9 x 7 x 498 – 16 + 52* or thereabouts

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9 = the number of baby jigging steps** it takes me to get from one side of my bedroom to the other.

7 = the number of seconds it takes me to walk the nine steps.

498 = the number of times I paced up and down staring longingly at my bed and the wide mouthed sprawled snoring man in it at 4.30am this morning.

16 = the number of times Pearl fell asleep only for her eyes to swing open again as if nothing had happened. What? Oh no, I wasn’t sleeping [laughs], I was just momentarily checking out the inside of my eyelids.

52 = the extra laps I did after she was finally asleep, just for good measure.

I don’t have a mathematical brain but I’d say that the above algorithm took a fair percentage off my recommended/preferred nightly hours of sleep.

So. Six weeks. The six week mark. A wonder week if I remember correctly? I’ve spent the last couple of nights like this, it’s been the first time since she was born that I’ve had to work really hard to get her back to sleep. They’re tricky, aren’t they? The way they look so deeply asleep one moment, then wham, the eyes are wide open again. But then you feel that comfortable warmth as her body finally relaxes and moulds to you. Got her!

It’s a strange kind of walking meditation, if you let it be so.

* estimates only.
** smaller than regular steps.

my mother

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We grew up in an old red brick farmhouse in the suburbs. It had once owned much of the land surrounding it, which in the early 1900s had been filled with orchards. The house had various extensions, a wood fired oven, an overgrown garden and many, many places to hide. With each subsequent daughter of my own, the more I think about and appreciate my mother, taking care of us in that big old house while Dad was at work, and my admiration for her only continues to grow.

I am the eldest of four girls. Mum was a full time stay at home mother until I was ten years old when she began her part time career in social work. My childhood memories are calm and peaceful. I don’t remember things being busy or chaotic, yet I look around at my own life with these small ladies and wonder how that could possibly be so.

A few weeks ago I had an older cousin visit whom I haven’t seen in a number of years. “Do you still like butter?” she asked. “I love butter!” I said, a little too enthusiastically (who doesn’t?), wondering where this line of questioning was going. She explained that when I was a child I used to ask Mum if I could have some butter, and apparently she would cut squares from the block and let me eat them. The shock! The horror! Parenting seems so serious these days.

I often talk to Mum about what it was like for her back then, with four of us under her feet. She told me that after she had taken us all to school and kinder and so on she would move around the house making all the beds, and before making each one she would curl up in it and close her eyes for just a few minutes before moving to the next. Back in those days she drank nescafe by the bucket load and cafes were out of the question. Whenever we went somewhere on weekends she would always pack sandwiches (vegemite), apples (lots), muesli bars (no frills), bottles of water (tap) and a thermos (of nescafe) for her and Dad. At the beach the sandwiches would get sand in them and would crunch between your teeth.

By the time I was in VCE Mum and Dad had divorced. Mum went back to uni to study law. It took her years to finish it, and while I was at uni she was still also studying. I have a vivid memory of her hunched over the old desk in her bedroom overlooking the front garden, with piles of law books on either side of her. I remember her asking me once (probably more), “Don’t you have homework to do? Aren’t you meant to be at uni today? Shouldn’t you be studying?” “Nope,” I shrugged before heading back to the TV, knowing full well I did, and I was. Now that I’m at a stage in my life where I have plans to go back to study in the future, I am only beginning to comprehend what it would have meant to make that decision (particularly to do something like law) and to stick at it, like Mum did. My sisters and I used to tease her about being one of the mature age students in the front row. I asked her if she always put her hand up to answer all the questions. She admitted that yes, she did.

As I go about my days I often text Mum, or call her and say help me! She always does, even if I can hear her frantically typing in the background. She’s the first person I ask when the girls are sick, if they have a rash or if I have a question about life. When she comes over I cling to her and I make her stay a lot longer than she wants to. I turn up at her house and let her make me cups of tea and cook me dinner. She never makes me wash up.

I am so lucky to have her and to know that whenever I’m stuck or lacking motivation or struggling all I have to do is think what would Mum do? and know that if I do that, things will work out. If that means giving my kids hunks of butter to keep them quiet then… I guess I have to do it. But then again, there are iPads these days.

round and around // the rhythms of small people

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With KB back at work I’m now almost two weeks in to what will be my regular life as mother of three, staying at home while he is at work. I must admit, I am a little on the sleepy side.

