I saw her. I could see her heart thumping without seeing her heart at all. Living off adrenaline. Survival mode. Her baby, not quite 6 months old, sitting quietly on her lap with oxygen tubes attached to his face.
A hospital sleep specialist walks by to make himself a coffee. Courageously he asks, “how are you, and how is he going?”.
You could pressume that he was assigned to the baby as his specialist by the way the woman responded, you’d be wrong.
“Exhausted. I’m utterly exhausted.”, the mother replied. “This is so tiring.”
The staff members eyes widen as if to suggest he received more than he’d bargain for, and regretted asking anything in the first place. He walks away – politely but awkwardly smiling.
The room is quiet. After reading a brochure, I look up. She sits there jiggling her leg to bounce her baby. Jittering, fidgeting. This mother has not slept properly for some time.
Her inner engine is at full revs trying to get through the day. A symptom of stress all too familiar.
I blurt out, “Is he in here for sleep testing?”. Fully aware it’s likely to be for something else.
“Oh, he’s on a CPAP. We’ve just had an overnight sleep study a week ago. It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Because I didn’t have to worry and fuss, I knew someone was going to be there to watch him too. It wouldn’t just be me. ”
The flood gates open.
I can’t help but empathise and ask, has she got any help at home. “No. Not if you count a husband who argues with me in the middle of the night about the baby.”
She was alone. She is alone. And vulnerable. Maybe craving for someone to hear her out. And to validate that her emotions are accepted by someone. Her own opinion is not enough.
I sigh for her and share in her disappointment in the lack of support. Then spend the next 5 minutes listening to her story. The story of her baby having a “floppy airway” otherwise known as laryngomalacia. It creates an obstruction which stops him from breathing. She can’t sleep knowing this. Who could? The respiratory team and ENT battle over how to manage it, constantly.
They decided to perform a bronchoscopy recently to get a visual of it. Her son needed to be resuscitated twice in recovery. Putting on hold any surgical solution for the condition. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her.
She counted, almost 50 times she woke up to adjust his machine the previous night. She said her son had always sounded congested from birth but for some time nobody wanted to listen to her concerns. His condition is serious.
We were interrupted by each of our specialist nurses and doctors and went our separate ways.
If she were ever to read this, I would want her to know that I was privileged to hear her story. A stranger she may be, but a fellow comrade she is.
People often steer away from those who are full to the brim with the challenges in their lives, what if we were all eager to engage with them and connect with them? To hear their story, acknowledge their vulnerability and validate their feelings. How different the world could be.
This mother was at the end of her tether. Maybe she needed just one nice thing to show her that all is not dark and grim. That there is more to this life than scary things out of her control that send you pleading on your knees for mercy. To be heard, to have openness and understanding is worth more than any physical gift you can give someone.
Sending out love to all of you in my tribe who did this very thing for me recently. Your kindness makes the day shine a little brighter.
**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth
Are you doing enough? I mean – really – are you helping your child develop their fine and gross motor skills enough? Do you feed them enough vitamin and nutrient dense foods that make up the colour of the rainbow? Are you hugging your baby enough, because if you don’t you will definitely traumatise them, right?
The best kind of parents read all of the articles, researching and exhausting avenues of all topics. You earn expert parenting level Google-ing skills. And read the parenting books to be sure you are ticking those boxes to give your child the perfect upbringing. Perfection is possible if you know all of the tricks of the trade, right?
I’m coming to you from the other side, the side of worrying about all of the above and obsessing over getting this parenting thing right. Acting out of fear, rather than confidence in my abilities or confidence that the love I have for my children is enough for them, and myself.
With the internet and social media we can often have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and our babies/older children. Comparing our parenting style and coping abilities to that which is merely a highlight of somebody elses day, because who wants to show images of themselves ugly crying in the car after a stressful morning of daycare/school drop offs. At the end of which we can be left with unhelpful thoughts. Or dwelling on our child’s behaviours and beginning our overly-analytic process once again.
Maggie Dent recently wrote an article on the challenges of mothering in the 21st century, “Others [mothers] tell me they lay awake reviewing every decision they’ve made around the children, striving to want to do it better — to be a better mum.” As a new Mum, this happened personally more times than I could count. Because the entire experience is brand new, there is no path yet travelled to guide you on what not to do. If you already hold high expectations for yourself, becoming a new parent can cause some anxiety because parenting, as much as it can be researched, really is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and personal experience. Which is totally FINE.
Just like your fingerprints, no two lots of parenting experiences are the same. And when you are running off 3 hours of sleep over 2 days you are at your most vulnerable. The rationable side of your brain is in overdrive with new responsibilities and we question if we can really do this parenting thing. We question if admitting out loud that we are having a hard time will damage our baby. Then factor in opinions of those around you – wow – are we vulnerable as new parents.
Can you hear me out for a moment, you will hear this and maybe not really HEAR it, but…you know your baby the best. Better than the rest (rhyming will help it stick). Not the baby expert you follow on IG, not your Aunty Mable, but you. Imagine the days before the internet and parenting books coming out your earholes. We would observe more intently our child’s behaviour and trust our instincts because the overwhelming realm of influence didn’t exist.
Now that I have a school aged child and also a second child, the pressures I subjected myself to weren’t necessary. We started swimming lessons as soon as possible with the first, did Gymbaroo, went to every event possible to give him experiences and while that was all great, it wasn’t totally necessary to rush around from one activity to the next when realistically he and I were too tired and not enjoying it.
This is a message to the first time parents questioning their credibility and worthiness as parents. If you’re reading this, and you give your child food, clean clothes, a safe place to sleep, and cuddles then you are already doing a fucking awesome job. And truth be told, we have all sat there with our baby who is not wanting to sleep, listening to them cry for hours on end and wondered what the hell we are doing but eventually small moments of clarity appear when you think, I must be doing okay.
