Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Stay at home parents like me spend a lot of time doing things that are observed and judged by other people. I take my toddler and baby with me when I go shopping, the groceries I choose are visible in the basket or cart; the way I speak to my children and react and interact with them can be viewed and listened to when I’m out in public. Who they are, how they act and what they wear can be taken as a direct reflection of me – I’m the one they will spend the most time with at least until they start attending school. I choose their clothes, organise their haircuts, feed them and wipe their faces after. It’s with me that they will do a lot of their learning – my voice and words and behaviour they emulate. 

Being their mother is my job right now. Someone has to do it, and I want to, don’t get me wrong, but its a job. Unlike every other job, however, there’s no clear reimbursement for services rendered, no start and finish time, no set goals and achievable outcomes. But everybody, and I do mean everybody, thinks they get input into how I do my job. Everybody is my boss.

I found I got really defensive a few days ago when my partner innocently requested that I do something (to do with our grocery shopping) differently than I’ve been doing it. I got angry, because this is a task that I do 90% of the time and it makes sense for me to do. I have the time, the inclination, I know what needs to be bought and what foods the toddler is happy with fit now. Generally I have a fairly accurate idea of the contents of our fridge and pantry as I do a lot of the cooking too. 

A perceived criticism in the way I did this really got to me because its part of my job. I already feel ongoing Mama Guilt over the toddler not eating enough vegetables, or too much sugar, and that I don’t cook enough, or cook enough variety, and we don’t eat organically, and I buy snacks often without paying too much attention to the sodium or sugar levels, and none of this would be so bad if only we all watched a lot less telly which is probably evil.

I see articles online, and tweets and Facebook posts, that judge mothers, that make commentary on how they parent and how their children behave. Because society thinks it is my boss, that it gets to decide if I’m doing a good or bad job parenting, and those parameters change with who you’re speaking to. 

its hard because this is my job but my partner is parent too, he lives in this house too, and the things I do every day affect him. Where is the line for what is entirely my say and what we have equal input into? If I make most of the decisions because I’m the one that’s home, can he question them? How do you balance that, being fair to his personal investment and my need for autonomy? And sometimes I make so many of the decisions that I don’t want to make all of them, but they’re like cascading dominoes – I know what is in the pantry/fridge because I’m the one that did the shopping so I should decide what we eat for dinner even when it’s not my turn to cook. 

I think we don’t talk about this enough – that when one half of a couple stays at home, they become entirely responsible for the home, even when the other partner spends all their off time there. It’s then easy to become resentful over household and parenting responsibilities, because of lack of autonomy in some areas and far too much autonomy in others. This then affects the relationship, because that relationship exists within the context of the household and parenting, and its sometimes easy for us all to forget: this might be my home, but it’s also my job. One of us Goes out for work and comes home to relax, but I must somehow do both in the same space, when there is no 9-5 definition of start and finish for each.

A balancing act, and one I don’t know I’m particularly good at. 

Eagle_eyes.JPG

Read Full Post »

Morgan

Morgan

This is my second son, Morgan. He was lifted out of my numbed body through a hole in my abdomen in the early hours of a Friday, three weeks ago. I heard a gurgled cry, and then the surgeon held him up for me to see – a slippery, crying doll-like baby covered in white vernix.

I didn’t labour for days to have him, because I had a c-section. This is a choice I feel really good about. He’s my last baby, and I’m glad I have something other than the memories of fear and trauma from the birth of my first son. I did have a bit of labour, because Morgan decided to arrive early, thus the middle of the night intervention rather than my lovely planned hospital appointment for birth.

His face wasn’t bruised from the squeeze of a vaginal birth, his features weren’t distorted by swelling. I didn’t lose loads of blood or scream with pain and fear as he was born. Although I lay on my back on an operating table, numb from the breasts down with a sheet blocking his view, his birth was beautiful to me. I chose it, I felt in control, and although I trembled with shock a little as I was wheeled into Recovery, I felt positive after the birth.

I held him to my breast and his mouth latched onto my nipple and I loved him immediately, just as I loved my first child immediately.