While I had an extra pair of hands it was easy to go about our days in holiday mode. We spent some time during that first month down at the beach. We had coffees and went for walks. I slept in. Every. Day.

Now I’m up between 6.30am and 7am regardless of what has occurred overnight. KB leaves the house at about 7.30am and gets home between 6.30pm and on some nights, 8pm. Yesterday was one of those 8pm days. At 9am I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding Pearl while the bigger two danced around with snotty noses and porridge on their chins. I looked up at the clock and my first thought was a grim: I’ve got 11 hours to go. Insert panicked emoji here. ‘

It’s funny how you forget the ways of newborns. I remember the first time around when I finally (quite late in the piece) discovered the concept of Eat Play Sleep. I remember a particular exasperating day where little Birdie was awake ALL DAY. Because I had no idea that I should actually try to put her to sleep at some point. By the end of the day she was screaming and I was beside myself.

Nowadays I know what to look for in a tired baby. I see the familiar jerking of the limbs and Pearl is bundled up and popped into her bassinet (which now, during the day, resides in our lounge room amongst the noise, the shouting and the crying and the mess. It seems she loves a bit of background noise… for the moment anyway). I’m not surprised when I see her face scrunch up only moments after smiling and cooing – I know just how quickly play can turn to sleep, with some encouragement. I recognise those small windows of opportunity where you have your hands free and I know exactly what to do with those moments (go to the toilet, put a wash on, make tea, and eat, in no particular order).

I had forgotten, though, just how quickly these rhythms flow throughout the day, and how time consuming it is to move through each. Feeding, changing, playing, wrapping, cuddling, and sleep for what seems like moments before it all begins again.

While it seems stilted at the moment, as I get used to this new flow to our days I can see a pattern emerging. I am (re)learning to quickly prepare some bite sized snacks for myself in the evenings, to meal plan as best I can, to start the bedtime rhythm earlier than normal (yesterday I ran the bath at 4pm… and three and a half hours later I finally managed to get the girls into bed… with a small amount of smugness that they were all (all) singlehandedly bathed and hair washed and fed and teeth cleaned and read to and kissed and goodnighted).

Now I am sitting here with the Pixie and Pearl asleep, and Birdie is at kinder. It took me over an hour to get P and P to sleep… I haven’t done a food shop so I ate popcorn and a breakfast smoothie for lunch, and now I have to wake them both up in five minutes to go and collect their sister.

I know it will all fall into place eventually.

you and me

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I’m sitting here, in the dim yellow lamplight, in the deep yellow night, feeling the heavy warmth of you. The world is asleep, it’s just you and me girl. You nuzzle in close and whisper sweet primal newborn noises as you drink. The gently pulling lulls me into a deep, sleepy fog. I am aware of the fullness of you in my lap. Of our closeness. But I’m warm and my eyelids are solid weights. We sleep like this, breathing in each other’s dreams, gaining comfort from each other’s warmth on these cold winter nights.

I wonder, will you remember this? Will your skin retain these memories of our bodies, more together than apart in these initial days of knowing each other? Of my flesh feeding yours, enveloping you still, holding you and loving you, every skerrick of me aching to be near you, to stare at you and freeze this moment in time, to carve your image inside my eyelids.

I wonder, when you’re grown and I’m old, will you look at me and feel a glimmer of this, will something tug at your skin and remind you, will you pause to look at me again and will your bones remember this closeness we share, this inability to be apart, this moment when we are two bodies, but no distance between us could separate us?

I wonder, when you’re sitting in your bed in the deepness of night, when you’re holding your own baby close and breathing her in, when you’re sitting in that warm private cocoon and it’s just you and her and nobody else, will you wonder about us, about this?

there are peanuts in my bed

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I am absolutely ravenous. I can’t stop eating. I am an eating machine. I hide food from my children and take bites when they aren’t looking. I eat the contents of lolly bags they are given at parties after they have gone to bed.

This is me: the breastfeeder. I am a lot more prone to “cravings” while I am breastfeeding than when pregnant. I like food at the best of times, but when a small human is sucking the life out of me at two hourly intervals, I’m a food obsessed monster.

