold, why the need to label” Hmmm.. how do I put this nicely and not punch you in your smug, judgemental face?… In your day these kids probably needed a diagnosis and some help. I’d like some statistics on how those “hyper kids” are doing today. Possibly there were some underlying issues and not just an over-indulgence of Stinger bars.

My Spectrum Journey

Asperger’s, It Isn’t A Label, It’s A Diagnosis

March 23, 2015
sperger's Syndrome

Conall’s pushed one of the twins in the river.

This was the sentence that began our journey into the world of autism. He was four, had just started school and had always been a handful and a bit prone to tantrums and aggression. To give a complete history, he was born full term, not a pleasant birth, vacuum, episiotomy, the complete spa treatment. He scored 10/10 on his Apgar score but cried nonstop in the hospital. He took two weeks to latch on to feed, they even had breast feeding experts visit my bedside in the hospital and pincer grip my nipples. He was my first child and I assumed I was spoiling him. I was told I held him too much… how does anyone have the emotional strength to separate themselves from their beautiful, sweet-smelling (most of the time) baby? My Mam blamed breast feeding. She didn’t come out and say it but she was deeply suspicious of the whole business and if someone’s child acted up she’d often ask “was he breastfed?” and if the answer was yes, she’d look knowingly at me. Conall was slow to talk, over 3 and his first word was light, followed by “there you are”. When he found his feet, he had a tendency to wander which brings us back to that river. I had just returned from a scan on my 3rd baby and Conall had been really well behaved in the hospital with me so I allowed him out with his friends, the twins from next door. He had persuaded them to walk up to the river which is a about ten houses away from our house. He told one of them to throw some rubbish in the river and when he refused Conall said he’d push him in if he didn’t. He refused again and my son pushed him in. Thankfully the water was low that day but the boy had a gash on his head where he hit a rock. I was shocked to my core,  I knew he could be stubborn and aggressive and was prone to major meltdowns but to act maliciously (and litter!) was unconscionable to me. I called next door to apologise but the house was in uproar and I left. I sobbed for hours and I met with his teacher the next day. She probably thought I was a hormonal mess but agreed that something wasn’t right. My neighbour called and we both had a cry. She was amazingly kind and sympathetic and as a mother of 5 confirmed what the teacher had said.

iStock_000015719845SmallI made an appointment with our GP and listed all my concerns. I had always harboured a feeling that he had ADHD but the doctor was the first to suggest Asperger’s and refer us on. Strangely the first person I thought of with Asperger’s was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model years previously who seemed robotic and spoke in a monotone. When I got home I googled the bejaysus out of that word and had so many lightbulb moments. I decided to go see a child psychiatrist privately to get an official diagnosis. We met with the doctor quickly enough and it was a nerve-racking experience. He was a middle aged man who immediately put me on edge. I felt as if I had Munchausen by proxy and was just exaggerating “typical boy behaviour”. Conall of course behaved impeccably in his office causing the doctor’s well-coiffed eyebrows to ascend a little further. He suggested Conall was a little young for a diagnosis and to come back in six months. He did however comment on Conall’s lack of eye contact which oddly I hadn’t noticed prior to it being pointed out. We felt really deflated (emotionally and financially) and endured another six months of erratic behaviour. When we returned the doctor suggested my husband take our son out for a walk so we could talk privately. Conall didn’t want to go so I suggested my husband take him to the shop for “something nice.” When they left, pompous pants said you shouldn’t have to bribe your child. I was immediately on the back foot and felt like a shite mother. He started to ask if I spent time with my son. I said as much as possible considering at this time I had two other boys under two. He asked “but are you on your phone when you’re with him or are you with-with him?” Of course I lied and said with-with him, definitely not on facebook or checking the clearance in Argos. He asked was my husband a “hands-on Dad”? He suggested a parenting class. By this stage I was blinking back tears and a complete wreck. Before a diagnosis he wanted me to see a psychologist and do a parenting class and possibly remortgage my home. I left there reeling, I felt like I’d spent time with an emotional vampire. My husband was furious, but like the polite Irish/Turkish citizens that we are, we gave over another briefcase of cash. I bawled all the way home in the car, torn between rage and despair.

