When you get sick of proving you’re healthy.

It was my birthday this weekend. Today, actually.

We planned on a breakfast the day before (daycare could have the toddler while we had some still-hot food), then a visit to the bank and some grown-up chores before I had a dentist appointment.

All was lovely and well; my beautiful family had surprised me with a bank transfer and I bought myself a skirt and dress with some of it.
Fast forward to the dentist. They noticed a tiny rash on my ankles, and throughout my appointment got more and more concerned that it was something sinister. Eventually they convinced me that I had to see a doctor asap to rule out meningococcal, and for the babiest one’s safety I agreed.

Below the dentist is a doctor’s surgery. It being 3.30 on a Friday afternoon I thought I’d save time and just visit him, rather than trying to get in to see my usual GP. I was rushed off for blood tests, and on our way back to the GP Ryan made a joke about him sending me off so he could have time to search Web MD.

You know how you can sneeze, search Web MD for possible causes and suddenly you’ve self-diagnosed the bubonic plague?

One excessively long consultation later and I was being sent to A&E, with an explanatory fax and note for the staff.

The Doctor had convinced himself I had an infection on my heart, and due to an existing murmur I was obviously going to die unless I got it seen to immediately.
Possibly. Worst case scenario; but ‘if you don’t get it checked out right away I will panic all weekend’.

It was now almost 5pm, we still had to get back to daycare, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we’d all had enough.

We got N, I tried my luck finding someone to watch him (last minute on a Friday night), gave up and headed to A&E.

Both kids were exhausted, Ryan was pissed off but trying to be supportive and I just caved. I cried the whole way there. Not because I was frightened, but because I am so fucking tired of worst case scenarios.

I was born with a serious heart condition, I recieved amazing care from Great Ormond Street Hospital, I have regular check ups, and have been ‘exceeding expectations’ ever since the op. I am greatful, and appreciate that medical staff have to be cautious, but sometimes I just have enough.

I get sick of proving that I am okay.

I’ve had chest pains (that turned out to be anxiety related), but that diagnosis was reached after a lot of anxiety-inducing tests. ‘To be safe’.

I’ve had a (still mysterious) numbness in one of my hands that had me at A&E for hours, ruling out life-threatening blood clots, ‘to be safe’.

I had an extremely stressful labour with N. Because of fear my heart wouldn’t cope, I was given one ‘highly recommended’ Epidural, instrumental birth and zero water to drink ‘to be safe’. The water decision was made once I had had the paralyzing injection, because of a miscommunication and a fear of excess fluid damaging my heart immediately after the birth. My pulse dropped into the low 40s, twice, and I came very close to losing consciousness both times.

I couldn’t get water for myself, due to the Epidural, and medical staff refused it. Safety, safety safety.

I need drugs for piercings, tattoos, and the dentist, just in case.

I know it’s irrational. I know I am incredibly lucky to have such attention and care given, no room for error. I know that these people have my life in their hands and they have to be cautious, but last night I had reached my limit.

A&E on a friday night, with two exhausted children and two seriously hungry adults, sat in a waiting room infront of a poor Heroin addict that was desperate for help, and in very close proximity to some fairly frequent vomit was not how I’d planned on my weekend beginning.

So now it’s my birthday. I have chosen to stay on the couch with the babiest one, while N and Ryan shop for tools, and I’m having a public rant, in the hopes of cleansing, mentally.

I am incredibly lucky, I get it. I’m just tired.

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and now for something different

I don’t really understand this week, so I gave up thinking about it.

N’s daycare days got shifted around as we are flying to Melbourne for a wedding tomorrow, the weather has been all over the place, and I’m just generally disorientated. My brain feels like cotton wool and I have been procrastinating on top of avoiding, above some old fashioned ignoring.

On Monday I put N into daycare and went to the local shopping centre. While I was there I bumped into someone I knew, out with 3 (beautiful) kids under 4. I made an offhand comment about her bravery (as it takes a lot of mental preparation for me to go anywhere with my 2 without backup). A random lady then took it upon herself to talk over us, looking at baby B, then to me, firmly saying ‘there’s really no issue if you actually train them while they’re little’.

I’m sorry but, what?

Who are you and why are you talking over us? Have you met my kid? Do you have any idea how old he is? Are you seriously suggesting that small children are obedient and well behaved as long as you ‘actually train them’?

(Let me just add here that I may have already been fairly sensitive after a night of no sleep)

I looked at her, with fairly solid ‘f-off’ eyes, and went: ‘HAHAHAH!’ before resuming my conversation.

The younger chick she was with started saying something along the lines of ‘I don’t even try it, either, (kid’s name) just runs off’, and I tried to forget her existence.

