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

NAMASTÉ

Tomorrow my baby whale turns one. His very first year. The first of many to come.

It’s been an incredible year in that it’s been very exciting and ever changing. There have been a few curveballs but I believe we’ve hit them out of the park.

It’s been an insane year, barely any sleep and so much stress over trivial things. Heat rashes, candidosis, not taking to the breast, eating too much, eating not enough, displeasure, whining, crying, not crawling, not walking, falling, scraping knees, bumps and bruises, not getting into kindergarten, getting into the wrong kindergarten, being too sociable, being too clingy, refusing to sit in the car, refusing to sit in the stroller, refusing being in a wrap, refusing to be carried in a baby carrier, not playing alone, hating all toys, not wanting to get dressed, refusing wearing a diaper, refusing all hats and mittens, refusing socks and no sleeping, no resting and no sleeping.

But we worked through most of that. Some things are still there, of course, but I no longer stress myself about it all. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Erik’s had fevers and ailments that we’ve successfully gotten through, teething and all that it entails. We’re a couple of hams that just work our way through it all with a little help from laughter and a lot of love.

I was never very affectionate but since having the tiny whale all I want to do is hug and kiss away at him, and I do. He has hated it but seems to be warming up to it.

Everything is different, it’s better, it’s so much better. Because he rides in the car like a pro, sits in his stroller and flirts with every girl he sees. He’s a very happy and sociable baby so a lot of people come up to him to say hello and make sure I know how cute he is. He has a huge personality already and I can’t wait to see what kind of person he will grow up to be. One thing’s for sure, he will be loved wherever his life takes him.

And what’s not to love?

But with the first, bumpy, year soon behind us we venture into new territory. I hear that “the terrible twos” might be a bit chaotic, especially food wise. I have introduced Erik to A LOT of different foods. All kinds of fruit, from pomelo to watermelon. He loves fruit and veggies, dislikes cheese and potatoes. He’s not a fan of porridge or baby food in general. He likes sandwiches for breakfast and really hates anything sugary.

He’s had food from the Balkans, Sweden, Italy, Japan, India, Thailand, the US, Germany, China and Vietnam. So his base is wide enough for me to be able to find something he will like later when he refuses to try new things and I pride myself on that. He’s already a gourmet, I just tried catering to his tastes.

It’s been a year where Erik’s learned a lot but he’s also taught me a lot about myself. It seems I have an infinite amount of patience and love that I can only tap into with him. He’s clawed at me and bitten me, he’s constantly climbing all over me and kicking me. He’s headbutted me so bad a few times I’ve wondered if my teeth were going to fall out. He’s screamed so much, and slept so little that I have had loss of sight due to severe exhaustion.

Life has been turned upside down and it seems that finally it’s right side up for me. I’ve needed a tiny dictator to make things completely right.

So I say to him:

I bow to you.

My soul honors your soul.

I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me.

In sharing these things we are united.

We are the same.

We are one.

NAMASTÉ.

Campbell of Sweden

On motherhood…

The holiest of subjects. There are so many preconceptions about it. And I think every person who’s ever thought about having a child has an idea or a thought on how they want it to be, or how they think it will be. And every person who’s since had a child will attest to it being a vastly different experience.

One thing most parents have in common is the overwhelming feeling of love they feel for their child. Something no one is ever prepared for, because it cannot be compare to anything one has ever experienced before. And I only have the one child but I believe that even if you have more than one, every single child you have you get that same overwhelming, never-before-experienced feeling of love.

But the hardships are many. Some are spared, and those lucky few are exceptions to the rule. Most of us have babies that have some sort of difficulty – be it sleeping or eating. Those are the two most common ones, my empirical studies show. Of course there are people who have children who are sick and they really struggle, and are the true heroes who tirelessly fight to make the best out of a situation nobody ever wants their children to be in. But us regular parents, we mostly struggle with sleep and food.

I lucked out in the food department, at least this far. Erik eats like a large, healthy horse. But his sleeping is bad, it’s very bad. He has had one night where he slept a full four hours, in nine months. He doesn’t sleep much during the day 2-3 naps circa 20 minutes each while being continuously rocked. At night he scrapes together about 1.5 hours then eats and falls back asleep only to wake up in an hour again, and so on. After 2 AM I have to keep rocking him otherwise he will be wide awake and angry. For hours and hours.

This is the situation now.

It is so much better than it was a few months ago but far from good. Some nights I don’t sleep at all since he needs to be rocked. Every time a tooth is coming he just stops sleeping all together, he is exhausted and clingy he whines and screams nonstop but he just can’t fall asleep.

