Are you THE parent?

My husband and I were talking the other day and he said something about swapping one of his car seats in his car with one of my car seats in my car. “We can’t do that, yours doesn’t have the right anchor point” I told him. “Surely, if it works in your car, it will work fine in mine?” he replied. And something clicked. I realised that he isn’t the one who had spent countless hours in baby shops asking questions about the 45,000 car seat models on the market. He isn’t the one who spent hours scrolling through google reading about extended rear facing, 5 point harnesses and anchored vs non anchored car seats. Then I realised this happens a lot with us. He will say something like “Any of the kids due for their vaccinations soon?” Cue massive eye roll from me, with me thinking “How does he not know their vaccination schedule?”. I don’t actually even think he knows what their blue book (if you’re born in NSW, red for QLD) is for, or where it’s located. Heck, he probably doesn’t even know they get one when they’re born. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a bad parent, he’s just not the parent. You know the one I’m talking about? It’s probably you. The parent is the one that knows when their child’s vaccinations are due, the one that knows the date of the daycare cake stall, the one that knows the developmental milestones, the one that knows whether they are legally allowed to be forward facing in their car seat, the one that knows which car seat they have to be in for their height. The one that knows where all the important birth forms are, where the blue book is, where the vaccination records are kept, where the doctors office is, and even the doctors name. The parent knows which brand of nappies gives your baby a rash, they know the class birthday parties that are coming up, the name of their child’s teacher, school term dates, holiday dates and what vacation care options there are. Are you starting to see how mind-numbingly exhausting this is for your brain to carry around every day? And do you know how much of a difference a lot of their information makes to your life? Not a lot. Okay, so vaccination dates are pretty important, so ask the GP office to send you a reminder when they’re due. Done. You forget a class party, definitely not the end of the world.

I’m learning more and more about parenting and motherhood/parenthood every single day (mostly through my failures, let’s be real). And one thing that keeps coming up in almost every single situation that I struggle through is “Don’t sweat the small stuff” (if you have the time, google this book by Richard Carlson-life changing). Like my doctor told me, that time I thought I had early onset dementia, which turned out to be a bad case of ‘mum brain’ “Your brain is like a sieve, its just trying to catch the big, important bits”. So forget about the cake stall, the class parties, and all the bullshit information that I guarantee is clogging up every single one of our brains right this very second. Focus on today, get through today and enjoy it. Enjoy your kids, enjoy the chaos, the noise, the mess. Because one day you will wake up refreshed from a solid eight hour sleep, walk into a perfectly clean, quiet house, because your children will be older and will have moved out. And while my children are still so young, this reality seems dauntingly close already. If you are the parent, give yourself a much needed break. You can’t micromanage an entire household, finances, kids and yourself. Something has to give. Delegate tasks, delegate information-tell your partner, your mum, your best friend to remind you about important things and make sure they do! Say “No”. You can’t babysit your friends kid on a weeknight, you can’t help out with reading in your sons class, you can’t make the 3rd play date of the week. And one word I want you to say more of is “Help”. Don’t be proud, don’t try to be Supermum- she doesn’t exist. Ask for help with your laundry, ask for someone to watch your kids while you go to the supermarket solo, ask for someone to just be with you during the day if you’re struggling at home (we all know how isolating parenting can be).

 

Breathe, relax, be kind to yourself because while the days are long, the years are short.

 

“Do you know what is a shame? That one mother would make another mother feel bad because of the way she births her child.”

I was talking to a friend who has recently given birth to her first child, at the age of 41. We were discussing everything from labor to breastfeeding to postpartum sex. The conversation went quiet for a while and I could see she was thinking about asking me something. We’d already covered most of the ‘taboo’ or embarrassing topics, so I was wondering what it could possibly be that she was so unsure about asking me. “Have you had others judge you for the way you gave birth?” She asked, with a slightly pained look on her face. “I’ve heard of others being in that situation, but not me personally, why?” I asked her. “Well, I had a stranger ask me the other day whether I had a natural birth, and I told her that I had a c-section, and she looked at me and said “Oh that’s a shame, I had a natural birth!”