After that I got proactive!

Anyone else out there who has a child with Asperger’s that would be interested in meeting for a chat?” This was the plea I posted on a local Facebook page. Slowly responses pinged in my private messages over the next few days… It was great to meet with mothers who were beginning on their spectrum journey or were further down the road; individuals to chat with and learn from..  In the meantime the public services were dragging their feet and Conall still didn’t have a diagnosis.  A professor and an expert in this field was recommended to me and I rang up and got an appointment pretty quickly. I didn’t know what to expect and was apprehensive after my last shrink appointment. I was put at ease straight away as there wasn’t an imposing oak desk between us and he seemed genial in a gentle college professor way. He fired a tonne of questions at me as Conall sat drawing. They required only simple yes or no answers. I answered yes to every question except “Does he spin?” At which point Conall looked up and quite calmly said “no I don’t” (he does).

Éamon de Valera

Éamon De Valera may have been autistic.

The diagnosis was no surprise… Asperger’s, ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. The professor removed his academic hat for a few minutes to explain how some of the world’s most successful people have Asperger’s and gave the example of De Valera. I was relieved to have an official diagnosis (as was my wallet €300 lighter) It’s amazing how many people ask “are you sure you want to label your child?” My response is, “it isn’t a label, it’s a diagnosis“. I was relieved to have a label; On a selfish note it meant I wasn’t a crappy mother who couldn’t discipline her own child and my son was not a brat but a kid full of anger and anxiety due to the fact that his brain wasn’t functioning in the same manner as a neurotypical child. I’m awash with guilt as I type this and memories of my frustration and anger at an aggressive and defiant toddler surface. It’s tough when it’s your first child and you haven’t a clue what you’re doing anyway but like anything it’s a case of taking each day as it comes and trying to do the best for your child. It’s too long and boring to go into the short-comings of the public services. You need only to be a member of one of the many autism support groups on Facebook to understand that this is the norm. It would be nice for someone to sit us both down and ask what we’d like or need? I was so excited to get into the system as I thought so much would be done but I’m beyond relying on the public health system now. For Conall, psychology is having an open dialogue with me. I ask him every day what his high and his low was and try to glean his mindset from his answers. For someone with not much emotional regulation, he can certainly keep his inner feelings in a vault but “chats” at night can sometimes let me gain some insight. I worry about him when he hits puberty but I will always be open about his diagnosis as I feel it is something he will need to embrace as early as possible and indeed celebrate. Occupational therapy is done through wearing tight vests, lots of  hugs, swimming lessons, hip hop dancing and just running around the house like a mad fecker, occasionally dropping to the floor for a few press-ups. Speech and language is dealt with by fostering friendships, school, and extracurricular activities. There should be no stigma attached to Asperger’s or for any kid on the spectrum. Before I had Conall, I would judge tantruming kids and their parents with no thought for any underlying issue bar the need of a good wallop. My hope for this post and the next is to make you think next time you see a harangued parent struggle in Tesco. Also talk to your kids about inclusion in school and at play, there is heartbreak in watching your kid stand alone talking to himself in the school yard. Put on a bit of John Lennon’s Imagine there while you ponder these things, it was playing instrumentally in my mind as I typed the last paragraph, makes it more powerful.

In my next post I will explain in more detail our personal journey with the idiosyncrasies of Asperger’s. I’ll talk briefly about the negatives but more importantly, I’d like to highlight all the positives, and there are many that a child with Asperger’s brings.

It is a good few months since I wrote this and I had something to add. I recently told a friend on a night out that I thought her grown son had Aspergers. I struggled with this disclosure for a long time but she seemed relieved and said she’s look into it. Since then he came to me to thank me for telling his Mam as he now attends a support group and having a name for his perceived differences has helped him greatly. I have watched him, flourish and if I do nothing else good with my life I’m happy! It proves the point that a diagnosis is key and he in turn has promised to give me insight into teenage and adult years with Aspergers. You know who you are and I wish you nothing but happiness.