Now we are four. Four in the home and four in the heart. I have a partner whom I love passionately and two beautiful children. There won’t be any more babies for me, so I’m enjoying this time. Our family is complete. I’m whole.

morganandme

Read Full Post »

This week has been hard for me. I’m having horrible stabby back pain that kicks in every time I try to move/walk/everything. I saw my chiropractor yesterday and while it does seem to have eased a little, it hasn’t been a huge change. And because I’m tired and in pain I’m more likely to snap at Sebastian for little things, which oh god makes me feel horrible and guilty – along with not being able to get down and play with him properly. But my mobility is pretty constrained right now too. This makes everything so much more frustrating because there’s so much stuff I have to do and yet I’m feeling very limited.

It’s now less than six weeks until the baby is due. That really, truly and properly occurred to me for the first time a few days and I’m feeling a bit panicky. The nursery isn’t done! I have no idea what baby clothes we have! There’s so many dirty dishes in my sink! I haven’t sorted my clothes to figure out what I can wear post-baby but can breastfeed in!

The last few weeks of pregnancy are always super hard because the end is in sight, and it is both too close and not close enough. I have moments of truly profound anxiety where I wonder if I can cope with a toddler and a baby. Alex has four weeks parental leave arranged, but I’ll be recovering from a c-section, so it probably won’t be all special fun super family time. More like me with a giant hole in my abdomen trying to shield it from a toddler who likes climbing me like I’m a tree AND nursing a tiny human who is bound to be big. I console myself with the fact that standard recovery time for a c-section is six weeks, whereas I remained in pain and not completely healed after a natural birth for three damn months.

I am huge, too. Look at this picture from just after Christmas:

30 weeks pregnant

30 weeks pregnant

Now imagine me even bigger. And waddling. With my hand in the middle of my back like some sort of archetype for pregnancy. And making that noise when I get out of chairs, IF I can get out without help.

I worry that after I have this baby I will get consumed by the sleep-deprived brain-blankness of new motherhood again. I want to keep writing – I’m writing for The Peach now and finding that incredibly satisfying, and writing this blog has done a lot for making me feel like I have a voice again and my skills haven’t disappeared in the last few years. There’s a lot I want to do with this blog, and none of it will happen if I’m not writing and posting regularly. But then I remember the lack of sleep, the night nursing, the nappies, the overwhelming feelings that come with giving birth and part of me thinks, how will I manage anything else?

It’s supposed to be easier, isn’t it? Transitioning from one child to two? I mean, at least this time I have a fairly solid idea of what to expect. Having baby number one is like getting a reality bomb dropped on you – you think you’re prepared but there’s just no way you can be. At least with baby number two I’ve already lived through it once and confirmed I will actually survive.

The next few weeks will be busy, if this horrid back pain ever gets better – sorting through our baby things to figure out what we need and don’t need; preparing the nursery for bringing the bubba home; arranging our lives a little better in preparation for the big life change that’s about to happen.

Meanwhile I’ll just be the one in the corner armchair, making that noise when I try to get up.

Read Full Post »

I fit easily under the umbrella definition of ‘mummy blogger’ – I’m a mother, and I write about my child and current pregnancy. But it’s not all toddler snacks and playgrounds; I don’t exist in a bubble, separated from the rest of society by the status of my uterus. I interact with and observe aspects of society on every level – medical, government infrastructure, consumerism, feminism and education. So why doesn’t my voice matter? Why am I dismissed as a ‘mummy blogger’?

From now on I’ll be a regular contributor at fantastic feminist mag The Peach, and here’s my first article on gender bias in the media and women writers (including yours truly).

Read Full Post »

The day I brought my son home from the hospital, I was scared he wouldn’t like the car. That he would scream or cry or just fuss and I, sitting next to his car seat in the back, would have a broken heart. I didn’t want anything to upset or scare him, ever.

I needn’t have worried – he slept the whole way home. It was winter and Alex had put the heater on in our bedroom so it was warm and cozy. I had barely slept my four days in hospital and had no sleep for around 50 hours before and after the birth. I climbed into bed with my brand new child and he fit perfectly against my breast. Alex went out, because the doctors had convinced us I needed a breast milk to express, that Sebastian wasn’t nursing enough to help flush out the last of the jaundice. We needn’t have worried about that either. He never had a problem nursing again.