Having a c-section is not a shame. Do you know what is a shame? That one mother would make another mother feel bad because of the way she births her child. That one mother would judge another mother on the age she has her child. That one mother would judge another mother on the way she feeds her baby. That one mother would judge another mother for how long she breastfeeds her child. There is nothing shameful about c-section births, vaginal births, formula feeding, breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, having a child at 16 or having a child at 45. The only shame is any of these situations is being that person that makes another mother feel bad about her path through motherhood. I remember when I was in the depths of post natal depression and I had recently transitioned August from breastfeeding to formula feeding. It was a heartbreaking decision for me at the time as I was still breastfeeding Noah who was 2 years old. But breastfeeding a newborn around the clock was not doing my mental state any favors. So I had started formula when August was about 6 weeks old. I remember a close relative saying “Oh, don’t do that, that’s not fair on August, just try harder!” I could have died right there on the spot. Like I wasn’t already feeling overwhelmingly awful about it. Like I hadn’t spent hours crying in the shower deciding whether or not to persevere. Like I didn’t already hate myself enough for not ‘trying harder‘. Comments like this and like what my friend had about the way she birthed are never helpful. You know what’s helpful? Telling a mother who looks completely exhausted and fed up that her baby looks so happy and loved. Telling a mother who has a toddler death-gripped to her ankle, screaming on the floor in the supermarket that she’s doing a good job and that you’ve been there too. Reassuring a mother who is trying her hardest not to break down while she rocks her screaming child to sleep in his pram that while it feels like forever now, her baby will sleep through one day soon and so will she.

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“Guys, ‘Mum brain’ is f****** real”

I really need to write about this ‘Mum brain’ phenomenon everyone seems to talk about. Ironically, I keep forgetting to. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most people would have heard the term “Mum brain”. I definitely had, even before I had children. I always thought it was a scenario where you forget where you put your keys and blame it on a lack of sleep ’cause Tommy kept you up for 4 hours last night hanging off your nipple. Oh, and your baby woke up a couple of times too. Oh shit, did I just…? Anyway, more of a funny exaggeration, than anything else. Guys, ‘Mum brain’ is fucking real. Real to the point where most of the time I don’t know my kids birthdays. I can hazard a guess and get the month right (most of the time), but don’t expect me to get their actual birth dates correct.

This is how bad my ‘Mum brain’ has become- I once drove to a shopping centre, walked around for a good two hours, returned to my car to find every fucking door wide open.  I’m not even joking. The boot (trunk, for my American followers) included. I thought my car had been broken into, then I realised nothing had been stolen. Nothing. Then I had a flash back to me looking for something (again, ‘Mum brain’ so I can’t even remember what it was I was looking for, only that I was frantically searching for it before I went into the shop) and opening every car door to find it. I didn’t close any doors. I didn’t even lock the car. I just wandered off without a single care in the world with my car ripe for the picking. In a similar incident, I was on the phone to Pete as I arrived home in the car. I pulled up in the driveway to find my garage roller door wide open, front screen door propped open with a brick and front door wide open. “Pete, I think we’ve been robbed, I’ll call you back.” I said, down the phone. Nope. Again, little old me left  everything wide open, and just waltzed out without a care in the world.

Yesterday I realised I’d lost my wallet. I tore the house apart searching for it. I knew I had it the day before, at home. I knew it was at home somewhere. Then my stomach dropped, a vision of me cleaning out my car in the driveway, me tossing piles of junk from the car onto the driveway; 42,000 pairs of shoes, 36,854 sultanas, 12,790 pieces of daycare craft, 158 hats and my wallet. I remember throwing stuff in a bag destined for the wheelie bin. I finished cleaning my car out,  threw that bag of car junk (daycare craft) in the bin, took the wheelie bin to the curb (because Sunday night is bin night) and went inside. Guys, my wallet was in the bin. The bin was collected yesterday morning. My wallet is gone. Like, gone gone. To make matters worse I had my British passport in my wallet (don’t ask why, I don’t even know why but it’s been in there since 2012). “That’s going to be easy to replace”, said no one ever. When I realised that my wallet was ‘in-the-bin-gone’ I was furious. Furious at my ‘Mum brain’ mostly. Anyone who hasn’t been through ‘Mum brain’ can’t understand how frustrating it is. My husband cheered me up, like he always does (how is he always so fucking positive?!) “It’s just a few bits of plastic and a passport that you haven’t used since 2010. It’s a good excuse to get yourself a new wallet, Nic. Stop making this bigger than it is, you’re definitely not the first person to do this.” Bless him. He’s right, it’s not a huge deal, and now I can spend hours perusing the virtual isle’s of Etsy looking for a new wallet. It’s just incredibly frustrating to have a semi functioning brain.

