Monthly Archives: October 2012

This Way to Normal Road.

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So as I told my friend, it was like being on a long haul flight…to Singapore with a six hour stopover in Sydney, fussing babies everywhere. I mean everywhere. Scrap that, it was like being on a long haul flight sitting up the back ass of the plane.

I bring you the Sleep Seminar.

Never have I seen a more diverse but desperate group of women than today, all sitting perfectly in rows straining to hear a professional and any pearl of wisdom they may be able to throw their way. Half way through I was wondering why there was no sister solidarity, no pats on the back, no real understanding. And then I remembered this wasn’t a kumbaya fest of compassion, this was survival of the fittest. The plane was going down and we were scrambling over each other.

Our pilot of the day is renowned for teaching what is often referred to as “instinctive parenting”. You know the type; we’re talking slings, breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I should probably disclose here that on the continuum that ranges between a military mother at one end and a twenty five year old hanging off a mothers breast at the other, I’m probably more inclined to lean towards the later. I’m aware I have given two rather ridiculous examples of parenting but you see the point I am trying to make. If Placentophagy rings a bell, you too are probably up my end. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter what end you’re up because we’re all in the same line.

In fact, I tend not to think about my choices too much, I just go with “if it feels wrong or slightly dodgy, don’t do it” mentality. I’ve tried the analysing thing and all the books and theories do make sense when you read them in isolation but in practice, going with your instinct in the moment seems to work for me. This is the exact sentiment that our pilot preaches in her many books so I was convinced she MUST have the answers for me.

Alas, I came away no more informed than when I went in. To be fair, I’ve read her books cover to cover so the blame really isn’t hers. It’s just that like many mothers who were there today we were looking for answers to the greatest puzzle we’ll face….how to get our babies to sleep. In a very small nutshell, here’s your answer.

If your bub is under the age of 18 months….

If your bub is still teething and waiting for the last milk teeth….

If your bub is not walking confidently and thus going through rather massive physical and developmental changes…..

Drumroll please…..

IT’S NORMAL.

“So, just to clarify” I asked at the end of the seminar, “You’re saying that actually, my baby is normal and what? I just need to get up and continue to feed her? Maybe a few times a night. Continually, every night. So, that’s it?…..THAT’S IT?!!!!!” I had friends with me so was holding back the tears. I’d already been that mum at mothers group, I couldn’t possibly break down again!

Surely this lady didn’t understand. This author and woman I had idolised hadn’t seen me book my ticket to this thing at 2am, exasperated and fighting with my husband, everyone sleep deprived. She obviously didn’t get the memo that told her I had been looking forward to this for weeks as it was surely going to solve everything. And she certainly didn’t hear on the grapevine that the anticipation of attending had been the shining light at the end of the tunnel that had kept me going.

And here my friend, is the exact predicament that many a mother end up on. SLEEP DEPRIVATION Alley and CONTROLLED CRYING Rd. I always get to this part of the neighbourhood somehow. Sometimes it’s an amble and sometimes I run screaming there but I always look round that corner and stop. I stop dead. Because it’s not for me.

Now I strongly believe that it is not our place as women to criticise how another woman mothers; our behaviour alone is enough of an advertisement. I’m also a strong advocate for women doing exactly what they need to in order to get through and be the best they can be.

But here is my gripe. If I always turn around and waddle back down Sleep Deprivation Alley, why is it that I am continually told that it is my “choice”, that I could easily solve the problem and get to PEACEFUL SLEEP Way via the very road I don’t want to go down. You see, I’ve spent the last ten months trying to dig under my house and get to Peaceful Sleep Way via an alternative route. I’ll be damned if I’m going to undo all the work I’ve done on my tunnel by turning around at this point. And dismissing my struggles and confusion while continually sending me down the very road I don’t want to go down only works to invalidate me.

I’m pretty sure at this point you’re all getting the gist of my state of mind as I’ve created a whole village with stop signs and underground tunnels to get my point across. Have I mentioned the bomb shelter where I occasionally go for a good delirious and hysterical laugh or cry? But this is it. This is my experience of mothering and I suppose today I received a shock. I’m normal, my baby is normal and this is hard. It’s brilliant, it’s exceptional and it’s hard.

People love to say, “If it works for you, do it”. Well you know what, most of the time, it doesn’t work for me. Co-sleeping for instance is most of the time a bit of a juggling act of fingers, toes and milk. Expressing milk for months on end because my bub never attached certainly does not work, I do it because I think it’s best. And sometimes I just want to shout it out, “For God’s sake, I’m trying here!”