Morning Mayhem

March 19, 2015
Malcolm in the Middle

People look at me with my 3 boys running circles around me or literally hanging out of my clothes and shake their heads saying “I don’t know how you do it”. I’m sure many of you have more than 3 to deal with and think I’m on easy street but it has been proved that 3 kids cause maximum stress as after 3 you let go a little. I’d imagine “let go” is a euphemism for smoke dope or drink lots. This “scientific fact” was gleaned from a friend of a friend on facebook so it’s irrefutable. That reminds me of those hearsay (not the band) stories passed around in school that happened to my cousin’s friend’s cousin. A particularly horrifying one was the girl on holidays in Spain who had a big lump on her head and when brushing her hair, ripped the top off the bump and thousands of ants scuttled down her face! The moral of the story was, I think, don’t visit foreign countries as strange and scary stuff can happen. Possibly it was a rumour started by Bord Fáilte? If this was indeed your cousin’s friend, please let me know.

I have yet to find an appropriate answer to the question “how do you do it?” . I can pretend to have everything under control “ Thanks, it’s all about structure, you know and discipline. I find it helps to schedule some me-time and date night with the hubby. A balanced diet and media restrictions keep my little Von Trapps toeing the line”  and then I blow a whistle and they all line up in order of age and perform Edelweiss.

Sometimes I want to be honest and scream “ I’m not doing it!!! It’s doing me… What happened to my life? Look at me, look at me I’m in a jock and no one cares. I’ve watched every episode of Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly at least 1000 times. My hands could grate cheese from being washed constantly. I never have my phone and when I do it’s full of weird apps that the kids have downloaded”. It’s difficult to put day to day life into words. My cousin Jen called with her husband a few weeks back and said when they got in the car they felt like they’d been to Vietnam. (I’m presuming ‘Nam and not the idyllic holiday resort it probably is now).

Allow me to enlighten you with some snippets:

DamienMorning time: I normally wake to the dulcet tone of my two year old screaming Mam, Mammmmm, MAMMMMMMM at approx 6am (if lucky). I have to sprint to his room so he doesn’t wake the other two. I lie beside him with the same unattainable dream I’ve had with all of them every morning “maybe he’ll go back to sleep”. He will give me a few occasions of false but beautiful hope before shattering it with a backwards headbutt to the nose. I’ll give him my phone… “what do you want to watch?” I’ll ask frantically.. “anything.. Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, I don’t care.. please let me sleep”. I’ll cajole, I’ll sing and then I’ll get mad. Then one hour later comes begrudged acceptance. At this point, my 3 year old joins the party and the shushing begins. My husband works nights so a lot of shushing goes on. We head for the stairs and an argument breaks out over who can go down first (shushhh, shussh). The trip down the stairs takes approx 5 minutes as they beat the shit out of each other. I make tea and number 3 appears and he’s not happy. He has inherited my hatred of mornings. It’s on my mother’s side; she’s very rarely seen before 1pm and that’s for the best. He glowers at me, channeling his inner Damien (The Omen, not my lovely Dad) “What day is it?” “Monday” “Noooo I hate school, I’m not going, I’m sick, I’ll throw myself in a bin of lava”.

I make a million breakfast concoctions, 75% of which will be binned. I go to take a sip of tea, it’s cold. A fight breaks out  SHUSHHHH. I start dressing them as they work against me and I start to feel like I may morph into the hulk. The baby decides to poo as soon as his sleepsuit is on. I try to change him and he wiggles so much I end up with poo on my pajama bottoms and probably the much-maligned carpet. The other pair are wrestling over a hairband one of them found under the couch and it’s escalating quickly.  I start shouting for my husband, repeatedly.  He arrives down all bleary eyed and has a cup of hot tea as I get jackets and shoes on. “What’s all the drama? “ he says “You smell like shit”. I bite my lip and envision pummelling his washed face with my bare cheese-graters, I mean hands. School bag is packed. Bloody school is way too environmentally friendly. You can’t use tinfoil, clingfilm, tissue, wrappers of any kind. I can only imagine the unappetising state of his sandwich when he opens his lunch box. I’m sure everyone else chops carrots and fruit the night before but I nearly always throw an oul biscuit in as his five a day. There’s figs in fig rolls people!