I’m a bit over it, to be honest.

I know there are times my opinion is disagreed with (just ask my darling partner), but I’d like to think I don’t just blurt it out at people that haven’t asked for it whatsoever? Like, at least I’m involved in the conversation first, right?

Right?

Anyway, I have 5 assessments to do (again, procrastinating on top of avoiding, above some old fashioned ignoring) and one is to write a poem, so I channelled my inner rage and made it rhyme a bit, and the result is below, so please enjoy.

Or don’t, whatever; it’s your life.

 

I didn’t ask for your advice (but you gave it anyway)

I was talking with an acquaintance, unaware of your existence

When you threw in some parenting tips

I did not request your input on how I should parent my kids.

Please do not tell me how to ‘train’ him; to ‘eliminate resistance’

You’ve never met my child

(he wasn’t there, and he’s not a dog)

I think toddlers push their boundaries; it’s not always about persistence.

.

I understand that you were trying to help

Probably

Somewhere, deep down

But you were speaking out of turn

My only response was to frown.

.

I didn’t request a lecture, while waiting for the doctor

On the reasons we vaccinate

All the dangers, the potential horror

The hope to eliminate

.

I had told you we were there for that

Yet you took it upon yourself

To impart your impeccable wisdom

And ramble about ‘pack health’

.

I understand that you were trying to help

Probably

Deep down inside

But you were offensive and unnecessary

I was polite – I felt obliged.

 .

When you repeatedly tell us

To do it ‘this way’ or ‘that’

To not spoil, to not pander;

To not immediately react

.

You assume we want the same outcome you had

You ignore the pitfalls; the bad.

.

There are so many reasons we differ

Many variables at play;

The economy, research

even weather

Could be among the reasons for change.

.

I understand that you’re trying to help

Probably

Deep down

But I can see those outcomes

I’m avoiding them

I’m allowed.

 .

Perhaps we do know better now

Perhaps our children are different

‘They turned out fine’ is not justification,

and it’s subjective; your opinion

.

Perhaps we see the dangers now

Perhaps we are just belligerent

.

And perhaps you really are blind to fault

To mistakes made long ago

Or perhaps you are in fact quite perfect

And it is I that refuses to know

.

I do understand; you’re just trying to help

Probably

Deep down

But at some point we must make our own mistakes

You made yours

It’s our turn now.

So, so.

I have an idea that I should write a blog post at least once every two weeks, probably so that I don’t lose momentum and grind to a halt; but this week it is so, so hard.

Last Friday I took a bit of a ‘mental health day’. The day before, Ryan had taken a day off work (for basically the first time ever), N was at daycare, and we went to Brisbane for the day.

It was a shitshow.

We went for breakfast (again, something we never ever do) and Nate basically ate a teaspoon of vegemite, before smearing whatever was left all over himself. He then got too distracted by the play area and forgot to let us know he needed the toilet, and he left for daycare, post-clothes change and mid-tantrum.

We eventually made it to Brissy, against the will of our four-month old, and then my phone rang.

N had vomited all over the floor, and told daycare that he had been to the doctor.

He had.. two months before.

For his brother’s check-up.

I then had to explain that we were well over an hour away, he had not been unwell, and perhaps it was the teaspoon of vegemite he managed to eat for breakfast.

We did what we had to do in Brissy and came straight back.

So, on Friday I woke up feeling totally disheartened and unmotivated. I went for a walk, followed by a coffee and another walk with a friend, and a complete day of ignoring my study/blog/responsibilities/life.

Fast forward a week and I have been super productive.. I have been accepted to work as a story reviewer and submitted my first two reviews, I studied a bit, agreed to a good, regular swim teaching shift beginning next month, exercised twice and covered a swim teaching shift (my first since bub came along – both kids and Ryan survived), so surely writing a blog will be easy, right?

The problem is, I am so, so torn.

I am torn between focussing on my immediate world, or the entire world.

I am torn between looking for positivity, and seeing negativity.

I am torn between understanding, and outrage.

I am torn between acceptance and defiance.

I am torn between feeling as though now is the time to speak out, or feeling as though now is the time to listen.

To really, really listen.

I also feel as though if I actually began to explain my feelings about the US election, I would never stop. It would spread into everything, and I would probably manage to offend many, many people.

I don’t think we need any more division. I know I definitely don’t.

So I’m sorry for the non-post. For the words with no direction. For the non-explanation and the not-very-interesting; I just needed to fulfil a personal promise.

Be kind. Be kinder than you have to be.. to everyone, and to yourself.

I think we all need it.