I forget everything. Names, conversations, where I parked my car. I put milk in the cupboard and my keys in the fridge. Ask me what I did yesterday and will literally have no idea. Some nights I will lie in bed and think “What did I actually do today? I know I went somewhere, or we did something important” but I will literally have no recollection of what we did or where we went. This has been going on since 2012, when I had my first child, and it is steadily getting worse with every consecutive child I create. This all came to a point where I went to the doctor a few weeks ago, convinced I had early onset dementia. I explained everything to her and she said “How many children did you say you have?” “Three” I replied. “What are their ages?” She asked. “Four, two and nine months” I replied. She just went silent and looked at me blankly as if the answer was clear. I stared right back at her and gave her a sassy ‘Well, you gon’ tell me what the fuck is wrong with me?’ look. To which she burst out laughing and said “Your mind is like a sieve, it can’t possibly keep everything, so it’s trying to just catch the biggest, most important parts.”
So if I forget your name, a conversation we had, an important date, a birthday or a play date, I apologise. I’m in the midst of a serious case of ‘Mum brain’ and I’m struggling to remember to put my dog outside and my baby in the cot, not the other way round, so bear with me while my brain catches up.


Forgiveness

I was taking to a friend recently about her struggle to forgive someone that has wronged her. Her complaint was totally justified in my opinion, what had been done to her was definitely worthy of an apology. However it was clear she was not going to receive this apology she so desperately wanted. It reminded me of something I once heard “Forgiveness is not about them, it’s about you.” At the time I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the meaning behind this. But over the years I have had to forgive people that aren’t sorry, and accept apologies that haven’t been given. I think at the height of this is putting aside your pride. You know someone has wronged you and you want them to claim responsibility for what they’ve done and the way they’ve made you feel. But time and time again we find that the person wont accept their role in the situation. Where does that leave you? It leaves you harbouring feelings of resentment, contempt, negativity and anger. It’s like a Mexican standoff, with no end in sight. I’ve found that the act of forgiveness allows you to say “I know you hurt me, I know you did me wrong but I forgive you because I don’t want to continue harbouring these feelings, I want to move on.” The hard part is forgiving when the other person isn’t remorseful at all. That’s where you need to drop your pride. Again “Forgiveness is not about them, it’s about you.” You’re not forgiving them in order to make them feel better, you’re doing it to make you feel better. In all honesty, the other person rarely even needs to know you’ve forgiven them, it can be a totally internal process.

I forgive people all the time now, regardless of whether they’re sorry or whether they acknowledge their role. My husband thinks I’m a push over and that I should stand tall and wait for an apology and wait for the person to accept their wrong-doing. I have come to realise than all those hours, days, months or even years are wasted, waiting for that person to fulfill their ‘role’. And in that time, what have you achieved? I’ll tell you, nothing. Well, aside from stress and negative feelings. Do yourself a favour, next time someone wrongs you, take some time to process your feelings and then forgive them. The first time is always the hardest, every time it gets easier and easier until forgiveness becomes an automatic response and not even a conscious decision. Trust me, you will feel so much lighter and more positive for it ✨

“This is it. I’m actually going to die.”

It was 2012 and I was in labor with my first child-Noah. I had experienced a fairly rocky pregnancy, with threatened preterm labor at 23.5 weeks. Luckily, I was now full term and in established labor, in hospital, being guided by a couple of beautiful midwives.