I spent a foul twenty minutes on the coles online website last week searching variations of “m&m’s” to no avail… mandms/m&ms/m and m/m and m’s… etc (take note coles, you lost $5 because of this and made me very mad).

I met some girlfriends at a friend’s place today. While they were drinking cups of tea I was hovering around the kiddie table, stealing watermelon fingers from the childrens’ plate.

The thing I love about this is that it’s the one time in your life you can eat like a killer whale while simultaneously feeling like a supermodel because you’re still getting used to feeling 20kg lighter than you were a few weeks ago. Best!

So excuse me while I go and prepare my bedside snacks for night time feeding… a tasty selection of nuts and biscuits tonight I think, or perhaps a bag of corn chips, or maybe a handful of choc chip cookies…

adjusting

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Saffron hauls herself onto my lap while I’m breastfeeding Pearl. She grabs each side of my face and forces me to look at her while I’m ushering lots of “careful, careful, careful of the baby.” She looks at the baby. “I love your baby, she’s beautiful. ” (“luff”, “boo-full”) she says. She thinks momentarily. “Now your baby has come out, there’s room for me in your tummy again.”

This has been a common thread of late, Saffron commenting on the appearance of the baby, and the vacant accommodations she has left behind. And how she would dearly like to climb back into said vacant block. Please.

I look at this enormous creature perched precariously on my knee, her gigantic deep brown eyes staring at me, eagerly awaiting a response. I’m confused. Only three weeks ago this huge being was my baby. I would pick her up like a tiny doll and balance her on top of my rounded stomach. I would play with her soft curls and wipe vegemite from her stained baby lips. Now she appears in front of me like a monstrous Japanese cartoon; all eyes and head and face. She reaches out a finger and pokes the side of Pearl’s face. “Can I kiss your baby?” (“tan”, “tiss”) She asks, sick of waiting for a response to her request to climb back inside me.

She kisses the baby then pulls my hand away from where it is rested, cradling Pearl’s back. She holds my hand and makes sure I can’t touch the baby with it.

We are all adjusting to this new way of life, this new being who is suddenly in our family and in our space after an eternity of pregnancy. Adjusting to my constant “shhhhh’s” and “careful’s!!”. Adjusting to the crying, to the constant commands of this tiny person.

And then I see my eldest two daughters playing and hugging and kissing each other. I see them holding hands tonight while we walked to get fish and chips. I see them giggling together and whispering rude secrets (namely about poo). And I remember when Saffron was this tiny thing in my arms and Nell was the giant child poking and prodding. And I know everything and everyone will be just fine.

yoga and birth

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I practised prenatal yoga through all three of my pregnancies. As I lay in bed last Thursday with Pearly, I sent my yoga teacher a text message briefly outlining Pearl’s labour and birth for her to read out to my fellow preggy ladies during class that night. As I typed my eyes welled up with tears as I realised just how big a role yoga has played in my ability to birth, to breathe, and to get me through some of the most challenging moments pregnancy and labour could throw at me.

During our classes we practised breath, and we would hold say a squat or another pose which gradually increased in difficulty and practise breathing through it (in for four and out for four), as though it were a contraction. We used sound; humming, ahhing and more recently the sound “shhhh” which I used when in labour with Pearl.

Each birth I have practised these skills, and I have worked really hard to let go and flow with my body throughout the labour. I used to get really annoyed when KB would compare pregnancy and birth to sport (sport = the language he speaks ;) ) but now I can really see how good birth preparation and hard work are akin to training for a marathon. For some reason when I was pregnant with Saffron, I thought labour would be easy because I had done it once before. (Don’t ask me why… hilariously ridiculous… I can see that now!) With each subsequent birth there have been new challenges – with Saff it was coming to terms with the fact that it was actually going to hurt despite previous experience! And yoga (along with a kick arse support team) is the number one thing I can thank for keeping me calm. This time around I didn’t have any moments of panic, I maintained my breathing most of the time and I drew on what I had learnt to get me through.

Now, post birth, I use yoga breathing when I’m feeling challenged emotionally, when Pearl is crying or when I’m feeling overwhelmed with having three small children (!)

I have tried to imagine what might have happened to me when I reached the peak of the strongest contractions… without yoga and dedication, would my support team have been enough?