Becoming a “School Mum”

I must admit, in some way, when you’ve got a baby you cannot imagine life as a mother of a school child. When you have nappies in every room of the house, in the car, in your handbag, how could you imagine a time of dropping your child off to school to be in a class of 25 kids that aren’t necessarily closely supervised for the entirety of the day. You think to yourself “over my dead body”, in terms of letting go of your baby. And you begin to conjure plans where you can disguise yourself enough to go unnoticed as you yourself supervise (stalk) your child at recess/lunchtime where your worst fears can potentially come true.  Instead, you find yourself at work or at home gazing into nothing running various scenarios in your mind. Parenting is an emotional filled journey FOR SURE.

Well my friends. This year I had to Let Go. I have not (yet) inappropriately stalked my baby as he plays with his friends. Only peaked through the window on school pickup. That is restraint right there. This evolution of parenthood I have labelled as the real beginning of their independence. At kindergarten you still received detailed information on how their day plays out. It is easy to connect with the teacher because there are more of them at the one time to do so. School is much different. You can still email and chat with the teacher but there is less time and you know they have meetings and school obligations such as yard duty to tend to. The children are moved around to specialist subjects so essentially they are supervised and taught by people you probably have never even met.

A empowering a sense of trust is forced upon you as a parent. You need to trust you’ve done enough to assist your child to listen, learn and act appropriately at school. You need to trust that the teachers are doing the best that they can. With both of my boys being in childcare since 4 or 5 months old, this has been the hardest transition yet because there is much less transparency with school as the kids are now old enough to do so many things themselves.

This has led to a series of what I like to call “sneaky tears”. You can be smiling and so proud of your child then all of a sudden you sort of half hiccup and tears come out without any warning at all. This type of behaviour develops in pregnancy and there ain’t no controlling it. We are now wired for this. Case in point, technology is so flipping great nowadays that I sat at my desk watching Zac perform a dance with his class for Harmony Day on my phone via Facebook live. The camera panned over to him emotively dancing to the moves he was taught and there I sat creepily laugh/crying like the emotional mother that I am. With customers walking past. Probably wondering what the weird sound was that came from the office.

School Mum’s adjust their routines. We make lunches and prep clothes typically at night if we can. You need to manage closely when their clothes are washed. In our case Zac has 3 uniforms including one typical, one sports and one house day uniform. And he loves using whiteboard markers on the day he wears his white shirt, of course. So we need to wash these all immediately or risk a poldka-dot patterned shirt.

A lesson learnt by us has been to make sure Zac is responsible for getting himself dressed, packing his bag, unpacking his bag and lunch boxes at home after school. We feel this applied responsibility has helped him settle more into school because it demonstrates that this is now expected from him in all areas of his life. Babies grow into grown children so fast that we are somewhat guilty of doing a little too much for Zac up until this point. It was faster, more convenient and I love to take control and have things done in my time frame so another factor of letting go has been to patiently watch and encourage him to take charge of his own mess, his own belongings and his putting his own dishes in the dishwasher. I try to encourage him and resist my controlling urges to take over as he places the plates on an awkward angle.

There appears to be no child who is devoid of the odd meltdown before or after school. That was a particular recurring experience we had to deal with head on. One morning, I spent 15 minutes trying to pry Zac from my leg, which never really happened at kinder. Now I can happily say that we worked through the morning drop-off by basically practising a fly-by approach wherein I shuffle him to the door of his classroom and make a run for it, because he always plays his emotions up for Mum. He has since improved.

I think the real key in the transition to school mum life is to ensure you feel 100% comfortable with the school your child attends. With zoning, it isn’t always an option, but we are fortunate to be on the border of 2 school zones and had the choice. Zac’s school shares many of our values, has an effective Bully Buster program with a variety of electives and for me the biggest draw card was that they practice utilising a growth mindset. Which often even adults struggle to use. This means that you believe determination, hard work and goal-setting can allow you expand your abilities and achieve at higher levels. Meaning Zac will learn to believe in himself and put the hard yards in to get where he wants to in life. He will learn from mistakes and develop failures into stepping stones to succeed. His school also has a school diary with a “gratitude journal” section for each day. I’m sure each school has their own versions of encouraging the children to try their hardest, we just felt that this method was the direction we preferred as parents.

This week Zac was awarded Star of the Week because he decided he wanted to earn it. We discussed the steps he needed to take to get the award after reading through the schools values, we jointly wrote steps out onto poster paper and hung it on a wall, we worked with his teacher and discussed the goals with her and to her merit she upheld those in class also. And we stayed firm in our convictions when his behaviour went down a path leading away from bettering himself. Often asking him whether he believed his actions were productive, and how he could improve. And referring to the “catastrophe scale” of how bad a situation was that he was overreacting to. To our surprise, all of this worked.

You will never be truly ready to step back and allow this process of schooling to take place without meeting resistance from the maternal parts of you. We connect with our children very instinctually, like a lioness watching her cubs you want to have access to them to drag them away from danger but this is not how we gain wisdom into adolescence and adulthood. To date the hardest thing I’ve found with parenting is saying no to the part of me that wants to step in and fix Zac’s hair when he is at assembly about to receive an award (how seriously embarrassing that would be for him) and resist the temptation to ask him a thousand questions about his day (I have not yet mastered this). But I have discovered a part of me that is so proud of him and his own sense of pride that I am willing to let him make mistakes. I have seen how far he can go now that he knows to make the most of an unfavourable outcome.

Derived from https://warnervale-p.schools.nsw.gov.au/news/2015/5/howbadzzat.html

Image may contain: textHighly recommend following The Resilience Project on Facebook (image derived from there)

“I Marie Kondo-ed my wardrobe”. The KonMari method to tidying up your sh*t.

When you observe your storage spaces what do you see? Clean, beautifully flattened and folded linens and garments. Objects stored neatly in clear tubs. No unused items kept “just in case”. Minimalist. And calming.

Let me tell you what I see here at my abode. Sh*t. Unused sh*t everywhere. It’s okay. Unless I am PMS-ing I am usually pretty understanding as to why it is there. Babies, work, holidays and the Christmas break have this effect on a house. Over time you sense an aura of bad juju in the air (is juju even a word for energy?!). Outer order, inner calm says Gretchen Rubin. This is a book on my book list yet to be read. Gretchen has also discussed The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Also on my book list.

With the need to cleanse at least a incy corner of this place of clutter, I decided to start self-motivating by watching the Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Because waiting to read the book wasn’t quick enough for my liking.

Two episodes in and I had been transformed into a Japanese tidier extraordinaire! Not quite but it did give me the jump start needed and the first thing on my mind was CLOTHES. How is it that you feel as though you have just purged your wardrobe yet you cannot find a single item you would like to wear. That, my friend, is a sign you need to Marie Kondo the heck out of it.

The KonMari Method goes a little something like this:

The Marie Kondo KonMarie Method

Please see a portion of what would resemble clothes storage space (not a dirty laundry) below, captured by way of screenshotting InstaStories. Because I am THAT organised I forgot to take a before picture. Obviously I need to read these books more than first thought.

The emptiness of my wardrobe shelving

After rolling up my sleeves, I follow the KonMari method. Pulling all of the items out from my shelving. (Confession, I did cut a corner having very recently downsized my hanging clothea so decided to leave most of this. Also. Kids. Enough said.)