Shite, sponsorship money is needed.

Himself straps them all in their car seats as I wave ecstatically from the door. I have one hour before the school run ends and he’s back with my tasmanian devil of a two year old. I should probably make beds etc. Screw it, I make tea and go to bed with my laptop. When I hear the car in the driveway I hop up and am poised with a j-cloth in my hand in the kitchen. Years of pretending to work in Pizza Hut have paid off.


Motherhood, Women's Issues

Fendi Fanny

March 16, 2015

This post comes with a warning! Ladies, be prepared for some major leg-crossing and men please appreciate that you won the genetic lottery.

I am writing this from my lovely private hospital room. It’s a sad state of affairs when a trip to the hospital becomes the only way to get some rest. If I discount the pain, it’s been fabulous. Yesterday, I watched 8 episodes of Orange is the New Black in a row, pausing only to tick what I’d like on the following days’ menu and to check my Facebook. To what do I owe this pleasure? It’s courtesy of my kids and their enormous heads. Room-to-Improve-Dermot-Bannon-3My pelvic floor had become more of a mezzanine and my vagina’s back wall had collapsed. Sounds like a case for Dermot Bannon and the Room to Improve team. My 3 kids birthweight’s were 8lbs 11 oz, 9lb 6oz and 9lb 13oz, I have a small frame, I didn’t do kegels and the first birth included a delightful episiotomy. My first indication that something wasn’t right was a couple of weeks after the first when I got up off my extremely house-proud mother’s couch to notice a dark stain. My mother (slightly hysterical) told me I’d wet myself or more importantly her azure two seater! I couldn’t understand it as I’d felt nothing. It’s surprising how quickly incontinence becomes part of your life and you think nothing of changing pads or pants ten times a day. You avoid exercise and cross your legs if you sneeze/ cough or laugh. If you do mention it to your mother/ granny you’ll be told “the joys of motherhood”. I had my second child three years later and didn’t get much time to recover as he has a heart condition and we spent his first week in Crumlin hospital. When we got settled at home I was having a shower and felt something wasn’t right in my vaginal area. I had a look in a hand mirror when I got out of the shower and discovered a large fleshy bulge between my legs. I almost developed my own heart condition and convinced I was prolapsing or birthing that second lizard baby from V, V-Visitor-Baby-1 I took off to the doctor who referred me straight back to the Rotunda. I was told there that it was a vaginal wall prolapse and physio would help. Panic over, I got on with looking after my boys but the incontinence had worsened. I could empty my bladder and turn on the tap to brush my teeth and a gush would soak me. I never felt clean and definitely not sexy. I certainly wasn’t dancing around the kitchen, waving a wooden spoon like the Always discreet ads and their “sensitive bladder” bullshit. I saw a physio who gave me gadgets to try and exercises but nothing was working and then I found out I was pregnant again! I was linked into the Rotunda’s physio after the last baby and she informed me that the muscles in my vag were bust and physio was a waste of time and I was put on the waiting list for a gynae. I was in no hurry as I knew I’d need an op and my kids were too small to leave so I stocked up on Tenas and carried spare knickers in my bag and avoided trampolines. I learnt the hard way not to wear blue jeans on a night out… stick to black!

