Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sad facts of motherhood

Motherhood is awesome. There is nothing compared to the feeling of utter perfection when your baby looks at you so perfectly, expecting nothing but knowing you and loving you as mother without even knowing what love is.

There are amazing discoveries by both parent and child every single day. For example today on our walk, Harry began pointing at random objects in the street that he found interesting with a suggestive "uhhh" noise that he likes to make. He just couldn't stop doing it. He was pointing at people in the street, cars, poles, trees, everything! It was like he was making conversation with me for the first time and the endless potential for future conversation with my child just blew my mind.

There are however, some pretty sad facts that develop along the way. None of these things matter in the long run, but I'd say it's worth noting to uphold my disdain for TV ad depictions  of motherhood (you know what I'm talking about...a mother with perfect make up and spotlessly clean clothes in the middle of the night with a sick child? whatever). I say motherhood is great but it gets pretty smelly and weird.
How about say let's just skip this nappy change ey? I've still gotta do my hair love

So in the spirit of keeping it real, here are my top sad fact experiences of motherhood:

1. My nipples are now so long from breast feeding it has literally gotten in the way of me closing plastic lid. That's all there is to say about that.

2. I've acquired a very unhealthy obsession around not waking the baby. I've scolded my sick husband for coughing too loudly. I've commando crawled out of the baby's room as he slept Catherine Zeta-Jones style. I've banned all post box checks in the house during nap times because I have a theory that the swinging noise the post box makes wake the baby. I've peed in the middle of the night and opted to flush it in the morning because it will wake the baby (like how I hid this one in the middle? Like a guilty puddle). I've gotten superstitious about the bedtime story book choice because I know for damn sure that he never sleeps through when we read that Wombat book.

3. The kid friendly foods I've been cooking are adult aorta unfriendly. Lashings of bacon, douse it with cheese, dress it up with some sort of veg and pasta, bung it in the oven and bob's your uncle- the kid loves it, it's easy and tasty but goddam it's getting heavy in my middle. Not to mention I get the lovely task of eating whatever the kid rejects. Here's a sad fact within a sad fact: I am typing this while eating double thick chocolate custard from a tub because the baby didn't like it and it's a waste to throw it out. There's children starving out there for crying out loud, we can't have wasted custard can we. And doubly thick would be doubly criminal.

4. My clothes are never clean. I have walked out of the house knowing there is food vomit on my clothes but know that by having my baby with me, people will probably forgive/tolerate me. The one time I felt it was imperative I have clean clothes on my way out to somewhere, I served Harry's meal to him while wearing pyjamas over my outfit. I then peeled off the food encrusted pyjamas then hightailed it out of food throwing range.

5. I miss my pre-baby friends and the pre-baby me who could be their friend. Since getting pregnant I've moved house to hours away from family and friends whilst my closest friends have moved halfway around the world. There's always the internet, instant messaging and video calls but it's not the same. I'm not there to respond to their texts, I only jump in when I forward the cute photo I just took of my baby. I feel baby-centric and that I can't fully share in other people's lives because I can easily sneak a photo of the baby while I'm watching him but I can't indulge in a juicy girl conversation while watching the baby who is now so scarily fast at zooming around the house and getting into all the places he shouldn't. I've become that mother whose entire Facebook stream is just of her baby and says nothing to no one except in the context of what the baby hypothetically thinks. "Happy Birthday Uncle So-and-So, love Harry". Why can't I just be me who happens to have baby and not someone's mum? Identity issues clearly but this one's too murky for me at this time of the night so let's leave it at that.

So there it is, be warned: Motherhood is awesome but does come with some minor side effects. Nothing that I can't live with anyway. And now, I shall feel vindicated for I typed up that whole thing without the baby waking. The Bananas in Pyjamas book for bedtime strikes again!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fresh Pickings

Saffron milk cap mushrooms picked by none other than my gorgeous husband with me and the little one in tow. We went to a nearby friendly vineyard and started chatting to the owner who started talking about delicious fresh mushrooms growing in his pine forest next to the cherry trees.

