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Happy Mothers Day

To you, the mothers in my life, thank you. Thank you for your words of wisdom and your practical suggestions, for sharing your hard learnt lessons and sometimes just making me feel like I’m not alone. Your words have buoyed me when I was sinking and inspired me to be the mother I want to be. Thank you for sharing this wonderful, crazy journey with me, Happy Mothers Day.

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My most treasured pieces of mothering wisdom

Use Your Knees
It’s easy to forget but even small children with big personalities and oodles of attitude can still find the world and all its rules a most daunting place. When I find myself at the beginning of an unwinnable power struggle with my son simply remembering to bend my knees, look him in the eye and talk to him is all I need to solve the issue. It stops the threats (mine) and the frustration (his) and nearly always leads to a happier home.

Do what works for you
There is no right way to mother. Only your way, that works for you and your family. Often parenting choices are presented to us in dichotomies: breast or bottle, cot or co-sleeping, pram or baby-wearing, cloth or disposable nappies, and so it goes on. But we are not rigid all or nothing beings. At times I’ve been a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sling-wearing, disposable using mother. And at other times I’ve fed my baby a bottle and put her in a cot. Learning to do what works for me has saved my sanity and gifted me the joy of freedom to be the mother I want to be.

This too shall pass
A good friend first said this to me when I was in midst of a baby waking every hour sleep-deprived hell. It has become a mantra I repeat often, usually accompanied by closing my eyes and breathing deeply. When I open my eyes I am calmed and comforted and most importantly reminded that while the days may go slow the years go fast. These are days to not simply endure but to treasure.

What’s your most treasured mothering wisdom?

Dear Eloise: Three months

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For three months we have watched you unfurl like a new leaf: little by little revealing yourself to us. And my girl, you are truly delightful. When I was pregnant with you I hoped for an easy-going child, a calming force to your brothers high-octane personality. And it seems this is exactly what you are. You are easy to sleep, easy to feed and generally just a happy little soul. Your smiles are the highlight of my day and just yesterday you had your very first little chuckle. I cannot ever do justice to the immeasurable joy of that tiny sound, the way your eyes lit up, and your cute little scrunched-up nose.

I’m finding second-time mamma-hood quite blissful. I still get to the end of most days and fall into an exhausted heap while our floors remain laden with crumbs and the washing sits in a heap waiting to be folded. I think I have come to expect less, from us all, and in doing so have gained so much more joy from the everyday. I’m painfully aware, sometimes too much so, that these days are over all too quickly. So I do my best to imprint into my memory the feel of your butter-soft squishy cheeks as I kiss them and the way you do the sweetest little stretch as I pick you up after you’ve been sleeping. I want to pause time and race into the exciting future all at once. It’s a truly wonderful place to be.

You should know your brother just adores you. He calls you “bootiful wittle girl” yet if anyone refers to you as anything other than your name he corrects them: “her name is Eloise Grace”. Everyday he asks to cuddle you and does so ever so gently in a way that continues to surprise me considering for most other moments of the day he is anything but gentle. And as much as he adores you, you seem fascinated by him. I’m quite sure I will blink and the two of you will be running around creating mischief together. For now though he is happy to plant sloppy kisses on your head and high-five your little hands.

I feel I should use this time to document your milestones (you rolled at 5 days (yes, 5 DAYS!) and smiled at 6 weeks) but honestly those things aren’t what I want to remember, what I want you to know was what was important to us, to me. And that is the time we spend with you, the way you have enriched our lives, and just how blessed we feel to have you. When people ask me how you are, what you are like, I tell them you are my delight. My little sunshine.

I love you beyond measure, sweet girl.

Mumma. x

Eloise’s birth story.

Letters to Lachlan.

Eloise birth story

For thirty-eight weeks she grew in my belly. Before she was conceived I was sure our family would be completed by another boy, that we would give her brother a brother and our weekends would be forever filled with rugby and cricket. Yet from the moment I learnt she was there, blossoming from a single cell, I knew I would have the daughter I so deeply wanted.