Gap of DunloeA couple of years passed and I was called to the hospital to see the public gynae. She told me there was nothing she could do and I’d have to see a urinary-gynae and there was a two year waiting list. I explained to her that I felt like an 80 year old woman and by the time somebody got to fix me I would be 80 and therefore it wouldn’t matter that I smelt of pee and had a vagina like the Gap of Dunloe. I asked who was the best privately and was told Paul Byrne in Beaumont Private. I called his office and met him a couple of days later. He asked some questions, had a glance and gave me all the answers I needed. He said I needed a net sling put in to hold up my pelvic floor and some vaginal rejuvenation to repair the episiotomy damage to the back wall of my vagina. I skipped out of there until I discovered my health insurance wouldn’t cover it. Many tears later, I got a loan of €5000 from the bank and it was all booked for February the 9th, 2 days after my 39th birthday. Much hilarity ensued as the girls in my job made me “vag cakes” on my last day. This consisted of two cream cakes side by side.. a before and after. I got some interesting cards, definitely not Hallmark. I was shocked by how many young girls in work expressed jealousy that I was having a “designer vagina” whereas the older ones complained of urinary issues but were too nervous or embarrassed to have it fixed. The weirdest thing is I wasn’t even slightly nervous and that’s from someone who passes out every time she gives blood (I’m not allowed any more, cranky nurses). The logistics of having my kids looked after was the main issue… it required summit meetings, different coloured pens, calenders, shouting and some crying. I felt like the mother in that awful movie “who will take my children?”. Lots of people stepped up but I beat myself up that this was an elective surgery and maybe it should be put off longer. I rang my Mam bawling so many times. Can I state that I don’t recommend anyone calling my mother in a crisis, ever! She would outcry me and then put the fear of god in me about how painful it would be and did I have enough pads for ALL the blood? So, everything was organised and my husband dropped me to the Bon Secours at 7.30am. We had a few nervous giggles about my enormous downstairs situation and how fab it would be after. He admired my surgical stockings and backless gown, I’m slightly worried about a fetish!

I was wheeled off and gloriously drugged to the eyeballs. I came around in recovery to hear the nurses talking about Belvedere. I was gasping to talk and when I got their attention, asked them if Belvedere had an ASD unit? They had no idea what I was talking about. I got back to the room and remained in a love bubble, showering my husband with weird compliments while he laughed hysterically. I was starving from fasting and the nurses kindly brought me cocktail sticks with cotton wool balls to dip into water and ice and suck on. I imagine this is how Kate Moss lives. The drugs wore off that night and sweet jesus the pain was excruciating. I hate to press a hospital bell due to that crippling disease, Irish politeness, but I pressed and pressed. It felt like that moment before you push a baby, intense pressure mixed with an insane period pain. sheetsThe next day they took out the catheter and the “pack” (felt like they pulled 10 king size sheets out of me) and that brought a lot of relief. I could pee on my own, vast amounts of it, into a measuring jug. There’s a strange satisfaction that comes with peeing half a litre. I got a Difene suppository that I could write sonnets about. So here I am, a repaired fanny and an operational pelvic floor. I’m to be released in two days so time will tell. I’ve to be stationary for 6 weeks so that’ll be a challenge. I will let you all know the results in the vaguest terms possible but fingers (not legs) crossed!

I wrote this 5 weeks ago and have had many gross complications and episodes since… I’ll leave it till my next post… a vaginal cliffhanger.




March 12, 2015
Test Screen

I have done something shocking and life-changing. I have cast aside a fifty year old family legacy. How do I put this? Maybe pour something strong into a mug and sit down. Comfy? Ok, I cancelled my Sky subscription, not to change to one of their competitors but to go cold turkey from Coronation Street and Fair City. I’m afraid to tell my Mam, she won’t understand. What is the reason for this madness? Like most Irish households I grew up on a diet of soaps and marmalade sandwiches.

You set your day by them. Neighbours on; Lunchtime. Home and Away; Dinner and homework. Coronation Street; settling in for your last couple of hours before bed, probably included tea and the biscuit tin.