Those moments appear when we are fully present and focused on our family. They appear when we begin to trust ourselves and understand perfection is unattainable and the unpredictable quirks of human life are what build resilience and wisdom.
Raising our first baby is a chaotic and beautiful experience. Full of teachable moments for ourselves that often can only be seen once our babies become independant.
Please don’t be too harsh on yourselves. You’re doing the best that you can.
“Five Mumma. Five!” Zac said excitedly as we walked through the supermarket. He was so very young at the time (in our eyes), maybe 15 months old, I shrugged it off as random toddler babble. Until I looked up and realised, he could recognise the aisle numbers. He could remember and recall numbers and words when it felt so soon for our little man to be doing so.
This is not to say we have a child genius extraordinaire on our hands, this is proof that reading to babies helps them to interpret the world around them. It is the basis on which they will build their developmental blocks for not just academic purposes but for general life skills that assist them to read maps and signs, medical documentation, invoices and bills, legal documents, instructions on how to assemble furniture – really the list is endless. Without the ability to read, there are so many necessary activities that a person would find difficult and they would also miss out on the fun of stories, magazines, comics, journals and blogs – like this one (ha ha)!
But why read to a very young baby? This is a question I had asked myself as a new parent. Pondering how reading books or anything can actually achieve anything with such a young mind. Here is my personal experience that proves reading to babies and young children is worth the time and effort you put into it.
Zac was a newborn when we began to read to him. Beginning with basic baby books about animals, vehicles and other objects. We would also walk around and point out signs and repeat numbers and words to him – not knowing if any of this would have an impact at all. We had been told the language you use with babies are the blocks that build their awareness of the world around them on a verbal level yet we had no clue that these beautiful bonding moments would help Zac to be confident with reading and interpreting by the time he began school.
The skills developed by early literacy building are basic but important:
Knowledge of turning a page
Understanding if a book is the right way up
Reading left to right
These are the fundamental tips we have utilised to assist our boys with reading:
Variety of books, not just beautiful, shelf worthy stories, let them read about insects and bugs (even if you yourself cannot bear to look at a wolf spider!)
Variety of mediums, including songs, reading and describing things you can see, apps like Reading Eggs
Emphasize sounds and break down the words
Converse with your baby, even if they cannot speak clearly but know what they are intending to say then try to assist them with speaking the correct word with an encouraging tone
Point to the words
Follow the sentences with your finger
When children are older, ask them to pick which word you have said
Discuss what is seen in the pictures, point out objects and repeat their names
Storytelling. It can feel embarrassing to start with but when you watch their little faces light up with curiosity and amazement then you can easily put aside your own feelings of hesitation
Repetition and consistency
I’m not superhuman, reading extensively every single night doesn’t always happen. Some nights if you looked inside my brain I’m sure there’d be scrambled eggs because I am so tired. This motherhood gig is a hard grind whether you’re a working or stay at home mum! This is when I am lucky to have an other half that picks up the dropped ball and reads with our boys too.
Siblings do influence each other also. We began our reading journey with Zac each night before bed and whenever he showed interest throughout the day. Some days he really was not interested at all and I was unsure if he would ever pick up the habit and get involved willingly, but now that he does, his one year old brother follows suit. Judd will pull books out and turn the pages, analysing what he sees and speaking in his baby babble. Zac comes along and finds the words Judd is looking for, taking him under his wing and teaching him the same steps we once did as a baby. Reading can bring the family together.
Much of what we have learnt about reading has come from literature from our maternal child health nurse and council mothers group host, along with the raisingchildren.net.au website (which I highly recommend) but many tips have come from my mother in law and friends who are primary school teachers. If you have contacts in education definitely pick their brain about steps you can take to help your little ones with literacy because most would suggest reading to your children as early as possible.
I will leave you all with this extremely hard-hitting video that funnily enough Zac’s primary school shared with new parents throughout parent transition sessions. Ten minutes a day is all it takes…
Colourful lights, beautiful decorations, Christmas music everywhere and not to mention the Christmas dinners, lunches and other events you are lucky enough to have been invited to. A time to get into the spirit and put a smile on your dial.
Unless you are Mum who already deals with anxiety.
The to-do lists are infinite and with every one task, each present bought, it feels as if 3 more sprout. Like the annoying grey hairs in your regrowth that you pluck out because you haven’t made it to the hairdressers in over 3 months. Or you stopped dyeing your hair because you don’t get the time.
Christmas is a wonderful time when you have small children but being Santa, being the homemaker, or even being the breadwinner, can feel like you have to find more than 24 hours in a day just to get all of the food and gifts prepped before Christmas.
I have spent many years winding myself up over the Christmas rush. Worrying I wouldn’t get a carpark (you eventually do), stressing that the traffic would be too bad (it eventually moves on), or that the gifts I made/bought would not be good enough (if the receiver doesn’t like it then that really is their problem), circulating these thoughts may sound like fun but it sucks the enjoyment out of the festive activities. Who would have thought.
So, when I thought of writing this post a week ago, I have since tested some theories and put them into practice to that I can report back my findings.
One may consider photo printing stores such as Officeworks a no-go so close to Jesus’ birthday but I decided to take the bull (reindeer?) by the horns (antlers?) and strap in for a lengthy wait. After some chaotic and stressful weeks I was able to shift perspective and somewhat crazily look forward to standing a line merely thinking about nothing more than the ground I was standing on. With that perspective and more relaxed attitude, I found the lines to be shorter – even making conversations with other waiting Mum’s (there were a few of us of varying ages) and assisting others to use the machines! If THAT isn’t in the true spirit of Christmas then I don’t know what is.