Carrying and growing her was very different to her brother. The first trimester nausea and the third trimester exhaustion were the same but emotionally I felt inexplicably different: calmer, happier, and more grateful for the opportunity to experience pregnancy, birth and motherhood all over again. Where last time I wished away the weeks, eager to get to the next ‘stage’, this time, I begged time to slow down, to just let me savour it all.

My tummy grew quickly, rounding out, as our baby’s tiny arms and legs lengthened, got stronger, chubbier. And then I felt her for the very first time. A pop. A bubble. A flutter that soon turned into strong thuds and then kicks as her feet pushed through my sides seemingly looking for escape. At night I lay in bed hand across my belly waiting for those kicks, that secret code between the two of us. And as I felt for her I would fall into a contented sleep to dream of our dark-haired brown-eyed little girl: our sweet daughter.

As our baby’s due date grew closer and my belly stretched to bursting I prepared myself for her arrival. In the day I washed and folded tiny clothes, filled our pantry and fridge with food, and cleaned with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. And at night I read and studied the approach of Hypnobirthing*: a generous friend guiding me through the process as I learnt about the enormous power of the mind and the benefits of a calm and natural birth. I was nervous about our baby’s arrival but more than anything I was excited about the experience that would bring her into the world.

Two weeks before she was due my Braxton hicks began to build in frequency and intensity. At times I would find myself leaning over the kitchen bench swaying and breathing deeply as I had practiced. For four days I woke each morning thinking today would be the day we would meet our baby and by days end the tightening’s would have faded and I would be left doubting my intuition. November 5, the day I was sure she would be born, came and went. I cried to Troy that I just wanted to meet our baby, to hold her, to know when it was all going to happen. Patience deserted me as I became increasingly frustrated.

The next day I woke determined not to pay any attention to the Braxton Hicks until I could no longer ignore them. I baked banana bread, built Lego towers with Lachie and mopped the floors. At lunch our friends Laura and Matt and their son came to visit. We reminisced and laughed about Laura’s labour, how she rocked on hands and knees on a busy Brisbane street while I assured concerned passer-bys that she was not hurt but probably about to have a baby.

The afternoon slipped by and as the three of us, Lachie, Troy and I, sat eating our dinner I winced as the pinch of a contraction took hold. “You’re going into labour aren’t you?” Troy asked me. I assured him it was likely another false alarm, that he was tired and should get some sleep. The time was 6.30pm.

We played some more Lego with Lachie and then Troy went to lie down. In between brushing Lachlan’s teeth I timed my contractions, eight minutes apart, one minute long. He chose a story, Tiddler: The Story Telling Fish, and we snuggled in bed. Story read I kissed his soft blonde head goodnight and turned out the light. The time was 7.30pm.

The contractions were coming seven minutes apart, tightening across my lower back and radiating through my stomach. I leaned over the kitchen table rocking involuntarily while I called Troy’s mum, Sheryl. “It’s probably a false alarm” I told her, “but can you come over?” I made my way to the shower, wondering still, if this was it, if we would soon be meeting our baby girl. Nerves of excitement started to build.

I undressed, my swelling belly reflecting at me in the mirror. The warm water cascaded blissfully down my aching back. Aware that baby had been posterior at my last appointment, I leant on the shower screen eager to help her turn. The contractions got closer, longer, harder. Six minutes apart. Standing in the shower I called Sheryl again. “Better come sooner rather than later” I told her. “I’m still not sure it’s the real thing though”, I said apologetically. The time was 8.01pm.

The bathroom door opened and Troy peered his head in. “You’re definitely in labour” he said, seeing the obvious where I could not. I got out of the shower and dressed, gathering a few last-minute things in between contractions. I rang the hospital to ask if I should come in, nervous not to go too early. Contractions had jumped to every three minutes and I was having to breath deeply through each one. Make your way in they said. “I think we need to go soon” Troy said. “Should I call someone else to come until mum gets here?” he asked. “No, it will be okay” I replied. Another wave hit. “Actually, yes, do”, I said from the ground. The time was 8.19pm

