Sunday, 2 November 2014

The second first cut

I twist the silky hair around my finger causing it to curl in on itself.  A perfect ringlet.  I twist it longer than necessary.  Hesitating.  I comb it out and start again.  This time with a slightly smaller section knowing I need three pieces of evidence.  Hesitating.

I started so matter-of-factly.  Collecting my tools, setting the scene, arranging the distraction of teeth brushing.  But when it comes to it, I hesitate.

Pete looks away, "just do it."

One last twist and I do.

It comes away so easy.  The perfect silky brown circle tucked in a bright white envelope.  Like so many mums have done before.  A rite of passage for parent more than child.  A universal moment.

Strictly speaking, the first cut happened months ago.  A hasty snip in the early hours of the morning when shampooing dried vomit wasn't a viable option.  Another universal moment.  Another rite of passage.  Tidied away unceremoniously.

And it's done.  With three snips he's a little boy.

Thursday, 28 August 2014


Turns out there is an edge to the map and it is possible to fall off.

I fell off.


Maybe you noticed.

I was recently told when a baby is born, two infants are born.  The baby itself and the new mom.  Throughout the first two years the baby and mom share a sense of time and discovery.  Time seems to stretch on and on and on.  Everything is new and hard and frustrating and fascinating.

This moment is all there has ever been and all that will be.

That is what postpartum depression feels like for me.  This constant barrage of new and hard and frustrating and fascinating is all I can remember and all I see ahead.  There is no relief and nothing is familiar anymore.  Not my home, not my body, not myself.  It's the lack of familiarity and the inability to find the familiar which causes deep sadness.  A grief of sorts.

For me, postpartum depression is like falling off the edge of my own map.  Before Pruin I knew every corner of that map.  I knew the shortcuts.  I knew the ravines and the beautiful places and how to navigate between them.  I knew, to a degree (and not to push the metaphor too far), how to find myself.  Where to find safe places and where to avoid.

My world changed and it didn't come with a map.

Being a new mom is being an explorer.  The wardrobe and landscape aren't glamorous or exotic.  Definitely not a page out of National Geographic or Indiana Jones, but it is exploration complete with dirt & grime, rugged outings, indecipherable babble, cultural misunderstanding, and life-changing moments.

Part of the explorer gig is recording and reporting back.  In the deepest, darkest moments of my fall I was unable to record and report.  Survival was the priority.  In my experience fieldwork & exploration always comes with a period of pure survival.

The analogy of new mom as explorer is perhaps a bit romantic, a tad over-reaching.
However, it is exactly how I feel.  Permanently relocated to an uncharted territory trying to survive and thrive without a map or direction or promise of relief supplies.

After 15 months out here in the wild I might be closer to drafting a new map.  Everyday is still about survival, but I might be starting to thrive a bit as well.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Despair & Wonder

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I want to go on record as saying  that my son is a pretty cool little guy.

I realize you may not get this impression based on what I write here.  I admit the trying moments are much easier to write about than the good ones.  A common problem I'm sure.

There is a lot of despair involved with parenting.  (I say, with my 10.5 months of experience. Ha!)  There is also a lot of amazement and wonder.

one of the first photos of us together, despair & wonder rolled into one

Partially at our ability to keep him alive and safe and partially at his development into his own little self.  Watching him marvel at a blade of grass, discovering the fridge magnets, or his pure joy at emptying a drawer of hats and scarves is immensely enjoyable.  Savouring & documenting first mud stains and busted lips and bruised knees seems ridiculous and necessary.

And yet, I pause so infrequently to appreciate the journey this little man is going through.  While I complain it is all about him, a lot of the time it is all about me.  He doesn't need us to stay home so he can nap in the cot, Mummy needs him to nap in the cot because he'll sleep longer and she'll get a longer break.  But the reality is a 40 minute buggy nap while mummy sits in the sun reading a magazine is actually more restorative than an hour cot nap while mummy runs around the house like a mad woman so she can rest unfettered by the guilt of household chores for all of 10 minutes.

I can barely remember what my life was before this guy.  The horrid nights of crying on the bath mat are fading as well.  I long for a time when I won't be exhausted and can be a person on my own again.  But then I realize this won't happen.  He is permanently with me.  On the few occasions I leave the house without him he is still with me.  I see other mums and give them a smile that says, 'I feel you,' and they look at me like a crazy person because they don't see my invisible son.  They don't see that I am a mum too.

Sometimes I look at him and can't believe I am his mum.  That I am the person that can soothe him when he falls, that he actually wants to be with me all the time.  Me.  The woman who would rather not have to deal with children is obsessed with a child.

I live for nap time and take it personally when he only sleeps for 40 minutes.  But the look on his face when I walk into his room...I mean.  It's like he's won the lottery.  He doesn't know I'm selfish and require an extraordinary amount of 'me time' and that 40 minutes isn't going to keep mummy from going crazy.  All he knows is that his mummy has appeared and it's like Christmas to him. If he knew what Christmas meant.

It doesn't quite make up for the exhaustion at present, but I can see a glimmer of a future in which it will all seem worth it.

...back to your originally scheduled programming of parenting despair and mishaps.

Friday, 7 March 2014

110 mummy minutes

Teething nap.  As desperately typed into an iPhone on 18th of February.

First 20 minutes: screaming and crying in the cot, trying to escape.

Next 10: screaming and crying on mummy while mummy cries and sings.

Next 20: asleep on mummy while she fumes about being stuck on an uncomfortable stool in a dark nursery. iPhone only has 13% charge. She calculates how long it's been since she last ate anything (6 hours).  Gets more annoyed. Seethes about how unfair it is that she doesn't get any break today while simultaneously kicking herself for being a selfish jerk.  Poor little guys has tiny bones ripping through his gums.

Next 20: finds a moderately more comfortable position which means legs up on the side of the cot.  Uses precious little battery life to tweet situation because misery loves company and she isn't one to suffer in silence.
Baby stirs and she instinctively holds her breath because as uncomfortable as she is, she isn't ready to deal with baby just yet.

Next 20: hugs baby a little closer despite butt going numb and back screaming.  Getting over her self-pity at not getting a break today because really, how often does she get to snuggle the little guy these days and as annoyed as she is, it is kind of nice to have an excuse to not get anything 'constructive' done.  Really, teething must be a real downer for the little guy and he deserves some relief.  Maybe she dozes a little.

Actually enjoys the quiet time although s low blood sugar headache is starting to kick in and she's getting really thirsty and a tiny bit concerned about how and when she'll get to eat.  Really needing to pee and the rainstorm white noise isn't helping.

Starting to get uncomfortable again. Comfy feelings are starting to fade as she realizes the day he finally starts napping longer she can't take advantage of the break.

Last 20: All calm and loving feelings quickly disappearing as bladder gets more uncomfortable and headache increases. Throat and lips unbearably dry now. Back is starting to scream again.  Legs going numb from being propped up on the cot for an hour and a half.

Baby wakes, bleary eyed.  Cries until he realizes it's mummy holding him.  Gives a sleepy smile and starts crying again just in case she thought it might be an easier afternoon.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


I recently returned to my yoga class.  Or at least my yoga teacher.  I attend the 'beginner' class after Charlie goes to bed.  I have only made it three times in three months so 'return' is a loose description but I made it two weeks in a row.

Tonight I did two poses I was never able to do before I was pregnant, or at least not confidently.

Maybe the fear is gone, because let's face it, after having a child what's scary about a few yoga poses, or maybe I'm stronger than I thought after lifting Charlie all these months or maybe I found a way to really be in my yoga practice.

Whatever it was, I did these poses without thought or fear and did them confidently.

There's a lesson there, I think.

Friday, 21 February 2014

An ending and beginning

It has happened.
It was inevitable.

Charlie has now been 'out' longer than he was 'in.'
We marked the milestone with an 'un-birthday' party.

It seems like an ending of sorts.

Or at the very least it seems a good time to reflect on the past 18ish months.

It's probably no secret that I didn't love being pregnant.  I never really got the glowy thing going.  I was sick at the beginning and in pain in the middle and then spent the last month having 'practice' contractions.

I'm not big on birth stories and I have put off writing mine in any detail but maybe the time has come to share a few things about dear little man's birth.

Like most preggos I was ready for the pregnant part to be over.  It's just so uncomfortable.  However, I wasn't ready for what came after.  Naively, I wasn't afraid of labour.  I knew it would end eventually, either naturally or with medical assistance.  I was, however, terrified of having to keep a little human alive.  I have never been a 'baby-person.'  I'm still not, really.  I love my son to pieces but that's about where it ends when it comes to me and babies.

At the end of my labour, after having pushed for three hours with no success and being man-handled in surgical theatre by at least twenty people, I was terrified.  I was so tired.  Things had not gone to plan to say the least, my calm homebirth having been scrapped 12 hours earlier when I started bleeding heavily.  I was crying and incoherent.  In an attempt to calm me, someone said, 'Just a few more minutes and you'll meet your baby.'

I appreciate the gesture and maybe that works for a lot of women.  For me it made everything worse.  One way or another, and it was looking very likely to be 'another,' this little being was coming into the world and I knew I wasn't ready.

And then he was here.  They put this little, hairy, bloody thing on my chest and I felt...nothing.  He was whisked away immediately because he wasn't breathing (silly thing had got his cord wrapped around his neck twice).  Within seconds he was crying and back with me, but I still felt nothing.  There was no rush of 'happy hormones' or relief or joy.  He was crying and I didn't know what to do.  I couldn't feel the lower half of my body and I was exhausted.

The next eight days in hospital were some of the hardest I have ever experienced.

It took a long time for me to bond with this little human.  For months I was going through the motions, making it up as I went along, stubbornly refusing to get all mushy about this little guy, but determined to do everything 'right.'

How silly.

The most important thing I have learned in the last nine months is loving my son is way easier than I thought it would be, especially when I get out of my own way.  These past nine months have been so hard and exhausting with very little respite.  I struggle with my selfishness and my need to make him and Pete happy everyday.

The unbirthday marked a ending of sorts but also a beginning.

Almost immediately after his party, Charlie's personality began to appear.  Most of the time it's cheeky and mischievous, but it is also sweet.  It seems to have come on very quickly. It's a constant learning curve and I always feel behind. I can't imagine how it will all change again in another 9 months.

I don't have any pithy or clever endings today but maybe that is appropriate for this loopy journey I am riding.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A Medium World

It's happening again.

The 'I-have-no-career-angst.'

For a few months now it wasn't such a big deal.  I was kept super busy whether I liked it or not and while I would occasionally think about whether I wanted to be a 'stay-at-home-mom' (*gasp*) I didn't have the luxury of lingering on the thought for too long.

I was having conversations/complainings with other mums and I didn't feel left out of the world. Amazing how pooping, eating, sleeping, playing, teething can make you feel included.

But now that time is coming to an end.

I always knew it would.

Now the conversations are about going back to work, conversations with bosses, nurseries, nannies, child minders, work clothes, commuting. And once again I am no longer part of the world.

My world has suddenly shrunk down to Mr. Man and our little routine and our little life.

Sometimes I despair. Days when nothing keeps him entertained and I haven't peed on my own in weeks and I'm wearing the same outfit of stretch jeans, slippers, and ill-fitting jumpers for the fifth day running, I despair. When I realize I haven't had a conversation with anyone over an age counted in months for an entire day, I despair. When I occasionally meet new people and they inevitably ask 'what do you do?' and I watch their eyes search for someone else to when my answer includes the word 'kid,' I despair. Sometimes I even feel left out of my husband's life. I am so focused on this little human I don't have the energy left for anyone else, my husband and myself included. And I despair.

If having this little guy has taught me anything it is that life is dynamic. It will change and shift and drag you along. Sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes unknowingly.

Sometimes I long for the luxury of lingering over a cup of coffee (okay, every morning) and being part of a bigger world of having a little something for myself of being able to carry a conversation that doesn't deal with stages of human development.

And then my son gets bored of his current toy, climbs into my lap and snuggles in to suck his thumb and watch some cartoons.

Maybe just a medium world, then.