Aging like a fine wine…

Or an oxidized one. Really it’s anyone’s guess at this point, how the face will look after a few more years.

Six years ago I was a fresh faced ogre and today I look like a worse for wear hipster. And I don’t quite know what I feel about either state. All I know is that I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin with each passing year. I never liked being young, and I suppose the classic G. B. Shaw quote is right about me: “Youth is wasted on the young”. It is and it was.

I spent most of my youth with severe and untreated panic attacks. I was paralyzed from fear and OCD. I had so much trouble just getting up out of bed that making it anywhere seemed impossible. I made it to a lot of places but in some kind if state. I was never happy, and I can’t say that I am now either. I’m not unhappy, far from it, I’m just not ‘happy’. Maybe the joy I feel is happiness but I just have a strange image in my head of what I think it should be and what I am is just not there.

I have massive amounts of anxiety, I can’t follow through with plans to save my life, I don’t know how to say no and I hate being in public so much it makes me sweat. It’s funny because I like people watching but preferably from a distance. I’m socially awkward and don’t have any particular interests or hobbies.

But I am a good mom. And that makes me proud of myself. I’m an absolute mess as a person and as a human being but as a mom I feel completely comfortable. I love that little boy more than life itself, much like most parents, but it’s due to him that I can feel some pride in me. And him, I am exceptionally proud of him. And I love him beyond anything. So much so that his father got agitated and spewed “You love him more than I have ever seen anyone love anyone else, ever!” As if to insult me.

But I am slowly embarking on a journey to get out of this hellish nightmare I keep living inside of my head. I am writing down the many things that need to change for my wellbeing to improve. I need to stop lying to myself and to others and admit that I don’t feel too confident about the future nor the present. And as for the past, I’m closing the books on that mess for good.

Wish me luck!

Ms. Campbell

Days of thunder… and lightning.

We’ve experienced rolling blackouts. The weather all summer has been extreme, to a point where it’s almost felt a bit ominous. You know like when you’re in a mall around closing time, there’s an eerie feeling about it – like you’ll get locked in and left alone. But much like getting locked into a mall overnight there’s no real bad outcome for you. There may be some collateral damage but you’ll walk out the next morning feeling like you always do, a bit tired and stressed out for no apparent reason.

Stress is getting to me. I have been feeling it mounting up over time but it’s at a point where I can almost touch it now. I’m stressed about work and about the finances, I’m worried that my time is running out and that my options are slimmer now that my hands are a bit tied. I’ve declined work and it’s leaving me with a bittersweet feeling. It was the right thing to do, I made a very good choice turning down an offer that was good – at first glance – but that didn’t pass first inspection.

I’m not in a rush, but the feeling of a suburbanite desperation is coming over me and I’m realizing that I’m about to drown in it if I don’t start swimming soon.

Life is pretty good, outside of work and the fact that I lost my drivers license. 3 months was the verdict. 3 whole months of no driving. So the car sits and so do we. Everything is too far away. It’s too big of a hassle to travel with a baby that is notoriously active. So our stomping ground became very, very small all of a sudden. And while some would see this as an opportunity to learn more about their surroundings I find myself growing bitter instead. A trait I’m not particularly proud of or comfortable with. But here we are, on lockdown for three months. Not a large amount of time in the grand scheme of things but today it hits extra hard. I feel it extra much.

The days pass, even with the bitterness and resentment. Erik has made friends in kindergarten, he’s even flirting with a girl there. They keep flirting and giggling at lunch even tho they sit at different tables. His teachers keep telling me stories and I keep laughing. It’s a most wonderful feeling, knowing that he’s safe and happy even while away from me. Gives a sense of comfort and security.

Other than that I guess it’s all fantastic. My divorce was finally settled and I was awarded sole custody of Erik which made me both happy and proud. Like most things surrounding Erik, I’m so very happy and proud of him and his little shenanigans. He’s a lovely boy and I love watching him grow and develop. It’s a feeling to end all feelings. So much joy and pride and warmth. But also frustration and anger and confusion.

Being a parent, especially a full time single parent, is proving to be a trial of patience and endurance. It’s testing the ability to put yourself in last place while still maintaining a sense of self and worthiness.

On the one hand you’re nothing but a slave and on the other you get to reap huge rewards. It’s not a thankless job but it’s a job that doesn’t pay a dime and the hours are not specified. Some have children who sleep, so the hours are somewhat good but for the ones (like myself) who have children who just don’t know how to sleep you work 24/7 and stress the same hours. You also eat 24/7 and care for yourself on the other hours. You know, the make-belief ones that never come around.