Bags packed in the car and a pile of towels on the front seat we waited for our friends to arrive. I looked in one last time at Lachie, my first-born, my boy who taught me the endless depth of a mothers love. I felt sadness that his world was about to be changed and in the same moment, joy that we were giving him the lifelong gift of a sibling. I kissed his cheek once more and made my way to the car. I found my earphones and selected the Hypnobirthing track I had been falling asleep to each night for the past few weeks. I closed my eyes. As the wave of the contraction built I went to my knees, leaning over the front step as we waited for Emma and Michael to arrive. Pulling up in a bundle of excited energy Michael tells us he couldn’t find his keys, that he had parked Emma in, that they had to get his brother to bring around his car to use. “He went 80 and ran a red light” Emma tells us. We laughed at the unnecessary panic. I hugged and thanked them both and climbed into the car. The time was 8.45pm.

Sitting upright felt unnatural. I wanted to be kneeling, my belly hanging to relieve pressure on my back. But I had to sit. I turned the volume up on the music and closed my eyes. In the darkness there was nothing but my breath, my baby and I. The outside world stopped existing. As each contraction took over I imagined myself walking into the ocean, the cool water lapping at my body. I felt myself floating, weightless as the wave lifted me up. The pain was there but it was distant, remaining on the sandy beach while I floated offshore in the salty water. I briefly opened my eyes as we neared the entrance of the hospital. “This way” I said quietly pointing. The car stopped and I climbed out. Another contraction. I squatted by the entry path, grasping the handrail for stability, bending deep and breathing down into my belly. The parking attendant smiled knowingly and directed Troy where to park. The time was 8.50pm.

Car parked, Troy lifted me from the ground. Enveloped in his arms, we walked toward the entrance and through the glass doors, my eyes mostly closed, only mildly aware of my surroundings. We arrived at the entrance to the pregnancy unit. “Press the button,” I whispered to him as another strong contraction took over and I went to my knees in front of the door. Eyes closed I heard the door open; “take your time”, a kind voice said, “when your ready” she reassured. The wave passed and I stood. Troy told the midwives my name. “How often are the contractions coming?” they asked. “Every minute or so”, he replied.

The birth suite was dark and calm. “I want to have a shower” I said, kneeling by the bed my belly tightening as I went again to my mind and the ocean; breathing deep, my body soft as Troy ran his fingers gently up my back and down my arms. “Just pop up on the bed so we can check you” the midwife said. I climbed onto the bed and lifted my knees as I felt the baby’s head move down, the pressure intensifying, and the urge to push beginning to take hold. I felt a pop as my waters burst with a bang. The midwives and Troy laughed, thankful to have been standing out of the way.

The pressure became even more forceful and in the middle of another contraction a brief moment of desperation took hold, “I can’t do this, it’s too much”, I thought. Rallying, I closed my eyes tighter, breathed deeper and without realising, started to push. The midwife had called for the on call obstetrician but she was yet to arrive. In my head I thought they would tell me to wait, to stop pushing, I was scared that I couldn’t stop. “I. Need. To. Push.” I said softly. “Push then” they tell me.

And so I pushed. Eyes shut tight, music still flowing to my ears; I remembered Lachlan’s birth and how I brought him into this world. This time I didn’t yell or scream but instead focused all my energy into pushing our baby down. I breathed down as low as I could as our baby’s head was born. “Wait” they told me. I waited. “You can push again” they said. So I did. And her body was born. I reached down as they helped our baby through my legs onto my chest. I held her, pink face crying, chubby cheeks covered in white vernix. The time was 8.59pm, Wednesday November 6, 2013.

I looked up to the man who helped make this beautiful little human: joy and love pouring from every inch of me. He smiled at me; kissed my head, told me he was proud of me, that he loved me. “Thank you” I said to him. For everything. We both looked down at our sweet baby. Our dark-haired, brown-eyed girl: our darling daughter.

birth story

* My lovely friend Caitlin from Mother Down Under guided me through her Hypnobirthing course. I can’t recommend Caitlin enough, she helped me achieve the natural, calm birth I wanted and I am so very thankful to her for that.

Eloise Grace Gofton
Eloise Grace Gofton | November 6, 2013

This sweet little girl joined us one month ago, turning the three of us into a family of four. Born on a cool November night, her first month of life has swept by in a haze of newborn cuddles, sleepless nights and a whole lot of love.