Taking time to hold and feel joy or simply nothing from a garment. And thanking it for adding to my life if I chose to discard it. Which seemed strange at first but being a sentimental person it felt only right to be grateful for the use of the garment before I sent it away.

Then it was time action the Marie Kondo way of folding. In order to maximise full visibility of the clothing therefore reducing the chance of me pulling it all out then squishing it into some kind of tumbleweed ball before shoving it back again.

You can watch her demonstrate this here

The adrenaline started pumping and before you know it I was sorting through shoes, accessories and knick knacks. Being a total rebel and crossing over to the Komono catgeory. It’s still early days for this KonMarie tidier.

9 garbags later and it was as if Marie herself had visited my wardrobe! Hardly, but it felt light, airy and a deliberate storage space. A dumping ground for tumbleweed no longer.

Voila! Welcome to my functional wardrobe.

My next practical adjustment is to turn the coathanger-ed items around, then when an item is used it is hung the correct way. Revealing the items not frequently used.

So there you have it, my first adventure into a guided way of tidying a space. Let’s see how long it lasts…

Sha xx

Camping with an 8 month old and a 5 year old – Our first family camping trip

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Part of me thought we must be crazy to go camping with an 8 month old baby. A 5 year old, no worries, they love to help and feel important and contribute (mostly), but a baby with their own schedule and demands, with no way of coaxing them into our to do list, well that would take some adjusting and manipulating of the daily regime.
Worries aside, we had a goal in mind this year and we desperately wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of suburban life to clear our minds, live presently and make memories with our boys. Finally we were able to make the time.

I’ve yet to hear of a family regretting camping for holidays or quality family time, in fact it seems to be quite the opposite. Almost an exercise in building problem solving skills, resilience, appreciation of nature and simple life skills in case we do in fact head into dire social circumstance requiring hunting, gathering and self sufficiency. In that instance, wouldn’t you like to know you provided your child with the necessary abilities to make a fire at least? Okay, a bit dramatic, but you see where I am heading with this. Did I mention, most importantly, goals of fun and relaxation (as much as camping with a baby allows)?

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My upbringing was slightly unorthodox but some of my happiest memories stem from camping mostly with my Dad and his family and my Mum. It didn’t matter where we went, beachside, riverside, at the back of his farm, just the action of setting up a tent and foraging for firewood, making walls out of stones in the river to create a pool, searching for abalone in rock pools. Sunburn aside, they were simple activities but meant more than any crappy plastic toy ever did.

With this in mind, we set a date and headed off late Friday afternoon, once the husband got home from working in the city. This meant we needed to be mostly packed and ready to hit the bitumen as soon as we could manage. The Thursday night, after we both had finished work, we packed majority of the large items, with mainly food being packed before departing. We stayed at Morwell River for 2 nights.

Here is an idea of what we packed to set up our family camp site:
• 2 room tent
• Queen sized blow up mattress with bedding from our bed at home
• Portacot and bedding to suit
• Camp table
• Camp Kitchen Table (with wind guards for the gas stove)
• Gas Stove and Butane
• Large pots for sterilising baby bottles
• Kettle
• Basket with cutlery, crockery, plates dishes and utensils
• Tool box with axe, machete style knife, ropes, hammer, mallet and assorted tools
• Camping chairs x2 adult, x1 child and x1 camp highchair ($29 from Kmart)
• Doritos to help start the fire
• Sage to burn in the fire to ward of mosquitoes
• Picnic Rug
• Sunscreen, sunscreen and more sunscreen
• Face washers, towels, plenty of baby wipes
• Baby food sachets (I like to make homecooked meals, but had to be realistic this time)
• Paper Towel
• 3 sets of clothes each (kids got about 5)
• First Aid Kit
• Fire Lighter Clicker
• 4 Slice Toasting Rack ($12.99 from Rays Outdoors)
• Shovel or spade for toiletry uses, and toilet paper
• Rubber backed picnic rug
• Food: Sausage, eggs, bacon, bread, vegemite, nachos, baked beans – we kept it fairly basic this time
• Marshmallows!
• Soap in a soap container
• Pegless clothes line and washing powder (which we did not need to use)
• Large tapped container of water
• Bottles of water
• Cast iron camping oven/hot plate for the fire -for a more authentic cooking experience really
• Cooking oil

Here is what I forgot:
• Sheets for queen mattress
• Single inflatable mattress for the 5 year old
• ALMOST forgot the tent poles, which I thought belonged to something else, so I unpacked them from the car. Husband was not too happy as I almost ruined everything.

Here is why the above didn’t matter:
• We used Zac’s plush blanket as a fitted sheet
• Having a warm 5 year old as a water bottle came mighty handy when it was FREEZING

While we picked the first full weekend of daylight savings to go camping, we did not arrive at the site until quite late and it was a race against time to set up the tent, then get the campfire going to keep warm. The first night I was extremely cold as I did not layer adequately, the baby ended up in bed with us because his face was quite cold.

Getting a 5 year old involved

Zac was prepared to help with most activities. He assisted with putting up the tent, searching for and chopping firewood, toasting marshmallows. When he wasn’t helping, he made his own fun with sticks and bracken. Once only did he asked for toys, which we had a tiny amount of in the car (mostly broken McDonalds toys) and he only used them when he needed a rest out of the sun in the tent.

My recommendation is to give the kids a chance to help and try to be patient. We discussed what animals we may be hearing, or what animals may possibly be in the bush, gazed at the stars and talked about the planets (Zac is space nut) and quite generally enjoyed each other’s company and ability to live in the present moment sans distraction.

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Camping with a baby

Judd is not crawling yet but is rolling and wriggling distances. We used one room of our tent as storage and a kids play area. There was not much shade at our site and let’s face it, sometimes you need to contain babies in a safe area to get a few minutes peace. When we brought him outside, he often sat in the camping highchair or sat/rolled around on the picnic rug, which usually led him to rolling and playing in dirt. *Helpful Tip: dress kids in anything but whites and creams.

We did bring toys for the baby but he was mostly happy playing with the wipes packet and food. Sachets of food came in handy for a quick fix when we were cooking finger foods.

Bottles were heated using a pot filled with water which we bought on the stove, I then sat the bottles in the pot to warm. They were rinsed afterwards, then we did a big wash up, sterilize and filled them in one hit ready for the next day.

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Washing the Kids

As we were next to the river, hubby filled one of the storage tubs with water from there and boiled a pot to pour into it also. One by one the kids sat in the tub for a wash and that was enough to ward off any nappy rash etc. (Judd inherited my sensitive skin).

What we will do differently:

  • Ditch the portacot, the baby was more comfortable with us and I felt more comfortable being able to be closer to him and check his temperature
  • Arrive with more sunlight to spare. An hour was not enough.
  • Ideally find a campsite with trees to tie tarps to, or trees close by for shade. Having a freestanding gazebo would remedy this too.
  • Bring the blow up mattress for Zac. He slept great without us.
  • Sleeping bag for Zac and eventually us – from a thermal and organisational aspect, it would be easier to wash a sleeping bag when we get home rather than rushing to clean and air our king sized doona and pillows/pillow covers
  • We may try a scavenger hunt for Zac for another source of entertainment. It could also be fun for adults.
  • Buy a bigger axe. We found some felled trees which made great firewood, but it took forever to chop it up. We burned it bit by bit, moving it up into the fire as it burnt through, but it would have been easier in smaller sections.
  • Bring some healthier food options. I was so exhausted shopping at 9pm the night before and rushed to grab whatever food that I could (as I had a busy day prior to departing for the trip). Next time I would bring more salad options and veggie options.