I held him, and breathed in his baby smell, and reveled in that sense of finally being at home, with my family, my new family. Although Sebastian was a big baby, he seemed so small. So defenseless and fragile. I am responsible for you, I thought as he slept peacefully next to me, I grew you and you’ll always be a part of me. I will love you until I die. I had never known before that you could feel that sure of love – that you would never overcome it, never try to escape it, never want to be without it.

bringing baby home

I cuddled him close. I had once worried that I wouldn’t bond with my baby, especially because I’d had such terrible pre-natal depression, but I was lucky. I felt bonded the first instant I saw him. I felt closer to him with every moment. I snuggled him close and felt his soft, squishy little body relax naturally into mine. Later, Alex came home with the pump we ultimately didn’t need, and we all lay together in the bed. I nursed, lying on my side, and Alex watched, fascinated that I could give him everything he needed from my body.

I tried to put him in the bassinet that night to sleep, but he cried, so I brought him into the bed, and the three of us slept together. Bringing him home, becoming a family together just by resting in the warm cocoon of our bed… it is one of the best memories of my life.

In just under three months time we’ll bring another little baby boy home, and there will be four of us. Closed off from the world, making our own little nest of safety, a family. I cannot wait.

Read Full Post »

On Saturday I attended the book launch for Karen Adrews’ (of Miscellaneous Mum) book Crying in the Car: Reflections on Life and Motherhood. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have my copy and even just the title resonates with me.

It was a fantastic afternoon for me, and eye-opening in a lot of ways. I was invited by, and attended with, Lily Mae Martin, who is not only a brilliant artist but a raw and honest writer too. Lily and I met briefly two years ago at a Swimwear Galore, of all places. I had no Mama friends, and Sebastian was flirting madly with her, so I asked if she would like to catch up sometime (her daughter Anja is only a few weeks younger than Sebastian). That catch up never happened, because a few weeks later she left for Berlin, and has only returned a couple of months ago after around two years there. But during that time we corresponded by email and Facebook, and I religiously followed her blog Berlin Domestic, where Lily writes about the joys and hardships and mundanities of creating and parenting in Berlin, and her subsequent return to Melbourne. Go look. Now. I’ll wait.

Here is why the day was eye- opening for me – I met lots of writers and mothers and bloggers who are going through the same shit of balancing parenthood and having a brain as I am, and they are out there working, creating, insisting on time for themselves and finding opportunities, while I have been sitting on my arse for 2.5 years feeling empty and tired. And you know what? Fuck that noise.

I haven’t updated my blog in weeks, and a big part of that was moving house and work and study and shitty internet and pregnancy, but an even bigger part of that was laziness. I have written a couple of dozen blog posts in my head and made notes on none. I have thought, Oh I must make time for this because I find it rewarding, and instead faffed around looking at pictures of cats. I have felt tired and resentful that I am not writing, and then continued not fucking writing.

I have felt sorry for myself because I do not go out to things, because I do not meet new people or see old friends, but I moved back to the suburbs two months ago and can no longer excuse this with the thought of a long commute for events/social activities. At a certain point, the problem stopped being lack of time and a 1.5 hour drive to anything good… the problem became me. I have fallen into old habits, habits that I learned as a sick teenager and continued as a sick adult – habits of isolation. I know isolation. I do fine with isolation. Sure I feel lonely, but loneliness is itself an old friend. I read my books and make elaborate redecorating plans and procrastinate about writing anything, because producing work would imply some kind of obligation to do something with it.

So here is my new plan: blog regularly, and not just incredibly long and verbose pieces on A Topic. I want to share the feminist articles I’m reading, the opinion pieces on parenting, the cool tips and tricks on making family life (cooking/cleaning/parenting/crafts/whatever) that I come across. I want to write my thoughts on this pregnancy – can you believe I’ve only got three months to go? And most of all, I want to make contact with other writers and bloggers and produce some damn work and put myself out there a bit.

There it is. I’ve written it in a public venue and it will just be awkward for everyone if I don’t follow through.

Read Full Post »

A psychiatrist once asked me if I had to make a choice between being able to write, and being free from depression, what my choice would be.

At that point in my life depression was a fact of life and had been for ten years – I tried many medications, and yet all treatment only alleviated my symptoms to the point of basic functioning. I still had periods of anxiety and dark funks that lasted for weeks at a time. My mental health was linked intimately to my physical health, and I struggled to find ways to manage Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and severe insomnia. Nothing seemed to work. I would have brief bursts of physical ability, where I could have an almost-normal life, followed by relapses that left me housebound and useless for months at a time. I found it almost to hold down jobs, or study part-time, and this added to poverty and emotional, physical and financial dependency on my family made the depression worse. I felt like half a person for years on end, watching those around me finish their degrees and start jobs and have normal relationships, while I sometimes struggled just to leave the house or get dressed in the morning, crippled by anxiety and unable to even open my mail.