Twenty minutes later, we were all in there, baby in hand and all, bashing through the bush, past the giant ant hill next to the overturned dunny, over ditches and fallen pine trees... foraging through the pine forest floor for our very own golden pickings.

Was a fun way to spend a sunny Sunday.

Was yummy with a bit of garlic and parsley. Definitely not death mushrooms as the husband was paranoid about until we googled it and found it they are actually quite prized and rare gourmet mushrooms. Best of all, it was free and picked by our very own hands!

How can I go back to living in the city after random weekends like these?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Harry Does His First Birthday

I can't believe my little boy is turning ONE tomorrow.

I can't believe that his age is now measured in YEARS. I still remember telling people he was X number of days old.

I can't believe that crazy 27 hour ride that was labour started a year ago from me sitting here right now doing something as mundane as bashing away at a keyboard. Little did I know that 27 hours of excruciating physical pain is nothing compared to the heart bashing emotional ride of parenthood for life.

But look at what I get in return: bundles and bundles of cuteness, love and joy. Even with an infinite amount of pain, heartbreak and hard work that parenting entails, I could never repay the joy this little man gives me in life.

I mean just look at him sitting there like a little old man that he is.

Having his cake.

And eating it too.

Pretending like he knows how to eat like a little gentleman.

 Sitting there on the ledge as though he just happened to walk on by

 And taking a rest coz it's so damn tiring being a little person

Lining up his shots already... of cake of course.

And one day those shots will be of tequila... and I suppose I have to be cool with that coz we all did it too.

And BAM there it is.

He is going to be his own person. Doing all the things I did as a kid. As a teenager. As a young adult. And maybe even one day, a father.

A landmark of his age is both heart breaking and heart warming because every birthday is a reminder of him growing into himself as a person. Just like me, he will go through all of life's stages and live all while struggling with all his faults, wielding all his strengths and trying his damnedest to be happy.

so grown up he even uses not plastic cutlery now

Harry is no longer just a blob of a baby wailing for his needs to be fulfilled. He has stepped up one rung in life to be the fun loving, affectionate little boy that he is who loves kissing and hugging his mummy and would drop everything to play with Daddy.

Step one, on a life long journey, done and dusted. And what a beautiful ride it has been so far. I am so proud to be your mummy my little Harry. You are beautiful and my heart feels almost bursting everyday with love and pride stretching my capacity for love to infinity just by your very being.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hanging up my cape

In my last post I talked about this time of being at home and being a mum/wife as a time I will look back on fondly.

Part of that reason is not because my house gets to be immaculate all the time (which I can assure you it is not - ever), but because I get to devote my down time to my many ridiculous creative pursuits. Ridiculous in that I will dabble in this and dabble in that, but never commit to calling myself a person who does that activity.

For example, I have never been comfortable calling myself a photographer, a yogi, a cook or a crafty mum. I just do bits and bobs of everything and the only common thread is that I just love fiddling around the house. Not in a manner that cleans it of course. I am a proficient dabbler.

Here is my latest project that has been keeping me up the last week. After Harry goes to bed I do not, as wisdom would dictate, get myself ready for bed and seize the opportunity for sleep, I have instead been trying my hand at this amazing project: Audrey Cape.
too lazy to iron it for photo

I made it for my little 4 year old niece because it is just so much more fun sewing stuff for girls. Poor Harry has not been a recipient of any of my sewing efforts to date. I figure he's still too young to know he's missing out. Anyway, my 4 year old niece who is really one tough customer (when unwrapping the tutu dress I had bought her for her birthday this year she exclaimed at the top of her lungs, "I HATE IT!") tried her damnedest to also hate the cape when I presented it to her. Within minutes it was around her shoulders with a smug "I'm a princess grin" on her face.

Needless to say, I think it was a roaring success and I think it will be a favourite of hers this winter. I did make some changes to the pattern by adding two halves of a bow on each collar that she can tie. I also thought it was more friendly to little fingers than a button or a pin.

I used fabric I picked up from the local Op shop which sells some pretty amazing off cuts of fabric at crazy cheap prices. For example, this mustard fabric was $2 for about three to four metres of the stuff. The blue tweed was a bit pricier at $4 for heaps of it. Don't think they are old curtains or sheets, just simply people's unused scrap fabrics. I just love the experience of trawling through the Op shop bins and dreaming up projects as I find treasures. It's like shopping for endless possibility.

I do sometimes worry about my lack of ambition in life right now. Is it wrong that I am perfectly happy as a mum/housewife who spends her days on little projects that serve no one and nothing except my own small scale creative drive?

Having spent all my formative years concentrating on doing well in school, then uni, then working for a few years in the fairly rough and draining environment of criminal law (I defended petty crooks and criminals for years on nothing but a measly salary and the feeling of being a Justice Super Hero i.e. just for kicks), finally sitting down to do whatever I feel like feels so..... free.

My life up until becoming a mum was all about being the best daughter I could be, being the nerdiest student I could be, doing good for the community, being socially aware and responsible, speaking out for justice and essentially on a crusade to right the world's wrongs. Motherhood gave me an out and let me live in a bubble that just shrunk the world to a simple unit of my little family. I feel like I am only really getting to know who I am now and frankly, I am not sure I am ready to leave my little bubble just yet.

There are still many capes to be made .. and who knows, if I place enough capes around enough little shoulders, maybe it is the children around me that can one day save the world instead of me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Letter to Pregnant Me

In the lead up to Harry's first birthday next week, I made up a book of "Letters to Harry". Essentially it's a book of letters from friends and family for him to one day read himself. The process of writing a letter to future grown up Harry got me thinking about what I would write if I could write a letter to myself before I had a baby.

We also had some family stay over on the weekend and they brought along their four month old first born. Being around the nervous and excited busy air of first time parents of a newborn reminded me so much of how we must have been only less than a year ago. 

Reflecting on the first year of parenting and the flashback to the newborn bubble we must have once been in got me thinking... I wish I could just go back in time to the very last time I was in a world without a baby, take myself aside before we drove to the hospital that day and tell myself a few things.

Here's what I would say:

Date: just before you pop i.e. a year ago from today
Dear Pregnant Me,

Hi. I am you from the future. I am writing you this letter to save you a lot of grief and angst. These are things that you must know, and will know. Hindsight is a lot more useful as foresight, so stop being hard headed like you usually are, put your preconceptions down and just listen for a minute. No, really...LISTEN.

EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. Just think about that for a minute. And remember it. For every time you think "I have no idea", or "wtf is happening?", or "this is the worst" - just remember that you will come through it and it will pass. One day this big parenting conundrum that has you stumped right now will be long gone but what you have is a person you have known since it's creation and seems to become more wonderful everyday. That is what sticks, not the seemingly insurmountable pain of labour, or the infinitely long sleepless nights or the horror of your baby's first fever... just remember that it will pass.
your new parenting mantra

YOU WILL BE MORE TIRED THAN YOU HAVE EVER IMAGINED. Everyone "knows" this going into parenthood. All the knowing smiles when people realise you are pregnant "haha get your sleep now while you can" they all said. Yes I know, I am perfectly aware that parenting is difficult, I once said. No. You do not know what tired is. When you think you are the most tired a person could possibly be, expect something unexpected to happen which will mean you have to dig deeper than ever to find that extra dog to add to your pack... and don't worry, you will always have it. Everytime. And then you will wish that you were only as tired as you were last week when that once massive problem now seems so much smaller than the problem that superseded it.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA BUT YOU HAVE INSTINCT. Just accept that you don't know what you are doing and be cool with that. It's okay that you don't know. That stack of books, research and articles you have for every single foreseeable issue... put them down and place them in box, bury that box in a bonfire and burn it. Those books will make you feel more inadequate, it does not have the answers you are looking for because the authors of those books have never met your baby. Your baby is unique. He is not ordinary. He does not respond to what most babies apparently respond to. You have to give yourselves time to learn each other. It will be rough, it will take months but trust your instincts. It is stronger than you think. Those books and guides are merely that, but be aware that they can cloud your gut feel for your baby. Forget the books and stop bloody googling everything. For example, "6 week old baby crying now for two hours don't know what he wants" is not a productive search term.
the only book that accurately depicts the nature of baby sleep

BABIES ARE HARDY. Don't live in a clean freak safety conscious bubble. Your baby is resilient and strong. Don't stress about every little thing. It doesn't matter if he misses a nap every now and then. It is not the end of the world. I still remember crying because he didn't nap. Those are wasted tears. It doesn't matter if you forgot to change his nappy, these days he's lucky to get changed for anything other than a number 2. It doesn't matter if you don't sterilise every little thing, one day he will mouth the toilet when you turn around for two seconds. It doesn't matter if you have to change the routine every now and then. It's not going to make a big difference in the long run. The routine will not stop him from crying. If he wants to cry he will whether or not you gave him all his naps that day. He will be right.

not a cloth nappy in sight

BEING A MUM IS NOT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FASHION. Stop googling "best swaddle/sling/clothnappy". That shit does NOT matter. You will not be using this expensive cloth nappies a year from now. Babies in the desert survive with nothing but basic food, shelter and LOVE. Stop expending so much energy preparing for the physical needs of the baby when he arrives and instead invest in some inside mind relaxation and calm. That stuff will take you a far longer way than having the latest baby gimmicks on hand when the baby arrives.

TREAT YOUR BABY LIKE IT'S YOUR SECOND. This way you will enjoy life with a baby. You will get so caught up in your baby it is almost as though you live in a bubble. Don't forget that your baby has entered your world and not the other way around. Don't get me wrong, the baby will become the most precious thing in your life but being completely absorbed to the point of obliviousness to the world will only mean you forget to see the big picture and focus on things like number of naps and feeds instead of numbers of funny things he did that day.

DON'T PUREE BABY FOOD. He'll be ready to eat a softer, mashed up version of your food when he's good and ready. There were days when I cooked the most beautiful baby purees which the baby wouldn't eat, whereas on the same day I ate almost nothing myself. That is NOT good parenting.
baby don't care if you took five hours to make this. If hedonwannaeat, hedonwannaeat.

LET YOUR BABY CRY. I still remember jumping at every slight noise and bolting from across the house to attend to the baby before he's even had a chance to get the cry out. It's okay to let him cry. Convert that pain in your heart every time you hear baby cry to a mild bemusement. You shouldn't think "oh no something is wrong" straight away. Think instead "aww how cute, look at him trying to say something". I'm not saying leave him to cry every time , I am saying eliminate the fear in your heart every time you hear him cry. Babies cry. That's what they do. A LOT. Don't panic. And sometimes there is nothing wrong, you've done everything and they will still cry. He will scream in your ear so hard and so long because he doesn't know what else to do. Don't cry with him. Just be patient and remember everything I said above.

Last but not least - 

ENJOY! It is hard having a baby but I promise it gets better. He starts to hit all the developmental milestones on his way to becoming a little man. With each new skill he becomes more and more fun. More and more relatable. He is lovely, ever increasingly perfect. Somehow the challenges become bigger but the boy becomes easier to enjoy.
one smile is all worth it

I know you will now scrunch up this letter and think, meh what do you know. I suppose you just have to live it to get it. And yes, I do sound a lot like my parents these days. There's nothing you can do to change that I'm afraid. That much is inevitable.

a much cooler and wiser Me a year from when you read this


Note, photo of other babies above is from the movie Babies. Incidentally an excellent film for all new mothers and mothers-to-be to watch.