This technique has carried on and while some days I have become flustered, for the most part I have felt calm enough to let the pushy people push in front of me without wasting my breath telling them off, only to have people waiting behind me comment on my baby boys beautiful smile.
I observed the most delightful elderly couple, who had also commented on JJ’s smile (this happens a lot), walk together as the husband helped his less mobile wife walk with confidence, ensuring she didn’t trip or fall. Stopping to look back and smile at us occasionally. Friendliness you think has dissipated in this world.
Another Christmas anxiety-inducer is the thought that the 25th is a deadline for any fun activities. That you must complete all Christmas traditions before that time. Quickly squeeze in that trip to Santa’s Magical Kingdom when you already want to look at Christmas lights, check out the local estate Christmas party in the park while making sure you are home for Santa to drive around the streets in the firetruck (because what kid doesn’t like that). If only I had Doctor Strange’s time stone. Instead I have chosen a few achievable items on the list and otherwise spent time our family or practicing self-care by doing yoga whilst drinking some bubbles then painting my nails watching Home Alone. Merry Christmas to me! And the daily stress afterwards seemed bearable to cope with.
Anxiety is a horrid and all-consuming condition that helps you find the flaws in almost anything. It amplifies the negatives. What would typically be exciting becomes overwhelming and sickening. If you can get some quality sleep, a couple of minutes or hours to care for yourself then you have more chance of battling the crowds at the shops without becoming so irate you hip and shoulder Barbara in Aisle 5 for cutting in front of you.
My Christmas wish for all of you is that you get some you time, so you can spent the remainder of your time with loved ones living in the moment without accumulated stress or worry.
Enjoy the Holiday Season, Have a Very Merry Christmas and Happiest New Year
Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.
It took some getting used to my body not “bouncing back” this time around. 3 months after my first birth I was well on my way to becoming leaner and fitter than ever before, but with my second baby it just did not happen.
With the challenge of having 2 children to care for I had decided not to add the stress and anguish of looking as if I hadn’t had a baby this time. Whereas my first experience left me obsessing over it, somewhat unhealthily.
Having a second baby, I almost assumed my body would know what to do, how to bounce back yet again. But realistically I was 4 years older, 2 months off the age of 30, with a differing lifestyle. Going for walks with the baby in the pram has only happened a handful of times, as the opportunity was not available when I was free and willing to do so. Yet I could get out of the house daily before and walk for an hour with Zac sleeping away.
When my efforts fortified, hearing compliments became like a drug to me. “You look as if you haven’t had a baby at all!”. Had I beaten the mum-bod curse? Had I made it to the elusive MILF status? The most important question, now that I have experienced both sides, is it really that fucking important anyway?
There are enormous amounts of content bolstering motherhood, how you have earned stripes, how you should be proud of your body regardless of the opinions of others. But I found myself so hung up on them and using them to fuel myself when I should have been fuelling my own fire. When I should have been caring less about how the comments made me feel and cared more of how I felt about myself when I looked in the mirror, and what was behind the lense I was viewing myself with.
So here I am now. Another baby into my story and convincing myself it is okay to love my body when I don’t have other people telling me I look lovable by their standards.
Social media hurts to look at when you feel something between admiration and utter envy of famous personalities ability to regain pre-baby bodies within a couple of months. You almost look for those who appear to seem human and take their time and who still have mum tum in the “9 months in and 9 months out” photo.
A 15 minute workout these days is manageable on the odd occasion. For sake of sanity and for what my dismal energy stores allow. Keeping a form of muscle conditioning is important to me for the longevity and quality of my life but it cannot always take precedence over my responsibilities as a Mum, having a job and being a wife.
One day this will seem trivial. Spending time tossing up between wanting for my first post partum physique and being proud as hell for what this body aided me to do.
That little pouch sitting over my lower abs will always exist. It reminds us of the human life we grew inside there, and that miracles can seem impossible but occur right before our very eyes. Our breasts will be forever changed. They even scare you to look at sometimes. I can even see and feel that my pelvic bones changed placement with each pregnancy. That is awe inspiring. This body, those bones, literally moved great distances as far as they are concerned and birthed two children.
We may sit back and judge other women who seem to be completely unaffected by one or more pregnancies, but we never know their true story, what change was made to their physicality or what changed inside their brain.
Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.
Gaining an understanding of temporary frustrations and learning that this precious baby and toddler phase speeds by so fast could be the perspective we gain. Maybe even the realisation that fitness can be earned, we can gain it back. It is not like a rare unicorn that can never be caught. That mental toughness though, that is brought about by dealing with the hard stuff that life will throw at you. You can read books and listen to podcasts but nothing can train your brain quite like living through a testing time and coming out the other side of it.
These thoughts get me through. And exposing myself to realistic, healthy and likeminded women or men who share honest takes of how they reach their goals.
Letting go of expectations to be like the “old me” gets easier when I feel the comfort of experience and knowledge gracing my daily mothering abilities. How good is wisdom?
I made my husband wait at least 2 years until I was willing to try for a second baby. Being the control freak I am, I wanted to feel “ready” and stable enough to cope with the logistical aspects of life with a second baby.
The initial adjustment period of our first baby was long and traumatic. For both me and baby Zac. All the love in the world did not take the bitter edge off the horde of changes in my day to day being. Finally, once I dealt with some PND and anxiety issues, we added another delightful, demanding tiny human into our lives.
If I’m honest with you, the fear of not being able to love another child or give the second child equal attention never crossed my mind. I had watched my Mum cope well with this. She would mother us as if she was so blessed to have us both. If she ever had favourites, I never noticed.
That may be a lie, if you have read my second birth story you would know in an emotional rant on the way to hospital because I felt Zac was missing time prior to that day, and I knew his life would forever be changed when he next saw us. Poor Shane attempted to put positive spins on the situation, but I was way past that, nothing he isn’t used to every 28 days anyway. Sorry babe.