Camping Hacks for kids

  • $2 packet of glow sticks. Perfect for a night light for Zac.
  • Minimise toys. Shock horror, our kid survived without them or technology. In all honesty, that would have terrified me 1.5 years ago but it can actually happen
  • Give kids a task, collecting a certain size of stick, just a goal for them to achieve and a way to contribute to the campsite.
  • Baby sleeping bags and Bonds Wondersuits with fold over mittens (if camping somewhere that is cold at night). We layered Judd and he really slept so much better as a result. His poor little face was the only body part affected by the cold which is why I snuggled with him.
  • Having a safe play area in the tent gave them shade and somewhere to rest. An enclosed gazebo would work just as well.
  • Go on adventure walks.
  • Zac would say the best hack is “Pringles”. Which is what he told his kinder class 😐

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The cleansing power of living in the moment in nature

I wish I could explain the weight lifted after we arrived home and had time to rest. Yes, there was a lot of cleaning and packing away but will get better and faster as we gain more experience. By weight lifted I refer to the background noise we live with every day, as 21st century suburban parents, dissolving because are physically removed from it. With kinder drop offs, work, cleaning, washing, cooking, exercising, house maintenance, worrying about educating our children enough, communicating with family adequately, being constantly switched on to serve technology addiction, is it any wonder we all get depressed and anxious.

We struggle to allow our minds to do nothing, to think about nothing but what is right in front of us, regularly enough.

I was so relaxed that I fell asleep in my huge camp chair by the fire on the second night (sorry hubby, I know I was bad company). I have not felt that way at home in a long time.
To summarise in one word. Refreshing.
And to conclude. If you are a family feeling sluggish, give camping a go. It is not without challenge, but it can disrupt the rut you may be in and it is worth the effort for the end result.

Sha x

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They are listening.

In the perfect pre-parent world you lived in, would you want your children to hear gossiping, name calling and unsavoury things every single day? I’m mainly talking to myself. As a wake up call. Because hell no would I want my children to hear negative conversations only grown ups should have ears for and yet here I find myself in the dilemma of doing that exact thing.

Meet the accountability department of my blog. Nothing has shocked me more lately than having a trained professional tell me my 4 year old was blocking out his surrounds because I had made it too difficult to cope with. Holy crap this is scary to admit. Yeah I do it. I did it as just before she warned me. The constant offloading of emotions while in earshot of my kids. If I stand back and view our home as a third person, like my own guardian angel, and I feel deeply sad that I would irresponsibly take the moments of innocence away from the boys.

Not to be confused with merely a self-punishing article, I need to refocus to put a strategy out there for myself and for others who may be making this mistake, possibly unknowingly.

Why? Children are not equipped to process such intricate (and extreme) waves of emotion, particularly due to circumstances that are not dire. Not that they should never hear or experience other ranges of emotions, but this level of exposure can rob them of their childish innocence they should be able to indulge in. Death in the family, news of terminal illness and such are circumstances where expressing those emotions would be suited. But regular bouts of going from nought to 100 about bitchy gossipy nonsense sets a tone for the way they will approach scenarios.

I put this to myself, and to you.

Pick your timing. Simple. Bitch and moan outside of “kiddy hours”.

Mind dump in the old journal. Each time something becomes overwhelming and you want to pick up the phone while your kids are around, scribble it down. Review at a kid free time. Is it still worth the effort of speaking about it?

Remember THOUGHTS ARE NOT FEELINGS. You might think you are anxious, maybe about a new career move or a new social setting. But you actually feel anxious, and feelings naturally come and go. The more you deem it a permanent thought and give it negative traction, the longer it will stick around and fester. Let the negative feeling arrive and depart by understanding the link to the situation that created it. Nothing can change what physically happened so before you let that negative train of thought begin and speak it out loud…well…you know what Elsa sings…

Take it back to basics. Are your basic needs being met? Are you blabbing on because you are tired? I am a tired talker and I also catastrophize situations when I am tired. This creates the need to distract myself and zone out.

Do you need a nice space to sit in? To read a book completely irrelevant to your unhelpful thoughts.

Maybe smell a nice smell, if you are into essential oils.

Or like me, you need to decrease coffee/caffeine intake and just slow down a bit instead of pushing yourself to unreasonable limits.

The pay off for correcting these habits now is that your children are less likely to be anxious, over-exaggerating, emotionally unstable adults.

I was unsure whether to post this as it can be controversial but as mentioned, I need to publicly hold myself accountable.

Sha xx

Note: change takes time. I have slipped up on many occassions since I began writing this but I’m committed to sticking to it for the betterment of my life and for my boys.

Don’t be an asshole to strangers.

You’re in the local Westfield, rushing around grabbing gifts for the next kindy kids birthday and suddenly when approaching the next shop your 4 year old digs their heels into the ground screaming, “I don’t want to go in, I don’t want to go in!” for what seems like no apparent reason. Your 6 month old is crying because the teething pain and overtiredness has consumed them while you rush to get to that one last store before a cataclysmic tantrum strikes both children, which they so thoughtfully time together. You missed the boat.

You look to your right, a middle aged woman stares at you, shaking her head in disgust, snorting like a pig at how disgracefully you are handling the situation.

Well, mama has been up all night with teething baby. Mama has been sick with stress that all of the work she has put in to helping the 4 year olds behaviour means nothing in that moment. Mama is now so riddled with anxiety she is noticeably shaking (and frazzled) and those awful people-pleasing gremlin thoughts seep out, what devils they are. And what mama doesn’t need is a stranger huffing and puffing at a situation that has zilch effect on stranger’s life.

But alas, strangers be strangely obnoxious and rude and they give no fucks about the fact you got 37 minutes sleep last night.

Well parents, I am here to remind that you too need to give even less fucks about them and give more fucks about your own situation, and about building up other parents going through a shit time too.

A few weeks back I had a clanger of a morning but luckily enough a friend joined me and the kids for brunch at a cafe. Coffee was of the utmost importance. This was at a typically bustling cafe that was full, a third of the patrons had children in tow. We were seated next to two women. 4 year old was not listening to me and was banging toys on the table while I tried to have a conversation with my friend. I handled it immediately. Giving him a single warning that the toy would be put away if he continued and naturally, he continued. I removed the toy while feeding the hungry baby his solids. I heard horrible, snarky comments from the two women various times, sniggering about what I SHOULD be doing. They were sure to be loud enough so I could hear.

Fighting back tears, I decided to take the high road and not say anything to them. I wanted to pick myself up and be strong and set an example to my boys not to reward bullying behaviour with a reaction (even if 4 year old was teating my limits at that time). Because thats what it was, bullying. And for women aged 50 or so to bully a 30 year old woman who was handling her child’s behaviour, not ignoring it by any means, is appalling.

Here lies the grub. As appalling as I felt those women were (they even remarked at a baby girls squeals of delight stating “she had better be dying if she is making that sound”), I did not know their back story. Possibly one of them had a painful headache or an ear problem. Who knows.

All I can say is that I wish they shared a respectful and understanding mentality with me, or had a conversation with me instead. I desperately wanted to rip into them for kicking me while I was down. However I didn’t, because I wanted to display to my children that to behave with such offensive mannerisms to another human being who is trying their hardest, is somewhat inhumane. They did not know my back story as I did not know theirs.