And I have complete faith, because I need to, that all mothers alike are trying. We may all have different bests, go down different roads or be on totally different continents but surely we are all aiming to raise happy and healthy individuals? Either way, after all the circles I go in, after all the books and the professionals I listen to, it seems one thing is clear. We’re normal. It’s normal.

My inability to make a point without using a complex systems of geographical analogies may not be…But when I go to bed late tonight, preparing myself for only a few small hours of sleep, I have to know that we’re doing alright.

And that may jsut be all I can hope for.

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Mother, Interrupted.

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It sounds so clichéd but its true when people say that the things that excite you after having a baby will be worlds apart from the things that excited you before. If I can just paint a little picture for you – When my husband and I first started dating and would hang out with friends on balmy summer evenings, nothing would delight the boys more than if, when popping a top off a beer bottle, said top accidently ricochet off a wall and ended up in a bucket ten feet away. You get the picture?

See during those days, we had time to wait for things to amuse us. If we’d had a less than interesting night out with a friend, it was no problem; there was a bottle top only moments away ready to delight! Nowadays, as expected it’s the giggles and self-accomplished squeals from baby that delight.

But seeing as I’m all about setting the precedent of absolute honesty here in regards to my mothering let me get another one of those nasty forbidden truths out there. Jammed right between absolute adoration and completely voluntary servitude for my daughter, is the undeniable urge to run screaming from the room never to be seen again.

As I explained to some friends the other day, a lot of the time I have an overwhelming desire to…well….be really, really drunk. We’re talking best-friend-holds-your-hair-back  kinda drunk. And so it got me thinking- I either need to call my brother who works in drug and alcohol rehabilitation or there is something else at play here.

I think it would be too easy to assume it’s about “having a break”. With a bit of extra thought, I think it’s more accurate to say it has more to do with responsibility. With a husband who is now largely unavailable because of rather fantastic work commitments, I find that the charge of care has fallen solely to me.

Yes, yes, boo hoo I can hear you say (especially those of you well over your child rearing years who I generally find the most unsympathetic variety of bystander); it’s just that I genuinely can’t remember what it was like to have myself all to myself. When my body was my own and so was my time.

These days, the time I have to myself is always threatened with the possibility that any minute my daughter will need me. No TV show is really ever enjoyed and no shower is taken without the rather disturbing psychotic paranoia that you can hear a baby crying. Even now, as I sit here writing while baby sleeps, it is at the cost of all the things that will make the next four witching hours run more smoothly; preparing bottles and food, getting a bath ready, preparing my dinner, doing the washing etc. So you see that every activity has a proverbial payment; everything always comes at the cost of something else or is threatened to be interrupted.

Let me just clarify- it’s not WHAT I do with my time that bothers me (I don’t know why but I’m a born homemaker), it’s WHEN I do it. Because my day is no longer my own and my life is completely dictated by another human being; a darling little girl who I have decided is either asleep or awake and attached to me.

Most women seem to find this gig a bit easier than I do. Half the time I stare in wonder as they seem to negotiate nap times, meal times and sleep routines better than I. From the moment my daughter slaps me in the face to wake in the morning or as she did this morning for a little treat, stuck her fingers up my nose; it seems to be a marathon of sorts till bedtime (my little bundle of joy sleeps

with her mama who has decided that sleeping babies in cots must simply be a fable).

And I love it. Most days. Like on Monday when I saw my darling in a music class, grasping the use of a wooden guiro. Or Tuesday morning when we went out for breakfast and shared some poached eggs like two little ladies out for tea.

Wednesday though, had I been less responsible, I would’ve been searching for the bottle. Like I’ve said before…work in progress.

The Mama Dance

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If I was to tell you that immediately post birth I was contemplating picketing outside the hospital with a placard that read “Natural Birth = Cruelty to Women”, you might just guess the gist of my birthing experience.

Perhaps that is why it has taken me a while to get back here. Last time I wrote I was adamantly supporting the use of a birth plan and had my sights set on a romantic candle lit evening, birthing a baby. Even though I ended up with nothing of the sort, I should probably say straight out that I still maintain the same theoretical position. Without doubt, had I not employed the invaluable help of a midwife and a birth plan, I would have certainly been given a caesarean.

Even so, I had desperately wished that at this point, nine months on, that I might be one of those women who looked back fondly on their birth experience, regaling stories of softly lit candles and warm baths (despite everything I’m still convinced they exist). Unfortunately, I cannot deny my birthing experience was more of the “Help me- Help me- Greek- martyrdom-tragedy” variety. Fear most certainly was my number one companion and enemy throughout the ordeal.