But Erik is happy. I am happy. And if the cost for that is one person’s exhaustion and a slow demise then that is a small price to pay.

Ms. Campbell

30+

Growing up I had big issues with anxiety about death, my own death, which prevented me from planning anything ahead of time. I was convinced that death was just around the corner, waiting to jump in as soon as I was happy.

My biggest win in life, up until then, was to turn 30. I never saw that in my woken nightmares, because 30 meant you had survived the younger years. Someone over 30 was a grownup and I just never thought I would have the privilege to experience that. But I did. Same with children, marriage and many other things that most people take for granted. I never thought I would get to experience any of it, but here I am.

Anyone over 30, for me, has always been a boring old person with boring responsibilities and a look to match. I never wanted to grow old before my time, but I have been forced to in many aspects – never the exterior though. That’s one thing I still can control, how I look. I don’t know, for the most part, how I’m being perceived by the general public but I do know the idea I’m trying to put on display: not an old bat.

I honestly don’t aim higher than that. Some people want to look perfect, tan and made up. Not me, I just don’t want to become that old lady that needs help carrying her groceries. Obviously we’re many years away from that, but I have seen some people my age looking like death came to them last year. And I don’t want to be a part of that crew.

I should watch what I eat, sleep more and take care of my skin and hair. I don’t and am solely relying on genetics. I don’t really have the time, and when I do I spend it doing other things that don’t involve taking care of me. It all comes down to priorities. I don’t have a babysitter, so most of the cleaning that I do around the house is done carrying a screaming baby.

Erik’s been knee deep in one of the leaps, he’s been teething and got his vaccinations which triggered a serious flu – all at the same time. This has been accompanied by my back giving way completely, me getting a flu and custody battles. So the whole sleep, eat, clean schedule has been put on hiatus. I’m happy if I get a shower once a week these days, which may sound gross but that’s because it is.

I have to prioritize other things over me putting on a facemask, or eating a healthy meal. Mostly I just jam any high caloric crap I can find into my mouth when my blood sugar levels are dwindling. So between chocolate, chips and energy sodas I honestly don’t know what it is that gives me such a healthy glow. Jokes aside, genetics really do make all the difference.

I smoke occasionally, I drink more coffee in a day than most do in a week and my stress level is at an all time high yet the skin is looking good. Better than it should, considering both age and treatment. But makeup is becoming a necessity. You can get away with most things but the bags under the eyes, the black garbage bags, are not forgiving. So I cover them with foundation, add some blush and mascara. Today I even slapped on some lipstick, if you’ll believe it.

I mean, if you’re feeling like shit at least you can look like you’re doing somewhat ok. Eyebrows are dyed, lipstick is solid and the two wrinkles I have on the forehead are almost invisible today. I guess, all in all, it’s a pretty decent day. If only life would stop throwing me curveballs for a while, I could maybe have a shot. But for now I enjoy my almost wrinkle free face and soon another cup of coffee with my tiny gentleman who seems to be doing a little bit better today.

Campbell of Sweden

Low arousal approach

So I took the time to check out Bo Hejlskov Elvén’s speech at a conference here in Sweden. I watched it on YouTube while rocking Erik to sleep. I can full honestly say that it was a massive eye opener for me, because the way he explained it all it just made sense.

It is the approach most favored by psychologists and caretakers who deal with aggressive persons. But the way he put it is that the method works well with tough cases which also means that it works super well with a regular child. So reading up on this now makes a lot of sense.

Erik is still too young to understand consequence, he is also not quite there yet in terms of understanding words and sentences. But meeting him on his terms will make both his and my life so much easier, I believe. And threats and bribes often lead nowhere, I have noticed in life. So a low arousal approach is usually the way to go, or it has been for me. And this is also the method I will use when raising my boy.

It appeals to me on several levels and it is something that is proven to work, time and time again. But much like every other parent I will probably have to revise my strategy more often than not. The tiny humans usually have a pretty firm grasp of what they want and what they don’t want. They don’t always know how to go from point A to point B but they will not worry about that while improvising. They learn by making mistakes and I will do my best to try to guide my tiny whale through the jungle of experiences.

There is so much good in the world and I want him to get a taste of that. To really enjoy all the wonderful things out there, meet good people and eat good foods. I want him to take in the sights. But it needs to be on his terms, I’ve already experienced so much good. It will be a treat to pass on the joie de vivre to the tiniest of whales and to see what he does with it. I will share it with the boy who has my heart – my son 💙

Campbell of Sweden

Teething, a hell of its own.