I wanted to give you all a context as to why it is so important to think with an open heart and mind around strangers. Nobody likes that screaming child less than their own parent in the moments they shriek at the top of their lungs. Nobody needs to feel shamed and judged for every decision they make as parent, it is theirs to make and theirs only. Love thy neighbour. Have empathy. And if you feel you aren’t capable of walking a mile in someone elses shoes, then simply walk a mile the other way and don’t use your shoes to kick them in the ribs while they figuratively lie on the ground writhing in pain.

Reach out and offer help to a struggling mum who spilled 50 coins out of her purse at the checkout while she is preventing her toddler from ripping apart the chewy and mints display.

Throw an understanding smile to the first time Dad who is pacing in circles shushing and bouncing the crying newborn while Mum ducks off to the loo at the shopping centre. Sometimes we don’t realise how convincing our resting bitch face can be.

If only we spent more time being helpful to one another rather than constantly finding faults, then maybe we can avoid our children being in such turbulent and disrespectful chaos comparable to what the Australian Parliament has displayed this last week (or decade for that matter).

One way to build yourself up when you are feeling low is to do a good deed, not expecting anything in return. In my experience, positive energy almost always comes back to you. At the very least, you will feel full of hope that your efforts maybe changed someones day.

Sha x

Coping With Returning To Work After Baby

Twice I have gone through the gut wrenching process of putting my 4-5 month old baby into a childcare centre and returning to work.

It is TOUGH, and that is putting it lightly. Coming from experiencing stay-at-home parenting and full-time stints there is no mistaking my appreciation for parents that tackle either or both of these lifestyles. Each come with their pros, cons and some serious personal demands and sacrifices. For one, when you are at work, it is nice not being screamed at to wipe a small humans butt, or needing to play duck duck goose with teddies for 5 hours a day whispering “FML” under your breath, but at the same token you MISS those moments when you are stuck at a desk replying to 50 emails, answering calls of angry people.

Work/Life balance seems like a mythical creature that I am forever in search of. Which is why I settle for the idea that some aspects of life are more demanding than others at particular times and as long as I feel comfortable communicating this to family and am meeting their basic needs, I know that we can get back to the fun stuff afterwards.

I am only required to work part-time, but I have pointers that make life run a tad smoother while I juggle demands of being a working mum:

  • This goes without saying; ensure the facility you leave your baby at meets your expectations. Research the crap out of them, ask every question imaginable. If you feel confident your baby is being cared for at a high level then obviously you will beat yourself up a little less. Check the centre’s National Quality Standard rating here.
  • Lay out clothes the night before. No matter how tired you are, you will be more tired and remember less at 5 in the morning.
  • Prep lunches/baby bottles/breakfasts as much as possible the night before. Zac gets a snackbox for snack time with any 3 of the following; “cheesy chips” (tortilla chips), Tamar Valley Yoghurt pouches, strawberries, blueberries, cheese cubes, cucumber, avocado, carrot, popcorn, Jumpy’s snacks. He then get a sandwich, and an apple for fruit snack time in the arvo. He always has his reusable water bottles in the fridge. We use Cambelback and Zak! bottles. This is all stacked in the fridge, as well as my lunch, ready for the zombie-morning version of me to grab.
  • Set bags out ready to pack lunches into in the morning.
  • Wake up before the kids. This is where I put my hand up and say I find this extremely difficult. I love sleep, and mornings usually scare me. No longer can I fulfill my selfish desire to use my doona as a cave to hide me from the morning. If I don’t get up and get ready before the kids it can ruin my morning -and day. I constantly remind myself of the shitty mornings where I turn into a panicked “yelly” mum because I am not feeling ready to take on the day. Reminding myself of the guilt of that, or alternatively the feeling of independence and pride I get by actually getting my shit together is normally enough to get me up.
  • I feed the baby before I get the kinder boy out of bed. Then baby is dressed and fed, happy and playing so that I can dedicate some time to getting the older child ready.
  • Prep a couple of dinners or draw up a meal plan. Try to have cooked or prepped at least one dinner in advance so you have quick go to for the night you are too exhausted to function. Or arrange a meal that is simple to put together. For example, steak with pre-made salad and microwavable Uncle Ben’s rice. It might not be organic, home grown, free from any sugar/salt or things that god forbid you may ingest, but it is better than rubbish takeway. Then the last option is to have the shitty takeaway, if it is within your budget, because life is too short to mentally punish yourself for not being a supermum that can do it all at once. Good on you if you can manage it all and not burnout, that just ain’t me. See earlier post about “dropping the ball”.
  • Washing: if, like me, large washing loads give you nightmares put small manageable loads on quickly at night and in the morning. Smaller and faster to fold and put away! I use a drier too. Not environmentally friendly, or wallet friendly, but for me to cope better with my second child I decided I would use the drier and not beat myself up over it like I did when I had my first and thought I could be the perfect mother. Which, by the way, doesn’t exist as I am sure everyone knows by now.
  • Make sure your cars fuel tank is filled before your work week starts. For me it works better this way. Each time I think it would be more efficient to fill up once I’ve dropped the kids off and head to work, traffic is at an extreme level of crapness and I don’t really have the time.
  • Write lists. Or invest in a noticeboard. Even if it is to just get you started so you remember what needs to be done, what needs to be packed and in what order before you leave for the day, it is still a huge help and eventually it will all become habit.
  • Online grocery shopping. Takes 10 minutes, you do it once and it saves your previous items so you can simply go to that section of your profile and quickly reorder if need be.
  • COFFEE. Keep a generous supply in your house.
  • When you get home quickly unpack the dirty dishes, dirty washing or bottles needing to be washed. If I leave it for later I forget and it snowballs into a mammoth effort at a time of night where my body and mind need to relax.

Each day presents new challenges. I would be lying if I said the above happens every single work day. It doesn’t. The morning after I wrote most of this post both of my kids woke at 5am and would not go back to sleep. That impinged my personal time and threw a spanner into my morning regime but I had to try and roll with it. The truth is that with kids you never really know what lies ahead, but you make the most of the time you do get to spend with them. These tips above allow me more time to do that. They allow me to relax and have fun with the boys at appropriate times rather than being frazzled constantly. Perfection is not the goal with my coping mechanisms but rather maintaining the purpose behind it and learning to go with the flow in between. Some days (like today) the “yelly” me appears, but by being organised I can move onto the next task faster and enjoy the boys without added overwhelming guilt of working. I no longer cry on the drive to work because now I know Judd is settled, I feel confident in his and Zac’s carers/teachers because I did my research and went with my intuition and I am able to focus on the tasks at work.

Good luck to the rest of you Mama’s that are returning to work – I hope this helped ♡

Sha xx

The Things Nobody Told Me About Pregnancy And Childbirth

What I really looked like within the hour after childbirth (and a shower). Smudged makeup, tired eyes, relief beyond explanation and shock.

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.

Until next time.

Sha x

I Hated Myself.

Can you look at yourself in the mirror and love all of you?

Yes. And no. And both.

My entire life I desperately wanted to be so thin that I had thigh gap, I wanted straight hair, tanned skin, no acne, no freckles, bigger boobs, any coloured hair apart from red, smaller hips, feet at least a shoe size smaller and to make socially acceptable jokes while speaking in a socially acceptable manner.

Are you reading this? I wanted to be anything but myself.

