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    Friday, 30 December 2011

    Being Mother

    In a moment of clarity, rare these days, I felt a surge of overwhelming pride in myself for being a mother. Not to sound trite, but it is a privilege and an honour to wear the maternal crown. There is truly no more important role in this world, there is no job whose value outweighs the responsibility of a mother.

    In the animal kingdom, a mother fox caught in a trap will chew off her own foot to get back to her kits. The gentlest of creatures will turn ferocious in the face of danger to protect her young. The love I feel towards my children would see me move mountains if that is what it took to prevent my babies from being harmed.

    That is not to suggest, however, that giving birth to a child should  automatically grant the bearer the right to such an honourable title. I believe such respect needs to be earned.

    Over Christmas, my mum was showing my sisters and me the handful of treasures that my nan had kept through her life. I'd seen them all before, but there was one tiny almost worthless brooch I'd never noticed. Just a thin piece of gold-plated metal shaped into the single word "mother" and adorned with a small, pink stone. The brooch was a gift nan had given to her mother. A gift of a title she had earned.

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    Why I hate childcare for babies

    After returning from Japan and still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I took up some casual work in childcare.

    I worked primarily at a couple of very good quality centres in an affluent suburb in Sydney. The staff were amazing, the centres were clean, activities well organised. They served nutritious AND delicious freshly cooked meals, which were really so good I promptly stopped bringing my own lunch so I could eat with the kids.  I imagine the waiting lists for these places went on for years. I can't imagine childcare centres could get any better.

    And yet, working there with the babies and children under 2 years old I witnessed modern life's most miserable (supposed) progression: Babies of breastfeeding age separated from their, let's be honest, mums.

    While the very best childcare centres endevour to provide a warm, engaging, happy and caring place for babies, it is simply not right. The most well-adjusted babies seemed disengaged with  their actual carers, not overly fussed who bottle fed them their formula or changed their nappy, not completely interested in the book being read to them or which toy to crawl after.

    The least well-adjusted babies were simply broken hearted, crying constantly and needing the attention of a single carer with whom they trusted the most, a surrogate mum.

    When I look at my 6 month old baby girl and see her eyes light up when I enter the room , her smile bursting from her face, her arms reaching out to me when she wakes. When i hear her delighted giggle. When I watch her fall asleep in my arms, deeply content after a big feed from my breasts... I feel ill at the mere thought of leaving her in the company of strangers.

    I cannot imagine handing her over and walking away. She's just a baby and she couldn't possibly understand. It would break her heart for me to suddenly abandon her, and yet...

    People do abandon their babies to childcare at such a young age. Even 2 year olds don't understand. I know this because I've seen it first hand, and I have children of my own now who I could never abandon.

    Sometimes I honestly wonder why some people have children.

    Disclaimer: we've lived on the borderline poverty line for years, so I know all about not being able to afford things. But I made a choice to have children and I'm going to see it through.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2011

    Nan's funeral.

    Nanna died. It happened quite quickly. She was 94 years old.

    It was quite difficult to explain to Jude. I told him nanny went to sleep and she would never wake up again (which is how it happened). He said "nanny's dreaming", which I thought was a lovely interpretation.

    Lilac is only 5 months old and has already attended her first funeral. It's a bit sad for me to think she won't ever remember Nan. Jude will, he loved nanny. That's why I took him to the funeral. I had to take Lilac, and I absolutely didn't want to exclude Jude.

    I think people enjoyed having the new generation there. It reminds us of the cycle of life. Auntie Joy held Lilac for ages (that's auntie Joy holding Lilac in the picture, I don't have a photo of Nan on my phone).

    I wrote a short impression of my life with Nan and read it at the funeral. While I was speaking and crying, Jude came up and gave my hand a squeeze. He then found a candle lighter and pretended it was a phone. Everyone laughed.

    Nan would have laughed and called him cheeky.

    Friday, 21 October 2011

    With a little help from my friend

    I've been beating myself up for a long time about not being stimulating enough for Jude. The moment Lilac was born I took one look at him and realised he's a big boy now. 8 months of a rough pregnancy had past and I had somehow missed almost a year of Jude's development by being too sick and exhausted to do anything interesting with him.

    Now with a little baby in tow, things have far from improved and I've been really worried for Jude. I've started thinking seriously about a day each week at child care for his enjoyment, but I worry about how to keep him stimulated every day of the week.

    So I finally stopped being a martyr and enlisted the help of my better half. Jeremy loves spending time with Jude and has always stepped up to the plate when needed. So naturally he has no objection to being asked for help.

    This morning he took Jude to swimming lessons, after years of serious neglect in that field. He has also started taking him to a sing and dance session at the local community centre once a week.

    This is what being a family, and being parents, is all about. Sharing the responsibility of raising our children and picking up the slack for each other where the other one struggles.

    I admit I have always struggled to make time to get out of the house every day in new and interesting ways, as I often get bogged down in housework and trying to make sure the family is well fed and the children get enough rest during the day.

    There is a very delicate balance to being a full time stay at home mum. Some women are super mums who can do everything, but I can't and I'm very glad Jeremy is here to help me.

    Monday, 10 October 2011

    The Wonder Weeks

    A book that is taking the parenting world by storm, The Wonder Weeks, helps parents through those times a baby becomes extra clingy and fussy by explaining they occur due to developmental leaps in the baby's cognitive development. When the baby emerges through the rough patch they have a new skill to show off.

    Now, I'm not 100% convinced this book isn't merely yet another money spinner in the vast universe of unnecessary baby paraphernalia, and I haven't personally purchased a copy, but so many people are talking about it I don't need to actually own it.

    What I do like about the book, however, is the gentle reminder from time to time that our babies are soft, delicate creatures experiencing new, exciting and difficult challenges constantly with a loooong way to go before they can function even slightly independently. They need from us patience (endless) and understanding.

    We, as parents, do find ourselves having days where we just want to scream. The book reminds us also that these times, while testing, are experienced by all parents and, more importantly, do pass... Until a new testing period emerges.

    I've lost track of how many weeks old Lilac is, but she's approaching 4 months so around 16 weeks. The Wonder Weeks says there is a change happening now, a big one, and I can assure you Lilac is certainly extra clingy, sleeping poorly and crying more than usual.

    The only pro right now is that while I'm holding her to my breast all day, I have a chance to write this blog entry on my phone (the first blog entry in a while).

    I wonder if she'll be able to compose her first orchestral piece after this wonder week, or perhaps that change doesn't happen until week 40.

    Monday, 5 September 2011

    Jude's catchphrase

    I love it when children start picking up little phrases and using them at every opportune, or inopportune, moment.

    I remember when my nephew had a new catchphrase every time we saw him. We always noticed and had a good chuckle about how cute he was.

    Jeremy commented just yesterday that Jude has started using little funny sayings. We hadn't really taken the time to notice because we're with him every day.

    Today I heard him say "I know, mummy, but I'm a little bit silly." He said the same thing again later in the day, and it quickly became his standard reply to everything.

    He really is a little bit silly, and quite funny.

    Meanwhile, Lilac is busy chattering away. She's a very talktative 11-week old. She has to be talkative to get a word in edgewise in this family.

    Tuesday, 16 August 2011

    The cradle swing

    When Jude was a baby, we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment by the sea. It was a lovely location but space inside the apartment was seriously limited.

    At the time, I knew several mums who had splashed out on expensive swings. They cost a bomb, took up excessive space and surely, surely they were not necessary. In any case, we didn't have one and struggled through many long months with a baby who cat napped and cried a lot.

    After having Lilac, I had to concede defeat. Looking after a newborn who was only content when attached to me, while trying to entertain and meet the demands of a nearly 3 year old, was simply too much.

    I searched ebay for the right swing, making sure I researched their resale value so I didn't over spend, and I finally invested... Yes, invested in a swing.

    It changed my life in an instant. Lilac took to it eagerly and I have been able to function during the day as a result of her sleeping peacefully for hours at a time.

    Now, if only we could get her sleeping that well in her bassinette at night.

    Monday, 25 July 2011

    The 2 kid shuffle

    Newly born newborns are deceptively good. For the first 2 or 3 weeks they're relatively easy to work with. They sleep constantly, aren't woken easily and don't seem to care where they're sleeping. Well, that's my experience. I know some newborns are more difficult.

    During those first few weeks I was pretty happy about having a chance to get things done around the house, like vacuuming and cooking. While Jude has taken this opportunity to stop sleeping consistently through the day, his needs were fairly simple to meet while Lilac was asleep.

    However, Lilac will be 6 weeks old in 2 days and somewhere along the line dealing with the needs of 2 children at exactly the same time has become challenging.

    Lilac now knows when mum is not around as her eyesight is improving. If she opens her eyes slightly in her sleep and fails to see me she wakes up crying out for me.
    Meanwhile Jude has decided that months and months of toilet use were practise for weeing on the floor, his bed and the couch so I am running around like a headless chicken cleaning up his accidents, trying to clear away the breakfast dishes at 5PM and cradling Lilac in my arms because she won't let me put her down.

    I have been heard in recent weeks asking why children don't come with an off switch. It would be quite nice.

    Friday, 15 July 2011

    The birth of Lilac.

    Lilac was born a month ago. I've been trying to find a moment to write it down before it's forgotten in a haze of sleep deprivation, but even now she has been awake since her 9.30am feed (it's nearly 2pm) and Jude is also refusing to sleep, despite telling me he wanted to go to bed an hour and a half ago.

    The birth itself, before I do forget completely:

    1. Leading up
    After my 2nd set of bile acid tests returned with significantly degraded results, Dr. Trueman agreed it would bem best to induce labour earlier. In order to maximise Lilac's chances for good health, I needed 2 seperate steroid injections in the days leading up to the induction. I would have a final obstetric appointment wednesday morning and the induction would begin late wednesday night.

    Facing so many days running back and forth from the hospital, we decided to get some beach-front accommodation near the hospital, and have a last minute family holiday for the 3 of us (how strange to think of us a family of 3). This was a really great idea, and took a lot of the stress out of the lead up. It also gave Jude and Jeremy somewhere to stay while I was in hospital. It turned out it also gave my parents and my sister a place to stay, too.

    2. The induction
    Wednesday night rolled around. I kissed my beautiful little man good night and farewell from life as we knew it, and we went to hospital at 9pm. We were given a room in maternity with a double bed. A midwife came by to apply the gel, whatever she did down there hurt like hell and left me feeling violated. In retrospect I think it might have been a stretch and sweep, or perhaps her hands were just very large. I thought they would use those metal things they use for pap smears, but they just used hands and I can't say that is the better choice.

    Contractions started almost immediately. I wasn't surprised as I had been having contractions on and off for a week (false or early labour, im not sure but I was 2cm dilated already). The contractions were mild and irregular until about 5am when they woke me up and I started to time them at 5 minutes apart.

    3. The birth
    Soon a midwife came to move me to the birthing suite. The short walk set things going. The contractions leapt to 2 minutes apart. Dr. Trueman came by and broke my waters. Meconium gushed out. I knew instantly the induction was well timed, I also knew I couldn't mess about or I'd end up in theatre.

    There was no chance for resting. As long as I was standing the contractions came on strong, but if I tried to sit down they slowed right down. So I stood and summoned every bit of strength left in me after a month of cholestasis and very little sleep. There wasn't much energy left. As the contractions grew stronger, I grew weaker.

    By the time it came to push I was fading. I climbed onto the bed, with the back raised so I could lean over it but remain upright. I felt my cervix stretching. I had not anticipated the pain. And after the cervix stretched came the agony of the stretching vagina. Contractions I could tolerate, but the stretching was beyond my pain tolerance. I started to wonder if it was too late for an epidural, the gas did nothing for the pain.

    Dr. Trueman was summoned from theatre, he came and tried to get me to push harder, I was doing the best I could with what little energy was left in me, but I couldn't push through the pain and fear of tearing and exploding haemmohoids gripped me. "That's why they call it the Ring of Fire," the doctor offered. Truer words were never spoken.

    Finally after what seemed forever I dumped Lilac unceremoniously out on the bed and looked down to make sure it was real. I scooped her up and rolled over, collapsing onto the bed with my tiny baby safe in my arms.

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    Induction date set

    I had a second set of bile acid tests. It turns out they've increased steeply since the first test.

    The obstetrician and I agree to inducing Lilac at 37.5 weeks, which means she should come safely and joyously into this world on the 16th of June, 2011.

    I'm very pleased to have this organised as it has given me some peace of mind and allowed me to organise my parents to look after Jude while the induction is taking place.

    I've been getting cramps and other signs that indicate things are already happening in my womb, so  I'm hopeful that everything will be favourable to an induction and it will go smoothly.

    I'm terribly uncomfortable in the countdown to Wednesday night. There are only 4 days to go, and I just can't wait to hold my beautiful baby girl in my arms and smoother her in kisses.

    What a journey we've been on together.