that overwhelmed feeling

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It’s day four of being at home with two sick kids (luckily Pearl has avoided it so far). They have that deep throaty cough that keeps you awake at night and makes your voice croaky. KB worked late the last two nights (home 8.30pm) and leaves around 7.15/7.30am in the mornings so the days at home alone feel long. I’ve had to miss out on a gathering at a friend’s house I was looking forward to and cancel my pregnant sister and aunty with her baby coming over this morning which I was so looking forward to. (Very small and minor complaints in comparison to world wide events of late, I know.) Yesterday we spent the entire morning at the hospital for some check ups for baby (she’s had a little heart murmur since birth, but is absolutely fine) and when we returned home a little frazzled and burnt out, our darling Pixie didn’t want to have her day sleep (cue exasperated emoji x 1000). I spent about an hour returning her to her bedroom to no avail.

Eventually I gave up and let them both play in my room on my bed (found all sorts of treats under my doona when I went to bed myself last night…). Knowing I had the evening ahead of me (and wanted to be in front of the TV by 7.30pm for The Bachelor Australia semi final!!! #guilty) I decided to do early baths and try to instil some sort of calm into our afternoon. I made little oat pockets in hankies and let them pour milk mixed with a few drops of lavender into a deep, warm bath. I desperately wanted to get in myself and lock the door of the bathroom (with them on the other side)… despite my efforts, come 5pm Pixie was bouncing off the walls. When she is tired she morphs into this strange kind of hysteria. Her giggles become high pitched and her face draws a curtain over itself, she looks at you when you speak but doesn’t seem to hear the words. She wouldn’t eat her dinner and she has also figured out that I am relatively powerless while I’m feeding Pearl. So she looks me in the eye as she picks things up she’s not meant to touch, as she gets down from the table when she’s meant to be eating her dinner, as she pulls my wallet out of my bag and begins to empty its contents all over the floor, as she tips her cup of water into her dinner or puts her entire fist into her food, as she pulls Nell’s hair… or all of the above.

I was so beyond my limits by 6pm that I pretended it was 7pm and put them both to bed. Luckily for me our clock ran out of batteries yesterday morning so my clever Nell was unable to see through my nasty little trick.

On days like these it really makes me question our Western way of life. Since having babies this set up has always felt very unnatural to me. When my family are visiting (and often stay for full days at a time because we just can’t get enough of each other) it feels full and whole and right. We always joke about buying houses all in a row, we call it “our commune”. But for me it actually just sounds perfect. One of my little sisters is about to have a baby and even though she only lives a 20 minute drive away, it seems too far. All the rules that we impose on ourselves, when you really think about it, life in our culture is just one big game. We have made all the rules (working 9-5, living isolated in silos and away from our families, do this, don’t do that, etc) but now we seem absolutely trapped by them.

Well, at the very least, I do. Do you?

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ten things I can do with one hand, thanks to motherhood

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When you’re carrying a baby around for what feels like 99% of your day, and you’re very lazy/stubborn when it comes to putting on your sling, you get pretty nifty doing things with one hand. Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do with one hand thanks to my babies. High five to motherhood skills!

  1. Chop vegetables. Albeit a bit chunky, but chopped nonetheless.
  2. Put jackets on bigger kids. With a bit of yanking.
  3. Make cups of tea. Including a slightly risky manoeuvre in order to get the stove lit.
  4. Go to the toilet, pants down, pants up, etc. Yeah! (Skinny jeans = an extra ten points.)
  5. Type, write blog posts, reply to emails, and so on (eg. this post right now).
  6. Bark commands at anyone within a 500 metre radius. Just kidding, I can bark commands with or without one or two handed gesticulation. I’m very talented like that.
  7. Wash dishes. Ok they aren’t great, but useable. If it is the difference between eating and not eating…
  8. Put loads of washing on. This one is not much fun as it also requires a deep squat to get down to my machine. That combined with seemingly dissolved pelvic floor muscles and an extra 5kg is a no brainer: avoid if possible. (Avoiding washing is always possible.)
  9. Open packets of m and ms and eat them.
  10. Eat double cream by the spoonful out of the container… I’m not going to lie, this is something I excel at.

So I have to say my skills have increased dramatically over the last five years. I’m not sure how helpful the above list will be on my CV though.

What do you do while wandering around with babe in arms?

it was you

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I look at this photo of myself from last summer and cannot comprehend it. It was you growing inside me. I watch a video that I took of my stomach bouncing and jostling as you kicked me, and now, knowing you as I do, I just can’t understand that it was you in there, doing that.

That you were so close all that time and I didn’t even know it. That you’re here now and that you were here all that time too.

It’s been seven weeks since Pearl was born. She’s a lovely, round, squishy, smiley baby. KB has gone back to work and friends and family have (almost) all had their first cuddles. It seems that real life has continued, as usual.

But here I am, still getting to know this tiny human. Still marvelling at her sounds, her smell. Still tired and up all night and finding my way. Still feeling like it’s new, but old, all at the same time. Still wondering how all this happens, and why.

Still amazed by the fact that we made three humans.

I can’t think of where else to go with this post beyond that. I made humans. The end.

loosely on the subject of birds and naivety and mindfulness

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I like birds. I really do. Their elegance, their freedom, their delicate skeletons. So much so that when I was in Perth last year I bought a badge that stated the fact: I like birds.

I wear it a lot. But then one day, at the first meeting of a new writing group, one of the men asked me if I was a lesbian. I didn’t really understand, until he pointed at my badge.

How naive I felt? Did this handmade hipster badge have a meaning that was totally lost on me? Was I that ridiculous that I missed it? Ha! I still don’t really know, but I do genuinely like birds…

The unfortunate fact is though, I often find myself feeling rather unworldly. I hardly ever watch the news and I rarely read the newspaper. I like science fiction and teenage drama series. Sometimes I listen to classical music and pretend I can remember the composers’ names. I’m rubbish at trivia and have always been horribly nervous if ever invited to attend (rarely in this life, occasionally in past life). If I didn’t watch so much David Attenborough lord only knows how I would keep up to date with the basic facts of life and death.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little, but honestly, I hear of friends travelling the world, getting promotions, going to parties and networking at “events”. (It’s even worse if they have children and seem to be doing all this. Green Face.) I see people’s lives through the windows of social media while I am wiping vegemite off chins and putting on *another* load of washing and sweeping the floor again. There is little time to read or learn or extend oneself when you have smalls. Once or twice I entertained the idea of listening to intelligent podcasts as a means of furthering myself, thinking I could do that hands free while doing all the other things I do, but the closest I get to a podcast around here is listening to Beatrix Potter audiobooks. So instead I play with my succulents, I cook, I clean, I whinge occasionally a fair bit and I memorise the words of the Frozen lyrics so I can sing them to my children.

Can we have it all? It seems that some people (mothers) have really got it together. I’m content now in the delicious mundaneness of this stay at home life. I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to do it. Although it is like a military mission trying to get the kids in and out of the car just to deliver one child to kindergarten – I wouldn’t change it for anything. But there is a part of me that craves knowledge and learning, and there are things I look forward to being able to do when the girls are bigger. I think about my career and what life will look like and what I need to do to make that happen. I have phases where I find it difficult to maintain the patience it takes to be here and now and enjoy this thing I have got. It frustrates me to no end that I struggle to make peace with it, without throwing myself into the future, into the what ifs and the whens and the hows. It’s a constant battle inside my head. I look outside and wonder how other people do it. I want to grab them individually in the street and say, How do you do this thing? Take me through your day – I want to hear it, minute by minute. What do you do? 

For now I’ll peer through the shop windows, knowing there will be a time in the future that I can do it/learn it/be it/try it/have it and that when that time comes I will long for these simple days of being needed – needed so deeply and wholeheartedly. I’ll yearn for it, I know it. I need to remember this.

I posted a photo of Pearl on instagram the other day and a comment about the washing. A friend replied: “I know I sound repetitive but BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.” It’s good to get that reminder, because I have a feeling she is absolutely right.

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.

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.

newborning // the third time around

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The big girls are at kinder, the baby is asleep. There are vegetables roasting in the oven for a frittata for tonight’s dinner. The washing has been put on and some episodes of Mad Men watched. Papers and pencils have been thrown into drawers and doors to messy bedrooms closed.

Newborning, the third time around… things are chaotic with three, but surprisingly there is an overarching sense of calm that comes with a little bit of knowledge and previous practice.

In the night when Pearl is wide eyed and grizzly, I’m not in a flood of tears wondering what has happened to my life. I cuddle her close and breathe in her milky scent. I close my eyes when I can and go through that mental list – milked? changed? warm? tired? comforted? I remind myself how quickly this phase passes and life moves on.

Before I go to bed at night I quickly line up supplies for my nightly motherly duties – terry cloth towels, a few nappies, wipes, a full water bottle and a snack. I breastfeed in bed and close my eyes when I can. Nowadays nothing gets in the way of precious sleep time – if I can help it.

I’m slowly recovering from the birth and while life does not yet have a new flow, I have a new vision of how things are going to be. I know these sleepy newborn days don’t last, I know this round baby will soon open her eyes fully and begin to see the world around her in a new light. I know things will be busy and full when friends and family slowly move on with their lives and the food arriving on the doorstep and the kinder pickups gradually diminish.

Part of me is nervous, but the other part knows (read: hopes desperately) that I’ve got this.