Back to my point, the parts that terrified me were making sure both children were fed, cleaned and had slept adequately and most of all; would Zac accept and get along with the new addition?
I can tell you that 6 months in (to the day as I write this), the boys are OBSESSED with each other. Their worlds are not complete without a good morning and good night hug, kiss or acknowledgement of some form. I secretly tear up over this on the daily, because I never expected such a bond between them and I know as they grow it will morph into other displays of affection that aren’t as heart-warming. Cue rough-housing and wrestling.
Apart from a few incidents where Zac gets a tad overexcited, where he jiggles Judd or tries to “help him roll over”, and a few moments where he shrieks in excitement scaring the living daylights out of the baby, we have yet to see a need to worry about him intentionally causing harm. Touch wood – and as I said, this probably won’t last forever. Overall, we’re sure Judd has caused more pain to Zac by pinching and pulling hair, being the chunky little bruiser he is.
Given our successes so far, I’d love to share what helped us to prepare our child and our home for the arrival of another baby in the house, for the parents that follow my stories and are thinking of/who have added another little peanut into their worlds:
Read books about getting a sibling. Our kick-ass Aunty Kate bought Zac “You’re a Big Brother”. He loves a good chuckle about the “babies being smelly” page.
Baby dolls with prams, bottles, nappies and dummies. Yes, even for a boy. Zac has always loved playing with dolls, but we decided to get him one specifically around the time JJ was born so that he could sit along side me copying my actions as I fed and changed the baby. This was the perfect opportunity for him to use the baby name he chose (clearly, we weren’t on board) hence we have a Baby Jake residing in the playroom.
Make an effort to have one-on-one time with the older sibling. This really is determined by their age, as a younger child is more dependant anyway but an older child who is independent may often get lost in the days activities and before you know it they’ve spent most of the time alone. Even small 15 minute play sessions (without technology interrupting) with just Zac and I, or Shane and him made all the difference. Yes, baby will go through phases of squawking if they aren’t being held. Chuck them in a carrier, bouncer or pram if you have to and do your best with the situation you are in. Zac had his fill of time with one of us and was content to play alone afterwards. Then he could see that Judd got his time with us, but he did too.
Have conversations on the way life will change when a new baby is involved. Share all the fun points such as another playmate and someone to talk to, but also be realistic in a concise way that Mum and Dad will share time between baby and them. And that they will need to share some spaces in the house with the new sibling.
Create a sanctuary in their bedroom that is ONLY theirs. We found this really important with Zac. We moved his bedroom to a larger one which allowed us to put baby in the room closest to us. I created a reading corner with a tent, pillow, blanket and soft toys and we moved some his favourite toy playsets in the room also. Sure, it took a while of us reinforcing that he doesn’t play all flipping night long (we do find toys have *magically* moved overnight sometimes), but that was worth the ease of adjustment for Zac. He has his OWN space which Judd is allowed in at times of Zac’s choosing, and as he grows older all the smaller toys will be moved there so that the main portion of the house is safer for a crawling baby and toddler.
Watch TV shows or movies where children gain siblings and are comfortable with it. Hate to say it, but Baby Jake and Ryan Toys Review were helpful in this department. Like, I really hate to admit that.
Now that Judd is older, he pulls and grabs and can even find skin to pinch on tightest parts of a neck or face. Judd gets told not to be rough and grab and encouraged to play softly, just the same as Zac. We feel like this helps Zac to recognise he isn’t the only one that makes mistakes or gets a bit rough and is told off, which in turn creates less resentment.
Hug and show affection to both children. Probably an obvious one. Judd gets hugs, Zac gets hugs. Simple, but seriously can be forgotten when baby demands so much attention. Zac is growing out of hugs anyway, so he only needs a quick one and he is good for a while.
Involve them in play together. We ask Zac if he can lend some toys to Judd and vice versa (not that Judd can answer, obviously) which doesn’t always work. Zac does get possessive over his toys, but it is still early days and we feel it is important to begin the habit of asking permission first.
Involve the older sibling in helping with certain tasks for the baby. “Zac, can you please pass me the wipes” et cetera. He thrives off feeling independent and as if he was helping his Mum and Dad.
Routine. We love routine. It grounds our family unit. It became looser with the new arrival but it’s existence gave Zac and us the comfort of knowing what was coming next and that we would eventually get time together when JJ was sleeping. JJ, on the other hand, was not a routine-happy baby until over 12 weeks of age. He was simply not ready and was extremely unsettled. We just let go of the concept until he had calmed down and felt comfortable. Now he is quite flexible (being dragged along to kinder drop off and pickup will do that), but also responds to routine quite well, plus I feel so confident in his cues.
Empower the older sibling to be independent. We figured that at some point Zac would need to discover he wasn’t the only young child in the family. Therefore, when I was pregnant we began doing less for him. In a way, we threw him in the deep end and help to guide his way to self-sufficiency. Previous teaching techniques did not work for Zac. This included him learning to dress himself, get himself snacks and drinks, pack up his toys when requested, use the toilet when asked (he was a late toilet user), washing and drying himself after a bath, me physically not carrying him around anymore (I still did this for him at 4 years old and heavily pregnant and simply could not anymore) and overall getting him used to responding to requests from us. Zac began kinder mere weeks before I popped so these habits were important regardless of Judd’s arrival.
My friends, forgive yourself if you can’t always “get it right”. Chances are the things that cause friction also hold potential to build resilience, within reason and with the right attitude. Guilt is imminent, and I often wish there was a way around it, but dodging negative emotions is not realistic and maintainable. It is healthy to feel pangs of guilt because your time is now in higher demand and you created made a mammoth global shift in the older child’s life. Try to accept it, and use it is a driver of change. You begin finding more pockets of free time that you never noticed before to hang out with your kids or partner.