Because I put all of the bullying I received down to those features. That is what was first pointed out when somebody wanted to hurt me. Because that is what I showed as my weakness. I did not like myself, and I sure as shit did not love myself. My appearance embarrassed me. There were days I would not eat in front of people (or at all) because I was not only embarrassed for the way I thought I looked, but I thought people were judging the way I ate and I was terrified they would find something else to dislike about me.

I was quiet in groups, afraid to speak up because I might stumble on my words and make fool out of myself. Struggled to say no to people. Putting my hand up in class to speak up, rarely, if at all, happened. If I did not understand what I was being taught, I would not question it for fear that I would be reprimanded for being dumb or ignorant. On top of that I believed I was terrible at sports. Convinced I was physically unable to participate in most activities because I had terrible coordination, or maybe I wouldn’t understand the rules and I would make a mistake. Therefore getting laughed at.

Often I would avoid new experiences, even if I was keen, because it meant stepping outside of my comfort zone. Again, I was scared to make a mistake, take the wrong train, buy the wrong ticket, be wrong in some way or another.

Do you hear what I am telling you?

The OLD me for lack of a better word, hated herself.

Posting pictures like the one above would be something I would never do because my body is the opposite of the unrealistic bullshit I told myself it had to be.

1 year ago I never believed myself capable of doing what I am doing right now. Writing this to you. Spilling the beans on my darkest secrets. Videoing myself on my instagram and not cringing when I replay it. This continued up until 6 weeks ago. I would say to myself, “I’ll just look like some try-hard blogging wanker”.

So for years prior to now, I waited. I waited for some type of moment that would make taking a risk feel easy. Previously, bailing myself out when the going got remotely tough was common.

But nothing changes if nothing changes.

And I, for one, do not want my children viewing themselves in such a way that they shy away from asking questions that can give life changing answers, or feel the need to avoid mirrors.

Things changed for me when I wasn’t accepted into RMIT’s Bachelor of Fashion, which is the holy grail of fashion courses in Melbourne. I was instead accepted into TAFE and the first 6 months did terribly. Quitting was on the horizon. Until a grumpy Greek patternmaking teacher, who was short on patience and often berated students in front of the class, heard of my intentions. Surprisingly, she pulled me aside and convinced me to do 6 month stint of patternmaking double units with her, before deciding on quitting fashion altogether. Working part-time, studying part-time, this woman, grumpy as she was, showed patience, saw strengths within me I was blind to, and built up my skills in practical application, mathematics and overall confidence. A true educator.

I observed the students who did well and realised it wasn’t luck. They were somewhat pushy and asked questions. They stayed back after class when needed. They researched, went on solo trips throughout the city for inspiration. They were grinding and did what it took to get results. It didn’t come free. I realised I wasn’t being picked on nor was I hard done by. I quit before I even gave it my all. Cue pivotal juncture.

I admired the way many of my peers dressed, walked and talked confidentally. Learning of their bullying experiences or mental and physical challenges, it became clear they had adapted and used these experiences like ammunition. Converting negative fumes into a high functioning jet fuel and powering right through the barriers preventing self confidence, and success.

With such realisations, the constant resistance to things I enjoyed or wanted to take part in due to personal fear of risk became exhausting and I held up the white flag.

I became selective and surrounded myself with friends that loved me for all of my strengths and my follies. They did not want to modify me into a generic shell of a human. With this, and the adoration and support from my husband who has encouraged this transformation since the age of 16, I let go of unrealistic body expectations. Was I ever going to be the size of the beautiful Miranda Kerr? Never ever. Our body types are chalk and cheese. But I have got booty and curvaceous hips that are mine and nobody elses. Was I ever going to appear as a seemingly perfectly “composed woman”? Not with my sense of humor. But now I can call a spade a spade and spit out terrible puns with a goofy sense of pride.

The idiosyncrasies past me would shy away from are now accepted. I embrace them. Not always easily. Particularly hormonal days occur where I flashback into the angsty teenage Shaara where nothing fits and “I look crap in everything”. A little insight; this facet of my personality lead to 13 year old me kicking in my parents glass door because my mother wouldn’t answer her phone. A fierce temper somewhat humorously passed down to my sons.

I no longer cry at the reflection in the mirror pleading to be something I am not. If I would like to change my hair, get a tan or eyelashes then I do it. However when those faux adornments fade, I rock my natural look because what I previously believed the world was saying to me is no longer important.

I am a curly red headed, freckle faced, fair skinned, mum-bod donning, food loving, small breasted, size 9 shoe wearing, 30 year old footy mum. I can sing. Lift weights. Do yoga and pilates. Sew clothes. Kick a footy (skill building in progress). I can organize the shit out of things if I put my mind to it. And I can confidentally put my hand up to ask questions.

I can learn from mistakes and I know that failure is part of life and is essential to personal growth. I understand that I played the incubator and delivery receptacle for my two children which altered my body in various ways, and I own that shit. I love me. And I wish I could hit rewind and shake adolescent Shaara and force her to see that being a “ranga” with originality is okay.

The lioness does not concern herself with the opinions of sheep.

You are the one that has to live with yourself and your choices, more so than anybody else around you. Improving aspects of your persona or appearance according to what makes you happy is totally okay, if you are totally ok with it.

I will leave you with this golden nugget of a lyric from a Hailee Steinfeld track, because I’m no longer afraid to admit I love “mainstream” pop music;

Some days you feel so good in your own skin. But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in. You look greatest when you feel like a damn queen 👑

Own your shit woman, or man

Until the next rant,

Queen Sha x

Resources

Hailee Steinfeld tunes: Most Girls and Love Myself

Olivia White – House of White (IG handle @houseofwhite)

Emmylou MacCarthy from Emmylou Loves (IG handle @EmmyLouloves)

Lizzo track Feeling Good As Hell– (seriously, listen to this!)

The best resource of all. Listen to the compliments from your besties, partners, hubbies. They say nice things about you for a reason.

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

“Well Shaara, looks like Hubby will need to learn to deliver a baby because this labour will be much faster than the first”. Not true for everybody and I am GLAD that didn’t happen to me.

After the 2.5 hour labour with my first, my body went into shock for around 12 hours and I shook that whole time as if I was about to perform a public speech.

Doctors and experienced parents share the notion that if a mothers body has already done the stretching and adjusting once (or many) times before then it usually means the next time you birth a babe it will come out much faster. I’m sure for a vast majority of women this happens but for whatever reason my second labour resulted in 3 days of early labour and 8 hours active.

When you first discover you are pregnant with baby number one you begin to write a plan. An idealistic, dreamy birth plan that may include a fitness ball, yoga music, relaxing back massages, burning essential oils and overpriced candles while you lay in a warm birthing pool repeating mantras and affirmations in your mind as each contraction comes and goes like waves off a tropical island. Well, that is pretty much what my plan was with Zac and as you may already know, it certainly did not happen. {You can read about that here}.

Our second baby, Judd (JJ), decided to take his time.

At the beggining of last year, after our dreamy American honeymoon, we decided we had recovered from the rollercoaster of the first child and took the plunge to procreate once more. Since Zac was more independent it seemed like a good time to try for another as I was no longer helicopter mum-ing him all day, therefore thought I had enough energy. Lol. Oh the naivety of past me.

Eventually July comes along and the pee stick reveals we had another Horin on the way. I was so happy and emotional that I burst in on Shane showering, shoved the test in his face and waited for his reaction. He probably won’t want me sharing this but he had more tears than I did and struggled to get any words out. Being a Dad and growing our family meant so much to him and he was ecstatic that we managed to make another little jelly bean.