Some kids go through it without too much whining and pain whilst others go through hell. But as it’s often been said, if you’re going through hell – keep going. So we do.

Mr Pudgy the whale is having a shitty time teething, which translates to even worse days and nights for the mother unit. He’s whining nonstop and clinging onto me as if I’m somehow the cure. I’m not and he knows it but he keeps hoping that being on me while screaming might make things better. And who knows, maybe it does on some level. 

I’m sure you can tell, just by looking, that the pictures above are from his nap time. It’s obvious to see that he has no interest in sleeping, be it day or night. And most people will testify to less sleep during teething but for a child with a severe sleeping disorder this is devastating. Or rather it is that to his mother. His usually incrimental sleep has become even more incrimental and some nights even nonexistent which means no sleep for the mom either. And it’s one thing to not sleep a night and then catch up on your sleep later but after a series of some three nights where the boy has slept a grand total of an hour you are not human anymore.

So a few days ago I had a total breakdown. I spent all night crying along with Erik, wondering how I would pull through. But dawn came and I could see a bit clearer. So I packed up some stuff and took Erik into Stockholm. He slept for two consecutive hours, waking a bit here and there but fell back asleep when rocked.

I obvoiusly didn’t get any sleep but I had some retail therapy. Buying myself a dress, two sweaters and a ring. I also met up with my best friend and had both dinner and fika, while at it. Because if we had stayed at home I might have just spontaneously combusted.

Life as a single parent is hard, especially when your child has a sleeping disorder and there is no money coming in. It’s extra hard when his absetnee father doesn’t sign over custody on you so you’re locked into a place where you can’t even put the child in queue for a spot in a kindergarten. It’s a stressful situation knowing you have the full responsibility but absolutely no rights. But I’m hoping things will change in that arena, soon. I reached out to the boy’s father to sign over custody, today, in bopes that he might do the right thing for once. I have no hopes whatsoever that he will do what’s best for my child but one can always try.

In the meantime I do all I can and then some to ensure that my baby boy has all he could ever want or need. Even with a tremendous lack of sleep, a constant headache and enough stress to kill a normal human being I still trot on. Why? Because I love life. I love living, and each new day brings with it something positive. Something new and worthwhile. My boy is growing, sitting himself up like a pro and getting onto his stomach from a seated position. He’s full of energy and life, and if that doesn’t get you through the day then nothing will.

It is my will to live, my love for life that has gotten me through all the bad stuff. And in the end there is but one thing that controls how you respond to whatever is going on in your life – you and your perception. Change your outlook on life and you’ll realize that you are in fact living in the best of times.

If all else fails get yourself a new dress and a ring. Or whatever makes you equally excited.

But all that shopping aside, waking up to a view like this. Or going for a drive, making Erik laugh, trying new foods, talking to a loved one. Those are the real motivators. All else is gravy.

This. This is what heaven looks like: a happy and healthy boy who has everything he needs. Content. That is absolute heaven to me. All worries just melt away, all tiredness goes out the window. He is my love, my life – my boy.
Campbell of Sweden

Insomniac

Man, this night just turned from bad to worse with Erik cascade vomiting all over the bed. At 2 AM I raced up to get him sorted. He’s been cleaned and changed, threw the covers and the bedding in the washer and put down spare ones. 

It’s been a harsh couple of weeks with the sleep issues getting exponentially worse over the last week. He’s a lovely baby and I love him more than life itself but I’m down on my knees right now. The last 4 days I’ve gitten a total of 6 hours of sleep, according to the tracking. He’s slept way more but he doesn’t sleep at all if I don’t continuously rock him on my legs. So I do.

Which has led me to get incriments of sleep that add up to 6 whole hours over the last 96 hour period. In this time we’ve struggled with his cold and played, read, taken baths, been mischeivous and up and running. Along that I’ve been hand washing his bottles, preparing his food and feeding him. Preparing my food, doing laundry and the dishes. Paying bills, planning and all those everyday things.

I’m running low on energy, and in these moments it’s easy to get bitter about my son’s father abandoning him. Or about the fact that in his 7 months of living the father hasn’t so much as bought him a single diaper for his own money. Or anyone else’s.

But truth be told, I’m happy he’s not so much as asked how his youngest child is doing. After he was released from jail, while awaiting trial, for battering me in October he has only gotten in touch with one of my friends asking her to try and get my Xbox to him.