But I think that all of that is probably a topic for another day when I have the energy to go there. Today, like all good blogging days is about getting back on the writing horse. Even if now post baby it is accompanied by a slight bladder weakness as we get into a trot (let’s face it, I’ve already wet my pants just climbing into the saddle).

You see, mothering is above all from the moment you give birth, well how can I put it?…Humiliating. It starts when your waters break and then appears to simply continue on until you die (are you getting the martyrdom thing now?). Yes, yes, the miracle of birth and all that… but seriously folks, I run out of fingers trying to count the amount of times I’ve wet my pants in public, opened doors not realising I have two rather elongated breasts waving to my toe,s or farted while in line at the supermarket (the later I always try to pass off as someone else, the nipple thing is harder to hide).

Whilst pregnant, the women that go before you smile wryly while watching you rub oil into your belly, waxing lyrical about the joy of carrying a child. WHY DOES NOBODY TELL YOU WHAT IT IS LIKE? I asked my friend this very question after giving birth and she answered simply, “Because it doesn’t seem very helpful. You’re going to have to find out anyway”. Good answer I suppose.

But here’s the thing. The real crux of it. The big taboo. There are some of us who find both birthing and bonding akin. It’s hard, it takes work and half way through you’re wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into.

People say that when a woman gives birth and first meets her baby, love hits her. But the love I share with my daughter started as a little spark that would catch light but moments later go out. I had a really difficult time bringing her into the world and when we first met, I have to say it shocked me. Here was this little girl, my little girl, defenceless and needing me completely. I don’t hide the fact that I didn’t know what to do. Throw me a nephew or two and I could throw them under my arm and run with it. Show me my own newborn and I was useless. I thought for years that I was a natural mother but suddenly, in that moment, when I had to step up and “mother”, I was paralysed with fear.

How would I look after her? How would I give her everything she needed? The day I brought her home from hospital I cried to the Toolman, “I’m so scared I’m going to hurt her”. She was and is the most precious thing in my life and it took some time to realise that I wouldn’t break her. And if I’m honest, it took some time for us to get to know each other; for me to accept that she was mine and that I could look after her. Hey, it’s a work in progress.

Everybody that saw her said things like, “Isn’t she lovely, oh you must be so proud” and at each I smiled and said yes. In reality I was thinking, “Really?”. I remember my mother saying to me at one stage, “Now you know how I feel about you” and I thought at the time, “Right…it’s like that is it?”. Women don’t talk about this.

So here is my advice. My word of warning perhaps. Yep, getting that baby either out of your vagina or your stomach is going to be hard. Like, really hard. I hope it’s beautiful but if we’re talking Greek tragedies, think Troy ok? But you’ll get over that bit, trust me.

Be prepared though ladies for bringing that bundle of joy home. Know that it’s ok for them to cry; that it is their way of communicating with you. Know that they won’t die of hunger; your obsession with producing milk is probably your instincts in overdrive. This isn’t the dark ages, there are options. But absolutely most of all, know that quite simply one day, it will all come together…

For me, a few months after I had given birth, I looked at my daughter and I wasn’t scared to be alone with her. I wasn’t scared of her.  I knew that she was mine; that I couldn’t break her and that most of all, I did deserve to be her mother. That day, Bella, my daughter, became my baby girl and I her mother. I looked in the mirror and realised it was me that knew she liked to be swaddled well after it was customary to swaddle a baby; that she liked her feet free so that she could “twizzle” them all day and best of all, that it was only me that could calm her down by singing “Ten Little Ducks”.

Quite simply, one day (and important to note, months after our meeting), I looked at her and the love that washed over me has never left. She waited patiently for her Mama and our love grew and grew and grew some more. And it keeps growing. And I keep loving her. I love her more than life itself. I am so thankful I was chosen to mother her.

Sometimes life is not what you expect it to be and it teaches you funny things. In a few years my adorable munchkin may be reading this and to her I say that one day, you might have a little girl or boy of your own and you might give birth and be smacked right down with love. Or you might not. You might have to wait. And give. And love anyway. And wait. And hope. And when you aren’t expecting it, you’ll see that the love of a child is the sweetest love that seeps from your pores and never leaves. I hope I’m there for that.

Like all good love stories, that between a mother and her baby is a dance. It’s tears of frustration, it’s hysterical laughter. It’s blissful walks in the park and sad glances at scars left behind. It’s fear and responsibility. It’s teaching life lessons. It’s dancing a dance, knowing I don’t really know the steps yet.

Oh, what the hell…to be honest, most days it’s dishes and washing!