The early days were once again filled with nausea and exhaustion. But this time I knew why and I must admit that I took it much easier on myself pyschologically. This was after I thought it a wonderful idea to shovel stones and move wheelbarrows like I did when pregnant with Zac. My back was angry at me but my husband was angrier. After I’d learnt my lesson, gone was the pressure to behave like a superhuman and in came the more relaxed, self-caring version of myself. I looked forward to seeing that baby bump and feel the tiny flutters of first movements. It was a special time and apart from my back and hip issues (hello sciatica!) and initial first trimester sickness, I was astounded at how mentally stable and excited I felt. This was planned and I am a planner.

The months roll by and I was swept away on a suprise luxury getaway to Daylesford for our first wedding anniversary. It was like the babymoon we never had. I pondered whether my husband had really been working those overtime hours because the guy I married, while I love him dearly, is probably the least formally romantic guy I’ve ever met. Sorry babe, but you know you are. He books the most amazing couples massage and at this point I am a sloth like creature who struggles to stay awake for 2 minutes after dinner let alone reward the man for his efforts 😉.

Along rolls the end of January and I am waddling like an Emperor Penguin. I certainly did not expect this level of discomfort in a second pregnancy, in fact, I thought it would be easier. Again, who the hell is this naive and ignorant voice in my head feeding me lies? It was a tough pregnancy physically this time and in the height of summer. My boss let’s me finish work early as she feels sorry for me – thanks Mum (benefits of working with family). This gives me more energy and time to devote to Zac’s first days of kinder.

February comes along and a week before my due date I start to feel some light pains in the evening. Thinking nothing of it, I ignore and continue watching a marathon of The Amazing Race. After some time I realise the pains are coming at regular intervals. We time them at about 5-7 minutes apart and call the hospital. As we drive they get stronger and I get concerned we won’t make it on time. Pulling up to the door was like an antidote for labour. As I was being monitored, they plateaued and the nurse suggest I take a bath in their new birthing tub. This was an exciting moment for me. I’d wanted to labour in water but never had the chance earlier with everything accelerating quickly the first time.

Contractions continued to plummet and we left for home in the morning. The next day we decided to go for a walk to help things along. Night came and there I was bouncing on the fitness ball watching The Amazing Race again with regular pains. It did not escalate past the previous evenings levels so we stayed home and once the pains slowed I got some rest. Feeling frustrated, the next day we decided to live life as usual, seeing as baby was hesitating to exit the incubator. So we did. We dropped Zac off at kinder, cleaned the playroom and garage out and headed out to do a big grocery shop at Aldi. By the time we began packing our shopping, pains returned and were intensifying. Determined not to obsess over it, we pick Zac up from kinder. It is at this point I realise the baby would come that day. Taking deep breaths and pausing with the regular contractions, Zac’s kinder teacher explains his day to me and with empathetic eyes asks if I am having contractions at that moment. I nod, unable to speak, hoping some form of motherly telepathic powers kick in. They kind of do and the teacher empathetically glances at me and encourages me to head off.

Still determined, I agree to take Zac to the ice creamery as we had missed his company the last few days. There I was, helping Zac eat ice cream between moments of deep breathing and closed eyes, probably making me look narcoleptic. Not exactly what happens in the movies. I didnt let it bother me.

Again with that horrible guilty conscience of mine, I just wanted to spend time with my boy who I’d been unable to see those last few days. And I knew it would probably be the last moments we had together as a family of three.

We head for the car where, once driving, I instruct Shane to drop Zac off at his parents who happened to live around the corner from the ice creamery. My poor mother in law tries to talk to me but I’m at that level of being unable to speak again. It’s so bizarre when you go through labour again. You know what to expect and yet you do not. There is no way to fully comprehend and be prepared for the experience of birth at any time.

Zac was happy to have a sleepover at his grandparents, me on the other hand cried on the way to the hospital. My big baby had hardly seen Mummy lately and what was about to happen to him would change his little world forever. No longer would everybody notice just him, it would be him and his brother and I hoped he would become proud rather than jealous. An Aunty had bought him a book about becoming a big brother and I knew he was excited, but what if it went all wrong?

The midwife at the hospital was, if I am completely honest, kick ass and so boss at her job. She made lame jokes which relaxed both of us, but probably Shane moreso because he is in his Dad-joke prime right now. Lord help us when the kid are teenagers.

The contractions are stronger and the monitoring system at the hospital sends information to the obstetricians phone. He asks if I would like any intervention to speed things up but I refuse as I wanted the baby to come when he was ready. He stays at home and informs us he will return at 9pm.

They fill the gloriously large bath and I hop in. That warm water was bliss. The contractions were well and truly increasing. Because they are necessary and a sign of birth preparation, they didn’t bother me as much as the back and hip pain I’d felt all pregnancy becoming sharper with each wave of pains. The water relieves the weight of gravity and after over 3 hours I feel the need for the toilet. I did not want to be the one that pushes more than a baby out on the bed. So I request that the nurse begins emptying the bath so I can get out. With the frequency of the contractions I had no idea how I would get to the loo and do my business. I stop the midwife emptying the tub and ask her to put more water in, only to tell her minutes later I need to push. Clearly I had confused what movements were going on down there. Shane is sitting by the bath the whole time, letting me squeeze his arm like a stress ball and massaging me when asked to. That was just a precursor to what I was about to inflict on him. The midwife insists on me getting out of the bath and over to the bed for labour because the hospital is not accredited for water births. I stand up and feel the full weight of my belly and baby on my back and hips, and they begin to burn. The doctor arrives just on time, earlier than anticipated and luckily so. I walk over to the bed, having to stop and lean on the nurse as I concentrate breathing so I won’t scream like a banshee. I have to lie down on my back so that the staff can monitor our vitals. At this point I become very verbal.

“Please can I go on my knees to push. I don’t want to lie down. My back and hips!” That burning, tearing, and disjointing feeling is one I wont forget. The staff reassure me I will be able to roll over and kneel at the head of the bed. I’m fully dilated and feel that uncontrollable pushing return. Kind of like when you need to vomit and can’t stop yourself, not the most pleasant of comparisons, I know. The OB notifies me that waters had not ruptured in the bath as we had suspected and asks would I like him to break them. I’m sure I replied “Yep!” before he finished the question. He proceeds and it ups the ante. Like a tantruming toddler, I keep repeating that I do not want to give birth on my back.

It. Is. Time. With assistance, I roll over to kneel with my arms on the head of the inclined bed. Gas was offered, but after my strange out of body experience last time, I declined. That’s the planner/control freak part of me. Immediately I need to push. This time I had the OB and amazing midwife guiding my pushes. Shane again repeating their words like before but this time coaching me like pro, and I could feel the positive, encouraging vibes from him. With that, I knew I could do it. I just had to overcome the feeling that my lower back and hips were going to split halfways down the middle. This was not a quiet birth, people next door definitely heard my wails and I did not even care. I needed them. Pushing a baby out is bloody hard work. Two or three lung emptying pushes followed by a bunch of little pants and our second baby boy enters the world. I felt a rush of endorphins as I pull JJ through my legs up to my chest and roll onto my back. He is here and he is sure to let us know with his compacted and wrinkly, squelling face. I’d done it and he was perfect.

Looking down at him, tears formed. He had light coloured hair that covered him like a layer of shimmery glitter. I breathe in his smell like it’s the best drug in the world and secretly hope he will be a red head like me. I glanced over at Shane whose smile was ear to ear, eyes full of proud, happy tears. The entire room was alive yet so tranquil. Encouraging comments from the nurses, doctor and my husband were chimed back to me and it dawned on me that I’d managed to pull off a drug free labour as planned, that it was beautiful and I should be proud of myself regardless of the banshee impression. It was almost an indescribable moment, even while my placenta was being delivered. I felt love immediately, not world-upturning shock like my first birth.

I had researched all I could about breastfeeding, getting advice and watching videos. The first latch was painful and awkward and from there it became more difficult. Nurses commented on how red my nipples were and how unusual it seemed. My supply was also problematic and I could not get a comfortable latch (even with the so-called lactation consultants help, later we discover JJ has a lip tie) so after a few days I gave it a rest and pumped exclusively while mix feeding formula. The baby blues hit me and Judd was crying throughout the night. This time I bucked up and asked for help from the nurses. I didn’t want to or have to do it alone.

The nurses made my hospital stay a wonderful memory. Each supporting whatever decision I made. I hadn’t experienced that before and I left hospital with nipple shields, still expressing but knowing deep down that breastfeeding was not for me and my child. I continued to pump. Almost consumed by the idea of being able to eventually breastfeed. But the reality was that for so many reasons I was not capable. I stopped pumping after awakening to the fact that I was clutching at straws. I’d given my baby colostrum. He was mostly fed by formula. Time for me to overcome my pride and put my family first. It took weeks of grieving. Of hiding my tears and ugly crying in the shower. Hormones did not help but I felt like a failure again.

Another moment occurs when it is confirmed why I married my husband. He sits with me while I cry and tells me that I got the labour I wanted. I set out to use a fitness ball, have spaced contractions so I could process what was happening, use a birthing bath at least for pain relief, avoid medications, get back massages AND give birth any way but on my back. If I could have slapped myself I would have. Gratitude hit me and I snapped out of the grieving. I was fortunate to get something I asked the universe for. I should be grateful to have ANY type of food for my baby. I am grateful.

Physically, my recovery was swift. Mentally, that took time. It is a work in progress that I chip away at each and every day. Looking at my beautiful, healthy and loving boys I feel complete. Not in generic way but in a way where it is like your heart has grown and you don’t know how to tell other parents with one child so that they will understand how great it really is. My boys dote over each other. I had always wanted 2 boys. Ask and you shall receive.

Until next time.

Sha x

Just after giving birth
Judd (JJ)
Our boys first cuddles
Walking to help labour along

Resources

If you are a “planning/routine” Mum like me you made find The New Contented Little Baby book helpful. Take advice that is relative and leave the rest.

Your local Maternal Child Health Nurses. A lot changed in 4.5 years and our local MCHN (Cardinia Shire) are much more accepting and constructive than they were previously. I would recommend talking to them if you are not coping or need advice.

St John of God Raphael Services in Berwick are wonderful for PND or Anxiety support

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

You read it right. I’m somewhat famous amongst my friends and family. The girl who didn’t realise she was pregnant until she was 20 weeks. I was 25 at the time but I call myself a girl, not a woman, because mentally that is how I felt.

After over 6 months of organising the build on our house, I knew something felt different. I had been unwell and so incredibly nauseated the entire time. Physically I was pushing myself harder than ever before. Moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of bricks into skip bins. Landscaping, shoveling, cleaning and pushing my body to breaking point every day. I worked full time and did this after work, on the weekends, then going back home and adjusting to living with my now husband and his brother and brother’s wife. Amongst all of it, the paperwork, oh the paperwork relating to an owner/builder style of building is relentless. Sourcing trades, negotiating prices, losing your shit at the carpenter who is also supposed to be your mentor and assist with organising the build. It was a heck of a ride with many lessons learned but as you can tell, I didn’t have time to scratch my back let alone consider the fact my contraceptive pill had not done it’s job effectively around New Years Eve.

After weeks of bloating, random abdominal cramping, tiredness and epic mood swings, I consider getting it checked. Maybe it’s gas, I thought? Or appendicitis? Off I go to the GP to ensure it’s nothing sinister. After explaining the symptoms he pushes me out the door convincing me it is nothing, even when I mentioned pregnancy. Off I went.

3 months into pregnancy I had a Gyno appointment. Undertaking a common procedure, I mention symptoms to the doctor to get his opinion. Even after being in the vicinity of the baby making station he assures me it is nothing to be concerned about.

After these instances the most peculiar feeling begins. Tiny bubbles feel as if they are floating around and popping in my abdomen. Okay, this definitely is strange and it is at this point I decide to get a pregnancy test, you know, just in case.

The little line appeared and I felt as if I’d been winded by a kick in the guts. I cried. Actually I sobbed. Sitting there in the toilet while my partners family gathered in the kitchen. I didn’t really believe I could possibly have been pregnant until now. I was on a really expensive, new contraceptive pill that is known to stop periods so that warning sign was not relevant to me. After a while I dry my eyes, walk out and grab my partner by the hands and we walk outside. His face when I told him still amazes me. The look of complete shock where it drains the blood from your skin, then suddenly he realised I was in more shock than he. And the most amazing thing happened in the moment that I was on the brink of falling apart. He smiled the most heartfelt smile you could imagine. He hugged me tightly. And told me he was excited. We’d been together since I was 15, and he 16, and I can tell you right now that all of my instincts of him being a good Dad were coming to fruition that day. A good choice was made in staying with that guy. I stand by my decision every day.

The pregnancy feels short. Many moments occur where I fall into such mental despair that I can’t get out of bed. I wanted to be a Mum some day. But in the future after we’d settled into our house and travelled Europe for a while. Abortion never crossed my mind, yet I couldn’t comprehend how I could be strong enough to give birth and support another human being. Never disillusioned about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I knew it would be a hard slog and I was shit scared of it.

This is when my best friend came to my house, unsure of why I was so completely upset (as I was supposed to be excited), she came to the doctors with me so I could get an understanding of how to book the hospital, what scans did I need, how do I figure this whole thing out? She remained one of my biggest supporters even when my boobs where hanging out and I needed someone to pick up a breast pump for me. The kind of friend who’d happily kill for you . It helped having someone to cry to about feeling alone and out of my depth.

I wanted to make up for all of the terrible things I’d done to my body whilst unknowingly pregnant. The guilt was unbearable and I still don’t think I’ve forgiven myself entirely. I began prenatal yoga and it was the best thing I could have done. My muscles thanked me and my brain did too. The baby didn’t mind it either.

At 36 weeks my mucus plug came out and some pretty intense cramps started. It was my now fiances birthday and we were having a small family barbecue. I stayed quiet about it for a while but then it became too much and we drove to hospital. The cramps had stopped and the baby was fine so back home we went.

At exactly 38 weeks, I awoke to my waters breaking and light cramps. After doing the usual call to the hospital, they assured me as it was my first baby it may take a while to go into full active labour. They recommended I walk around, have a shower then get some rest. I wake up my partner before my shower to let him know it was go time and he begins to pack the car on my request. Not fast enough for my liking as by the time he visits me in the shower I am having intense contractions at 2-3 minutes apart. We quickly get me dressed and into the car. Fiance asks me repeatedly if I am okay, should he park or drop me off at the hospital entrance? A pleading look in his eyes for me to reply and give him confirmation everything was alright. But speak, I could not. By the time we drove out of our street there was zero gap between contractions and by the time we hit the freeway I was desperately trying not to give into the pushing sensation. Adamant that giving birth on a roadside was not on my bucket list.

