The Vulnerability of Motherhood

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

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.

Sha x

**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth

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

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