My baby was born and he was immediately placed on my chest, he didn’t make a sound, he didn’t breathe, he was so white, no colour in him, but the midwives reassured me that his umbilical cord was still supplying him with all the oxygen he needed. They reassured me that once his cord had finished pumping, Noah would take a breath. They clamped his cord about a minute after he was born and nothing. Noah still didn’t breathe. I saw the rushed panic of the midwives as they snatched him off me and raced to the newborn station in the far corner of the room. My husband stood next to me in shock and I urged him to go with them and be there for our son. Everyone was fussing over my baby, trying desperately to get him to breathe while I lay on my back, thinking my baby was going to die (or was possibly already dead), feeling more and more tired and faint. Finally we had a cry from the corner of the room and a dazed midwife turned around while saying “Your baby is ok, don’t-“. She stopped mid sentence and her face dropped. I knew something was very wrong but I felt so strange and I couldn’t really speak. She pushed my newborn baby into my husbands arms and ran next to my bed and hit a red button on the wall, immediately I could hear sirens  in the corridor. The other midwives all rushed next to me, fussing about at the end of the bed and talking to me, trying to keep me conscious. I didn’t know at the time but I was hemorrhaging. I was losing blood, a lot of blood. The double doors swung open and a team of emergency doctors and nurses raced in, “We paged you two minutes ago! Where were you?!” asked the midwife, through gritted teeth. I thought to myself “If two minutes is a long time, something must really be wrong”. “Is this normal?” I asked one of the midwives. “Some people bleed a little bit after they’ve had their baby, don’t worry” she replied.

The head doctor placed himself at the end of my bed, my feet were in stirrups and he had his entire forearm inside me, pulling things out of me and placing them on a tray next to him. It was like a horror movie. There was blood everywhere and because of the panic and the sheer amount of people in the room, there were now bloody footprints everywhere, like a visual GPS tracker of where everyone had been in the minutes since I’d hemorrhaged.  Other medical staff were sponging blood from the floor and the end of the bed and measuring it in vials on another table, presumably to see roughly how much blood I’d lost. I looked at my husband, who was standing next to me, his eyes pleading for me to stay alive. He was cradling our newborn and I thought to myself “This is it. I’m actually going to die. I’ve just spent 9 months carrying our child, I’ve been through labor, I’ve birthed him and now I’m going to die.” I wasn’t scared or frightened, I was pissed off and upset. It wasn’t fair. I wasn’t going to meet the baby I’d dreamed about and bonded with for 9 months. I didn’t see the faces of my family and friends, I didn’t have flashbacks to the highs and lows of my life, all I could think about was leaving my baby behind.

Finally, after about an hour the bleeding had stopped and I was in the process of being stitched up.  About 20 minutes in I asked the obstetrician how many stitches he was doing and he replied “Oh, I stopped counting at 30!”. Cool. Yep. No worries. Didn’t like my vagina anyway. As you were doc.

They estimated that I lost 2.1L of blood. To put that into perspective, the average adult has 5L (with slightly more during pregnancy). I couldn’t sit up for 2 days. My bed had to be totally flat. Every time the nurses would try to sit me up I would almost faint and they would lie me flat again. I had a blood transfusion on day 2, which instantly made me feel slightly more human. I finally had a chance to talk to the main midwife who had been so central in saving my life 2 days before. “Was that normal?” I asked her. “No, that was not normal. Not at all” she replied with a very stressed look on her face. “But, I asked you and you seemed so calm with your reply?” I asked her. “Of course, I didn’t want to scare you. You were losing a lot of blood, very quickly. I might have seemed calm but if you had a heart rate monitor on me during those minutes, it would have blown”.

It took me a long time to come to terms with that experience. I kept it to myself and didn’t let on how much it had affected me, it still does. When you become a mother you realise how fragile everything is and you realise how important it is for you to stay alive, so that your baby has their mother. That realisation came in such a confronting form, during such a traumatic time for me, while staring up at my husbands pleading eyes and our tiny ball of life. I now value everything, my children are my world and my husband is my rock. I can’t even begin to thank the medical staff that saved my life and my baby’s life that day. Some people might say it was a ‘miracle’ or ‘God’s work’. I don’t buy that, it was the fast, instinctive, quick-thinking decisions made by all of the nurses, midwives and doctors that day that saved us. Without them my son and I definitely would not be here, and I am forever grateful for that.

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Tough like a mother…

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 1.47.23 pmRecently I’ve found myself struggling as a parent. I’ve been questioning myself, wondering whether or not I’m actually cut out for this ‘mum’ gig. I think we all go through this at one point or another. If you haven’t been through it yet, let me give you a heads up-it sucks.

I remember before I had children I thought I knew it all. Be firm. Be consistent. Make them adapt to you, not the other way around. How wrong I was. How very naïve. Now I have three children and I am fully aware that I have no clue what I’m doing. I am seriously winging it and playing everything by ear.