Embracing The Village

My partner went on a 5-night stag do this week.

Aside from all the usual un-fun-stuff that pissess off wives and girlfriends during times like these, I was left alone with the small people.

For 5 nights.

Alone.

I love my kids, but 5 nights alone with a 3 month old and a 2 1/2 year old is too many. I knew I had to suck it up and ask for help.

It was hard.

I realised that asking for, and accepting help was just as daunting to me as doing the dinner, bed and bath routines without it.

I have beautiful friends that really have never let me down; they are incredibly supportive, patient, understanding, and they are amazing with my wildlings  children,

but it was still so hard.

I don’t know if it’s something to do with desperately trying to cling to whatever pride I have left, now that I live amongst the carnage of 3 boys (2 little and one big), or that I feel like I have so many unrepaid favours already, or maybe I’m just in denial.. but now that I actually have this magical ‘village’ to help with my kids, I’m barely opening the door.

On night 1 we absolutely smashed it. Both kids were fed, bathed and sleeping.

On night 2 the toddler and I had rice cakes for dinner. The baby couldn’t bath with the toddler because he was such a grub, we had literally 4 powercuts and the only way I got them to sleep was on either side of me in my bed.

Night 3 I had help, takeaway, wine, and a mental breakdown.

Night 4 I was beyond exhausted, the 2 year old slept for 5 minutes before freaking out about ‘the man’ in his room; he ended up downstairs narrating Survivor for me: ‘raining! Man! Man walking! Fire!’ etc. etc.. and I was refusing to accept my partner’s calls.

Night 5, thankfully, came at the end of an extra daycare day I had requested. It was relatively calm, but I ended up between kids again, and dinner was olives and crackers.

I had a massive amount of weekend help from 3 of my friends, especially on Saturday night and for swimming lessons on Sunday, but since then I have also had a heap of comments along the lines of: ‘you know I’m always here’ and ‘just yell out, I’m happy to help’.

It’s so silly that I felt so bad about asking for something I so clearly needed.

I know that when I make comments, and offer my help to someone, I am completely willing to actually do whatever it is I’ve said I would.. Aside from the warm and fuzzies I get from helping a friend, my favour tally really is that long, I feel relief whenever I can make a dent in it. But it’s also nice to feel useful, and trusted. I know that these friends are absolutely part of my family now, and I shouldn’t feel shame in treating them as such.

At the end of the day, I know I’ll be insulted if they pick another babysitter over me when their time comes.

Unless I’m part of the reason they need one, obviously.

Anyway, my partner learned never to do that again, and I learned that I just have to open up, and embrace my village.

 

Awkward silences

My two (and a half) year old started at a new daycare this week.

It made me realise how much I dislike starting from scratch with people now.

It’s such a minor issue, but I’m so tired of explaining myself, and worrying about the impression I’m giving off. I also worry that if I don’t explain myself I’ll give off a much worse impression.. so I basically stand there like an idiot weighing up each option until too much time has passed and whoever I’m with feels awkward.

Winner.

It happened when I mentioned that N had started at daycare at 6 months; I wanted to explain that we have no family over here and I hadn’t slept since he was born.. he went for a few hours once a week so I could have a shower and he could be held by someone other than his dad and I. I went back in to breastfeed him whenever he was hungry because he refused a bottle, plus I didn’t want him to feel abandoned.. please don’t think I’m a bad mum.

But it’s a daycare centre and I didn’t want to act like there was anything wrong with a kid starting at 6 months, so I got confused and said nothing.

It happened when I asked about putting N in for one extra day a week for a month or so. I wanted to explain that I’m studying and hoping to finish ASAP so I can start to work from home; then we can save some money and maybe actually buy a house. I also feel like he’s so bored at home, but he scares the shit out of me when we go anywhere; he’s mostly really good, but he’s strong willed, and two, and I can’t always chase him while holding/feeding the baby. I wanted to explain that I also feel like I’m missing out on the tiny baby stage his brother is at, the one that I barely remember with him because he never slept and I was a zombie. I do love him though, please don’t think I’m a bad mum.

But I felt like the more I made excuses the crazier I’d look, so I kind of mumbled: ‘I’m studying, plus the baby..’ followed by an awkward silence.

It literally happens every time I’m around new mums, because I have this laid-back squish now, but N was so different, so I want to make suggestions if they are questioning themselves and their parenting, but I also want to add some sort of disclaimer every single time, like:

‘but that’s just what eventually worked for me, and I have two completely different kids, so I’m not trying to tell you I know everything, because I definitely don’t, and it only worked for one of them anyway, and please don’t think I’ll be offended if you don’t try it, I definitely won’t. Also sorry if you’re bored of me mentioning the never-sleeping-with-my-first thing, but I feel like I should explain that I don’t think I’m the best mum because this kid sleeps like an angel, I just got lucky and I know it. I’m still confused, but maybe just a bit less, because I’m aware of it getting easier? Anyway, you can tell me to shut up, I’m not easily offended. Please still be my friend?’

Some sort of shortened version usually comes out, or I just stick to my awkward silence. Winner.

At this point I’m not even sure what I come across as anymore. I’m not even sure how to explain that I start off caring what people think, but then I get tangled up and come out not caring at all, occasionally blaming my silence on being tired, but mostly just hoping to skip being awkward and  assume that you already know me.

Maybe you do, and I’m just being paranoid?

*Insert awkward silence*

Motherhood’s misrepresentations

(Part 2: self)

Back in the olden days I taught infants swimming lessons in Wimbledon. I worked 6 days a week; mostly singing nursery rhymes and playing with babies, but also trying to find ways to explain physical movements to little kids that were only just learning their own names.

I loved it.

I loved getting to know the families and watching the kids grow, I loved watching them learn, and most of all I loved the reward that came from helping someone conquer their fears.

I also had a lot of time to watch families.

Babies with their moods, their development, their body language. Toddlers with their stories, their demands, their tantrums. Children with their fears, their questions, their pride.

Parents with their babies, their toddlers, their children.

My job gave me this amazing access to literally hundreds of families, and with it came so many impressions on what to expect when my time came. How to hold my baby to show him/her that they are safe, that I am confident. How to talk to my toddler to show him/her that they are listened to, but I am in control. How to show my child that he/she is an individual, but I am always there, always supporting, encouraging, and disciplining.

Cut to 6 years later and the realization that not only do children change the game hourly, but your instincts do, too.

I know not to cling to my baby; that will make him sense my fear and panic.

I do not always know how to tell that to my arms.

I know that a tantrum needs calm, it needs patience, it needs love.

I do not always know how to provide those things, when (for whatever reason) I cannot find them within myself.

I know that my child has his own mind and needs freedom to be himself.

I do not always know how to explain that there is a time and a place for freedom of expression, and even then there are limits.

Yes you may play in the mud, run as fast as you like, sing ‘twinkle twinkle boat, row row spider, what you aaare’, but no, you may not throw mud at other kids, run towards cars and scream your glorious new musical interpretation at your sleeping baby brother.

I want to raise an individual, but I do not want to raise a dickhead.

I was so lucky to get some experience with kids before having them, but really nothing prepares you. It’s all well and good to have an idea, and yes, sometimes a screaming kid will listen to the calm voice of a friend/family member/teacher/stranger and suddenly behave, but that technique may have failed 9 times already for mum/dad that day. That kid may just be shocked into agreement. That kid probably won’t be testing their boundaries with that person the way that they do with their primary caregiver.

I’m glad I had some experience, but it’s so much easier from the outside.

Motherhood’s misrepresentations

Part 1 (probably)

When I fell pregnant we were living in Queenstown NZ. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth and we had great friends there, but my partner is an Aussie, and had been offered a job in Queensland; it made sense for us to move.

Now, before this move, I had genuinely never worried about making friends as a grown up. I’d never even considered it. I’d moved country twice (alone), moved interstate (alone), travelled around Australia and New Zealand (alone), and made friends. Easy.

All of a sudden, I was 22 weeks pregnant, in a new place, unable to get a job and unable to go out drinking. My partner had a grand total of two friends in town (his boss and boss’ wife) and we had a life to build.

It was weird.

I was extremely lonely and extremely confused about how to fix it. The couple we knew went out of their way to introduce us to people and invite us to BBQs, but we were very much amongst childless people, and it showed.

The thing is; I don’t think people feel all that comfortable hearing anecdotes about drunken misbehaviour when they are coming from a pregnant girl. The genres don’t mesh. As everyone else was childless, they hadn’t yet experienced the feeling of loss of your past-self combined with the incredibly exciting anticipation for your new-self, and trying to get to know people while you’re going through such a massive change in your life isn’t easy. I felt as though I was already being treated as a ‘mum’, or at least as a ‘sensible person’.

To be honest, neither label really fit.

I felt as though no one here really knew what to talk to me about. The obvious topic was my pregnancy, and as much as I knew they were trying, I really REALLY wanted to let them know I was still just a chick in her 20s.

You can still swear around me, I’m not your mother.

You don’t have to feel bad when you mention ‘not being anywhere near ready for kids’.