I’ve been so very absent from this space and from the blogging community in general this year. It’s something I’ve missed dearly but to be honest I have contemplated many times letting it go. Life is busy. Time constraints abound. Yet with the arrival of our baby girl I am reminded just how fleeting these moments of our lives are and even if no-one were to read along (though I am ever thankful that you do!), I want to keep blogging for my own sake, so that whether it be one month or ten years down the track I can look back and remember these times when our family was just beginning; when the days were long but the years were short.

Birth stories are always amongst my favourite blog posts so I am looking forward to sharing Eloise’s with you soon. Take care and have yourself a lovely weekend.
x

The Monster & Me: Father & Son
The Monster & Me: Father & Son

“No mummy!” he says, palm outstretched to me in a sign of “do not interrupt”. He implores his dad “keep me safe”, from me that is. They laugh at their in-joke. A joke that doesn’t involve me. I watch from the sidelines, un-offended at my son’s rejection, my husband’s lack of inclusion. They continue with their games: pinching and play boxing, imaginary tigers and toddler acrobatics complete with “look no-hands” supermans and jumping off high things. Sometimes I try to join in. But I’m an obvious imposter into their little world of make-believe and tough guy antics: I squeal too loud when pinched, and don’t understand the rules of how to feed the hungry tiger.

Their relationship is a special one. It is full of fun and antics and teaching and respect. So when Lachlan’s palm goes up to me and I’m smilingly told to “go away”, I don’t mind. In fact it makes me immeasurable happy, this precious bond between my husband and our son.

Mother and child photograph source unknown

As a mum there is a certain sense of selfishness in the excitement of a friend announcing their first pregnancy. Of course I am genuinely happy that they are creating a family with the person they love, that part is a given. But then there is the other congratulations that is not said and that is “I’m so happy that you are going to be a mum, too“.

I’m so happy because now you will ‘get’ what this whole thing is about. You will ‘get’ the endless sleepless nights. And the heart-aching love. You will ‘get’ the obsession over why a toddler won’t eat his dinner. And the overwhelming responsibility of raising a child. And when I tell you that I’m struggling to know how best to discipline, you just ‘get it’. Because you are there too, or have been, or will be. Our friendship finds a new level of commonality because we are now both in the thick of motherhood, with all its challenges and triumphs.

I love my childless friends just as much as those who are mums. Their company is often a welcome break from the all-consuming world of motherhood. A chance to revert back to just being me, to talk about everything else that makes up life. And there is so much of it. Careers, travel, relationships, adventures. And if I’m truly honest, sometimes I like to live vicariously through these friends, and their careers and travels and adventures. Because frankly it’s a bit more exciting than changing endless nappies and wiping half-eaten food off the floor.

The truth of it is, however, our lives are very different now. Where we shared the highs and lows of school and university, first relationships and travel, suddenly our paths have taken vastly divergent directions. So, when a non-mum friend announces her impending mamma-hood, internally I get excited that we will again be on the same page of life. That I will be able to empathise with the “I’m-so-freaking-over-being-pregnant-get-this-baby-out-of-me” feeling. The “I-have-no-idea-why-this-baby-won’t-stop-crying” breakdown. And the “I-love-this-little-person-so-much-my-heart-my-just-explode” moments. I will nod my head and ‘get it’ because I am there, or have been, or will be.

So to my beautiful non-mamma friends, know that if and when you decide to go down the motherhood path I will be absolutely elated for you but also, selfishly, quietly, happy for myself.

image source unknown but found here

Toddler food photo pear

I’m just a little excited. My very first guest post has gone up over at a lovely friend’s blog Bad Mumma. Sam has just given birth to gorgeous twin girls (and has a two year old boy as well!) and her blog documents the misadventures of being a mum. It is hilariously honest and a great dose of real-life mothering for those times when you feel like you’re the only one occasionally dropping the parenting ball.

My post is about the challenges of figuring out how to give our children the very best nutritional start to life. You can read it here. I’d love to hear what you think on the subject.

You can also join the Bad Mumma community over on Facebook.

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