Eastenders came along in 1985 (I was 9) and had the impact that Breaking Bad has these days. They covered topics such as teenage pregnancy and homosexuality which shocked our parents so much that it was banned for many of us. I was forced to listen from the stairs. My diary from 1987 contains nothing of my life but plots and times of soaps. Thursday was the best day ever as Top of the Pops was on along with Eastenders. I can’t help but think of all I could have achieved without TV. Definitely not in the realm of sport as anyone who knows me will testify. Maybe, I’d have had more friends, nope I was the shyest kid ever and would blush on eye-contact.

Could I have read more? I don’t think that would have been possible. Allow me to quote my 13 year old self and I do this with an old school redner: “Speaking of books, will you remind me Mabel (my diary’s name) to try to get a book out of the library on the Tudors as I find them fascinating. I brought an orange and a packet of Burger Bites up to bed with me. I really love that, snuggling down under my warm quilt on a cold night with some food and a good book”                                                                                                          

That diary is pure gold and if for some insane reason it was published (I become an underworld crime figure or people have become so brain dead from Facebook and the Kardashians that this is all their jellified brains can handle and it becomes a modern day Crime and Punishment) , readers would think it was satirical, along the lines of Adrian Mole or Ross O Carroll Kelly.

Burger BitesTo my shame, I haven’t changed much, still like a bed/food combo and in hindsight perhaps I did need TV. Teenage Aisling seemed to live her life like Gale Boetticher without the mass meth production. The few social skills I possessed were probably learnt from the soaps. Is that why I love pubs? Always a disappointment though that no faces get slapped or secrets spilt. Also any wedding I’ve ever been to have run smoothly. Nobody bursts through the doors at the last minute to disclose the groom has a second family of little people living in a cave or the bride has a fetish for coddle. I tried my best at my cousin’s wedding by making a speech about how she once peed herself when I drunkenly couldn’t find the key to the hall door in time but sadly the groom found it endearing.

I have been 4 weeks soap free. I miss them… Orla and Wayne; Paul and Niamh; Steve and Michelle… I’m still grieving. I’m not starving myself entirely, I do have Netflix and I’m catching up on some really good TV. I will use my soap-free time wisely… to read, to write, to shout at the kids and possibly all from my bed while I eat Burger Bites.

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Mom Corleone

March 9, 2015
Mommie Dearest

As Mother’s Day is almost upon us, I’m going to dedicate this article to whinging about my mother rather than my kids. For those of you who are uncertain of my skill set, I am perfect in every way (I have been compared to that paragon of virtue Martha Stewart) and am therefore well qualified to slate all around me. A verbal sniper if you will.

I am currently recuperating at my Mam and Dad’s house following an operation. I had a pelvic floor and vaginal wall repair, to be discussed at a later date when healed and fabulous. I’ve only been here 3 days and I’ve regressed 20 years. I’m sullen, weepy, irritable and I’ve put on about a stone. I’m on a diet of white bread sandwiches and Deal or No Deal. I have just sobbed through Long Lost Family with my Mam while my Dad roared laughing at us. My Mam has me ensconced on the couch with a pillow under my legs and snacks on tap but I suspect her well of sympathy is drying up, she’s tucking the blanket in a bit too heavy handed.

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The Devil Wears Mothercare

March 2, 2015
Miniature Bosses

Am I the only one who watches The Devil Wears Prada and thinks that Anne Hathaway had it easy with Meryl Streep/ Anna Wintour as a boss?

My kids are divas on a good day and provide me with their celebrity riders (which are subject to change post-preparation) several times a day. My 3 year old asks for “everything I like” for his lunch. I interpret that as cheese, ham, cucumber and pasta but it could be flung back, not meeting his culinary desires. I imagine this is what it’s like to work for Elton John.

My mornings begin with a barrage of requests, “Where’s the tablet?” “ I need juice” (a mixture of  apple, orange and blackcurrant with two ice-cubes and a red straw) “my pants are wet.. get me new ones” I run laps of the house attending to everyones needs aware that the clock is ticking and we can’t be late for school AGAIN. I’m also aware that if I try to rush anyone things will take longer so I plaster a calm look on my face as my forehead beads sweat and I bite the urge to scream.

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