Yesterday was awful. It was beyond a ‘write off’ day (I mentioned these on an Instagram post, I feel everyone should incorporate ‘write off’ days into their week). The boys didn’t listen, they were fighting from 7am onward, a liter of milk was spilt in the kitchen, there was a bleeding nose, 50 meters of cotton string draped across every surface of the house, two bedrooms were trashed, and to make this even more chaotic we haven’t replaced the TV that August smashed last week. So we’re technology free, and before you go getting any ideas-its not as romantic as it sounds, trust me.

My husband came home at 4.30pm, walked in the door to me crying on the couch, children in the bedrooms and an upturned house. I bawled to him that “I’m not cut out for this. I don’t like being a stay at home mum. I don’t like being a mum full stop. I want to put them in day care 5 days a week. I’m done”. He sat and listened while I cried and vented. He looked at me and said “You are an amazing mother, you love being a mum and you are doing an amazing job and we appreciate everything you do here”.

He’s right, I don’t hate being a mother. I don’t want to ship them off to china. I’m not done. But it’s hard. It’s so bloody hard. I wish I had some wise words for any other mothers in my situation that are feeling beaten, tired, who are sick of the struggle and the self-doubt. But I have no words, like I said, I’m winging this ‘mum gig’ big time. All I can do is keep doing what I’ve been doing, try to raise decent humans and maintain a sliver of sanity in the meantime. I need to have faith that “this too shall pass” and that I will come out the other side stronger, more capable as a parent and wiser for it. In the meantime I will try my hardest to “enjoy it all” and see every obstacle and gruelingly tough day as just another mountain we need to climb.

Three boys…?

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 2.29.41 pmI remember so clearly the day I went for my 19 week ultrasound with Noah, my first born. I was so excited to find out whether the tiny human I had felt kicking for the past few weeks was a boy or a girl. Those who knew me at the time know I was very openly hoping for a boy. I had always envisioned myself having a boy as my first child, even before I fell pregnant. So when the sonographer told us we were expecting a boy I was over the moon. I cried, I laughed, I did all the things you see people do in the movies. This was my idea of perfection.

With my second pregnancy I promised myself I wouldn’t find out what I was having, I wanted a surprise (I wanted a girl). All my closest friends knew I wouldn’t last and deep down I knew I wouldn’t either. I caved during the ultrasound and begged the sonographer to tell me. When he told me the baby I was carrying was a boy I laughed at him in disbelief. Didn’t he know I was carrying a girl? I certainly did! You hear some people talk about how they had this intuitive, gut feeling of the sex of their baby, I had that. So I spent the next 5 months being told I was expecting a boy but having this gut feeling that it was actually a girl, regardless of how many ultrasounds I had that continued to confirm ‘boy’. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I gave birth to a boy. Another boy. I was shocked, but overjoyed. Two boys. How could I be so lucky? Brothers. Two Boys…

My third pregnancy came along and again I promised myself I wouldn’t find out, again I caved during the ultrasound and again we were told ‘boy’. This time I used a few expletives that I wont mention here, to which the sonographer replied “You’re supposed to be happy!?” And I was. But there was still a part of me that was thinking “Far out, are you even capable of creating a girl? How is this possible?.” This time around I spent the next 5 months knowing that I was having another boy. I went through phases where, I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed. I felt let down, I actually felt like I’d let myself down. Three babies was it for us. That meant I would never give birth to a girl and I did feel upset about that. I was scared to tell anyone how I felt…shouldn’t I be happy with what I’ve got? Some people would give anything for one child, and here I was feeling disappointed that I wasn’t getting the type of child I wanted. So I kept it mostly to myself. I walked around with this disappointment that I wouldn’t be having a girl and also shame. Shame that I even felt this way. In a way I felt like I was betraying my unborn son. It’s not that I didn’t want him. I did, with all my heart. But having him also meant never having her. But at the same time, throughout the mix of those emotions I also felt so overjoyed that again I would be having a boy. Three boys…I know boys. I’m good at mothering boys. I was made to be a mother to boys, and isn’t that so wonderful? I gave birth to my third boy and all of those feelings that I felt during the pregnancy washed away. How could I be disappointed when I had three perfect children?

Now that I have my three boys I wouldn’t change a thing. They are sensitive. They are rough. Their love is expressed in such a physical sense. They don’t hold grudges. They forgive. They laugh from the bottom of their souls. They are kind. They are interested. They are explorers.

They are mine.