What a man, huh? So am I bitter? No. But I am tired and wish for nothing more than two consecutive hours of sleep. But when Pudgy is older I will hopefully get some sleep. According to the doctor it will get a little bit better when he turns three. So only 2,5 years more. It’s doable. Exhausting but very doable.

What a night! You really know you’re alive on nights like these. And it dawns on you just how spectacular and exhausting motherhood can be, but nothing bad without some good in it. The paracetamol kicked in and that has eased some of the headache which I’m vastly grateful for. 

Life is really something grand, if you look at it with open eyes. Yes, there are hardships. Some have more, some less, but no one escapes them. Same goes for joy and love and adventure. The night sky might be dark but it is always followed by a dawn. And even when the days are exceptionally gray and rainy one should remember that blue skies are hiding behind the clouds and they will appear if you just give it some time.

But now I need to turn the dryer off and hope to god that Pudgy stays asleep when I put him down on the bed.

B. Campbell
How can you not just want to eat him like a tiny cupcake? 

Heaven

I don’t believe in life after death, that idea has never appealed to me. But I lie here in the dark listening to him breathe and watch him move his pudgy little legs and even pudgier tiny feetsies and I wonder how anyone can think that there is a place better than that.

If there was a heaven that’s what it would look like for me: a quiet Friday night before Christmas with my tiny boy sleeping safely and soundly. His little body sprawled out in my bed, that he’s made his.

How can anyone think that there is a better place anywhere else? God is in the details, I’ve heard. Well then God, you’ve outdone yourself with this boy.

And I rest my weary soul knowing that I have seen heaven, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Ms. Campbell

Back to square one…

On Saturday I can start exercising again, or I could but I am going in for a minor surgery in the beginning of September and therefore have to stay away from the weight room still. But somewhere mod or perhaps even at the end of September I will start working out again. My weight is now no longer the issue, it’s the softness of my body aka “the jiggly bits”.

I’ll work from home to begin with. I wish I could say that I’ll be doing it when Erik’s asleep- but let’s face it that is just not how he rolls. So instead I will have Sean take him for a half hour here and there so that I can get myself in order. I’m pretty tired of looking like a jelly donut.

It’s not fair of me to have the little whale hang out in the baby gym and work on his neck strength when I am all weak and plain. So, after my recovery I will get back into a routine. However small and seemingly insignificant, it needs doing. I need to get myself back into shape, for my own sanity. I had a long and fantastic weight loss journey a few years ago, and I refuse to let all that hard work go to waste.

Plus, I need a hobby.

Because this is what I’ve succumbed to. And that’s just not acceptable for anyone, especially not myself.

And here’s a fun picture of Erik sitting up like a big boy in his crib, totally mesmerized by his new mobile.

Mrs. Campbell

Lost in translation…

There is a lot to be said about motherhood, but most things you’ve probably heard. Like the sleepless nights and the endless days. I was prepared for that. I was prepared for a lot of crying and and a lot of throw up. But I didn’t get what I had envisioned.

We got a boy who, still, starts screaming before he opens his eyes. Who doesn’t sleep unless he’s being rocked or carried. Who doesn’t spend any time in the stroller, who doesn’t like riding in the car and mostly who is more easily bored than his mother. He’s a bit of a monster in most aspects, added to that his weight (one of a toddler) and you have yourself a bit of an issue. But he is glorious. So incredibly cute and curious. He’s not the least bit shy and eats with such passion.

Watching him discover different things is by far the most entertaining thing ever. To see those beautiful blue eyes take in all the surroundings is my new passion, along with observing just how good he’s gotten at taking his socks off.

He has also learned to pull his foot out of his pajamas…

The biggest change for me has been, what feels like, the solitary confinement. We are home A LOT. I’m not used to that, and I didn’t think I’d be one of those people who had to stay at home – ever. But Erik hates being out for too long and his schedule rules our world, because if he isn’t happy nobody is. And there’s a lot of suggestions coming from everywhere. Try rocking the stroller, try moving it across cobblestones and all that jazz. Erik doesn’t like lying down in the stroller, he hates sitting up in it. He really hates being rocked while in there and cobblestones make him scream even louder than normal. So, we stay at home most of the time. We do short outings to places where we can park close by, and we no longer attempt to eat out.

This was at Espresso House in Stockholm a few days ago. This picture was followed by a half hour long scream fest while I ran to the car. That was fun.

But it was preceded by this amazing picture. A baby resting while mom enjoys an overpriced scone at a coffee shop where we are seated under a stairwell, on a bench made of the same flooring as pictured with some sat-in pillows.

The romance kind of disappears when you take it all in. It’s a perfect picture of a moment in time that was not nearly as nice as it’s made to look.