I’m not going to judge you for drunkenly arguing with a DJ over his terrible choice in music; even if it did get you thrown out of the bar you were in.

I’m still one of you.

Almost three years later, we’re far more established. Those friends now speak freely around me, and we have our own anecdotes to share, but I’ve come to realise that the awkward new-friend phase is just a part of my life now. It comes along with the label ‘mother’ and all its connotations. It’s even existent in mothers’ groups, but I’ll waffle on about that another day.

Anyway, I guess my point is: parents are still people! Who knew?

 

 

Congratulations, and welcome to a lifetime of guilt!

Well, this has been a fun fortnight.

Dentist appointments, car services, accountants, doctors, deadlines and rainy days have bundled themselves into a happy little care package and landed slap-bang in the middle of an already frustrating month. With it: a suffocating parachute of guilt blanketing my life.

Because of the weather and the baby, my two year old had three indoor-days this week.

He is now genuinely excited by the prospect of popping out to get some milk.

At one point I managed to get the baby to nap in his cot and attempted to make some sort of progress with the mess-covered kitchen, when my two year old appeared at my side, quietly asking me to ‘play?’ and I felt so much heartbreaking guilt I vowed to just ignore the mess and do something fun. Within ten minutes I felt horrible for subjecting him to such poor living conditions.

My house is absolutely covered in toys and almost-dry clothes that will probably remain in that state until summer arrives, and the kitchen is beyond salvation. I’m aware of a long overdue blog post, and assignment (or two), my baby has reached a point where he just does. not. want. to be put down any more, and each evening, when my partner comes home from work, I just want to sit in silence.

Cue the guilt.

It creeps into everything, and I know I’m not alone.

I could hire a cleaner, but then I’d feel guilt about the money. What could I buy the boys with that amount? Of course, I can’t just buy their love, that’s terrible.. they really want my attention. I can’t clean and pay them attention at the same time, and I can’t involve them; that’s child labour. Ugh I’ll get a cleaner.

When you become a parent, someone should give you a pat on the back and say: ‘Congratulations! You’ll never sleep again, and there’s a strong chance you will feel guilty about every choice you make from this day forth. Good luck!’. That way at least you’d be kind-of prepared.

Whether or not you work, breastfeed, study, bake from scratch, use flashcards, ban screen-time, discipline calmly, only ever buy organic paleo vegan gluten-free unicorn kissed food: someone will disagree with your choice, and you will doubt yourself.

Or is that just me?

I don’t know. Maybe I should just suck it up and remember how lucky I am to have such minor issues in my life right now.

Aaand cue the guilt..

No, I’m not more relaxed this time around

20150324_174934_resizedSeven(ish) weeks ago we had our second child.

We were totally geared up for another 9ish months of being awake every hour, on the hour (or more often if it was a ‘leap week’ or a tooth was coming through). We invested in more swaddles, a better breast pump, a better baby carrier, a gorgeous new pram/capsule combo, and I stocked the cupboards with food I could make one-handed.

Then he arrived, and he slept.

We spent the first couple of days in the hospital wondering if he was just exhausted from the birth; our first was already making an impression by this age.

Then we came home, and he slept.

I was able to have a shower, and eat. At three days old our first literally let me get as far as putting shampoo in my hair before he demanded my return.

He napped long enough for me to cuddle my darling 2 year old, and in the last 7 weeks, not much has changed.

When my 2 year old was a baby, he needed me; a lot. He napped chest to chest, and fell asleep on the boob. If we dared put him down before he was well and truly out, he would fully wake. I had so many strangers smile at this beautiful boy in my arms, and tell me ‘this is the best age; they get so much harder as they grow!’ and it was all I could do not to bawl my eyes out. If this was the easy stage, I was not going to survive.

Now, people keep telling me that #2 is so relaxed because I’m more relaxed/I had a calmer pregnancy/I’m more experienced.

I want to scream at them.

They are just two different people.

Lets be honest: I’m not calmer now; I have a miniature dictator running around the house screaming at me because he wants his toast in ‘triangle squares’. My pregnancy was exhausting, especially when I had to physically stop my toddler from doing things like throwing his scooter into the duck ponds, and I was petrified that I wouldn’t cope with the hourly feedings after a day full of tantrums.

I want to go back in time and tell myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, that I can stop meticulously writing down my baby’s awake times and the duration of his feeds. I want to reassure myself that my one cup of coffee a day is not preventing my baby from sleeping, ever, and that it’s okay to take him for long walks every day if that’s what lulls him to sleep. I want to give my exhausted self a hug, and to let her know that she will behave the same way with her next baby and he will sleep, blissfully, because that’s what he wants to do.