Feel proud that you created another human being into a life where they are loved and given opportunity to thrive by parents who actually give a fuck. Which shows because here you are, reading this post about my experiences and tips on the second little squawker joining our crew.
Often I wondered why no other woman told me the gory details of their pregnancy and birthing experiences. Being a person that loves to research and know what situation I am walking (or waddling or pushing) myself into, I was utterly bemused as to why all of the women in my life withheld information. Oh the betrayal! After my second child I gained more perspective. They didnt want to SCARE me. Plus there is so much to tell that it sometimes is best to let a person process it alone. Not everyone wants to know what they are in for. Also being a classic oversharer, after my first baby I would tell anyone about any snippet of my experiences, whether they wanted to know or not!
Now, I present you with a choice. See, this benefits me and I get to respect the easily-queezy folks boundaries by telling you that this is where you need to exit the article if you don’t like to know all of the deets of my experiences.
Nobody told me…I’d grow insane amounts of hair when pregnant. Like, alot of hair. I had to maintain at least 4-6 weekly appointments just to trim it and thin it out. The colour may also change. You would be surprised the information an experienced hairdresser can tell you about yours (and your babies) hair when you’re knocked up. My nails also grew like they were on roids.
Nobody told me…I would get debilitating sciatica pain which felt like lasers shooting down my butt, inner thighs and hamstrings. It’s usually due to pelvic instability as result of the relaxin hormone but SHIT does it hurt. You become afraid of sitting, standing, pooping. Everything!
Nobody told me…you have trouble pooping when pregnant. And god help you if you have low iron and need to take supplements. Not only is it painful, but irregular pooping makes people cranky and short fused. It does for babies and kids, why wouldn’t it for adults. Hint: use Iron Melts if you need a supplement. Second time around I was way less backed up.
Nobody told me…hemorrhoids. Enough said.
Nobody told me…. I would get varicose veins when pregs. Everywhere. Even around my uterus. Yep. If you have ever felt the aching of the nasty buggers in your legs. Imagine that in your midsection and downtown. And there is literally nothing you can do about it. Thanks genetics.
Nobody told me…The exhaustion when pregnant is next level. Sure, when baby is here you are a mum-bie but when you are uncomfortable and unwell due to carrying a tiny human, then trying to manage other tiny humans and possibly working at the same time. Well, let’s just say we ate a lot meals courtesy of Menulog and EatNow.
Nobody told me…heartburn is an absolute pest of thing when you’re knocked up. It’s logical, there is less space for food in your tummy so it pops back out to say hello if you eat too much too quickly.
Nobody told me…you can get extraordinarily painful migraines that turn you into a sloth for days at a time.
Nobody told me…. my second pregnancy would be more uncomfortable than the first. Any symptoms I experienced the first time around were amplified ten fold. Hip and back pain being the main offender.
Nobody told me…. I may find it more difficult to lose weight the second time around. Zac was too old for a pram but wouldn’t ride a bike so I couldn’t go for walks like I did with him. Plus juggling two kids at once meant I found it tough to make meals myself.
Nobody told me…I would not necessarily know the signs of labour. Both labours were spontaneous but I mistook early labour each time for active labour. You would find me bouncing on fitness balls and walking half up and half down on gutters, having baths and showers hoping it would kick start the real deal!
Nobody told me…the buildup to the pushing sensation feels like you need to do a number two. And it makes you paranoid that you ARE pooping. I didn’t poop, well my husband and doctor never let on that I did. I’m happy to keep it that way even if the opposite is true.
Nobody told me…delivering the placenta is like going through childbirth again. It was not as painful for me but there were similarities. The OB pulls it out by the umbilical cord which I found really strange.
Nobody told me…if you tear, it doesn’t tear cleanly and in the places you thought. I had a couple of grazes and tears with Zac. One was a lightning bolt shape and went upwards, not to the side or bottom. Ouch.
Nobody told me…you need to pace how you push to avoid tears and added discomfort. In the movies you don’t see the doctor telling the women to slow down after a certain point of pushing, not often at least. I escaped my second delivery with a minor graze because I paced it out with breathing and waiting for contractions.
Nobody told me…you have a choice in how you are treated by nurses and doctors in labour and what medications you receive. Unless the baby is distressed, it is up to YOU how you labour and deliver. I was meek and lacked confidence with my first which resulted in delivering in a way I was not happy with. Speak up or get your partner to be your voice!
Nobody told me…you might burst blood vessels in your eyes and around your body from the extreme pushing. You will also feel sore afterwards as if you completed the biggest workout of your life.
Nobody told me…there will always be a little pouch where your baby belly was. Sure you can work on it and pose so it disappears slightly, but you always know it is there. I am proud of mine.
Nobody told me…. things do not always go to plan. You write a birth plan or at least think about one. Many close friends and relatives of mine had several interventions with their labours they never anticipated. And as you may know, my first labour was extremely fast while my second was 4 times the length.
Nobody told me…you may turn into a complete nutbag after birth. Not just if you get the baby blues (usually day 3 post partum but mine was worse after 4) but also for MONTHS after delivery. I am a hormonal woman at the best of times but the rages and emotional breakdowns post partum can really test relationships. I remember completely losing my shit at Shane for not mopping the floor when we first got home with Zac. Prior to which he had been travelling direct between work the hospital and briefly home and was in a car accident. Hormone monster!
Nobody told me…after birth pains can be just as painful as labour. And you might be able to put your hand in a gap between your abs. It feels like you are wearing a strangers body.
Nobody told me…you could cry at the drop of a hat. Shane told me a story about a footballer and I cried. Any news other than mundane daily things, I would cry. Happy, sad, angry, excited. All the feels.