And yet, I wrote prolifically.

Not surprising really – when housebound, a computer is your best friend. I started writing when very ill as a teenager, when my only real contact with the rest of the world was through email-based writing groups. Over those long, isolated years I wrote short stories and novellas and bad poetry, branching eventually into plays through uni and seeing them produced when my health allowed, and using the inevitable months of illness after a project had finished and I had relapsed to research and write the next project. Through all that depression and illness, the highlight was that I knew my writing was constantly improving, each play better than the last, my craft improving and growing complexity.

The play I consider my best work was written during a period of intense despair and hopelessness. In Reverie went on to play as a rehearsed reading at 45Downstairs, and garnered extremely intelligent and useful feedback from the fantastic audience that attended (if you attended and are reading this, I still think it was the best audience I’ve ever had).

In Reverieneeds a rewrite, but it hasn’t been touched in several years. Because after I wrote it, something amazing happened. Several new drugs were released in Australia, and with the help of a consultant physician and the very psychiatrist that asked me that poignant question about writing and depression, I finally found a treatment that worked. My energy increased, my pain reduced, my sleep improved, and so did my depression. I started to live normally – I had a job, I studied, I took In Reverie through rehearsals and to stage, with no resultant relapse. I felt happy, rather than just not horribly depressed. I went out with friends. My anxiety went away – no more panic attacks about answering the phone. I felt whole, and real, and felt like I was living life rather than just observing it. Alex and I fell in love and my pregnancy happened and even through the pre-natal and post-natal depression that followed (which I attributed to my difficult pregnancy and baby sleep problems as reactive depression rather than chemical), I maintained. I had no deep dark despair, or disproportionate mood swings. And almost two years since Sebastian was born, I feel well-adjusted and happy. In over three years I’ve not had a period of severe illness or violent depression.

When the psychiatrist asked me that question – happiness or writing – my answer was immediate. I would give anything to be happy, I said. Anything. If that meant never writing again, so be it.

About 18 months ago I wrote a play, called Don’t Forget To Breathe, which went to stage with a brilliant cast. It was incredibly difficult to write. I was aware the result was good, but structurally flawed. I haven’t written anything since. Maybe a few doodling pages of ideas, a snatch of dialogue. Nothing of importance. Because it was easy to write when I was miserable – it was cathartic to write about my sense of hopelessness and frustration and anger and despair. I wrote a lot of tragedy. I don’t really know how to write something with a happy ending. I can still write, that hasn’t left me, but I don’t. Is it because I’m happy? Throughout history there seems to be a fairly obvious link between some artists’ genius and their poor mental or physical health. If I’ve accepted that medical treatment has gotten me to a place where I can find happiness and satisfaction in my life, do I accept that the cost is my interest in and commitment to writing?

There’s other factors of course – I have a toddler, I’m a mostly stay-at-home-mum, it is hard to find the time to get into the right head space to write, to find the time, there are always chores and financial worries and I’m too tired to sit in front of the computer in the evenings. I have other interests to engage in, like crochet and photography, that require less emotional investment. I once poured my heart into my writing but now I expend all my emotional energy on my son and partner. But I feel the lack in my life.

The choice that psychiatrist put to me isn’t really a choice – now that I am happy, I’m not going to stop taking the pills and return to emotional and physical instability and terrible mood swings and anxiety just so I can write again. It doesn’t work like that. I finally have a real, grown-up life, and that’s a human right rather than just an option I can disregard. I have responsibilities now. I can’t ever go back to living that way. A shadow of a person.

It’s new for me, being happy and calm, and part of this for me is knowing I have to find a way to write again. To let out the words that still crowd up in my mind. To force myself to find the time and the right head space to write. It’s another period of growth I suppose – I grew up with depression and illness and writing that out of myself. My transition from teenager to adult was stuck in that pattern, and now the pattern has changed again. I will write again. I just have to decide how to be healthy and happyanda writer.

Promotional art for In Reverie; Tilly Legge pictured.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

%d bloggers like this: