Ten ways friendship has changed for me post-kids

Friendships have always been a big deal to me. As an only child my friends are the closest I’ll ever come to having siblings.

Here are some ways that having a child has affected my friendships:

  1. I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to.
  2. I used to keep in touch by talking on the phone, but making a call with kids around is difficult and by the time the kids are asleep I just want to vege out or go to sleep myself.
  3. The best way to see people and actually get an extended time to talk is to have them over or, even better, have them to stay.
  4. Going out at night isn’t as easy as it used to because I’m permanently tired and Clem is still breastfeeding. I also feel guilty about leaving Jeff to get the kids to bed by himself.
  5. I am am both emotionally fulfilled and exhausted by my children. There is a powerful pull to spend time as a family and it’s easy to just stay home.
  6. It takes forever to organise something with a friend because everyone is so busy. If the friend I’m going to catch up with has kids too, then you often have to postpone a date several times before actually going out because someone is always sick or there’s some other family drama.
  7. My childrens’ social engagements and activities dominate the calendar much more than my own.
  8. When I do go out I feel boring and like I don’t have anything interesting to talk about because I’m in Kid Land.
  9. It’s amazing to get to know my friends’ kids, and it warms my heart to see our adult friends playing with our kids. When your kid loves your friend’s kid/s then it’s happy days!
  10. When I do get to have a proper catch up with a friend I don’t take it for granted like I once did. I spent a few happy hours with two girlfriends recently (hello Karmen and Gabby!) and I came home afterwards on cloud nine, feeling so restored.
Two generations of friendship. :)
Two generations of friendship. :)

The best friends are the ones that you can not see for a while and then when you do it’s like not a day has passed.

A dinner out with a friend, or friends, is like a shining star in my calendar. My (often truncated) chats with friends on the phone are a highlight of my week. Tabitha and I rock the 2 minute (e.g. I’m just walking from the carpark into the office) conversation and it’s better than nothing. In fact, a large percentage of my chats with friends are when one of us is in transit somewhere (hello Eszy!)

Some of my pre-kid friendships have fallen by the wayside – but a lot remain, stronger than ever. I am so grateful for them, and also for the new friends I’ve made through having kids.

Let’s raise a cup of cold tea in a toast to friendship. Surely one of the most wonderful things in life.

Continue reading Ten ways friendship has changed for me post-kids

The story of two births

Birth is such an important time in a woman’s life. When a baby is born, a mother is born as well. Here are some thoughts about my two birth experiences with our boys. Reading other people’s birth stories has helped me process my own experiences, so I am offering these up in the hope they may help someone else.

2009-12-02 at 04-00-10Leo’s birth in haiku

Labouring at home
Get to hospital: freak out!
Vaccum and he’s here

Leo’s birth was traumatic for me (and probably for him too). We laboured beautifully at home (got to 9cm dilated), but when we got to hospital things went pear-shaped. He was born with the use of ventouse extraction, with a lot of fear and a bunch of medical people we had never met before in the room.  He was whisked away for oxygen before I could hold him, or even look at him. We were reunited about twenty minutes later, but it was the longest twenty minutes of my life.

For the first few hours after he was born I felt like it had all been wonderful. I had a beautiful, healthy baby after all.

But then the memories of the birth started coming back to me in bits and pieces, along with a flood of emotions. I remembered being told not to push when I had the urge to (with no explanation) and then later being told crossly that I wasn’t pushing hard enough or fast enough and that my baby was in danger. I remembered the rushed episiotomy. The phone call for back-up being made in haste and the room being filled with medical professionals and bright light and me flat on my back.

I remembered the last thing I heard before he was born was the obstetrician saying to the midwife “of course the heart-rate would be fine now…”

Nothing was explained to me about what had just happened. It felt like I could have just dreamt it all.

“A woman is more likely to develop PTSD if she feels like all control has been taken from her and she is the passive object of other’s ministrations. She isn’t asked for consent, for example, for different maneuvers which they may do. She’s supposed to shut up and let them get on with doing the birth. And she comes out of that feeling helpless, and this helplessness can persist in other areas of her life too, so it’s not just the birth. So she gives up and feels that it isn’t justified for her to take responsibility for anything. And women can feel this for many, many years and I’ve had women in their 60s and 70s call me to talk about births which they haven’t yet worked through and this experience has stayed with them and incapacitated them.”

Sheila Kitzinger (1929-2015), author and birth activist

I believe in Jane Hardwicke Collings‘ idea that “everyone has the birth they need to have to teach them what they need to learn on their journey to wholeness.” She also believes that we learn something from each birth that helps women mother their child. Through Leo’s birth I learnt that I didn’t know how to communicate my needs effectively. Everything that I learnt during Leo’s birth, and in those early months as his mother, taught me how to tell people what I needed and how to advocate for myself and him. Now that Leo is five, it makes my heart sing to see how easily he tells people what he needs. That was always something I struggled with as a child (and as an adult).

Continue reading The story of two births

Our story so far

I want to share some snippets of our story to show why we wanted to write You’re Doing Great Baby.

When I was a new mum I read A LOT of blogs and articles about things that I was going through and wanting to learn more about, and I found it really helpful and normalising to read unvarnished tales of motherhood. I hope that in turn it is helpful for people to read about our story.

The main challenges I faced when I first became a mother were:

It’s not all challenges though. There have been many, many joys. Especially once the mental health and breastfeeding issues had settled down. I have also written about the good times:

My story of breastfeeding with Insufficent Glandular Tissue

It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week and to celebrate I wanted to write about my breastfeeding journeys with my two boys. It’s not a conventional story of “successful” breastfeeding, but I am proud of our story.

My precious Leo

I was diagnosed with Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) when Leo (my eldest son) was 3 days old. I had been expecting to breastfeed through any challenges that came our way. I had read all the literature about ‘boobie traps’ and formula compromising your supply, so it was a horrible shock to have health professionals telling me that I needed to supplement him. I thought that if I saw enough Lactation Consultants someone would tell me that it had all been a bad dream, but no-one could tell me that I’d ever be able to produce enough milk for my little one.

Every bottle felt like a reminder of my inadequacy and failure as a mother.

To say that I was shattered by not being able to exclusively breastfeed is an understatement. I left the hospital feeling like Mother Nature and hours later I felt like a worthless piece of junk. It felt like I was grieving for a death – the death of a relationship with the most precious person in the world. I felt deeply ashamed of feeding Leo formula, and bewildered by all the extra jobs: sterilising bottles, counting out scoops of formula, having a warm bottle ready for him as soon as he needed it – all at a time of the greatest sleep deprivation.

You've got a lot going on, MumChronic low supply is chronically depressing! Every time I expressed I was faced with it, every time he chugged down a bottle of formula I was faced with it. Eventually I had to stop pumping after his breastfeed in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep afterwards.

In those early days breastfeeding feels like mothering itself, and many of you would agree. Part of me agrees… I loved our time we had breastfeeding. BUT, when you have something like this happen, you’ve got to find another way of thinking or else you’ll go mad. It’s the first question you’re asked by GPs and other health professionals: “Are you breastfeeding?”. So if you ‘fail’ at breastfeeding it feels like you’ve failed full stop. Making new mothers feel like failures is so unhelpful.

Continue reading My story of breastfeeding with Insufficent Glandular Tissue

Helpful things said to new parents

tiny handIf you’re having a tough time in those early months, even things said with the sweetest of intentions can induce parental guilt. In some ways a new mother is as fragile and vulnerable as their tiny baby.

Let’s celebrate the things people have said that were actually helpful! They will be different for everyone but I bet there are some that are helpful for lots of new parents.

One of the cards we got when Leo was born really stuck in my mind. As well as congratulating us and saying how gorgeous Leo was, it read:

I hope you’re enjoying parenthood and there are more ups than downs.

That one sentence, amidst all the cards saying how excited they were for us and how we should enjoy this precious time, meant SO MUCH to me.

It was the kindest little reality check. No judgement was implied – just a simple wish for happiness and an acknowledgement that early parenthood can be hard yards along with all the joys.

Helpful thoughts and practical advice people have shared with me:

  • This too shall pass (the good will pass, the bad too. So you may as well really be in this moment).
  • We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
  • Make gratitude a daily practice.
  • Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed.
  • Instead of putting your ‘parenting’ hat on, try just being yourself. It’s much more real and less energy.
  • It’s hard work being a baby – they’re learning so much and exposed to everything new.
  • You’ve got to be kind to be kind (rather than being cruel to be kind).
  • Motherhood is a marathon not a race.
  • Think about the sleep you’re getting rather than the sleep you’re not getting.
  • Start making dinner in the morning.
  • Say yes to whatever scares you most. Acknowledge it and then put your yoga to it. The fear will begin to shift and then you can see possibilities again.
  • Holding on tight is the surest way of seizing up any real potential for growth and change.
  • If something’s really not working then change it. Gently.
  • Unless babies have a poo in their nappy there’s no need to change them in the middle of the night.
  • Remind yourself that you’re doing great! (that’s the advice of our book).

In future posts I’m going to talk about some of the amazing people who have inspired me in my parenting (and inspired our book). I’m also going to write about the unhelpful things that people say to new parents.

What have been helpful things people have said to you? Please share the wisdom in the comments below!

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Where else would I rather be?

When I first had Leo, I had a major case of FOMO. Not leaving the house to go to work five days a week, and realising that I hadn’t been out at night for months, was a major adjustment. I think Leo was about five months old when I first went out for a quick dinner with a friend (just down the road so I could rush home if I needed to).

All of the measures of success I had subscribed to up until now (academic, career, creative output, good relationships, number of friends, how busy I was) – they all meant NOTHING.

SO WHO THE HELL WAS I NOW? I didn’t recognise myself.

Who are you again?
The first time we took Leo out to a cafe

It took me a while, but ultimately I came to like the new ‘me’.

New me:

  • Prioritised sleep over pretty much everything else.
  • Thought about someone else before myself.
  • Could say ‘no’ more easily.
  • Was more comfortable in my own company.
  • Could communicate my needs.

Three years after I became a mum, my friend Tabitha had her first baby. We have an ongoing conversation about all things to do with motherhood and one day we had a conversation about all the things you give up when you have a child. All the things that go on hold – some of them never to be picked up again.

I am not sure which one of us said it, but we decided that the key question was “Where else would I rather be?” The vast majority of the time, the answer was (and is) “nowhere“, which was quite a shocking realisation at the time. As much as the days drag on sometimes, by the time it’s the kids’ bedtime, I look forward to stories and bath-time and kissing their soft cheeks and having a sniff of their heads (I’m a head sniffer like my Dad). It’s a mixture of exhaustion, growing older and Stockholm Syndrome… It’s also the knowledge that, as Gretchen Rubin says

The days are long, but the years are short.

Some days I need reminding, but much of the time I am in touch with the fact that there will be plenty of time for dinner parties and long baths by myself and going to the toilet without someone sitting on my lap. (I wrote more about my attempt to live in the present moment in my post about Sarah Napthali’s book Buddhism for Mothers).

Comedian and father Louis C.K. put all this very eloquently:

“When I first got married and had kids, I had some friends I played poker with on Mondays and I thought: The poker game on Mondays, that’s the water line. If I don’t make that game, I’m losing something. I’m losing something if I don’t make it to that game. It means I’m letting go of my youth, I’m letting go of my manhood, all these things — my independence.

“But then after a while I realized: Why would I want to go play poker with a bunch of guys in a smoky room when I could be at home with my family? I realized that a lot of the things that my kid was taking away from me, she was freeing me of. There was this huge pride in having a kid and also that I didn’t matter anymore. The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It’s a massive gift to be able to say you’re not the most important person to yourself.”

Things I see differently post-kid

We are loving this project a lot. It is like our third child. Both Jeff and I have been working on it full-time (with many, many breaks to look after our actual children and Jeff doing paid work) for five months and counting.

If this book is successful I dream of also doing You’re Doing Great, Kid and You’re Doing Great, Toddler.  Jeff wisely tells me to take one thing at a time.

But just say that I was thinking a little bit about You’re Doing Great, Kid. I might think of a list of things I see differently after having a kid, for example…

  1. Hiding vegetables – gives a great sense of satisfaction
  2. Bribery – happens. Also called ‘negotiations’
  3. Hummus – makes vegies palatable
  4. Buying in bulk – it’s like I am permanently getting ready for the apocalypse
  5. Kids eating in the car – I used to think ‘why would you do that?!’
  6. Messy, gross cars – see above
  7. Mini vacs – self explanatory
  8. Toys I didn’t play with as a kid because they were ‘boys’ toys’: Lego, paper planes, trains, cars – are actually super fun
  9. Sushi train – food as soon as you walk in the door and it’s like an outing (bonus!)
  10. Community
  11. My parents – I used to love them and now I love them even more
  12. Having a bath before bed – is actually really nice. I used to be a shower in the morning gal
  13. Choc chips, sprinkles, smarties and hundreds and thousands – add to snacks so kid will eat them
  14. Bubble bath – makes reluctant kid want to bathe
  15. Going to bed early – ROCKS!
  16. Absolutely scoffing your food – Jeff and I call it the ‘parental inhale’
  17. Chest freezers and big-batch cooking
  18. Ordering EVERYTHING online
  19. Drive thrus – don’t need to get out of car
  20. Young men – I used to be a bit scared of young men and now I look at them fondly because I imagine Leo and Clem being that age
  21. Paying a cleaner.

What didn’t you understand until after having a kid? Leave a comment below.

Ten questions for Mums and Dads

  1. Favourite children’s song
  2. What does it look/feel like to be “doing great” as a parent?
  3. Best parenting hack you’ve discovered
  4. What do you miss about pre-baby life?
  5. Parenting win of the week
  6. Parenting fail of the week
  7. Winning meal of the moment
  8. Craziest thing you’ve ever done to get your baby/kid to sleep or stay asleep
  9. Three words to describe your child/children
  10. What have you learnt from becoming a parent?

My Dad is a statistician, so I love filling out surveys. :)

My answers:

  1. ‘Hush Little Baby’ gets Clem to sleep
  2. House a bit chaotic but I make time to do yoga
  3. Start making dinner in the morning (or the night before)
  4. Time alone to faff around
  5. Making time to wrestle with Leo before bed
  6. Raising my voice
  7. At home: dahl and rice. Out: sushi train
  8. Drove to Bundeena and back just so Leo would have a sleep in the car. Did a pee in the shower because I was wearing Clem in the baby carrier and I didn’t want to wake him up.
  9. Leo: enthusiastic, kind, chatty. Clem: determined, musical, joyful.
  10. Managing on less and broken sleep, multitasking up the whazoo, less procrastination.

Thanks to Kaley Hawkins from the Longest Shortest Time Mamas Facebook group for the inspiration for this, and to Tabitha who came up with some of the questions.

 

Community makes the world go round

As I get older and get to know myself better I see that a sense of community is integral to my happiness. One of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, talks about “the need to belong” and how universal it is.

Instgram CommunityAs I mentioned in my post about loneliness as a new parent, we moved into a new area right before Leo was born, so we hadn’t had a chance to build up a local support network. In fact we didn’t meet our neighbours on either side until he was several months old. Once I had made friends and some new babies were born and other families moved into the street I felt like we were ‘home’.

Summertime is always lovely for getting to know people because we are all out of doors more. The photo above is from a very happy era on our street where the kids were toddlers and they played out the front until dusk.

Having a baby/kid is a great way of meeting new people. There’s mothers’ groups and playgroups, and when they are older there’s preschools and primary schools.

Any time I spend doing something that builds community gives back ten-fold. When I think of what community means, I think of:

  • Stepping out your front door and having someone to say “hi” to
  • Your kid playing with a neighbour’s kid
  • Helping someone with their pram going down the stairs
  • Giving a nod of solidarity and compassion when you see a parent with a tantruming toddler
  • Starting a meal train, or dropping some food off to a family when they’ve just had a baby or are having a tough time
  • Using collective buying power to start a food co-op
  • Hosting a soup swap or a Mama Bake group
  • Having a street Christmas party. Easter egg hunt or other celebration
  • Holding a garage sale with other families
  • Doing a local team sport or exercise class
  • Doing your shopping locally
  • Walking or catching public transport instead of driving – you invariably meet someone
  • Looking out for the kids and elderly people on your street/in your block of units
  • Joining an online community that nourishes you
  • Signing a petition

8073188798_99aa5c62de_zWhen Leo was two, we held a fair in our backyard. Everyone pulled together to make food and craft to sell and together we raised $1,400 for charity.

It was one of my favourite days ever, and it’s Leo’s first memory.

The feeling of belonging to a community, or communities, makes me a kinder and happier parent because it makes me a kinder and happier person.

What does community mean to you? Please leave a comment below!

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A first Mothers’ Day

3 generations
Leo, me and my mum on Mothers’ Day, 2010

Wishing all the mothers out there a happy Mothers’ Day.

The first mothers’ day I celebrated as a mum was a joyful day. We saw my mum and I got to wish her a heartfelt happy Mothers’ Day – aware of the highs and lows that motherhood brings.

Leo was 5 months old and I was recovering from postnatal depression and finding my way as a new parent. Jeff and I were renegotiating our relationship now that there were three people in our family and our responsibilities and lifestyle had changed so much. I was getting to know Leo, forging an identity for myself outside of work, and forgiving myself for all the things that had been different from how I’d hoped (such as breastfeeding)… It was a tender, wonderful, intense time.

Cafe hugIt is memories like these that inspired Jeff and I to write You’re Doing Great, Baby. It’s the book we wish we’d had when Leo was born – telling us that we were doing great, that our baby was doing great, and that we were going to make it through those early sleepless months just by hanging in there, taking each day at a time and reaching out for support when we need it.

This morning I was treated to breakfast in bed, made by Leo who is now five years old. Baby Clem was climbing all over the bed, and I was counting my blessings.

We are going to be writing more about our story and our progress writing and illustrating the book. We hope you’ll come along on the journey with us.