Nobody told me…my hair would fall out post partum at alarming rates that even scared my 4 year old. The hair goes everywhere. I gagged when I pulled some out of Judd’s mouth. Sorry mate.
Nobody told me…you frow strange “baby” hairs on your sideburns that cannot be tamed by any product or treatment!
Nobody told me…breastfeeding may simply not work out for you. And the guilt lasts forever. The judged feeling you may never forget. But you will also never forget that your baby gained weight, was healthier and your post natal depression improved when you decided to formula feed. It was what worked for me and my family. And you will always look on at other women feeding their babes with an appreciation for the effort they put in regardless of how they feed. Fed is best whether boob, bottle or tube.
Nobody told me…mum brain is real. It increases with each child. They steal your memory!
Nobody told me…having a baby can bring out the most confident version of yourself! It forces you to step outside the box and speak to strangers who dote over your children, or ask strangers where the nearest parents room is. Or apologise for your child crying at an obscene pitch (even though you shouldn’t have to, you still do).
Nobody told me…. you might make amazing friends from having babies. Parents group, kids activities and sports, kinder or daycare all present more opportunities for you to meet like minded people. It is incredibly empowering finding another mum or dad to bitch about children with, and celebrate the wins of course!
There are so many more things about pregnancy and childbirth than the above but they really are unique to each womans experience. Which I am sure is why they are aren’t always shared.
Having children is a significant life event where you will be forever changed. So much emotion in such a short time. Enjoy what you can because before you know it your little ones are walking, talking and will not need your cuddles as much as before.
Once upon a time your Mum swore she would never write an “open” style letter and post it on the internet, for fear she would be judged. But she became confident and realised she actually really wanted her boys, and the world, to read this one in particular.
Throughout your upbringing we know you may resent Mum and Dad for setting boundaries for you or following through with disciplinary threats like; “Put down your Pokémon and eat breakfast right now or we will take them off you!”. And seriously, I literally told Zac this today and the day before, and I actually took them off you mate. Unfortunately you have that many of the little bastards that you have forgotten I took those specific ones.
Anyway, my point: You are very fortunate children. You were born and are living in a time were you are safe and have very little to be concerned about (we hope this continues).
Your great grandparents lived through World War II, which is why Mum and Dad will get so grumpy if you ever complain about not getting enough toys or superficial rubbish. Our family’s have starved and battled to live in this country and we hope one day you will understand the importance of that.
What you are about to read is like a manual of how your Mum and Dad were raised, with our own additions developed from our own experiences, that we have since raised you with. Without guidance we know, and have seen with our own two eyes, how out of hand a persons emotional wellbeing can get.
Our biggest wish for you both is that you grow up strong and healthy mentally and physically, and that you will be able to tackle the adversity life often throws at you. And we hope and pray that you don’t end up bratty like the “Cash me outside how bout dah” girl. You may need to Google that one.
Here it is;
WE DON’T CARE WHO YOU MARRY. So long as they respect you and you respect them in return. We also don’t care if you never marry.
TRY, ALWAYS. This life does not hand you what you want accidentally. It does not reward entitled behaviour or grant wishes to it either. You will need to set goals and work your backsides off to get what you want. Know where to direct your best efforts to achieve your goals but always do your best.
FIND A WAY TO LOVE YOURSELF. That way you lessen the chance of being in unhealthy and toxic relationships.
BE SELF SUFFICIENT AND INDEPENDANT. Wash your own dishes, cook your own meals, and clean your own laundry. Do not rely on another human being to do all of this for you. That is one of the largest contributors to a failing relationship. Expecting your life partner to pick up after you or make your lunches when they too are working and contributing to your lifestyle is detrimental to a relationship.
TRAVEL AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Even if it breaks our hearts to see you go, deep down we want you to experience as much as this world has to offer.
LEARN FROM YOUR OWN AND OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES. Making mistakes is perfectly okay. What is not okay is repeating them and expecting a different outcome each time. This is often called “the definition of insanity”.
CONFIDENCE EQUALS SUCCESS. This doesn’t mean being boisterous, obnoxious and rude. It means being true to yourself. People will listen to you when you speak with embedded confidence and self-trust. Don’t second guess yourself, or let anybody else make you feel as if your voice is less important. If they do, find another circle of friends.
LISTEN. Mum learnt this the hard way. Sometimes you need to stop ranting and simply listen to what somebody has to say. There are many introverted people that are waiting for the opportunity to speak and what they have to say can be so valuable.
BE HEALTHILY IMPULSIVE. Planning is great, but sometimes real memories are made by doing rather than spending lots of time planning and procrastinating.
ALWAYS PRACTICE COMMON DECENCY. It is rare as I write this. It will most likely be even more rare by the time you read this. Assist the elderly, let them take your seat on the train. Even if you do not receive a thankyou, feel good that you helped another human being. Have respect for people’s boundaries and their property. Be aware that your actions effect those around you. You may have no concept of what type of life somebody has lived. A simple kind gesture could make their day.
FAILURE IS AWESOME. Keep practicing, keep researching and learning, keep failing until you get it right. Giving up is the easy way out.
DON’T FEAR CHANGE. Change is growth. It is hard but that is where the magic happens.
IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T RECEIVE. It takes real guts to stand up in front of a classroom or a crowd to ask a question you need an answer to but if you don’t withstand those moments of discomfort, you will forever regret it. Be bold.
DON’T LIVE IN REGRET. Clichéd, but true. In conjunction with the above – take the risk. Breathe in the awkwardness of a new situation or a trialling time, breathe out the confidence in knowing it is best for you in the long term.
RESPECT WHERE YOU COME FROM. You are fortunate to have loving family members. Ask them about their life some time. Get them to show you pictures or tell you about their children. Learn and grow from their experiences.