“Pull up to the door” I manage to say and as we walk down the corridor to the maternity unit. The midwife sees me half keeled over as I walk. My eyes must have darkened as I replied to her question of “Oh sweetheart, what’s the matter?!” by shooting daggers out of them. I’d just been on the phone to her, and obviously as a first timer I must have sounded as if I was exaggerating. They walk me into the birthing suite which has only just been cleaned. Mid September is apparently one of the hospitals busiest time of year. Ushered into the ensuite to give them a wee sample, my waters were still exiting at a rapid rate. I stand up to wash my hands, still hunch-backed like Quasimodo over the basin, and I freeze. The pressure was overwhelming and I needed to push. Right there and right then. I’m still sure I could have delivered in that bathroom standing up. Yet I was shuffled over to lie down and be examined and attached to the heart monitor to check baby, and offered the gas which I happily used as a distraction (it did nothing to relieve pain, only made me feel like I was another person watching over myself in labour). While the baby’s health is of utmost importance, that pushing feeling is one that is so unexplainable and fighting it is like trying to win a losing battle. The midwife does an internal examination as it is so busy no Obstetricians are available. She looks shocked and starts moving fast.

“How many centimetres am I?”. I’d watched that many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I thought I knew all the lingo and I thought I was prepared for what was to come. “You’re fully dilated. Whenever your body tells you it’s ready, you push!”. And that I did. The most ugly faced, gruntiest sounding, Deadpool Maximum Effort like pushing I’d ever done before. It was scary, daunting, yet I knew there was no turning back and I reminded myself that each contraction/push is one less I have to do. The fiance stands next to me, mimicking what the midwife says as he has mentally stalled and is just as shit scared as I am, still.

One extra large push, when you feel like no amount of pushing will get that baby out, and the sharp feeling of tearing jolts me like a lightning bolt. The upside, baby’s head is out and with light pushes to follow he enters the world in a room with utterly surprised people. The labour was 2.5 hours long. I was at the hospital for about 30-40 minutes and my midwives were somewhat unprepared for Zac to arrive so quickly, the heated crib was not even yet heated.

Relieved of intense pain, I sigh and stare at Zac’s screaming, squashed face. I was in awe of course. And struck with guilt immediately that I did not feel overwhelming love and rainbows and unicorns that every mother brags about. It had all gone so fast. 18 weeks of pregnancy (that I’d known of) where we’d moved into our house and become engaged. 2.5 hours of labour. On the inside I was just begging for something to take it’s time. Just allow me to process one portion of this gargantuan, life altering occassion before I fall into a heap. I hold our baby and feed him while the Obstetrician (who finally walks in) delivers my placenta and stitches me up. I hardly notice that pain after the ordeal that had just occurred. My biggest supporter, Shane, cries tears of joy having watched his wonderful little boy enter the world. He remarks constantly at how proud he is of me. I still love him so much more knowing that when I look like a sweaty, frizzy haired witch he still thought I was a rockstar. I felt proud that I’d given life to a wonderful little boy but the whole situation felt alien to me.

What happened next was precisely what I didn’t want to happen. 2 weeks of a crying baby that hardly slept, was not gaining weight and was beggining to look unwell and very jaundiced. Oh and reflux. Actual projectile, vomiting reflux. Add it onto the list of things I felt unqualified to handle.

It felt like an eternity and I felt so incredibly judged by the hospital lactation consultant and maternal health nurses as if I wasn’t trying hard enough to breastfeed. It’s bullshit of course because I was trying with every piece of energy I could muster. I’d feed, top up with expressed milk, pump, clean house, get a wink of sleep if I was lucky and do it all again. Poor Zac was still hungry and after crying most of the days and nights I did not believe I deserved him. He deserved a Mum that could function properly and dote over him. The most ultimate cloud of loneliness I had inflicted on myself. I could have been at an Ed Sheeran concert and still felt alone. Our friends would visit and dote over our boy. I would force a mask of “expected” gloating new mum behaviour onto my actually dishevelled and depressed face. Mastitis crept up and slapped me right in that face and with cracked and bleeding nipples, I hit rock bottom. At this time I threw in the towel. I had admitted defeat. My mother in law gave Zac a bottle of formula while I went to the 24 hour doctors to get antibiotics and, I’m ashamed to say, tablets to stop my milk production. Zac then slept. I got more than 30 minutes of sleep and those little sparks of human were beggining to return.

It was a tough decision and one that impacted me incredibly, but it needed to be done as I’m simply not a very good cow and I had to draw the line when I started thinking horrible thoughts. It was also the best decision I made. After weeks of nothing but confusion and guilt because I did not get that doting and adoring feeling you are told you should get when you have a newborn, I slowly began to look at my boy like he was the most wonderful, magnificent sight I’d ever have the pleasure of staring at. He became so healthy and happy over the next few months.

The transition into motherhood, for me, was like a bumpy old dirt road that the local council couldnt give a rats about. It just gets beaten down with more potholes that really shake up your suspension until one day, they get some machinery onto it and level that shit out. It wasn’t a glorious, starry eyed journey for me. Instead it was filled with self doubt, guilt (see previous post on this), anxiety and I neglected to say until recently, PND. As time went on I gained perspective and understood that it maybe wasn’t my ideal timing for having a child. Maybe I wasn’t really “ready”. But it was something I call the “deep end technique” where you get thrown into the middle of a foreign situation and you learn to swim or sink. I swam. And most of us parents eventually do. This journey taught me more than any class, lecture or seminar I have ever attended. It gave me a chance to turn so many factions of my life around and somewhat rewire my brain. I see how lucky I was to be surrounded by people who wanted to support me. Mum, Mum-in-law, Aunties, Dad’s, mates but most of all my husband who is the epitome of loyalty and steps in to be my backbone when it crumbles.

Zac was my first baby and together we conquered the challenges of newborn/new mum life. I have nothing but gratitude for him and although guilt plays a part in this story, regret does not. Things happened just the way they should have.

Childbirth, birth story, delivering baby, firstborn

Shortly after Zac entered the world

Final days of pregnancy with Zac
Feeling more relaxed at 6 weeks postpartum

Resources:

The Motherhood by Jamila Rizvi shares other real and somewhat brutal stories of women’s first weeks into motherhood. It also demonstrates that most first time Mums do feel lonely and would make a practical gift for someone who may be experiencing a tough time with their first baby

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) – a website I hesitated to look at but felt so much better when I did. They do have a hotline and I did use it when I felt extremely lonely

BeyondBlue – very experienced with depression and anxiety and also has a great website/phone like resource

St John of God Raphael Services Berwick – If you are based in the South East Burbs of Melbourne. This place has counsellors that are specifically trained in PND recovery techniques

Reach out on social media;

“Due in Groups” on Essential Baby can be very helpful for finding friends who are experiencing the same new mum probs at the same time that you are. Join the forum, find your “due in” group relating to your due date month and make some new friends. They’re generally up feeding all hours of the night as you are, and they’ll totally understand your hormonally,sleep deprived induced mental breakdowns.

Mum bloggers/influencers. It seems silly and fan girlish but for me it was all about connecting with like minded people who show you can come out okay on the other side of all of this. I like Olivia White (House of White), @mrsconstancehall, @emilyskyefit, @newmumstheword and @justusjunghens