So I have learned a few tricks while being at home with him. Mom hacks, if you will.

I do my nails when he’s in the shower. That way I can keep a close look at him and interact with him while also getting to look less like a hobo. I use a dip-in remover so it doesn’t stink up the place, then I file down the nails for a more clean look. After that I soak the hands in warm water and baby oil (that’s what I have on hand) and then file additionally if I see something I missed. I push back the cuticles, usually with a tool but these days it’s with my nails and then put some lotion on them to keep them moisturized.

I’ve tried the “Amazonian Saviour” from The Body Shop. And to be honest it is like a firmer version of Vaseline. I am really underwhelmed due to it drying out my hands. I later applied “Hand Repair” hand cream by Trind to actually moisturize my hands.

That process takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Usually by that point Erik is done splashing around, so it is perfectly synced. Painting the nails I can really ever do if someone is watching him. That I haven’t managed to hack yet.

However I am strongly considering getting a gel manicure set, just so that I can do a nail at a time and guarantee that it doesn’t smudge or smear. It is a bit pricy but I think it might be a good investment, because then I can do nail art without having it get ruined. Living alone with a baby that doesn’t sleep doesn’t leave any space for do-overs.

Nails and food have always been my two big hobbies. Two hobbies that eat up more time than you realize. And when you suddenly find yourself busy 24/7 you are forced to prioritize what’s important. As a parent you, and your wants, always take a back seat, so you have to learn to do what you can with what you have. New situations require new actions. So my nails are nude, for the most part. Some weeks I just can’t manage to squeeze in any upkeep, like filing, because Erik needs 150% of my time. Same goes for food.

On good days I can make simple dishes with Erik hanging onto me or climbing the stove or the dishwasher. Worry not, no area he can access is even remotely warm and I always have a splash guard so nothing splashes onto him. Dry brusselsprouts are not splash prone.

It is often said that one eats with the eye, so sometimes I try to plate my food nicely to make myself forget how simple the dish is.

This was a pepperoni sausage and wax bean casserole with some pasta and cheese.

Other days, when you’ve been up for 12 hours playing and only had two cups of coffee (how good is coffee tho) your eyes are not half as hungry as your stomach.

On those days you eat burger patties with cheese and butter fried beets with garlic. All drowned in Sriracha mayo. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner today – all in one meal.

Erik has a fever, not a high one but a fever nevertheless so he hasn’t left my side all day and hasn’t slept for two nights straight.

And on days like these one just doesn’t prioritize eating, going to the bathroom or the fact that one has a herniated disc and sciatica. Pain is a French word for bread, which is the motto I live by. My pain is secondary, and any hobby I used to have is a thing of the past. Erik reigns supreme, in terms of getting my attention and time. And I can’t imagine a task more rewarding or fun. Because even though it’s quite painful and I’m exhausted, there are moments like these:

For a baby who is about as affectionate as his mother was when she was younger this is an unusual sight. But it is the biggest treat for the mom unit. Baby cuddles are quite amazing and I’m all but spoiled with them.

But about mom hacks, the best one so far is discovering that the grocery stores do home deliveries. In a small town like this where there is only one pizza place that does deliveries, and that costs as much as two overpriced pizzas (I shit you not!) discovering that I can get fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to my doorstep has been a lifesaver for me. Also I don’t have to carry all those bags. They have Erik’s formula and all the food he likes.

My other lifesaver – 3 AM coffee.

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

The bitter truth…

I started something tonight that I know will benefit Erik and I greatly, him sleeping in his crib without my assistance – in the form of rocking him. It took 4 hours of nonstop screaming and crying but he fell asleep. I sat next to him on a kitchen chair that whole time, talking to him and rubbing his tiny back. And like the star pupil he is he fell asleep. And so did I, alone in my own bed. I hadn’t had that pleasure since thr beginning of May 2016, when I was impositioned.

And Erik slept for 4 hours before waking for a bobo. I slept for an hour and a half and then I woke up missing the little guy who is safely sleeping some 2 meters away from me. I missed kissing his pudgy feet when I opened my eyes.

So here I am, almost 3 hours later, still awake. I fed him a bit of bobo and petted his feetsies ever so lightly before lying down in my bed again.

I thought the hard part was getting him down. It isn’t, it’s putting myself down for some sleep. The things one learns about themselves!

This is how he slept for 4 hours straight, my best boy. As for me, we’ll see if there’s any rest for the wary.
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? 

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