FIND YOUR BIGGEST SUPPORTERS. And support them back. They could be friends, family, colleagues, people you met through sports or co-curricular activities. They are instrumental in your wellbeing. When you feel down and out, make sure you have got someone to vent to that will not only listen but will help build you back up again so you can get on with life.
DWELLING GETS YOU NOWHERE. Your Dad told your Mum something once, “worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” One of his very few wise moments, kidding.
RESILIENCE. Although we try our best to teach you this, it can be a tough skill to develop. Bounce back. One dodgy morning or a few sad times does not set the tone for the remainder of your day or your life. You can control what you absorb so make sure whatever that is, that it is worth your efforts.
THERE WILL BE PEOPLE WHO DO NOT LIKE YOU, AND YOU THEM. You may never discover why. It is perfectly acceptable. At this point in time there is over 7 BILLION people on Earth, you cannot be socially compatible with all of them. If you have to be in each others lives, accept this and put your efforts to people you do get along with.
NO MEANS NO. This is important, boys. Nothing gives you the right to physically or mentally overpower someone into doing what you want. Domestic and sexual violence is not okay. Your family has NEVER condoned it. We will be the first on the list to report you to police should you ever try it.
KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED. Mum and Dad love you more than we can possibly tell you. We have faith in you. We trust that within you are bright and positive spirits with all of the potential in the world.
There they are, boys. The snippets of life experience and core values that we have to share and have tried to instill in you. One more very important one, HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR. Just please don’t let it be your father’s 😆.
That’s right. Parents have been working and parenting simultaneously for years, hop to it lady. And stop your whinging because it is not as if you are the first person to experience this. I’m saying this to myself by the way.
Get up, get yourself dressed and made up for the day, make the bed, have breakfast, feed and dress the baby, play with the baby or you’re an ignorant parent, wake and make breakfast for the older child whilst being a positive and excited Mum, eventually yell at him for not eating breakfast (you have asked him to do so at least 20 times already), ask him to get dressed, again, and again, then yell at him because he cannot hear a damned thing (constant ear problems), clean up kitchen, double check all persons bags for the day are adequately packed, pack items into the car, try to appease the crying baby and clean his refluxy spit up from his freshly changed clothes, change his clothes again, get older child to brush teeth and go to the toilet and brush his hair, sit on toilet floor while said child inconveniently poops because “he needs someone to talk to”, then argue about why he needs to brush his teeth and wash his hands, put baby in car while he screams like Chewbacca getting kicked in the nuts, request older child puts his shoes on, repeat another gazillion times until you give in and do it yourself because now you are going to be late, buckle older child into car seat whilst refusing to listen to some weird Pikachu song on YouTube, awkwardly deliver spewy baby to daycare along with wandering older child who is still mad at you for moving him from this daycare to a kinder, rush back to car, zip through school traffic to kinder while dodging other flustered parents, argue again with child this time about wearing his own backpack, sign child in and quickly get shown around the latest activities (even if you are needing to leave because your feel guilty af for yelling at him all morning), rush back to car and drive to work. Look at the time, it is not even 9am yet.
This is not any different to most parent’s mornings. In fact, I am very privileged to have the life I do, and I am aware of that. Which is exactly why I am being hard on myself. Which is exactly why I work myself up into a twisted ball of stress that is so tightly knitted, I snap at the mention of anyone expecting something slight from me. I whisper to myself, “please don’t expect any more from me.”
I have asked my Mum why I find it so hard. She managed to make it through years of working 6 days a week and running a farm while caring for us, getting up way before dawn and driving an hour from remote farmland to take us to our grandmothers only to get home at 6:30-7:00 at night and do the dinner, bath, bed routine. I don’t know how she did it. She replied to my question, “Sha, the pace of life was very different then”. She is right. We have smartphones strapped to our hands and they may as well be a part of our body because they even join us in the loo. Hey, I am the first to admit I am guilty of taking it everywhere with me. We are always accessible, always switched on, always processing information, being told via several channels how to parent, or that we do it wrong, or that we don’t eat a balanced diet, or that we should eat that tasty fucking burger that Facebook & Instagram ads so rudely shows on my newsfeed at dinnertime every night. Be polite, but don’t let yourself be walked over, be strong, but be politically correct or invest in a figurative shovel to dig yourself a hole, be an attentive parent, but research how to be that kind of parent because society says you are doing it wrong. So does the old lady in line at supermarket checkout, by the way. Just. Be. More.
I can’t stand it. And I break. It feels bloody impossible to parent the way that suits your family with the enormous aforementioned pressures being thrust into your face. The expectations add up so much so that I transform into a no-shit-taking demon like woman and god help you if you ask any more of me, even if it is to know where the loo is. I cannot afford to drop the “parenting” juggling ball as result of fulfilling another expectation. My children need me. And that expectation cloud around me soils my family goals.
My husband calls me the single-married-mum. Meaning, I am considered a married woman but he is home so very little because of his job that I am the one who keeps the cogs spinning in the house, while working and trying to be there for our kids. I closely watch other parents do the same thing and never will I ever stop being amazed at how hard they all work. Whether they work full time or not, it is nothing short of inspiring. We share the one goal. To give our children healthy, plentiful lives. We live in a lucky country and have that option thankfully. But the pressure of leading a “balanced life” is real.
You know when you are at the end of your tether and on the brink of burnout. You are so tired you could vomit, sometimes you might. It feels like you are a bottle of champagne, you get filled up to the brim with bubbly expectation, get shaken up by the need to be everything to everyone then eventually the cork pops right off and you are angrily and resentfully bursting the contents out directing it at anyone who dare stand in your way. Or, you implode, you take those feelings and you trap them inside like a turtle. A very, very sad little turtle.