Instead my life is filled with this, hand washing bobos and cleaning. It’s filled with cooking and eating while standing up.

Today I made us oven fried potatoes (with Vegeta, rosemary, crushed garlic and tons of oil), minute steak, fried mushroom and onions with a side of a mixed salad with tomato and onion (salted, oiled and with a hint of red balsamic vinegar) along with a store bought parmesan sauce.

After we had been away to buy the little whale a sleeping bag for winter and Sean had been to an interview we headed home for more home adventures.

Erik had tummy time with dad.

They played on the floor while I took silly pictures of them.

Erik and I hung out in bed, to get some rest before bath time.

Bath time is a great time, most often.

We got a new outfit on and he was fed and is currently being rocked by Sean in the hopes of all of us getting some sleep tonight.

That’s what the days look like. The old life has lost its charm, but I haven’t quite settled into the new one yet. But for every day that passes it gets easier and easier.

Life sure is funny that way.

When did I age?

Mrs. Campbell

Shifts…

We’ve decided to deal with our Pudgy in shifts due to a lack of sleep. None of us is getting any sleep, because the little whale is a fussy baby. He sleeps for very short bursts of time and when he wakes he’s hungry and very, very angry. So we’re trying something new: 4-hour shifts, 3 each. Tonight I’m kicking it off by having the Pajama Batman sleeping soundly in his stroller while I make lunch for tomorrow. Sean takes the first sleeping shift.


Pajama Batman sleeping soundly in his stroller, socks and all.


Food in the making: Falukorv in the oven (about as Swedish as it gets).

As I was writing that, Pajama Batman woke up and sure enough he was screaming before ever opening his eyes. I changed him while he was still screaming with his eyes never open and now we’re enjoying feeding time – he with his bobo (bottle) and me with some falukorv.

Most people keep asking me if he’s breastfed and he was partially in the beginning but he was too lazy and way too angry to ever keep that up. So we gave him formula as a backup and he never wanted the boob again. 

That’s something that has kept me up at night, the guilt over not breastfeeding. As if it was ever my choice to stop. 

But we’ve all had that hammered in that ‘the breast is the best’. So we tried, and we cried but in the end Erik chose otherwise. There’s not much to do in that situation, so I talked it over with the husband and decided that we weren’t going to force Erik to something that he was just not wanting. 

But it was a hard decision to make and to this day I feel like I failed, both as a woman and as a mother.

But Pudgy is progressing well, regardless of food source. He’s gaining weight like a pro, adding a full kilo to his birth weight at the four week checkup. He was large at birth but at the hospital he lost 300 grams and then an additional 40 at home, due to the trials with breastfeeding. So we put him on more formula and soon after he started refusing the boob. As soon as he stopped taking it the milk just stopped being produced. I was pumping but there was less and less for each day and three days after he had stopped my boobs went dry. Which in a sense is good because I didn’t have to go through the pain of mastitis and all that horror.

He’s a healthy but angry baby. He’s not a happy baby but we’re suspecting he might have the colics due to the constant crying and screaming. He doesn’t sleep a lot and seems to have tummy aches more often than not. 

But he likes sleeping on us and he likes hanging out in his BabyBjörn carrier. So we went out today and got him an ErgoBaby one as well. He doesn’t like that one at all, but we think he’ll come around to it and that that one will be better for when he’s a bit bigger. 

He needs a lot of body contact but we’re trying our hardest to have him doing other stuff and sleeping off of us. Today he hung out in a bouncy chair/babysitter, and didn’t scream the whole time. 


Matter of fact he even fell asleep in it later on.

But yeah, life as a parent is different than I thought it would be. Way different. Especially considering that our baby is extremely fussy and strong, which makes it hard on the both of us since he wants to be carried at all times and throws himself about when he’s being carried. 

He loves kicking me on the scar when I’m trying to burp him and he loves slapping Sean when he’s asleep. But with all the trials and tribulations, with all the sleeplessness and the migraines – I can still honestly say that he is the best baby ever. I couldn’t love him more and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the screaming. 

He’s a tough little man and he has his way, that’s going to be such a great thing to have in the future – a strong will and stamina. He will be one resilient person! 

As for myself I’m just glad to be on my feet. I was up and about right after the delivery, and two days after the c-section I drove. I was cooking and carrying the whale. Because I too am a resilient person, a stubborn woman with more strength than sense. But look at me – I am doing swimmingly and as soon as it’s all healed up properly I will be back to that same old, same old.

Mrs Campbell