So, do you know what I do? I drop the juggling ball. I have dropped the ball. I will continue to DROP THE BALL. Right now I write to you from my bedroom where I can hear my cousin-in-law babysitting our children. I asked her to come over and help me out so that I don’t go completely postal on the world. Working and mum-ing is such a huge adjustment. My baby is almost 5 months old and every inch of the mother within me is unsettled by the notion I have to leave him at a child care centre 2 days a week. Prior to this, even parenting full time at home felt like a huge responsibility because you are expected to have a cleaner, more organised house than others while teaching your pre-schooler some Beethoven on the piano. I’ve done both and both are as equally tough.
Listen here, reader. It is okay to surrender to your feelings and let them out. If you don’t you are opening up a future pandora’s box of undealt-with issues and that will snowball like a motherfucker. Take a deep breath in. We ain’t perfect. In fact, let me share with you what seems like anti self-help style advice because I’m certain I’ve never heard of Tony Robins or Louise Hay suggesting this so bluntly. Maybe you’re the kind of person that needs to receive information in this bogan-esque style…
Steps on how to drop the ball:
First, you need to accept that when you have too much on your plate, something’s gotta give.
Secondly, you need to narrow down if you need “you” time, “family” time or identify another space in your life that needs more attention.
Thirdly, accept that as a result of refocusing your attention, things such as washing, thorough house cleans or yard work may suffer. It is okay, those things don’t have feelings and you can always do it later when you get more energy again, or outsource them if you’re willing and able. Heads up, people may not like your refocussed decision. Repeat this mantra in your mind: “fuck off, it is my life”. Just kidding, but pick something to the tune of that and it wouldn’t hurt to mentally repeat it until it sticks.
Fourthly (is that a word?), be courageous and DO IT. Drop the juggling charade. Hardest step guys. This is what separates you from the pack of people stuck in a loop. You can continue a façade that you can manage it all, but ultimately it is about your lifestyle preference and what you can cope with. I attempt multitasking but it simply is not my strongest forte, so I need to separate things like a dude (P.S. not sure I believe that tale, my husband is better at multitasking than me).
The reward of this is worth more than any people pleasing task you would complete. You fill the empty “self-care” cup shoved at the back of your to do list and suddenly the to do list does not scare the bejesus out of you anymore.
Trust me, I literally did this today and I feel so much more human.
Not that I need to warn you now, you did read the title correctly, this is a confronting post and I debated over whether to write about it. Something tells me other people will understand.
We had no problems conceiving Zac, obviously, as he took us by surprise. When we decided to add to our wonderful little family of 3, the excitement of planning it all out was almost overwhelming. We didn’t have the chance the first time, so it was all new to us and we wanted to enjoy the journey.
We get to “work” and after a few months I started getting those changes that you only get when pregnant. Boobs and all. It was all happening and we were eagerly anticipating the future.
Mother’s Day morning I woke up to some severe cramping. Immediately I went to the toilet. The thing that you think won’t happen to you, happened. Undoubtedly it could not be mistaken for something else. I wanted to vomit. Someone was squeezing my heart and tightening with every breath I took.
I walked out of the bathroom and did not tell Shane. I did not want to say it out loud. Or admit to myself what took place. And so, I waited for a little while. The responsibility of destroying his world at that time, I could not cope with. Finally, swallowing the lump in my throat, I shared the news, and immediately felt as if I had driven a stake through his heart. He couldn’t speak. You see, we are a team. What happens to me, happens to him and vice versa. And the heartache and anguish I felt was cutting him too. I wanted to be selfish and have him hug me, feel sorry for me and focus on me, but the reality of miscarriage is that the baby is robbed from both of you, not just the mother. We cried and just moved around in a stormy haze. When you have another child to look after you put on a brave face, then ugly cry when they aren’t looking. Not that you should hide your emotions, but how the hell do you explain miscarriage to a 3 year old.
How ironic that day should be Mother’s Day and my Grandmothers 80th, which was an hours drive away. Feeling like we should keep up appearances and distract ourselves, we push on and head out to a lunch for my Grandma. Isn’t it amazing how when the chips are low you can still pull out a false version of yourself. It may not be the best version but it still resembles you in some way or another. We get through the lunch without saying a word to anyone about that morning. I wanted to go home, hide in our bedroom and cry.
We didn’t say a word to anyone for a few days. Why. Why would I want to talk about something that made me feel so much shame? Shane suggested we tell somebody so we can vent, let it out, and grieve. He was on the brink, as was I. But any pain I inflicted on myself seemed irrelevant in comparison to that previous Sunday morning. Eventually I tell my mum, and he tells his. For the first time I hear the word miscarriage and it may as well have been a knife stabbing me. I am told of many women I knew in one way or another that experienced loss of children or fertility complications. Some repeatedly. None of them ever spoke to me about it. You would have never known. I understood why.
We began trying again and eventually we were blessed with our second beautiful little man, JJ. We didn’t concentrate on “trying” as much as previously. The fun was sucked out of it by grief. One morning I realised my period was late and on a whim used a test we’d bought months before. When I laid my eyes on the positive result my heart again felt tight, but I could breathe through it and I let out a tear of relief. Showing Shane will forever be a dear memory. But the pain of the past still surfaces. And I ashamedly did not see a doctor, or tell any of the doctors including my future obstetrician about what happened. They ask you as part of protocol but I didn’t want to talk about it. When I lost the baby, it was so early on and I felt unjustified talking about it. Having it written down against my name on a doctors file was the last thing I wanted.
I want women who have experienced loss to know, I am so incredibly sorry that happened to you. You are not a faulty human. You are capable of love, there is so much love within you that the world needs. It is okay if you do not want to talk about it. But if you want me to come and just sit with you so you do not feel alone, message me and I will come and do that. I am so sorry you feel like a piece of you was stolen away and that you feel broken. You are not broken to me, you are amazingly strong and I admire you.